Just focusing on breathing at the moment. Every movement makes me out of breath, it’s ridiculous really, and makes me wonder how I’m ever going to climb Everest. If you have ever taken a quick ski lift up high or maybe your first walk after an operation then you’ll have some feel of what it’s like. Now imagine that all the time.
Our Base Camp is on a glacier at 18,000ft. It is on very rocky moraine with the ice just underneath. It is not as flat as you might expect as there are 30-40ft hillocks all around. These are caused by the ice melting slower under the rocks when the sun comes. The hillocks come from the bigger rocks that are often the size of double decker buses. We are a small village really with about 20 large tents and 20 personal tents scattered randomly wherever a flat area could be dug out. As an aside, over time the warmth of our bodies slowly melts the ice beneath our tents creating new slopes or hollows.When this happens we have to empty and lift our tents to re-level the ice floor.
We are away from the main Base Camp which has about 25 teams from all around the world, huddled together at the bottom of the Khumbu ice fall (the first stage of the Everest climb). Our separation is a deliberate attempt to try and avoid illness. Even a cold acts like pneumonia up here and will mean certain failure for any one of us, plus the usual bugs that can sap our energy completely. Two guys are back this year after getting bugs in 2009 and only reaching camp 2. Big Jim from the Pennsylvania, USA and Thomas from Norway – both strong guys.
So we’re waiting for our bodies to acclimatise to the thin air. When I first arrived here, I had a headache. This is the first stage of HACE (High Altitude Cerebral Edema) which is basically your brain swelling, but with no space inside our skulls to do this, it hurts. The dodgy bit is that our reaction to high altitude is delayed by 6-12 hours so we have to sit and wait to see if we deteriorate further. A couple of aspirin did the trick for me this time.
Himex work hard to relieve the boredom with good food and a big round white tent that acts as a lounge. The ‘White Pod’ has a bar, TV, and deck chairs. Power is provided by solar panels so if it’s been sunny we can watch a film. Russ (our expedition leader) also enforces a strict regime to ensure that we don’t fall into a lethargic state. Up at 7am and mealtimes at specific times. Most of us are knackered from doing nothing and get off to bed by 8:30pm. Occasionally, we raid the bar and go on for longer in the evening. It’s a balance between keeping our sanity and staying healthy…
Whilst writing this I have just heard the roar of another avalanche nearby. Reminding me of how much my success will be decided by Mother Nature.