Berg Adventures International 2003 Everest Expedition

September 12 - Blessings and celebration on pooja day

The prayer Flags are raised at Chorten in the middle of our Base Camp during the PujaIt is September 12, our first full day at Everest Base Camp. And it was pooja day.

Many of you know about the poojas, the blessing or prayer ceremonies that are done before we go on to the mountain from other expedition dispatches or from your readings.

But if you don’t understand what a pooja is, the Sherpas – and we follow their lead every time – will not go on to the mountain until they have asked the mountain gods for blessing and safe passage. And they very humbly and reverently ask for good luck for the period of time we’ll go on the mountain. There is a lot of praying, there is a reverence, but also a gaiety and a celebration on pooja day.

Maegan with the Lama at PujaNo one has gone in to the Icefall yet this season. As you know, we’re the only team that will be climbing on the South Col route to the summit of Everest. And we have all our equipment in place, but no one has even stepped foot into the Icefall – that won’t happen until we have a pooja. That took place today.

A lama came up from Pangboche. The morning started out, as most of the mornings have recently, brilliant and clear and very warm. We began to assemble around the chorten, or the monument, in the centre of base camp, as the morning went on. In particular, the climbers brought their ice axes, crampons, and Maegan’s skis, of course, to the shrine, the monument, to be blessed.

With Tsmpa Paste on Faces, after the praying was finishedAt about 11 o’clock, the lama sat down in front of the chorten and began praying and reading from sacred text. All the Sherpas, all the trekkers and of course, all the BAI climbing team sat around to listen. We threw rice towards the alter in offering, at the lead of the Sherpas and the lamas. And as the morning wore on, we took samples of food from a tray that was passed, and we celebrated the beauty of the morning and we asked for a safe passage on the mountain.

It was a photogenic time, a time of laughter and fellowship with Sherpa friends. I sat there with some Sherpas that I had climbed with 15 years ago or more. I also sat there with new friends as well. BAI team after pujaThe team felt an inspiration and a confidence, as we looked up on to the mountain. I think the trekkers, especially, were awed and felt privileged to be part of the ceremony.

Now our typical afternoon is here and we are all sitting around the dining tent drinking tea. The lama decided, as the afternoon wore on and the rains began, to spend the night with us. We found a sleeping bag for him and we have an empty North Face tent and he has taken up residence in that. I can hear him still praying and chanting inside the tent. That makes us feel very good.

Climbers with the entire Sherpa team at the Puja

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