In western society we have carefully cultivated unwritten rules governing social engagement. Many of these rules are on display riding the Tube in London. For example, you really shouldn’t talk to anyone unless you need them to move so you can get off the carriage.
Sometimes these rules are challenged by circumstance. The concept of personal space during peak times on the Tube is Exhibit A. You might have to spend 20 minutes staring into the ear of the person beside you, while trying desperately to think of something else. Camp 1 on the slopes of Ama Dablam in Nepal is another place where the rule regarding personal space is seriously challenged.
Ang Dawa Sherpa is a skilled and experienced mountaineer, and a wonderful guy. He helped me to navigate the most technical mountain in Nepal through to our summit attempt. We are friends.
As he and I approached Camp 1 from Basecamp, I realized that this was the first time we would share a tent. The questions started swirling in my mind. Was he wearing clean socks? Does he sleep on his back or his side? Flatulence? Would my sleeping bag absorb the odour, or will he notice? Why hasn’t anyone invented charcoal filter sleeping bag fill? I tried to stop the questions from coming, but I couldn’t.
As we got into the tent that evening, I needed to ask him the most important question of all:
Me: “Hey Ang Dawa. Do you snore?”
Ang Dawa: “I don’t know. Maybe”
Me: “Wait. You’re married. Your wife would have told you if you snore.”
Ang Dawa: “OK. Maybe a little.”
Me: “You’re killing me.”
My worst fears were realized within 30 seconds of Ang Dawa closing his eyes. The deep rumbling with each exhale might have triggered an avalanche if we were closer to the glacier. Like the Grinch Who Stole Christmas, my only thought was “How do I stop it from coming?” Perhaps I could train him by prodding his sleeping mat every time he made a sound. Sadly, his sonorous persistence outlasted the frostbite setting into my hand. Damn.
By 11:00pm I could take it no more. Fortunately a number of expeditions had set up tents at Camp 1 that were still unoccupied. I decided to find new lodgings, accepting the risk I might fall off the rocky ledges of the slope while moving my sleeping bag, mat, and whatever else I needed to survive on my own into a vacant tent.
I took some satisfaction thinking that Ang Dawa would wake up and find I was gone without knowing where exactly I went.