Today we got up early and prepared to depart base camp. I was feeling ok and had achieved a dream…but there is a long way to go. My feet were tingling and my right hand was real cold. It had escaped my sleeping bag during the night and my arm had gotten a bit icy. Nothing really more than like when you are a kid and play outside too long in the snow. But uncomfortable none the less.
Mani was already gone from camp, so Nadja and Kadji left with me ahead of the bunch. The plan for the trek today was to head for Peroche. But the Heli Pad was finished and we were all headed there first because we were told a Heli was coming in. Big excitement for Base Camp at 17,500 feet up! As we all
gathered and were told how far to stay back, I took a perch on Kadji’s back pack and was just right for the view. It was cold but as the sun came up over the high Himalaya‘s warmth immediately took over that feeling and it was quite comfortable sitting out on the glacier.
Soon we could hear the wafting of the Heli blades from far down the canyon. Everyone began to chatter to one another. The Heli came in, circled and went off. Then You could hear someone say..”no…..cannot go that fast….cannot go that fast…..”. Then the Heli came over again and made another circle and touched down. Everyone was covering their faces from the wash of the blades. The men jumped out and
took off some supplies and then gave a signal. Suddenly, Kadji grabbed one of my arms and Deana the other and lifted me from my comfortable spot. Mani had my duffel and my pack and they were both tossed into the Heli just ahead of me. Just that fast the door was closed behind me and I was lifting off in what was the first Medi-lift of the 2012 Everest Climbing Season. My whole team was below me waving as I was taken from my beloved Glacier.
You see, what I did not tell you was that I was so exhausted and so low on O2 when I had arrived the night before that Deana, my Mountain Madness Guide, had serious concerns about me. She gave me options about walking out much slower, as our pace was to pick up over the coming days, and I had no extra energy as it was. That would leave me alone in the mountains with a Sherpaat Tea Houses as my energy allowed. I would miss my international flight
and have little support going out. That seemed like a far less safe way home than to be shipped out via Heli. Very serious stuff up here in the Khumbu. I borrowed a phone and we called my Brother, Joe, to let him know what was going on. I ate soup. lots of soup. But still was not able to really eat anything else. The food was so good, too!
My roommate had laid out my bag and pad and pretty much everything was done for me. I spent the night listening to the ice crack and the avalanches and knowing tat in the morning I was leaving on a heli and would never see or feel any of this again. I fought the feeling of failure and knowing that some would look at this trip in that way. But they didn’t have boots on the ground, up and down the mountains. They did not have my dream so they cannot end my dream. I was cold at times and could not get real comfortable, but that did not dampen the truth. I DID IT!
As I looked at my team mates below and lifted off into the morning sky, I had tears rolling down my cheeks. I had not got to know them the way I would have liked. I was never with them during the long days to chat and joke and build the kind of camaraderie that they built together. And I could see it. I was not left out, it was just the way it was.
Soon I was at Lukla, where we had all been what seemed eons ago, though was only 8 days. I was confused since we were supposed to be going to Katmandu. But things are never that easy in Nepal. So I stood, feeling tired and weak, aside the heli pads at Lukla watching the planes come in and out of the scariest airport ever. No real protection between me and the planes and copters wondering what would happen next.
About two hours went by and the same copter that had brought me from the glacier whisked me up again and by gosh it was the ride of a lifetime! That copter hugged hills, buzzed roof tops and dodged weather over every hill and dale between Lukla and Katmandu. It was the longest roller coaster ride of my life and thrill does not begin to define it. After and hour or more of that I was at the big airport again in Katmandu and a tiny ambulance awaited my
arrival. Along with my Mountain Madness man who rode with me to the clinic. We headed through the crowded streets of Kathmandu and the tiny siren tweeting atop the capsule was barley even audible in the loud and busy city.
But alas, we arrived at the clinic and inside I went to undergo a barrage of testing. Blood samples were drawn and and ECG performed. Funny thing that ECG. Giant Frankenstein like clamps were attached to each ankle and wrist. Then funny little suction cups around my chest. The paper feeding through the machine sounded loud as a chain saw. I felt like the machinery was right out of the 50’s. (But I also felt awful and dirty having had no shower since Namche Bazaar.) The doctor ordered IV and some juice! So I lie in the bed in a funny little room that seemed to house two such beds with a separator curtain along with odds and ends of furniture from other parts of the facility. But it was clean and comfortable.
