We've Arrived at Base Camp!
Fiona gets Tsampa put on her face by a Sherpa.
The lama at the puja ceremony blessing the offerings.
Location: Everest Base Camp
Local Time: 8pm, Monday 3rd April
Weather: Fine 15C, but down to -10C in the morning
Hi everyone out there. It's Fiona here.
I'm very glad to report that we've finally arrived at base camp. And what's more, we seem to be in pretty good shape - so we have met our first goal for this venture.
Getting to Base Camp
We set out today around 8am and followed a relatively gentle slope for the first half of the hike - slowly easing up the side of the glacier wall. As we got closer to base camp, and moved further and further onto the glacier, the path grew more and more rocky with lots of up and down along the moraine. Even though we only gained around 200m in altitude, I think we climbed up 1000m and down 800m! There were lots of yaks on the trail today - most on their way down from depositing other expeditions' gear (as we are one of the first groups to reach base camp, ours had arrived around a week earlier). The final stages of the hike had us walking alongside the Khumbu Icefall - the one we will later be climbing through. It sure is a sight to behold and it was hard to keep my eyes on the trail as I thought about how we were going to get through this tricky section of the climb. We won't be attempting this for a while though as the "Icefall Doctors" have only just begun work today on setting the route. In fact as we approached our camp we passed a pile of ladders that will no doubt be destined for the icefall.
First Impressions of Everest Base Camp
The site for Everest Base Camp is at the foot of the Khumbu Icefall where the glacier flattens out. That is to say it's consistently up and down with hills and holes all over the place. It's very rocky but closer inspection reveals that everything is sitting on solid layers of ice - well hopefully solid. Several big groups have staked out their positions and are in various stages of developing their campsites.
Our own campsite has been well set up with a permanent dining tent, communications tent, storage tent, toilet tents, and then tents for all the climbers, trekkers and sherpas. For each tent, a rock platform has been put together by our sherpa team (some of whom have been working here for a couple of weeks already). They've also made an effort to build pathways between the tents to reduce the risk of people slipping and twisting ankles or knees around here. We'll be spending lots of time here so will explain more as we go.
The Puja Ceremony
After lunch today, we witnessed and participated in the tradional Puja Ceremony. Each team of Sherpas holds a Puja Ceremony before heading any further up the mountain. The Lama from Pangboche presided over the ceremony which went for around 3 hours.
The Sherpas had set up an altar made of stones and covered in a gold fabric. On this alter they had placed all kinds of delicacies - I believe some were presented as an offering, but most were consumed in the latter part of the ritual. These included a special cake, chocolate bars, biscuits, Pringles, pastries, Coke, Sprite, Beer, red wine, and chang (rice wine).
The Lama and several Sherpas sat on a mat in front of the altar and chanted a series of chants - seeming to be reading from a set of pages that they turned as the ceremony progressed. The rest of the Sherpas sat or stood around the group - joining in with the chanting and throwing rice into the air at certain points. All the climbers and trekkers mingled in with them - sometimes trying to join in where we could. The climbers (including the climbing Sherpas) put our climbing equipment (ice axes, crampons and helmets) around the altar, so that they would be covered with the smoke from the burning incense and so blessed for the climb ahead.
At a certain point, one of the Sherpas called for prayer flags and tied these to a pole which was lying by the altar. With much excitement and commotion, this pole was then lifted on top of the altar, and secured with several ropes. Colourful lines of Prayer Flags hung from the top of the pole and were extended so that they embraced almost all of our camp. More Prayer Flags were strung between these lines as well.
Drinks and food were handed around to everyone - many of the Sherpas enjoying the chance to relax with their favourite alcoholic beverage before the hard work ahead. Then a bowl of tsampa (a type of corn flour) was passed around for everyone to take a handful. With more vigorous chanting, these were then thrown into the air and onto each other. The Sherpas went to everyone and smeared more sampa on their faces - for good luck they said.
Then we were each given a small seed to swallow and a dab of some type of spice to put on our tongues. I was told by one Sherpa that this was to keep any evil away. Finally, we were each presented with a red nylon string to tie around our necks - this is for protection and is supposed to be left on until it falls off.
Although there was much that we didn't understand, the Puja was a fascinating experience. One that means a lot to the Sherpas and was fun to be a participate in.
You may have noticed that we didn't send any photos in the last couple of updates. This was because of a technical problem caused by our ISP changing a policy, the outcome of which prevented us from sending pictures via our Satellite Phone. Paul's brother Tim has worked tirelessly over the past couple of days to move the site over to a new ISP. Thanks Tim, its very much appreciated.
Happy Birthday Jacqueline & Meals
By the way, Paul and I wanted to wish our sisters Happy Birthdays - Meals for today, and Jacqueline a for tomorrow. Sorry we can't be there with you guys but our thoughts are with you.
To Dennis' father, we have passed your message on to him.
Looking forward to a sleep-in and a relaxing day tomorrow.
Posted by: Jeff & Laura Hutt on April 4, 2006 02:48 AM AEST
We wish you all the best of luck and please give a warm hug to our friend and neighbor, Dennis Kellner. We're thinking and praying for you all.
