Video: Explorer brings attention to climate change

updated 10/15/2010 2:10:38 PM ET 2010-10-15T18:10:38

Explorer Eric Larsen reached the summit of Mount Everest on Friday, becoming the first person to trek to both poles and Everest in the same year. It's all part of his climate-awareness campaign and he's been taking questions through Twitter @ELexplore or http://facebook.com/ericlarsenexplore. His initial comments on reaching the summit, as well as earlier dispatches from the Everest expedition, are below.

"Hi, this is Eric calling from the summit of Mount Everest. I wish I could say more but I'm a little emotional right now."

Those were the first words phoned down Friday by Eric Larsen for his online journal after he set a world record: first person to trek to both poles and Everest in one year.

"I can't tell you how relieved I am," he said in a follow-up phone call from his camp on returning safely along with two guides.

Larsen had set out to set the record as a way to raise awareness about climate change.

"The real work has now begun," he said, referring to his efforts to get people discussing the issue and working on solutions.

Below are earlier posts by Eric as he prepared for the ascent.

Day 44: Camp 4
It's a good thing my mom isn't here watching me climb. This is definitely not the safest thing I have ever done.

As difficult as it was, the climb up to camp 4 was filled with some of the most spectacular scenery I have ever seen. Camp 2 as a tiny blue and yellow spot, clouds moving past Pumori, the whole ridge line of Lhotse... For this entire climb, my mind has been precariously balanced between stark fear and awe.

I am still not sure what the outcome of our efforts will be. If nothing else, Chhering and the rest of the boys have given 100% effort. I am continually impressed by their strength, stamina and courage.

Of course I wouldn't be here without the genorous support of my two major sponsors - bing and terramar as well as my major supporters - Sierra Designs, Goal0, MSR, Stanley, Clif and Optic Nerve.

Day 43: Camp 3 for the Night
At one point today, I found myself face to face with a piece of snow that look uncannily like snow formations I had seen in both the north and south poles. It was pleasant reminder in a day of hardship as tp why I am here.

I honestly have no idea if I'll be successful in my quest to reach the summmit of Mt. Everest, but all that snow reminded me of the ultimate purpose of this expedition - to connect you to these places. The view from camp 3 is stunning and would not be the same not covered in white. It would be a tragedy for glaciers, snow and ice to end up like the passenger pigeon.

Chhering and I battled the wind making our way up the Lhotse face to camp 3 I don't think we said more than four words to each other the entire day as we were both immersed in the somewhat simple process of walking up hill.  Step, breathe. Step, breathe. There is more than enough time to contemplate the outcome of our endeavors.

Right now we are simultaneously moving forward as well as waiting. We have such a small weather window that an increase in wind speeds tomorrow will have a negative effect  on our summit.

I'm not sure what to think. I hesitate to discuss my confidence level for fear of making iit drop even further. I am envious of the carefree attitude of the Sherpas - they have been through all this before.

On a positive note a special hello to my two nephews Tyler and Luke - and a Happy Birthday to Luke on the 14th!

Day 42: Back in Camp 2
And then I was resting in the tent and all the fatigue and fear were forgotten. Of course, that was AFTER six hours of hard work and climbing. I have to be honest and tell you that climbing Mt.

Everest isn't easy.

The ice fall had changed dramatically since I had last been through.

The lower section was considerably more melted out. The top layer of ice was spikey and cupped and crunched beneath our crampons. At random intervals loud cracks radiated outward from our footfalls. Just as I was starting to think this trip might be easier than the last, we entered a section of the ice fall that had completely collapsed. Two ladders were twisted and mangled from the force of ice.

Maybe this closed all the gaps and crevasses I thought to myself.

Nope. We crossed one large crack on a ladder placed at 45 degree angle both ends shoved slightly into the snow. Despite the stress of very imminent danger, I could help but gaze in wonder and awe at the many new ice forms.

We made our way through several recent avalanche areas and finally through Camp 1. The dull roar I had been hearing for the past several hours, I realized, was the wind. Soon we were engulfed by swirling spindrift and the once clear trail was blown over with soft snow. It was the first time I had pulled the hood up on my Sierra Designs Mantra jacket the entire expedition.

Eventually, the wind died as we continued to climb reaching Camp 2 after almost six hours of continuous travel. The boys laughed and relaxed in the sun. I, on the other handsome, crawled in the tent and promptly fell asleep - my worries disappearing with  my consciousness.

Day 41: Summit Plan
Just a quick update from Everest base camp.

Weather4expeditions Mark de Keyser predicts a brief weather window that we plan to take advantage of. Our plan is to climb to Camp 2 tomorrow the 12th. Then, on the 13th to Camp 3 where we will overnight. On the morning of the 14th, we'll climb to Camp 4 - the South Col. There we will rest until around 8 or 9 at night then leave for the summit.

What to say?

Fingers crossed.

Day 40: This Moment
With over 40 days since I left home and several weeks until I return, I am at that weird point in the expedition where all my other life starts to fade away. Whatever other existence I lived no longer has utility here. My hopes, dreams and future plans still exist, they are just tucked safely away. My attention is devoted to only this moment. Maria, unfortunately, faces the brunt of this condition - although I suspect she experiences some similar emotions. Time for me now is only a series of instants.

I might feel a little more melancholy about my situation if I hadn't experienced this many times before. Both in the Arctic and Antarctic, a weird calm settles over my psyche around day 40. With few other distractions, it is just you and your mind. My physical and mental energy shift into survival mode as the disconnect between my life on the expedition and the rest of the world grows.

Please have some fun for me, but don't tell me about it right now. I don't want to know.

Tshering and I continue to explore the differences in our cultures.

Supermarkets, parking lots, laundry There is no real beginning, end or purpose in our discussions, we are simply connecting the dots between opposite sides of the planet. In understanding how we are different, we are, in the same instant, finding common ground.

I spent some time the other day thinking about all the things that expeditions have taught me. There are a lot of lessons to be learned out here, but they are rarely written in black and white. Decisions, I have learned, sometimes unfold slowly. It would have been easy let my sore back dictate the outcome of our climb. Instead, my wait and see philosophy paid off. Time can be as much of a friend as an enemy.

My senses, still have not dulled to the grandeur of this place. Each loud rumbling sends me racing outside the tent looking for the slow motion cascade of snow, ice and rock. Avalanches are as regular as clockwork here, yet their force continues to capture my attention. At night, I listen to the loud cracks and pops triangulating the sound to determine, in my mind, exactly which piece of ice is fracturing.

I have developed a new hobby, if that is possible here. For, the past couple days, I have been hiking into Gorakshep and watching all the trekkers coming and going. It is an interesting contrast to my life at base camp, and if nothing else, uses several hours of my afternoon.

After an hour or so, put on my pack and head back to base camp. Sun setting, alpine glow, narrow trail. There are rarely any trekkers left and my mind drifts serenely enjoying each step.

