Posts Tagged 'acclimatization hike'

Can You Say Ahhhhh

Yesterday was another acclimatization hike.  Seth and I left camp at about 9:30 am heading for Camp 1.  It was a nice hike since the terrain is different from down here in rock and ice.  Above Everest base camp along the Pumo Ri Ridge the landscape is a bit gentler with remnants of edelweiss and fall flowers amongst rocky outcroppings. Sounds so “Sound Of Music” doesn’t it?  Must be the edelweiss since that is the only similarity.  The terrain is steep and getting to that camp at about 19,000 feet was definately work.  I have to admit I am slowly acclimatizing and the hike felt good… well almost.

Not ten feet out base camp I slipped on some ice and went down onto my right knee.  After the initial feeling of passing out I limped into camp threw an ice pack on it, some antiseptic creme, a few bandaids and I think I’ll live.  Damn!  I always seem to take one step forward two steps back.

Tomorrow is dress rehearsal.  We will get up at 3 am, eat something at 3:30, and by 4 make our way into the icefalls.  Seth intends to see how things progress and if further acclimatization hikes are needed from there.  We will go about half way into the falls returning by late morning.  Not sure what I dread more – the ice falls or the 3 am wakeup call.  Either one… its going to hurt!

But today is rest, sunshine and a shower!  It has been over a week, and although it is a little odd to shower in a blue canvas tent with two Sherpa outside adjusting the water temperature and two more filling the water buckets asking you if everything is okay in there, the concept still delights me. Now I sit in my scrumptiously smelling tent with lotions and all that girlie-girl stuff I only break out on shower day.  I am clean, at least the layer closest to my body (as I work my way out the clothes do get dirtier and dirtier, but I won’t think about that).  For now all I can say is ahhhhh – and life certainly feels a little bit brighter way up here in the clouds.

Wendy

Climb On!

Life as I Know it

Wendy’s latest post from Everest Base Camp!

April 16th

We’ve settled into a routine here at base camp.  I hesitate to use the word ‘comfortable’ although in many ways it really is.  You begin to sort of accept things, and as the daily routine becomes the norm you learn, and from there you grow more familiar and comfortable.  In that routine the body slowly accepts life with less oxygen and every day you feel a little stronger than the day before.

Breakfast is always at 8 am sharp in the dining tent.  I awaken early when the first light hits my tent around 5:45 but it is still bitter cold and there are ice particles on my sleeping bag and inside my tent created by the warm air I exhale during the night.  To minimize this, the tent flap is kept open during the night.  We estimate the temperature to be somewhere around 16 degrees F.  From 5:45 until 7:41 I stay deep in the down bag (think hibernating chipmunk here).

At exactly 7:41 the sun hits the back of my tent.  Almost as if an electrical switch has been flipped, the temperature warms up to a tolerable 30.  The clothing items I washed the day before are hanging in the tent frozen stiff.  They will be dry enough to wear within hours of sun rise.  I have less than 15 minutes to pull myself together.  I am far more groggy than at sea level so getting going takes a lot longer.  I sit upright in my sleeping bag for several minutes gathering my thoughts.

My clothes are cold and slightly frozen so I stick them in the sleeping bag to thaw for a few minutes.  Once dressed I rush to the small ‘restroom” tent about twenty feet from my tent.  This is difficult terrain on morning legs, rocks, ice, snow – no different than the interior of the restroom tent.  I imagine the beautiful new bathroom I just redid back home… nope got to banish that thought quickly.  Breakfast starts with rice pudding, it is all I can do to get a few spoonfuls down.  We then have some sort of egg and toast or pancakes.  I am not eating well and find it difficult to swallow most of the food, liquids seems to be the only thing I can tolerate. I’m making an effort but I know my calorie count is way down. It is recommended we eat (you lowlanders will just love this!) 8000 calories per day and drink at least 4 liters of liquids. I do make it a point to eat a candy bar every afternoon with a Pringles chaser.  Great diet!

After breakfast we assemble and head out for a training hike.  Since base camp is at the end of the long trek from Lukla we can not go any further, steep, high slabs of rock and ice prevent further passage.  Not to mention, China is on the other side and they are not too keen on our entry. So we head back down the valley a short way and then up toward some surrounding peaks.

