Saturday, 21 April 2018

Himalaya day #11 - EBC

Left Lobouche early morning to get to Gorak Shep in bright sunshine with Nuptse in full view with Everest initially hidden.  This is where the Everest circus really starts and is a far cry from the lower down tea houses that still resemble Nepalese family life. Up here it’s all about a place to sleep on route to Everest base camp.

Now before the trip I was very uneasy about visiting EBC.  I’ve become increasingly cynical of the whole Everest thing. The fact that Victoria Pendleton and Ben Fogle, both climbing novices, are getting on the band wagon this year kind of sums it up for me.

There are 39 expedition teams this year, 39 FFS! That’s a circus if there ever was. It’s become spoon fed mountaineering; all of the ladders are pre- fixed by the sherpas as are all the fixed ropes. It’s the sherpas who are the true heroes. Heck you can now spend $150 to spend a night in a tent at EBC. It’s big business. 39 multiplied by #15 on a team multiplied by $100k and you get my drift. It does not sit well with me that someone who has a 100 grand of disposable income can effectively wake up one morning and decide that they will climb Everest. I can tell you that the true mountaineering community are aghast and see it for what it actually is, a shit show. 

That all being said it is a complicated issue for Nepal. 1953 has meant that basic facilities in Kathmandu and the Khumbu region have dramatically improved as a result of the Everest story. The whole associated industry has provided much needed wealth. However, it strikes me that there is a shift happening in Nepal in that they are coming full circle and recognising that money and material things are not as important as preserving the lives of the sherpa community and their loved ones.

On a personal note, I found the walk to EBC challenging given the pure time we were on our feet today. I also enjoyed the photo opportunity. The juxtaposition of the multi coloured 500 or so tents with the white Khumbu ice fall was impressive. You got a real sense for the cravasses in the ice fall too but ultimately we as non-summit teams were not allowed into base camp itself. This detracted from my overall experience. Am I pleased that I have seen it ‘yes’, did it live up to expectations ‘yes’, would I go again ‘no’.

Another big negative aspect for me is the Everest high way. It’s full of yaks ferrying the North Face expedition bags which was interesting but it’s also full of people just going to say that they’ve been to base camp. It’s horrible. I thought I would get a sense for the buzz in the camp given we were arriving the same time as all of the spring teams were but that was not the case.

It was though a large undertaking  to get here. Effectively 10 days of acclimation so that should not be sniffed at.

If you are considering going I would get a move on and go soon as it will only get worse. I also recommend the Gokyo loop as the trails we were on removes you from Everest highway and much quieter and remote.

Back to Gorak Shep or ‘Shit’ as it should be known. It was full of sick people all coughing their guts up trying to come to terms with sleeepjng at 5,184m.

* Someone in the group said you would see more tents in the Calais refugee village. That got me thinking. I would argue that those primarily Syrian refugees have taken more risks (traffickers, drowning at sea, border crossings etc) to get to Calais than what the largely ‘plastic’ western climbers will do to summit Everest. 

** second after-thought: I had a flash back on the Indian lady who is summiting Everest this year as part of the 7 summits. She was going awfully slow up Gokyo Ri when we passed her. Frankly she did not look fit.

day 11 video:

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