Day 13: The Puja

Today we woke up very excited, since the our Sherpas and the Lamas were ready to start the Puja. We’ve had an amazing day, abusing a bit of the alcohol but I’m sure tonight I’ll have very good sleep. I will never forget this beautiful experience and its’s difficult to describe all feelings…

I have plenty of photos and videos, and my climbing partner Edita has beautifully described the day in her blog post:

“We got up this morning before 8 AM Nepalese time. Today is a Puja day. We had breakfast – some yummy omelet, fried tomato and chapati (Nepalese bead). I always add porrage with honey. So, it is a good breakfast to stay strong on the mountain! Da Pasang, our chief cook, always makes amazing meals. It is hard to have an appetite at high altitude and good cooking helps a lot!

After breakfast, we all went to get our gear ready for Puja.Puja is a Buddhist religious ceremony when we ask gods for safe passage to Chomolungma.

No Sherpa would climb without Puja as they would consider it a bad luck without asking gods for blessing. Three monks from the Rongbuk Monastery arrived early this morning. As they were in no rush (only few groups this year on the Everest North side), they were ordering our Sherpa how to create the altar for the ceremony.The weather was perfect, no wind, so we did the Puja outside. The ceremony started with the Monks chanting for an hour or so. The Sherpa sat all heads bowed. We also sat around and observed the ceremony. Many of us ended up taking photos and videos. The mood was perfect, maybe because it was such a perfect day! After some chanting, the Sherpa raised the prayer flag pole over the Puja altar that the Sherpa built this morning. Dorje, our Sidhar Sherpa, kept burning Juniper twigs, in a small furnace on the side of the Puja altar. Then, we are given handful of flour (called tsampa) to trow into the air. It got a little messy here as the wind picked up the flour and scattered all over us.

Then, we all stand in line and are offered pendant with Buddha picture. I got my zee stone pendant blessed again (first time on Cho Oyu, then Manaslu). Lamas smile as I gave my zee to them for blessing. They smile wide again when they put it on my neck after the blessing is done. Zee is a mystical Tibetan stone, supposed to protect from bad spirits and bring good luck. First time I submitted an 8,000′er, many Sherpa and Tibetans said it was zee who helped me. Let’s hope the stone will protect me again on the ridges of Chomolungma.

After that, we all stood in line for three shots of rum. They all had a good laugh when I choked on my third shot.

After that, the Sherpa dance came… I was dancing with few other non-Sherpas… just to almost pass out at the end of the second dance. I feel the altitude when I do any kind of physical activity.

Targi Sherpa and Edita (Beers)

This is when the real altitude junkies and Sherpa drinking began. We all went to our comms tent and everyone relaxed, opened up, telling jokes and stories. It was hilarious. Phil as always, shared a few great stories with us from the what he knew about groups on the south side of Everest. The lunch was served around 1 pm and I retreated to the privacy of my tent not too long afterwards. I needed a nap after all that Puja drinking… It is not polite and insulting not to drink during the ceremony… Only one member in our group who never drank in his life remained sober but seemed to enjoy the celebration no less than his drinking mates. As I am writing this a few hours later, I still hear voices of Sherpa and some of my group mates who are still celebrating…:-) They all deserve to relax and enjoy this day as we will begin our climbing and “suffering” in few days. It will be really hard, the hardest thing most of us have ever done, of course, except Sherpa! However, the Sherpa are working so hard and they deserve more than anyone on this mountain to relax for a day! They will be carrying load from ABC (Advanced Base Camp) prettty soon and begin setting up out camp. They are the true heroes, without them, most of us would not even dream of coming here to climb these beautiful ridges of Chomolungma.”

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