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  Canadian Mt. Everest 2005 Everest Base Camp


Update: Sunday April 10th, 8pm. Everest Base Camp, 5,350m
(EST is 9 hours 45 mins behind Nepal)

We build an altar for a ceremony for Sean

It’s windy and cold, but bright and sunny today.

We watched some of the climbers going up the icefall this morning and then witnessed a huge avalanche on the mountain. It was pretty close to the people on the icefall but apparently everyone was safe. Last night we were woken by a major rock fall which sounded like a freight train right outside our tent. At night time the sound reverberates for ages and I’ve no idea where the rock fall was, but I know we’re in no danger here.

Sean, Harold and Dave have been honing their skills on the ice ladders to get ready to head out over the icefall in the next couple of days. Harold and Dave spent time practicing in their snow-covered Toronto backyards to prepare for this part of the trip. I imagine that this will be an entirely different proposition as they scale across the dark, bottomless crevasses and I don’t envy them at all.

The general health of the party has been improving although everyone is tired. I am very tired tonight. A portable shower has been installed but it’s a little too cold to use right now, in my opinion.
Today we had our first pot of fresh coffee for weeks which tasted as good as any I’ve ever had.

We hope to play the hockey game tomorrow, Monday, at 11am thanks to Gerry and Norm who cleared the “rink” They even buried a loony at centre ice in memory of the Canadian Olympic team victory.

I met a couple of fellow Canadians today. Gerry Rigault who now lives in Tennessee - he has worked at the University of Ottawa and has a lot family still in Ottawa. I also met a lady called Gabrielle from Montreal who is climbing at the same time as Sean.

The research groups are continuing with their work. Dr Burgess’ research is going well despite the fact that the functioning of some of his measuring equipment at this altitude has been an issue. Ryerson University are also progressing although they too have run in to a challenge. Their research requires interacting with different teams on the mountain but they are finding that many teams are putting themselves in quarantine to prevent any chance of getting sick from any poorly-prepared teams. The Ryerson researchers, who are all healthy, are working around it though.

We spent a lot of time today taking sponsor photos outside our tent with banners and flags, climbers and hikers. It was like a Martha Stewart Christmas photo special (pre-lockup!) with all the planning and preparation that went in to it. It was very drawn out but it all got done and hopefully everyone will be happy.

A stone altar has been built on our campsite and tomorrow there is a special ceremony in the afternoon for Sean to wish him well and god speed. He still has boundless energy and strength but is very focused on the challenge ahead.

More later.

Friday April 8th, 6pm. Everest Base Camp, 5,350m
(EST is 9 hours 45 mins behind Nepal)

We finally arrive!

Our trek today took us about 4 hours as we climbed up the final stage of our journey from Gorak Shep. A lot of the trail was gravel and sand and quite different from some of the treacherous paths that we’ve travelled. Most of the trail was on the glacier itself. There was ice underneath the rocks so you had to make sure that your footing was always good. Not much different from a regular Canadian winter path, in that sense! On our trek today we got some magnificent views of Everest which had an almost mystical halo around it. It was unbelievably beautiful and glowed in the sky above us.

Last night we were awoken by the sound of an avalanche at Gorak Shep, at about 4 o’clock in the morning. It was a long way away but the ominous sound resonated around the valley. It went down to -14 and it’ll be -20 tonight, but the gear that we brought is outstanding and everyone has stayed warm.

This morning there was a commotion in the cook’s tent. I was up early, about 6am, and I suddenly heard an almighty hissing sound like an old stream train arriving at a station. I looked over at the kitchen tent and there were cooks running for cover in all directions. It was the fastest I’d seen them move since we’ve been here. The last guy came out carrying an enormous pressure cooker which was about to explode. He managed to safely defuse it and they all went back in the tent, after some excited chatter and laughter. Nothing like a pump of adrenaline to get the morning started.

We arrived at Base Camp at 2pm after a four hour trek.

There must be over 200 people here. The landscape of the camp is totally inhospitable with rock, ice and snow and looks like a moonscape. Sherpas arrived here early to level out places to put our tents. We’re sleeping on the glacier itself and the sherpas have warned us that we will occasionally hear loud “cracks” as the glacier moves underneath us, but that it will not be dangerous. It’s good to finally unpack knowing that we won’t have to pack up again for a bit.

Harold is feeling pretty sick. He kept trekking in spite of feeling the effects of the altitude which says a lot for his stamina and courage. He seems better now that we are resting. Last night everyone felt sick with headaches and stomach aches but we have all made it, safely, and spirits are high. The “Khumbu cough” is rampant because it’s so dry. Conversation is punctuated by coughs and you have to drink pints of water to keep your throat wet. We are all experiencing a loss of appetite, a loss of the sense of taste and the sense of smell, which is probably a good thing as showers are hard to come by up here.

Sean is very focused on his climb now. He will start practicing almost immediately and is making trips in to the ice fall area over the next 2-3 days.

Talking about this trek back in Ottawa seems like months and months ago. I remember saying to people, “I’m just trekking to Base Camp”. Well, just trekking to Base Camp turned out to be many times harder than I imagined and we all have a very real sense of accomplishment in finally arriving here.

More later.




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