A nurse came to talk to me. She was a Sherpa woman. She went to school with Babu Chiri Sherpa‘s second eldest daughter. Her own father had died some years earlier leading men up Everest. It is common here if you are of the Sherpa people to have family on that mountain.
I spent the day sleeping the sleep you have when you are in a car. When the IV’s had run all of their healing juices into my veins they turned me loose. Sagar came and got me and followed my cab to the Yak and Yeti. I showered. Boy did I shower. I went and ate and came up to my room and went to bed. It was raining hard. There was lightning in the very skies I had just cone through a few hours before. I though of my friends in the mountains coming down and I was sad not to be with them. The rain beat down on the windows. and I smiled. I had done it. I had made it to Base Camp. I do not know all that it means to me yet, but I do know it means more than I can articulate here. Oh, and yeah. I am getting pictures in again. More later!
After the Namche Rest day, we got up and headed for Tengboche. This is where there is a great monastery. The group set out and I, as usual, am in the back. I am always with Sherpa, and like every day, he took my pack after about the first 45 minutes. I am slow. Real slow. I remember In Junior High Track, Mrs. Campbell always said that my run was more of a glorified walk. It was true. And when Kathy and I were picking strawberry’s one summer…I never made progress down the long, seemingly ever longer rows. I think of some of that on my long walks in the Himalayas all by myself. The Hike in to Tengboche seemed innocuous on the map. We would end up a t relatively the same altitude that we left in Namche. But hikes here are not like walking across a ridge to the next village. It walking down the river, crossing on a hanging bridge and walking up again to the ridge…and then maybe back down and up. This is nothing like I thought it would be. I am expending every bit of energy every day. It is wondrously beautiful. I have never had this much solitude in my life. I am by myself with the Sherpa of the day assigned to me. He is really not assigned to me except that my slowness makes him “my” Sherpa by default. I have hours and hours to my own thoughts. I hear the sounds of traffic, which consist of the slow moving dong of the yak bell and the fast, high pitched chaos of the jingle bells that are around the horses necks. As I pass groups of porters resting aside the road with the baskets heavily laden with all sorts of necessities of life and trekking I do feel transported to another world. But it isn’t another world. It is just different. It is a mixture of worlds that are coming together and the people seem quite happy. Though it may seem odd to me that a young man trekking a basket up thousands of feet on his back reaches for his cell phone when it rings it is life as he knows it. Far be it from me to require that my trekking experience be more rustic because it fits my imagination. At the end of each part of the day, I find myself so exhausted by the up and down work that I seem to have to have a good crying moment. Not sad, not hurt, just emotional to be able to be doing this and to be with the people I am with. Every one to the last one are kind to me and to each other. The Mountain Madness staff is beyond reproach. They are helpful and happy and they love to interact with the group. Some speak pretty good English too!. So arriving in Tengbouche for me, was difficult. I set out the Spot Connect, ate a little bit of dinner and went to bed. No real interaction with the group. The next day was coming.
So we left Katmandu and boarded a plane for Lukla. Lukla is the location of the Number 1 most dangerous airport in the world. The flight is in a 15 seater and Feels loud a rickety. It takes about an hour to get there and the flight went well. Getting close, though, he was threading a needle through the mountain. I would say getting as close as 500 feet at times! The landing was pretty uneventful, but I can say I landed at the most dangerous airport in the world!
