Newsletter 1726 April 2010
Ready to go up the big hill
As I am sitting here in the warmth and coziness of the ‘White Pod’ some of the expedition members are slowly trickling in after having summited Lobuje East for the second time. Everyone is looking well and very pleased with themselves for having actually ‘bagged’ another Himalayan peak rather than acclimatising on Camp 2 on Mount Everest without a good view. “I think it is a very intelligent solution to do the acclimatisation trip on Lobuje.
We had amazing views and there is no added danger of crossing the Khumbu Icefall,” said Helmut Laaff, a Himex climber from Germany. Stewart Denize from Australia agreed: “I really enjoyed the trip up this 6,000m peak. For me it was very special as I have managed to climb another mountain,” he said. All team members, who attempted Lobuje East topped out – some took about six hours from our camp near Lobuje village, others took up to ten hours to make it to the top. And then of course, there are the Sherpas who made it in about three hours!
Now, the team is due to stay at Everest Base Camp for at least three days before they head through the icefall to Camp 2 and Camp 3 for their last acclimatisation trip before the summit push. “The Sherpas have fixed the rope a little higher than Camp 3 but it is very windy up there at the moment so they had to abandon their work and will hopefully continue tomorrow,” said Russell.
So, for the time being the team is resting, taking showers, washing clothes, catching up on emails, taking naps, chatting to other members of the expedition or just relaxing. However, for the kitchen crew, which currently consists of Tashi, Nima, Mingma and Phuri, the team’s resting period brings a lot of work. “Today we have boiled around 500 litres of water,” Tashi told me when I was asking for a bowl of hot water for washing my clothes. “It is great that everyone is back in camp but it certainly keeps us busy. Boiling those 500 litres of water also required around 60 litres of kerosene,” he explained. On a normal day, the kitchen team gets up at about 5 o’clock in the morning to start boiling water, prepare bed tea for the clients and the crew, and cook breakfast, which usually consists of beans, bacons, toast and fried eggs. “Thank God we don’t have to get up when the Sherpas go through the icefall at 3am. Pasang, their cook, looks after them and makes their meals,” Tashi said with a relieved smile.
While the water is boiling and the eggs are frying, Nima, Mingma and Phuri go around the tents at 7am – just before the sun peaks over the West Shoulder of Everest to heat up the camp – to distribute the famous hot towel, which is a great treat for everyone who wakes up at 5,350m above sea level. And about five minutes later, bed tea or coffee comes along, which you can sip quietly in your sleeping bag until 8 am when one of the kitchen boys rings the bell for breakfast. By the time the whole team had had their morning meal, the kitchen team is already preparing lunch, which is quite an undertaking for around 30 people – and in between, they have to clean the breakfast dishes, boil yet more water, keep the toilet and shower clean, and make sure there are always supplies of tea, coffee, water etc in the mess tents.
In this way, the day goes on. Once the clients have had their lunch, dishes have to be cleaned, more water has to be boiled, vegetables have to be chopped and then it is already time to prepare dinner. But before that, the kitchen staff has to make sure that there is cheese, gherkins and salami for the 5.30pm guides’ meeting, during which Russell, the guides and Monica, the doctor, discuss the plans for the next few days.
I have always been amazed by the vigor and enthusiasm the kitchen team goes about their work and they are certainly never short of a smile – even though their days are filled with hard work in pretty harsh conditions. This morning, for example, a cold wind embraced base camp and when Mingma woke me up with my daily cup of tea, I was amazed to see that he was only wearing ‘Chappals’ (Nepali for flip flops) and no socks while I was chilly in my sleeping bag. The help and work of these guys is amazing and without them, an Everest expedition would certainly not be possible.
All the members of the Himex expedition have certainly deserved a few good days of rest after having scaled Lobuje East peak twice in a row. Everyone should now take the time to rest and preserve their energy for the strenuous climb through the Khumbu Icefall all the way to Camp 3, where they will certainly have fewer luxuries than at base camp. However, with Ang Nuru and Chakra, two of the kitchen staff, being already at Camp 2, a small kitchen crew will cook for them and generally look after them. And we must not forget that once the climbers arrive at any of the camps higher up, the Sherpas will have set up their tents and put a sleeping mat and a sleeping bag in for them. However, until they get there, I will hopefully provide you with more interesting stories from base camp.