September 22, 2006 Snowy Day at Base Camp
No Audio Today
As Expedition Leader I have the privilege of keeping track of 30 or so people spread from Camp II to far down the Khumbu Valley. The radios help and this morning Ang Tshering, Base Camp Manager, and I were in the communications tent from 5:30AM finding out what was going on.
One thing you should know is that each morning Dave Hahn and I both receive our morning “wake up coffee” just past 5:00AM. In our case this is a stainless steel “French Press” coffee maker filled with strong brew. I am not sure what Dave does in his tent between this Sherpa alarm service and our normal breakfast at 8:00AM, but I usually head straight for the communications tent, where a frosty Panasonic Toughbook is waiting on the table. It is quite cold in the communications tent before the sun hits! The first prompt I see when I power the Toughbook up is “Please wait… system is warming.” But soon the system is up and I am online. This morning I was eager to see the weather report for the Everest Region from Michael Fagin at West Coast Weather in Seattle.
Fagin had told us a few days ago about a low that would develop north of the Bay of Bengal and East of Everest by today. Indeed, the snowfall this morning at Base Camp showed he was right. Today’s update from Michael indicated our weather would likely be influenced by this low through Sunday.
At 6:00AM, I contacted Camp II where our Camp II cook Ang Pemba, and the climbing Sherpas Mingma Ongel and Passang Tenzing were waking to a cloudy morning without precipitation. You will remember that Mingma Ongel and Passang Tenzing were two of the 4 “ace” climbing Sherpas who put the route in all the way to Camp III under the direction of Da Sona over the past two days. These guys had asked me for three days off to visit their families in the village of Phortse, which lies at the mouth of the Goyko Valley far below here. I told them the days off were fine, well-deserved in fact, but that they had to stay at Camp II until we were sure we could get a Sherpa replacement for them to help Ang Pemba keep Camp II intact.
Today’s weather definitely will allow for the switch, so I told the boys to start down. A bit later a strong young climbing Sherpa from Khunde named Dawa Tsering headed up to relieve them at Camp II.
Our Icefall Doctor Ang Nima is always watching for changes, both dramatic and subtle in our icefall route. Even though most Sherpas are taking the day off today, Ang Nima said that he wanted to put a new ladder section in an area of the Icefall we call the “Popcorn”. Long before the climbing team’s breakfast, I saw Ang Nima and Pemba Dorje visit our Chorten to pray and start off on a morning of Icefall work. Pemba Dorje seemed to think nothing of strapping the 3 meter aluminum ladder to his pack before he took off.
Now, it is afternoon. Ang Nima and Pemba Dorjee have retuned from the Icefall. I have no doubt that the Phortse boys have already made it home. Ang Pemba and Dawa called from Camp II and said that it had snowed only briefly there today and that it is clear now. Next to the communication tent where I am working in the North Face Two Meter Dome is a full house. Kit and some of the other climbers invited the Sherpas in for an afternoon movie. As the snow falls at Base Camp the team is enjoying watching "The Gladiator!"