Friday, April 14, 2017

Hi again! RC reporting in!

Good morning—it’s Saturday 4/15 and I’m back down in Gorak Shep, after a couple of days up at Everest Base Camp.  Sorry for the lack of communication the last couple of days.  There has been a delay in bringing up the internet at our Base Camp but hopefully today that will be fixed.  The Everest climbing team is in the lower part of the Ice Fall today working on their climbing gear and practicing various climbing techniques (jumaring, rappelling, belay, etc.).  I decided to solo hike down the valley to Gorak Shep while they practice and hopefully get some access to the internet.

I’ll post below this post a recap of the last couple of days at Base Camp as well as some of the pictures I took getting there and while at camp.

Last night we had a thunder and lightning storm and it dropped 4 or 5 inches of snow as well.  After breakfast, we said goodbye to Kevin (the other father) so I am the last of the non-Everest climbers here.  Also, last night George arrived, he is the third “private” climber along with John and Anders.  He’s an interesting guy who among other things owns the Phoenix Coyotes NHL team and a heli-ski company in Canada.

My hike down was only 2.5 miles but with the snow I had to be extra cautious, as it was quite slippery most of the way.  Also, I had a tough night last night sleep wise as it was quite cold again and I’m still trying to adjust to life at 17,300 feet.  I drank (and peed) a liter so that’s a good sign as to my acclimatization.   Anders is doing great and anxious to get up on Everest proper, which will probably begin either the 17th or the 18th.

Life at Madison mountaineering Base Camp continues to be pretty sweet as we had tenderloin last night.  I hope to grab a shower in our shower tent when I return this afternoon.

Hopefully, the internet thing will be solved today and I can resume regular communications.  Thanks for coming along on our adventure!

Thursday morning, April 13th

We awoke on Thursday, April 13th a bit earlier than has been our practice, as we needed to have our trekking duffels ready to go by 7:30.  This involves getting up in our tiny room with about two feet between our equally tiny beds and trying to do everything in the dim light and 25 degree ambient air.  “Everything” means stuffing your voluminous 30 below sleeping bags and big puffy jackets into their respective stuff sacks, changing from sleeping clothes to trekking clothes (increasingly as the trek has worn on these have become one and the same), putting on our boots, emptying pee bottles, etc., etc., etc.  Since this is the 10th morning of our trek, and we’ve done this on prior expeditions, it goes remarkably smoothly for the two of us.  It is amusing how out of breath you can get doing something as simple as stuffing your sleeping bag at 17,000 feet.

Breakfast was bacon and an egg and some type of giant fried dough thing, which tasted pretty good with syrup.  We were all anxious to get on the trail and leave the land of Tea Houses behind us and get on up to Base Camp and the relative luxury we imagined we would find there.  We left about 8:45 and the total trek entailed just 2.5 linear miles and took a total of 1:48.  We climbed just 547 feet and descended a mere 270 feet.  It was by far the easiest of our 10 days of trekking.

I took it really easy as I think the cumulative physical stress of the prior 9 hiking days combined with the altitude left me feeling a bit lazy and low on energy.  As we moved up the valley the wild chaos of the Khumbu glacier dominated more and more of the scenery.  Every now and then we would hit a rise and Everest Base Camp would stretch out before us—it spans what must be at least a mile astride the main mass of the glacier.  The ground is very rocky but the path is quite well worn.  The weather was not as splendid as it has been throughout our approach as it was overcast, windy and quite chilly.

A ways into the hike, Anders dropped back and paced me in—he wanted to walk into Base Camp with me.  As we neared our part of Base Camp, which is about halfway up (Russell Brice’s Himex is the lowest camp) the expanse of  EBC, we dropped down off the lateral moraine and onto the glacier proper.  It is mostly covered with rocky rubble but every now and then the ice is laid bare or you can see relatively smaller crevasses and blue ice.

Just outside of our camp, we stopped for some hot lemon tea and we spotted our good Greg Vernovage.  Hugs and smiles ensued.  Greg was our leader on our summit of the Vinson Massif in Antarctica a couple of years ago and has become a good friend of ours since.  Greg runs the largest Everest program here for International Mountain Guides (IMG) and is informally considered (at least by me) the mayor of Base Camp.  We chatted for while and made plans to visit after we were settled in.

We walked the last quarter mile or so up to the Madison Mountaineering Camp, and I must say I am blown away by how fantastic it is.  Frist up, we met the 20+ Sherpas who, in addition to the half dozen or so that have been trekking with us, are here to help us live at Base Camp and in many cases, help the climbing team do what we came here to do.

We were given a tour of our area, which includes the “Long Tent” where we can dine, read, watch movies etc.  We were shown the shower tent (that both Anders and I took advantage of before lunch).  Finally we each selected our own personal three-person tent (mine is right next to Anders’ tent) and we each moved our stuff in and organized things in our new little homes—from a mountaineering perspective, this is as luxe as it gets! (I’ll post some more pictures of our camp and the whole scene tomorrow when I’m more settled and hopefully the weather is better).

