Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Island Peak Expedition Memoirs IX

Sunday 2nd November Island Peak Base Camp (Acclimatise/Rest Day)

Tea (black) arrives early as we lie in bed, a quick wash and we get stuck into a superb breakfast of porridge followed by potato pancakes and luncheon. I have a few extra pancakes with lots of jam just for good measure! I really believe food is a major key when acclimatising to keep the tank fueled up to maintain energy and not get run down at altitude, and we were certainly well treated to tons of food to fill our bellies. After brekkie we gear up and do some training with the ‘jumars’ on a fixed rope. We set up a course of a couple of ropes and practice climbing up using the ascending device called a jumar and abseiling down on our ‘figure eight’ devices. It’s my first time using a ‘jumar’ as I’m usually accustomed to more alpine style and traditional (or sport) rock climbing, placing protection as you move up the rock or mountain, they prove easy to use after a few goes and we’re having fun in the sun. A group of Japanese next to us are also practicing but look like they could do with some walking frames; they must have been all well over sixty years of age and looking rather frail. Lunch is the gorgeous Tibetan style bread with sardines, boiled egg and fried cauliflower pakora. Again some good variety in the menu which helps in keeping up the appetite – just the trick in our preparation. After lunch we perfect our jumaring and then take a small walk just halfway to base camp to again aid in acclimatisation and get the legs and lungs working!. We take in great views across the Imja glacier and its moraine lake. We soon head back to base and as I’m composing a photo of my roomy Per when a huge avalanche rips off the peak behind us thundering its way down to the valley floor in the pinkish hue of the late afternoon sun! It’s a little reminder of where we are – in a serious alpine environment and super close to the power of nature. Dinner time beckons and after a little lie down we get served up soup, pizza and apple pie – spoilt again with great food. Saran really has a great team behind him and we were starting to see the value in this. It’s off to bed at 8pm after continued cups of hot chocolate and another very cold night looms in the thin walled constraints of the tent but anticipation was growing, advanced based camp (ABC) tomorrow. Christina is not feeling well, which is a real bummer as she might not get the opportunity to summit. Fingers crossed for her as we tuck up into our cosy down sleeping bags.

Monday 3rd November Island Peak Base Camp (5,087m) to Advanced Base Camp (5,700m)

I awake after a great sleep right through the night. Tea, a wash and brekkie then we have another practice with the Jumar up the loose scree on the side of the valley. There’s a feeling of good anticipation and an air of excitement as we make a plan to leave for ABC at 2pm. Christina is still not feeling well (fever, stomach pains, vomiting). The decision hangs in the balance whether Christina will go. We have another carb stacking lunch of soup, spaghetti (with mini sausages). Still debate is going on as Christina has two more groups to guide with Saran in the coming weeks so really needs to get better soon. I give encouragement to Christina that she should head up to ABC and then she will at least have the option to go for the summit or head down to base camp, depending on how she feels. The team is ready to go and Christina decides she will come up which is good news. Saran leads off at 2.45pm at a slow and steady pace; again the great views unfold of Imja Glacier and Lhotse Shar. Some cloud starts coming up as the sun is setting creating an inversion and making a special atmosphere as we get one step closer to our ultimate goal. We arrive at ABC and there is an amazing shadow that we pose in capturing our silhouettes on camera. I pull out the classic Karate Kid “Crane” pose…classic! Tea is served and we organize the tent and gear for an easy ‘get up and go’ start. We meet in the kitchen for a basic dinner of Tuna Sandwiches, spaghetti and hot chocolate. I teach the Swedes Charades which makes for lots of giggles and then it’s off to bed for a short sleep in readiness for the summit day start at 2am! We jump into our bags, it’s cold but not desperately so, probably because I’m in my full Gore-Tex with down jacket over the top and boots on in the sleeping bag (using a silk liner). It’s hard to sleep while the adrenaline starts to kick in, and the slightly uneven ground isn’t helping the comfort levels either. I’m not a big pharmaceutical drug taker and don’t usually rely on any but I was given a valium by a girl at base camp and as I’m feeling restless I decide to use it to knock myself out for a few hours. It’s not a strong dose and she reckoned it would only knock me out for 3-4 hours, so I pop the pill and get off to sleep. I would only recommend this if you are confident you are fully acclimatised which I was.

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