Day 38: Getting Better
After nearly a month here, I still have yet to get used to my surroundings. Each morning I crawl out of my Sierra Designs tent and am amazed at the surrounding peaks and valleys. I am not sure what words to use to describe the scene, but stunning and majestic just don't pass muster anymore.

Our base camp is placed in close proximity to the main thrust of the ice fall - the Khumbu Glacier. While I can walk on rocks from tent to tent, it is important to note that we are perched somewhat precariously on top of a moving glacier. Only 100 feet from my tent there is a small lake where large chunks of ice calve, fall and splash. Each day I check the wall of ice for changes. At night, I hear groans and chugs of moving ice and feel the reverberations radiate up through my ThermaRest sleeping pad. The sounds remind me of the Arctic Ocean and I am comforted by the fact that these sounds are more familiar than foreign.

Whatever ill spirit that attacked my back is now nearly gone. Not only do I feel better physically, but my stress level has eased considerably as well. I am not 100% but I soon will be - I have lived inside this sack of skin for over 39 years and I seem to have developed a fairly decent understanding of its subtle nuances. If nothing else, I have once again come to terms with my own mortality.

'The boys' are now above the rock band and should have the route fixed to the South Col by the end of the day. I am jealous of their efforts and wish I could be somewhere near, but being part of a team doesn't necessarily mean doing everything all the time. Once finished, they will come back to base camp for a rest.

I did a bit of spring cleaning and organized my tent. It had been slowly devolving for a while and was in dire need of some organization. I am very grateful for all the tent pockets that SD's Phil Mesdag added to the Mountain Meteor which help greatly.

Part of a body was found in the ice fall and folks from Nepal's SPCC were working to recover what was left of the remains. Goraks (ravens) had eaten most of the flesh.

'A Turkish climber from 15 years ago or so,' Tshering told me. How did they know, I wondered. Sensing my confusion Tshering added, 'they found his passport.'

Day 37: Fear
There are the things that are scary that you can see and touch: crevasse, steep incline, or dangerous ice. There are also the things that you can’t see like an impending avalanche or wind. Then, there are the things that are substantially less tangible like failure. I can’t see it or touch it, but it is always looming close.

Two days ago, I was supposed to head back up to camp 2 and then 3. Not because I needed to, but because I wanted to get some extra time at altitude. Most climbers take longer to reach Camp 3. (Once there, many also simply do a quick turn around rather than spending the night.) Finishing breakfast and donning our packs, we received a call that instructed us to stay put. The weather was bad at Camp 2 and nobody was going anywhere. It was like a snow day with no school. So instead of climbing the ice fall, I spent the day relaxing.

Yesterday, I woke up early again to prep for a climb to Camp 2. This time, it wasn’t the weather that stopped me, my back had suddenly developed a fairly severe spasm. I reached down for my boots and lightning bolts of pain radiated through my lower back.

I’ve had my fair share of hard labor jobs carrying and hauling heavy loads. At one point in my early 20’s I spent time cutting trees and carrying eight foot sections out on my shoulder. I used to joke that someday, long into the future, my back would pay the price.

There's a quote that I think applies here. I'm not sure who said it, but it goes something like, 'life is what is happens when your busy making other plans.' We in the middle of discussing summit plans when a slight wrench is thrown into the situation.

Our ambitious plans have suffered another set back as well. The weather4expeditions.com forecasts call for increasing winds over the next several days In fact, Mark suggested that the jet stream will most likely move directly over the summit. Therefore, our summit plans will be pushed back substantially.

I have an Inuit friend who comments in situations like this, 'make up your mind so you can change it later.'

Tshering's take is more expected, 'its better for you to rest.'

Jo Sanders asks, 'what do you think of when you are in that environment?'

Well Jo, you name it. My mind seems to drift all over the place. On climbing days, I am fairly focused on moving and safety. Other times, my thoughts are more diverse - my family, friends, crazy situations from my past, definitely Maria. Most days, I simply think about how lucky I am to be here.

Day 34: My Favorite Hike
I have been in Nepal for over one month and at base camp for nearly three weeks. Each morning I wake up and look down the Khumbu valley. To my left the lower ice fall; my right Pumori. It is a stunning view and one that I have yet to tire of.

We are starting to make summit plans although much depends on the weather. The "boys" left for Camp 2 today and hopefully the South Col tomorrow to fix ropes from Camp 3. The goal is to finish this work in a few days. My hope is to climb up to Camp 2 tomorrow, Camp 3 the next day and then back down the day after. From what I understand most western climbers use this time to rest, but I was hoping to do my "little extra" and get better acclimatized and hopefully improve my chances of success.

Our very tentative goal is to make a summit attempt within the next two weeks. Of course, there are many things that need to fall into place between now and then; fixed ropes placed to Camp 4 (South Col), supplies brought to Camp 4, and of course the ever worrisome, good weather - not only the gear relays but for several days prior to the summit. It is both exciting and daunting to be having this conversation.

Since the Japanese compound has been disassembled, our small camp is the most noticeable in the area. And as the Nepal trekking season reaching a peak, we are now the biggest show in town (so to speak). We now get several visitors a day making the hike up from Gorakshep.

Yesterday, a couple from New Zealand walked up and asked, "Are you Eric?"

Turns out that they had heard of me from another couple from the states who I had met briefly at a cook out in June were in Gorakshep.

Bret and Jenny, both from Boulder, are taking a year off from their jobs and traveling. It worked out that our time in Nepal Everest Base Camp aligned. I was both excited and disappointed as I was going to be climbing up to Camp 2 and would miss their visit. I decided to take matters into my own hands and hike to Gorakshep and say hi.

It was a really nice visit and I enjoyed hearing about their adventures: teaching English in China in exchange for room and board, living off the land in remote Borneo, and much more. With very little interaction with others, it was  a rewarding experience to share stories with like-minded individuals and I left with my spirit filled.

I knew would think about the small details of our conversation for the days to come.

I walked back to Base Camp alone. Most of the other tourists had already made the trek up and down. It was so quiet. As I walked, I thought about the gear I needed to pack and prepare for tomorrow.

Looking around I tried to notice new details about the surrounding peaks. Behind me the soft orange glow of sunset was beginning to fill the lower valley and only Everest was tall enough to catch the last yellowing light of the evening.

Day 33: More Base Camp Love
In the less than a week that we were away from Base Camp, there were many changes. The big "mushroom rock" that marks our starting point of the trail that leads up the ice fall is still standing, but so much else has changed.

The biggest change was that all the snow that had covered just about everything – rocks, the ice fall and more has melted. The rivers that drain all the ice and snow have gotten larger as well. It is an interesting change and an obvious prelude to bigger changes in the future.

"These used to be big ice pinnacles," Tshering has told me more than once.

I spent part of the afternoon poking around the lower ice fall again.

