Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Everest Base camp

Well so much has happened since leaving Namche it feels like staying in the Zamling Guesthouse was such a long time ago. I am writing from Everest base camp now as Dawa and I arrived here yesterday afternoon. Today we had a puja ceremony at our camp and a lama from Thame monastery performed it. The sun was out and our camp is situated right at the base of the icefall, one of the closest. The sherpas made a stone centerpiece and put lots of offerings to the gods around it and burnt incense. The lama chanted, blessed our camp, all the climbers, our climbing gear and we all tied new red strings around our necks. I now have one from the lama Geshi and from this puja so lots of luck for me. After, we all ate alot, drank and the sherpas danced and sang until lunchtime. I joined in on one of their dances. Then we put the prayer flags up around the camp. The climbing sherpa won't even start climbing on the mountain until this ceremony has been performed. Tonight dawa is taking a load up to camp 2 of all our tents. I am going up the icefall on thursday and just resting until then, apart from a hike up to camp 1 on Pumori which is around 6000mts.
Puja ceremony at base camp
Dancing the Sherpa dance at our Puja

We left Namche and went straight to Dole which is past Tengboche. There is quite a big hike up to Tengboche from the river (around 450mt) and that day I was hiking with Willie Benegas. I set a good pace walking up and managed to just keep up with him so I was pretty happy about that...considering he has climbed Everest ten times now. Dawas fiances sister owned the lodge that we stayed in at Deboche. The lodge is called Rivendel after the 'lord of the rings'! It was a really nice clean lodge and they were so friendly. Dawa was happy to see his fiance obviously! We stayed there two nights because the next day we hiked up to Pengboche to see the lama Geshi and then came back again. Whenever sherpa go to climb Everest it is important for them to see the lama first and get his blessing. He lives in a little house with his wife and he has an amazing prayer room inside of it. When we got there his wife gave us hot tea while we waited for him. He came in his buddhist robes and looked like a taller version of yoda. We had to wrap some money up in cata (silk scarves) for him in preparation. He did a little ceremony for us, chanting, praying and blessing us. Both dawa and I have special necklaces that we wear for protection on the mountain so he blessed those. He also made knots in red string and tied them around our necks, praying as he tied the knots. He wrote in one of his special cards for me. On the wall there were alot of photos of climbers on various summits, mostly on everest, holding up his card. He said he only had one left and hadn't given it to others climbers, just me...so i felt very lucky! He wrote in it in tibetan and told me to send him a summit photo holding it.
Hiking out of Namche with Willie. Everest is in the background.
With the Lama Geshi in Pengboche

After we visited the lama we headed to the monastery. There was an old monk praying there. Dawa and i gave him some money to pray for our safety on the mountain and then we headed back to Rivendel just in time for some lunch. It was a very special day indeed.
The monastery

The next day we headed off with my porter Kata on a small track that headed down to the river, crossed a bridge then headed up to a village called phortse. I think it was around 500mt of up but wasnt too bad as it was a nice sunny, morning. We had lunch in Phortse then headed up into the Gokyo valley to arrive at around 3pm in a small village called Dole. It is at 4100mt and we were the only people staying in the lodge which was nice and quiet. Also I really enjoyed hiking through the silver birch forest that day and past lots of beautiful waterfalls. The next day we headed all the way to Gokyo which is at 4800mt so quite alot of up but it only took us about five hours, stopping for lunch in Machermo. The last hour it was snowing on us and we walked past two frozen lakes. Gokyo lake was mostly frozen too. The last two times I had been there it wasn't frozen at all so the area looked quite alot different. We stayed in Cho Oyu View lodge, the same place that I stayed in 2007. The next day I had a rest day to acclimatise and also the weather was really bad, lots  of snow.
Arriving at Phortse
The view out my window at the Lodge in Dole
Cho Oyu View Lodge infront of the frozen Gokyo Lake

Lucky for us the weather cleared and we hiked up Gokyo Ri the next morning which is 5360mt and has a great view of everest, lhotse and down the valley to cholotse. We had lunch back at the lodge then packed up and hiked across the glacial morraine to Dragnag. There are just a few lodges there because its the last place to stay before crossing the cho la pass back into the busy everest valley. I was lucky enough to meet a really nice aussie couple in Gokyo, Scott and Jess, and they stayed at the same lodge. Another nice english guy Sam turned up so we all chatted and had dinner together around the yak dung fire before an early night.
On the top of Gokyo Ri
Yaks at Dragnag

Dawa and I left Dragnag around 8:30am and reached the top of cho la pass in around three hours. It is at 5300mt and looks out to ama dablam and baruntse and also lobuche peak. We hiked along the glacier then started heading down to Dzong la where we had lunch with Jess, Scott and Sam. We then continued on for just over two hours to get to Lobuche village which is at 5000mt. A friend of Dawa's manages a new lodge there called Mother Earth lodge so we stayed there and it is awesome! For the first time since Kathmandu I had a spring mattress and two big doonas. It is very clean and has a big warm dining room with really great food. I had chicken for the first time in ages and chocolate pudding so I was very happy to stay there! We were planning on hiking up to high camp Lobuche peak the next day but it was bad weather so I had a rest day which was great.
Cho La pass with Lobuche peak in the background
Dawa and Kata swap loads on the way to Lobuche

