Saturday, December 22, 2012
I am still monitoring my pulse, and if it reaches 135, I have been dutifully following Jeff's advice and reluctantly yielding my pack. Today was no different- I carried it for half the trek, but gave it up at the crest of a hill when I maxed my pulse. (I think it has become obvious that I need to visit a pulmonologist/ exercise physiologist when I return.) It has been an interesting study-just not one in my favor.
After a couple of hours, we climbed down off the lateral moraines and onto the glacier itself. Here we were surrounded by the meringue of icy pinnacles formed by ice melt and the heave of glacier moving downhill, the surface ice pools (also formed by ice melt), the ice fall itself, and those mountains!! Surreal and other-worldly, we picked our steps carefully, inching ever closer to Everest Base Camp.
It seems that the Nepalese government issued a new restriction last week on trekkers spending the night in base camp. The outfitters reacted negatively, of course, and the restriction was stayed for this season. But we may be the last season of trekkers spending the night at EBC. Glad we came now.
We made it to "base camp rock"- an arbitrary rock on the glacier where trekking groups often turn- and we took a break. This time, Linden found a string of buried prayer flags, and Phura helped Corell and me string them up in memory of Tara. It is important to not step on these flags, even though they are often underfoot, and really bad karma to step over, rather than under, the streams. Made it kind of tricky for us on the summit of Kala Pattar...
Jaya, one of the base camp cooks, greeted us about half way on our final slog into base camp with warm mango juice. Talk about a treat and a warm greeting! When we finally pulled into RMI's site, the farthest one it seemed, we were further welcomed. The sun was warm, and we took advantage of a bit of down time to bask in its warmth until lunch was served- and lunch was delicious! A far,far cry from the ubiquitous tea house fare. Salad of fresh carrots and cucumbers, stuffed pastry, and I can't remember what else ( remember the three A's? Alzheimer's, age or altitude? Actually, there is a fourth "A", but alcohol is, for us at least, a non- issue at this altitude!).
After lunch, we settled into our tents- which Corell and I appreciated all the more after some of our tea house stays. That is, in good weather, of course- and we have been blessed with warm sunny mornings and afternoons, when the clouds roll in, where we've been relatively tucked away inside. Corell, Lucy and I- the three heading to Island Peak, had a short training session with Linden- going over equipment. Hard to believe that we'll be tackling another mountain in 4-5 days! And I am just a wee bit intimidated because Corell and Lucy are so much faster than I am, and if they slow down to my granny pace, Lucy will freeze. Guess we will have to see how that all plays out...
Before dinner, and while I was futzing with this iPad trying to catch the evanescent cell signal, I was called down to the dining tent. Linden and Jeff, in their great wisdom and, I think, love for this team of ours, presented us with the best gift of all- down suits! We are all so thrilled with them, regardless of the blimp look. We have had great fun trying to work the "trap doors" and managing the bulk. A few of us swore we'd sleep in them. It is amazing, but the cold hardly penetrates these babies! Corell, Lucy, and I hope we can borrow them for Island Peak- but we haven't heard the word on that yet.
Unfortunately, my gut has been on the warpath all afternoon - yet I am not sure what it is- so I've been popping every GI pill I have. Just praying to make it through the night without having to visit the "blue tent" too often so that I can get some sleep.
Lala Salama! (Oops, that's Swahili for "sleep well"--)
So, in Nepali- Ramro sanga sutnos!!
Love to all!!!
Sent from my iPad
Monday, April 9, 2012
Thursday, April 5, 2012
The Lukla airport is an amazing place. We got up early, had bags packed and by the door by 06:30. Breakfast, and then... The Lukla Limbo. We had "reservations" on the second set of flights out this morning, but those flights to Kathmandu depend on flights arriving from Kathmandu first. Clouds and weather impede egress. And so, we waited. The toasted trekkers made an appearance, but I'm wondering if they lost anyone due to a hangover...