It is a weird mix of worlds — tall fins of snow and ice juxtaposed next to flat rocky glacial till. Huge erratic rocks placed delicately in such random places that it's hard not to imagine some greater scheme to their arrangement.

In reality, ice and land are operating under fairly well understood geological principles. The law of supposition states that younger sediments are deposited on top of older ones. The water from melting ice joins force to create flowing rivers, that if I were about one-tenth my size, would make formidable whitewater runs. The ripples, rapids and bending oxbows are the same as I have seen on the many larger rivers and streams I have paddled and fished in my life.

I stood outside my tent looking at the night sky before going to sleep. The milky way, clear and distinct, stretched from one side of the horizon to the next. I tried to orient myself to all the constellations that I know. All I could see were parts: two stars of Orion’s belt, half of the big dipper, the tall peaks of the surrounding mountains blocking the view of all things I knew to be familiar.

Day 32: Rest
One thing I didn't do today was wake up early.

Instead, I waiting until the sun had melted all the frost out of my Sierra Designs tent vestibule, and only then, did I think about stirring. In Base Camp, I also have a ThermaRest sleeping pad which provides a comfort level that I can only classify as "out of this world." Getting into my sleeping bag each night is like climbing into (what I imagine) a bed at the Four Seasons.

While I feel well rested, I am still a little lethargic. I am surprised at the fact my legs and body are still a bit sore. Of course, I need to remind myself, we are still above 17,000 feet and recovery takes longer here.

Image: Larsen team eating dinner
savethepoles.com
Eric Larsen's team eats dinner among the sleeping bags.

We are in Base Camp for a while now, recovering as well as preparing and planning for the next stage of the climb. Everest style mountaineering is broken up into stages — mostly for acclimatizing. The team also works in steps to set the route, break trail and rig fixed ropes. Our in initial forays were simply up to the top of the Ice Fall. After each step, there is a period of rest and recovery - as the altitude of each step increases, so does the rest and recovery time. Therefore, our next major push (weather permitting) will not happen until October 5th.

I spent the day not really doing to much — my usual base camp routine. Waking up (not early, I hate mornings), eating a casual breakfast, then working on editing photos and videos. I spent some time watching several other expedition videos, etc before flying to Kathmandu and was amazed and that staff and crew helping. One particular expedition employed a Sherpa simply to run SD cards down the mountain where they could be edited by someone else. I am definitely a one man band in that department and spend an inordinate time working on my computer. Still, Web expeditions, Scream Agency and more help daily with making sure my information gets out in as many venues as possible.

It's not all work, of course. I spent an hour in the late afternoon staring at the seams in my tent ceiling — a favorite expedition past time of mine.

One piece of sad news. After struggling at Camp 3 and then on his way to the South Col (without fixed ropes), the Japanese climber has decided to cancel his expedition. Planning on climbing without oxygen and outside assistance (to some extent), he decided that there wouldn't be enough time and good weather for him to summit.

Therefore, the team called back the helicopter to relay film crews, photographers and who knows what else farther down the valley for a quicker trip home. Watching the helicopter carefully touch down in the thin air made me again realize the disparity in our resources.

At dinner Tshering and I talked about Everest, climbing and life. We went over our tentative plan for the next few days and then conversation spiraled into all sorts of topics. He asked if I thought I might take shower soon. Not having bathed since I left Kathmandu I said I would consider it especially since I caught Chhering lighting incense at Camp 2 in our tent vestibule.

"For ceremony," he said.

I sat for a long time, like I do most nights, listening (and not understanding) to flowing Nepali conversations, wild gestures and laughs.

Near the end of the evening, I realized how Tshering saw the people in this world. Commenting about someone somewhere else, Tshering said, "He has a good heart."

Day 31: Back to Base Camp
Back in base camp — it actually feels good. I am surprised at how tired I am. I continue to carry my own gear and my legs are sore as a result. If anything, I am left with a deep sense of accomplishment. So much of this expedition, for me, has been trying to manage unknowns.

Someone braver than me might feel less fear. However, I have had to spend considerable energy managing my emotions. Now don't get me wrong, there are times when things tick along fairly effortlessly — like hiking from Camp 1 to Camp 2. Most times I've realized however, it is my mind that is my most formidable opponent. I was so worried about climbing down from Camp 3 that I got little sleep. In the end, the trip down was a piece of cake — Chhering and I nearly skipping down the slope to Camp 2.

I wanted to describe a little bit about what it is like at altitude.

For me, Camp 3 is my new highest elevation. Honestly, it wasn't that bad. Still, the hike up the Lhotse face was brutal. Each step usually requires a couple of breaths and any extra effort necessitates a full stop and recovery. Your muscles never really feel like they have power or energy. In the tent, a simple quick move can cause shortness of breath — and if you think about it too much — a suffocation-like feeling. I choose not to think about it too much.

Image: Larsen crossing crevasse with ladder
savethepoles.com
Eric Larsen crosses a crevasse with an ice ladder.

On the way back through the ice fall, I had another scary moment (again, I choose not to think about it too much). As I was crossing a ladder, a huge ice pinnacle collapsed about 100 feet away. It fell into another ice chunk and tumbled away. I stopped for a second, smiled at my luck and continued on.

Tshering mentioned that there was a big avalanche near Pumori Camp 1 the day after Passang, Da Tengi and I had been there. 'That was lucky,' Tshering said.

In base camp, I don't feel lucky or not. I am more impressed by the strong competent team that surrounds me.

Day 28: The Rest of the Team Arrives
The negative aspect of sleeping even fitfully for 12 hours then moving to a new altitude is that you tend not to sleep so well the next night. And so it was with me, laying awake for eight or nine hours before finally dozing off.

With only a short acclimatization hike on the agenda, Chhering and I waited until after the sun was poking above Lhotse before heading up.

This was both good and bad - the nice part being we were able to pack up our gear in relative comfort. The negative aspect was that we were soon baking in the warm sun. In no time, I was stripped down to my white long sleeved Terramar Terra T - it is proving to be one of my most used pieces of gear and after nearly a month of constant wear, probably needs a wash. I have long ago forgone wearing hardshell pants in favor of my Sierra Designs soft shells.

Despite the heat Chhering and I had an incredible hike to the base of the Lhotse face. Just outside of Camp 2 our path wound up and down fragmented ice formations similar to the ice fall. As we gained altitude, we the whole Khumbu Glacier unfolded before us - all neatly hemmed in by the steep walls of Lhotse, Nuptse and Everest. Farther down, we could just begin to distinguish small dots that was the rest of our team coming up from Camp 1.

By the time we had arrived back in Camp 2 so had the rest of the 'boys'. We took a short break then started building another tent platform. The original plan was to build two spots - one for eating/cooking and another for sleeping, but the guys judged they would be more comfortable in one big pile, so no other construction projects were completed. Instead, they all threw their sleeping bags inside and called it good. Later, we all crawled underneath while eating a huge Nepalese-style dinner.

