First Ascent Team Checks in From Kathmandu

Posted by: | March 28, 2009
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Everest

The climb of Mount Everest has begun. Our team came together in these past few days, flying by various routes and trajectories around the world to Kathmandu, lugging all manner of electronics, insulation and enthusiasm. Good meals and nights of uninterrupted slumber have repaired some of the jet-lag grogginess and disorientation. We’ve met as a team several times now and have gone over preliminary plans and strategies. Tomorrow we fly into Lukla and begin walking. It is no stretch to suggest that all are looking forward to simply walking. That will be a welcome change from months of planning and packing and wondering about the future.

Personally, I can’t wait to be walking. Katmandu is always an exciting place for a climber to visit… but most of us wouldn’t want that visit to be any longer than is necessary when Everest is the goal. There is too much chance for getting sick either from taking in smoggy air or dodgy food. There is still charm to this huge city, but it isn’t wise to go hunting extensively for that charm just now. Katmandu is struggling these days; the electricity is only on a third of the time and so there is a nearly constant background noise of hotel diesel generators throbbing away. People are nervously recounting a winter devoid of moisture and the resultant severe water shortages they are now dealing with. As usual there is uncertainty over Nepali central government effectiveness and concern for how worldwide financial troubles will impact the country.

Walking in the countryside will be perfect. We won’t think just yet of the dangers of the Khumbu Icefall or the winds that might scour the Lhotse Face. We’ll put off worrying over Hillary Step traffic jams and jet-stream meanderings. Instead we’ll set off walking through lush forests and fertile farmland through the villages our Sherpa teams live in. We’ll get talking some and walking more and we’ll get away from cell phones and email. We’ll try not to trip or step in goo… we’ll take pictures of distant mountainsides and close-up flowers and our lives will get simpler than they have been for some time. I’ll speak with Erica and Ed Dohring; my clients, and will explain how this ten-day trek can be the perfect way to prepare for a big climb. I’ll try to tell them what I can of the Sherpa culture and the mountain history. Perhaps I’ll get to introduce them to a few famous climbers along the trail. I’ll mug for the cameras, as our team tries to capture our First Ascent gear being rolled out on its maiden voyage in the great mountain range.

I’ll try to stay healthy, warm and dry… simple.

The Bodhanath Stupa Melissa Arnot with Newari men in Bhaktapur Napal Peter Whittaker fitting his oxygen mask in Kathmandu Melissa Arnot with Newari children in  Bhaktapur Napal

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