The team is taking a rest day at Camp 1 before moving up to Camp 2 tomorrow. You can see that for yourself on the GPS Tracking link above, and if you haven’t checked that out, please do! If you have the Google Earth plug-in for your browser, you’ll get an amazing 3D view of the Western Cwm and the Lhotse Face.
Our trekkers are back home now, and Heidi and Megan checked in today with their report below about their impressions of the trek to Everest Base Camp. Thanks for coming along to support the effort!
Heidi and Megan’s Report:
Having been back in the states now for a couple days, it’s fun to reminisce on the trip, and think back to all those good memories; however, those tough times are going to be hard to forget as well! All in all, I would say this trip was a little more difficult than I expected, but in different ways than I initially imagined. The trek itself was amazing! I don’t think anyone would be able to explain just how beautiful the scenery is throughout the entire Khumbu Valley. Standing at the top of Kala Pattar at an elevation of 18,200′, and still straining my neck to look up at gigantic mountains in every direction, is an experience that I will probably never have again in my life. It’s literally breathtaking, and pictures will never be able to fully portray just how amazing those views are.
But the scenery was amazing throughout the entire trip. Just driving through the city streets of Kathmandu was a unique experience in and of itself; dodging mopeds carrying full families, and cows/stray dogs roaming the streets, and getting adjusted to the new meaning of a horn (which you can’t get by without in Kathmandu). From there, we got to experience the wild roller coaster ride that is a flight into the Lukla airport! Flying between mountain ranges, and being able to look out (not down) for views of the rhododendron trees is awesome; and I can’t say I’ve ever been on another flight where the whole airplane cheered once we came to a stop….that was great! Again, trekking through the Khumbu Valley was a unique and awesome experience. We got to witness small statured porters carrying 200+ pound loads suspended from their foreheads and got passed by endless groups of yaks on narrow dirt paths. I will add that it was a nice surprise to be staying in tea houses versus tents for the first few nights. Before this trip started, I was under the impression that this was going to be a full camping trip from start to finish, so entering Phakding that first trekking day and walking into the dining room with a fully stocked bar was a good feeling. Although, the only heat source in any of the tea houses was a fire place fueled by dry yak dung (which smelled awesome by the way), so it was hard to fully appreciate these tea houses like we would a typical hotel.
Another surprise to me was the toilet situation. Now, I realize that most of the group was familiar with squatters, given their mountaineering experience, but I on the other hand had no experience with squatters whatsoever. So it was a little bit of a shock to me to open my first bathroom door in Lukla (our first of 19 days trekking through the valley), and see a hole in the ground with a bucket for used toilet paper in the corner. Really?! It’s supposedly the most “natural” position for accomplishing that task, lol, but I was not comfortable with these at all! I guess it got a little better as the trip went on, but I absolutely loved returning to clean bathrooms in the Hong Kong airport with optional toilet seat cleaners…. it’s definitely a commodity you don’t realize how much you appreciate until you don’t have it. That and showers! I wasn’t too stoked to try the shower tent at Lobuche Base Camp (which consisted of a large bowl of hot water and a cup to pour the water over your head), but it actually turned out to be OK. But again, it really made me appreciate my warm shower at home with consistently flowing hot water.
The obvious concerns I had before starting this adventure were being too cold and not being able to breath due to the altitude. Fortunately, this wasn’t the case. The weather treated us very nicely during the time we were there (although, we heard they had a snow day right after we left, so maybe we were bringing the sunshine). During the day when we were trekking at the lower altitudes, it wasn’t uncommon for us to be wearing shorts and a t-shirt, but nighttime was a different story. When we were sleeping in tents at both Lobuche and Everest Base Camps, it typically got so cold at night that condensation would build up on the inside of our tent, and literally snow on us if/when we accidentally bumped the tent…that was cold! However, I did learn a very helpful trick while I was there (which apparently is pretty common amongst experienced mountaineers), which was to fill our Nalgene bottles with boiling water at dinner, and sleep with those at night to keep us warm; a secondary benefit was that the water was drinkable in the morning! The altitude was a challenge of its own. We brought a pulse oximeter with us to test our oxygen levels at various elevations, and it was a little nerve-wracking when the numbers were dropping to the high 60′s/low 70′s at EBC. I can’t imagine having to go any higher than that! I thought sleeping at those altitudes was going to be difficult, but surprisingly it wasn’t an issue.
The biggest issue I think the whole team had to deal with was the challenge of trying to stay healthy. There’s only so much we can control with respect to keeping ourselves clean; but we have to eat, and when the food we are served isn’t handled properly, it’s easy (and almost inevitable) to catch the so-called GI bug. It was almost a game…. every time we gathered for a meal there was someone else who had been hit with the bug. People kept dropping like flies, and the number of healthy people who hadn’t been affected was dwindling. It was scary to think that we might be next….and we were! There was no avoiding the unsanitary conditions when WE weren’t even given soap and water to wash our hands after using the “bathrooms”….let alone our kitchen crew!
But all things considered, this really was an amazing trip. Everest Base Camp is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before or will see again. A large tent city set up on top of a rock covered glacier! It was eerie to hear the glacier cracking underneath you at night, but the views surrounding you were breathtaking. And getting to meet the members of the USAF 7 Summits Team and learn their stories as well as the stories of the 3 Wounded Warriors was incredible. It was an experience that I will never forget, and I am so glad that I chose to participate in this trek. I wish the team good luck over the next couple weeks while they continue to train and acclimate in preparation for the big day. After meeting the climbing team and their ginormous Sherpa support team, I have no doubt that this will be a successful trip for them. Good luck guys, and bring back some amazing pics!
- Megan and Heidi