The next day we hiked up with Kata to higher than the normal high camp on Lobuche.  There was alot of snow and fixed lines but we made it up to 5700mt in our hiking shoes, just next to the glacier, by 2pm and we set a tent up on the ridge. There was no view at all as it was snowing and a white out. You had to be very careful where you walked because the tent was right on the edge of a cliff! kata headed back to lobuche and Dawa and I went and collected ice to make water on the stoves. We had a good afternoon nap, big dinner which included a cheesecake dessert from a freeze dried packet....delicious!!! I have eight more packets for Everest luckily. Just as we were finishing dinner the clouds completely cleared and it was absolutely amazing! We could see the lights of base camp, everest, lhotse, ama dablam, makalu.....well a 360 degree mountain view. To be honest this moment was more awesome than making the summit the next day. I kept staying outside the tent to take it all in. Dawa was joking that i could just stand there all night and he would see me in the morning! Finally I went in and fell asleep.

We woke up at 5:30am and it was still perfect weather. Climbers started to walk past on the glacier coming up from the lower camp. We however had a very luxurious start, long breakfast and waited until the sun hit the tent. We left at 7:15am and caught up to alot of the climbers anyway. We summitted in just under three hours. The summit is not a particularily spectacular one as it is just a point on a long ridge and not really the true summit. However it was around 6000mt so good to acclimatise. There were fixed ropes all the way up but i didnt clip into any apart from the last two as it wasnt really that steep at all. It was fun to use the crampons and ice axe again since the last time was on Mera peak in 2008! So we got down pretty quick and packed up. kata came up and carried a load down with us. By this time it was snowing again. We made it back to the lodge just in time for lunch and then an afternoon nap before another big chicken dinner!!
The view from our tent on the ridge
Heading up after a relaxing start
Ontop of the 'summit' of Lobuche...which isn't really a summit...just the lower end of a long summit ridge.

So I finally started to feel tired when we hiked to base camp the next day. I stopped in Gorek Shep for a few hours because I could finally use the internet there as I hadnt had good reception since hiking up the gokyo valley. It was really quite emotional for me finally arriving at the base camp. Such a great feeling to know that I wasnt just visiting this time but I was here to stay. We had to walk past all the other camps to get to our one which is right up the end and one of the closest to the icefall. I was so happy that my camp is right next to my friend Willies camp and that we have very cool fluro yellow and orange tents so it is easy to find. Probably can see the tents from close to the top of the icefall! All the sherpa staff have been here for two weeks already setting it up. They have worked so hard to move all the stones around and flatten out huge places for the tents. They built a kitchen and dining area out of stones. The whole area is on a glacier so just under all the rocks and boulders is ice. During the day as the sun hits the camp the ice melts and there are pools of water and little streams everywhere.

Tomorrow I am going to hike up to Pumori and hopefully get some good internet reception to post this blog. At the moment I can only just open pages sometimes but I cant send any data. The phone works really well from here though so I can text and call. I am really looking forward to heading up the icefall on thursday and hopefully we will make it to camp 2 then come back again. So right now i am just hanging out in the sherpa dining tent and trying to learn some sherpa language. They think it is funny because it is only spoken here but it i really like how it sounds so it will be nice to say a few things atleast.
Dawa arriving at base camp
Kata and I share one last tea at base camp before he heads home to Thamo


I tried to get to camp 1 on Pumori but I got caught in a blizzard at 5500mt so had to turn around, there was no internet reception anyway. So today I hiked one and a half hours back to Gorek Shep to post the blog and send emails. When I get back I will get all my things ready as tonight Dawa and I are heading up the icefall. It will be his second time and my first so I am pretty excited. We will try to get all the way to Camp 2 before we turn around. I will just have a light load of some high camp food. Apparently there is one crevass that has five wobbley ladders joined together to cross it so that should be interesting!! So folks that is all for now. Thanks for your support.

2 comments:

  1. Great stuff, Allie! Loved reading re the blessings etc. and yum -- chicken and chocolate cake!
    Lois xxx

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  2. Hi Allie,

    (My first response to your blog just vanished, so I'm writing again... but this time I won't say as much... :( oh well.)

    I just wanted to say that I will be following your progress from California. I (and Karen, Laura, Leslie and Rick) met you on the trail on the way to Dole; you were kind enough to take our picture at the waterfall. You said, "make it look easy." We ran into you a few more times, as we were following the same route through Gokyo and Cho La Pass, but lost you when you stopped to climb Lobuche and we went on the EBC.

    On our way up, we met David Hahn and on our way down we met Apa Sherpa. Nice to be at EBC at the height of the climbing season! We also had the opportunity to have tea in the IMG kitchen tent (nice to have well connected friends!) and share our pringles with them.

    We are pulling for you, and for your countrywoman--66 year old Jan Smith--who is making her second attempt of Everest. Hope to follow both of you and hear about all your adventures. Blessings to you both!

    I'll pass along your blog url to my trek-mates... they'll be thrilled to read along.

    Glad you got some great sponsors; congratulations!

    All the best, Kari

    I just got home today (and have been up for over 48 hours... but can't stop reading everest blogs!)

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