Everest Expedition: Preparations in Kathmandu
A week ago, under the soft grey winter skies of Seattle, Jeff Martin and I hauled our 8 duffel bags from the loading curb at Sea Tac to the Korean Air check-in counter. Two window and one aisle seat, three oxygen masks safety demonstrations, about 5500 air miles, and one questionable airline fish meal later, we piled the duffels onto a rickety luggage cart and rolled them through the doors of Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan Airport into the turmoil of Kathmandu.
Since arrival our days are filled with preparations for RMI’s upcoming Everest Expedition. The array of moving parts that come together for a safe and successful Himalayan Expedition are at times overwhelming. It takes months of hard work by numerous people, both here in Kathmandu by our fantastic Nepali partners, High Altitude Dreams, to RMI’s preparations back in the States. While most of the minute to minute tasks are more of the mundane variety – from taking inventory of our lithium batteries supply (535) to the tetris challenge of packing the variety of medication and vitamin bottles into the tackle box of the Base Camp Medical Kit - the effect is invigorating. It is here in Kathmandu that the Everest Expedition morphs from the multiple separate components of focus that consumed our attention over the winter months to the cumulative creation of everyone’s efforts. It is here that the excitement builds and the climb begins to take shape. The Expedition becomes tangible and real: the tents and ropes are sorted and counted, the loads are packed and on their way by yak and porter to Base Camp, and the permit sits in front of us awaiting Dave Hahn’s signature as the Expedition Leader.
The preparations in Kathmandu also plunge us into the city’s daily chaos: dodging traffic rickshaws and speeding taxes in an almost desperate game of frogger to cross the street, navigating the narrow alley ways in order to track down a crucial item, finding relief in the living rooms of friends’ homes while sharing a cup of tea and catching up since the last visit.
On Saturday this teeming city of 1.4 million celebrated the Hindu Holi Festival, known as the Festival Of Colors – a holiday linked to several mythical tales in Hinduism and manifested in a messy, wild, and boisterous all day street party. Walking through the streets of Indra Chwok, a particularly narrow and busy neighborhood in Kathmandu’s heart, on Saturday, bands of people sang and danced in the streets, covering each other in red, yellow, black, and blue chalky powder as others dumped buckets of water from rooftops or lobbed water balloons from doorways. Amidst the frenzy of celebration, Jeff and I were greeted with shy hesitation at first –foreigners yet uncolored with powder amidst the festivities. Yet once a few brave souls rubbed our cheeks with powder we were marked: color came from every direction, buckets of water and water balloons launched our way. The hotel staff had more than a few chuckles when we walked in the door, grinning and covered in multiple colors.
This week our Island Peak and Base Camp Trek team heads into the Khumbu, followed days later by our Everest Team, and we are again immersed in the world of the mountains. The time spent with crampons on our feet is often the focus of our climbing pursuits but this time in Kathmandu is a reminder that this too is a part of the adventure - even when wearing flip flops. The months of hard work leading up to the mountain, the places we travel to, the sites we see, the people, the stories, and laughs we encounter along the way are all part of our mountaineering adventures.
- Linden Mallory