As usual getting the heart and lungs working efficiently is both frightening and important.  Several times during these morning workouts I feel as if I am suffocating and my limbs grow weak as the oxygen rushes to my heart and lungs leaving the limbs deplete for several seconds.  That will humble a person.  I know I look horrendous at this moment and grimace in fear and discomfort.  As always my nose is running (the Fish Chicks know this well) I am snorting like an overworked yak and I am miserable.  This misery I am assured is part of being an alpinist.   Yesterday I was told it was like hitting yourself over the head with a hammer.  It only feels good when you stop.  Remind me again why I choose to do this?

After lunch we are instructed to lay low, rest is crucial, too much rest
devastatingly difficult to shake out of.  I try to stay out of my tent which by now is delightfully warm and cozy but cooks the energy right out of you. Its like a sauna and despite being very cold outside I can take off all my layers of clothing inside.  That is until the sun goes behind a thick afternoon cloud or sets for the day around 5 pm.  then get ready!   Every layer I have comes back on including an enormous down parka, gloves, hat, hood, the full deal.  In a matter of seconds every speck of liquid has turned solid – including me.

We assemble for a team meeting at 6pm.  here Dave outlines the following day’s itinerary and the team discusses needs, health and concerns.  Dinner is promptly served at 6:30, the meals are amazing.  Dinner always begins with soup followed by some of the most creative cuisine I have ever seen. Our camp chef carves flourishes out of fruits and vegetables and adorns water buffalo in ways I have never seen. We have had pizza, chicken cordon bleu (at least I think that’s what it was, please don’t tell me differently), curry and burritos (okay, that night our American base camp director cooked).  Dessert has been anything from canned fruit to a homemade apple pie.

Now all this doesn’t sound too extraordinary except the actual kitchen is a primitive stone structure with a blue tarp roof lashed down with rope.  The stove is propane, there is no electricity or running water yet our Sherpa staff are able to see to our every need.

Depending on the following days activities, after dinner either everyone escapes to their tents for the night or Mark Tucker, our base camp facilitator as he likes to be referred, calls to action a game of poker. Mark wears about a hundred hats each with a huge smile and wonderful sense of humor.  He has corny jokes and the attitude of a Vegas casino operator, but behind the scenes he is what makes base camp run in all aspects from seeing there is peanut butter on the table to the vital communications and technology required on the mountain.  Mark is the ‘go to’ guy and he will see it gets done quickly, efficiently and always with a sense of humor.

Man, am I lucky he is on my team.  But at night it’s “Tuck” who gets things riled up.  The poker games began innocently enough down valley but now at EBC they are serious – the stakes are high!  Once we stopped playing with beans and the poker chips were located the stakes grew from  20 rupees (about 25 cents) to 100 rupees ($1.30) all the way to 500 ($8.00) and we have only been here 10 days.  I am whipped out of poker chips quickly and happily go off to my tent with two water bottles filled with hot water.  These go into my sleeping bag for the night.  One at my frozen feet, the other on my stomach.  They will stay warm until morning and then I quickly locate them and extract them from my bag.  By about 8:30, or if it is a late night of cards 10 pm, I am in my sleeping bag.  I can still hear the card game going strong and Tuck yelling “come on… Daddy needs a new pair of crampons!”

I am still taking life a day at a time.  Everyday I feel a little more settled and resolute hopeful that the following day I will be a little stronger, a little faster and a little more equipped to take on the bigger task ahead in a few weeks.

Everest Base Camp

Wendy

Climb On!

Acclimatization Hikes

RMI Dispatch from Dave Hahn…

April 13, 2010
17,575 ft.

A three a.m. snowstorm blew through just as our Sherpa team was trying to decide whether to go ahead with a carry to Camp One. Tendi and the boys wisely decided to give it a miss. Ultimately, it was only two inches, but it changed the basecamp scenery immensely. Leif Whittaker and I took an easy rest day while Chad, Casey and Seth took Scott, Rob and Wendy on acclimatization hikes. Several of the team went all the way up to Pumori Camp One for a little altitude and a lot of views into the Western Cwm.

The big event of our day was Jeff Martin’s planned departure for home. He has worked good and hard for a week now (on top of several months, pre-trip) to get our logistics off on the right foot, but now he is needed back on Mount Rainier. We said goodbye to him with a lively, latenight game of Texas Hold ‘Em and a good and hearty breakfast.

Now that most teams have arrived, we were entertained with a steady stream of old friends passing through and telling their stories of travels and treks over tea. We’ll continue our training for the icefall tomorrow.

