Tuesday, May 13, 2008

13 May: The Joys Of Busy Work

This morning my head was swimming with ideas and to-do's... both to get ready for the summit push which will happen in just a series of days, and things that need to be taken care of afterwards. Waking at 6am for some bizarre reason, I even beat the cook team out of bed and was in the community shelter looking over items when G-Man came in and had quite a surprised look on his face.

Willie came in somewhere around seven, and asked Super Mila to make some of his favorite Argentinean breakfast cornmeal- it was really, really good and loaded heavy with carbohydrates. Willie told us that when he was a boy, his mom used to make it for him and his siblings every morning. I told him it reminded me of a Hawaiian surfer meal, also loaded in carbohydrates known locally as Loco Mocos. Anyone? Anyone? Loco Mocos? In Spanish this translates to "Crazy Boogers." How it got that name is beyond me, but it's really good and like the cornmeal porridge we had this morning, provides you with energy all day long. Surfs up, bra.

And then the procession began. I told Willie it would eventually, but it even surprised me when it wasn't even 8am when the first of the team leads, guides and other curiosity seekers poked around. They all know Willie is typically out in front of any summit wave and despite how some feel about that, many like to try to get some covert info on when we might be moving back up the hill. Some appear to be genuinely putting their plan together; some appear to be trying to figure out a way to make life a little easier for themselves and their teams. A seasoned vet to this game, Willie is pleasant, professional, and informative when he talks with these teams and gives just enough to gain info and be very helpful, but not show his whole hand in the process. His trump card? He knows that ultimately, very few teams truly want to go first. So, while he doesn't mind roping all the way to the top we don't have to worry too greatly about people along the way as much as what to do with all that crazy Chinese paraphernalia that the torch team likely left up there.

"Here we go...” One of the Fuzzies came by, peered in our community shelter, saw Willie and didn't waste any time zeroing in on the info he desired. Because of his long experience here, Willie knows exactly what conditions to look for. So, our team knows that we'll be among the first to hear when it's time to pack up. But for other teams, it seems like there's this little slow mo shadow game that plays out. Who blinks first. Pawn or rook. As Inspector Clouseau said, "Ahh, zee old cat and mouse." There are 38 teams out here... or at least 38 permits that the Nepali Government happily cashed in on at $10k/ climber before that goofy Major pulled a switcheroo on what camps we could go to and when (for example, our team is combined with the hodge podge team of onesie/twosies at High Altitude Dreams to make one "permit" of roughly 12 western climbers) as the Chinese decided that they were going to close the mountain for their torch relay. What that means, is that about 15 to 20 more permit holder groups than usual are now here and are coming up with their own summit plans- a potential summit push mob scene.

As for the rest of the day? Well, I did exactly what I typically do on deployments when time is winding down but there's still tons to do: busy work! Thank God there's no Donut of Despair out here. And if you know what that is, I truly feel sorry for you because that means we have been in Iraq together and know what it feels like to see your donut drop below 11 million seconds remaining before you are heading home. Writing dispatches and checking items like the weather window are better examples of busy work in my little world these days:


Tues May 13 - Wed May 14: Avg summit winds 30-40 kts w/sw
Thurs May 15 - Fri May 16: Avg summit winds 20-30 kts w/sw
Sat May 17 - Mon May 19: Avg summit winds 20-40 kts w/sw

Models show that the Monsoon is now active in the southern part of the Bay of Bengal and has started 10 days ahead of normal, showing progress to the north. The jet stream is out of the region and will continue to be through at least the 21st of May.

I also began segmenting my gear into four categories today:

Retrograde: This is the gear that I have had here but haven't used once since arriving several weeks ago. This gear, including things like excess batteries, clothes, broken Camelbak, thermos, etc., was packed into a bag at the back of my tent that I'm going to ship straight through to Kathmandu when we are ready to head out. Today I also cross-decked useable pieces of my crampons over to a new set, so once that was complete I took the older, used pair and placed them in this bag.

Trekking: This bag is the one that I used on my trek in, as the one that has equipment or items that I'll need as Francisco, Willie and I trek back out to Lukla from Base Camp. While the trek in took close to 10 days (I can't remember right now and am too lazy to go back and look), the trek back out should take us anywhere from two to three days. Given that scenario, this bag should be fairly light, and will continue to be until we actually punch out- it'll have my sleeping bag and mat in it, and I'm still using those. One spare set of clothes, things like trekking shorts and t-shirts, which I won't need until I'm well down in elevation.

Summit Push: The most critical items are already packed and in my climbing pack or are already up the hill at Camp II so there isn't much here. My new crampons, climbing clothes (washed 'em today- more busy work) and harness make up most of this pile, other little items like sunblock, spare batteries and trail food make up most of the rest. Oh, I did tie on an extra lanyard to my camera today so that I can dummy cord it somewhere to my body when I'm fumbling around like a drunk person above 26,000'.

Maintain: This small set of items include consumables like toilet paper, DVDs, a small battery supply for head lamps, some candy, a small set of clothes, etc. Items that I'll need for the remaining days at Base Camp, or for when we get down and haven't kicked off the egress trek yet. Most of these items are lying around in my tent, or in the community shelter where we are spending most of our time until we kick off the climb.

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