Day 16 October 24 Kathmandu I am back at the Hyatt in Kathmandu. We have had a great couple of days. On Monday afternoon we made our way to our Island Peak high camp. The walk starts on a flat sandy trail in the valley bottom. Quickly we started up hill. The sand soon gave way to gravel mixed with sand and then to rock. The rock alternated between gentle sloping to steep stairs to easy scrambling. We made our way up a steep cleft in the mountain. Two hours and fifteen minutes later we stepped onto the terrace that would be our home for the night. Perched at 5560m our home for the night had been hewn out of the rock by our ever smiling Sherpa team. Most people will go for the summit from base camp, but we were going from this high or attack camp. The reasons for this are many. When going for the summit from base camp teams leave between midnight and 2am. They will have a 12-17 hour climb to the summit and back to base camp. Departing for the summit from high camp cuts out at least two hours of walking up uneven, steep and sometimes treacherous rock in the dark. It means we can start at 4:30am and only have one hour in the cold of the dark night. Additionally because our climb is part of a documentary, the film crew needs the light of the sun for the best shots. Although the civilian team is not part of the documentary, they were using our summit attempt as a dry run for the soldiers climb. We arrived at high camp at 4:30pm. We had some hot drinks and a simple dinner of soup, salami, cheese and noodles. There is no water source at high camp so all water either needs to be carried up, or ice needs to be melted. As soon as the sun dropped below the ridge the temperature fell like a stone in water. The light grew dim and we headed to our tents. We were snuggled into our sleeping bags by 5:30pm. Steve, Shaun and I squeezed into a tent together. I had brought a book to read, so I settled in for a long night. The plan was to wake at 3:30am and to start for the top at 4:30am. I had a bad headache and was not feeling well. My oxygen saturation dropped to 72%. There was not much I could do but to try and get some sleep. I laid in my sleeping bag for hours upon hours. I think I may have dozed, but it is hard to tell. At one point Steve got out of the tent to go to the bathroom and I figured it must be getting close to our wake up time. I looked at my watch and was disappointed to see that it was only 10:15pm. I had hours to go. My headache grew as I shivered in my sleeping bag. It was a very uncomfortable night. At 3:30am we were up. One of our Sherpa team brought mint tea to drink which hit the spot. The porridge did not. My stomach was doing the roller coaster and I was praying I would not need to dart from the tent at any moment. Shaun gave me some Advil for my head and I stuffed my feet into my cold climbing boots. We started uphill just after 4:30am with our headlamps shining the way. I could see the faint glow of the sun over the distant mountains. It was a cold start. I had on two pair of long underwear bottoms and my goretex pants on my legs and I had on two thermal shirts, my Canada Goose down sweater, my ArcTerxy goretex jacket and my big Canada Goose down parka. I figured I would soon over heat and remove my parka, but the wind picked up and it got even older. I struggled for breath with every step upwards. The route out of camp consists of scrambling over large boulders. With every high step my stomach was squeezed and it was all I could do not to lose the contents. After an hour we hit what is called 'crampon point'. This is where we put on our crampons and prepare to head onto the glacier. I roped up with Shaun and Lama Babu who I know from Everest. The others in the group also roped together. We stepped onto the glacier and it got even steeper. The glacier leads to the headwall and eventually to the summit ridge. The glacier consists of huge frozen waves and dozens of crevasses big and small. As I was walking across the glacier it reminded me of the Ice Fall on Everest. It is very pretty, but dangerous at the same time. As we ground our way upwards my stomach got worse and I had to stop several time to dry heave. Nothing ever came up and I eventually got it under control. My breathing would never get better. It felt as if I was climbing with a plastic bag over my head. Any increase in incline would strip me of energy. Nobody ever said climbing was easy so I dug deep and forged on. Soon we made it to the head wall. Our team had fixed about 300m of rope to ensure our ascent was safe. We could see other groups on the wall and they appeared to be hardly moving. Having climbed this wall back in 2007 I knew exactly what was to come. I clipped my jumar onto the fixed rope and took my first steps upward. I was feeling a little better, but breathing was still difficult. One step, two steps, three steps, rest. I did this over and over as I ascended the wall. Several times I had to stop and rest my head on the ice and do my best to recover. My progress was slow but steady. I crested the final ice ramp and hit the summit ridge. It is difficult to find a more stunning summit ridge. A thin upward line leads to the summit with dramatic drops of more than 1000 feet on either side. The ridge is no more than 3 feet wide in places and it can be difficult to pass another climber. Four hours after our departure from high camp we stood on the summit. Every one made it to the top within 10 minutes of one another except one team member who had experienced