Day 27: Camp 2
There is one thing that even fitful sleep for 12 hours leaves you: fairly well rested. After all, there hadn't been much to do last night - so after dinner, with very little ceremony, we crawled into our sleeping bags and promptly fell asleep.

The rest of the team headed back to base camp for some much needed rest. That left Chhering and I to make our way to camp 2 by ourselves today. I didn't mind as I now knew the terrain and outcome of our efforts. I was also hoping to not make the same mistake I made yesterday and get sunscreen in my left eye - the whole hike up I felt like a pirate under my Optic Nerve glasses, one eye squinched closed in pain.

We made good time arriving at Camp 2 in about one hour and 45 minutes.

Already, the sun was out and we were cooking. My poor face is fried. I am so thankful for my Terramar long sleeve WHITE Terra T because without it, I would be fried completely.

We took a short break, stretched out on our ThermaRest Ridgerests and at a Clif bar. Since we will spend more time at Camp 2 than anywhere besides base camp, we needed to make a stable tent platform. Easier said than done. Camp 2 is situated on top of a lateral moraine that directly buts against the mountain. Our goal was to somehow make a rolling, icy, moundy. sloping area flat.

Over two hours later, we were finished. 'Not bad,' I said to Chhering.

'Two hours to get here and two hours to set up the tent.'

Then, very much unlike polar travel, we climbed into the tent, ate some soup and tried to relax in the sweltering heat. Still, we were both pleased with our efforts - perhaps Chhering even more than I.

'In Camp 1, I had a big lump of snow in my back,' Chhering said. 'This is much nicer.'

It feels good to have made it this far. The second part of yesterday and all of today, I have felt my strongest yet. I have only had minor and fleeting altitude problems and have  not yet to taken any diamox - a prescription drug that helps people acclimitize. There is still much more to so I am only thinking about the next unknown quantity - making Camp 3, but those worries are not for today.

Day 26: Unknown Quantity
Maria likes to remind me that I'm going to be 40 soon. It doesn't really bother me too much (I'm still on the short side) until I think back and remember my dad's 40th - over the hill they called him. I don't really look my age which is nice and most days I don't feel it either - except today.

This morning was one of those days where I really could have used another day. Even though I was 'resting' in base camp, my previous two days were still fairly active - hiking Gorakshep/Kala Pattar and Pumori Camp 1. I felt kind of worn out.

Any time I go out on an adventure, my goal is to eliminate as many variables as possible. Today, I was dealing with fatigue, the journey past Camp 1 to Camp 2, increase in altitude, an upset stomach the day before, and the worry about new terrain and dangers - in other words, a lot of unknown quantities.

The nice thing about being almost 40 is that the years have left some experience and even a little wisdom. I've been just about every kind of uncomfortable before. I also know that brut power really isn't my strength. Endurance, afternoons and evenings - that is where and when I tend to excel.

I fumbled slowly through the ice fall for the better part of an hour.

'Just concentrate on the next step,' I thought to myself. I still didn't feel good, but I was making upward progress. After another hour, I wasn't sure if I was going to feel better after Camp 1 but I also knew I wasn't going to feel worse.

'One more step.'

By the time we reached Camp 1, I was actually feeling pretty strong.

My slow deliberate pace had paid off. Chhering and I took a short break and then headed up to Camp 2. Passang and Dawa who had arrived here first found a nearly completely covered in snow Sierra Designs Mountain Meteor tent.

The route from Camp 1 to Camp 2 is fairly moderate as the slope decreases substantially. We made steady progress all the while marveling at the stunning blue sky and striking mountains. In clear view now, Everest loomed formidabley.

'That is where Camp 3 goes,' Chhering pointed. 'There is the yellow band,' he added.

We finally arrived at Camp 2 - nearly 21,000 feet, had a quick drink and headed back down. The terrain was pleasant to walk down but with enough of a slope that I was sincerely wishing for my Madshus skis. In about an hour, we were back at Camp 1.

As many of you know, Terramar in one of my major sponsors as well as supplier of base layer to the Save the Poles expedition (its good stuff). Right now you can win the very same (ok, not EXACTLY) base layer I'm using on Everest. Join the Terramar Sports Facebook page to learn more.

Day 25: Clear Skies
It's almost 8pm and I'm getting ready to go to sleep. I know - another crazy Saturday night in base camp. That's just how I roll.

A quick note to recap the past few days: I was starting to go a little stir crazy so I made another hike to Gorakshep. This time I made a slight detour to hike up Kala Patthar - a nearby peak. In Gorakshep, I had a coke and talked to an American from Georgia. All in all a pretty exciting day.

With my breakfast still digesting, Tshering suggested (which isn't really a suggestion) that I hike up to Pumori Camp 1, which of course, I then did.

The first truly clear day since I arrived, the views of the Khumbu and Everest were stunning. Of course, now I'm fairly tired but also excited as we are getting out of base camp and heading up!

Stay tuned for more news tomorrow.

Day 23: I Love Base Camp
Post Body: If nothing else, my extra time in base camp is allowing me too catch up on my sleep. So there's that.

Image: Eric Larsen with MSNBC sign at Everest base camp
savethepoles.com
Eric Larsen and his guide Tshering share a message with MSNBC from their Everest base camp.

I am not getting anxious yet, because there is good weather expected in the next few days, but I am definitely growing tired of my routine in base camp. The operative goal: turn short tasks into long, time-eating ones.

I have started in earnest now to learn at least a smattering of Nepalese. I've long mastered 'camp 1' and 'camp 2' which in Nepali sound exactly like their english counterparts. My biggest success today was a grammatical one learning that Nepali sentence structure is subject, object, verb. Now if I could just figure out what to put in those sentences.

As always on an expedition, I have been thinking a lot about resources - namely electricity. I employ a wide variety of electronic devicex to help bring the Save the Poles story to you - Canon camera, DeLorme GPS, Iridium satellite phone and much more. It is true that I have nearly unlimited power with my Goal0 solar panels and battery packs, but each day's energy is relatively finite. Therefore, it is easy to see the role that energy efficiency plays in conservation of power (and carbon emmissions).

I am still adapting to the stopping and starting (and waiting) of mountaineering expeditions - although sitting in a chair in base camp is really nice Im still trying to figure out which is more appealing the constant stress of polar travel or the punctuated intensity of climbing. Apples and oranges, I guess.

In other news, the 'mushroom' rock (rocked balanced on a column of ice) fell over sometime in the night. Goodbye old friend and may your new orientation and perspective be equally as appealing.

If nothing else, today is a big day as I plan to change my Terramar base layer and put on a new Looptworks Tshirt. Exciting day!

Day 22: Snow
If there is this much snow here, I can only imagine the Sierra Designs Mountain Meteor must be buried at Camp 1. At least I think it must be as weather and snow have kept us in base camp for the past few days.

