We set off this morning as the weather started closing in. Pete’s morning rendition of the Angolan National Anthem gave me both an indication as to the direction of travel, and what will probably play in my head for eternity from my padded cell.
At this point, I think I should introduce the other members of the HST Adventures expedition, aside from Rupert, Pete and Alice (still AWOL).
I've mentioned Sange, the head sherpa, and Samir, the basecamp manager. We also have Mingma, another sherpa, who I suspect has been briefed about me by Sange (who watches me with the scrutiny of a mother looking after a severely ADHD toddler).
There’s also another expedition within our party – we call them the “Americans” – but only because I haven’t thought of a cooler name. Doubtless, they call us the Titans. Kirstie is an amputee who lost a leg serving with the Marines in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan. She is incredibly attempting to do the 7 Summits (all the highest peaks on each continent) for her foundation, The Kirstie Ennis Foundation. I have no doubt she will, she has already submitted some of the worlds highest mountains, and has the courage that is hard to comprehend.
Her guide is Chris. I have climbed with Chris in Chamonix. He snores like a gut-shot goat. And is very relaxed. So relaxed, in fact, that he is seemingly happy to climb with me. The only person more relaxed than Chris is Rob, the cameraman. At the time of writing, he has flown his drone into a tree somewhere in northern Nepal. He made us aware of this predicament by stating simply, "I need a new drone.” I like his style. (I would have been cursing all the junipers in existence and requesting a full Sherpa search party.) As well as being an accomplished cameraman (Oscar-winner Jimmy Chin is a colleague), he’s a highly qualified climbing guide in his own right. Based in Jackson Hole, and like most extreme guys from that part of the world, he replies to nearly all statements, questions, and even Chris’ snoring with “totally”. I’m going to start doing that. I hope it will give me some credibility here. I need it.
Anyway, back to following the whistling lunatic in the woods. I did that for a bit until I couldn’t hear him anymore. I was probably lost, but I couldn’t hear Pete’s devotion to Angolan nationalism, so the prospect of an eternity wandering the mountains of Nepal was less alarming than it should have been. I somehow rediscovered the team in an amazing Rhododendron forest, and we made our way together to the tea house.
I’m afraid the dating scene has become a bit of a thing for Peter and me in the evenings. Reluctantly, Rupert gives us updates on his progress. Online dating is a bit of a novelty. My dating experience extended to finding a girl who was drunk enough not to be repulsed by me, inviting her on a short holiday to Kenya, and then having a car too unreliable to get her to the airport to catch her flight home. Fifteen years and two rug rats later, here I am (admittedly in the Himalayas). Pete’s methods included going to Afghanistan for years on end. Take that Tinder!
Day Five: Dingbouche
We headed out at 8 am to Dingbouche. The skies were a bright blue, and we got our first view of the iconic Ama Dablam. I must confess, this mountain left me speechless. It makes one understand the extraordinary seductive power that mountains have over humans.
In good spirits, with the warm sun on our backs, we headed to Pengboche, home to one of Nepal’s oldest monasteries, dating back till at least the 16th century. Here we were to receive a “Puja” or blessing from the local Lama. No strangers to these from our expedition up Manaslu, it was quite something to be in a monastery. Buddhism seems to me to be a deeply pleasant religion – devoid of “religion” in the modern tub-thumping sense, but full of genuine spirituality – somehow promoting a real peace, (although this may have been merely a reflection of the mandatory silence putting an end to Pete’s 28th rendition of the Angolan National Anthem). Despite not understanding anything that was actually said, it was a very spiritual moment. We had rice scattered over us and a necklace presented by the Lama, having taken part in what I assume were prayers for our well being. Buoyed by this I stood up and promptly tripped over the stairs. I spent the rest of the day asking Samir if I had somehow offended the Lama, and he had cursed my ability to walk.
After a leisurely lunch just beyond the monastery, we walked (well, I tripped) on to Dingbouche along a goat trail overlooking a rapidly flowing river.
We are there now. Rupert appears to be having a charming conversation with a lady 6,000 miles away, Pete is recording his daily heart rate, and I’m about to finish writing this.
For those that are interested, Pete says he will update stats in two days, strap yourself in kids!