Everest 2012: Climbers in Kathmandu


More and more teams are now in Kathmandu preparing to catch their flights to Lukla or Lhasa. Anyone who has followed me or been there themselves know that Kathmandu is a meaningful part of any Everest experience.

Ian Ridley captured it well on his blog:

Driving through the streets of Kathmandu is one of those experiences you never forget. They say driving around the Arc de Triomphe in Paris is dangerous well who ever said that has not been to Kathmandu. Whilst our Highway Code probably extends to 200 plus pages here there must only be one which says ‘when wishing to change lane or direction sound horn and proceed!’. Another quirk is whist all motorcyclists must wear crash helmets their pillions don’t. How mad is that.

One of the first order of business for many climbers, and trekkers, these days is to get a sim card for their cell phone. How times have changed 🙂 Ncell is the preferred carrier because they charge 1.99 Nepalese Rupee  (USD $0.02) per minute for a call to the US! There is coverage throughout Nepal and up to Everest Base Camp. In 2011, I was able to get a weak signal all the way to Camp 2 and some report a connection from the summit itself!

But most people want to visit the sights of Kathmandu including a trip to the Bagmati River which is the home of a significant Hindu temple. Ghats or river steps line the river. You can witness cremations. Bodies are painted and positioned on top of logs and set afire. When all that remains are the ashes, they are put in a small bowl with milk and flower petals covering them, and then washed into the river with an elaborate religious ceremony. Certain areas of this temple are reserved for cremating royalty and others for the lower classes.
On Pilgrimage
Pashupatinath is the holiest Hindu pilgrimage destination in Nepal. Boudhanath is among the largest stupas in South Asia and it has become the focal point of Tibetan Buddhism in Nepal. Monks walk about in maroon robes as well as Tibetans with prayer wheels in their hands. You will also see the ritual of prostration where worshippers circle the stupa on their hands and knees, bowing down to their lord.

Another favorite spot is the Swayambhunath or Monkey Temple. This temple is located a short distance from Katmandu. There are over 500 wild monkeys crawling around on the steps and buildings – thus the Monkey Temple. You can get a nice pre-climb workout climbing the 365 well worn-steps leading to the top of the temple.

Lots to do once you arrive but not everyone has left their home countries. One climber to follow this year will be 70 year-old Bill Burke. I have been following Bill for years now and he has become a good friend even though we have never met. The Blog of the Day belongs to Bill where he describes what it takes to get his body, and mind, prepared for Everest. Of note, Bill is attempting a double summit which means he will attempt the summit from Nepal, travel overland to Tibet and attempt a second summit from that side. This has never been done in a single season; much less at age 70. I especially like this section of his post on mental commitment:

Just before the battle of Agincourt in 1415, King Henry V declared to his troops: “all things are ready if the mind be so.” William Shakespeare, King Henry V, act 4, Scene 3. Mental preparation is far more important than physical preparation in molding fitness to climb. For sure, the mountain takes its physical toll on the body. But, the mind is what keeps you moving in the difficult times. The extreme vertical terrain, the relentless weather, those long and lonely nights in the tent, the sameness of the food, longing for family and friends and fear all conspire to create doubt and temptation to quit and go home. There is no antidote for this malaise in or medicine. Mental toughness, fierce determination and iron resolve are the only hope.

We have some early reports of conditions in the Khumbu and on Everest. I had read of heavy snows in the Khumbu in late winter blocking trails and creating havoc. But all this seems to have cleared with reports of warm sunny days this week in the Khumbu albeit some fresh snow at Base Camp. A few comments note that Sherpas are saying there is little snow on Everest proper when viewed on the approach. But as we all know, we are talking about weather and summit days are over 6 weeks away so anything can happen.

Finally, The National Geographic team did an interview on Talk of the Nation recently about their non-climbing goals for Everest. Conrad Anker is climbing the West Ridge, and another team is on the Southeast Ridge route plus a slew of scientist are following them to collect rock and human condition samples. Specifically they are looking at sleep deprivation issues. You can read the transcript at this link or listen to the entire interview here:

OK, teams are getting settled into Kathmandu, enjoying their last “civilized” meals at sit down tables with glass glasses. Some are having breakfast at Mike’s Breakfast; others a huge pizza and beer at Fire & Ice; yet others taking in the local Dal Bhat – but there will be much more of that over the next two months.

Whatever they eat, they are filled with excitement, anticipation, trepidation and a few are thinking “What have I gotten myself into?”

Climb On!
Memories are Everything

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One thought on “Everest 2012: Climbers in Kathmandu

  1. Alan. Thanks for the Ncell tip. Will get that on Sunday when I am in Kathmandu. Can’t wait to get there. Love the organised chaos which works. You just need to immerse yourself into it and avoid doing things differently. Love the mental commitment references. No expeditions to Annapurna this year? Want to meet a few teams on the trail. Will be interesting to chat them up.

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