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Pieter Nel

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Lobuche East

turning back from Lobuche East

Monday, 30 November 2009, Namche Bazaar

After Pheriche we moved up to Lobuche base camp – the only team there. I was still struggling with a chest infection. To put it a different way, when the others were climbing at 6000m, due to reduced oxygen update capacity, I was effectively climbing at 7000m – and for that I was simply not prepared. This was not just the common Khumbu cough. In the end 2 of us with the same affliction had to forego the Lobuche summit, and stayed at base camp. It was a real disappointment, but the most sensible decision at the time.

Lobuche East base camp

Lobuche East base camp

The altitude and lack of oxygen supply was not allowing my body time to heal, and neither did the base camp living at sub-zero temps. So to ensure we are in the best possible health for Parchamo (the most challenging of the 3 peaks), we elected to take a lower altitude route to its base camp, passing through Namche Bazaar and Thame. So it is back in the relative comforts of the Khumbu Lodge for 2 nights. One gets to appreciate the smaller things in life this way at least. I had my first decent hot shower in 2 weeks!
Being seperated from the group is intensely frustrating though. I am here to climb mountains, not to sit in lodges with ancient Japanese trekkers and spatterings of German and Yank students as company. Really, this phase cant end soon enough.

Pieter Nel eating in tent at Lobuche East base camp

Eating in tent at Lobuche East base camp

So in a strange way, being isolated like this because I am sick, while the rest are negotiating 2 very scenic high passes, makes me feel in a small way like Niven. I last saw him just before he had to go back to Groote Schuur for a month of chemo and recovery. While there, he also cant get out, while everyone else is living normal lives. I was very impressed with his strong and positive attitude. I was equally impressed with his girlfriends support of him. She dropped what she was doing in the UK to come and be with him. That is rare, especially with people only in their early 20s. I greatly respect that. In a way cancer is like a friend-filter. In the case of my dad, some unexpected people appeared with fantastice support, and others one expected to be around, simpy disappeared.

At least among mountaineers the bond is strong. Garth, my partner in coughing, is by far the most experienced alpinist in the expidition, and Kamal our porter, in his early 20s, carries his own weight in our surplus climbing gear not going in our backpacks. The three of us are now sipping lemon tea, sniggering about some weird Indian trekkers in the room.

Pemba and Garth on the way to Lobuche East base camp

So unfortunately I did not get to climb Lobuche East for Niven. But I think I learned more by not doing so. Listen to your body and get medical help when needed. Dont let blind ambition to climb or do something, let you endanger yourself our your health. It is not worth it. So not making it in the end, was humbling and a necessary and valuable lesson. I know Niven went to see the Doc the moment he felt ill. Good example, and thanks for that lesson! Time to get on the satellite phone to see how the rest of the team is doing. We will be spending 2 or 3 nights here before we move to Thame, and on to Parchamo base camp.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009, Namche Bazaar

We are getting out of Namche tomorrow to rejoin the rest of the group at Thame. And just in time. Theres the Everest Marathon here in 2 days time. Yes, some nutcases run from Namche to Everest base camp. Then the government of Nepal (all the ministers), will have a cabinet meeting at Gorak Shep to sign an environmental treaty day after tomorrow. So there has been lots of activity here, and the place will be crowded. If all this sounds very civilized I should just mention the non-obvious if you have not been here, or are not familiar with the area. I last saw a motor vehicle in Kathmandu on the 13th.

Syangboche airstrip

Mi8 at Syangboche airstrip above Namche Bazaar

Absolutely everything here gets either carried up by porter or yak, or at great expense, flown in by Russian helicopter to the Syanboche strip just above Namche. At 4000m, it is a pilots nightmare, and they are busy fixing the last plane that crashed there, right now. Its done in an entire tented camp next to the strip! Furthermore, Namche, Kumjung and Thame are powered by a 600kw hydroelectric plant near Thame. The rest of the Khumbu is on solar power and gas. And the gas gets carried up by Yak or porter. Its kind of hard to imagine the remoteness without pictures etc. Yet, there are internet and mobile coverage. On our first day walking from Lukla to Phaking I heard some flute music behind me. The romantic in me expected some sherpa people we have just passed to be playing it. On turing around to try and take a photo, I was greatly amused to see that it is the porter behind me, without breaking his stride carrying nearly 60kg on his back, answering his mobile phone!

Well the weather reports are looking good for Parchamo so far. It is a hard mountain, and time will tell if we recovered enough here at lower altitude to make it. More in the next couple of days.

 

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