Day 11: Finally at Base Camp!

We left Tingri this morning very early, 3:45 Nepal time, and after four and a half hours of driving in our comfortable bus, we arrived to our desired destination, our wonderful Base Camp. We did half of the drive in complete darkness but the other half was very scenic and we enjoyed amazing views of Mt Everest from different angles. I remember when I did the trek to Everest Base Camp in the Khumbu Valley. I will never forget the views from Kala Pathar, but other than that I could barely see the mountain. When climbing the Normal Route on the South you don’t get to see the top of Everest almost before summit day.

Climbing from the North I think is more demanding but much more rewarding. Is not only the amazing views you have of Qomolangma from virtually everywhere, but also the quietness of the route. The Base Camp is practically empty, with 8 different teams distributed across a giant flat area. Is quite windy and a bit dusty, but other than that you don’t see rubbish or yak’s poo whatsoever. We are seven foreign teams plus the Chinese one climbing the North Route at different times. We estimate a maximum of 90 climbers this season, and more than 500 from the South… When I visited EBC few yeas back the place was empty since it was mid March, too early for the climbing season, and it looked such a small camp with chaotic orography beautifully sculpted by the Khumbu Glacier. It is impossible for me to imagine 1200+ people fitting there today… is total madness, like a heavy metal concert where the viruses camp all around and the main challenge becomes being healthy. Once the survivors get to climb the Normal Route, they have to queue most of the time, and I think that makes the experience a bit plastic. How the hell do 500 climbers plus their sherpas fit in those tiny high camps? And there is a single line for around 1200 people to clip to… It’s going to be interesting to hear from my friends Maria, Mirza, Moe and Ali who are all climbing South this year.

The situation in the North Camp today is not normal I should say, since the political situation these days force many teams to go climbing from Nepal side, where once the climbing permit is issued there are no major challenges other than those I’ve just mentioned. North however is risky and we suffered few days in Kathmandu, Nyalam and Tingri before getting to our safe zone, our gorgeous Base Camp. Now is only the mountain and us, and we are not longer concerned about the logistics. The other team is not that fortunate. They are still stuck in hell, AKA Tingri. They have not managed to get transport for the 20 of them and although their sherpas and BC crew are setting up their tents and domes, I have not seen any climber yet. I’ve also heard the girl who was bitten by the dog, could not get the rabies shots at the Chinese military station at the border, meaning she’ll need to make her way back to Kathmandu.

The setup of or BC is almost completed. When we arrived, the Sherpas were finalizing the installation of three cozy domes and we have plenty of mess tents for different purposes. I will describe our camp tomorrow in great detail once everything is finalized. For now it looks like we just need to set up the showers, comms tent, and getting power sources plus Internet connectivity up and running. What I can say now is that our camp looks like a palace compared with the others here. It is extraordinarily luxurious and although the cooks are not up to speed with setting up the kitchens yet, we had a delicious lunch and the famous Altitude Junkies Happy Hour (4pm) with red wine, cheese, black olives and other appetizers.

I’ve had a very bad night with almost no sleep, and my neck is aching a lot from a hard bed with crappy pillows. I’m also worried because early in the morning I’ve got three sms from my girlfriend who had an accident while hiking in Oman. Last message says she is OK now, but I could not get every text she sent me, so I don’t really know what happened.. I don’t have signal in my Dubai cellphone anymore, and I’ll try later with the sat phone if Phil manages to find me a spare Thuraya card.

Other than that I feel strong, and although both my O2 saturation and rest pulse are around 82 I think I’m doing well with acclimatization. I had plenty of time to set up my huge three men tent, with three mattresses, a minus 40 sleeping bag, and the pics my girl printed out for me. Weather was awesome most of the day. Boiling in the tent by noon, I decided to take a “cat style” shower with plenty of baby wipes. Then I’ve had a nap in the chill out dome on a reclinable chair.

Tomorrow I’ll exercise a bit and we’ll try to sort out the Internet.

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