For the next five days all we have to do is rest and acclimatise. Sounds easy doesn’t it! Today was the first of these days.
The previous evening we had decided to all meet for breakfast at 8:30am. At the time I though this was a bit early considering we litterly had nothing to do during the day. I had forgotten though how early the sun came up and about 7:00 in the morning I was woken up by beams on sunlight penetrating my tent. After trying to fight the sun and roll over and go back to sleep for a while I decide I might as well get up. It was a loosing battle! As it was only 7:20 still I decided to stay in my sleeping bag to keep warm and read my book until breakfast at 8:30.
For breakfast there was a selection of cereals, all freighted over from the UK so it didn’t take long for everyone to tuck in, this was promptly followed by porridge and then eggs, bacon and beans. I was very happy to ‘Kelloggs corn flakes out’ – one of my personal favourites. What was funny though was that on the Asian box for some crazy reason the cockerel had been beefed up as if he was having to compete with tony the tiger!
Unfortunately during breakfast we were interrupted with news that Matt had come down with a pulmonary endema and pneumonia during the night and consequently had to be put on oxygen. We all knew that he hadn’t been feeling well but didn’t realise just how serious it had become.
This was a real eye opener to just how high we had climbed in terms of what we are used to back home. Base camp is at 5200 meters that’s 400 meters higher than Mont Blanc (the highest mountain in western Europe) and Matt’s oxygen blood level had dropped as low as 46 during the night. To put this in perspective most people in the UK will have a blood oxygen level of 90+ and if someone in the UK had a level of 90 or less they would most likely be admitted to hospital.
On a more positive note, after breakfast Stuart announced that the sherpas had finished setting up the shower tents. This was great news as while some of the places we had stayed in on the way in had had showers they didn’t look very appealing and more than often in the majority of cases the toilets were right next to the showers and smelt so fowl that one had to treat the toilets as if they were full of poisonous gas and hold your breath the entire time you were in there. If this wasn’t enough, toilet seats are seen as an unnecessary luxury over here! Why? I don’t know! But this meant anyone wishing to go to the toilet had to crouch and squat into a hole. Easy you may think, but no! All I will say is that in a large number of cases it was clear the person having been to the toilet before was not very coordinated.
So as you can imagine, the showers were obviously very popular! However, unfortunately we only have two shower tents at base camp and since no one had showered in days we quickly drew up a list so people could go off and relax while waiting. Thankfully I managed to get my name down as one of the first on the list so I didn’t have to wait to long.
The showers, as one can imagine, are very basic. A tent with a shower head in it, with a hose running up a small hill next to it and into a very large container filled with water. While this may seem very rudimentary it actually worked pretty well and with a sherpa outside adjusting the temperature one can mange to clean them self reasonably well.
After my shower I decided to go over and spend some time with Matt and see how he was feeling. He was certainly looking better though it was clear our guides and the two doctors who are luckily on or trip were still worried. It was decided that a decision would be made at 11:00 about Matt conditions. Until then people chatted to matt about different things trying to keep his mind off it. At 11:00 more readings were taken and both doctors agreed that Matt would have to be evacuated back to Kathmandu. This was a massive blow for Matt as he was extremely fit and only 1 year older than me, so believed he had a good chance to summit and hated the fact that something outside his control would stop him.
Later in the afternoon a jeep was sent up to base camp to collect him and take him down to friendship bridge (the border between Nepal and Tibet) where a helicopter would be waiting to take him to hospital in Kathmandu. Everyone got together to say bye to Matt and wish him well.
After Matt left, the camp became quite quiet and everyone retreated to their own tents to do some reading or to listen to some music. Later in the afternoon though Josh and Keith got people together in one of the mess tents as they had a surprise. As Josh has been sponsored by Maxi Muscle for a long time while playing rugby they sent out a create of maxi muscle supplements for people to use. Josh gave a quick talk about when was best the use the supplements. There was a large variety of supplements sent out, varying from protein powders and bars to energy and recovery sachets to vitamins and energy tablets. Everyone was obviously very grateful for Josh and Keith for arranging this.
The evening, much like the previous one, was a quiet affair with people tucking in to a dinner of soup, pizza, curry and fruit salad. Everyone was still trying to adjust to the new altitude though so after dinner many people retired to bed while the few that had any energy left stayed up watching ‘Inglorious Basterds’!