Our approach to base camp brings us through the Khumbu Valley, also known as the Sherpa Kingdom. We have been camping in the same villages that Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay did in 1953. We passed a Gupa dedicated to Norgay outside Namche at the point on the trail where you get the first view of Everest. He died in 1986. It is hard to believe they did this with some pretty basic gear, battling the unknown and so far away from anyone that rescue was not an option. The Khumbu Valley is still inhabited by several Gupas that make a living farming and selling supplies and services to trekkers and climbers. The last few years have been bad with accidents, and climbing season closed in 2014 and 2015 because of them. It has hurt the local economy, so many have moved away in order to make a living. They call it brawn drain – most of the strongest porters and farm hands are moving to places like Qatar to help build soccer stadiums for the world games working for one hundred dollars a month. The estimated number of emigrates totals 800,000 Nepalis that have left and relocated to living in the Middle East.
The Nepalese people are very welcoming. There are children running in the trails to greet you with a friendly ‘Namaste’. The High Lama that gave us our blessing and his brother are married to the same woman, which is common practice here. The part about this that’s funny is they had a son and couldn’t determine whose son he was so they named him “I don’t Know” which was also the WiFi password in the restaurant in town. I met two little girls on the trail that reminded me of Mal and Jade hamming it up for my camera. It has been eleven days since I left and things like that remind me of home and make me a little homesick, a feeling that will only get worse with limited communication.
I am a day away from the trek into base camp and a chance to rest for two days. I am in Lobuche, and spent the last few days climbing from village to village. The higher we go, the more difficult it gets. I lost cell and WiFi two days ago, and satellite phone only works outside. It is cold and snowing, and most of my gear is at base camp. I had a day’s rest in Namche, and another at Pheriche, although we climbed up to 16,500 ft and back to 14,000 ft to acclimatize. I had a bad night sleep the day before, but the long training climb gave me a good night’s sleep. The trek has given us panoramic views of the mountain, which are amazing. We will lose these views until we reach camp 3 at 23,500 ft.
Learning more about the team every day. They are from all over the world, and most speak good English. Unlike the others, I am unfamiliar with the trails and stick with someone that knows the way. We have Sherpa, but most are at base camp getting tents and summit gear ready. A few are traveling with us, cooking and helping guide. I have a young female Sherpa, Yangie that is right behind me every step. I was huffing badly coming up a steep hill, and she asked if she could carry my pack. Her pack was 60lbs – double the weight of mine. I really need the training and maybe my ego wouldn’t allow me to let her carry it for me. Her dad, Mingma, is one of the head Sherpa. He has three daughters. She is the oldest and hopes to be a Sherpa guide. She is a trekking guide, which is different from a climbing Sherpa that I meet tomorrow when I arrive at base camp. The climbing Sherpa will also be my tent mate when we travel above base camp.
We walked through the climber memorial. It was a very solemn moment. We saw the stone for Scott Fischer and many other climbers that have died on the mountain. We run into Rob Hall tomorrow before we get to base camp. Our leader climbed with both Scott and Rob, and had funny stories about them. He brought his team to the summit and down safely in 1996, and other than those two days, said it was one of the best climbing years. He is planning to summit with the team, but during his last few attempts, he stopped short due to a rescue. He is missing a few toes, but is very safe and I know I am with the right person. He stops Everest exhibitions after next year to spend time with his young son and will do K2 instead. K2 is the second tallest peak, but is more technical. He has actually climbed it twice, once with Scott Fischer.
I know I have rambled, but a lot has happened that I don’t want to leave out. My confidence is still good, and I have good and bad days, which will be the case for the rest of the expedition. I think I get cell phone service in base camp, which will help. I will update everyone on our next rest day till then stay warm.