Saturday, April 5, 2008

Lobuche Down Day

-enter cowboy music-

bowm bow bow wow bowm bow bow wow bowm bow bow wow

-enter scene-

Inside the galley, the cast iron stove flares to life bringing faint warmth to the occupants. Dark walls brimming with pictures and drawings of animals, trees line creaky wooden floors. Three hulking men sit menacingly in the shadows, throwing down cards. At another table, more well lit by windows that offer views of not too distant mountains, four play a game of Texas Hold Em to pass the time, sipping slowly on their cups and concentrating heavily as the blind goes up and up. "Check" says Joe. Others read or write as music plays faintly in the background and the cook chops diligently on vegetables right behind a bar riddled with various types of beer and whisky. Another weary traveler enters- everything stops- and then continues when no six-shooters appear.

Outside, a horse whinnies as snow falls on adjacent rocks. The small four building town is almost as sleepy during the day as it is at night, nestled inside a side valley adjacent to the Khumbu Glacier moraine field. Wait.. what!? Where the heck are we?

Thank Callie from PBS Frontline who visited here last year and a down day for that little wild west scene. She put the idea in my head with an email describing this town and she's right on the money with a scene that could quite literally have tumbleweeds blowing down the center of town. Except for the ever present Yaks, I'd totally agree. You can even rent a horse here to get a ride to Base Camp.. Cost? Forty bucks.

Today we did a quick acclimatization hike up to about 16,800' or so. Up top, Francisco offered up "Happy Birthday, Doug"- this has to be one of the most unique birthdays I have ever celebrated, truth be told.

The last picture is looking down across Lobuche toward the IMG tent camp nestled next to the Khumbu Glacier moraine. I'm so glad I'm not in a tent right now.

We then dropped quickly back to the lodge to rest & acclimatize for the rest of the day. In a nutshell, this means that Joe brings out the poker chips and cleans everyone out, there's lots of talking and community movie watching. The Bourne series, we learn- is a big hit with the Sherpas. Later in the day, the team surprises me with a home made cake and "Happy Birthday", sung in Spanish, Russian, English, Australian, and Nepali- truly unique.

Willie rejoined us today, fresh off a quick 3 hr climb from Dingboche. He's doing great and we are all set for tomorrow when we'll continue higher up to Base Camp. Willie did bring us news on potential news blackouts from Everest Base Camp thru the 10th of May.. hopefully that won't happen. Tomorrow, we will be packing away all satellite comm equipment, including the BGAN. There's rumor of a police checkpoint enroute to Gora Shep and we don't want anything confiscated. So unless we learn otherwise it might be a while until we are able to upload dispatches again.

More to follow on the permits and the stipulations going along with them- rumors are swirling but the good news is that despite all that, the climbing part is still a go.

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