Thursday, July 4, 2013

Whenever, WherEverest

Something I discovered around 3 in the morning at Everest Base Camp, after trying unsuccessfully to sleep for 5 hours, is that I have a second hypochondriac tendency: fear of dying from Acute Mountain Sickness at Everest Base Camp.  I also realized that I missed having someone to travel with.  I go on adventures alone because I can't stand the thought of not doing something just because no one else can go with me, but at 3 in the morning when you're afraid you're about to die because there's not enough oxygen in the air and you can't even go to sleep to dream about more pleasant things, you realize just how much you wish someone else was there with you.  The Energizer was great, and she happily got up when I woke her at five in the morning to get my other bottle of water and can of oxygen, which I'd stupidly left in the car, but she wasn't family or friends.
Our driver, taking the river like a boss.
The drive to Everest was almost as stunning as the destination.  We had to go over three passes to get there (one of which was actually higher than base camp) and the mountains stretching out as far as the eye could see were just breathtaking (and even considering how little breath I had at that point, that's saying a lot).  Before that, though, not far out of Shigatse, we came to a little snag...there was a long line of trucks and buses waiting.  Our incredible driver stopped and assessed the situation - rains two days ago had washed out the bridge we needed to go over - and then decided he was driving through the mother lovin' river.  I learned a valuable lesson that day: never underestimate the value of four-wheel drive!
After a long drive up and down hills, we arrived at our stop for the night, the third base camp (and yes, I almost made a joke about getting to "third base").  This is the one for the tourists.  From third base camp we had to board a bus and go over a few more hills to second base camp, which is where the serious mountaineers get their start, after however long they sit there waiting on the weather.  In view of the second base camp is the original camp.  The Energizer explained that we're not allowed up there; not only is it a cemetery for the people Everest has claimed over the years (the ones whose bodies were recovered, at any rate), but this is also where some tourists flew the Tibetan flag several years back, upsetting the Establishment and consequently screwing the rest of us over (it's their fault that all tourists must now have a guide).
We were really lucky.  I was pretty okay with the fact that the forecast for my entire trip was "rain," but I wanted to see that peak.  I'd been praying, but was still apprehensive until we stopped just after we first came within sight of the mountain, and the clouds very serendipitously trailed their way off the top.  As we were getting ready to go back to our camp, the whole thing clouded over; in fact, it was still cloudy as we drove away the next morning.

And, of course, one must-do experience at base camp is hanging prayer flags.  You're better off bringing them from Lhasa...the Energizer and I both failed on this, and the guy selling them there wanted 30 kuai for them (which is outrageous).  So we split the cost and hung them together.  Lit - these ones were for you.

4 comments:

  1. Glad you made it out of there alive. The thought of running out of oxygen is pretty freaky, I have to admit. I suppose I take it for granted...being in a relatively low elevation.

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    1. I really do think the last year in UB helped, because it was much worse on Tititcaca. I don't think you should have problems when you get to Cuzco, unless you let yourself get too comfy in Canada.

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  2. If I wasn't confident that we'll be making it to Nepal, Tibet, etc. in the next few years, I'd beg you to bring me home loads of colorful clothes and blankets. I know this isn't the color post, but can you post some gorge. photos of their beautiful blankets, dresses, shirts, etc.? When we hiked Kota Kinabalau I got this altitude sickness/fear that you speak of. I was told by other hikers that even if you are prepared for it, you can still get the sickness. Hormones and all sorts of other factors can play a role one month where they won't the next. Just as well you didn't waste your time adjusting to elevation :) -Emily

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    1. I'll try to put some of the more colorful pics up on FB, Em - I've been trying to get better about taking pictures of people during this trip, although I am still a little shy about it. Try to do Bhutan when you go to Nepal as well...the textiles here are beautiful, and in a lot of shops you can actually see them being woven.

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