There is hope, however, weather4expeditions Mark De Keyser sent a forecast for clearing skies in another two or three days. Our collective fingers and toes are crossed.

Stuck at Everest base camp versus on the Arctic Ocean are two very different things. While I would much rather be climbing, i would have managed to keep myself busy - mostly with taking pictures and videos, writing web updates, and if you can believe it, some office work, too.

One of the goals of my expedition is to follow up my actual journey with multimedia presentations. If you're interested in scheduling an appearance, please send an email to Maria at smakmaria@yahoo.com

It is interesting to watch the subtle changes in the ice fall and Khumbu Glacier. As light changes throughout the day, we are treated to seemingly new perspectives, shapes and forms. The ice fall is absolutely stunning in the bright sun but the low hanging clouds add an ethereal quality as pinnacles of ice alternately appear and disappear.

I would say that I'm nervous, if I allowed myself to think like that.

Over time, I have become much more pragmatic. Fear, I have learned, is a useful tool for self preservation. However, it can also become a powerful inhibitor and limitor.

The pace of camp life has slowed considerablely. With day after day of weather delays, simply tasks have taken on a tortise-like quality. We are trying to make time pass.

As the only westerner in our small crew, I spend a lot of time watching and observing. I have picked up a few Nepali and Sherpa words and phrases. However, the long expositions into, I'm not sure what, are obviously lost on me. Still, slowly, we are beginning to understand each other's cultural nuances.

Every once in a while a translation is offered. Chhering smiling said, 'Both Dawa and Passang are interested in my sister.' We all laughed.

Day 21: To Gorakshep
Well, this is me reporting from base camp... Again!?!

Expeditions are many things  and one them is just plain and simply boring.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy being here but right now we are at the mercy of the weather. Mark De Keyser at weather4expeditions.com has been unerringly accurate in his predictions. Yesterday, in an email, he mentioned that we would be experiencing 'monsoon-like' weather patterns. There is some hope later in the week, but for now we all just sigh and go about our business - whatever limited business any of us have.

I now know why mountaineers are more philosophical than polar travelers. They have more time.

I used up most of my morning sending video in to Webexpeditions HQ but had the afternoon free. I thought I would get out and stretch my legs on a hike to Gorakshep. Chhering, ever wary of my personal well being, suggested Dawa and Passang go with me.

A few hours earlier Passang had asked  if I would copy some music onto his phone. 'I like pop and rap,' he said. Then refining his preferences further he asked, 'Brittany?'

'Unfortunately, no Brittany,' I replied.

The 'boys' as Tshering calls our Sherpas are a happy group. Two days ago, they were standing in a circle dancing to an Indian hip hop song.

All were giving it their full emotion and zeal, most especially Dawa, who is also a monk. I had to smile.

Anyway, I managed to sneak out of camp before anyone noticed and set off for Gorakshep. I was glad for the time alone as well as the opportunity to just walk without stress, fatigue, fear or shortness of breath. I noticed rocks, flowers, small glacial lakes - things I hadn't seen on my way up.

One of my favorite things is the trip back over a portage (a trail connecting lakes) to get a second load of gear. It is a temporary relief from the hard work of carrying and it always seems like a new world is opening up before my eyes.

As I hiked, I let my mind wander. I thought about different places that I know well Colorado, northern Minnesota, Antarctica. During one fall of living in northern Wisconsin many years ago, I would go for hikes every evening. After weeks of this routine, I began to recognize trees, stumps, and in certain places, even blades of grass.

I realized (not for the first time) that one of the reasons I do what I do is that I simply like to be outside.

I arrived in Gorakshep and ordered a Coke. I stared out the window for 45 minutes at the rain, and when finished, put my hat and jacket on and headed up the trail to base camp. A particularly bold pika captured my attention for a few minutes. Then it was gone.

I smiled and said hi to the same trekkers who I had passed on the way down (them at the time on their way to base camp). One older woman, Australian perhaps smiled back and said, 'You'll get some amazing pictures up there.'

'I hope so,' I replied.

Day 19: Up and Down
It wasn't long after dinner that it began snowing in earnest and every so often I reached up out of my Sierra Designs sleeping bag to push against the tent wall and knock the rapidly accumulating snow down. With nothing really to do in Camp 1 but sleep, I had been lying half awake for some time when I heard more loud rumblings from a nearby avalanche.

We hear these sounds constantly in base camp and hiking up the ice fall. This one, however, like yesterday's seemed eerily closer and in another minute a cold wind filled with spindrift pelted against the tent. I tried not to think about being buried alive and instead simply tried to find solace in "the odds". If any of us were think too much about the harm that might come our way in any given day, we might not leave the house. Chhering, I realized, was not plagued by these morbid thoughts. His quiet snoring indicated he hadn't heard anything.

In the morning, our tent was nearly covered in snow. After a quick breakfast, the skies cleared and we were treated to stunning views of Everest, the south summit and the south col. Nearly three weeks after arriving in Nepal, I was finally getting a clear view of the mountain I came to climb.

Our original plan was to hike up to Camp 2 and the head back to base camp. However, due to thigh deep snow, we quickly amended our plan.

We would hike up toward Camp 2 for about 45 minutes and then turn around.

There were two other groups at Camp 1 (the only other groups on the mountain). The Japanese team simply packed up and headed down. They were supposed to be at Camp 2 the previous day. The Chec team who are climbing Lhotse were also planning on being at Camp 2. They had left two days prior and had lost the trail through the ice fall due to whiteout and ended up camping in an upper section that Sherps call "dumb".

"I have never heard of anyone camping in the ice fall before," commented Tshering the next day. "They were very lucky nothing happened."

We encountered them late in the morning just breaking camp. With the Japanese team already nestled in at Camp 1, they wisely decided to do the same and the next morning they headed down as well - their two day trip to Camp 2, being amended considerably.

Chhering and I struggled in the deep snow for quite some time but neither of us minded. It was clear and sunny for the first time in a long while. Because of the poor weather, our acclimatization has been slow. The benefit is that we were both feeling really good.

Unfortunately, we could see more clouds coming in and with the fresh snow and warming temperatures were more than a little wary of avalanches.

On the way back, we quickly caught and passed the Chec team. With the deep snow, we opted not to wear crampons and slid and skidded most of the way down. There were only a few places where fixed lines were accessible which only seemed to increase the speed of our descent. I became adept at placing one Scarpa boot more forward, Telemark ski style, and slid down the slops using my Leki poles for balance. We only took one water and Clif bar break the whole way down.

We are now getting weather forecasts from Mark De Keyser at weather4expeditions.com. It looks like snow every days for the next week. Not good. In the mean time, I drew pictures and tried to explain the finer points and benefits of snow shoes to Tshering, Chhering and the rest of the Sherpas.

