Episode 017: Weighing The Expedition
Things Are Getting Heavy. Climbing Everest is not like a typical backpacking trip. We have so much gear and food that you can almost hear the mountain groan under our weight. This is pretty much par for the course. Imagine packing up everything you own and moving it to a gravel pit in the middle of nowhere. This is what we’ve accomplished so far!
They were a day late, but the men who organize the yaks came today and literally weighed everything we plan on taking up the mountain with us. The yaks will carry everything up to Advanced Base Camp (6000 meters, 21,000 feet). These creatures are everywhere up here and they are constantly streaming past our camp. Apparently, they can only carry 50 or so kilograms each and hence the need to weigh everything. This also gives them the opportunity to figure out exactly how many yaks we will actually need to hire. After all of the weighing was complete the man in charge joined Lhawang and Dawa in our dome tent and figured out how much this is all going to cost our expedition. I don’t know how much money was exchanged, but I do know that it took nearly 30 minutes to count it all. After that, a bottle of whiskey was passed around to seal the deal. Apparently, we’ll be utilizing 46 yaks.
Total Running Time: 17:13
Dispatch 15, April 18, 2003, Everest Base camp
Today was supposed to be the day we would begin our first ascent onto higher ground and closer to the mountain. Tibet is a third world country. Dates that are dependent on something other than your own team are often arbitrary.
Our departure time this morning was supposed to come after yak herders had weighed our expedition duffels. These duffels are full of food and supplies for building another base-camp further up the mountain at 21,000’. Our plan was to go to an intermediate camp at 18,500’ tonight and advance to 21,000’ the following day.
What’s the problem? The yak herder’s and their very stubborn negotiator came armed with calculators and pens amidst dreadlocks and two poles with a 75 Kg weight on one end. Lhawang did his best to deal with this rag tag operation that was nearly 10 hours late and yet still commanded a $1400 fee for transport.
Today was still very fulfilling. I spent two hours talking foreign policy, climbing history, and technology with Anatoly Moshnikov, one of Russia’s most decorated Alpinists and a genuine lifelong adventurer. Anatoly and I found common ground in our perception of the world. Anatoly is my senior by a good 30 years but we both could see how happy the Tibetan people are. Although there is some oppression, there are smiles and gestures that prove that although these people have less then we do, they have found quality in their life. No amount of donations or foreign aid can replace that, only smiles and warm gestures from Westerners can reinforce it. Everest base-camp is a place that brings together many people united amongst one goal, to enjoy the mountain and to learn from the culture.