Tuesday, April 8, 2008

April 7, 2008 Everest Base Camp 17,575 feet

Greetings from Base Camp- the last few days have been filled with movement to Gorak Shep, acclimatization hikes to Kala Patthar and finally movement to our Base Camp site itself.

Since the last dispatch, our team headed further north from Lobuche, traveling further along the Khumbu Glacier moraine and toward where our Everest climb begins. The rumors swirling about Nepali Army Checkpoints in Gorak Shep, confiscation of satellite equipment, etc. proved to be false, but all teams are talking about it and some of the more experienced guides here are discussing it privately, wondering what it all means. Climbing permits have been issued, and while there is a blackout summit window where the Chinese have their chance to get the Olympic Torch to the top, at present it doesn't seem to affect us. The north climb route is an easier and less technically challenging path to the summit, so they should be able to pull it off.

All along this leg of the trek we have a solid view of the Khumbu Icefall, and even views at times of mountains that lie in Tibet. We are surrounded by the mighty peaks of Pumori, Lingtren, Khumbutse and Nuptse, and just out of view to the east are Everest and Lhotse. It's really quite spectacular when the clouds and snow aren't blocking out our views.

While the last two days were filled with crappy weather, today has been absolutely beautiful. No wind, only late clouds that roll in during the afternoon. At some points Everest comes into view, and you can't help but stare up and comment about how even though you are currently sitting at 17,000', there are still another 12,000' to go. If anything, it makes us more excited about what is to come.

Rolling into Base Camp, it takes us close to 30 minutes just to find our site. This place is a mini-city and it takes wandering, asking, and moraine scrambling to figure out where we are going. At one point I bumped into Tim, the Canadian team leader from the Monastery tea house and we caught up quickly before again losing Willie in the jumble of rocks. Finally vectoring in to the correct site at the far end of the camp grounds, we were introduced to our cook staff and other two climbing Sherpas- Tendi and Lama Jumbo. All appear capable and have the same smiling demeanor of Lhakpa. We are pointed to our tents- home for the next six weeks- and begin an unpacking job that sounds easier than it really is. Grab a bag, walk ten feet. Stop. Gasp for 30 seconds until you catch your breath. Walk ten feet. Stop. Gasp again. Repeat. Even rooting around in your tent takes some degree of effort and then everything stops when you hear a mammoth avalanche calve off the flanks of Pumori, immediately to the west.

There must easily be 300 people here, if not more than that. This doesn't include the trekking groups, which we hear are due to arrive in a few days and will easily swell those numbers. The camp site is on the Khumbu Glacier itself, just at the base of the Khumbu Icefall to the east. To our north is a steep talus slope constantly pushing rock fall, and to the south the Khumbu Glacier flows away along the path we followed to get here.

Willie runs around as a Man With a Mission, making sure everything is set up properly. This includes several sat phone calls back to Kathmandu, Francisco shows the entire group that he's quite an engine mechanic by somehow getting the 16 year old generator working, and Joe wired the electrical box with in/out currents to juice community tents & recharge batteries. Both turn out to be life saver accomplishments once the sun passed out of view and our camp area frosted over faster than you could say "who turned off the heat?"

The cook staff whips up a ridiculously lavish meal for us, including spaghetti, cole slaw, hamburgers (we think Yakburgers) and fruit dessert. Then we huddle around a space heater and watch "Balls of Fury" before calling it a night.

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