Newsletter 12 September 2000
Kathmandu to Base Camp
We arrive in Kathmandu, Nepal. The streets are very busy with busses, trucks, cars, tuk tuks, motorcycles, rickshaws, bicycles, cows, dogs and chickens. Horns are used constantly. At first it is unnerving, but after we get used to it the front seat taxi passenger will sometimes reach over and blow the horn too. We sightsee around Kathmandu and get our gear packed into plastic drums. Frequently walking around Kathmandu it feels like you are breathing from an exhaust pipe. The monsoon has been very strong this summer and the rivers are running high.
We are travelling by bus to Kodari which is just before the Tibetan border. The barrels of gear have been sent by truck the previous day. We have personal gear loaded in our backpacks and we quickly fill the back of the bus with the packs. We just have room for the climbers and Sherpas in the rest of the bus. We had word that there were seven places that the Friendship Highway had been blocked by landslides between Kathmandu and Kodari. This morning we hear that the latest update is that there are five places that have not been cleared. We arrive at one slide area and wait for an hour for it to be cleared. The bus travelled on until we were stopped again. This time we have to carry our packs about 1 km (1/2 mi.) to a bus waiting on the other side. We are stopped next by a large rockfall that blocks the road. Only a short carry this time to waiting trucks. We arrive in Kodari at 1:00 pm and feel lucky that we only had to porter gear twice. Russell told us that he had one trip that had 11 landslides on this stretch of road. The monsoon season is difficult for transportation on the Friendship Highway. Trucks that get caught behind or between landslides make their living by shuttling loads until the road is cleared. Villagers work to porter loads across to waiting trucks. Fuel has to be portered in as well. The transportation logistics are very difficult. We are lucky that Russell has good connections and we received first priority and had transportation waiting on the other side. We spend the night at the Lhasa Guest House in Kodari. It rains every afternoon.
The road is washed out between Kodari, Nepal and Zhangmu, Tibet. Russell has to hire 95 porters to carry loads to vehicles waiting on the other side of the washout. We walk across the Friendship Bridge and pass the Chinese military checkpoint. A hike 200 m up the side of the valley brings us to the waiting Toyota Landcruisers used by China-Tibet Tours. A short drive brings us to the Chinese Customs stop in Zhangmu. It takes three hours to get the paperwork done. A two hour drive up a spectacularly rugged valley brings us to Nylam, Tibet where we will spend two nights to acclimate to the 3,750 m elevation. It rained for most of the day. We found out that there was a large landslide that blocked the road after we had passed that will take two weeks to clear.
31 August – 1 September
A six hour drive today to Tingri, Tibet. Tingri is much drier since it is on the Tibetan plateau. We spend two nights to acclimate to the 4,340 m (14, 239 ft) elevation. We take a hike up a nearby peak and take a break at 15,000 ft. All decide to go down except Mark and Larry who climb up a long ridge to the summit at 16,000 ft. and got some good views and photos of Choksiam, a nearby 7,316 m peak. To date this is the highest peak that Larry and I have seen in person the 8000 m peaks remain elusive in the clouds. Marco is a big hit on his skateboard with all the children in town.
We take a two hour drive by Landcruiser to Cho Oyu Basecamp. Too cloudy to see the peak. The Sherpas have set up the cooking and eating tents as well as the sleeping tents. We will spend some time here to acclimate to what my altimeter shows to be about 15,900 ft.
In The Coming Week:
We are changing our plans some. There are 23 groups on the mountain this year. Some Sherpas have gone up to the Advanced Base Camp (ABC) to reserve some camp sites. Our first Yak loads will be hauled to ABC on September 3. We will skip Interim Base Camp and go directly to ABC in a few days.