Location: Everest Base Camp
Local Time: 8pm, Sat 13th May
Weather: Cold & Snowy, Max 0C
Hi Everyone, it’s Fi here,
With cold weather we’ve spent most of the day inside the dining tent chatting and drinking copious amounts of tea.
Strategising and Mind-Games
Now that we’ve finished our acclimatisation rotations, we’re resting here to recuperate for a least a few more days. The atmosphere and talk has changed in nature to intense discussions on when the right time to summit will be. It seems that it is this stage of the trip where the mind-games begin with different theories floating around about when to go, when not to go, etc.
Everyone has already been on this expedition for 6-8 weeks and it seems that many people’s thoughts are turning to home and “when we’ll get this darn thing done”. But this is not a place for itchy feet and Paul and I are trying to exercise patience so that we can make our move at the right time (for us), rather than blow our chances too early.
Many people have already left for their summit push – making their earliest possible summit date the 17th May, with the high rope fixing planned for the 16th. The weather forecasts are currently saying moderate-highish winds speeds, but as this timeframe draws nearer, the forecasts seem to be becoming slightly more favourable. Although it did not seem to us as a particularly good weather window a couple of days ago, it may turn out to be perfect. We hope it turns out well for them.
Many others are still down-valley (some as far as Kathmandu), while others are about to head down for a few days in some lower villages.
At the moment, we are resting at base camp. Our Sherpas have gone down-valley to rest and visit with their families but will be back here on Tuesday, so the earliest we will be leaving is Wednesday (giving us 5 full days of rest). But of course, everything from there on depends on the weather.
Reading the Weather
Today we have spent some time looking at the current weather forecasts and learning how to read them. The main factor for the summit climb is the wind speed at the summit – as this largely determines the effective temperature. (The temperature is really the limiting factor as climbers would get frostbite at lower winds than they’d be able to climb in – something we’re very keen to avoid!).
As there are no weather stations anywhere nearby, the forecasts are all based on satellite data and information from airplanes flying nearby. Although it seems that there is one core set of data, there are many different interpretations and hence many different weather forecasts – some which are freely available on the web, but most which are subscriber based. IMG subscribes to one particular forecast, but there are many rumors floating around base camp now and teams and individuals are paying close attention to each others movements.
When we have looked at past years, it seems that there has always been one or two very clear weather windows (even last year, although it was so late). So we’re hoping this year will be the same. We certainly don’t want to be going up if the conditions are not right.
Passing the Time
Someone asked how we pass the time aside from reading and listening to music.
It’s amazing, but time seems to have a different quality up here – I guess it might be to do with the altitude, but it’s similar to when you go camping. As sad as it seems, at basecamp, our days tend to be structured around mealtimes. Every meal is a chance to get together with our fellow teammates and chat – sometimes we sit around talking so long that it’s time for the next meal. Such was the case today as it is one of the least pleasant days outside. There is a practical purpose to this as well though – we are all trying to make sure that we’re constantly well hydrated (usually having come off the mountain at least partially dehydrated).
Chores like having a shower or doing our laundry tend to take the best part of half a day. Sometimes there are other chores like gathering up food to take up the mountain on our next trip or fixing a piece of equipment that needs repairs.
Aside from these things, we definitely do a lot more sleeping than we do at home. Someone asked if it was the standard 7-8 hours. Well, no – it’s closer to 12 hours for most of us (5-6 would be normal for us at home). And that’s if we don’t take an afternoon nap! Although it sounds like a very simple life, I don’t think anyone here is bored or looking for ways to pass the time faster.
Someone asked whether at high altitudes we think clearly, and if not, do we know that we’re not. There are lots of examples when people at high altitude have made very poor decisions due to the way the altitude has affected their brain. Neither Paul or I have noticed this happening on this trip (yet). One of the reasons that we decided to hire two Sherpas was to mitigate against this exact risk – particularly when on our summit push. We figure that we might want to separate due to differences in speed, but we don’t want either of us to be making decisions alone – we figure two minds are far better than one! When we’ve been up high on this trip, I guess we can tell that our thinking is a bit slower, but we did manage to derive the formula for converting Fahrenheit temperatures to Celsius at camp 2!
What sort of camera are we using? We have 2 here but almost all the photos we’ve posted have been taken with our Canon S80??
News on the dog? I heard a rumor that one climber wants to take it back to the US with him – unconfirmed!
Kirk – when we mentioned that Everest wasn’t technical, we meant in comparison to some other mountains. It definitely has a reasonable degree of technicality to it – some sections are vertical or very steep, and there are hardly any other mountains with ladder crossings. However, if these obstacles were at sea level, they’d be an absolute cinch for most climbers – it’s the altitude that makes it all difficult.
MC – The icefall doctors continually monitor and fix up the lines and ladders in the icefall and all the way to camp 2. Already we have seen sections of the route change several times. Above camp 2, it’s up to the individual climbers to repair any anchors that need maintenance (however, they are all backed up by each other so the danger is minimal so long as you are clipped in!)
Mum – Just wanted to wish you very happy Mother’s Day for tomorrow – I’m so sorry I can’t be there with you and look forward to seeing you in a few weeks.
Nana – Thanks for your lovely message. Have a wonderful Mother’s Day as well.
Mama and Oma – Mary wishes you both a Happy Mothers Day too.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the other mums and soon-to-be mums out there.
Big hello to Jack. Glad to hear you made it to Kathmandu and hopefully you are in sunny Thailand by now. Take care – we look forward to catching up with you later.
Congratulations Mark & Fi on your new baby Alexander. Look forward to seeing your pics when we are back on a normal internet connection.
Karlyne & Kate – the Hen’s plan sounds excellent. Full seal of approval.
Well, that’s all for now – time for yet another meal.