an asma attack, but pushed on clawing his way to the top. The summit is not large, but we all squished together. The wind was raging and it was cold, but the excitement of the moment made none of this matter. For most of the team this was their first mountain summit. It would be hard to beat Island Peak for your first summit as it has all the characteristics of a big mountain without the high danger factor. Ama Dablam, the South face of Lhotse and Makalu dominated the sky, and countless lesser peaks filled in the space. Flags were pulled out and photos were taken of cold, tired, but happy climbers. After about 20 minutes we started our decent. Walking down the ridge we had to brace our steps against the wind. We made it to the top of the fixed lines and started to rap down. Most of the team had never rappelled before so they were hooked into a roped and lowered. I rappelled down beside Hilary to help her at the transitions and we were soon close to the bottom. With the protection of the head wall the wind had dropped, but it was still quite cold. We all gathered at the bottom of the face and started out across the glacier. In no time at all we were back at 'crampon point'. We were greeted by the smiling face of Timba our high camp cook as he offered us juice, cheese and salami. I ate a Snickers bar, drank some juice and tried to recover. I was beat as were the rest of the team. We struck out for high camp. The walk down was not too bad and with each downward step the air got thicker and warmer. We made it to high camp about 45 minutes later and dove into our tents to rest and to pack up our belongings for the final walk to bace camp. The final walk to bace camp only took us an hour, but it felt like much more. As we took the final few steps into camp the soldier team applauded us on our successful ascent. We were a ragged crew, tired from the effort of the summit. I think our appearance excited some of the soldiers and heaped anxiety onto others. They were up next, and they knew it was going to be tough. None of us were overly hungry, but we ate and drank what we could. We moved into our tents and spent the rest of the day and night sleeping. The air at base camp was warm and relaxing after the climb.
Day 15 October 23 SUMMIT
The first wave (civilian) made it to the Summit of Island Peak early this morning. 100% success. It was a tough, windy, cold and long day. We are all back at BC now and the soldiers head up tomorrow. The civilian team, me included, fly out of the valley by helicopter tomorrow morning.
I will post a full dispatch from my hotel in Kathmandu. Right now I am cold and tired and going to bed.
This will be my last dispatch for a couple of days as we head up the mountain for oursummit push.
After lunch today we will move to high camp and then at 3am on October 23 we will start for the top. We should summit mid morning and then be back at base camplater that day.
The weather looks good and everyone is healthy.
Wish us luck, Scott.
Susan, the PDA just crashed and I had to re-set it. I lost all the emails. I can not send you an email at this time. I will fix it when we get back from the climb.
Day 13 October 21 Island Peak BC
We are now at Island Peak Base Camp 5100m. I am sitting in the dining tent and have just finished popcorn and soup. It is quite cold outside, but nice in here.
We left Dingboche at 10am this morning.The walk up the valley was long and gentle. The valley was alive with colour as the bushes turn their fall colours. The constant hum of the river accompanied us as we gained altitude.
It took us 2 hours to get to Chukkung. Chukkung is a small town that acts as a staging ground for Island Peak. It is about the same as Lobuche in quality. Perhaps even a little worse.
We stopped off at Chukkung for lunch before we continued on to base camp.
We separated from the soldiers today. We continued on to base camp while the soldiers stay in Chukkung. We have parted for a couple of reasons. Firstly, we are too big a team for all of us to climb Island Peak at the same time. Secondly, since the civilians are not part of the documentary they do not want us getting in the way.
After lunch the walk to base camp was 3 hours. It was a gentle incline, but it was a long and exhausting walk. From quite a distance we could see the tents of base camp, but they were still a long way off.
We hit the first tents and the memories came flooding back to me. In the fall of 2007 my climbing partner Angus and I were here to climb Island Peak and Ama Dablam as a warm up for Everest. Both Angus and I got sick from some bad tea in Namche and we suffered all the way to Island Peak base camp. Angus was able to shake it, but I was not.
We set up our tent and I quickly had to dart out to be sick. Exhausted I made my way back into the tent only to barge from the tent a few moments later. After my fourth time running from the tent I grabbed my parka and stayed out for the night. It was a horrible night.
As we walked into camp today I saw the spot where we had our tent and the rock that I spend the night with. We did summit the next day, but it took a lot out of me.
Tim and Mark have stayed back with the soldiers as they had suffered a bit earlier in the trip and got behind on their acclimatization.
We are finally here for what we came for. It seems like such a long time ago we landed in Lukla. For me the trip has been great. I have enjoyed getting to know the soldiers and the civilians alike. I hope everyone has taken as much as I have from this trip.
