Friday, January 17, 2014

A Day in the Life at Base Camp

I spoke to Randy a couple times today; all good at Base Camp and ready to head up to High Camp One tomorrow.

Last night Randy's tent mate Bissel slept all through the night, but Randy tossed and turned, got up a couple times to go to the bathroom and clear the 6+ inches of new snow off the tent. He slept about 2 hours.  His heart was pounding a lot which happens as they adjust to altitude, so he just rested, taking a lot of deep breaths to speed along the acclimatization process.  One advantage of his restless night was the unexpected gift of a stunningly clear sky at 3AM, with a full moon, tons of stars, the northern lights and Orion in full view.  He wished he had thought to take a picture but it'll have to be one of those spectacular snapshots in his mind.

This morning his oxygen saturation was 93%, later today they had a medical checkup to ascertain their fitness to continue up the mountain and his O2 sat was 85%, still within acceptable range to continue his ascent.  Unlike at this point last year, Randy has no cough, no fluid in his lungs, no stomach distress, no headache.  So he is feeling really strong and ready to take on the mountain.  The whole team passed their physicals, so all gearing up for the big push tomorrow.  A couple of them have various issues like stomach upset and a hacking cough, but no real issues at this point.

Plaza Argentina (Base Camp) is basically an amphitheater with steep towering slopes all around.  After all the snow yesterday, there was a foot or two of snow in the mountains above them, causing lots of avalanches all day today (not in areas where anyone would hike).  Randy said it was really awesome to hear the powerful rumble of the approaching avalanches and see the snow cascading down the steep slopes in the distance.   Today was in the 40's so most of the snow in their immediate area had melted, which helped them to all get organized and sort their gear.

In relative terms, Base Camp is full of amenities for the weary traveler. Instead of the guides cooking on their portable stoves, there are tents set up with cooks and even china and silverware.  So they dined like kings:  scrambled eggs, onions, and potatoes for breakfast and later quesadillas and homemade pizzas.  They even had showers courtesy of large trash bags of water warmed up in the sun.  Sounds a little crude, but I'm sure cleaning off felt good.  If anyone read this last year, you know that Randy got very sick at Base Camp, he thinks from taking a shower that some local vendor had set up and possibly getting some of the water in his mouth.  You can be sure he didn't get one drop of garbage-bag water in his mouth this time!

Good news is that Randy decided to hire a porter to help with the carry to High Camp One.   His view is that getting help when he can is a good thing.  They had already had help from the mules getting to Base Camp; they are all planning to use porters to help with the descent from the summit, so it's never been about having to carry everything the whole time.  Since porters were available tomorrow and Randy's back had been so bad a couple weeks ago, he decided to hire one.  That means he'll have about 15 - 20 lbs on his back instead of 50.   I know this steep climb up to High Camp One is really tough -- only 3 miles, but over 2000 elevation gain.  The terrain is mostly loose rock which is tougher to navigate than packed snow with crampons.  They will carry everything up, drop it off, then descend back to sleep at Base Camp.

Here's a couple of pictures of the route they will take tomorrow:

A big day ahead for Randy and crew!

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