Valerio Massimo Everest Expedition 2009

Me on the summit of Cho Oyu with Everest in the background

Namaste Kathmandu!

March 30th, 2009 by Valerio

Finally arrived in Kathmandu yesterday morning, via Doha.  Same as ever – noisy, crazy drivers, constant honking of horns.  Although very different to the city I arrived in for my Cho Oyu expedition in late August 2004 – then the streets were eerily empty as the country was under Martial Law – just soldiers and tanks, but given my cab driver’s insistence on playing chicken with everyone else on the road, it was almost certainly safer then…  Eventually after about four near crashes we arrived at the now familiar Hotel Tibet, where I stayed (under curfew) in 2004.  I met up with expedition leader Russell Brice and most of the rest of the team for breakfast.  It was also great to see Mark Whetu and Dean Staples, two Kiwis who I’d been to the summit of Cho Oyu with. 



Russell Brice (expedition leader) and guide Mark Whetu discuss logistics over breakfast
Russell Brice (expedition leader) and guide Mark Whetu discuss logistics over breakfast

Determined to stay up all day to avoid jet lag, I had a pretty relaxed day, despite my nagging worries about the two massive North Face kit bags that I’d sent ahead on Tuesday morning after dumping them in the back of a white van.  Finally at 8pm a smiling Sherpa brought them through the front door, so all my stuff is here.  Thank God – it’s hard to tell your knock-offs from your North Face’s in Kathmandu climbing shops and I don’t want to find out the difference at 8,000 meters..


My three North Face kit bags - happily reunited - with my communications equipment
My three North Face kit bags – happily reunited – with my communications equipment

Last night Russell gave the team a briefing – from the introductions it looks like an unusually strong team, with roughly two thirds of the members having climbed 8,000m peaks before, which is good news for everyone.  We then all had dinner together – traditional Nepali Dal Bhat – not quite sure why given this is the Sherpa staple and we’ll be seeing a lot more of it over the next nine days.  Like a typical Italian, I slipped out after dinner to my favorite restaurant in Kathmandu – Fire and Ice.  In 1997 this was the place I had recurring dreams about while I was trekking for five weeks.  I’d been there on the way in and it is the only place in the city that serves real, wood-fired pizzas and proper pasta.  Exactly what I need in my continuing battle to put on weight.  Now the training is over, it seems to be working better…


Today is a bit frantic – unpacking and repacking for the trek into Base Camp, separating everything into what I need over the next nine days and the rest, and making sure everything is sealed tight as it isn’t going DHL but on the yak’s back.  I will also be running round town buying the things you inevitably forget and then remember on the plane over.  Kathmandu is the last place for any sort of shopping. 


Tomorrow morning at 6am we will be flying in a fleet of very dodgy small planes to one of the most treacherous airstrips in the world, at Lukla.  Cut into the mountain at 2,800m smack bang in the middle of the Himalayas, it angles up at 30 degrees to slow the planes down as they brake furiously before they hit the headwall at the end, where a Sherpa family live in an old crashed plane.  Last time I flew here in 1997 we all (well six of us) sat with our rucksacks on our laps, ice axes protruding (safety not a major thing here), watching the pilot clean the windscreen of the plane with his pocket handkerchief – that sort of journey.


Anyway, back to packing and frantic shopping, which of course takes three times as long due to the inevitable bargaining in every shop.  Tonight will be my last spent in a bed until early to mid June, so I intend to enjoy it – that is if I’m not still haggling over a video camera lens or whatever I’m buying today…


My brand new satellite phone isn’t working in Kathmandu, but I’ve been told the Thuraya network I am on will be fine once I get out of the smoggy city…  Hmm, we’ll see.  If you don’t hear from me for a bit, that will be why…


Namaste to you all from a smoggy Kathmandu.


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