Dave Hahn

Life As We Know It

I must admit to being a bit lazy on the blogging.  I know that the guides write a nightly dispatch so  I can be a tad lax on mine.  Terrible I know.  But there is a reason.  Communicating from Everest base camp is a pain in the… wallet!!!

Only this morning I finally got connected.  I was so psyched!  I anxiously watched as 70 emails came in.  I couldn’t wait to read them and feel some connection to home and hearth only to learn that just downloading those 70 emails cost me $100.00!

So each word I now write will be precise and informative.  No more messing around.

Wendy Booker 'communicating' from Everest Basecamp

Wendy Booker 'communicating' from Everest Basecamp

We have been at Everest base camp for four days.  I’m not sure if it feels like four days or fourteen but here we are! Life is fairly simple just now since we are trying to grow accustomed  to the thinning air.  Arriving here was very impressive as the camp that had been established weeks prior is amazing.  I am still overwhelmed by the facilities provided and the physical labor that went in to building us such a place.  Yesterday I took a shower.

Okay for most this is not a big deal, at 17,500 feet surrounded by sky, rocks, snow and glaciers it is amazing.  The shower tent has two compartments.  The first compartment has red indoor/outdoor carpeting laid out on crushed stone.  Mind you, none of that stone was crushed a month ago. We have a wicker rack upon which to hang our clothes and towel.  The second inner compartment has a shower head the same carpeting and an on/off switch for the water.  Outside is a small gas heater with a pilot light and if it’s not too windy the pilot light stays on and you get a hot shower.   It was heaven.

As we gain strength we try to do something physical everyday as this enables us to grow stronger at higher altitudes.  Today was ladder training with hiking shoes to climbing boots to boots with crampons.  It all came back to me.

Tomorrow we will head into the lower ice falls and continue with our practice.  Its a nice schedule – work all morning, relax in the afternoon.  I shall enjoy it while it lasts.

Life with a bunch of guys is different.  I find it interesting to be the only female and 7 years older than the next guy.  I’m working on keeping my opinions to myself, trying really hard to fade into the tent background and not have tea shoot out of my mouth when one of them says something ‘off’.   I am using an immense amount of self-control.

Okay nap time!!!   I have two down sleeping bags awaiting me in my tent. The sun is still up so it will be warm in there for the next half hour. Then watch out!  The temperature plummets and I will need to pry myself out of my bags and over to the dining tent.  Time for dinner and more guy talk. Think of all the stories I will have to share upon my return?  Mom is going to be appalled!

Climb On!

Wendy

What’s your Number?

Ecuador:  Well, I am back in the mountains and after that huge ‘mountain hangover’ I am finding myself loving every second.  I am climbing with a new guide company, RMI, and if the last three days are any indication I am with a top notch group.  In addition to that, I am climbing with 12 awesome men!  Ahhhh… be still my heart.  There have been more fun and laughs then I have enjoyed in a long time.  Nothing nicer than being with people who don’t take themselves too seriously.

Today we did an acclimatization hike to 14,300 feet.  We stopped along the way to test our blood oxygen levels with a small meter.  We were instructed not to share the number and to keep it a secret since everyone reacts differently to altitude and the number doesn’t always indicate performance.  We are meeting up for dinner in a few minutes and I plan to get that number out of each one of them!  Nothing a little red wine can’t help along. 😉

Okay off to complete my mission… wonder how hard it is going to be?

Climb On!

Wendy

p.s.  mine was 95!


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About Wendy Booker

In June of 1998, this 55 year old mother of three was diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS after experiencing balance problems, blurred vision and numbness on her left side. When first diagnosed, Wendy was devastated. But it took very little time for her to transform anguish into inspiration. She immediately turned her hobby of casual running into a continuous pursuit and has now completed nine marathons.

Mountain climbing became the next conquest. Wendy learned about a team of mountain climbers with Multiple Sclerosis who were attempting to climb Mt. McKinley (Denali) in Alaska. With no previous climbing experience, she dedicated a year to hard training and set off with them in 2002. Although weather conditions prohibited the team from completing, Wendy attempted the summit again in 2004 on her own and she succeeded!

The feeling of accomplishment she experienced propelled her next aspiration: to climb the highest mountain on each continent. Just five years later, Wendy Booker has successfully reached the top of six of The Seven Summits – Mt. Kilimanjaro, Mt. McKinley, Mt. Elbrus, Mt. Aconcagua, Mt. Vinson Massif and Mt. Kosciuszko. Mt. Everest, the highest mountain on earth, still awaits for 2010.