Thursday, 8 September 2011

Base Camp at Last!

Sorry for the delay in posting this but I'm back at work during the day and the toast of the town by night. ;-)

Base Camp day started very early and we were out of the teahouse in Lobuche by 7am. This is because it would take us about 5 hours to get to Gorak Shep, passing the Italian Weather Observatory on the way.

The landscape quickly becomes completely alien.

And the trail is treacherous.

After 5 hours we reached Gorak Shep which is an utter hole. We just dropped our bags, had some tea to warm up (and I had some porridge) and then straight back out of the door to head up to Base Camp. What followed was 2.5 hours of trekking along an uncertain trail, washed out or knocked out in places. On the one had you have to be careful for rockfall, and on the other that you don't slip on the rocks and tumble down the hill. As you progress there may be places where the trail has disappeared and it's necessary to kick footholds into the surface.

And then you hit the Khumbu Glacier. It gets colder but at this point you're exercising so hard that you just don't feel it. And the UV is searing you through your sunblock because you're so high up and the light is bouncing off of the ice and snow. The rocks are a thin veneer on the ice and footing is particularly treacherous.

And you're at 50% oxygen so you need to rest often along the way.

And all along the way you're distracted from watching your feet because the awesome spectacle of being at bloody Everest at last!

But it's so huge that distances are deceptive. There's still more tiptoeing along the glacier and around the tarns.

And then suddenly, like a mirage, there's the stone that indicates that one has indeed, at long last, reached Base Camp! Frankly I just collapsed and lit a ciggie. And I can tell you this, at 50% oxygen a ciggie lasts a very long time.

And also, of course, once you stop exercising, the cold hits you hard.  I quickly donned my down jacket and my Unseen University scarf to do my photo ops for the sponsors.

And then the obligatory pics around the stone.

As you can see, noone was there and I believe I may have been the first person of the season.

Of course I took a Kindom of Loathing "Sword and Martini" shot. I brought a flask of booze for the occasion.

I just wish I'd thought to chip off some ice from the glacier to pop into the mix!

Anyway, I shot a short video as well. Please remember that it was a long day at 50% oxygen and be kind!

And then, although it took 9 days to get there, after only 30 minutes we turned around. The weather was turning and I knew that it would take 2.5 hours to get back to Gorak Shep. And so as the clouds closed we headed back out.

And as you can see, I felt ready to utterly die by the time I got back to Gorak Shep. To be honest. there were points when I prayed, if there is a god, please show yourself and strike me down with cerebral edema so I can get a bloody chopper back to Kathmandu already!

All I could manage was a bit of tea and a bowl of garlic soup (apparetly good for the altitude) and then crashed after 10/11 hours of trekking. A well deserved rest say I!

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