NEWSLETTERS - Everest Spring 2010

Newsletter 224 May 2010

Power Struggle

With the weather having improved and the Everest region being once again filled with bright sunshine, most members of the Himex climbing team have now arrived at Camp 3, which is nestled two thirds up the Lhotse Face at 7,300m. However, three of our members were not feeling very well during the acclimatisation phase at Camp 2 at 6,400m, and are currently on their way back down to base camp. Rather than carrying on to Camp 3, Shari from Australia, Eiko from Japan and Feng from China decided to regenerate and refuel on food and energy at the lower elevations of base camp.

Our Japanese mountain guide Hiro and four Sherpas are accompanying them on their way through the Khumbu Icefall.

While climbers are busy moving up and down Mount Everest to acclimatise to finally reach the summit, the Nepalese capital Kathmandu has completely shut down as the Maoists have called an indefinite strike. They are demanding the resignation of Prime Minister, Madhav Kumar Nepal, and the leadership of a national unity government.

Apparently most of the shops in the capital have closed down and only emergency vehicles are allowed onto the streets. “Thousands of people are demonstrating in support of the Maoists but the atmosphere is still quite peaceful,” my friend Alex reported from Kathmandu.

Brief history

Just to give you a brief explanation of what has been happening in Nepal politically over the past few years, after having fought for the royal family to step down for almost 10 years, the Maoist rebels were elected into the constitutional assembly in April 2008. Prachanda, who had been their elusive leader during the decade-long insurgency, was chosen to be prime minister and oversee the writing of the constitution, which is due to be finalised at the end of this month.

In May last year – right in the middle of the Everest season – Prachanda resigned over a dispute with the army chief. The disagreement was mainly about integrating the Maoist army with the Nepal army – something which proved very difficult considering that the two armies were fighting each other for nearly a decade. Very quickly, Madhav Kumar Nepal was put into Prachanda’s place to rule the country and oversee the writing of the constitution.

Ever since the royal family, who ruled the country for centuries, was dissolved, the Nepali government has been without clear directions leaving the country completely in the pits. The streets are covered in gigantic potholes, which are big enough for me and my bike to fall into, the pollution in Kathmandu has become almost unbearable and the lack of hydropower has led to 12 hours of electricity cuts per day. “The great thing about base camp is that there is more power supply than back in Kathmandu,” said Russell.

Solar panels, generators and mobile phones

Supplying power at base camp has become a big responsibility for large operators like Himex. With clients bringing video cameras, laptops, satellite dishes for their personal internet connections, satellite phones, digital cameras and iPods, and Himex providing a flatscreen television, a DVD player and even a Scalextric racing course, the Himex base camp needs as much power as two fully functional households per day.

The 46 solar panels that are scattered all over our camp are very efficient as the sun in the Khumbu provides enough power to charge most of the electrical equipment and enables the clients to watch films in the evenings. There are also two generators providing the Chinese filming team with sufficient power to recharge all their equipment and power our dear espresso machine and deep freezer, where the meat and fish are being stored.

“Providing enough power has become a major challenge over the past few years, however, with solar energy and the use of an additional generator we are able to meet the needs of our clients,” Russell explained.

Mobile phone connection at Base Camp

Another new and amazing development at base camp is the fact that the mobile phone tower in Gorak Shep has been finished and it is now possible to make a mobile phone call from the warmth of the White Pod or your tent. I have just talked to a friend in Kathmandu and it will take some time to get used to being able to just pick up your phone and ring a friend. However, as the signal is not very strong a conversation can drag out a bit as you might have to say everything three times – so be patient!

Whether or not it is a good thing to be in even more contact with the world outside Mount Everest is questionable, however, as far as rescues are concerned it is probably favourable as not all expeditions have satellite telephones.