Thursday, April 10, 2008

10 April: Everest Base Camp

The tent camp next to ours decided that their Puja Ceremony was to go at 07:00 this morning. Seriously, why? I only say that because I thought that these ceremonies were supposed to be scheduled as something written in the scripts and interpreted by Buddhist Monks. Fortunately, our Monks determined 09:30 as a more appropriate time two days ago, because when I woke up at seven to the sounds of their ceremony it was still wicked cold and I was way too happy to be eyeball deep in my sleeping bag. Speaking with Joe and Francisco, I'm not alone in thinking that way.

After breakfast, the day warmed up and we followed Willie over to a site at the edge of the Khumbu Icefall where he proceeded to set up a ropes course consisting of ropes, ladders and up/down obstacles. He does this every year in conjunction with other teams, and leaves it up for ten days as a familiarization course to perfect rope skills and prepare climbers for challenges to come.

While observing Willie on the course, we happened across an overboot from what must have been the 60's, if not earlier. This boot had emerged from the ice and was just sitting there, in plain view. It’s amazing to see artifacts like this and wonder what sort of protection it must have offered its owner at the time. We did a side-by-side comparison in terms of then vs. now cutting edge footwear technology. No wonder so many people lost toes back then.

Toward lunch, we moved back to our site and happened upon several of the Mtn. Madness trekking group enroute. They arrived in from Gorak Shep today and stayed for another great meal that our cooking staff pulled together for the combined group. It was very interesting to meet with them and to hear the stories on what brought them to take on their trek to base camp. Some were doing it for fun, some for birthday presents, and some as a family bonding moment. We caught up, hung some prayer flags, and then they were off again, back down the trail to Gorak Shep and home.

It was here that we also learned that the Icefall Doctors haven't quite made it through to the Western Cwm yet- apparently the top 300 vertical meters are still sketchy and a course hasn't been navigated completely. This appears to have thrown a temporary wrench into our initial plans of pushing a "super-squad" team of Sherpas up to stake out Camp I and Camp II areas. Given the crush of teams on the south side this year, gaining territory will be critical in the higher camps. Willie remains unfazed about this, knowing exactly what plan we have to maintain our initiative. But we do have a set of equipment sidelined for when the team of Lama Jambu and Tendi can launch up through the Icefall. I heard Willie and Lhakpa talking about the plan over lunch, and said "I wanna go!" The look I received back was priceless. Both had one of those "ahh, little grasshopper. Your day will come" expressions and didn't respond other than a simple "no."

So I went and grabbed a football, tossed it a little bit as the temperatures dipped. This in turn meant that all that warmed up water re-froze, causing avalanches all over the valley. In a span of three hours we must have either seen or heard five larger slides in the now-standard locations on Lhola, Nuptse and Pumori. Lama Jambu has a good arm as it turns out.

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