Saturday, May 24, 2008

Relief on the Lhotse Face

So one day when Lhakpa and I were working our way upwards on the Camp III acclimatization push, I had a fairly unique experience that I had to laugh about when it happened because of how funny it was. Even Lhakpa at the time was like "you need to do what?!" The Camp II setup is like a ghetto so it's almost impossible to take a normal dumper anywhere. Usually I’d do my best to hold it until nightfall or when I could get down to Base Camp. There’s already an overabundance of human waste and trash at Camp II, and there’s nothing more humbling than trying to do #2 while ten climbers walk within full sight and feet from where you are taking a grumper. So on this occasion, I left Camp II thinking that I could hold it, thinking I'd be ok. Five hours later as we are dialing in on Camp III, nope. Here comes the Turtle Head.

“Hey Lhakpa- I have to drop a bomb”.
“What!?” No you don’t”
“Oh, yes I do, I can’t wait”
“Doug, you are 2,000’ up the Lhotse Face”
“Yup, here it comes”.. I scoot to a little nub snow outcropping next to one of the ice screws and three feet off the trail.

Lhakpa starts laughing in disbelief as I start to go with one of the most incredible views ever pictured from a bathroom. Ahhhhh… Three Sherpa pass me and start laughing. I wave them a big “Namaste” and smile as I take in the scenery on a blue skied, windless and warm day.

Little did I know that this would then be followed up by one even funnier just a few days later.

Chuckling when I passed the site of my last event on the Lhotse Face, I arrived at Camp III and immediately moved into our set of tents.

Camp III is quite literally perched halfway up the Lhotse Face at well over 23,000 feet so there's no getting out of your tent and walking around- it's just too risky to be casual about it. Our tents are almost hung on the face and there are several rows of them aligned with snow and ice buttresses that adjoin where the trail winds along the face. Even transit from one tent to another- facing back-to-back, is enough to freak you out when looking straight down the Lhotse Face and into the clouds below, making you strongly consider clipping onto some random rope.

The ledge that the tents are placed on is about 3' wider than the tents, which are anchored with stakes and oodles of meters of rope which splay everywhere. You trip just moving between tents. Then at the end where the tents meet the trail there's a single rope that connects with the fixed lines. Think of it as the Lhotse Face equivalent of an interstate on ramp. And beyond that? Just a slick face and a 2000' fall. Some crevasse dot the campgrounds and several portions of the trail that snake upwards through camp. It's truly one of the most unique "campsites" that I have ever experienced.

So it was here that we sat, ate, drank and began sucking Oxygen. For 18 hours, all we did was eat, talk, eat some more, drink, talk, sleep. Shovel food and hydrate. All of this inevitably had a processing effect and before bed I had to drop a bomb. Where, though? I’ll be damned if I’m going anywhere along this ridge to an obscure crevasse that may/may not be at the end of our tent line. Looking around, I find: a Ziploc baggie.

Squatting inside my tent with my head bumping the ceiling and hoping that no one starts knocking on my tent fly, I drop a log into this baggie. Wipe and clean up, I zip the thing closed and toss it into the far vestibule where it proceeds to freeze in no time. Sleep comes easily and I drift away to a series of high altitude dreams that pass the night.

The next morning, we begin to prepare for the days’ push to the South Col and that’s when it hit me.. need to go again. Again? Where now? So much activity, so many people scrambling around outside as they push higher. I glance over at the frozen baggie.

You know you have hit rock bottom when you have to take a dump in a plastic bag, inside a tent halfway up the Lhotse Face. Twice.

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1 comment:

Chouchou Lam said...

My friends keep wondering how to do #2 up there. This is absolutely a good answer to them. My curiosity: what did you eat? Indian curry?