Leaving Base Camp- finally

While most of the crew and gear have departed for advanced base camp already, seven of usclimbers are just packing now. The last of us have been at base camp foreight days. It has actually been good for our bodies and the team effort tolaze around at this lower altitude.

We've climbed more of the local hills(up to 21,000 feet high), wandered up and down the Rongbuk Valley, and havebeen able to stuff our tummies for the cold nights ahead.

Meanwhile, the Sherpas, Mark Whetu and Russell Brice have been able to establish aposh advanced base camp for us. They've had a few hard days of building tent platforms andereceting tents. Advanced base camp is at 21,500 feet. It sits atop a pile of rocks,underlain by a glacier. Each year, as the glacier slides down hill, itdestroys the old camp sites. A lot of work is involved with rebuilding thesites each spring.

Our team isn't the only one at advanced base camp. There is a group of Dutch climbers and aRussian group camped there. The Dutch and I flew into Kathmandu together andwe have been enjoying each other's company for the entire trip. We'd turnour backs in Lhasa and they would be there. Their base camp is about 100feetfrom ours.

The Russians are trying hard to reinvent the rules of high altitudeclimbing. Sincearriving a day or two behind us, they have rushed up to 7,000 metersalready. Now they are laying around advanced base camp, some trying to retreat to basecamp. They whipped themselves senseless, climbing too high too fast. Rumorhas it that they are trying to beat all the climbers, including those on thesouth side, to the summit. (Traditionally the climbinc conditions allow forearlier ascents on the south side, often two weeks earlier.) Seems like somepeople are into this idea ofbeing first in the year 2000.

The millenium has brought out some other interesting teams. Camped next tous at base camp is a huge Chinese TV team. Over 20 sherpas are trying to getone Chinese climber to the summit. They will then broadcast live on ChineseTV.

I read in the Kathmandu paper that an orchestra was planning on summitingvia the south side and then playing a 24-hour concert on top. I hope I reachthe top to the subtle sounds of the tuba section playing " When the SaintsCome Marching In."

Not quite finishing the string of interesting teams on Everest, a Spanishgroup is planning on climbing in 1920's period clothing (tweed jackets,knickers, etc.). They've made it to base camp, but their trucks, loaded withhemp rope and cotton tents, are lost somewhere on the Tibetan Plateau. Didn'tthe Spaniards know that there were no roads in Tibet in the 1920's?Well, it is time to put my own two feet into action.

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