The Save the Poles expedition is sponsored by bing and Terramar with major support from Goal0, MSR, Scream Agency, Sierra Designs, Stanley, Optic Nerve and Clif Bar.

Remember, it's cool to be cold. Save the Poles. Save the planet.

Day 18: Sleeping at 19,800 feet
We (Chhering and I) are up early and making our way up the ice fall to Camp 1. For the first hour, it is clear and beautiful.

Behind us Pumori peak rises high into the sky.

It is quiet. I don't remember it ever being this quiet on the Arctic Ocean and certainly only a few times in Antarctica. If it weren't for my heavy breathing, I could probably hear my heart beat too. Every so often, we hear the low rumble of a nearby avalanche tumbling down one of the steep rocky slopes adjacent to the ice fall. Our footsteps are quiet in the soft snow. With the weather becoming increasingly worse [read: whiteout] our world is reduced to these few sounds. We don't talk much as both of us are focused on the task at hand - navigating our way up the ice fall.

For Chhering, this is more routine than anything. To say he is quiet is an understatement. He's only now told me I've been spelling his name wrong. During our few short breaks, I learn that he has summited Everest four times. Last year, he also spent four nights camped on the South Col. His feats span far greater than his 21 years - twice summiting Cho Oyu in the span of three days. Coming down from the South Col, "I fell twice and broke the antenna I was carrying," he commented modestly. The feat is remarkable on many levels not to mention that his slight frame holds only 125 pounds at the most.

Climbing steadily, I feel old and slow.

While Chhering and everyone else has offered to carry my gear, clothes and food, I remain resolutely stubborn in doing my part. That said, compared to the efforts of the Dawa, Passang, Passang and the rest of our small Sherpa team, my efforts are minimal at best.

We have given up on using fixed ropes in the ice fall as most are buried in a thick layer of snow that has accumulated over the past couple of days. Looking at the upper ice fall, I have to amend my previous bread loaf analogy The glacier here is more like a long layer cake cut into slices. It is easy to distinguish separate layers of ice - each layer representing a year's accumulation of snow and dust.

These layers and slices are then twisted and cracked in ways I never thought possible.

Suddenly, we hear a louder rumble and I look up to see a large cloud of snow billowing towards us. I race up to a large ice block for potential cover. Chhering back tracks a bit to the same spot. I have enough time to analyze the quality of snow racing towards us and am thankful that is just spindrift. Still, it was a fairly large avalanche relatively close. We would learn later that two Sherpas for the Japanese climber were luckily in the middle of the slide - the only place not affected by moving snow.

We waded through deep snow to our supply cache at Camp 1 and quickly began leveling a platform and setting up our SD Mountain Meteor tent.

It was snowing hard so I added a shell on top of my Terramar base layer. In no time, I was immersed in the routine of setting up the tent and camp and the stresses and hardships of the day's hike were already becoming a distant memory.

R&R - Kind Of
While in my mind I may have wanted to push on today, I know that rest here is just as important as moving. Despite all my training and extra efforts on the hike up, my body was still fairly tired.

I'd like to say I just sat around and stared at the ceiling of my SD tent all day but that isn't  the case. Instead, I busied myself with editing and sending pictures and videos, sorting gear (I know again) and doing some modifications on gear.

For whatever reason my left foot doesn't fit the same in my Scarpa boots as my right so I had to cut down part of my insole. (It seems that I am always using my Wenger Swiss Army Knife for one thing or another.) Next, I added longer zipper pulls to my Sierra Designs Mantra pants and jacket. Finally, I switched out my SD pack for a larger Granite Gear one (good bye for now old friend).

If it seems like I talk about gear and specific brands of gear a lot, you're right. The type, style and quality of gear and equipment that I use is directly related to my ability to travel comfortably, efficiently, and here, directly connected to my ability to live and survive.

I spent the rest of the afternoon, Besty Ross-style, sewing more patches on clothing. Thank you sponsors for your support. It is very much appreciated!

Day 15: The climbing begins
Climbing the icefall wasn't the hardest thing I have ever done but it wasn't the easiest either. By the end of the day, we had climbed to Camp 1 (19,500ft) and back down again. I was beat.

For those of you who don't know, the icefall is a glacier that is flowing down the side of a mountain. Imagine pushing a sliced loaf of bread off the edge of a table. As you push the bread across the flat of the table, the slices stay together. However, at the table's edge slices tip, then fall. The same thing is happening with the Khumbu glacier. It is flowing at a relatively steady rate until the steepness of the mountain increases (the table's edge) then as ice moves forward at different rates is splits, cracks and tilts into thousands of different sizes and shapes.

This is the terrain we have to negotiate as we climb up. The lower section is like big icy sand dunes and with the aid of our crampons we walk up and down relatively easily. Later the steepness of the ice increases and we weave our way around large two story blocks of ice and across snow bridges. In some spots, the Icefall doctors have placed ladders tied end to end spanning larger crevasses. In other spots, we hop across narrow cracks. In most spots the slope is no more than 50 degrees; however there are other short sections of near vertical climbing. Luckily the icefall doctors have 'fixed' the route with rope that we clip into with carabiners and sometimes ascenders.

We climbed slowly and steadily - pausing to catch our breath after difficult sections. Even in the early morning, the weather was warm, but when the sun poked out from behind a nearby peak, it turned plain hot and I was glad for my white-colored Terramar baselayer.

We reached Camp 1 after five hours - about an hour slower than we anticipated. There we ate some Clif bars and Perky Jerky and I had some soup kept warm in my Stanley flask.

The hike down was easier but still energy draining. At one point, huge truck-sized blocks of ice had collapsed and completely obliterated our route. We were glad to not have been there when it happened. We spent the last couple hours winding our way back to basecamp in wet snowy white-out conditions.

Day 13/14: Gear Sort, Puja and Icefall!
I think I can finally say that I have nearly all of my systems sorted. My gear is unpacked, patches sewed on clothes (at least some) and food for high camps is sorted. It feels good to have a small handle on the many systems we need in order to climb safely.

With the exception that I thought today was yesterday (day 13 instead of day 14) I think I'm doing pretty good.

If nothing else, there is stability in Base Camp. My roomy Sierra Designs Mountain Meteor tent (plus the Grand Mothership), an extra Therm-a-Rest sleeping pad, chairs... Here, we have way more reliable and consistent power, too. Our Goal0 solar panels and Sherpa battery packs provide nearly unlimited power for all our electronic gear - definitely more than anywhere during the hike here. At Base Camp, I am also able to get a satellite connection through a Wideye BGAN system and will be able to finally send out regular video posts. Of course, I still have my trusty Iridium phone that has already been to both poles which I use to send out daily updates and pod casts.

