Monday, January 14, 2013

Nepal 2012 Island Peak BaseCamp





We arrived at Island Peak base camp to see a haphazard jumble of tents, gear, and climbers. Conditions at base camp were grim - it's the bottom of the 3rd world, beyond the trekking trails, and at the end of a long journey to prepare for the final climb.




Island Peak BaseCamp has our unanimous vote for the nastiest outhouse in Nepal.

We worked hard to get here today, but looking UP at Island Peak, we have more difficult days ahead of us.

The landscape is bleak with rock and snow - there is no vegetation and no birds or animals .... its just too harsh. It's not a place that makes us feel that people actually belong here. People are tired, equipment shows the signs of rough usage, food is nearly depleted, and there is an underlying stress over the exertion and risk of the climb. There were teams from around the world - Japan, Austria, United States, Nepal, Spain, and others.  And of course our small team of 2 climbers from Canada and 1 from Guam, with our Nepalese guides and porters.

During our first night at Base Camp the temperature dropped to -15 C (5F). We slept in goose-down sleeping bags in unheated tents, wearing goose-down coats, toques, and insulated pants. But we didn't generate enough heat to warm the sleeping bags, so we slept cold that night. Water bottles froze in our tents that night (water froze while the bottle was vertical, then the bottle was knocked over during the night, and continued to freeze horizontally, making an interesting picture in the morning).





Next day we got good instruction on the use of climbing harness, crampons, jumars, descenders, carabiners, and ropes. Then we did a serious work-out, practicing what we had learned.




We had a short and fitful sleep during our second night at Base Camp. For many reasons, sleep was difficult:

  • Temperature dropped to -15 C (5F) so we would sleep cold again  
  • We started taking Diamox (prescription medication to reduce AMS symptoms) but the side-effects include increased breathing-rate and heart-rate, and its hard to sleep with a fast heartbeat.
  • With oxygen at 50% at that altitude, it is common to awake with the panic feeling of suffocation.
  • We were excited and anxious about our climb next morning
  • Our climb would start at 1:00am, so there wasn't much time for sleep anyway
It is normal to leave just after midnight, as the climb is long, daylight hours are few, and night-time usually is calm while the winds grow progressively more severe at the day unfolds.  

Tomorrow is the big day. 
  
Months of preparation, weeks of trekking and much determination,
has brought me to Island Peak Base Camp. 

I know that everyone has their own challenges and 'mountains to climb'.  
Island Peak will be my challenge. I will attempt to climb Island Peak Mountain tomorrow.



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