Episode 029: Waiting Out The Weather

Everest Is Boring. It turns out that Everest can be as much about sitting around on your duff as it is about climbing. Why are we here, again? You mean we didn’t come up here to sit around drinking tea and surf the internet over an unbelievably expensive satellite modem? Oh, that’s right. We’re here to stress out about the possible carnage of our gear up on the North Col…

As the hours pass we’ve begun to get more visitors. It’s well known that we have a very pleasant camp…and email. You wouldn’t believe how important access to personal email is up here when you can’t do any climbing! Luckily, people are coming for the Hotmail, but staying for the good company and conversation. It’s all working out, and people are beginning to pool resources. We’ve become friends with a French expedition, whose leader has a subscription to a detailed weather service, but no computer with which to access it. I’ve been trading him airtime for these reports. I think he’s getting the better end of the deal since the reports call for more terrible wind.

I have to say, though, that the weather is really bringing people together and I’m getting to know many teams quite well. We’re all in this together, and Base Camp is becoming rather neighborly.

We have a climbing deficit, but a surplus of new friendships. Nothing wrong with that. We’re turning lemons into lemonade, but everyone still thirsts to climb.

Jon Miller

Total Running Time: 16:42

Dispatch 30, May 5, 2003: Everest Base Camp

More reports ring in as more hearts ring out sorrow. Like a lion shaking flies from it’s mane, Mount Everest is clearing away unwanted guests. Many come here with hopes of clear days and generous windows for perusing to the summit as if it were a walk. Those days are gifts; weather days like this are more common.

On large commercial expeditions it is easy to be protected from the calamities of your average Everest Storm. It is also common to live the experience as if you rode around in the pope-mobile and therefore saw the world through a protective bubble. What has started to happen amidst this dream-crushing storm is more than a silver lining to a cloud of sorrow; it is the essence of climbing, camaraderie!

The smaller teams, teams from around the world and generally here for the love of adventure and climbing, are pulling together and stringing whatever preliminary plans we can formulate to see to it that all our dreams are not lost. Many of the reports have already been confirmed that several of the tents at the North Col have been destroyed and are now lying on the glacier, torn to bits and over a thousand feet lower once the wind was finished with them. The tents are not the primary concern; it is what was in them.

Standard climbing practice dictates that on a peak as large and with as many camps as Mount Everest, a climber will carry gear to a higher camp and leave it there so that the entire load is not on the climbers back each trip. Many climbers, myself included, made the trip to the North Col twice to leave our specialized Down high-altitude climbing suits, gloves, and sleeping bags so that we can conserve energy on our summit attempt. This practice is called “caching” and is the same practice that 95% of the climbers felt comfortable doing. This year’s Everest is not so forgiving; thankfully the international community of climbers here is more understanding and willing to unite for this common goal.

As more reports drift in we are all taking stock and working towards finding solutions to lost gear and supplies. I find it hard to believe there would be any other way to go about this mountain, no matter what country you come from, it is hard to get here and even harder to give up if your fellow man can help! Each day people from six countries gather around the computer to check the weather forecast and plan our ascent.

Ben Clark