Today, it was determined, would be a good day for a Puja. Dawa and Pasang (besides being climbing Sherpas, they are also monks) started early decorating a shrine with offerings, candles and other odds and ends. Many were adorned intricately with butter shaped into an assortment of slivers, small discs and delicate arcs. Next, we all sat in front of the shrine while Dawa and Passang proceeded to issue an nearly three hour series of chants. In the hot morning sun, I was impressed by their dedication.

Later, I asked Tshering what they were saying during the Puja to which he replied, "They are just prayers." Not exactly the answer I was looking for but knowing Tshering it would have to suffice.

At several points during the Puja different offerings were made. A pole was placed upright, then guyed for stability. Simultaneously five long lines of prayer flags were unfurled and tied to distant rocks.

Another Pasang diligently served milk tea to anyone and everyone throughout the entire proceedings.

With the Puja reaching its first climax we toasted with soda and beer, but the celebration would be short lived as Tshering (#2 our Sirdar or climbing leader) and I geared up and headed into the ice fall to get a feel for the conditions, scout the route that the ice fall doctors had blazed, and most importantly, practice the precarious act of walking across ladders to span crevasses.

I would learn later that while Tshering and I were navigating our way through an increasingly complex series of cracks, pinnacles, and ice heaves, the Puja would reach its second climax with singing, dancing and some specially made local beverages.

Day 12: Base Camp!
Our morning started like so many for the past 12 days: Wake up at a guest house. Eat breakfast (normally a cheese omelet and potatoes). Pack up our gear and start hiking to the next village.

While today's morning routine may have been the same as so many others, it's end would be dramatically different.

We spent less than an hour hiking on a well worn path before we took an slight right to head out onto the glacier proper. Picking our way around protruding ice junks and small glacial lakes, I was impressed by the rawness of the terrain. Rocks of all shapes and sizes were scattered haphazardly. Granite, Basalt, Rhyolite, some red and rusting indicating iron. Others green, white, pink, black, gray and more.

Here, there were no plants or animals. In geologic terms, we were hiking across terrain that is hardly even a blip on the radar of the history of the Earth's surface.

Our views of Everest continue to be fleeting at best. The low hanging clouds have only allowed two brief viewing windows. The mountain is impressive and daunting at the same time. Equally important, however, it provides a tangible goal to our efforts.

Leaving Gorakshep, we paused briefly at a small lake to skip a few rocks. On Lake Superior, it is one of my favorite things to do when hanging out at the beach. Here, while still a reminder of pleasant memories, I couldn't help but think of how this area is changing.

'It makes me sad to see how much of the glacier is gone,' commented Tshering. There are some very real repercussions to this melting. As glacial lakes fill, there potential to break through and flood valleys increases. Already projects are underway to divert these threatening waters.

It is always interesting to me to see the difference between my imagination and reality. I have seen pictures and read about the Everest Base Camp for quite some time, but the actual set up is some what different than I anticipated... In the good way. We are only one of three camps here. My team, the Ice Fall Doctors and a Japanese team - maybe 25 people total. During the spring climbing season, there are nearly 500 people at Base Camp.

The other good news is the Icefall doctors have been hard at work and have fixed most of the route to Camp One. Using ladders they span gaps in the glaciers. Normally gaps will require two, three, four sometimes 6 ladders tied together. The largest span for us only required two ladders!

Day 11: Gorakshep
I saw Mt. Everest for the first time today - a small break in the clouds and there it was tucked behind a ridge line - a triangular peak. Seemingly unimposing.  Seemingly.

We had a short hike from Lobuche to Gorakshep but the sun was out and as always, it felt good to be moving. We wound our way behind the main trail and were treated to stunning views of the Khumbu glacier, Everest and even base camp.

'This is my favorite way to go.' Tshering said. 'Nobody comes this way.' Not that we have to worry much. We have seen only a few westerners in the last 10 days.

With a few base camp logistics remaining, Tshering set to overseeing the last few details. I decided I would try to get a little extra altitude and set off to Kala Patthar a nearby peak that tops out at 18,500'. I have ben trying to do a little 'extra' every day.

Overall, I am pleased with my acclimatization. I feel good and have not had any symptoms of altitude sickness - not even a headache. I have also been spared any intestinal problems which can often be debilitating for climbers.

Day 10: Lobuche
The lama book must be right as we have seen a distinct change in the weather. While afternoons are still overcast and misty, stunning blue morning skies fill the gaps between the steep white surrounding peaks. Would I be repeating myself if I said it was breathtaking? I still have yet to actually see Everest, the reason why I am here, due to weather, but it's just a matter of time now.

I have been studying the lines of Ama Dablam for the past few days. It is a beautiful mountain with snow covered slopes. We have long passed the trail to the normal route but I still can't help but look up at the steep face and long ridgelines with both shock and awe. I keep having to remind myself of what a friend and mentor used to say on long bicycle rides, 'the hills always look worse from far away.'

It was with a bit of regret that we left Periche and the hospitality of another of Tshering's friends, but every step forward is a step closer to our goal. The trail to Lobuche was noticeably less maintained and I think I liked it more because of it. We weaved our way around and up eventually passing Thukla which in Sherpa language means 'poison hills.'

'Even the yaks get altitude sickness,' joked Tshering.

We climbed for another hour or so eventually reaching almost 16,000 feet. Here we took a short break and paid our respects to several memorials (more than I care to count) to Everest climbers who had died on the mountain. Scott Fischer. Another American. Tshering's best friend. It was sad to think about how and why these people died. Or so many others who have died because of accidents, politics, money or religion. With the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, I couldn't help but wonder about the lessons that need to be learned from these tragedies. We walked on silently for quite some time.

I can feel the pull of base camp now. We are close and depending on the weather (and a Puja ceremony) we might be there tomorrow. The higher up and more desolate the landscape becomes, the more at ease I feel. The big open spaces, huge rocks and glacier scraped terrain tug at something deep inside me which I still have yet to define.

Most impressive from Lobuche was the moraine of the Khumbu Glacier. It looked like some giant bulldozer had pushed huge truck-sized rocks down the valley and then stopped suddenly. A sloping wall of rocks clearly defined where the glacier's forward progress had stopped. It is easy to see that the glacier is retreating. The terminus is much farther up the valley.

'It used to be much farther down' remarked Tshering.

Day 9: Pheriche - Take Two
Not only are we acclimatizing ourselves to the altitude but also a daily schedule of going to bed at nine and waking up at five - well maybe not exactly five. It has definitely been nice to get into more of a rhythm on the trail.

With every day being new and different, I take comfort in a daily routine and schedule. I am still working out some glitches in my own personal systems - like getting my updates written in the evenings versus mornings. But unfortunately, as soon as the sun goes down, my energy level drops precipitously (and with it any small amount of creativity I may posses). Not that I mind too much right now, being well rested will only benefit our energy, strength and health in the weeks to come.

Tshering and I completed a short acclimatization hike up to 16,500' (5,000m). With our first truly blue skies, the panorama was breathtaking.  Below, Pheriche sprawled serenely in rectangular lines of rock fencing separating fields.

