Monday, May 12, 2008

7 May: Down Day At Camp II

Last night was fairly restful, Camp II location considered. I slept the whole night through with the occasional nose blow or pee bottle excursion. When the sun hit the tent, it warmed the inside by 15 degrees instantly. After a hearty breakfast, we were greeted by Danubu and Tendi, making another gear run. They didn't stay long, just smiled their cheerful smiles, had some tea, and headed back down to the warmer, more welcoming climes of Base Camp with Lhakpa in tow. Sherpas prefer Base Camp to Camp II, and will only overnight here during preparation and the actual summit push.

Willie, Francisco and I walked up to the top of Camp II and sat for a bit with some IMG guides that Willie knows, and the topic of conversation turned to the Chinese summit attempt as well as the ever-present Nepal Army detachment, who positioned themselves at the very top of Camp II in order to "monitor" those reckless and scofflaw westerners. Better make sure no one sneaks off and tries to climb the Lhotse Face when no one is watching, right? Even yesterday when we arrived at Camp II, the Nepal Army- likely acting under direction from Kathmandu, who were likely acting under direction from their neighbors to the north- changed the playing field yet again on what we are/ are not allowed to do. Today is yet again another perfect summit day, so hopefully the north side is abuzz in activity as I write this.

After a while, Francisco and I decided to go out and throw a football at 21,000', possibly the highest game of catch in the world at that particular moment. It's pretty neat though- thanks to the rarified air, you can throw that thing for what seems like miles with little effort. We became Hurculean in how far we could throw that ball, but it's short-lived... throw it three or four times and you immediately become winded.

But the ball throw did have one funny side effect. We were throwing the ball right alongside the now-faded and unreadable "Dear Climbers" sign- the same one that warns you from trying to climb apparently also makes the Nepal Army detachment out here think that you might try to climb all the way up with no crampons, light clothes, a Nalgene bottle, and an American football. Three detachment members, complete with a sniper rifle- completely for show, I am confident- popped up and wanted to know what we were doing, and did we see the sign. You mean the sign that says no one past this point? Yep, we sure did. Did you notice that we didn't pass the sign and have one water bottle with no climbing gear? Willie chatted with them- mainly for entertainment and as we walked off I looked back- one had a camera, and was taking pics of another one posing with his rifle and the Lhotse Face in the background. Military members are the same across the world, no matter what country I learned from that encounter.

We wandered back toward our campsite and enroute happened across a Nepali Sherpa gentleman who is attempting to break the World Record for age of a summiter. He is 77 years old and is in fantastic shape for what he is attempting. He's got one fantastic support team to make his goal a reality, but even so he's extremely pleasant and energetic. Francisco and I took a pic with him and told him that we'd see him up top. No idea if he understood us.

We passed the rest of the day eating, drinking and discussing our options. A week is a long time to spend up above 20,000' because the body begins to deteriorate, but we also want to ensure we have as much time at altitude as we can handle. And to be honest with you, the thought of another Bataan Death March like we had yesterday so soon after the first iteration holds as much interest for me as a root canal. Rumor has it that tomorrow the Icefall will be closed for everyone- Westerners, Sherpas, and Yeti. No one gets through. Apparently, there's another rumor that the Chinese are attempting to summit. When this news hit, we all collectively rolled our eyes and even Indra sad something like "yeah, right." We'll see I guess. Here's hoping...

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