Apr 12, 2010
Arrive at EBC
The approach to base camp is certainly longer than I was prepared for, though everything is going just according to our plan. Almost 3 weeks after I left home in Boston, finally I’m in EBC! On one side, the
climber team took a more conservative pace to ensure best acclimatization; on the other side, located at 5300m (17700ft), EBC is higher than any mountains in the lower 48 states. The trek is not just a hike in your backyard! Impatient trekkers can easily run into altitude sickness problems.
We already saw EBC and Khumbu Glacier two days ago from Lobuche and yesterday from GorekShep. So today, the trek is basically a walk towards icefall! There is only one word to describe icefall: wow! The closer you get, the more you “wow!” I saw a similar glacier before in Alaska from high up in the air, or to a less degree, at the end of our Denali climb when the glacier became so corrupted from heat, but this time we have to navigate such a maze of icefalls ourselves! During the day, we could hear the thunder-loud noise of avalanche here and there from time to time, and we are getting used to it fast! To be safe, our campsite is located quite far away from the ice fall. The only group further away is Russell Brice’s team.
Another surprise is that there is no flat ground for base camp! The whole terrain is on a super ragged glacier moraine. It took a lot of work to pile up rocks just to build a little platform for each tent. Once step out of your tent, watch for “stairs”! The biggest challenge is to go to the bathroom. The bathroom itself is actually sheltered inside a tent and is as comfortable as you can expect on a mountain. But to safeguard our water source for cooking, the bathroom is located at the far end of our campsite. It takes 5-10 minutes of careful hiking (consider hiking poles and crampons if there’s snow) from our tents to the bathroom! Plan your emergency well in advance and good luck not getting lost in the night!
We arrived at EBC shortly after 10am, and 11am is the time for the Puja ceremony! The date for the Puja ceremony is determined by the Buddha calendar. We each brought our climbing hardware such as harness, ascenders, crampons, ice axe, etc. to lay by the center podium for blessing. It was a 1.5 hour long ceremony starting with prayer chanting led by Lama. Later, drink (milk tea, butter beer, regular beer, soda) and various service food were distributed while the prayer and chanting continued. Long strings of prayer flags were unwound from the center pole and sent across the camp side by Sherpa to be attached to remote high points across the glacier moraine in all directions, decorating the whole base camp with sacred and beautiful prayer flags. People put butter powder on each other’s faces for good luck, and my Sherpe Da Tenji put another yellow string on my neck. The ceremony ended with festive line dancing and singing. Everyone is so happy and excited about the beginning of a new season!
Apr 13, 2010
Once we are at EBC, life gets busy! There’s an agenda for every day.
Yesterday, after the Puja ceremony in the morning, we spent part of the afternoon going over our gear, making sure everyone is properly rigged up for ascending, rappelling, and self rescue in case of falling into crevasse. The rest of the day (the day is defined by sunrise and sunset, and portioned by three meals and other agenda) is spent organizing our own tent. While on the trek, we pack and unpack almost every day. Life is always on the move. Now finally at base camp, it took a while to reorganize our new home. It has been almost three weeks since I saw my big duffel bags! Remember how much care I took to pack each bag before the trip? Now it takes no less effort trying to dig out where I hid each little thing inside other bigger things. It is also serious internal design work to make my tent as comfy as possible while still being able to find every little item!
But just as I was barely unpacked, it’s time to pack again! We are leaving tomorrow for a training climb on Lobuche, a 6000m peak, for 4 or 5 days. Once we are back, we will get ready to tackle icefall!
Last night, we went to bed under a full sky of amazing stars. The evening was not too cold; the temperature inside my tent was about 20F. This morning, we woke up to find the whole EBC covered in fresh snow! What a beautiful day! We spent the morning practice climbing fixed rope.
I had been dreaming about showering and washing my clothes for several days before we arrived at EBC. But finding personal time is not easy with our busy agenda, and there is only a short window warm enough for showering and washing clothes— when the sun is shining on our campsite between 10am and 3pm. I finally managed to get a shower (don’t ask me if it’s comparable to the heavenly bath! But you would enjoy it if you have been wiping yourself with baby wipes for a week or more) after lunch, then the wind picked up, and I had to postpone washing clothes indefinitely.
Still a few hours of daylight left, time to get ready for Lobuche!