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April 8,1999


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Location:  Everest Base Camp
Day 16

Thursday,  4/8/99
Elevation:  17,800 ft

Hi Everyone;

Well, we have finally reached base camp of Mt. Everest after 14 days on foot from the village of Jiri, and the IDX flag is flying proudly over my tent.  The trek from Jiri (with a total of 100 porters, 150 yaks and 35 sherpas), although beautiful,  it is one of the most arduous treks one will ever do, due to the amount of vertical ascent and descent one must endure through all the various mountain passes and deep valleys, of which there are many.  I think I mentioned in my last update that we would climb more than 30,000ft and descend more than 22,000 ft just by Namche Bazar, only half way.  From there, we picked up about another 12,000 ft and lost another 5-6000 before finally reaching base camp 2 days ago. As you can surely imagine, its nice to get a few rest days off our feet.  We last saw the summit of Everest just past Namche before it faded behind the heights of closer peaks.   It was both an awesome and frightening sight.  Massive in size, still many miles away, and since the jet stream hasn't risen from the summit, the summit was getting blasted with what we estimated 200 mph winds.  A scary thought to think that in about 4-6 weeks time, we will be attempting to summit there. The mountain is now out of sight from base camp, and probably better, so as not to psyche anyone out.

Base camp is quite a place. Both spectacularly beautiful and hellishly dangerous at the same time. The views of the surrounding peaks, particularly Pumori, are outstanding. We are, however, surrounded on nearly all sides by massive walls of rock and ice, which are constantly launching huge avalanches down their respective faces throughout the day and night.

The days are not so bad, because you can see where they are and where they are going, but night is a different story. You can hear them, and they are as loud as a 747 flying right overhead, but you can't see them, and often they sound like they are coming right through your tent door. Very unnerving to say the least...makes for many sleepless nights. If fact, one came down just when I began to write this transmission, and the snow ploom left a dusting over all of base camp.

The days here, believe it or not, are extremely hot, so much so that you can't even go inside your tent, but as soon as the sun goes behind the ridge of Pumori to the west at about 330pm, the temperatures plummet well below zero in a matter of minutes, driving one from shorts and a tee-shirt to a down suit or the comfort of ones sleeping bag. That combined with the initial acclimatization stages of trying to live at nearly 18000 ft are certainly a challenge for body,mind and spirit.  When time permits, between various camp shores or organizing and preparing gear for higher on the mountain, ones attention is magnetically drawn to the massive Khumbu ice fall, which towers above base camp and is the initial part of our route to the higher reaches of the mountain.  The Khumbu is certainly one of the more famous parts of the route and by far one of the most dangerous.  It is the Khumbu and its 2,000 feet of steep cascading, tumbling ice seracs that strikes fear into the hearts of many climbers, with many of the blocks bigger than a 3 story house. Negotiating this section is basically a game of Russian roulette since you never know when one will tumble.  We will be heading through this in the next few days in an effort to establish camp 1 at about 20,000ft.  Before being done with this mountain, we will have to travel through this metaphorical snake pit about 6 times.

Tomorrow we will perform our Puja, which is a religious ceremony performed by Buddhist high priests or lamas which will not only ask permission and forgiveness for us climbing the mountain, but also blessing all the climbers and our gear.  It involves alot of prayer, song dance, food and of course drink.  It's quite a neat thing to be a part of and should be a lot of fun.   After that, the party's over....literally, as we begin to build the higher camps on the mountain.  It will be about a week before I am back in base camp again, and assuming the technology gods are still with us, I will send another update.

Take care for now.

Peter

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