11th April – The Long (& bumpy!) route to Base Camp

11/04/10

So today was centred around moving up to base camp. As normal we all had breakfast together, a delicious feast of boiled eggs and watered down rice from last nights main meal which they tried to pass off as porridge. After what ever little breakfast we could force down everyone collected their gear and loaded up the jeep and bus which would take taking us deep into the Himalayas.

Apparently Everest base camp on the north side is one of the worst places to be if you start to get sick due to altitude. This is not just because of their obvious lack of medical facilitates but also because it is very hard to descend rapidly. Base camp is surrounded by the Tibetan Plato, anyone therefore needing to descend quickly to recover must travel all the way back to Naylama to get any benefits.

After all our luggage was loaded up we all went to purchase water from the local “corner shop” if you can call it that. The drive to base camp from Tingri is about 6 hours gradually ascending from the desert landscape deep into the Himalayas.

Surprisingly though the drive up wasn’t as uncomfortable as I thought. After plugging my headphones into my ipod and sitting back to listen to a couple of songs I quickly got used to the extremely jurkey movement of the bus along the dirty road. Every so often though we were all caught out and were thrown from our seats. You would think we would be supplied with a pretty sturdy bus for the type of terrain we were having to drive through but no. The bus we were given instead resembled a jenga tower! With every jurk and movement along the dirt track pieces of the bus would fall off, though this didn’t seem to bother our driver.

About halfway up to base camp the bus stopped and we all got off, straight ahead of us was Everest. This was the first time for the majority of the group to see what they had let them selves in for. Previously the few glimpses we had seen of Everest were of its summit just popping over the peaks of other mountains, but here for the first time we could see Everest from nearly top to bottom.

We pulled into base camp mid afternoon, with all our tents were set up and the chef and cook boys were already preparing some food for us. Everyone was pretty eager to get some good food into them after travelling for 6 days through small mountain towns and living on a diet of rice and vegetables. Everyone therefore quickly threw their stuff into their tents and descended on the mess tents. The food as promised by our guide Stuart wasn’t a let down. Brought into the mess tent was a massive pile of cheese and tomato toasties and a big bowl of chips for everyone.

Mess Tent

After enjoying eating some proper food everyone went back to their tents to unpack and make them as homily as possible. We will be spending the majority of two months here! People all tried to personalise their tents in different ways. Heather set about making a rockery equiped with a sunlounger outside her tent, while Jantoon took out the mascots he had brought with him for the trip and attached them to the top of his tents. I on the other hand attached one of the flags I will be taking up to the summit along the inside of my tent.

Unpacking took surprisingly long and by the time we were finished it was starting to get dark. I therefore decided to grab my head torch and head back over to the mess tents were there is electric lighting and electric heaters. It didn’t take long for everyone else to come to the same conclusion as the temperature was dropping below freezing very fast.

After an hour of so of everyone chatting about the day dinner was served. We were given a bowl of incredibly tasty vegetable soup and popcorn for starters which went down extremely well. This was quickly followed by chips and yak steak for our main course and some sliced mango for desert. Not quite what I had expected… I could get very used to this!

Everyone was very surprised with the quality of the food and we were all hoping it would continue throughout our time here and wasn’t just a treat for arriving in base camp. Stuart assured us though that the quality of food would stay exactly the same and if anything get better as the Nepalese’s chefs got settled into a routine.

After everyone had finished dinner and the table had been cleared away, we all decided to try out the plasma tvs which each of the mess tents had. No expense spared here by the looks of things.  In Kathmandu Stuart had gone out and bought 50+ dvds for the group so we were spoiled for choice. We all eventually decided to watch Hurt Locker. As we were watching the dvd the wind started to pick up significantly and before long was battering off the side of the mess tent, which created some interesting sound effects for the movie.

As good as the movie was though, it didn’t take long for people to start sneaking back to their tents. It had been a tiring day travelling up to base camp from Tingri and it was obvious some people were exhausted. About ¾ of the way through the movie I decided to retire to my tent. Really I just wanted to get into my sleeping bag before it got to cold and dable in a bit of bedtime reading.

Sorting out the Sleeping bag! - a still taken from my training video on the Cairngorms. It's MUCH colder over here! Click image for video

How wrong I was though! On exiting the mess tent I realised just how cold it had gotten outside, something which we had been oblivious to due to the electric heater in mess tent! Thankfully my tent was one of the closer ones to the mess tent and I was able to get inside of it fairly quickly.

After a couple of minutes warming up in my sleeping bag as the tent was freezing I decided I better venture back outside to do my teeth and go to the toilet. Getting out of the sleeping bag was easier said than done though and it took a humungous amount of effort to force my self to get out of the tent. When I first unzipped the tent a gust of ARCTIC (when I say arctic I mean colder than arctic) wind came roaring in right up my clothes making me feel like and ice cube. Thankfully though after what seemed like an eternity outside brushing my teeth I was back inside my tent and sleeping bag and able to curl up to my nalgine bottle filled with boiling water and go to sleep.

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