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Ama Dablam Diary – Life on the Mountain

November 29, 2014

bird290‘I was walking down to Pengboche. But it got dark too quickly and I got lost.’

‘Lost?’

‘Yes. At the bottom of that escarpment the track vanishes into that scrubland. I walked up and down the bank trying to find the bridge.’

‘And?’

‘I couldn’t find the bridge so I stayed out.’

‘All night? Are you serious?’

‘I couldn’t find my way, so yes, all night. Once the light has dropped I am blind.’

‘So what did you do?’

‘Put on every layer of clothing that I had in my pack and then put my feet in my pack.’

‘Did you get any sleep?’

‘No. I could see the lights of where I wanted to go just a few hundred metres over that river. But I couldn’t sleep. It was too cold. But I did have a fantastic view of the night sky and all those stars. It was clear all night.’ Read more

Ama Dablam Diary – Death on the Mountain

November 24, 2014

helo 290A beautiful day and we get going around midday. In fact at 12:05 as I check my watch and do the slow snow shuffle over the flat towards the start of the track. We have been split into two teams. Group A is climbing to Advanced Base Camp at 17,600’ and will spend the night there. Group B has a rest day at Base Camp. I am carrying a bunch of gear including this heavy sleeping bag, though the yaks are taking our boots, crampons and other equipment. It saves us some work. I feel the weight of the pack has slowed me up so am surprised to discover I am only fifteen minutes behind the time I put in yesterday. Maybe Kevin is right, it’s the burden of this diary that is the real problem! But from the point where we took a break yesterday it is another hour and a half to reach ABC, a slow relentless plod that does not tax the legs of their strength but the lungs of their wind. I started the day by counting out 200 steps and then stopping to suck some water. By now I am down to a dozen steps and then a sip of water, but refusing to stop. It’s a mental game. Read more

Ama Dablam Diary – It’s All About the Nana Nap

November 22, 2014

tent 290I feel like an indulgent sloth, having been told today is a rest day as part of our acclimatization. Okay I get that, but no climbing, no serious exertion. No rush to get out of bed in the morning. I only woke once during the night so that tells me how settled and warm I was despite the snow on the ground and the freezer air that descends when the sun moves on. I loaded up the pee bottle in a half asleep stupor and dropped off to sleep straight away. I have no idea how cold it got but my water bottle froze solid and it was inside the tent so I guess it was pretty cool. But the sleeping bag was more than up to it and I felt very warm. A Sherpa started the day for us with hot tea and sugar at 0730. Even as the thermos was emptied into my mug at my tent door the sun broke into the valley and heated up the tent very quickly. It is only a matter of minutes before I am forced out of the sleeping bag and out of the first couple of layers of clothing. The sun suckers me into dropping the tent open but the frigid air forces me to zip it back up a little. Read more

Ama Dablam Diary – Welcome to Base Camp

November 19, 2014

bc290‘Where do I find those rocks?’

The Sherpa was groaning under the load of a heavy rock he was carrying towards one of the tents he was setting up. Under my feet is a kind of stumpy heather, alpine cushion plant of an indeterminate type (I need to bring a foliage reference next time – I hate not knowing. When I ask the Sherpas for a name of a plant they look at me as if I am asking to abscond with their wife. They shake their head and walk off.) There are no rocks to be seen.

‘In the stream’ he grins as he stumbles past. Read more

Ama Dablam Diary – Guest House Log Jams

November 17, 2014

log290The dark frosty night has eased off into grey and I slumber through the sounds of yaks on the track only a couple of metres from my window, resisting the clock and willing it to slow down. I am warm in this sack thank you very much. Our guest house is as rudely constructed as a war time barracks and a dozen of us have made use of a toilet someone has compromised. I am not sure how they did it but I suspect the guilty person has been eating cement. The log they leave in there for the rest of us stays settled on the bottom, refusing any attempts to cajole it on into the plumbing. There is not enough of a head of water in the cistern to clear the bowl. I ignore it for the course of the night – a quick pit stop in bare feet is enough. It’s far too cold at o’dark o’clock to be faffing around cleaning up after someone. A twenty litre bucket of water finally clears the offending turd when I get up for breakfast. I am tempted to say something when I arrive late for that meal but it’s too early in the trip to be barking at people I barely know. Besides, you can only envy someone who has a gut with that sort of constitution a week after arriving in South Asia.

