NEWSLETTERS - Everest Spring 2000

Newsletter 314 April 2000

It takes a mighty big puja to bless ten tons of food and 25 people April 14, 2000 Everest base camp, Tibet Climbing Mt. Everest is a feat of logistics. The strongest climbers would never summit if there wasn't a tidal wave of gear and food pushing them upward. Well, we have one of the best piles I've ever seen. Here's a brief list:

Over 10 tons of gear has been transported to base camp, in 5 jeeps and two trucks.

We have nearly 2,000 eggs. Each egg was wrapped in newspaper prior to being stored in specially made cages. We have almost 1,000 pounds of vegetables. These have to be kept from freezing. Each cabbage and tomato, eggplant and head of lettuce is wrapped in paper and packed in a straw lined basket. The baskets are stored in a 12' x 12' family camping tent. We have 45 high altitude tents and 9 family camping tents. We have almost 10,000 ft of rope, with which to fix lines on the mountain. We have over 100 bottles of oxygen. We have 20 pounds of coffee (Mt. Everest Blend from the Riverside Roastery), thousands of tea bags, ten cases of beer and a garbage can sized barrel full of booze. There are even 7 cans of whipped cream to sweeten the hot chocolates or top off the Irish coffees. I couldn't begin to count the barrels of potato chips and chocolate bars.

All of these items, from the luxurious to the bare essentials, play a critical role in the formula we've created for success. Climbing Everest is a brutal game. The storms, the dangers, the lack of oxygen and the personality clashes all conspire to keep you from summiting. We need this mountain of gear to get us up the hill at the end of our valley.

But before we can even set foot above base camp, the Sherpas, who are Buddhists, and the rest of the team undergo a puja ceremony. A puja is a blessing. Yesterday we gathered at a giant chorten (sculpted pile of rocks) and made our offerings and recieved our blessings from the mountain spirits. We were lead in prayer by the Sherpas. We raised a pole strung with prayer flags, stretching hte four strings of flags in the four directions.

Before we can even set foot above base camp, the Sherpas, who are Buddhists, and the rest of the team undergo a puja ceremony. A puja is a blessing. Yesterday we gathered at a giant chorten (sculpted pile of rocks) and made our offerings and recieved our blessings from the mountain spirits. We were lead in prayer by the Sherpas. We raised a pole strung with prayer flags, stretching the four strings of flags in the four directions.

It was a beautiful day. Everest stood above us, with no wind blowing snow from the summit snow slopes. It was a good omen. The ceremony lasted for over two hours, with much chanting, the throwing of rice and flour, the burning of incense and juniper braches and the blessing of our ice axes. Like a celebration at home, it was ended with a big meal and hearty toasts.

Late in the afternoon, the yak men arrived with their sixty yaks. They set up there tents all around us. It was a two ay journey from their village to base camp. They greeted us with toothy grins and the news that they needed a day's rest before going higher. Our plans for the 14th were scrapped. We had hoped to begin to move gear towartds advanced base camp today. It is a three day journey to ABC, and we need to make this journey with three trains of 60 yaks each.

This morning intensive negotiations broke out between Russell and the yak men. It is ritualistic this last minute bargaining. The yak men complain that the loads are too heavy and Russell must stand firm on the agreement made by the Tibetan Mountaineering Assocaiation and the expedition. In the end, the yak men caved in. They have but one chance each year to earn cash. They can't be too greedy.

Tommorow the first loads, along with Russell and a handful of Sherpas will begin the two day journey to ABC. The rest of us will move up in four days. We will be spending the next few days sorting out our personal gear and scaling the local peaks in an effort to get better acclimated.