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  Everest 2006: Fi and Paul: Climbing Kala Patar and resting at Base Camp


Location: Everest Base Camp
Altitude: 5350m
Local Time: 6pm, 5th April
Weather: Fine, 23C inside the tent during the day and -8C at night.

Hi it's Paul here,

I woke up this morning and my throat felt worse than yesterday, so I decided to rest in base camp while Fiona has walked down to Gorak Shep to see Chris and Bridget and hopefully climb Kala Patar. There is not a cloud in the sky, so the views of the upper reaches of Everest should be great. MC - received your text message on our sat phone - I am using an iodine and salt water gargle.

A massive avalanche hit the icefall at 11am today right where the icefall doctors were last seen working yesterday. We hope that they are all alright, and that they get paid well for their job. It certainly serves as a reminder to move fast through the icefall and leave early in the morning before it heats up.

A large avalanche engulfs the upper part of the icefall at 11am today. Photo Jim Gagne

Fiona's Day
Fiona hiked to Gorak Shep with one of our Sherpas, Mingma, and met up with Chris and Bridget. Chris and Fiona then climbed Kala Patar and enjoyed great views from the top - see photo. Bridget and Chris had already climbed it yesterday, so Bridge stayed in their lodge and started reading the books that Fiona brought to them. After climbing Kala Patar, they enjoyed lunch in the Lodge and then Fiona came back to base camp in 1.5 hours - a pretty good time. She was tired, but looked well.

About base camp
Whilst I have missed out on a hike today, it gives me some time to write about base camp. It's interesting listening to the reactions from trekkers, most of whom haven't been to a base camp before and also haven't camped on a moraine covered glacier. The most common comments are the scale of the setup and also how uneven and slippery is the ground.

It's a tent city here
There are a huge number of tents - each person has their own tent, so with about 20 Sherpas and 25 trekkers and climbers, that's 45 individual tents. Then there is the member dining tent (we are referred to as members) capable of seating us all at once, the member cook tent where our meals are prepared, the member communications and snack food tent, shower and changing tent, two member toilet tents, two Sherpa toilet tents (located close to their tents), Sherpa cook tent, Sherpa dining tent and finally four large tents storing gear and food. In the snack food tent there is a huge array of food for us to grab whenever we want; from Pringles to chocolate and Oreos. It's an absolutely massive setup, with the Puja altar in the middle and prayer flags stretching from it to each corner of the camp. It sure makes for an impressive sight and we are just one team on the mountain!

Is base camp clean?
I am sure you have all heard the stories about the rubbish at Everest Base camp. Well from what we have seen so far, it's extremely clean. The only rubbish that we have seen are the two crashed helicopters, otherwise it seems to be one of the more cleaner parts of Nepal. We have had to provide a security deposit to guarantee that we take all our oxygen bottles and rubbish out with us. This includes all human waste. The toilets are built over a blue barrel, and when its full the "Goo Man" comes and takes them away down the valley for treatment. (Yes, that's what he is called.)

Apparently stories about the South Col being littered with oxygen bottles and debris are also untrue - talking with people who were there last year say there was reminants of tents that had been destroyed in storms, but certainly no used oxygen bottles lying around. Obviously the bounty on rubbish and oxygen bottles is working.

Apparently you can still locate the base camp sites of the very early expeditions (they are further down the valley from where we are) and if you look hard you can find things that they left behind. We might go exploring one day. I saw an oxygen bottle from the 1953 expedition for sale in Namche Bazaar for US$20,000.

The moraine
We are camped on a glacier and at night you can hear the ice creaking underneath every half hour or so. It's a low pitched grating sound that you can only hear at night when its quiet, but it can be a bit disconcerting. There were also several large avalanches of snow and rocks last night, but here at base camp we are in very little danger from these. Where we are camped is covered with moraine and the surface is extremely uneven. In fact nothing is level except for the bases of the tents, which have been laboriously flattened by the Sherpa team in the weeks leading up to our arrival. Large rocks the size of small cars are perched on the ice, and gravel similar to what goes on roads covers almost everything else. Small paths have been made between all the tents, although these are definitely a work in progress. It's very slippery when walking, due to the uneven terrain and where the gravel has fallen away to leave exposed ice. Most people have slipped over at least once already.

What is the view from base camp?
The camp is situated at the head of a narrow valley, so we are ringed by high, jagged peaks. Straight ahead from our tent we can see most of the icefall, and the very top of Lhotse. To the right of the icefall is Nuptse, a high peak with lots of exposed rock and seracs; huge blocks of hanging ice that break off to form avalanches. To the right of Nuptse is the Khumbu Valley and Khumbu Glacier, which flows down past the towns of Gorak Shep and Lobuje. Continuing right in a clockwise direction you can see Kala Patar; a small black hill at the base of Pumori. From Kala Patar you can get good views of the upper reaches of Everest, including the South Col. Behind our tent is Pumori, a spectacular conical shaped mountain. Further to the right are smaller mountains forming a ring around the camp. Next to the icefall is the Lho La, a pass into Tibet. There are lots of seracs here too, and they frequently avalanche. We can see all this from base camp, but we can’t actually see Everest!

Issued with radios
This morning we were each issued with radios, however we haven't yet setup a regular calling in schedule. Once we start moving up the mountain we will each call into base camp at regular intervals and our position will be recorded on a chart inside the main communications tent.

Ladder practice
Yesterday a ladder was setup to practice our technique. Fiona and I both tried, and it was pretty straightforward, although we didn’t have our climbing boots and crampons on, and were only 15cm above the ground! We expect to go part way up the icefall on Friday.

Hi, it's Dennis here,
The real training has begun. I tried to keep up with Phsingo, my sherpa on a trek today to Kala Patar. These guys are awesome and I am beat. Tomorrow I will go a little way up into the ice fall to become familiar with that area of the climb. While in the ice fall it is wise to move as quickly as possible because it is one of the more dangerous areas of the climb. I really appreciate everyone that has sent messages to this site. I was most surprised by my Aunt June. All that have sent messages please be assured that I am getting a chance to read them, however it is very difficult to respond to them individually out here. So occasionally I will be able to do a general posting. Time for afternoon tea so I will end this now. Love to you Tam and thank you to the rest of you, Dennis.

Bye for now,
Paul.

Updates

 

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