We are now above treeline and the landscape has become more alpine, similar to the high altitude areas of Colorado. Everything here is rock - houses, fences, walls, benches.... It is incredible to think that each individual rock was dug, picked up, carried and placed solely by hand. These are not efforts of days and weeks but rather months and years.

Higher up on our hike Tsherhering and I marveled at views of Island Peak, Ama Dablam and Manasulu. After a short break Tshering said, OK Eric, now I follow you.' we both laughed.

I have now had three encounters with tourists - all of which I have had some connection. Mark from the UK. A couple from Greenland who knew an old expedition partner and lastly a young couple from Minnesota. I spend most of my days trying to find any points of reference in the millions of Nepalese conversations so these small connections and interactions are especially nice.

September 10th is a special day as it is my mom's birthday. Hope you have a great day, mom, and get to do all your favorite things. I'm sending you birthday wishes from the trail to Everest base camp!

Day 8: Pheriche
Yesterday, we were desperately trying to get Tshering and Nima on a helicopter to Lukla. With weeks of bad flying conditions, over 150 tourists and locals were waiting on flights stuck in Kathmandu.

So, when I randomly bumped into my friend Mark Wood who was chartering a helicopter, we went into logistics overdrive. After a flurry of calls, the outcome was still uncertain. 'If it works out, no problem,' Tshering counseled. 'If not, no problem, too.'

Turns out that the weather cleared and 17 flights made it into Lukla - including the rest of our small team. No problem.

We started the day in more misty and overcast skies (again). Our spirits lifted considerabley when the clouds cleared and we were able to get our first real views of the surrounding peaks. Incredible.

Tshering, unfazed by the change told me, 'In the Lama book it says that 21 days of rain ended yesterday.'

We climbed slowly for most of the afternoon eventually making it above treeline. The landscape has changed slightly and we are now in the more open Khumbu region. Coming into Pheriche, we were impressed by the  number of yaks grazing... Everywhere! Both Ujjuwal and I are in agreement that we like Pheriche best.

Day 7: Tengboche
With a noticeable skip in our step, we left Namche Bazar and headed down the trail toward Tengboche. It felt good to be on the move again and making forward progress.

Today was more of the same weather with light mist and overast skies once again. There were brief periods of clearing where we were able to catch fleeting glimpses of the surrounding peaks. Incredible. We hiked on a trail that cut into the hillside not really gaining, or loosing, much elevation. We met one man along the way with a shovel and pry bar diigging up a section of the trail. When Tshering asked how long this small section of trail had been under contruction, the man replied, 'three years.'

We eventually made our way down (before the climb to Tengboche) to a small community where we had lunch. 'Fast Food,' the sign advertised.

While I waited for my veg fried rice  I watched two kittens, the first cats I have seen run, climb, wrestle and play with eachother. Their whole world was a playground and I couldn't help but smile. Later, two small boys around two years old began playing and wrestling in much the same manner as the cats - both equally elated at the simple act of play.

'Who learned from whom?' I wondered. I spent much of my afternoon thinkng about the role playing and how it transcends so many different life forms. Leaving our lunch spot, I saw four soldiers engaged in an enthusiastic game of cards around a small table.

Later, I had a random encounter with an old acquaintance of mine, Mark Wood, who was orginally going to join the North Pole leg of Save the Poles. Small world.

Tshering was on the phone for most of the afternoon trying to get Tshering #2 and Nima #2 to Lukla. A few flights made it iin but with 150 tourists waiting also space is limted. We are now crossing our fingers and toes for good weather.

Day 6: The Snow Leopard
I'm not saying that I've turned waiting into an art form, but over time, I've definitely refined skills of patience and managing expectations. Realistically here, my serenity is due more to the fact that I don't have another choice. But, after three days in Namche Bazar, it would be very easy to be frustrated and anxious about our situation.

'It is good that it is raining now,' Tshering told me after asking to talk to me about logistics the other day. 'Then, the weather will be good later.'

Catching a flight to Lukla last Thursday seems nothing short of a small miracle. The weather has been so poor that there has not been another flight since. This is fairly problematic as some of our supplies and two team members - Tshering and Nima are still in Kathmandu. It also turns out that the ice fall doctors - a separate group of Sherpas hired by myself and the only other climber on the mountain will not start fixing the Khumbu Ice Fall until they have a special Puja ceremony. To make a long story short, another day in Namche will be more beneficial in the long run.

The positive aspect of the weather is the fact that there are not a lot of tourists around right now. Actually, none. Everyone is stuck in Kathmandu.

I have been having an increasingly weirder and weirder dreams. Last night was I what I took for an anxiety dream, I was climbing Everest but didn't have the right clothes. I shared this with Ujjuwal and Tshering.

'If you dream that you are climbing, then you will have good luck,'

Ujjuwal said. 'If you see blood in your dream, then you will soon be receiving some money.'

We had a relaxing morning and then heading down another valley to the village of Thamo. With the clouds lifting slightly, we were able to see a small corner of Ama Dablam. I was once again amazed at the scale of the mountains.  I realized my ignorance at guessing the source of the many rivers falling down cliff faces.

In Thamo, we visited a women's Monastery - a beautiful temple perched high above town that was still under construction. The main building was mostly completed as were the colorful carvings and paintings along under awnings and trim. 'These nun's came from Tibet,' Tshering said.

The river we had been hiking above all morning also came from Tibet.

There we had a tea with Tshering's great aunt - a tiny wrinkled 79 year old woman. Tshering told me about how he had grown up in this village and pointed to the house where his father was born. Sadly, he did not know his father as he died on an Everest expedition only five months after he was born.

When a nun came by to refill my tea cup, I thought I was being polite by respectfully declining. 'You should have another cup of tea,' Tshering advised. Just as we were about to leave, we were led into a small room to receive a blessing. It was dark but peering inside I could see a nun sitting in one corner surrounded by pictures, paintings, intricate carvings and plates stacked with an odd assortment of what I assumed to be offerings. We took our shoes off and entered, Tshering instructing me on the finer points of the appropriate etiquette and protocol.

'Put your hands like this,' Tshering translated cupping his hands. A nun then poured water into my hands. 'Now take a sip of water, rub it on your eyes and forehead.' Later, Tshering added, 'They will pray for us on Everest.'

On our way back to Namche, Tshering suggested we stop and see a very famous Sherpa who had summited Everest 10 times without supplemental oxygen. 'They call him the Snow Leopard,' Tshering said and smiled.

Copyright 2010 by Save The Poles

The Save the Poles expedition is sponsored by bing and Terramar with major support from Goal0, MSR, Scream Agency, Sierra Designs, Stanley, Optic Nerve and Clif Bar.

Remember, it's cool to be cold. Save the Poles. Save the planet.

Copyright © 2013 Save the Poles

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