Newsletter #45 April 2013
Checking Out the Pressure Bag
“It’s a beautiful day here, but Billi isn’t it a bit early to ring,” said a sleepy Herbert when I rang him for an update at 7 o’clock on Friday morning. The Everest team has stayed one night in Phortse and is now slowly peeling themselves out of their warm sleeping bags to get ready for their trek up to Pheriche.
This Sherpa village lies at an altitude of 4,240m (13,990ft) and is home to a clinic, which is run by the Himalayan Rescue Association, a non-profit organisation. The health post is open during the trekking season and serves trekkers as well as porters for altitude sickness and other ailments and is usually staffed with two volunteering western doctors. It also offers a daily talk on high altitude sickness, which will certainly be a good lecture for our team to visit on Friday afternoon.
“Some of us have already reached Pheriche’s altitude as a few team members climbed up a peak of 4,300 (14,100ft) just outside Khumjung,” he continued. Others walked up the hill to the Everest View Hotel to enjoy the magnificent panorama of Everest and Ama Dablam towering over the terrace of the hotel while having a cup of tea or coffee.
On Thursday afternoon the guides showed the Everest group how to use a Gammow Bag, an inflatable pressure bag large enough to fit a person inside it. It is used to treat severe cases of high altitude sickness by decreasing the effective altitude by 1,000 to as much as 3000 meters (3,281 to 9,743 feet).
Herbert wanted to find out whether he would feel claustrophobic inside the bag and volunteered to jump in. “It was pretty tough in there and I really had to pull myself together not to panic. But I guess when you feel altitude sick it is probably a great relief,” he said.
In the meantime, the Lhotse and Nuptse teams have arrived at Phurba Tashi’s lodge in Khumjung and will probably follow in the footsteps of their Everest colleagues by either having a cup of tea at the Everest View Hotel or climbing the relatively ‘little’ peak in the area.
I will try my best to keep you posted on the team’s progress, however, mobile phone communication is going to be difficult over the next few days as the signal coming from the tower in Gorak Shep, the last village before Everest Base Camp, does not reach all the way to Pheriche.
Having said that the network in the Khumbu has improved significantly over the last few years as the two main mobile phone operators have built several towers in the region. There is even reception at base camp, however, it is pretty unpredictable requiring the data-seeking mountaineers to wave their laptops, iPads or phones through the air while teetering on a rock or an iceberg to get reception.
Billi Bierling in Kathmandu
Javier, also known as "Javi" or "Perez" among his friends, has a huge affection for the mountains, especially living in Mexico City from where he can see two magnificent volcanoes. But looking at these snow-capped peaks around the capital is not enough for the economist, he also climbs them – and he has done so since he was 14 years old. Apart from the volcanoes, the 31-year-old has scaled Aconcagua, Mont Blanc, the Matterhorn and in 2010 he attempted Cho Oyu, the 6th highest peak in the world, but was forced back from Camp 2 due to bad weather. He was also on last year’s Himalayan Experience’s Everest team and we are happy to see him back this season.
How did you first come across Everest and who/what inspired you to climb it?
I have always been attracted to mountains. When I saw the first Everest Imax documentary, Everest fascinated me, especially the south side route.
How did you prepare for this expedition (physically/mentally)?
Physically, I have been trying to exercise almost daily for the past six months. I do lots of trekking and climbing with heavy packs. Mentally, I am trying to focus on my goal and enjoy every part of the trip.
What do you think you will miss most on this trip? A proper bed.
State a regular habit (daily/weekly) of yours and how do you think you will be able to pursue it on this trip? If not, do you have any alternatives?
Reading, but I am sure I will have plenty of time to read at base camp.
Any luxury items you are bringing on this expedition? If so, what?
I am not sure if it is a luxury item but I will bring half a kilo of Mexican chilli powder and chilli sauce to Everest. Last year, we ran out of Tabasco sauce and it drove me mad. I cannot live without the stuff.
What will you carry to the summit?
A picture of my girlfriend and my family, as well as a Mexican flag.