Read more

Ama Dablam Diary – Namche Bazar Respite

November 16, 2014

namche290Bruce!

Hey Bruce, over here.

Bruce! Hey, up here.

I have slowly walked up the main cobbled street into Namche and a steady cold rain is falling. At each minor intersection I pause and look around before fully committing to it. Old habits die hard but in this jumble of lanes and stone buildings it’s a habit that should help me track down where my colleagues are. We have spread out along the course of the track and over the length of the day. At the end of the street there is a T intersection and I pause as I approach it. Ahead of me is a well stocked pharmacy. Always worth noting. I glance right through the grey rain down a narrow street that curves away out of sight. Intuitively it doesn’t seem likely anyone has gone down there. I glance left and spot three or four of the gang on a verandah above me, looking a bit damp and bedraggled. I step forward and left and start towards them. The rain started a few hours ago and I did not stop to change and have continued on in shorts and T-shirt which are now thoroughly soaked. That water is cold down my back but while ever I keep moving it is tolerable. The others soon spot me and shout to get my attention but I was heading their way anyway. It’s good to see them all and I quickly strip off, towel off and throw a merino layer on. That felt good. Read more

Ama Dablam Diary – Garden of Dreams Redux

November 13, 2014

garden290Two days of gear checking, buying missing kit, buying better kit and so on until we arrived at last at the Garden of Dreams – that oasis discovered two years ago. I have introduced myself to my fellow climbers and am pleased to have finally met them. And I have introduced them to this place and they all seem duly impressed. They are mostly tired after travelling long distances to get here but we were able to enjoy a meal together and start to get to know each other a little better. We have a group broken into two language groups – English speakers made up of Americans and a couple of Australians, and a second group of Europeans, most of whom seem to understand or speak German. Although the early group dynamics have broken us along these lines we are all getting along and I don’t get a sense there will be anyone we will clash with. No one is proffering any climbing expertise but I suspect there was a lot of false modesty around the table tonight. Time will tell but false modesty is safer than false skills and I am just a little pleased that the conversation went no where near climbing and mountaineering over dinner. These people seem deeper than one dimensional climbers which will be important given we will be living together for the next month. Mind you they largely seem a ‘lean and hungry’ lot. Or rather, I should observe that ‘we’ are a lean and hungry lot. The European guys look like Tour De France riders! They seem to have done a lot of climbing but demur on detail and I am resisting the urge to grow a false sense of skill given their modesty. Read more

Ama Dablam Diary – Clearing Town

October 10, 2014

Ama dablam Diary 2906 October 2014. I am looking at a pack that is not as tightly or comprehensively loaded as it could be , and at two smaller bags which I hope will withstand the rigours of yak travel for a month. Those two bags look deflated as well. I run the checklist again and, despite my misgivings figure I have everything packed which I need. And all that I can get my hands on in Kabul. Surely there should be more? Tomorrow I head to Nepal with a view to climb Ama Dablam. It’s no big deal for the hard core climbing folks but I remind myself that only 26 months ago I was in Nepal looking at those inspiring Himalayan peaks and thinking I should climb one of them. Read more

Amen and Amen (18)

August 8, 2012

And so it ends. I have clamped the emotion down and I distract myself with work emails and book launch details and diary commitments that I need to be thinking about over the next month or more. But then, just before we are due to leave for the airport (to Kathmandu) Lila appears out of nowhere with a bag of prayer shawls and proceeds to drape one apiece around our necks, and to tie a loose knot. Read more

Pokhara Unwind (17)

August 8, 2012

I wake at ten minutes to five and get up to check the weather. It’s not raining but the clouds are hanging around the hills. There is a 50/50 chance that we will see the snow covered peaks surrounding Pokhara, many of which we have just spent more than two weeks circumnavigating. Everyone tells us yesterday was clear as a bell and the views fantastic. So I am hoping this day will deliver the same clarity. Read more

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