Newsletter 2030 April 2010
The Holiday is Over
Like every day, Nima and Mingma knocked on everyone’s tent to hand the members their cups of bed tea and hot towels on Thursday morning. It seemed like business as usual, however, the only difference was that this friendly wake-up call did not come at the usual time of 7am, but in the wee morning hours at 1am.
Friday saw the start of the last acclimatisation trip to Camp 3 and all Himex members were due to leave base camp at 2am. It was a perfect night – there was not a hint of a breeze and the full-moon was shining bright enough for everyone to find their way through the icefall, even without a head-torch.
The kitchen staff, Russell, Monica and I got up with the members at the crack of dawn to bid them farewell for their journey, which will take them five to six days before they return to base camp. Everyone gathered in the mess tent at around 1.30am to have a quick cup of tea or coffee, gobble down a bowl of porridge or a piece of toast, or do some last-minute adjustments on their harness, their heavy mountaineering boots or their crampons. And at 2 o’clock on the dot, the team, consisting of guides, Sherpas and 15 clients marched out of base camp. Their path took them past the Buddhist Chorten, where Tashi and Russell had burnt juniper and were throwing rice for good luck. Those of us, who were staying, watched the trail of climbers for a while before we snug back into our tents to finish our good night’s sleep. However, while we were tucked up warmly in our sleeping bags, the climbing crew had to tackle the Khumbu Icefall – and they were all on a pretty tight schedule.
Icy Lhotse Face
The previous day, Russell had called a meeting for everyone to be briefed of what was going to happen over the next week. All expedition members are required to spend at least three nights at Camp 2 at 6,400m before they move up the treacherous Lhotse Face to spend one night at Camp 3 at 7,200m. “Please remember, you are climbing Mount Everest and you will be doing some serious mountaineering,” Russell reminded everyone. “The holiday is over now and climbing the Lhotse Face will hurt – it may even be harder than last year as it is supposed to be very icy this season.”
He urged the team to push hard and try to get to Camp 2 on the same day as it is a better camp to be in and more beneficial for the acclimatisation process. “Those, who have not reached Camp 1 by 8am, should stay there for the rest of the day and continue to Camp 2 very early the next day,” he said. The reason for this tight cut-off time is the blazing heat that engulfs the Western Cwm later in the day. The Western Cwm lies between Camp 1 and Camp 2 and is a snowy ‘bowl’, where the sun gets trapped and temperatures soar to a level that is almost unbearable. “Even though this will be hard, remember that the higher we go, the harder it gets,” Russell said.
About half the crew made it to Camp 2 on Friday while the other half is staying at Camp 1 and will continue to Camp 2 early tomorrow morning. However, to put it the walking time into perspective, most of the members took between six and eight hours to Camp 1, whereas the Sherpa crew takes about 4.5 hours from base camp all the way to Camp 2.
After Russell’s talk yesterday, some of the members were reminded what they were actually about to do, but most of them were very thrilled to finally get their hands on Mount Everest. “I am very excited to be going up tomorrow, however, I have been a bit sick recently and I am not sure how fast I will be,” said Stina from Norway. Gabriel, the chef from Chicago who cooked a delicious salmon dinner for the whole crew a few nights ago, felt very similar: “It is great to finally go up and I hope I will be doing well on this mountain,” he said. However, for other people, who had been waiting for this day impatiently, Russell’s talk came as a bit of a wake-up call. “I have been longing for this day for many years, but after Russell’s talk I all of a sudden felt a flu coming on,” Helmut from Germany told me. “But when I decided that this condition was mental and maybe due to nervousness, I felt fine again,” Helmut said, raring to go.
Complete silence has now fallen on base camp and this morning, the kitchen crew, Monica, Russell and I cleaned the three mess tents, the ‘White Pod’ and, of course, the toilet and shower tents, so that everything will be clean and ready to be used when the team comes back around 5 or 6 May. Spending time here will be far from being boring as the guides are in constant radio contact with Russell and we can follow exactly what is going on up there. “Even though I am not up there, I trust the guides implicitly and know that any medical problems will be communicated to me immediately,” Monica said. Due to our frequent radio contact with the team, I will be able to give you brief updates on how they are doing and hopefully give you more insight of life at base camp over the next few days.
However, on a different note, another one of our members had to leave the expedition this morning, Ian Terry from Australia had to go home for personal reasons and set off for Lukla this morning. We wish him all the best for his trip back home.