September 15, 2006 Keeping Busy at Base Camp
I would not be so presumptuous as to say something like “the monsoon is over” on this clear mid-September morning from Base Camp. But this is a “Bluebird” day in every sense, with completely clear skies above and no clouds down valley.
When I first awoke this morning I could see a floor of thick clouds sitting just above Gorak Shep. Yesterday this same floor of clouds was present in the morning and it stayed all day even though we had clear skies on the mountain. Yanzing reported to us by radio from Pangboche that they awoke to clouds and saw no sun yesterday.
But this morning however the valley clouds burned off with the sun and the entire Khumbu seems clear and sunny.
We know that somewhere down there it is raining because Wongchu reported to me by phone today that Leila, who is one her way back to Kathmandu to meet our first Base Camp Trekking group could not fly this morning. The first trekkers for BAI Base Camp trips this season will be arriving in Kathmandu on the 17th.
Our 7 member climbing team has been busy and productive these past three days at base. Each night we seem to sleep better and now after 7 nights spent sleeping at 5300 meters (17,390 ft.) everyone is taking their morning “wake up coffee” from the Sherpas with a rested feeling and is ready to get a start at a days organization and setting up at our Base Camp.
Bryce Brown has been busy preparing all the medical kits, both for Base Camp and the upper mountain and for the trekking groups who will be approaching base. He also checked out our “Gamov Bag” - the hypobaric rescue bag that could take someone down in the atmosphere by increasing air pressure it could save a life.
Work in the Icefall is continuing even as some of the Sherpa pushed all the way to Camp II today. The other day when some of our climbers were in the icefall they were impressed to see ladders moving up ladders to establish the top part of the route. Today Ang Nima and Danu worked on the icefall while Dasona, our Sherpa Climbing leader led a team all the way to Camp II. Dasona reported there was firm snow all the way to Camp II. This is good news for moving loads and for our team members being mobile when we move up to Camp I and begin to push higher in the Western Cwm. We all plan to move to Camp I to sleep tomorrow night.
Here at Base our days have been full and enjoyable. The communications tent is in full operation now and at any time during the day you might find up to three laptops working.
Late afternoons are the most enjoyable. Just after tea and popcorn is served at 4:00 pm we get together to watch a DVD. Yesterday’s feature was “The Man Who Skied Down Everest” about Yuchiro Miura’s remarkable 1970 expedition in spring to the South Col Route. Sherpas and climbing members alike were filled with admiration and fascination for this adventure that took place 36 years ago. We are all very aware that Miura finally stood on the summit of Everest in 2003 at an age of more than 70. Seeing the excellent film of a much younger Yuchiro, boldly pointing his skis down the Lhotse Face in 1970 thrilled and inspired us.
Times have changed. Miura’s team began trekking from just outside Kathmandu with 800 porters. We chartered a Russian MI-17 to the Sangboche airstrip and used Yaks from there. But the call of snow and terrain on the highest slopes in the world is as pure and awesome for us today as it has ever been for anyone.