Island Peak has no internet café and no cell service either. My batteries are running low so I will keep this short tonight.
Tomorrow we will move 600m up to our high camp in preparation for our summit attempt the next day.
Day 12 October 20 Dingboche 4410m
Today was a rest day in Dingboche. We are now in the prep stage for our climb of Island Peak. We need to be well rested, hydrated and fed in order to perform well on Island Peak.
We had a good dinner of pasta and tomato sauce last night. It was quite good, but I am susceptible to heart burn at altitude and the acidic sauce hit me. Fortunately the doc has about 3000 Zantac tablets. I now have a supply that should last be a few years.
It got down to zero in our room last night, but I slept well regardless. The Everest Resort is far from a resort in the western definition, but it is one of the nicer lodges we have stayed in. The rooms are clean, but the big measure of a lodge are the bathrooms. Here they are tended to several times a day and they are quite clean.
Since today was a rest day we had hot drinks at 6:30 and breakfast at 7:30. Just because it is a rest day doesn't mean we get to sleep in. I skipped hot drinks and stayed in my sleeping bag until 7:15. I was in no rush to get to breakfast.
Breakfast was cereal, which I skipped and rock hard toast with fried eggs which I chipped at with my knife and fork. I eventually gave up and picked it up and bit into it.
We had a meeting after breakfast to sort out gear for high camp to make sure everyone has a good sleeping bag and sleeping pad. Not everyone brought the appropriate sleeping bag and pad. I think we have it all figured out, but we will know for sure when we get to Island Peak.
After that I mostly sat around, read my book and organized my gear. I am now all set and have everything separated into dirty, clean and climbing bags.
Lunch was not great and I did not eat much. The fresh made chapatis were good, but the curry potatoes, the cole slaw and the sardines did not look appealing. I put strawberry jam on the chapatis and it was good.
After lunch I went for my shower. They pulled out a big bowl and started to put water into it. I said no, I wanted a real shower with the on demand system. He turned the water on and a tiny trickle came out. He looked at me, shrugged his shoulders and said sorry broken.
I asked our kitchen team for a bowl of hot water. If I was going to have a crappy bath, I at least did not want to pay for it. I set up the bowl outside on a plastic patio chair and took off my shirt. It was cool, but not cold. I splashed the warm water on my face and lathered up for a shave. The warm water did not help much and it felt like I more pulled out the hair rather than shaved it off. I ended up with a clean, but painful shave. I requested one more bowl of water and washed my hair. The next step was a baby wipe bath. The grand finale was a clean pair of underwareand socks. Good to go. I feel much better.
At 2:00 Hector gave the civilian team a refresher on the fixed line use. Hector Ponce de Leon is from Mexico and is one of the best high altitude climbers in the world. He has climbed Everest 3 times and many other Himalayan peaks as well as peaks in North and South America. He is a full time guide and also runs a team building company similar to mine in Mexico.
He went over how to use the fixed line, the ascenders and the descender. We reviewed how to pass another climber on the fixed line and what clothing to wear on the climb.
I think there is some anxiety within the group as the climb is a big unknown for most people. We will have almost a 1:1 guide to climber ratio so there will be plenty of help to keep every one safe and moving up.
On schedule the clouds moved in at 3:00 and the temperature dropped. Everyone is starting to gather in the dining room to stay warm. The proprietor just started the dung fire and a small amount of heat is slowly escaping the stove. We eventually convinced the owner that if the door was closed the heat would stay in the room better and she reluctantly closed the door. The Sherpa people do not feel the cold the same way as we do.
The sun is now setting and the views of the valley and the mountains is spectacular. The sky is crystal clear, the stars are starting to poke out of the blue black and the sliver silver moon is glowing as bright as can be.
An update on the fire; the owner has not been able to get the dung to ignite beyond a smoldering smokey mess. Smoke is pouring from the fire and the room is filling with smoke. We have opened the windows so we do not choke, and all the accumulated heat, what little there was, is gone. Dung is not the most efficient fire source, but up here it is what they have to work with.
We have just finished dinner. I think they were trying to give us a special dinneras it will be our last dinner in a lodge. The cook team made a great pizza with everything on it from SPAM to carrots. They also made fajitas, but I’m not sure they knew exactly what they were making. There was a VERY spice fried chicken, rice,fresh made tortillas, cheese, olives and salsa. Unfortunately, they all came out at different times and in such an order that it was not clear they all came together to make a fajita. By the time I finished my pizza and chicken stir fry I had no room left for a fajita.
Tomorrow the civilian team will head right to Island Peak base camp and the soldiers will move to Chukkung. The real climbing will then begin.
