Episode 169: Building Bridges

It’s Not Just A Metaphor. The Kangshung region around Everest truly has some of the most remarkable campsites I’ve ever experienced. The one we’re at for tonight is grassy and flat with a little trickle of a stream running through the middle of it. Beautiful.

We were supposed to be spending a rest day here to get ready for the strenuous last bit of hiking towards base camp but unfortunately there was an error in our itinerary. We don’t have time for the rest day…we’ve already used it. I had to break the bad news to the group over dinner tonight. I know most of the team will be fine without the extra rest but there are a few people who appear to be exhausted. Luckily the staff has stated that if some people want to stay behind and rest, they’ll make it work. So, that’s one less thing for me to worry about.

There are many variables on this trip to the Kangshung Face of Everest. The region is still wild and relatively unknown. There are no towns, tea houses or outposts to speak of. There aren’t even any other visitors here besides us. The only constant that I have is the amazing team of individuals that constitute The Staff.

These men, ranging in age from early 20’s to late 50’s, are the rock that the success of our team is perched upon. They know the intricacies of a trekking expedition like the back of their hand. They know how much food to bring and what kinds of food to bring. They know how much water is needed on a daily basis. They know how many supplies will be needed and how many yaks and porters to hire. They intuitively know how to read the trekkers and understand who is doing well and who needs more attention and support. They instinctively know just how much exertion or bodies can handle and when we need a rest break.

Even though only Chimi and a few of the yak men have ever been to Everest’s Kangshung Face the staff is able to make us all feel at home here. Then, on top of all of that, tonight we discovered that each and every one of these guys has a bit of MacGyver in him.

After dinner was over Roger mentioned to Pemba that the bridge crossing the river behind camp was missing. The primitive abutments were still in place but the bridge itself had washed away. A bridge looked like the only way to cross the river and head out of camp towards the next evening’s destination. In the blink of an eye the entire staff descended upon the problem: the bridge must be rebuilt.

Luckily the timbers that spanned the abutments were only washed a short distance downstream and so several guys jumped across the river and were able to recover them. Before long one beam was put back in place, then another and another until there was a working bridge spanning the rushing water. They weren’t finished, though. Someone found some heavy gauge wire and the team of bridge builders set to work wiring the timbers together and reinforcing the entire structure with boulders and large rocks.

Simon and Garfunkel eat your heart out.

Jon Miller

Total Running Time: 35:37