High Altitude Lethargy
I am just sitting in the legendary White Pod – the igloo-like structure that dominates the Himalayan Experience base camp – and the thought of moving over to the prayer flags from where I have a good enough 3G connection to send this update for my website is already exhausting me. But despite all the high altitude lethargy, which seems to affect everyone whether they have been here for three weeks or have just arrived like myself, it is great to be back at the Everest village at 5,350m. Coming here this year has been some sort of a reunion with old friends from my Everest expedition two years ago, who are giving it another go, and a few members from last year’s Manaslu trip.
Since I left Kathmandu exactly one week ago, not a lot has happened. I walked to our Lobuje base camp, which lies at 4,900m, in two days (NOT RECOMMENDED) and as Russell’s Everest crew was busy acclimatising by sleeping on the summit for two nights, I stayed at base camp with our expedition doctor and my good friend Monica. “It’s probably a good thing that you are staying here and not continuing to base camp as you are better off 500m lower down for acclimatisation,” Monica reprimanded me. However, despite the quick ascent I am feeling great and I am lucky enough not to have suffered from any headaches or any other high altitude symptoms.
During my three days at Lobuje base camp, I also got the chance to spend some time with my good friend and mountaineering mentor Ellen, who was also on my Manaslu trip last year and climbed Lhotse when I climbed Everest in 2009. Ellen scaled Lobuje East with a client but she will be back at Everest base camp in the next few days to hang out with the team and hopefully give me some good tips for Lhotse – which looks bloody big. It is weird but two years ago, I had no idea what to expect and a mention of the Lhotse Face would not faze me. However, it seems a bit different this year as the route to the top of Lhotse is the same to Camp III on Everest and I know exactly what to expect when the Sherpas talk about the blue ice on the Lhotse Face.
It has been extremely cold this year and after having spent a lot of time in the Everest region over a decade, this is the coldest I have ever seen it. Just walking down to Gorak Shep makes you realise how biting and cold the wind can be up here. The cold weather is certainly good for the snow conditions on the mountain, however, it does not bode well for a cozy climbing experience!
As usual, time at base camp is slow and people are hanging out in the White Pod, reading, playing chess or the guitar or are trying to get a good 3G connection to send or receive emails. ‘The best bet is the little Chorten (Buddhist altar) just outside our base camp. I have been sitting there for hours on end and I have been able to skype and send emails with no problems at all,” Adam told me. The fact that the trekkers, who arrive at the official destination for Everest base camp short of breath, are rather surprised to see a weird guy playing with his computer at an altitude of 5,350m, did not seem to bother him at all.
However, while we are hanging out and relaxing, Russell’s Sherpa team is working hard on the mountain to fix the ropes. “The Lhotse face has been fixed and we put 1,600m two-way rope on the face,” Russell told me while I was writing the Himalayan Experience Newsletter this morning.
The great thing to see is that the teamwork for the rope fixing between the different expeditions is improving year by year. When I first came here in 2009, the cooperation for was still a little bit tricky, however, this year seems to be running smoothly. Seven different expeditions are supplying Sherpas to fix the ropes while 15 other teams supply Sherpas to carry loads with rope fixing gear up to the various camps. “So far, we have carried 62 loads weighing about 15kg each to Camp III at 7,300m,” our Sirdar Phurba Tashi explained.
Most of the other teams are currently on their first acclimatisation trip on the mountain and base camp seems rather empty. On Easter Sunday, Russell, Adrian, Monica, Shinji, Woody and I walked up to visit Deano, another guide, to give him our birthday wishes and imbibe some single malt whiskey and eat some good cheese and Spanish ‘Chorizo’ provided by Monica. It was great to see Deano again as I had the pleasure to stand on the top of Everest with him in 2009 and he was a great guide and friend to share this experience with.
After our visit to the ‘real’ base camp, which lies a little bit higher than our little village consisting of a dozen Everest clients, 20 Sherpas, kitchen staff, guides etc., we had a little party in the White Pod, which was dubbed ‘Lobuje Liberation Party’! However, as far as I am concerned I am by far not liberated from our acclimatisation climb to Lobuje East yet. The rest of my team, which consists of a guy from the UK, a woman from Norway and two members from China, has only just arrived in Pheriche and will probably arrive at base camp around 30th April. So there will be a lot more down time but I am happy to spend the time visiting friends at base camp, writing the Himex Newsletter and keeping you updated on my website.