We watched the planes land, the sound hitting a few milliseconds after the touchdown, and then witnessed as one by one they decelerated coming up the steep incline to the loading area. And then when they took off, it seemed as if each plane almost nosedived as it descended the runway and then glided off the end. Lucy laughed and shared her mental image of all the occupants raising their hands and saying, "Wheeeeeeeee!" as they went down the hill. Still makes me laugh. I can't remember what time we were called, but at some point Lhakpa came into the tea house dining room, and we were off and up the hill to the airport. Once there, it was chaos: weighing bags, checking bags, pseudo-security ("Do you have knife in bag?" and the not-so-frontal stroke-down we'd enjoyed in Kathmandu), and the hurry-up-and-wait. We finally boardedo the twenty-seat plane, and were down that hill and in the air within a matter of minutes. (and yes, we threw our hands up in the air and yelled, "Wheeeeeee!" Hopefully Jeff and Linden didn't notice our maturity.) I was on the "wrong" side of the plane this time, as all the big rock was on the right hand-side of the plane. Well, that is, when you could see rock. After about fifteen minutes, I noticed the clouds surrounding us, and wondered how the pilots were navigating without sight. There were some bumps and the window got really cold a few times. I distracted myself by writing, so I didn't focus on the flight-except to register that it seemed to be taking longer than the arrival flight.
After we landed and retrieved our bags, Linden and Jeff shared their concerns about the flight- that we had circled around, gone from clear air pocket to clear air pocket, flown higher (that explains the cold blasts through the window)- and their worry that we'd have to return to Lukla. Fortunately, all ended well. And we retrieved all the luggage-half of which was mine.
We stopped by theYak and Yeti, our previous hotel, to pick up our "stay bags" and our lock-boxed documents. From there, we hit the Hyatt hotel to avail ourselves of some higher-bar service and amenities. After some check-in snafus, we met by the pool in our finest trekking wear- Lucy in snowboots, Jeff in long johns and heavy "summit" socks, and Corell and I in (dirty) trekking pants and long shirts. Only Linden was dressed appropriately. Regardless, there we were next to sunbathers- but the sun felt great, the food was good, and both were sorely needed.
After lunch we spent a few hours unpacking our bags (to dry out all our wet gear), and discovering what we had left behind in our "stay" bags several weeks ago. I could barely remember packing my stay bag, and so I enthusiastically emptied my bag, pulling out ziplock after ziplock of toiletries, electrical, and miscellaneous supplies. I was nearing the end when I pulled out a bag which contained a thick brown mass which was leaking brown fluid over other contents. Being such a great scientist, I poked and prdded and bent and squeezed in an attempt to discover what the heck it was. I couldn't smell too much because I've been so congested due to the smoke and smog and dirt. It looked like an amalgam of manure and mud...liquefying. Purely nasty. So, as good friends must, I decided to share my good fortune with Corell and Lucy down the hall. Oh, if you could have seen Lucy's face when I showed her the bag! Then Corell admitted to finding a gross gift in her stay bag as well. Hers, she said, looked a bit furry, like a snake, and she had been busy the previous ten minutes chloroxing everything in her bag. At this, I started laughing so hard I fell to ground...in the hall. It cracked me up so... It was just too damn funny and I was enjoying the sick humor of it all so much that I couldn't think straight as to what it could be. It was just foul. Corell was disgusted, and Lucy went straight to her "stay" stuff searching for similar stash.
I went down to meet Linden in the lobby, and could barely tell him the story because I was laughing and coughing so hard. When Lucy and Corell joined us, we walked to the Hyatt entrance to hail a cab. Along the way, Linden, ever-thinking (and in this case, just a wee bit of a spoilsport)(or, as he says, a "Sherlock"), asks us what we did with the marigold leis he had given us as we arrived at the airport in March. We nearly stopped in our tracks. That was it. Mystery solved. For some reason, in our packing panic of the night before we left for the trek, we had decided ( now here we disagree on who started this... She says me and I say she) to save the leis. So I put mine in an unzipped Baggie (hence the dripping brown liquid of my discovery), and she had put hers in bare. Science experiment concluded. Both methods of lei storage are imperfect, but the zippee protocol yielded a semi-gelatinous, semi-solid, liquefying, disgusting brown mess. Don't try it.
So, a little bit melancholy because the mystery was solved and we couldn't continue playing "what if?" games, we piled into a cab and headed back into the city toward Thamel, the tourist district. Linden showed us the route to our "celebration dinner" restaurant, The Roadhouse Cafe ( where we had dined before we left on the trek), and then pointed us in the direction of Durbar Square- the location of many palaces and the home of the current, pre-pubescent living Goddess.
