When Katharina, Shinji, Greg and I walked to Gorak Shep and then Kala Pattar a few days ago, I was in a bit of trouble as I was in desperate need for tampons, which I had stupidly already sent to base camp. I had asked Russell whether he could get into my bag up there and bring them down, however, as I knew that he had most probably got more important things to do up there, I did not really count on it.
As women stick together in these situations, I asked a couple of female trekkers on the way, who were very helpful and actually improved my dire situation. As we obviously don’t have many secrets on these expeditions, I also told Greg and Katharina, not really thinking any more about it until Greg all of a sudden called out, asking me to wait. And there he was, carrying a packet of sanitary towels, which he ‘scrounged’ from a medical kit from an expedition. “Is this what you need?” he asked. How sweet of him, I thought and even though it is not what I normally use I knew that his kindness had saved my day.
When we reached Gorak Shep in about record time, Katharina felt the sensation of altitude and was quite tired. She just lie down outside the lodge, waving a 100-dollar-bill into my face asking me to get here some soup. I told her to keep the money but I would get some soup for her. A little later! I saw Katharina at the counter of the lodge buying some nuts and I was actually wondering whether she was actually lucid enough to be in control of her money. However, as I didn’t want to babysit her, I didn’t interfere and left it at that.
I didn’t think any more of it until the next morning, when I saw yet another packet of sanitary towels on my bed. This one had BILLI written all over it – I knew it must be from Katharina as she usually marks all her gear – so why not my sanitary towels. I told her that she shouldn’t have but thanked her for her kindness and concern. When it was time to pay our individual bills at the lodge in Pheriche, Katharina looked a bit surprised when she looked at her remaining money and said: “Billi, I think the most expensive item I have bought so far were the sanitary towels.”
After we had worked it out, we realised that the guy at the lodge must have taken advantage of Katharina’s confused and tired state and had probably given her some green notes, which she happily accepted as dollars but must have been rupees. “I think I paid about 60 US dollars for them.” I would say that was a lot for a packet of sanitary towels that had already been opened and had expired in November 2005! Of course, I felt very guilty about Katharina’s kind effort but as great of a sports as she is, she just laughed it off. “Billi, this is something we will still talk about in many years to come.” And she is right, and I certainly will keep them in a very special place!
After all this excitement, we finally set out to reach base camp on Saturday and we were all absolutely enchanted by its beauty. This is certainly the most beautiful camp I have ever stayed at. First of all, there is only one other team consisting of three Mexicans here and secondly, it is dominated by the Nuptse wall (I am still trying to work out which of the many little humps of the ridge we climbed in spring this year), Everest and Lhotse on one side, and the North and NE ridges of Ama Dablam.
It was also great to finally meet our Sherpa team and talk to them about their progress on the hill and it was obvious that they found it quite hard. “Billi Didi, this is harder than Nuptse,” said Rita Dorjee, who I climbed Nuptse with and without whom I would certainly not have made it to the top. Phurba Tashi, our sirdar, also seemed a little bit apprehensive given the fresh snow on the hill. “It is difficult to judge where to put your foot as we cannot see whether there is solid rock underneath the snow.”
After having had our Puja, the Buddhist blessing that will bring us good luck on the mountain, our two guides Hiro and Shinji climbed up part of the ridge with Phurba Tashi and Gyalzen and fixed some more rope up to 5,800m. “We wanted to get to 5,900m, which will be our Camp 1 but it was getting too cold and too late,” Hiro said when they arrived after dark.
It was certainly clear that the snow conditions up there are pretty dire and that it requires a lot of ground work for us to set foot on the ridge. After having had the two Mexican over for dinner we all went to our sleeping bags as this is the only place you can keep warm in these freezing temperatures. At night the thermometre drops down to about -10 degrees Celsius.
On Monday morning, we had the chance to have a closer look at the ridge as we climbed up to the col at about 5,350m. It was mixed climbing over steep rock and ice but with the help of the rope fixed by our Sherpas it was certainly doable. “But certainly not a walk in the park,” said Greg.
Whether or not we have a chance to get onto the ridge and maybe even to the top of this beautiful mountain remains to be seen. At the moment, we will take it step by step and will see where the days will take us.
I will keep you posted as much as I can – otherwise check out the Himex website on www.himlayanexperience.com.