My resting heart rate tonight was 65 and my oxygen saturation was 89%.
Wish us good weather and God speed, Scott.
Day 11 October 19 Dingboche
Today was a pretty easy and uneventful day. We departed Lobuche 4910m at 8:30am. The walk was quite easy today following the valley down. We followed the river down to Dugla where it started down steeply. Below Dugla we took the high trail towards the memorials above Pheriche and Dingboche. At the memorials we started down to our accommodations at the Everest Resort in Dingboche 4350m. This lodge is a little off the main trail and is also a little more expensive then most. Rooms here are 500rps ($6) per person per night. Since we have our own cook set-up we are paying 1000rps ($12) per person per night. They are not quite big enough to accommodate us and we have several tents set up outside.
My room is simple with two single beds and a LED light bulb hanging from the ceiling. Unfortunately the bathroom is right next door and the walls are paper thin. There is the choice of a western style toilet and a squat toilet.
We will spend two days here to rest up before our push up the mountain. We will go directly to Island Peak base camp from here which will be a 600m gain, we will then move to high camp which is a 600m gain and then go for the summit which is also a 600m gain.
I think our Sherpa team are happy to be in Dingboche as there are a fair number of bars in town. Internet is available at two locations for 500rps per half hour and one place for 1800rps for 24 hours. They all shut off at 6:30pm and start the next day at 7:30am. One internet café turns into a reggae bar at 6:30pm.There is also a snooker bar in town.
Cell service is sketchey at best. If you stand in the right place at the right time of day you can get voice or text. 3G is not available.
As we were walking I learned a little about the Yak business. I was told a Yak costs between $800-$1000 to purchase and rents out for $20 per day. A Yak will carry 60-80kg. A porter will cost about $5 per day and carries between 20-30kg. Most trekking groups will not use Yaks until they cross a certain threshold to make it cost effective. Yaks are also better at carrying big and bulky camping gear (stoves, generators, big dining tents, etc) whereas porters mostly carry personal bags. We have however, seen some porters carrying some huge loads or propane tanks, heaters, and generators.
I saw an interesting guy come into our lodge today. He is a middle age white guy and appears normal in all respects except that he is hiking bare foot. I’m not sure what reasoning he has for this. If he is trying to be closer to nature or what. Maybe he is trying to get back to his hippie roots. Personally I would be worried about infection. The trails are very rough and I think it would be easy to cut your foot. The trails are also covered with Yak dung and other various pollutants. Not to mention the issue of frostbite as he goes higher. Kind of strange, but to each his own.
Since there is not a lot of news today I thought I would share my thoughts on trekking in the Khumbu for those that are interested in coming.
The first thing I would say would be to pack light. You will not need everything you think you will. One pair of socks/underwear for every 4-5 days is good. You will need multiple layers to accommodate the wide range of temperatures, but you will not change them much.
A buff is a critical item. It helps to keep the dust out of your lungs on the trail and helps to warm the air you breathe as you go higher. This will help you avoid the infamous Khumbu cough, but some people like me will get the cough regardless of what you do.
Anything you forget you can get in Namche. There are countless stores in town and they sell pretty much anything you need. There are shops that sell hand crafted items, knock offs and the genuine article. There is a bank in Namche if you need extra cash for shopping.
One luxury I bring is a cotton long sleeve shirt for sleeping. I like to get out of my synthetics at night.
Bring a pair of lodge shoes so you can get out of your hiking boots and bring a pair of crocks or something similar for the shower.
You can do the trek in hiking shoes, but the trail is quite rough in places and a good pair of boots is much better.
There is a wide range of accommodation available. As food and water born illness is a big issue here I would suggest you go for the mid to higher end. Their kitchens and rooms are usually cleaner and you stand a better chance in avoiding getting sick.
There is a place in Namche called the Sherpa Land Hotel and they have a very modern kitchen with stainless steel counters, a real cook stove, proper cleaning sinks and refrigeration. This is rare to find.
We have our own traveling kitchen with us so we can guarantee the quality of the food, but this is not usual or necessary. You can order from the lodge you are staying in, but I would stick to fried or boiled food options. The bakeries in the towns look very inviting, but can be a dangerous place. It is not necessarily the baked goods themselves, but how they are handled after they come out of the oven.
If you purchase an all inclusive package your accommodation and food will be included. If you are more adventurous you can just get a porter or even carry your own gear. If you are going this route figure on $10-$30 per person per day and always have some extra money if you want to splurge or if you need to visit a medical clinic.
Expect your accommodation to be simple. Don't expect hot and cold running water and even a private toilet is a luxury. Do not put your boots, pack or trekking poles on the beds, the chairs or the tables. You do not want to transfer what is on these items onto areas that you sit, sleep and eat.