We haggled and shopped, and finally made it down to Durbar square as it was turning dusk. We walked along, marveling at the architecture which had a distinctly pagoda style. We saw a large painted wall relief of the Hindu god of fire (Shiva?) where several people were purchasing votives from nearby sellers and then going up to the statue/relief and anointing themselves or doing ablutions.
We finally had to retrace our steps back to the Roadhouse Cafe, and into the melee we dove. Dodging cars, bikes, rickshaws, motorcycles, and people in this distinctly Hindu area, we felt it was as treacherous as descending Island Peak in the snow. It was astoundingly crazy, overstimulation extraordinaire, and still we pushed on- following fearless Corell. And then, we were back in Thamel. And the noise and the people and the vendors and the cars and the rickshaws were...gone. What a difference a block makes. We rushed into the restaurant 15 minutes late, and I think the boys forgave us.
Delicious pizza for dinner, and we solved all the world's problems. Linden presented us with our "Summit Certificate" (20,300 ft!!!), and both he and Jeff said some sweet things-and now here I am, in the hotel lobby at 1:30 AM because the WiFi doesn't reach my room. From Lukla to Kathmandu, what a day.
We are one step closer to home...love to all!!
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"Feet, Feet, Feet"
We began our day in Namche, again seeing some of the climbing royalty whom we'd met the evening before. We snagged a quick photo with Dave Hahn before loading up and heading down and out.
As we were walking down the dreaded Namche Hill, we were talking about how fortunate we had been with the weather. At that point, Jeff said, "If it rains from here to Lukla, I'd be okay with it." Within fifteen minutes , the heavens opened. Thanks, Jeff. (To his credit, he did assume full weather-god responsibility for the onslaught.) While we dodged a downpour, the thunderstorms and heavy rain did make for some speedier walking. Not to mention interesting bridge crossings, as the bridges were rain-slicked metal slats. On one bridge, I kept feeling this nudge on my right side, and when I finally lifted up my eyes, for a nanosecond, off the slippery bridge, I realized it was Corell trying to slip by me to get off the bridge. Seems our imperturbable 'Rell doesn't like thunder and lightning and metal bridges all at the same time. Fortunately, with the 3 foot fencing on both sides of the bridge, I wasn't in much danger of slipping off.
It was a day of "feet, feet, feet". Whether Jeff's, Linden's, Lucy's, Corell's or my own, feet filled my view. I did managers look around a few times, and was surprised at the loveliness of cherry blossoms, cabbage patches, stone walls, and daffodils. Even saw pLinden, he of the "get off the bridge if you see a yak coming toward you" advice, deciding to play chicken with a yak on one of those slick bridges. We watched from our safe perch at the distal end of the bridge as Linden squeezed by the yak, using a top- heavy porter ahead of him to block out the yak. Luckily, he made it over to us, but not without some commentary by our crew!
And so, in our shells, and in the pouring rain, we walked on. My blisters from the day before had rebloomed, and each heavily-weighted downhill step sent pain shooting up my legs. Nothing I hadn't dealt with before. Taping or no taping, those blasted blisters burn.
Jeff and Linden stopped as few times to say hi to their incoming friends- one of whom is photographer/ mountaineer Jake Norton- someone I'd love to talk with, but alas, not on the trail, in the rain, at ~9000 ft. Later in the morning, Jeff stopped at a small tea house to hide from the thunder and lightning. The woman running the small teahouse seemed rather startled to see us- as did the six or so young men who were already seated. We treated ourselves to tea, and listened to the thunder. After an "appropriate" rest interval, we walked back out in the rain and walked as quickly as we could to Phakding where we stopped at the "Apple Pie Teahouse" for a hot lunch and the hope of warming ourselves. The lunch was hot, but we remained chilled and wet throughout our stay- which made it almost impossible to head back out.
