April 5, 2003 Gear Shift,
Namche Bazaar, 11,300 FT.
Is it possible to have a
hangover from melatonin?
So what started as a message
on a machine in mid February now becomes physically tangible beyond an
entropy-ridden pile of gear amassed in my basement. Boots touch earth, sweat
starts to flow, and we are underway.
We flew into Lukla yesterday,
a backcountry airstrip at 9,000 ft., and made our way slowly upriver to
Namche Bazaar, the main Sherpa village of Khumbu, arriving at dusk.
Definitely a deliberate, old
bull, slow-twitch kind of pace. The speed trials will come later. The trail
in the afternoon very quiet, with the exception of porters returning empty
down valley after delivering their loads to Namche in time for today's
Our gear will be sent directly
to Base Camp from here. Acclimatized, one could cover the distance to base
camp in two days. We will take 7 or 8 days to cover this same distance, with
the intent of arriving in Base Camp fully operational and fit enough to
directly enter the icefall for the 1st trip to camp 1 at 20,000 ft.
Today will be a rest day of
sorts. It is market day here in Namche Bazaar, so at the lower end of the
village in an open terraced area vendors have arrayed their goods. Sides of
yak, Chinese tennis shoes, cases of canned beer, clothing and all kinds of
foodstuffs can be found.
Frequently Tibetan yakmen are
here, having negotiated a high pass near Cho Oyu, the Nangpa La, with their
animals carrying traditional items such as Tibetan rock salt, yakbells, balls
of animal fat, ghi or butter as well as manufactured goods from China like
transistor radios and thermoses.
These yakmen are easily
distinguished by the red threads woven into their long braids and wrapped in
a circular fashion around their heads. They also frequently carry a long
dagger which adds to their rough and tough appearance. Their traditional yak
hair tents have given way to tents made of parachutes, with drawstring
openings in the top for the smoke of their cooking fire to escape.
I'll probably go up to
Khumjung today to see friends. The challenge of the day will be figuring out
a way to avoid the near obligatory pitcher of chang given by the wife of a
guide I have known and worked with for many years. On the way out after this
climb is finished there will be no such avoidance.
Until Base Camp