Newsletter #515 September 2013
When is it going to stop raining! It's been days since we have arrived at Base Camp and the rain hasn't stop falling since then. We left Samagon on a clear morning and we followed the easy trails up to the deep forest filled with Rhododendron trees. As we reach the moraine, a damp freezing mist caught us up half way from Base Camp and blurred the grey colours of the glacier lake below. Russell and the guides have stayed behind in the village to organise the gear weight and the carrying of the loads with the local porters. Women were wallowing on our expedition bags with kids playing around, watching us leaving the village. Everyone goes at their own pace. A fine sunny morning on the 4 hour walk to Base camp.
Base Camp is like a small village set on a rocky-leveled platform around a volleyball pitch. It is an amazing organised settlement with communication, kitchen, gear and food storage tents along with a large mess tent boasting a brand new Bose music system. There is also a comfortable dormitory for Sherpas arranged in individual cellular for privacy and rest along with a spare space for rucksacks and climbing gear. One of the most impressive facilities remained by far, the shower tent with its gas heating system supplying a 40°c water at all times beside an individual changing room. The toilet tent is a neat and clean rock construction with its proper seat and a large aluminum sink to wash your hands. On the other side of the pitch, each member has their own individual tent already set up. Inside, a comfortable thick foam mattress and a pillow on one side and a thin mattress on the other side to lay personal gear and electronic devices on a dry space.
The mist is blanketing the valley, leaving Base Camp in a white shadow surrounded by two impressive glacier tongues and steep rocky slopes. The environment is prone to staggering snow and rock avalanches. The loud noise of rock fall and seracs collapsing is now part of our Base Camp life. When we were used to stand and stare at the sight of the ice detaching itself from the main glacier, we now tend to ignore this natural phenomenon, more preoccupied by our daily washing, card game and volleyball tournament. The glacier is a fast retreating flow of ice and rock that moves down the valley, opening impressive crevasses and creating a jumble of broken ice.
Our caravan of yaks is shaping the surrounded hills under the morning glow and barrels of gear and food are reaching the camp. We have food for several weeks at BC and also to supply the high altitude camps. After a few days of rest, we make our first trip along the moraine to Crampon Point at the edge of the rugged glacier. It is a 2 hour easy walk on a rocky path, passing Chortens, prayer flags and memorials of climbers who died on the mountain. Upon arrival at Crampon Point, there is a short briefing lead by Russell about walking safely on a glacier, breathing along the way and getting ourselves organised in altitude camps.
Afternoon comes and the rain keeps on falling and Manaslu remains hidden under its cover of milky clouds. Altitude also plays funny tricks on us. On a quiet lunch in the mess tent, Fenton had the unpleasant surprise to have his front teeth taken from him by a nasty boiled egg! Starring at its front teeth implant stuck in the boiled egg, he said 'ShChit, I have losCht my TeeChth!' and everyone began to laugh and to make jokes looking at Fenton's lucky gap in his mouth. In an ultimate sense of customer service, Russell immediately arranged a porter to take the broken teeth to Samagon the next day and a helicopter trip to Kathmandu to the SmileHigh dental clinic he is sponsoring in town. For this unusual trip, the denture was safely dipped in a peanut butter jar! Three days later, the peanut butter jar came back to Base Camp by porter with the fixed denture and Fenton got his original smile back. You would hardly believe it but, a few days later he got his teeth trapped in frozen water at Camp 1 as he had left them to soak in a bowl before going to bed at 5600m altitude! It is a hard life to be a climber.