Episode 134: Shhh…It Happens At Base Camp

Can Anyone Say “Sherpa Shortcut”? This fine morning at BC just keeps getting better. We’ve been able to see climbers going up the Icefall for hours.

It really puts the landscape in perspective when you see a climber or group of climbers navigating the obviously dangerous puzzle that is the Khumbu Icefall. You can look at it and tell the Icefall is big. Snag a view of some climbers who appear as miniscule black specs amid the jumble of ice slabs and you get hit with it’s true immensity. It goes from looking big to looking BIG. Really, really BIG. Hugely BIG. Truly BIG.

Did I mention it looks big?

I also spent some time today filming something that is a big deal around here-where to go when nature calls. Yesterday (wow, was that really only yesterday?) I spoke with Apa Sherpa about the human waste situation and regulations at BC. I know from personal experience that the poop situation on the North Side is becoming a real issue. Of course, over in Tibet BC covers several square miles. Here in Nepal, BC is only a tiny, tiny fraction of that much space. It resembles the North Side’s ABC with tents stacked nearly on top of another. Ben Clark referred to ABC on the other side of the mountain as “a miniature San Francisco.” Ditto for the BC on this side of the mountain.

These days, here on the Nepal side, all human waste is collected in large plastic bags and taken out of BC at least at the end of the climbing season if not several times throughout the climbing season. That is a very big deal, isn’t it?

After I finished my business filming everyone else’s “business” I heard some talking down by the dome tent. Jeff was going to try and make it to the top of Kala Patthar today! He was leaving BC before the rest of us to try and make that goal a reality. Amazing.

Now, we are much higher in altitude than Gorak Shep, the traditional starting point when climbing Kala Patthar. I do distinctly remember Jeff wondering aloud at breakfast if there was a way to go directly to the summit of Kala Patthar from BC instead of heading all of the way back down to Gorak Shep first. Surely there must be a way to do that. People have climbed every square inch of this valley over more than the past half century.

Apparently there is a way to do it. A so-called “short cut”. Of course out here everything is relative. Our group joke is that the Sherpa staff has a very different feel for time and distance. Ask any of these amazing guys how much farther will we be hiking to X destination and you’ll invariably be told, “Just 10 minutes. RIght around the corner.” Translated, that means, “Pal, you’ve got a ways to go. Probably about 3 hours.”

The Sherpa people are feats of human engineering and stamina and positive attitude with an almost nonexistent complaint factor. Every one of them. I will always be in utter awe of what they can–happily–accomplish.

If Jeff asks The Staff about a shortcut, he better be careful. He might just get what he asks for. A “Sherpa shortcut”.

Jon Miller

Total Running Time: 36:29