NEWSLETTERS - Everest Spring 2010

Newsletter 912 April 2010

Daily routine at base camp

After a relaxed trek to base camp, the team has now made this barren but also striking place their home. The members and guides have moved into their tents, which were put up by the Sherpa crew during their preparation work in the last four weeks, and made it as cosy as possible. The secret of a really cosy tent is actually the use of a little rug to cushion the space between the rocks and the mattress. I remember being very jealous of the guides’ tents last year, as they all had cosy carpets in their abodes, which made the atmosphere in their tents so much nicer.

However, apart from everyone’s body being busy acclimatising, what will actually be happening at base camp over the next few days? Well, apart from resting for about a week before they go back down to climb Lobuje Peak for acclimatisation (I shall be reporting from there as this is where I will be joining the team), the team will actually be following a bit of a daily routine.

The members’ days start at 7am when the first sunrays hit their tents, which are nestled on the edge of the Khumbu glacier. At this time, the kitchen boys normally wake them with a hot towel (like in a posh Thai restaurant) and a nice cup of tea or coffee. However, while the members are still wrapped up warmly in their sleeping bags, the kitchen staff has already been working for a couple of hours. Their day usually starts at around 5am and the first thing they do is boil water in huge receptacles to prepare bed tea, washing water and more water for breakfast. Once the water is boiled, the kitchen boys go around the tents to spoil the members and guides with their daily treats.

What a way to wake up! And I bet most people look forward to opening their tents to them every morning as their smiles are invaluable. The enthusiasm and happiness the Sherpas do their work with is simply amazing. It does not seem to bother them that they have to leave the warmth of their sleeping bags at such an early hour every morning in order to provide their clients with these luxuries – they actually seem proud to be doing it.

After having imbibed a hot drink in the warm surroundings of a sleeping bag, breakfast is served at around 8am, the setting you have your coffee, toast, cereal, bacon and eggs, beans or cheese sandwich is probably the most stunning in the world. Base camp is surrounded by beautiful giants, with the sugarcane-shaped Pumori and Lindgren in the Northwest, and the West Shoulder of Everest (you cannot actually see Everest from base camp) and Nuptse in the East.

After breakfast the climbers usually potter around, sort out their climbing gear, read books or send emails via their satellite systems, just to get ready again for lunch. The rest of the day is spent in pretty much the same manner until dinner is served, and even though it may still be really special to get away from the stress and just do nothing, the ‘hanging around’ at base camp can become a mental challenge after a while –but I will tell you more about this later, when I am actually there and the members will have been there for a few weeks.

However, before I explain more about base camp life and the work of the Sherpas there, I would like to introduce you to Ian Terry, a Brit living in Australia, and Helmut Laaf, a pathologist from Germany.

Ian Terry

Ian Terry is from Manchester in the UK. He runs Tatler’s, a popular bar in Sydney, Australia. He summited Mt Cook in New Zealand in December last year.

How did you first come across Everest and who inspired you to climb it?

The first time I had the idea to climb Everest was in 2000, when I read an article about an Everest expedition. As I had never lived in the mountains or had done any mountaineering in my life, I just left it but I knew that Everest would find me one day. So, I sat there with patience.

In August 2008, the mountain finally found me. I watched a documentary about Russell Brice on a flight from Los Angeles to Sydney and I was very impressed by Russell’s performance as he came across as a very pragmatic character. When I got home, I googled ‘Everest Expeditions’ and immediately stumbled over Himex. I sent Russell an email and asked him how I could prepare and he immediately replied with instructions, which I tried to follow.

I climbed four little peaks before I attempted Mt Cook in New Zealand in December 2008, but unfortunately we had to abort my first expedition there. I came to the Himalaya last spring to join Himex’s Lobuje East expedition and afterwards I went back to Mt Cook. I summited Mt Cook with Gnarly, another Himex guide, on New Year’s Eve last year.

What has been your biggest achievement so far?

Nothing springs to mind.

What is your biggest challenge on this Everest expedition?

I used to be a fireman and I am used to physical challenge so I am not worried about the icefall. I have the utmost respect for the challenge of the climb and the whole trip is actually a challenge for me, even being here in Kathmandu.

How do you think Everest will change your life?

I cannot answer that until I return from the expedition. I certainly have respect for the job ahead. I have to admit, however, that I am a bit worried that nothing will change and that is a bit of a concern.

How mentally prepared are you for the possibility of not getting to the top?

I try not to think about it but I am aware of the fact that I could not make it to the top. But Everest will still be here next year. Whenever I think about not summiting, I abandon the thought immediately. I have to be convinced that I can summit and I think I am one of those people, who will have to be forced to turn around. If you are not convinced that you can summit, you should not be there.

What will you carry to the summit?

A Manchester United Flag in memory and respect of Alan Taylor.

Helmut Laaf

Helmut Laaff is a pathologist and dermatologist from Freiburg in Germany. The 49-year-old is married with two boys, aged 20 and 11. He is planning to do some medical research on the mountain. He has climbed Aconcagua, Elbrus and Kilimanjaro.

How did you first come across Everest and who inspired you to climb it?

When I was about eight years old, I read a lot about Everest in magazines that belonged to my two older brothers. I started climbing in Austria when I was 13 and when I was 17, I climbed Mt Blanc for the first time– I have climbed it five times since. I have been reading the Himex Newsletter for about 10 years and it has always been my biggest dream to climb Everest with Russell Brice. For me, Everest is a big undertaking and I changed my life in the last year. I trained six days per week for the past nine months and I took it very seriously.

What has been your biggest achievement so far?

My happy marriage to my wife Kathrin.

What is your biggest challenge on this Everest expedition?
Summit day. I have been going mentally to the summit every day, as this was the only way I could cope with the hard training. But I think the biggest challenge for me is to avoid being homesick. You can train physically but you cannot prepare mentally for such an expedition.

How do you think Everest will change your life?

Everest has changed my life already. It has taught me discipline. There is no other mountain in the world for which you have to prepare so hard, mentally and physically.

How mentally prepared are you for the possibility of not getting to the top?

I have almost achieved everything in my life and I am not used to not being successful. You can only reach a goal if you can influence it. I will certainly not increase the risk factor to get to the top but, of course, I would be disappointed if I don’t make it.

What will you carry to the summit?

The flag of my local region, Baden and a picture of my wife.