Rest Day in Camp 1 (4 900 m) & some funny stories from Base Camp

route to camp2 sA rest day at Camp 1 today and they will be glad about this, because they have done a lot of heavy load carrying. Their bodies will be feeling the altitude now. This is a day mainly to recover energy, to rest, to hydrate and for abundant meals. They will be preparing themselves mentally, for the final stages. Today will also be planning and strategies with their guides.

Each tour company has their own long drop toilet. They remove the door handle to prevent unauthorised use. The door handle can be found hanging on a pole just outside the kitchen. This system seems to work quite well, unless you forget to remove the door handle when closing the toilet door, in which case you are trapped inside the toilet with no door handle. This happened to Frank and he had to shout for help through the little round breather holes in the steel cladding. Eventually he was rescued from the shit hole (ha ha).

nick using satellite phone sAnother amusing story happened when Nick nearly set a new Guinness record for flying in a tent. Nick was having a rest in his tent when a big gust of wind lifted his entire tent, with him in it. Nick safely crash landed the tent about 1m from its original position. A similar thing happened to a team higher up the mountain, and most of their tents were blown away, dashing their hope of reaching the summit. This team warned us to make sure that our tents are well anchored at the higher camps.

Rest day at Camp 1 - 14 Jan 2012

jayson with snowball sIn the morning we woke and found our tent covered in snow. Jayson couldn't get out the door, as the snow had piled up so high. So Jayson helped clear all the snow round the tent.

The whole mountain was covered in snow, and we couldn't even see the river that passed near the camp. There was still a small section of the river that was flowing, so I went to fill all our water bottles.

The sun was baking us alive as we sat around chatting and I went to put on an extra clothing layer for protection. The buff is especially useful as it can be worn over the neck and head. While we were chatting, we heard a sound like thunder and saw that is was an avalanche on the other side of the ravine, but well away from our camp.

With all the fresh snow, Jayson couldn't resist making a snowman, and even borrowed my beanie for a snowman hat.

Unfortunately, Nick's stomach bug had returned and today he decided to play it safe and head back to base camp. Although Nick had kept up on the previous day's hike up to Camp 1, he was concerned about his energy levels and the logistics problems if things got worse higher up on the mountain. It was very sad seeing Nick leave the team. One of the porters escorted him back to the base camp. I look forward to catching up with him in Puente de Inca or Mendoza in about 7 or 8 days time. He plans to walk out from base camp with another group that is also leaving. Later I heard that he managed to get a helicopter flip off the mountain.

jayson setting up tent sTalking about stomach problems, I was keen to learn where and how do we do our toilet activity on the mountain, as our team had not been given any shit bags. It turned out that the guides had set up a small toilet tent that we were to use, so that answered the first half of the question regarding where. Nick says that he just dug a hole in the tent with a rock and then covered it up. I was desperate, so I followed these basic instructions and emerged from the tent. But later in the day we were a bit embarrassed to discover that the waste was meant to be dropped in a black bag just outside the tent. Oops!

I could have kicked myself for not having a better backup plan for taking photos. Up until now I had been taking photos with a simple digital camera that required two double AA batteries. Unfortunately, the spare EverReady batteries that I brought with were not suitable and the batteries in the camera were already flat. This was very disappointing as the photos would capture our memories of the trip. The last couple of days I had resorted to shooting photos on my iPhone, but that requires that you take your gloves off, which can be risky in the cold. But an angel must have heard my wish, as Henk kindly offered to give me his three remaining AA batteries, which he was planning to use on his GPS unit. So now I will be able to have plenty more photos to bring home. Many Thanks Henk!

Phil was doing his usual thing, running around the camp shooting photos and taking video clips of daily life at 5 000 m, from putting on sun tan lotion to cooking a meal. It will be really interesting to relive those memories in a couple of months when all the editing is complete.

The remainder of the day was spent eating and drinking as much as possible to replenish our energy supplies for tomorrow. We had an early dinner at about 4pm, as the weather gets a bit rough in the late afternoon. I am quite worried about the hike tomorrow as our packs will be heavy and it is a five and a half hour uphill hike. I also hope Jayson will cope OK. Every day our packs should get lighter as we consume the rations, but right now we are carrying supplies for a full week.

I woke in the night to what sounded like an African drum beating. I quickly realised that it was simply people banging their tents to get rid of the snow piling up. Seeing that I was awake, I wrote these diary notes and tried to get back to sleep.

Return to Camp 1 - 13 Jan 2012

jay and ray sThe day has finally come to leave behind the comforts of base camp and move to the higher camps. After breakfast, we packed up the kit that we needed for the seven days up the mountain. Porters had been arranged to help carry our load, and make it easier to acclimatize to the high altitude. Each porter can carry up to 20kg, so we agreed to share a porter between two team members. So we could each give the porter 7kg of our personal kit and food as the two man tent was 6kg. The weather was ideal when we started off at 10am, but about half way up it changed and began to snow. We were worried about getting wet, so we kept going as long as possible without stopping. The strategy paid off, and we got into Camp 1 more than an hour quicker than two days back. Also, now we knew how to tackle those tricky scree slopes. Arriving in Camp 1, we were delighted to see that the porters had already helped setting up most of the tents. This was a huge bonus, as it was now snowing heavily and all I wanted to do was lie down and rest for a bit.

It took about an hour or two to find all of our kit and move it into our tent. Some of the food supplies that we had cached two days back had got wet and crushed, so this had to be resorted too.

All the expedition food consists of dehydrated meals, which were surprisingly tasty, although you need to overlook the texture and appearance. Preparation couldn't be easier, just add boiling water and within 10 minutes you have Roast chicken and vegetables or various other flavours. Although ideal for the mountain, I wouldn't rush out to buy one of these meals back home.

After our instant dinner meal, Jayson and I stayed in the tent as the conditions outside were cold and wet. Sibu and Phokwane arrived in the camp several hours later, so they would have had to endure that cold weather.

campsite sIn the night I had a disturbed sleep, as the breathing is laboured at this altitude and I kept thinking that I must be CRAZY doing this stuff!!! I refocused my mind on the dream and the goal of the summit, and what it would mean to me and also how many people it may inspire if I could reach this goal.
Yes, there was no good reason to turn back. I would tackle it in the same way as I had done in hospital: by taking one day at a time and dealing with the things that were in my control and staying positive about the things that were not in my control (such as the weather).
Let's wait and see what tomorrow brings.

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