Happy Easter everyone and apologies for the lack of updates lately.
We’ve settled into base camp life now. Below is a typical day.
Wake up having had a vicious 12-hour fight with batteries, electronics, wet wipes and water bottles (all sharing my sleeping bag so that they don’t freeze). Struggle out of my sleeping bag and spend four minutes swearing and grunting, while trying to get my piss bottle open to avoid going outside. Frozen piss bottle wins that battle, so I put on my Glerups wool shoes, unzip my tent, stagger and slip down the giant ice cube I have decided to live on and relieve myself.
Pete is up, having already paid his daily respects to Angola’s liberation, and is sitting in the mess tent with a cup of tea. “Lovely day!” he exclaims with the sort of grin only reserved for the truly insane.
I pour myself a coffee from a flask and watch this maniac intently. “Our Indian neighbours haven’t breached the defences,” he exclaims suddenly. I suspect he is referring to the Indian Army expedition who neighbour our camp. Pete is convinced they are planning covert operations to use our long drop late at night, but seeing as our pit latrine involves balancing on a wobbly rock, and they have a plush sit-down loo, I find this theory unlikely.
Jay, our main guide, comes in. He’s joined by Tom (Tutu Tom) who is a former colleague of Pete and Jay’s, and Geth (Kath) – another soldier – an infantry instructor. We’ve got a pretty competent team. I’m not entirely sure what I bring to the party, but I’ve not been filled in yet… and I’ve always considered not having my nose broken as winning at life. They all love the ‘Brews’. Turns out ‘Brews’ mean something more substantial in the US Marine contingent and Chris’s constant disappointment at being presented tea and not Budweiser is fun to watch.
Next into the tent is Tom (RAF Reg Tom), and Mark. More tea is poured. The conversation goes like this:
“Not too bad. You?”
“Yep, not too bad.”
There then proceeds a long conversation about the economic impacts of Brexit, the works of Karl Marx and Bertram Russell, and quantum theory. (Some or all of this may be untrue.)
Breakfast is brought to the mess tent by Lal, our chef. The possessor of a thousand recipes for spam, and a devotee of the nutritional benefits of chillies and Ocra, Lal is perhaps the most upbeat and cheerful bloke in the camp. Each day he presents his creations with the pride of a man submitting a winning dish on ‘The Great British Bake Off’. In fact, what he creates in his kitchen tent is often nothing short of miraculous, and we are certainly never hungry.
Having breakfasted on pancakes, omelettes and vegetable curry, we make a plan for our day. It’s all about waiting at this stage. We are waiting for the weather. For the ropes to be fixed at the higher camps. For provisions and oxygen to get to Camp 2 for use up at Camp 3.
To keep ourselves busy, we bumble across the stream below camp and onto the glacier. Here we practice techniques that we will need for moving through the Khumbu Icefall. Again, the size of my ice screws are mocked loudly. This practice is good for us all. Most important it’s getting the muscle memory back – making sure we are always safe.
A few days ago, we left early morning to Camp 1 on Pumori, a mountain behind basecamp. From there we got an incredible view of the mountain we are attempting. Famous names from childhood stories – The Lhotse Face, The Hillary Step, The Geneva Spur – suddenly they are all there in plain view. I’m glad I’m out of breath, and so is everyone else, as the scale of the panorama in front of me leaves me speechless. Lhotse is the fourth highest mountain in the world, standing at over 8,500m. It is deemed an insignificant knoll in comparison to its neighbour.
“Awesome,” says Pete unnecessarily. We are all in awe.
We start our descent as clouds are coming in and make it back to Base Camp for a late lunch.
Lal has created another strange but filling concoction of tinned sardines, naan bread and coleslaw, with some slivers of spam as a garnish.
“Awesome,” says Pete.
I choke down my sardines and wander to my tent for a snooze. Jay and Tom are on their knees like a pair of children playing with Lego. Like a pair of eight-year-old druids, they are building little stone henges and giggling like simpletons.
I think it’s time we moved up to the higher camps.
Especially pleased with O2. (Seems to be stating the obvious - ed.)
Morale good. (Not necessarily universal - editor)
Balmy. (Fucking lie - ed)