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Chickens and Altitude

Dear Friends,

Special hellos to Greg Taucher and the DDB team for the recent email.

Over here, the weather has been warming up a bit although this has been accompanied by snow showers at night and in the day at Basecamp Rongbuk. As a reminder of the harsh conditions and risks of high altitude travel, we had yet another case of a sick climber/ trekker from Scotland who needed to go down late last night. However, our Tibetan jeep driver just had had a 10 hour drive up from Tingri and refused to go back out in the dark again. So the invalid was kept on oxygen for a while. We understand he finally went down in the wee hours of the morning.

Many expeditions come to the north side without contracting for a jeep of their own. Certainly, the Chinese Mountaineering Association (CMA) camp keeps a standby jeep at all times but when it is away for any reason, emergency evacuations are delayed. This is largely because few of the 20-odd expeditions here bother with or can afford their own jeep for which the CMA charges a princely sum of USD$6,000. What then happens is that expeditions which do have a jeep of their own get numerous requests from lesser financed expeditions for use of their vehicle. Ironically, many of these expeditions without jeeps of their own are commercially organised ones; charging strangers large sums of money for a shot at Everest in exchange for providing the logistics of the climb. The upshot of these developments is: caveat emptor. On Everest, you normally get what you pay for.

The highlight of last night here in the dining tent was the appearance of fried chicken. Personally, this is the first fresh chicken to pass my lips in one month. It’s also interesting to note how we’ve been sleeping over rocks, sand and ice for over a month – such is the lot of the expedition climber!

On a sadder note, this morning , we heard of the death of Babu Chiri Sherpa on the south side ( Nepal ) of the mountain. Apparently, he had been taking pictures near the relatively safe ground of Advance Base Camp when he fell into a crevasse and was killed. His body was brought down to Basecamp and flown to Kathmandu shortly afterwards. Babu was an enormously strong climber who had made headlines through his record breaking speed climbs of Everest as well being the first person to spend the night on the summit of Mt Everest. My personal memories of him is that of an extremely pleasant fellow who was only to happy to offer tea whenever I was descending/returning to my Everest basecamp in 1998. His camp was situated 50m from ours and his cheery smile was always welcome. Our condolences to his friends and family.

Rozani has gone up to Advance Basecamp today with the company of an American climber, with a view of completing his 7,000m acclimatisation cycle. Beng Cheong, who was supposed to have also been on this rotation is still feeling under the weather and has remained at Basecamp. The uneven acclimatisation levels of our team will mean some adjustments in our summit climbs. There may be a possibility that we might not be able to climb in a team of four as originally planned. Early days yet.
Ciao,
David

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