Each lodge will have a heat source in the dining room.This is usually a Yak dung fire, but some will have propane. The dining room will be warm, but your bedroom will be cold. Bring a good sleeping bag as your room will get below freezing as you get higher.
A headlamp is also critical as the rooms are all lit by LED lighting. It is solar powered and usually very dull. It makes great mood lighting, but is not sufficient for reading or searching through your bag.
Do not go with a lower budget or local Nepali trip operator unless you are very experienced and comfortable taking care of yourself. The porters are very strong, but don't have the same level of care and attention that you will get from a Western guide. I have seen countless people sitting on the side of the trail, sick and exhausted with their porter looking on bored. They often do not understand the needs of the trekker and if the trekker does not know themselves what they need then it is a recipe for disaster.
Medical clinics are available in Namche and Pheriche, but if you are careful you should not need these. The clinic staff will offer a free altitude and health talk in Pheriche and Dingboche. Make time to sit in on one. It could just save your life.
Many people drink only bottled water, but there are other options. Bottled water is safe, but also produces a lot of garbage that does not get recycled. Some bottles are taken to Kathmandu for recycling, but most are not. There is no organized garbage system out here and all waste is eaten, buried or burned. Bring a good filter and a steri pen with you and you can get water from the taps and streams. Just be smart about it. If the sink is gross, skip it. If there is a Yak patty sitting in the river, go up stream.
As I have written, most towns do have power charging and internet availability. It is not always reliable and can be expensive (relatively speaking). Cell phones can be used in most towns, but again they are not reliable. Don't promise anyone you will be in contact every day. Instead make it a nice surprise when you do reach out.
If you have an unlocked phone you can get an Ncell SIM card in Kathmandu and this will allow you to send texts and even email when the 3G service is available.
Many people are carrying solar chargers that direct power into a battery pack. This power can then be used to power phones and iPods at night. I have not used one, but they seem pretty reliable.
Laundry services are available in most towns and at your lodge. If you use this service be aware that it will be washed in a pit or a pail, by hand and foot. The water will not be hot. I personally try to avoid this, especially for anything that touches your body directly or goes on your face.
The altitude will kick your butt. Even if you are fit you will be sucking air big time as you go higher. Be prepared to slow down and be ok with it. This is also critical for acclimatization. Don't go to high too fast or you will soon find yourself on a helicopter out or hating life.
I’m sure there are many other things I could share with you, but this is all I can think of right now. The last thing I will say is expect it to be busy. This is a very popular area and more and more people are flocking here each year and the local linfrastructure is struggling to adjust to it.
Day 10 October 18 Back in Lobuche
We have had another big day today. We climbed Kala Pathar and then descended to Lobuche.
Last night was early to bed. We were camping, but as I mentioned we had an indoor gathering space. The space was quite tight and not everyone could sit down. The space was a little sun room for three bedrooms. Gorak Shep was very busy and every available room was full. Unfortunately for the people who had rented these three rooms they had to contend with 32 of us. As with any group the volume does rise once everyone is talking. We aked the group to be as quite as possible and to evacuate the room by 8:00pm to give the residents some peace.
It was a cold night as we sorted out our tent and got into our sleeping bags. Both Shaun and I slept well, but were both a little cold. The temperature in our tent dropped to -15c and I’m sure it was at least 5 degrees colder outside.
I was awake early, but I did not get out of my sleeping bag until we were served tea and hot chocolate. Once the sun hit our tent it warmed up quickly.
We made our way to breakfast for 8:00am. Breakfast was scrambled eggs and pancakes. I was not overly hungry, but I choked some down as I know I would need the calories.
After breakfast Ben gave the team a talk. As this expedition has many different focuses some people were getting confused and upset. The civilian team is doing well and there are no issues. The soldier team has a lot more pressure on them as they as they have the camera in their face much of the time. As we are now at high altitude and people are tired, sore and hungry, some people are not themselves and can get a little grumpy. Some people feel others are getting too much camera time, some people don’t want any camera time, but get it any way. The cameras are there when they are high and they are there when they are low. There is a lot of pressure and with the pressure some people were starting to crack and roumours were starting to fly. Some people were not happy and were bringing others down with them. Ultimately Ben gave a good talk to help clarify the misunderstandings and to re-state the bigger purpose of the expedition. Personal agendas will need to take a back seat.
Anyway, by 9:30am we were off. As usual the civilian/donor team went out first with the soldier team to follow. The civilian team is not featured in the documentary in any way and they frequently separate us so we will not get in any shots. This is too bad as it done impact the cohesiveness of the team and the integration and I do think there could be an interesting story line if we were included. But that is not the focus so we move on ahead.
