On Good Friday we finally left Base Camp, after a week of acclimatising. It felt good to be making progress up the mountain and taking a further step toward our goal of the North Col.
But like the old bloke in ‘Shawshank Redemption’ who didn’t want to leave prison after 30 years, I had become slightly institutionalised and fond of our primitive luxury. And as we were now going up to more extreme altitudes, no more booze.
I’d heard that the walk was long and arduous, and this hit me after about five minutes. The trek started off along the flat glacial plain that is Base Camp, before turning into an ablation valley in between the mountain side and the glacier’s edge. It went on forever.
After a few hours we turned sharp left up a steep hill until we reached another massive glacial valley. Except this time we didn’t go along the side of it but right over the middle of the glacier. But don’t think ice and snow - this was gravel moraine after gravel moraine. Each one being a mini mountain we had to go up and down.
At one point we were passed by a group of Sherpas almost running down the mountain. One Sherpa was bent double carrying another on his back. We later heard he had every climber’s worst nightmare - cerebral oedema - and was being treated in Kathmandu.
I suppose in total we walked for about six hours and gained 600m over 10km. Doesn’t sound like much but at those altitudes it is. Only problem was that our destination - Interim Camp - was horrible.
Perched precariously on top of a rocky moraine our tents were lined up like a battery chicken farm. One toilet over a crevasse shared between far too many people. The mess tent had no table or chairs and we ate our noodle soup sitting cross-legged on the floor between yak dung and mud.
The seasoned explorers and army blokes among the group didn’t seem to have the slightest problem with any of it, but for a Property Softy like me it was tough! The next day was the worse news ever - a rest day! What a place to try and rest!
I lay in my tent all day and all night, unable to sleep and wondering why I wasn’t back in Hanover Square drinking a latte. All of the rest day and night it snowed heavily and we woke on Easter Sunday with the morbid news that the weather was too bad to continue up to the next camp, Advanced Base Camp (ABC). A tense discussion ensued.
Those that had no problems with the filth were happy to sit it out. But Dad and I had to listen to our guide on this trip Alan Hinkes - the only Brit to have summited all the peaks in the world over 8000m, and so a guy who knows a thing or two about high altitude mountaineering - who advised going back down to Base Camp.
This would mean an enormous effort to go back downhill, but our bodies and minds could rest in relative comfort and thicker air. When we finally got back down last night there was an enormous dump of snow which seemed to validate our decision to descend.
The weather is now clearing up and we hope to be at ABC by the middle of the week. So here I am on Easter Monday, back at Base Camp, sitting in the sun, drinking Chateau Minuty.