18 November, Dingboche, 4:13pm

We left Namche Bazaar and the very comfortable Khumbu lodge early on the 16th for the walk to Deboche. The Khumbu Lodge is where many of the big expeditions like the 96 Everest IMAX one stays and has also been frequented by Jimmy Carter and Robert Redford. We were trying to make good time in order to attend a puja ceremony at the Tengboche monastery along the way. This specific puja is only done once every 12 years! Pasang arranged for us to attend, among the only westerners there. Sherpa people from all over the Khumbu was present, seated in the square inside the monastery in front of an assembly of lamas. We watched the ceremony and once Tengboche Lama ended it, there was a huge rush as locals lined up to be blessed. After about an hour it was our turn, to the haunting sounds of the longhorns being played, we passed by Tengboche Lama. We each presented him with a kata (silk scarf) which he blessed and placed around our necks. He also gave each of us a protective sungdi (red piece of string) to tie around our necks. It was a very rare and true privilege to take part in something that only happens every 12 years.

Denis in the portable hyperbaric chamber

We spent the night just down the hill from the monastery at Deboche. The next morning saw the entire valley covered in 2 inches of snow, making for some slow and cold going to our present location at Dingboche. We had a short acclimatization climb today with good views on Island Peak and Lobuche.

One of the fittest guys in the group had a bout of acute mountain sickness, but recovered well after spending time in the inflatable hyperbaric chamber we have with us as an emergency measure. Some things you just can’t predict. Like Lance Armstrong getting testicular cancer, it very often happens to the fittest and healthiest of people.

What I’ve seen of the sherpa people so far, is that their religion plays a major part in their cheerful, positive attitude to life. I believe that whatever your religion is, it really helps to take refuge in it in times of hardship.

From this point on, it’s tent living on ice and some hardship for us as well. We aim for a summit attempt on Island Peak on Sunday, weather permitting. I’ll be attempting this peak on behalf of my friend and colleague Michael who, like Armstrong, also beat testicular cancer.


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