Pasang led us out and set a blistering pace. The hike up Kala Pathar is not difficult, but as we will climb to 5550m it is very strenuous. The usual time to the summit is 2-3 hours. We blasted up the trail passing countless people. The trail is pretty well worn and easy to walk for the most part. Near the top it becomes rocky and there is some easy scrambling for the final 50m. At times I felt we were going needlessly fast, but everyone was good with the speed and we hit the top in 90 minutes.
It was pretty warm, but as we crested the top the wind struck us with hurricane force and the temperature dropped significantly. We put on extra layers to keep warm and started to take photos.
The view from the top of Kala Pathar is spectacular in 360 degrees. Kala Pathar is really just a big pile of dirt and not very pretty at all. However, it is known as the tripod of the Khumbu as from the top you can get the best photos.
Pumori stands strong and tall and Everest strikes high into the sky. You can see base camp and about 3/4 of the way up the Ice Fall. You can see the South Col (Camp 4) and the summit ridge. The South Summit and the Hillary step are visible as well as the thin white line of snow that makes up the cornice summit ridge. The wind on the summit pyramid was raging today producing ahuge plume of snow rocketing off the top. There was a Japanese team that was intending to go for the top today and I hope they stayed in their tents and even better hope they descended to lower elevations. If there did attempt the top today they would have been blown all the way to Beijing.
I did hear that a Sherpa from one of the teams did die today from a fall at 8000m. I know absolutely nothing about it, but do know it is a scary and dangerous place. For those who are reading this be assured that climbing Everest is VERY different from what we are doing and we are in no way the same type of dange as those that are attempting Everest.
98% of the people who attempt Everest do so in the spring and for good reason. The fall has a much higher incidence of frostbite, avalanche, hypothermia, and many other deadly factors.
Looking up at Everest brought back some very powerful memories for me. It is hard to believe I did it. Looking up at it from Kala Pathar looked very intimidating. What a spectacular and huge piece of rock.
After about 30 minutes on the top we descended to a small col about 50m below the summit. The soldier team was just passing this point on the way to the top and we chatted with them for a few minutes. I did see another group that had started well before us and they were moving at a snails pace. I think it would have taken them close to 4.5 hours to hit the top.
The walk down was relaxing and warm. It took us about 45 minutes to get back to Gorak Shep. Hector and I drew a huge TPL (True Patriot Love) in the sand for the soldiers to see on their way down.
We had a lunch of soup, cheese, crackers and salami and then hit the trail to make it back to Lobuche. The trail out of Gorak Shep is a bit of a challenge as it is a lot of up will to start, but once we hit the top it was mostly down hill. It was a cold walk as there was a very strong wind. We were in the shade most of the time chasing the sun which only hit us for a few moments at a time.
Before we got to Lobuche we could smell it; the Yak dung fires. We are back at the Mother Earth House and it is warm and cozy here. The internet next door is working very well and people are making up for lost internet time.
I called home tonight and it was great to Speak with Susan, Amy and Colin. The SAT phone is great to have. The SAT phone is relative new to the civilian world. The first time I saw a SAT system was in 1999 on Mt Logan when a team had an email SAT system. The fist time I used a SAT phone was in 2001 on Cho Oyu in Tibet.
We just had dinner. It was rice, spicy chicken, and some type of unidentifiable vegetable. The chicken was perhaps a little too spicy and I passed on the veggies. For the most part I am relying on my Gummy vitamins to balance my nutrition needs..
Tomorrow we will head to Dingbouche. The original plan was to go over the Kongla Pass and sleep up there, but plans have changed. Some of the team is suffering a bit from various illnesses and altitude related challenges and to go over the pass would tax them greatly. As our main objective is Island Peak we feel it is best to skip the pass in order to keep people healthier and more rested to increase the chance of success on Island Peak. We have had plenty of acclimatization on Kala Pathar and Everest Base Camp.
I am thinking I may take a shower in Dingbouche and change my socks and underwear. I don’t think I smell too bad for Everest, but for Oakville I would not pass.
That’s it for today. Hope everyone is well and enjoying following my trip. Scott.
Day 9 October 17 Gorak Shep 5200m
Big day today. Ill get to that in a minute. First an update of the night. We had several people under observation, but they have all made a good recovery. Two members stayed at Lobuche to recover, but the rest moved up. The doc and our sick film crew member have caught up with us.
I slept well and am feeling good. All night once again you could hear people being sick. This is a very beautiful, but contaminated place. One must be paranoid about sanitation and for that reason we as a team have faired well. Rocco made a comment that the toilets here must be very special as people seem to sprint to them every night.
