It takes a few days to really appreciate the life at Base Camp. Once you arrive, there is the buzz of meeting new people, figuring out the tent situation and of course, staring at the objective. From BC we have a clear view of Shisha Pangma.
But after a while, the schedule becomes obvious: wake up to the sounds of barking dogs at sunrise, lounge in the warm sleeping bag for another hour, have a nice breakfast and visit with the other teammates. Take a long walk and either be back for lunch or take something with you. Afternoon nap. read in the dining tent to avoid the heat in the sleeping tent. Rendezvous for dinner. Afterward, some play cards, others go to bed. All in all quite comfortable considering where we are. It may sound like we are slacking off and we are, but it is critical to take your time during this phase of a long expedition. If you push too fast you risk getting sick or burning out. But if you just lie around, you do nothing for your acclimatization. So as in life, balance is the key.
There is a Tibetan family living at BC along with us. The men are out tending a herd of sheep that must number over 300. I started to count them but fell asleep. They graze in the vast fields along the rushing water of our glacier fed stream. This is our source of water. The women and children make regular rounds of the tents asking for food even though they have plenty. They are also willing to sell their jewelery. We are careful to be kind but not to encourage the begging. It is quite the dichotomy that we have so many luxuries and they have such huge smiles.
This BC is a comfortable place, much nicer than other 8000m mountains I have climbed. There is grass, water and stunning views. It usually does not snow this low at this time of the year but we can see snow at our site for Advanced Base Camp (ABC) 2000′ higher. The temperatures are quite mild. Most of us wear short sleeves and some wear shorts during the heat of the day. The direct sunlight is oppressive. Sunscreen, sunglasses and hats are mandatory in and out of tents. But as soon as the sun goes down the temperature drops 30 degrees, easily. Out comes the down jackets and we huddle in the dining tent. Luckily it is heated.
The night sky is beyond belief. Last night after dinner, I just stood in the middle of the field staring upwards. So many stars. So many stars. The Milky Way appeared as a dense cloud that stretched from the north horizon to the south horizon without interruption. It was a pure rainbow of stars and galaxies. One felt small looking at the vastness of deep space. Over the Himalayas into Nepal, lightening provided a constant light show.
The Steps of Tibet are borderless. From our vista today we could see lakes, mountains and flat plains reaching out in all directions. Along with three of my teammates, I climbed 1500’ to a nearby hill to accelerate our acclimization. Once on top at about 18,000’ the view became even more broad. Every direction held a surprise.
Tonight 50 yaks are scheduled to arrive. We will send the first load to ABC along with a couple of teammates who arrived a few days earlier and are well acclimatized. A few of our Sherpas will move up and establish the site with a kitchen, dining and toilet tents. The rest will follow in a few days.
I am feeling great. All my vital signs are on target and I feel like I am acclimatizing well. I am sleeping well. The team is good. We are all getting along well. The conversation flows easily. We have a broad age span from 18 to 60. We represent 5 countries.
I am running out of adjectives to describe this place. It is huge, quiet, serene, thought provoking, peaceful, endless. Something about it causes your pulse to slow and your mind to relax. The pure and absolute perfection of the landscape calls nothing into question. The moment is to be savored and buried deep into the memory.
Please remember: Memories are Everything