Everest-Approaching Base camp
The expedition is now passing through a treacherous region on the way to Base Camp.
Unusually violent storms caused by global climate change have made the trail all but impassable. We are pressing on, though most want to turn back.
The poorly paid Sherpa continue to labor under extraordinary loads. Most of the burden is placed on the small backs of the women who struggle to keep up. This expedition is conditioned upon the exploitation and abuse of the powerless. It is heartbreaking to witness.
Today we passed the site where once was a peaceful Sherpa village. It was obliterated by an avalanche brought on by deforestation. I cannot but help question the price these kindly people pay for positioning themselves to sell us a mug of tea so they can exist. In this case, their kindness killed them.
More to come...
Everest-Reaching Base Camp
When you're first on the scene at the start of a season, Base Camp is like what was left after Woodstock. The amount of debris scattered about is amazing. Even with a fresh blanket of snow, I can see discarded oxygen bottles piled in such a way as to look like an auto junkyard along with a small forest of collapsed tents and their aluminum frames.
Even here at Base Camp, ice walls loom all about, and with them the threat of avalanches. The crashing of ice and snow is continual, a constant reminder of what could happen in an unlucky second, without warning.
From this point on, every climber must carry a radio and is required to make periodic check ins. I don't trust the batteries in these radios - they simply won't function once we reach the Death Zone.
There is an Ice Flow ahead of us. Once the Sherpa have carved a route through it, they will set up Camp One just above it at 19,500 feet.
Though everything we brought with us to Base Camp is carefully considered, supplies here are relatively abundant. Nothing, however, is going higher unless it is essential. The effort and risk associated with raising every pound of gear - even a hundred feet in elevation - makes them precious.
One of the Sherpa just told me that Camp Two will be set just over 21,000 feet and will also be known as Advanced Base Camp. It will be the last place on the mountain with amenities. Here, a cook and a Sherpa are still seeing to our needs. Four hours above that, at 24,400 will be Camp Three and from there on I will be doing my own cooking, my own everything. Camp Four will be located at 26,000 feet and is most commonly known as the Death Zone. No one but the dying spend any time longer there than is essential.
We will be here for a couple of days before pressing on. I am going to spend my time lazing in the sun, hydrating and aclimatizing to this elevation. Oh and just for protein, I may have a few beers.
I am still suffering the headaches, nausea and lack of appetite.
Must remember to charge batteries to satelite phone with solar blanket so I can continue sending to this blog.
Feeling a little light-headed. Will add more here tomorrow or next day, if weather permits.
WISH US LUCK.
Acclimatization On Everest
The Sherpa are laboring in the Ice Flow and the camp is settling into a routine.
Harlan can be seen outside his tent throughout the day talking on his sat. phone and tracking weather patterns. He paid a subscription for some of the world's most exclusive weather predictions - and still shakes his head in amazement at how often they get it wrong.
The problem is Everest itself. This region of the Himalayas creates its own microclimate.
While calm weather here at Base Campcould be one consequence, so could sudden violent and lethal storms not far above us. Climbers die every year spending most of the day in so-called summit weather- only to be caught in a storm that envelopes within moments of creation.
Harlan organized training and conditioning climbs on the nearby rock and ice walls, even within the beginning of the Ice Flow itself.
Our med team has set up a clinic in the dining tent. Several of the Sherpa asked to be placed on Diamox – that’s for lack of oxygen – because even they struggle with acclimatization and want every advantage for the climb ahead.
One of the female Sherpa – Laki – is in serious trouble. Her eyes are bugged out, so Calvin, the team Doctor, tried a shot of dexamethasone. It’s an anti-inflammatory steroid and a last resort drug, which works in most situations, but doesn’t seem to be helping her. HACE (High Altitude Cerebral Edema) and AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) is more the cause of deaths of climbers than anything else. Your brain swells and there is nowhere for it to go except through the openings of your eyes. Laki looks gaunt and is panting like a dog in summer. She is very frightened. We have to get her back down the trail to a lower elevation or she will die.
Calvin just came into my tent and told me Laki stopped breathing moments ago and he could not revive her.
Someone will have to notify her family. She is leaving behind a five month old baby.
The other Sherpa are saying that they are all afraid of her ghost now and don’t want to continue. They are saying that Sagarmatha (Goddess of the sky) doesn’t want us here. Not this year. They say that if we don’t turn back, many more will die.
Tomorrow morning, Harlan, Peer, Tom, and I will enter the ice flow for practice. We will don helmets, body harnesses, and crampons.
The Sherpa are preparing steps in the ice, snow bridges, and about 60 aluminum ladders.
I usually look forward to getting this practice period in, but the warnings from the Sherpa about more deaths has me very hesitant and a bit spooked.
I hope to fill you in later with the results of our practice climb.
Approaching The Top of The World
My lamp focused my attention on the splash of light before me, while the surrounding darkness masked the abyss on either side. Even with oxygen, in the thin atmosphere, my mind was not functioning properly and I didn’t know enough to be terrified. I placed each foot in front of me, one after the other, paused to breathe, and repeated the process again and again until I heard … “We’re on the balcony!”
At 27,600 feet, the balcony offers a commanding view of the highest peaks in the world.
Most of the extraordinary photos you’ve seen from Everest have been taken from this spot. I could see nothing in the blackness.
I kept moving along the narrow ridge toward the South Summit.
The rising sun found us on the Southeast Ridge. The sun brought a welcome increase in temperature.
The Ridge stands at 27,800 and is fully exposed on both sides. Luckily, the air was dead calm. I had to keep moving though. You can’t get too comfortable at this point of the climb.
It was a short distance to the step and I was moving with much more effort. I was exhausted, but was experiencing a sensation of triumph inside. I was going to climb Everest. I’d be on the peak in less than an hour.
At very high altitude, climbers resemble the Pillsbury doughboy in their jumpsuits. They waddle around awkwardly, unable to move freely, as much a prisoner of their attire as anything.
Anywhere else, it would be amusing. Here it is just one more reminder of our bizarre existence.
Quentin Stern, http://www.abandonedoneverest.com/
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