We took off from thee and headed for Phak Ding. It was going to be about a four hour hike. Supposed to be the easy day before the hard one. For me? Not so much. It was hard. While you lose altitude you go up a lot to do it. And I had way over packed my day pack Late in the hike, the Mani, my Sherpa of the day, took my pack and I continued on without it. It was tough going. Lots of stairs that go uphill and lots of very steep near-scrambling. At least that is my memory. I arrived at Phak Ding 10 or 15 minutes after my fellow trekkers. They are great, by the way. Every last one of them. The hike itself rambled through villages and fields and was really breath taking. But we ain’t seen nothing yet. Sorry no pics again, but the upload eats up all my time for blogging. I buy it by the usage. [edited in pictures]
This is supposed to be the tough day. I didn’t sleep at all during the night. Our accommodations were very nice, though cold. But I kept warm enough. my roommate is great and does not snore, but I was Sleepless in Phak Ding. I have not been able to eat a lot, though I feel great. I was worried about the hike to Namche. How hard it is touted to be and how difficult the easy day was for me. We got our wake-up tea at 6:30. The Sherpa brings tea to your room and wake you up. An hour later you are to be at breakfast. I ate lots of mush and an egg for breakfast and we headed out. I was very scared. I had learned that all the elevation gain was in the end of the hike. We meandered back and forth across steel bridges across the river and each time there were steep rock steps to climb on both sides. Up, down, up down and then after crossing the last bridge, a huge down followed by steady, extremely steep hiking all the way in and gaining over 2k in around 3 miles. I was again assigned a Sherpa who again took my pack once we crossed that last bridge. I pressed on. I fought with myself about why I thought I could do this. But here I was so stop it and keep going! It was ugly. Real ugly. But on I went, all the time being treated extra nice by a man who could have run up the hill! I was passed time and time again by porters carrying 100 pound loads in sandals. I drank 4 liters of water as told by the Dawa, the boss of the Sherpa. Finally, we get to the very edge of the town of Namche andI have to take another of the many rests I had taken. Suddenly I was sick. I just started throwing up off the edge of the cliff. Nothing there though so I simply sounded like a barking dog. One of the Sherpas early in the day had told me that I can trek my only problem is that I am FAT! He said it smiling and there was no negative meant by it, just the facts ma’am! Another point in the day an old hippie passed me on the trail and spit out. “Just go slow!”. several hours later he passed me again and said “you are still here! I am F!*$in’ impressed! I figured you would have quit a long time ago! That is GREAT!” All I could muster was “there is no quit.” That along with a bucket of spit like a distempered horse!
The Sherpa suggested we stop at the Irish Pub and have tea before the last leg. I did and we had two milk teas as I looked around at the big mountains around me. I am here. In Namche. I did it. I did not quit. I am well…the tea hit the spot. Now I am simply going to take a shower after having a dinner of Shrimp chips, pasta with sauce, mashed potatoes, fruit, tea and Soup. I will write more later, but the shower and Big Agnes the sleeping bag beckon. Maybe next time I can introduce you all to Elvis the Yak!
Wow! Time is really flying by and before I know it, I will be headed outta Dodge and realizing a dream. I heard from my Cousin, Leo yesterday. He lives in Guangzhou Shi, Guangdong, China. I will be arriving in Hong Kong the 28th of March so he will come over there the night before and tour me around Hong King during my 12 hour lay over! What a TREAT!
As the days round out before leaving to Everest Base Camp, I am finishing up getting the gear in. This near two year process has resulted in me making some additions and changes in what gear I want to bring. I have opted to take two pair of boots, but now, one pair will be all leather, Keen Erickson PCT’s to compliment my Keen Oregon PCT’s. I decided I like the Patagonia Fitz Roy 800 fill down hoodie for my summit coat. That takes out my Mountain Hardwear Down Sweater.
I still have to get all my electronics together and figure out how many batteries and what type I will need to bring. I have my Mac Book Pro, my SPOT, my solar batteries, my steri-pen, my iPhone, and my Canon 60D camera. I have to complete my first aid list and get my shots. The Health District web page advised getting them right before leaving as they only last a few weeks. I need to be sure I have enough stuff sacks and dry bags to get all mys stuff into my big Mountain Hardwear Trekking duffel, pack my pack and select one other small carry on to hold boots, camera, passport, tickets and cash. I also need to get passport pictures taken to bring for visa documents for Mountain Madness.
I mentioned a device I got called a SPOT. I was able to purchase it used from a forum member at Trail Space. He only charged me $40.00 and it is going to be a very important part of my trek. Dad is quite worried about me. This little device will enable me to press a button, which will then ping a satellite. That will cause the satellite to send a text message to my sister and emails to various others as well as mark a map through Google Maps. So Dad will know every day that I am A.O.K. and he can worry far less. I purchased a ton of insurance so that if ANYTHING happens, I am covered and don’t have to pay up front. I can get medical care, evacuation and anything else needed.
So I do feel very prepared though there is much to do in the next 5 weeks until I depart. I will begin organizing this weekend. Though I will be out both Saturday and Sunday. Saturday to continue the search for Ron Kirk and Sunday to Black Mountain.