November 4th 2017 –
All memory of my glamping at Basecamp started to erode with the trip to High Camp yesterday. Tonight, the relative luxury of Basecamp is a foggy recollection as I share a two man tent with Rinji, the climbing sherpa, at Camp 1. We are perched on a small ledge of rocks looking down into the cirque with a glacial lake of green water in the center. You can’t go too far without falling into oblivion.
We left High Camp fairly early even though the climb to Camp 1 only takes about two hours. The plan was to arrive at Camp 1, have some lunch, and then go to Camp 2 tackling Yellow Tower (a vertical rock face that is considered the crux of the climb) before returning to Camp 1 to sleep. That plan was discarded when we arrived at Camp 1 at noon – cloud had moved in with snow starting to fall. Camp 2 would have to wait until the next morning, 18 hours away.
18 hours is 1,080 minutes. 18 hours is 64,800 seconds. 18 hours is a very long time when you are stuck inside a small two-man tent with one other person. As Rinji and I settled in for our time together he took his boots off. I was suddenly struck by the limited foresight of the tent designers when it came to ventilation. I was about to spend 18 hours in a locker room.
Rinji claimed for himself the spot by the entrance to the tent so that he could boil the water for our freeze dried meals in the vestibule of the tent. My only exit from the locker room was to climb over Rinji. Now I felt like someone put me in a locker, in the locker room.
Could it get any worse?
A consequence of taking a medicine called Diamox to help fend off altitude sickness is that you need to pee a lot. There was a panel on my side of the tent with access to the outside, and a precipitous drop if you strayed a little too far. It wasn’t exactly an entrance, more of a porthole. Every time I needed to pee I would extricate myself from my sleeping bag, open the flap for the porthole, stick my upper body through the opening, while leaving my feet inside the tent. Anyone watching this feat of gymnastics will have seen what can only be described as a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis. They will also know more about my physiology than they probably should.
Conversation was fairly limited because Rinji doesn’t speak much English, and my Nepalese is non-existent. I have the impression our exchanges were similar to the grunting conversation of early cavemen. I would point at packets of freeze dried food and say ‘good’. No need for punctuation, or clever turn of phrase.
The snow continued to fall throughout the afternoon, evening, and during the night. Rinji and I kept whacking the sides of the tent from the inside to push the snow off. I’m happy to say that Rinji slept soundly, managing to take up a considerable amount of space for a fairly small man. I didn’t fair as well, almost making it through an entire John Grisham novel. The next day I was going to have to face the climb to Camp 2 on about 2 hours of sleep. At least the locker room would be a distant memory.