CARLOS PAUNER! Update 5/2/2003:
Everyday life at Base Camp: In an expedition to
a big mountain like this, you climb, you work
hard, you suffer, but most part of the time,
around half, you stay at Base Camp, our home in
these distant lands. To make life as
comfortable as possible, we are not cheap,
because of experience earned in each expedition.
So we have a kitchen tent, where our cook
works, Bimal (as always) and his sidekick Kharka.
Close to it
is our mess tent, a big canvas tent that is used as diner and meeting room.
We meet there at meal times, or to play cards or simply to chat, as always. A
little yellow tent next to it is used as shower tent, and inside there, with
the water heated by the cook, we manage to have a warm atmosphere where we can
have, from time to time, the minimal norms of hygiene. Nevertheless, the
crown jewel is the individual tent for each one. That is the little
individual palace, with all the personal things, as if it was our own home.
For example, in mine we can find sleeping bags, the phone, the computer,
cameras, books, CDs, medicines, clothes, spools, batteries, candles, etc.
Everything necessary so that when we are inside we can feel as home. In fact
it is, and we spend inside this little canvas structure much, much time. In
summary, in any given day of rest, what does a climber does here at 5,500m of
altitude? Very simple: get up at 8 and deal with the feeling of having the
whole tent filled with frost and everything cold. After a quick wash, common
breakfast in the mess tent. The day's strategies are discussed and if there
isn't anything special, the day of rest begins. The ones with more courage
will take a shower. The busiest ones will dedicate the morning to write, to
read or send mail. We also charge the batteries of devices, because it is
more convenient at this warmer time. At 1 o'clock, lunch, we gather again in
the mess tent. Then, of course, the traditional and Hispanic nap, until 4.
At that time, a card game or a snack or both. At six the sun sets, so a new
race against the cold starts. 15 or 20 degrees plummet down and one has to
cover with everything for dinner which is at 6 and a half. We have dinner in
the dark, we chat a little and then go to the sleeping bag, where it is better
to be when it is cold. We get there usually with a bottle of hot boiling
water to warm up the bag (inside the tent it is around -15 to -20º Celsius)
and we read with the light of a flashlight. At 8 we are very sleepy, and it
is time to play the diskman and to sleep embracing the hot water bottle and
dreaming of things in other places so that the mind can roam free outside this
place. As you see, this is the routine of a non-working day. When these days
extend because of the weather, it is hard and you have to have a cool head so
that mind doesn't fall in pieces with the waiting and the anxiety. Of course,
when there is work to be done, everything changes. We get up around 5 and we
use the first cold hours, when the snow is in good conditions, to advance
rapidly. The rest of the day we continue climbing and progressing little by
little in this great mountain.
Life in these
high altitude camps is very different, and harder, but that, my friends, is
from Spanish by Jorge Rivera