Newsletter 258 May 2010
Back to Base
Thursday was a big day for everyone here at base camp with our three Sherpas and Adrian returning from Camp 2 after having reached the summit of Mount Everest the previous day. With Phurba Tashi’s 16* summits, Dorji Sonam’s 12 summits, Ang Rita’s seven summits and Adrian’s two summits, the Himex team has put a total of 37 summits on the top of the world on Thursday. “I guess together with the other six Sherpas from IMG and Alpine Acents, there must have been around 80 successful summits up there in one day,” said Russell.
With his 16 summits, Phurba Tashi is ranking third in the list of the most successful ascents of Mount Everest, closely following Apa Sherpa, who is currently heading for his 20th summit, and Chewang Nima with 18 summits. “Having the most summits is not important to me at all. Of course, I feel proud every time I get to the top and it means a little bit more than work for me. But my main task is to fix the rope and get the clients up safely,” a very humble Phurba Tashi said. Phurba and Russell met in 1998 when Phurba was working as a kitchen boy for Asian Trekking. “I saw this boy and I knew there was something special about him,” said Russell. And he was right. Phurba Tashi from Kumjung is very well-respected in the local community, and his strength and aura make him an outstanding leader. “He certainly has the charisma and presence that is needed to guide a successful team,” said Helmut from Germany.
“Phurba Tashi is just an iconic figure here in Nepal. His strength and passion for climbing in the mountains is unparalleled,” said Adrian, who joined the rope fixing team to the summit. “And even though there were 10 of us carrying the rope and fixing, apart from about 150m, Phurba Tashi did all the leading.” However, despite his strength and adoration he gets, Phurba Tashi is very humble and modest about his strength and leadership skills. “
As far as the route is concerned, Adrian thinks that it is slightly easier than last year, especially higher up. “There is more snow, which makes the summit ridge and the triangle face easier than in 2009. There is certainly less rock to climb over,” he said. For Adrian, summiting with the Sherpas was a very special experience as he had the chance to see the mountain untouched before hundreds of people descend on its slopes this season. “It was wonderful to look at the summit ridge completely without tracks. I never thought I would ever see it like this.”
Other than a big welcome, we also had two goodbyes on Thursday. Eiko, the 70-year old lady from Japan, left us after having reached Camp 2 and realised that she was just not strong or fast enough to move higher up. She became the heroine in our team and I don’t think there are many people her age, who would make it to Everest base camp, let alone to Camp 2 at 6,400m.
Nima, one of our kitchen boys, also left the Himex camp yesterday. His job here is finished as we have finally closed our camp at Lobuje. He is currently on the way back to Lukla to find more work for the season.
The waiting game
Apart from Chakra and Ang Nuru, the two cooks that are holding the fort at Camp 2, everyone, including guides and Sherpas, is now back at base camp – a reason for Himex to host another party in the ‘White Pod’. This time the clients’ attendance was a lot better and it was good to see the Sherpas, guides and clients mingle and dance together. “I never thought I would experience something like that at Everest base camp,” Helmut said.
Friday seems to be one of those lazy days at base camp and everyone is relaxing and still recovering from the strenuous trip up to Camp 3. However, once the members will have regained their strengths, they will probably start to get anxious to get up the mountain as they have been away from home for more than five weeks. But this is part of high altitude mountaineering and patience is one of the most important virtues that is required in this waiting game. The fact that the rope fixing team was successful on Thursday has made it possible for the hundreds of climbers to go for the summit, once the weather permits.
Kathmandu still shut down
Thanks to the brand newmobile phone tower in Gorak Shep I was able to speak to a friend in Kathmandu, and according to Sam Voolstra, the capital is still shut down as the strike continues. “People are getting more aggressive and shops and restaurants are running out of supplies,” she told me. Shops are currently open from 6pm to 8pm only and fresh food items, such as fruit and vegetables, are becoming scarce. “The problem is that it mainly affects the poor people as they are no longer able to pay the skyrocketing prices,” Sam said. Even the tourist district Thamel, which remained opened during strikes in the past, is completely shut down.
Up until a day ago, the atmosphere seemed quite tranquil, but with people losing patience and businesses being worried about their daily income, the population is becoming increasingly disillusioned. On Friday morning, hundreds of thousands of people gathered for a peace rally in Kathmandu, calling for an end to the strike. “I have never seen so many people demonstrating peacefully,” another friend of mine, Nonna, told me.
There are still no cars or motorbikes allowed in the streets of the capital and it seems that the Maoists will continue forcing the population to strike until the Prime Minister, Mhadav Kumar Nepal, steps down - something which does not seem likely at the moment. “The only good thing about this shut down is that the air quality has improved significantly. There are no cars or motorbikes allowed in the streets, and as the government is currently providing us with almost 24 hours of electricity a day, there is also no pollution from the generators.”
*Correction: In our previous Newsletter we said that Phurba Tashi had 17 summits, however, he ‘only’ summited once in 2006. On his second summit push in 2006, he was involved in a rescue and turned around at the South Summit.