We were up at 6:00am and had breakfast at 7:00am. We were on the trail by 8:00am to head to Gorak Shep and then on to Base Camp.
It took us 3.5 hours to reach Gorak Shep. The walk is quite gentle through a beautiful valley. The topography has changed and it is almost a moon scape.
Gorak Shep is a small stopping point for trekkers as they visit base camp and for climbers before they head to base camp for 6-8 weeks. It is not the cleanest place, but it is not that different from most. There is no running water here so all the water has to be carried in so we need to conserve it.
We had lunch of fresh baked chapati bread, fried SPAM, cole slaw, and mashed curried peas. We only had a quick stop as we needed to keep marching towards base camp.
The walk to basecamp took is about 2 hours. This was the first time I labored for breath. As we approached 5300m every hill would slow us to a crawl. If you try to sprint for a moment it completely exhausts you.
There are only three teams at base camp at this time. I hear one of them is a Japanese team that plans to make their summit attempt tonight.
Entering base camp brought back a lot memories for me. Everest is a pretty big part of my life and I have spent 2 months at base camp. We took photos and enjoyed the moment. We stayed at base camp for about an hour and then started back.
The walk back was easy for the most part, but some of the up hills were draining. We made good time and got back to Gorak Shep in an hour.
Tonight we are camping out in tents as a warm-up for the Kongla Pass and Island Peak. Also the lodges here are not the best. We have an indoor space where we can gather and eat, but we will sleep outside.
Today was a cool day but not bad. By the time we got back to our camp from base camp it was quite cold. It has dropped below zero and will go well below zero tonight. It will be a good test to see if everyone can workout their systems to stay warm.
There is a cell tower here and when we first arrived those that had cell phones got 3G coverage. However, I think it must be solar run (there is no conventional power up here ) as once the clouds came in the cell service was gone.
There is a WiFi café in Gorak Shep, but it was not in service today so I do not know the quality or cost.
We have just finished dinner and I did not eat much. I am tired and so is everyone else. Sitting around the table tonight everyone looks wasted. Healthy, but wasted.
Tomorrow we will climb Kala Pathar and then head back to Lobuche for the night.
Today has been a very good day and I am glad to be part of this experience.
My resting pulse tonight is 87 and my oxygen saturation is 79%.
That is it for today, Scott.
Day 8 October 16 Lobuche 4910m
We arrived at the Mother Earth House Lodge in Lobuche at 3:30pm. Today has been a very full and meaningful day.
The day started as usual when I woke at 5:30am. I laid in bed for a long time while trying to avoid my need to pee. The temperature in our room dropped to 2-degrees last night. I was tosty warm in my sleeping bag, but I was not keen to leave my little cocoon of warmth.
From what I heard several people, not on our team, had a rough night last night. Every now and then I would hear someone sprint down the hall to the toilet followed by awful retching. It is hard to feel sorry for them as I saw them brushing their teeth and drinking the water directly from the tap. I don’t know what they were thinking.
Our team is mostly healthy, but we have a few men down. Several people have had 24-48 hour bugs and there is a cold going around. One of our film crew is down for the count. He stayed in Pheriche with the doctor and is on intervenes IV. They will try to meet us in Chhukhung in about 5 days.
I am doing well, acclimatizing and feeling better each day. I pulled myself out of bed and it was actually not too bad. I dressed, ate my gummies and some chocolate almonds and went to the bathroom.
The water lines freeze each night and in order to flush the toilet in the morning there is a big barrel of water beside the toilet. The idea is to take the top off the tank, fill it and flush it. Most people, however, do not understand this strategy and they pour water directly into the bowl until it sort of flushes. In the process they spill water all over the floor and the toilet seat. I guess the benefit is that it washes the feces and vomit away. How good does that sound.
I went for breakfast and started to get ready for the day. I left my day pack and gear in the room and Shaun locked it. I asked him for the key and he looked at me confused and said he already gave it to me. I said no you did not and he said yes he did. Then Ray piped in and said Shaun gave it to him. I could see how he could confuse us as Ray is over 6 foot, about 230lbs and black.
Apparently Ray had handed the key to the lodge office so I went to get it. I asked for my room key and they asked me the room key. I said that I did not have it and they said they did not have it either. The key had fallen off the key fob and was lost. They pulled out a bag of about 50 keys and started to try them and Ray got out his Leatherman and started to disassemble the door. Eventually someone found the key on the floor and I got in.
