Author Archives: simplysab

First two days on trail yield challenges, laughs

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It was clear skies the day we left. We taxied from the Shelter Hostel to the trail  after an oatmeal breakfast. One would think we could walk the 7 k but we figured we better save our strength as the first day was supposed to be one of the hardest. And it was good that we did!

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Desert sands

The trail started with a view of the Eilat Inlet  off the Red Sea on one side and a steep 3000 meter ascent on the other. For hours it snaked up,  down and around mountains of multi- coloured sand  rock.  It was strenuous, beautiful, sometimes  treacherous but being in the quiet solitude of the desert was bliss. Especially after the airports, hotels and taxis.

The technical challenge of the trail is farther outside of Jen’s comfort zone than she anticipated and I often will hear muttered curses of “this is crazy” behind me as she digs into her deep well of strength and courage.  She’s a real trooper and is doing awesome. With some fairly extreme hiking behind me I am able to help her through some tough spots, but by the end of the day  we are both done in.

Shortly before dark on our first day we scrambled up the side of a wadi (a canyon that can flash flood during rainstorms; it wasn’t raining but better safe than sorry) and set up camp on a large rock shelf  overlooking the canyon with the Egyptian  border on the far side. It felt very remote. With the exception of seeing  some day hikers our first hour on the trail, we hadn’t seen a soul all day.

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My boots sticking out of the tent as the wind blows

We didn’t end up finishing the first days hike until the end of the second day and by then our water was gone and we were parched. When we finally arrived to the designated camp spot we couldn’t find our water cache. Turns out we were at the wrong place and had to hike an extra  4K to get it. Groan!

A crazy hard wind was blowing last night and we woke this morning to find our tents  wrapped around our bodies. Then trying to take my tent down, it was whipped from my hands  and into a thorny acacia tree. Unfortunately, it  ripped it in several places and tonight it is patched  with Band-Aids, as well as Jennifer’s blistered toes (check out her blog of the trip at jenniferwilliamson.ca ).

The nights are cold, the days are warm, the pack is heavy, the food is meagre, the trail is hard, the laughs are plentiful. So far, so good.

 

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Dispatches from Everest

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[Note from Sabrina: I just spoke with her this morning. She’s doing well, and is on her way down from Basecamp. Judging by the fact that she wrote this entire story on her cellphone, I think it’s safe to say her fingers are still intact)

My apologies for the disjointed mess of my last post. The internet, when available, here in the himalayas is sketchy at best. After writing it out a few times and losing it, I sacrificed any resemblance of style in my rush to send it off.

I am feeling weak and tired today. It is so much colder. We wake in the mornings, our water is frozen and the frost covering the ceiling and walls of our little plywood room give the impression of sleeping in an icebox. We are getting more remote every day.

I don’t know how anybody lives here. The mountains are spectacular but the weather and lack of oxygen make the land hostile and unforgiving. The Sherpa are a tough and resilient people. Porters carry loads three times their weight in huge baskets piled high, with a strap across thier forehead, sometimes wearing only flip flops on their feet. Still, we have been incredibly lucky as last week it was storming and snowing. And Govinda, our guide, has said sometimes it is not even this warm in September. There is nothing like doing without the basics of oxygen, warmth, showers, and clean clothes to fully appreciate them. You cannot imagine what my nails look like.

We have an awesome group. There is Alan and Chloe from England. They are in the middle of a year long trip around the world and add a lot of humour to our little team. Jack and Alix are from Australia. They are on their way back home after spending a year living in London. Jack is a chef and Alix is a science major who has been working as a nanny and is a real sweetheart. Shelly and Jamie are a super nice mother/daughter team from Seattle. Shelly is a nurse, her daughter Jamie is a crazy fit accountant. The last couple are Ashley and Liam. Ashley is a perky, young doctor, a first generation Canadian of Philipino decent and Liam is a civil engineer from Ireland. Everybody except for Jim, me and Shelly (who is 49) are in their twenties but we have all meshed together nicely.

Before I became so nauseous and lost my appetite I was craving meat. In one of the tea houses (correction – they do have limited electricity through solar and generator) cheezeburgers were offered. I was so excited. What came was a slab of yak cheese between two pieces of bread. Talk about disappointed ! The food is generally inconsistent except for the Dal Blat. Meat is scarce.

Another day

We make the final push to base camp today. It is like someone has flipped a switch on the group. There wasnt much talking at breakfast. Most of us are feeling pretty rough except Jack, Alan, and Jamie. Sadly, Alix has had to turn around and we will meet her a couple of camps down. She is being escorted by one of the porters. We have passed many memorials of people who have died on these mountains. A sobering sight.

Another day

We made base camp! It was an awesome feeling of accomplishment reaching our goal but base camp itself was a little underwhelming. It was a far smaller area than I imagined, rocky and uneven. BUT we saw the khumbu ice fall between base camp and camp one. I have read much about it but didn’t think we would see it from where we were. It was exciting for me. A large percentage of those who die on Everest perish there because it is notoriously unstable. We heard the roar of three avalanches and saw two very small landslides. It was surreal. On the the hours back to camp the world faded out for me. There was no past, no future, no place and no people. It was just the click of my poles and the sound of my feet hitting the earth, one after the other. Everything else disappeared.

The day after base camp the plan was to go up Kala Patthar. Unfortunately, we were in pretty bad shape. I was coughing badly and blowing blood out of my nose, Jim was dizzy and faint, and we both were heaving with bad headaches. We haven’t been able to stomach much for days. From the peak of Kala Patther you are face to face with the peak of Everest. Only Alan, Jamie and Jack were attempting it. Even 15 minutes before they set out, I couldn’t decide what to do. Jim wasnt going but I so badly wanted to look Everest in the eye. Base camp was the goal but for me, so was Kala Patthar. In the end, sense trumped sand. I have made my peace with it. There is no doubt in both of our minds that not going up was the right decition for us. Jack ended up coming down. Alan and Jamie made it. We have met Alix again. She toughed out another day but had to be airlifted to the hospital in Kathmandu where she is now. Jack went with her. Hopefully we will see them when we get back there. We are on our way down now. We should be there in four or five more days. Already we can breath better and the symptoms of altitude are fading. The air is warmer, our appetite is back. Ashley has managed a shower of sorts and has said “It is so nice, I don’t smell like vomit anymore”. I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and there is no question that I have aged ten years. I hope it’s reversable. We are having a break today. We need it. I think that whether you are on a mountain or managing daily life, you can’t avoid the uphills. You soldier on and take a break when you can. For now, I am off to eat some Dal Blat. Tomorrow morning it will be Tibetan bread with honey before setting off back on the trail.