The Daily Moraine - 6th edition28 October 2013
One of the most beautiful base camps in the world
After about 3 1/2 hours walk form Pheriche, we finally arrived at one of the most beautiful base camps in the world. With Lhotse, Nuptse and Everest towering behind us and the steep-looking North ridge of Ama Dablam looking down on us, it is a truly stunning site. Despite the masses of snow that were dumped here about a week ago, the Sherpas have done an amazing job at setting up our camp. "It may not be as fact as Everest base camp, but it's not bad," said Russell upon arrival. Well, the three South Koreans, who had been intending to climb Ama Dablam via the East face and descend via the normal route on the South-West ridge, seemed to be very impressed: "You have a very luxurious camp," one of them said when we met him on the trail coming down from base camp. As this three-man-team had to abandon their climb due to the precarious snow conditions on the East face and had not intended to spend another night on this side of the mountain, they were happy to use Himalayan Experience's base camp facilities.
After having inspected our tents, Katharina was stunned that we all had a tent to ourselves. "Who is sleeping on the other side of my tent?" she asked. When she was told that she had the whole tent to herself, she could hardly believe it. Katharina, who runs a mountain hut in Tyrol in Austria, was also impressed by the provisions, Russell and his team had brought to base camp. "I thought my hut was very well stocked, but I have to say that Russell has certainly exceeded my standards", she said almost crestfallen.
It was also good to finally meet the Sherpa team, some of which had already been climbing on the route. "It's hard, but also very exciting with a beautiful view," said Lhakpa Nuru, who helped fix the first 500 metres of rope a couple of days ago. After having climbed Nuptse in spring this year, the North ridge is certainly another challenge for Russell's experienced Sherpa team.
For our Sirdar, Phurba Tashi, this new task is surely exciting, however, he is also a bit apprehensive about the new snow that has settled on the rocky sections of the ridge. "It's difficult to judge where to put your foot as we cannot see whether there is solid rock underneath the snow and that makes the climb a bit tricky. But we are being very careful and are making good progress," he said. "Russell seems to be quite pleased about our work and the fact that we have already fixed about 750 metres in total."
Nima and Sonam, our two water-collecting Sherpas, have also arrived at base camp and have immediately started their important work. The team fixed a rope for them to go down to the lake, fill their two 20-litre-canisters with water and then climb back up again. "I guess they will be making five trips per day as I don't want them to go when the sun is out due to the rockfall," Phurba Tashi explained. Wondering whether the two boys, who are also strong climbers, were upset to have been 'degraded' to water collectors, Russell said: "They are actually quite happy to have work as otherwise they would not have earned any money during this period." And in case we need some support on the mountain, they can always step in. But for the time being, they will be collecting an average of 200 litres of water per day, which means that we all have to be very economical with it, which may actually not such a bad thing as it makes us more aware of this precious commodity.
Most of the water wil probably be consumed between 7.30am and 2pm, when the sun is out and the camp feels like a furnace, however, as soon as the yellow ball disappears behind Ama Dablam, the camp turns into a freezer and everybody crawls into their sleeping bags as this is the only way to keep warm. According to Hiro, the temperatures dropped well below zero degrees celsius during the night. "I measured -10 degrees celsius in my tent," he said.
We have also met the three Mexicans, who are attempting the same route but have so far only got as far as the saddle on the bottom of the ridge. "We arrived here just before the big snowfall and it actually took us three days to get up there as we were wading through waist-deep snow. Further up on the route, we certainly need the help of the Himex Sherpas to open it up," Mike, one of the Mexican, said.
After having had an early dinner, some of us had a good night's sleep and some of us did not. "Katharina said she heard me snore, which is interesting as I was convinced that I did not sleep a wink," said Greg when Lhakpa and Lacchu came around with a hot towel and bed tea at 7am. We all waited for the sun to hit our tents before we crawled out of our sleeping bags and dragged ourselves to the dining tent, where breakfast was already waiting for us before we moved on to yet another very important task.
For good luck on the mountain, there is no Himalayan expedition without the Buddhist blessing ceremony, called 'Puja'. Straight after breakfast, we gathered around the Chorten (Buddhist altar), which the Sherpas had constructed, and followed the chanting of Phurba Tashi and Lhakpa Nuru for about an hour. It ended with Phurba Tashi putting a 'Sondi' - a red string - around our necks, which shall protect us on the mountain.
On Sunday, most of our team rested and adjusted to the high altitude of 5,100m, while our guides Shinji and Hiro together with Phurba Tashi and Gyalzen had a closer look at the ridge and fixed some more rope up to 5,800m. "It was tough going due to the tricky snow conditions but fortunately we found some old fixed rope, which we could use as otherwise it would have been almost impossible to get up this high'" said Hiro when they returned after dark. On Monday, the Sherpas will try to get to Camp 1 and maybe a little bit higher. As far as the members are concerned, if everyone is feeling well, we will go up to the saddle to get a first close glimpse of the route.
Ironically, we have also found out that the only mountain on the wallpaper options on the new iPhone I.O.S.7 software features Ama Dablam. Interestingly enough, it does not show the 'Mother of the Jewel' from its most photographed angle, but showing the North Ridge. "I guess this is now one of the most "looked-at" mountains in the world," said Greg, who was excited about his discovery the whole day.
We are also expecting Naoki and his filming team to join us on Tuesday, which means our team will be complete and we can hopefully start following the diligently made footsteps of the Sherpas and lay our hands and feet on the mountain.
For more news, check out the next edition of the Daily Moraine, which will be published soon.