By John All
At 8am, the sun strikes the tents for the first time and it is like God brought joy back into the world. At 7:30 this morning it was 9 deg F inside the tent. By 9am it was 50F and it rose into the 80’s by early afternoon.
As the tent warms and we slowly begin to thaw, we pull on thick down jacket and pants and climb out of the tent to go to the toilet tent as well as empty our pee bottles. Last night’s snow is 6 inches deep but begins to melt quickly.
We put out our Voltaic solar panels to begin the morning charging and then head to the dining tent. Coffee mixed with vitamin drink to wake up, and then toast, fried Spam, and an omelette.
The first weeks in basecamp are just acclimatization. We are in no hurry, so we linger over coffee.
The morning is clear and bright and the sun beats us unmercifully. Hats, sunscreen, long sleeves, sunglasses, and lip balm. The snow melts more and more quickly.
We head out for a slow two hour walk. We’re currently at 5400m (17,500 ft) and try to get up to 5600 by cutting through the ice field and boulder hooping up the steep walls in our tiny head of the Khumbu valley. Or perhaps we walk down to Gorek Shep - the closest settlement - for internet and a snack. When we return to camp, the snow is basically gone and the shallow rock layer that covers the glacier is all that remains.
Around noon, clouds begin building. We have a full lunch of soup, rice, meat, and bread and relax in the dining tent for an hour or two. Around 2 we begin to hear the snow pelting the roof as the blazing sun is replaced by an army of dark clouds invading the valley and the snow that just finished melting is replaced.
We head to the tents and either nap or read or practice learning the ukulele in my case. The temperatures slowly begins to drop and then plummet around 4pm. At this point there is several inches of snow on the ground and we pop into the dining tent for some tea and popcorn. It grows colder as the snow continues falling and we turn on the propane heater and sit around chatting and drinking warm beverages to stay hydrated.
At 6pm we eat soup, fried noodles, bok choy leafy greens, and fried potatoes. We have warmed pineapple slices for dessert. We chat and look at pictures and relax until about 8pm when the Nepalis come in and clean up and not so subtly hint that it’s time for them and us to go to bed.
We head through the snow to our tents. Mine is 22F when I arrive and reached a low of 4F around 3am last night. I snuggle first into my Nepali-made sleeping bag (good to about 25F). Then I put my massive -40 deg Ghost Mountain Hardwear bag on top like a quilt. Then my down suit over my feet and my down jacket over my torso. I have three sleeping pads underneath me and I am still slowing melting a hole or trough in the ice underneath me each night.
I snuggle down tightly and begin to read a book on my iPhone - with the phone held several inches into my sleeping bag so my hands don’t freeze.
Around 9pm I drift off to sleep. At 6am the Nepalis begin to move and heat water and prepare food. I cover my head and burrow deeper, until at 8am the blessed sunlight returns to transform the world again...