Valerio Massimo Everest Expedition 2009

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

Kala Pattar (bis) and team selection

April 14th, 2009 by Valerio

Yesterday we climbed to the 5,500 meter summit of Kala Pattar (the classic Everest view point), or at least what we thought was Kala Pattar…  It was in fact an almost identical summit with a better view of Everest – so a guide’s minor case of mistaken directions led to us being the only group on top of this rarely climbed peak.  The views were stunning, it was a perfect day, and it was a very gentle way to begin the repetitive climb high / sleep low yo-yo of our acclimatization programme.  Some of the trekkers on their way home, however, weren’t so happy at having climbed the wrong peak and the expressions of frustration were obvious as they eventually puffed and panted their way to the top – the exceptions being the two female trekkers who climbed it with well acclimatized grace.


We were back in camp by midday and in the afternoon I took a walk up to the main Base Camp (pictured from the summit, below).  Now I can understand why Russell decided to camp away from the main EBC.  It was like a scene out of the middle ages – with a running sewer of a main path and yak-shit everywhere.  No organization, loos next to kitchens, etc.  A complete maze.  Coming back to our clean and organized camp – even if it is half an hour further from the start of the Icefall – made me realise how lucky we are to have the environment that we do back here.


I also had my second hot shower since we left Kathmandu – gas powered no less – which was sublime.  Given the size of the team, we are only likely to be able to shower once a week so I made sure I enjoyed it while it lasted.  From now until the next one it will be ‘bird baths’ (a bowl of hot water outside) or the infamous ‘wet wipe wash’ in the tent.


For lunch I opened one of my precious risottos (with porcini mushrooms) and went into the Sherpa cook tent to make it myself.  God it tasted delicious, even if it was out of a packet (it was Riso Gallo BTW E…).  Anything different can lift your mood, as despite the high relative standard of the cooking here, it is basically a rota of the same things, and if it’s meat, it is mainly Yak.  Yaks are sacred and not supposed to be slaughtered, yet it is OK to eat them if they ‘fall off the trail’.  Despite their famously sure footing, a lot of Yaks seem to fall off the trail…  I am not a fan – a bit too chewy for me.  Dinner was chicken (finally), which had made its way up from Lukla on the back of a Yak, somewhat ironically.


After dinner everyone piled into the White Pod to watch a film (yes we do have a widescreen TV here at our Base Camp).  Inexplicably someone put on Hellboy 2, which if you haven’t seen it, is the most idiotic film ever made.  Needless to say no one owned up into having loaded it into the DVD player and there were gentle recriminations this morning over breakfast as everyone complained it was the worst film they’d ever seen.  I left early to watch Louis Theroux on my iPod in my sleeping bag…yes the film was that bad.  From now on someone has to vouch for whatever is screened, although it can’t be too racy if any of the Sherpas are watching – their society is a conservative one and female nudity is a definite no-no.


Today we had a full team meeting to discuss the plan for the next few weeks.  Russell is sticking with his plan for the team to acclimatise away from the Icefall, by descending to Lobuche BC and climbing Lobuche peak.  The first team (the group is being split into three teams) will leave the day after tomorrow for the ascent – at over 6,100 meters it is a proper climb (and an extra Himalayan summit), with a decent height gain from the Base Camp at 4,850 meters (GPS revealed it to be 100 meters lower than we previously thought), and involving a night camped out on the mountain.  It is however, two hours down the valley, after which we have to trek back up.  Shame it isn’t next door, but it makes sense to keep out of the Icefall for as long as we can and Russ’s innovative approach is already being copied by some of the other teams.


Today the guides are having a meeting to split the group into three teams, each of which will have different schedules.  The aim is to have the fittest / most acclimatized / healthy / experienced (and therefore theoretically fastest) climbers in Team 1, followed by Team 2 and then the slowest in Team 3.  As Russ explained, this makes sense logistically – keeping people of the same pace together.  Chris Macklin, David Tait and I have consistently shown a similar comfortable ‘walking pace’ (defined as not getting breathless – i.e. being able to hold a conversation while walking) since Lukla and are in a very small minority in that we haven’t yet had any signs of illness or altitude sickness (touch wood).  Anyway the guides will decide and we’ll find out tomorrow.  In any event David will eventually be on a slightly different programme given this will be his second attempt to climb the mountain without oxygen.  These teams are likely to change of course as we all move higher, people react differently to the altitude and/or get sick, but they will provide a very early indication of possible eventual summit teams.  One thing is for sure – there is a long way to go and a lot of painful altitude to be gained before thoughts can turn to the summit…


Me at the summit of our own private Kalar Pattar with Everest behind

Me at the summit of our own private Kala Pattar with Everest behind



Main Everest Base Camp (center left, random colours) and our Base Camp (bottom right, yellow tents) from the summit of our Kala Pattar

Main Everest Base Camp (center left, random colours) and our Base Camp (bottom right, yellow tents) from the summit of our Kala Pattar

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