We were on the trail at 8:30am. We took the lower trail up the Lobuche valley. The trail meanders back and forth across the gently flowing river and at the end of the valley turns right up a fairly steep grade to Dugla. We stopped for a break at Dugla and then made our way to Thokla Pass at 4830m.
Mark is not feeling great today and has very little energy. Mark, Tim and I formed a small group and went at a slow pace grinding up the trail. We walked together the rest of the day and it was a nice change to get away from the big group. I love the group, but as an introvert I find the group overloads me at times. It was nice to enjoy the quiet and peaceful walk with just the three of us.
The Thokla Pass is a very serene and special place. In 1982 Blair Griffin was the first Canadian killed on Everest. This was the first Canadian Expedition to Everest and he was killed when a serac collapsed on him in the ice fall. He was carried down to the pass and cremated. The team then erected a memorial for him. Since then dozens of memorials have been built to remember the climbers killed on Everest. One prominent monument is for Scott Fischer who was the leader of Mountain Madness and died with many others in 1996.
As we walked around we noticed a new memorial that did not have a plaque on it. Our trip leader Ben pulled out a plaque for us to erect on the memorial. It was for Shriya Shah-Klorfine; the Canadian woman killed on Everest this spring. The team took turns hammering the plaque onto the memorial and the soldiers stood at attention. One soldier tore the Canadian flag off his jacket and placed it on the memorial. We tied a silk Kata on the memorial and wrapped it in prayer flags. It was a very touching moment. Regardless of what you may think about her attempt on Everest, she is a fallen Canadian and deserving of our respect.
Walking through this pass was like walking through a cemetery. We were mostly silent as we filed pass all the memorials on the way to our next destination.
The trail from the pass to Lobuche actually drops 17m and then flattens out. It follows a flat rocky valley bottom with a clear, cold glacier stream running through it.
In all it took us 7 hours to get here, but we spent at least an hour at the memorials. The walk was pleasant and I enjoyed it very much.
Lobuche is not a favourite place of mine, but it is a necessary evil. It is a standard stopping point on the way to base camp. We are in the Mother Earth House Lodge and it is as good as it gets here. Our room is small with two single beds and a LED light hanging from the ceiling. There is squat toilet down the hall and a western toilet as well. The western toilet, however, looks extremely uninviting and I will opt for the squat when the need arises.
The dining room is large and warm. Our cook staff are busy preparing us hot drinks and snacks and we will have dinner in a while. We are a large group and almost take over the place. I do feel sorry for the other groups as we do make a lot of noise.
Cell service is available but only voice, no data. There is a WiFi Café next door, but they charge 500rps ($6) per half hour. The quality is quite good however. Lower in the valley I was doubting my decision to bring the SAT phone, but now I am happy I did.
There is a hot shower here for 600rps, but I will take a pass.
Today I spent some time walking with Matt. Matt has done 2 tours in Afghanistan and has spent time in many other war zones. Matt is a great guy. He is a farm boy from Edmonton and is as strong as an ox. Just today he put on pants instead of shorts and put on a jacket over his T-shirt for the first time. He is quiet, but ever keen to help in any way. I have no doubt that he would literally take a bullet for you.
He took a grenade blast to his foot in Afghanistan and he said it split his foot like a banana. He was in surgery within an hour and had two additional operations to rebuild his foot. He does not walk with a limp and can function pretty much as normal. He has no feeling in the foot, but he does say sometimes he experiences severe pain in the foot for no apparent reason from time to time.
6:49pm Update: I have just finished dinner. Tonight we had mushroom soup followed by pasta with tomato sauce, fried potatoes with melted cheese, some type of zucchini, and a chicken cutlet. It was pretty good, but I avoided the pasta as I have a little bit of heart burn and I did not want to make it worse with the acidic sauce.
The group is tired tonight. Several people have dropped since I started writing this. We have at least 4 people in bed with everything from exhaustion, to colds, flu, and a chest infection. There may even be some slight HAPE. All pretty typical for a trip like this. No body is in seriously bad shape. There is usually a pretty high attrition rate. It is even worse on a 2 month Everest expedition.
I am doing my best to stay healthy. I am sanitizing my hands frequently and before ever meal and I am avoiding the people who are down with the flu or a cold. At this point it is all about prevention and a little bit of luck.
Well that is it for today. Ill send this off and then go to bed soon to read. I just did my sats and my resting heart rate is 97 and my oxygen saturation is 82%. That is pretty much normal for me at this point.
Tomorrow we will trek to Gorek Shep where we will have lunch and then we will go to Everest Base Camp. It will be a big day and people are excited. This will be the first of three milestones for the team. It has been a long trek to get to this point and the excitement is building.
Wishing everyone good health, Scott.