After lunch, we had to tackle the "Lukla Hill"- a "treat" I was hoping would give my aching and blistered feet a rest from the downhill punch and slap they'd been subjected to all morning. Once again, I surrendered my pack so that we could move faster as a team. We walked up that hill in our best "heading to the barn" mode, and we made good time. Once in Lukla, we unpacked our bags to allow some of our wet clothing to dry a bit. How ironic that each of us had chosen that day, our last on the trail, to ignore the plastic bag liners we'd been using before now to keep our clothes dry in case of rain. We sure paid for it- but thank God it was our last day.
After showers and some organization, we met for dinner in the toasty warm dining room. After our dinner, we had the excellent good fortune to witness other trekking groups celebrate the end of their trips. A lot of beer was flowing, and they were soon dancing around, lifting others up in the air so that heads nearly missed the ceiling, dropping trou, and pretty much acting like fools. It's a testament to how beat we were that it took Linden's comment, "I am not going to watch anymore of this!" to galvanize us into leaving the room. Beware of toasted trekkers- it's an ugly sight!
There wasn't much commentary on the trail today. Usually, the front 2-3 people can hold a conversation while I, usually in the rear, can barely hear above my own huffing and puffing. It has made for some solitary trail time for me- a fact that never ceases to sadden me because my best memories of the trail are the conversations I've had and the relationships I've either forged or deepened. This time around, with the physical struggle I've had, and the relative separation that resulted, my relationship ties have been pretty minimal. It's not as much a bummer for my relationships with the Richmond girls because I'll see them at home. But here we've been on the trail for almost three weeks, and it feels as if I've barely spoken with Jeff and Linden. I can sometimes hear them up front talking, but I can rarely discern what is being said. That is probably my greatest disappointment on this amazing 3+ week adventure. I can't exactly say why it matters so much to me, but it does. Perhaps it's a curse to always want deeper and stronger relationships with those I care about, but in my mind, it feeds my soul and gives my experience depth and meaning. At any rate, they are special men, and I will cry when I say goodbye.
Love to all....
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Wednesday, April 4, 2012
I made it to breakfast on time today- and again had boiled eggs and bread. That makes about 30 boiled eggs I've eaten while in Nepal. Think that beats the number I've eaten in all my years prior. Some are good, some not so much. The worst were those soft boiled eggs I ordered for dinner in Deboche. Turned me off eggs for a while, or until I realized that there are few choices here in the Khumbu. The "Khumbu menu" looks to be the same pre-printed form, as if every tea house in the valley is part of one giant chain. The only difference is the name and drawing on the cover, and the slight variations in preparation.
We've decided to share our culinary tour of the Khumbu. Phakding has the honor of being the place NOT to eat veggie momos (dumplings) or garlic soup. Namche Bazaar's Camp de Base wins for best "chicken chilly", Tengboche wins for best bakery (although this is a totally biased selection as Linden thinks the girl in the bakery is the most lovely girl in the Khumbu...), Pheriche wins for best Dal Bhat, and Jeff says for bet nak cheese sandwich and tomato soup, Deboche wins for best French Toast. Moving up the valley, Leboche wins for their "Sherpa bread" ( fried bread with rosemary-the closest we'll come to Italian food!) and Gorak Shep wins for...not much. Once in Chukkung, we decided that, in fact, Chukung wins for best Dal Bhat. While its yet to become too competitive, food is important at altitude, and so, we focus on food.
Lucy and Corell approached Linden this morning with a novel idea- they asked if we could go for a long walk today. Linden, ever agreeable with our crew, acquiesced like the gentleman he is. Meanwhile, Lucy entertained us with her dream from the night before...team-mates, and Himalayas and Vegas and long bats and nominal clothing. I believe she and Renee win for most creative slumber. We walked for several hours, and ended up back in Namche Bazaar- the village nestled in the crook of an elbow, terraced to make life difficult for us low-landers. I would like to think that those days up at altitude would help me walk/climb at altitude, but I've found that my respiratory rate still shoots skyward upon climbing the streets.
We arrived in Namche around 3:15, and we all took off to our rooms for...showers! I got mine scalding hot and after 5 days without, it was such a pleasure to don clean clothes.
Once clean, Lucy, Corell and I went walking "down-town" to do some shopping. We haggled over prices and were hassled by over-zealous bank card denials. Argh!