But life at Madison Mountaineering Base Camp gets even better!  We sat down for lunch and were served, on real plates with silverware, delicious Baked Norwegian Salmon with couscous, and grilled peppers and tomatoes!  It was incredible!  I have to say this was hands down, one of the best meals I have ever had!  We haven’t had much protein and this really hit the spot!  (All of us have lost some weight from the trek in and the pervasive effect of altitude on our metabolisms.)

I’m typing this in my tent and feeling about as comfortable as one can at 17,350 feet.  We are right next to the Khumbu glacier and the Ice Fall looms above us and disappears between the massive hulks of Nuptse and the West Shoulder of Everest.  We are in an amphitheater of Giant Mountains with incredibly large walls of ice and snow towering many thousands of feet above us—reminding us of the inherent danger of our new home.  No Toto, this isn’t Kansas!

Despite that, we are super pumped to be here at last.  I for one can’t believe that my home for the next little bit is Everest Base Camp.  What an experience!  Hopefully I’ll be able to post this and a few pictures a little later this afternoon.  In the meantime—its time to rest and relax and begin to turn our attention to the next phases of our adventure.

Onward and Upward!

RC, signing off at EBC!

Thursday 4/13—evening/night

No love on internet connectivity on Thursday evening but hopefully some time over the next two days we’ll be able to connect and get something out.  In the meantime, I’ll keep writing this blog as events unfold.

Last night was low key.  We had a tasty chicken and potatoes dinner and then most of the camp watched “American Hustle” in the Long Tent.  Having seen the movie, I elected to repair to my tent and watch a TV episode on my iPad and then went to sleep around 9:30.

I slept pretty well until about 2 in the morning when I awoke shivering.  Apparently it went down to 8 degrees last night and with the limited oxygen, and my still on-going acclimatization, I felt chilled to the bone.  I regretted not having blown up my air pad, thinking that the 3 inch foam pad Madison provided and my closed cell foam pad would be enough to insulate me from the ice I’m sleeping on—I’ll fix that going forward.

I remedied the immediate situation by donning a down vest and my big 850-fill expedition down jacket—I had 6 layers on plus my 30-degree below sleeping bag and this seemed to do the trick.  I slept reasonably well the rest of the night, although my feet were cold—I have down booties to address that going forward.

Friday morning 4/14

It’s a beautiful morning here at EBC.  There was a bit of snow inside my tent from condensation and a little bit outside from a dusting we received last night.  I don’t know what the ambient air temp is, but with the solar radiation, it feels very pleasant this morning.  Apparently there were several avalanches last night that people heard here in camp, but with my earplugs, I was blissfully unaware.

We had a nice breakfast of eggs, bacon and French toast and are going to take an easy day today.  I’m going to organize my tent a bit and walk around camp and take some pictures.  Most of the trekking team left this morning for various destinations—so camp will be quite a bit less crowded going forward.  Hopefully we’ll get internet today and if so I’ll be sure to post an update.

All is good here in Base Camp on a beautiful Friday morning!  More later.

Friday evening, April 14th

When the sun hit camp it warmed up quickly and quite nicely.  We spent a bit of time organizing out tents and then Anders and I walked down valley about 15 minutes to the IMG camp to visit with Greg.  He served us some black tea and we caught up for about an hour or so.

Greg shared with us the ins and outs of Base Camp and what is going on up the mountain.  It seems like the route is being set up nicely and the ropes are set all the way up to Camp Two, above the top of the Ice Fall.
Several helicopters flew some of the technical gear up to Camp Two so presumably work on the Lhotse Face route will begin soon.    This is a good sign to have the route established this far this early.

After lunch (sausage and mashed potatoes), we decided to take it easy and we both went to our tents to nap and relax.  It started snowing around 2 pm as the clouds rolled in and it felt like the temperature  dropped 40-50 degrees.

I donned six layers and went and sat on a hilltop near our tents and through the course of 5-6 short connects with Judy via Sat Phone, brought her up to speed on the goings-on here at EBC.  I said hi to Jen and Anders joined me in talking to Judy as well.  It was nice to get caught up and I think Judy is going to post an update while we wait for our internet to come on line—rumored to happen on the 15th.  Sitting outside on the snow and ice in the falling snow, trying to make an Iridium Sat Phone call home, brought back memories of expeditions past.

Here are some pictures from Base Camp:

Anders, Greg and I at IMG headquarters here in Everest:

Greg Vernovage outside his tent as we went up to visit him:

The Khumbu glacier from where our tents are.  Notice the man near the yellow tent.  This is just the top of the glacier--it's quite large:

The view from where our tents are.  Everest West shoulder to the left, the Ice Fall in between that and Nuptse and then the Khumbu Glacier below the Ice Fall:

Our "Long Tent", where we eat and socialize to the right and the tents to its left are the main part of our camp:

Everest West shoulder and the lower Ice Fall.  Nuptse to the right:

A better view of our main camp:

 Our sleeping tents.  Anders and my tents are the closest two in the closest row of 7 heading off to the left:

The lower Ice Fall in all of its evil glory:

Looking down valley:

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