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A Rest Day at Basecamp

The first day and night down after an Everest climbing rotation are great for enjoying the novelty of comfort and easy living again. But it isn’t really until the second night back down that I normally get full and renewing sleep. And looking at Kent, Seth and Erica over coffee this morning, I’m guessing it was similar for them. We all seemed back to our normal selves again today, ready to make plans and preparations for climbing again.

Toward that end, during breakfast out in the sun, we began sketching a big calendar of the next four weeks. There are plenty of blanks on it still, naturally… and of course a big question mark or two at the end, but I was pleased to at least be building a framework out into the all-important second half of May. I consider it a great luxury to be down merely resting rather than recovering (which can be a much less predictable process). I’m crediting that distinction to my strong, fit and patient partners… but also to my experience and past mistakes in this arena. I’m guessing that we did just enough up high this last time around… not too much, not too little. It is all too easy for me to remember the many trips that formed my learning curve on which I wasn’t satisfied to come down the hill until my throat was bleeding, my head was pounding, and my muscles were pulled.

This is better. And I find I can illustrate the elusive “big picture” with the help of a calendar and some colorful marker pens. Pacing is everything in a two-month-long “race.” My partners didn’t fight me on any of this stuff (making me worry that my own slow learning curve could possibly have been avoided by employing a bigger brain). Erica settled in for a morning of schoolwork. Kent went to fiddle with his cameras and Seth had reading to do. We’d already made good use of yesterday in showering, shaving and leveling our tent platforms, so today was just plain old good rest. That is what they were doing up at C2 today as well. And perhaps it was the plan all over the mountain, as I didn’t see very much traffic in the Icefall this morning. Our Sherpa team didn’t rest today, but then they were up early enough and moving fast enough that by my morning survey, they were well out of sight and on their way to C2 already.
By afternoon, I was in the mood for struggle and conquest, and so I sought out renowned Scrabble player Justin Merle in the IMG camp. We tussled for a bit (alas, no bingos) before the better man prevailed. And then it was nice to just share afternoon tea with my longtime friends Mark Tucker and Eric Simonson. HimEx leader Russell Brice and Monica, his team doctor, showed as well for an unplanned and relaxing chat. Linden Mallory completed the party when he came to make sure that the “Sirdar” meeting was taking place as scheduled. Far more important than our tea party, this was a meeting of the Sherpa team leaders and dealt with figuring a plan to fix rope -and soon- on the summit terrain. While I may seem smug about taking the longer road and viewing the bigger picture, and all that, in order to get to the summit in the easiest and safest way -three weeks down the road- I’m anxious to have others start pounding away urgently at the door to the top… NOW!

There are plenty of strong and ambitious people here, and I don’t want them all going to the top when I want to go to the top. It benefits everybody to have the door to the summit open for a longer period… and it will benefit my team to have that route pounded in and well-tested. Those who desire more challenge and more bragging rights back home can go early when it is colder and meaner. I wish them luck. Kick big footsteps, please.

Now if the first night down low was novel and the second was restful, I wonder what the third will be like… Will I soon be able to brag about having achieved the perfect basecamp rest day? Ambition takes many forms.

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