Tuesday, May 6, 2008

28 April: Trek To Camp II

I don't know how we did it, but somehow last night we ended up with 12 hours of sleep. Twelve! I personally woke up four or five times to shift, etc. but when I'd look at my watch, it felt great. Reflecting on this with Joe and Francisco later today, the feeling was universal- holy cats, do we have a long time till sunrise.

But eventually, the sun did rise, and we began to assemble our gear for movement up the Western Cwm to Camp II, our home until May 1st. We learned that the trail has moved away from the infernal glacier waves, thankfully enough. Now there's just a long, straight upward line that hugs Nuptse to follow- which may prove tiring, but nowhere near as exhausting as the original path we followed a week ago.

Reliably, Tendi and Danubu showed up first thing in the morning, along with Crazy Camp II Cook (Indra) to help move our camp. The goal is basically to pull out Camp I from this point forward. We'll leave an emergency tent with oxygen and meds incase we get caught halfway between Camp II and Base Camp in a storm, but from now on we will walk right by Camp I enroute to Camp II. By the way, when I say "help move," I really mean move. I took a pic of the team wearing their gear and another one reflecting Tendi's pack next to mine for comparative loads. I don't consider myself a slacker by any means but when you feel completely weak up here in air 48% thinner than at sea level, it's hard to haul anything until you are acclimatized- which these guys absolutely are. I lifted Tendi's pack and had to spend the next three minutes catching my breath while he looked on and laughed.

I know I keep going on and on about Sherpas and their capabilities, but not a day goes by that I'm not thoroughly impressed with what they have genetically become preconditioned to do up here. Take Danubu as case-in-point. This guy gets the call from his cousin (Lama Jambu) to come join our team and in four days is at Everest Base Camp. Two days later, he has made regular appearances at Camp II. Sure, he has seven summits under his belt and his brother holds the world record speed ascent. But I'm pretty sure that over the years Sherpas have naturally selected out things like Edema and have some special switch that clicks on the second they pass 10,000' where they start producing millions of extra red blood cells in some mini red blood cell factory.

So after two hours, the team made its way into Camp II and meandered among its tents. As I wandered along the trail deep in a moraine that makes up the camp boundary, I happened among three amazingly friendly Indian climbers whom we have passed several times over the last few weeks. Without flinching, they smiled and pulled out a thermos and crackers, offering me and Joe a mid-trail snack. One is from Mumbai and two are from North India as we learned. We all chatted for about 10 minutes before parting ways but it was another example of how friendly people can be up here, even at 20,600'.

Indra whipped up a great lunch and dinner for us, making use of a pressure steamer in ways that I didn't even know it could be used. For us, the rest of the day was spent acclimatizing, lazing around, and basic camp improvement projects. For example, Lhakpa and I hung a solar light in the cook/ dinner tent. This somewhat simple task took 30 minutes.

I also ended up listening to song after song which seemed to ironically have tropic or beach themes. Iz, plinking away tranquilly on his ukulele in Hawaii. The Beach Boys. Even songs from "The Beach" soundtrack about an idyllic hideaway in Thailand. All while gazing down the icy and frozen Western Cwm, along with the thousands of feet we have already traveled to make it here to be base of Mt. Everest, its ultimate goal towering 8 1/2 thousand feet above.

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