Tuesday, May 13, 2008

11 May: A Real-Life Monopoly Game

Today is Francisco's shot at Camp III and I gave him all the encouragement I could, pointers on the trail and super props before he stepped off. I also made sure to fill his head with as many Patches O'Houlihan quotes from "Dodgeball" that I could to keep him smiling. Most can't be repeated here, but if you have seen the movie, hopefully they bring a smile to you too.

Willie and Francisco punched at 6am-ish and when they radioed at 10:30, they were making fantastic progress. Then at noon, there they were, at Camp III- all altitude issues left behind in the dust.... well... in this case in the Lhotse Face ice chips.

As for me? An acclimatization hike to the top of Camp II again, where the sun is truly playing games with melted water. All sorts of trash that was hidden from sight under snow just days ago is now plainly visible. And I couldn't help but take a picture of this poor sap who returned to his tent to find a river running through it. I'm sure he appreciated me taking the pic, but honestly... how could you not??

And then... James Bond with the guys interspersed with constant looking up at the Lhotse Face where an ant trail of -honestly- close to 150 climbers and Sherpas lined the fixed ropes to Camp III and appear to have gone all the way past The Yellow Band and out to the South Col itself. This is a big deal because of the land grab that occurs once each camp "opens"- so, the strongest Sherpas are punched out immediately to secure camp space for their respective teams. For example, Willie is THE western guide who led the roping effort on the Lhotse Face- this all completed one day after the Chinese torch ban was lifted. He had the help of ~8 Sherpas and another guide to do the job, hauling close to ~2 miles of ropes and anchors. So, when Willie landed at Camp III, he had prime choice in picking tent sites, which he did and ID-ed it as ours. One day later, Tendi and Danubu arrived at Camp III some other team had set up tents and claimed the area. So today, when Willie and Francisco gained the area he re-scouted for our new site and also got the name of the tent equivalent of Frigate Birds. But in some ways, that's part of a real-life Monopoly Game up here- available real estate demand gets higher and higher as the space gets smaller and smaller, so tomorrow all 3 Sherpas head up to the Park Place equivalent of all our campsites- the South Col.

Upon their return to Camp II, Francisco and Willie returned with confirmation of what we suspected- the ant trail of literally dozens and dozens of climbers had carved a well-established trail to Camp III. That's really good news for a few days from now when we hit our summit push.

The rest of the day was spent packing food bags for Camp III and Camp IV respectively although my suspicions are that we are way fat on food for these camps. Bags and bags of food. But, only one day at each? I hear we completely lose our appetite at high camps... so I guess we'll see. I'm all about ramen and things like fruit but if Indra packs us a lunch baggie filled with undercooked pasta I'm revolting.

Oh, interesting side story on today. At one point I wandered into the cook tent and an older 50-something Sherpa hauling a double load was sitting there, BS-ing with Danubu.- as it turns out, they are both from the same region of Nepal and have known each other for quite some time. After chatting for a while, I learn that he's not only on the same team as the 75 year old Japanese climber who I'm dying to meet, but that in his past he has climbed with Reinhold Messner (the real one, not the nicknamed crazy kid who snuck the "Free Tibet" flag up to Camp I before waving it around and getting busted) and Peter Haebler of all people. Talk about the stories he must have... we chatted about all that and I learned that the 75 year old is currently in Dingbuche acclimatizing, will have a Camp V at the balcony, and have 101 bottles of Oxygen for four climbers! Yee cats, that's a lot of Oxygen.

After all this excitement and welcoming Willie and Francisco back to the fold and to weather a snowstorm, I wandered back to my tent and had one of the craziest altitude dreams yet: Tendi and I were on the North Korean border, trying to operate a .50 cal Barrett sniper rifle while some husband/wife tourist couple looked on, sitting on a clear plastic farm tractor. As we sighted in on our target a distant 12km off I saw through the scope that it was Bob Combs, in all his glory, riding a purple and rhinestone unicorn. Laughing hysterically, an avalanche hit us and we had to jump behind a cinder block wall as snow washed over us. The strange thing is that I felt the weight of the rifle, heard the excitement in the voices of the onlookers and also felt the air blast of the snow wave. It was truly one realistic dream.

No comments: