Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Welcome to Everest Base Camp

On Friday, we completed the final leg of the trek from Lobuche to Everest Base Camp.  It was pretty amazing to finally see the mountain up close.  Although you can’t see the summit pyramid from our site because it is blocked by the west shoulder, we get our fair share of up close and personal views of the Khumbu Icefall.  We had lunch and then said goodbye to most of the trekkers and Island Peak climbers, except for the family and friends of Everest climbers (including my sister Nicki) who stayed one night at base camp. 

After lunch we got situated in our tents (we each get a tent to ourselves at base camp which is nice), and explored base camp.  Himalayan climbs are definitely unlike any other climbs we have done with regards to how elaborate the base camp set-up is, but then again I am sure that we will appreciate that given how much time we will be spending here.  To give you an idea, we have a dining tent which comfortably seats 12 with a projection screen for showing movies, a communications tent for sending emails and charging electronics, a leisure tent for hanging out in, 2 cook tents, 3 toilet tents, a shower tent, a storage tent, and a Buddhist altar.  It isn’t exactly home (the frequent sound of avalanches and shifting ice remind us of that), but I can’t say we’re roughing it either.  The luxuries will definitely get more limited as we progress up the mountain.

The next morning we said goodbye to our family and friends who trekked along with us.  It was great to have them along, and sad to see them leave, but it was also nice to start the more serious segment of the expedition.   Then we had a team meeting to go over the plan for the next six weeks, and then spent the rest of the day resting and acclimatizing.  The next day we went over a more thorough gear check for the climbing equipment and made sure everyone was rigged up properly, and then we started some basic practice with ladder crossings (which we will see a lot of in the Icefall and the Western Cwm).  We were all fairly intimidated by the ladder crossing, but once we got started it turned out to be pretty fun. 

Yesterday was our Puja Ceremony, which is a Sherpa tradition to mark the beginning of the expedition and provide for the safety of all of the expedition members throughout the climb.  It lasted over three hours, and consisted of everything from chanting Buddhist prayers, to drinking Sherpa milk tea and rice wine, to raising the prayer flags, to dancing and shots of Johnnie Walker Red Label.  None of us really seemed to master the Sherpa dances, but we did our best.  After the Puja we had lunch and then rested for the rest of the day until dinner.  After dinner we finished the two movies we had started the previous nights (Hot Tub Time Machine and Fargo), and watched another movie (Snatch).  So far Hot Tub Time Machine is losing the popularity contest, but I thought it was better than I expected. 

Today we started some more serious practicing for the Icefall, which involved setting up a course through parts of the lower glacier and taking laps around it.  The course involved some ladder crossings, vertical ice climbing, rappelling, and travel over other tricky terrain.  I can definitely still feel we are at altitude when I do any sort of heavy exertion, but it seems like so far I am acclimatizing well.  Our plan is to keep practicing over the next few days and make our first trip to camp 1 on April 21.  Until then we will keep enjoying the comfortable environment of base camp.


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