We were late for dinner because of all the credit card snafus, and we're horrified to learn on our hurried arrival that the entire table had been kept waiting for our arrival. We felt pretty bad about that. The dining room, so empty two weeks ago, was packed. The First Ascent team was there, and there we were, loping in like schmoes. At the table? First American to summit Everest-Jim Whittaker, his son Lief Whittaker, his wife Diane, climbing guru great Dave Hahn, Melissa Arnot, videographer Kent Harvey, and trek photographer/videographer Ken... Seven Everest summiters at the same table, And then there were the three of us. Dum di Dum di Dum.
We had fun at dinner, but we were a bit insulated from the climbers. We were down in the non-climber, LOL crowd. Luckily Ken talked with us, so we didn't feel quite like aging losers. We had a lot of fun laughing at ourselves, and, for the first time, felt like celebrating a bit. Which we did, with laughter and the finest bottle of "Everest Water" we could find.
Tomorrow, we hope to wake to warmer temperatures- temps where our sunscreen doesn't freeze ( you'd think that'd been figured out by now!)- and the long walk to Lukla.
Hope all. Is well back home--- we are getting closer step by step!
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April Fool's in Pengboche
After our exhausting summit day on Saturday, I collapsed in my tent, and slept from 7 PM to what I thought was 6:15 AM. Dead to the world, I awoke when the cook tent crew called out, "Namaste! Tea?". Still oblivious to the time, and feeling pretty good about my chunk of sleep, I headed/slid down the treacherous "path" to the outhouse--the plastic bag in the rocks. Upon my return, we were being called to breakfast, and at this point I realized I had messed up. Bags were supposed to be tent-side, and my tent was filled with the explosion of the day before. And so, after another breakfast of boiled eggs and toast, the team had to wait for me as I shoved stuff into my bag.
That meant for a later start than we'd hoped, and we had hoped to make it all the way down to Pengboche (where Lama Geshe had blessed us with the kata scarves on our way up valley). While descending from high camp, the sun was warm and reflected off the snowy rocks. We commented that we were all glad we hadn't tried to make it down to base camp (our original plan) immediately upon our descent from the summit. While I could never speak for Linden, Lucy, Corell and I all felt a bit ragged after the climb.
We spent hours walking down the rocks, then hours walking through the rocks, until we reached the more fertile altitude of Pengboche. What began as a warm day turned rather quickly into a cold, windy one. It felt as if we were racing to our new destination- and perhaps we were.
Surprisingly, we didn't discuss the climb much at all. Sometimes it is very awkward to hold a conversation with someone a few feet ahead of or behind you, and facial expressions and intimacy are easily lost. Linden did mention that that was the longest Island Peak summit day he's had. We clocked in at 13:15 hours tent flap to tent flap. Our descent took a lot longer because of the snow- which made the footing, already precarious, even more so.
And so on we motored, reaching Pengboche by around 4:15 PM. We had been eagerly awaiting calling our families, as we'd yet to reach any of them. We were also eagerly awaiting showers, but, as Lucy says, "Showers are overrated," and we elected to forego them. No, that wasn't altitude-induced psychosis, but rather a realistic appraisal of the risk of a cold trickle of a shower and an outdoor hike back to our rooms in the cold. At some point, we rationalized, cleanliness was just stupid. When we saw Linden a bit later and he cautiously informed us of his no-shower choice, he seemed relieved that we wouldn't give him too much grief.
After checking out our plywood rooms, we were delighted to find adjoining rooms with a shared bath. How awesome to not have to go down the hall! The air was thicker and warmer since we had dropped down about 3300 ft. On our way back up to tea hour, we heard our names called, and there was Jeff! He had booked it from Everest Base Camp to walk out with us. He's amazing. And what a treat! And I guess Linden felt like the time was right for sharing, because after telling us for weeks what his dress would be for the next day, he admitted to not bringing long johns with him. While he must have suffered in silence, we are fortunate temps were not colder than they were. I'd have frozen without mine!
After an average dinner of Sherpa stew, vegetable fried noodles, and fries, we were able to call home for the first time in days. It was so great to hear from everyone- and so great to tell them that we'd had success. It is also funny to realize that although we summitted two nights ago, we still have a long walk out to the plane from Lukla to Kathmandu.
Hope all is well back home!!
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