April 12, 2019
I remember Lobuche to Gorak Shep being absolutely miserable when I was here before. Heat has always been my biggest issue, so without that this time, I wasn’t too concerned. Christopher and I had guessed we’d get to Gorak Shep in 5 or 6 hours. We made it in 3.
I started telling the boys that I wasn’t quite sure what was so different this time around; I clearly don’t have the massive pack that I had before, my leg’s not falling off due to the heat, and I’ve had a lot more time in the mountains since my first go. But, I think I like Rob’s explanation the best. “You’re just more badass now!”
Because we haven’t been in any rush, the trekkers we first met in Lukla are now passing us on their way down. It feels damn good for them to see me again and be so stoked. The hugs, the high fives, the well wishes, and the support everyone’s been dishing out put me on cloud nine.
A double above knee amputee gentleman passed me on a horse for the second time. Apparently he went in to base camp. I hobbled along as to catch him (no fucking chance) and screamed to ask his name. I don’t blame him for not wanting to stop on the shit terrain on a horse, but I really had my heart set on talking to him. Mingma, another one of our Sherpa — the young one with tattoos, explained to me that the man was actually Nepali and was hurt in the earthquake in 2015. Even though I didn’t get to talk with him, it motivated me. The fact that he was out here, by whatever means necessary, lit another fire inside me. He’s differently abled, and still finding a way to see the places he loves.
I’m having to pick my poison now – my poison being boredom. At what point do I really want to be doing nothing? If we stop in Gorak Shep tonight, we are only a couple hours away from base camp. The earlier I get in to base camp, the longer I’m just sitting in base camp. At least in Gorak Shep, WiFi isn’t $75 for a quick glimpse at your emails.
Once we make it in to base camp, we will wait at least a week to acclimatize before we push for our first rotation. There’s the misconception that I’ll get there and just instantly start working my way up — not the case. On our first rotation, we will go through the ice fall and up to camp three over a few days time, and then come alllll the way back down. Like back down to Namche down (basically our day one of trekking). Then we will wait for another weather window and go on our rotation for a summit bid. So yep, I’ll have to go BACK through the ice fall. Redundant, I know. One day I’ll learn to come up with a plan in the mountains that’s realistic and efficient for my leg health. Until then, hard way it is. At least, I’m used to muscling things by now — technique will come. Still crazy to me that I’ve only had an above knee prosthetic for three and a half years.
The mountain medicine teams have determined that I’ll essentially be climbing Everest four times due to our rotations and me exerting more than twice the energy and effort that everyone else will, due to me missing my leg so high. I acclimatize better than most, but we’ve also planned on bringing more oxygen for me due to the nature of my body and energy expenditure. Breathing sufficient O2 at extreme altitudes keeps your body warmer and my biggest fear is frostbite on my nub. I don’t have much more leg to risk after all.
April 13, 2019
There’s not a ton to report today. Honestly, we could’ve started walking at 830 and made it in to base camp fairly early, but we all wanted to try and snag a bit of WiFi – which never actually happened. We hit the trail a bit before 10 as the sun broke through the heavy clouds and fog.
We’ve met such a broad spectrum of people along the way. We bumped into a gentleman who met me in Russia, and he was absolutely elated to see me. He also informed me that I had inspired him to not use high altitude porters and go oxygen-less on his Everest attempt. Later, we bumped into a lovely woman named Sophie who served six years in the Army. She started to cry saying that I had inspired her. I told her to stop because I didn’t want to rock up to base camp crying and out of breath. We snapped a photo and she excused herself. I feed off of everyone’s emotions out here. It’s easy for me to share their pain or excitement, or sympathetically join them in crying.
Naturally, you always bump into a rude person no matter what you’re doing or where you are. Saddens me that it’s usually an American or European as they are guests in another country. Typically, if someone is rude to me, I can shake it off. But the moment someone is hateful to someone else, it’s hard for me to bite my tongue and refrain from filleting someone with my words. I was proud of myself for only letting out a couple sentences as we passed them in to base camp.
Our base camp is full of gold and orange domes with a couple of larger tents acting as our dining, kitchen, and comms tents. As much as I hate to admit it, I was excited to be greeted by our crazy Kenyan and British counterparts. I suppose they’re not so bad ;).
I was finally reunited with my favorite locals — our Sherpas and cooks! Sange embraced me with a huge hug and I tricked him into saying he missed me — I am looking forward to making the ascent with him. Kinsan stood off to the side still wearing his massive smile, I snatched him up with a laugh and a hug. He later showed me the throne of a toilet he and a few others so kindly built for me. I’m actually laughing as I type this. They managed to cut out the seat of a lawn chair and cover it in foam so I can go to the bathroom away from the boys. If that’s not love, I don’t know what is.
April 14, 2019
3 AM: The sounds of avalanches wake me, but fighting with my prosthetic leg which is shoved in my sleeping bag to keep warm kept me awake. While the loud rumbles should send a tiny bit of fear down my spine, it’s actually soothing and I play a game of which direction they’re coming from until it rocks me back to sleep.
6 AM: I’m up for good now as I can start to hear the kitchen coming alive, footsteps throughout camp, and Pete whistling away. I laid in my sleeping bag wondering why the Hell my neck was killing me and eventually convinced myself to get moving. I am jazzed on my massive dome tent as I can actually stand up to put my leg on, instead of having to crawl out of a tent to put it on.
It’s not like there’s many options for maintenance here so my morning routine is pretty simple: brush my teeth, wipe down my face with freezing cold water, make an attempt to pluck a rogue eyebrow hair, and throw on some deodorant. I can’t wait to break out my Coleman Solar Shower. It’s the little things out here that make the biggest difference.
11 AM: I’ve sorted my gear for the Puja this afternoon. I’ve been blessed more times since being in Nepal than I ever have in my life. I pulled out my summit suit, boots, technical gear, crampon foot, and the other essentials for God willing, a summit. I’m excited for the ceremony as it’s something I’ve only seen on television. Sams managed to pull out every piece of gear to get blessed — I need far less blessings than that one. He needs all the help he can get.
12 PM: The snow started to dump and the Sherpa team began carrying out provisions for offerings and the blessing. I was placed in a chair and handed an umbrella and money for the lama. For an hour the lama and his assistant beat on the drum and sang prayers over us. I enjoyed watching the Sherpa team jumping around, dancing, and laughing — it was a nice change of pace from their seriousness on the trail.
Not only was it our Puja, it was the Nepalese New Year. The lama wished me well when I gave him our offerings, and the flour and treats were brought out. Christopher scolded me for not taking the sweets because it was bad juju. Eventually, I had neither hand empty and the snacks were now filling my pockets. Flour was smeared on and thrown all over us. While I still have no idea what any of it means or represented, it sure was fun to watch everyone cut loose a bit.
The rum was passed around as Kinsan filled the cap for each person to throw back. Shortly after, San Miguel, Sprite, and Cokes came out to celebrate — naturally, the entire climbing team managed to snag beers.
6 PM: Surprisingly, dinner was served on time and everyone was in attendance. Lau, our basecamp cook, brought in a chocolate cake with the words, “Happy New Years 2076 HST Team” on it. I’m impressed with his craft — he made a cake at over 17,000 feet while I’ve just mastered baking at 7,000 feet in Colorado.