Jeff & Laura Hutt
The Florida Keys
Posted by: MC on April 4, 2006 03:39 AM AEST
Hi Paul and Fiona
Great update! The Puja Ceremony seems to be a very important start for the climb of Mt. Everest. I have never heard the ceremony described in such detail. Thank you. Enjoy your rest day!
Sometimes the scenery around you can change dramatically, from grassy meadows to icy moraines. The key is to be prepared for all terrains. MC
Posted by: Alan Arnette on April 4, 2006 05:02 AM AEST
Hi Paul and Fi,
Congratulations on getting to BC. Sounds like you had a wonderful Puja. Also the weather is still good for you? Looking forward to hearing of your first trip up the Fall and your first ladders! Your dispatches are great, best of the season thus far.
Posted by: Catherine on April 4, 2006 07:07 AM AEST
enjoying your great updates - i've definatly been inspired it sounds like you having a fantastic time (although i guess it gets a lot harder now!)
Good luck with the rest of your journey
Posted by: Liz on April 4, 2006 08:04 AM AEST
Happy to hear you all arrived at BC in good sprits and health! Your Puja sounds as mystical and beautiful as the one we experienced there in 2004. I see the same Lama in your photos!! Wonderful description Fiona.
Continued good health and good luck,
New Jersey, USA
Posted by: Dad and Mary on April 4, 2006 08:17 AM AEST
Wow! Glad to hear you have reached your new home. Sounds like you have all the mod cons. All you need is the north facing backyard! The description of the Puja was very special and we loved the photo.
We are having Meal's birthday dinner tonight, sorry you guys won't be able to make it. We will drink a toast to you.
lots of love
Dad and Mare
Posted by: Jean-Pierre Genton on April 4, 2006 09:13 AM AEST
Happy to hear from you at the base camp. I appreciate your description of the Puja ceremonie. Go on !
Jean-Pierre in Paris
Posted by: Janet Fearnley on April 4, 2006 10:14 AM AEST
Congratulations on reaching this milestone. The updates are great (inlcuding the return of the super pics) and I look forward to reading them daily.
All the best for a safe climb ahead.
Posted by: Meals on April 4, 2006 10:47 AM AEST
Hi paul and fiona - thanks for the birthday wishes. Very impressive of you to remember, considering the excitement in your life at the moment!!
Have a great day. meals
Posted by: Dad H on April 4, 2006 11:17 AM AEST
Fantastic that you've made it to BC, especially in good shape. A message from Eric Simonson said you'd be practicing with crampons and ladders tomorrow, so hope all goes well.
Posted by: barbara on April 4, 2006 11:49 AM AEST
How wonderful to reach the end of the first stage in good shape. This is a fascinating story and I wil kep following Bridgets mum barbara
Posted by: Jeannette Genton on April 4, 2006 01:13 PM AEST
A special note from Paul's grandmother who can't believe you're there. Maman says Felicitation! Now you can turn around and come back home (just kidding).
Posted by: Tamara & Boris Kufman on April 4, 2006 01:20 PM AEST
Hi Paul and Fiona! We admire you courage. It is fascinating to follow your adventure every day. Good luck and safe climbing.
All the best.
Tamara & Boris Kufman
Posted by: Sam and Nick on April 4, 2006 02:33 PM AEST
Congratulations on making your first goal and getting to base camp in good shape. Looks like you've been having lots of fun on the way too :-)
Sammie and Nick
Posted by: Ron Munro on April 4, 2006 04:16 PM AEST
Hi Paul and Fiona,Glad you arrived safely at base camp. It is not long before Mary leaves and no doubt she will meet up with you at Base Camp. Hope the weather is kind particularly while you are getting accustomed to the rarefied atmosphere. Good luck . Ron
Posted by: Anne Munro on April 4, 2006 07:31 PM AEST
Hi Paul and Fiona,
Congratulations on getting to Base Camp. It all seems to have gone so well so far, let's hope it keeps going like that - I am sure it will. It seems hard to think that I was talking to you both in Melbourne just over 2 weeks ago. You have both certainly travelled a long way since then.
All the best, keep up the good work
Anne and Princess Panda
Posted by: sue w on April 4, 2006 07:49 PM AEST
Terrific news you have made it to your new home, the rocks don't look too comfortable to rest on. Keep up the climbing and the good spirits and just head higher.
Posted by: Dame and Beck on April 4, 2006 10:09 PM AEST
Hi Paul and Fiona,
Well done making it to Base Camp. Fiona - Is this the start of a new make-up look for you? You never know, it may catch on. Great to hear about the Puja Ceremony. I knew Coke had the highest market penetration in the world but didn't know they had even made it to such Sherpa ceremonies at M.E Base Camp! We are enjoying your updates every day. Take care, love Dame and Beck
Posted by: Emily C on April 4, 2006 10:18 PM AEST
Great to hear that you all arrived safely at Base Camp. Congratulations on making the first stage in such great shape!
Enjoy settling into your new home.
Posted by: Jacqui Harrington on April 4, 2006 11:52 PM AEST
Hey you guys! Great to keep reading your updates and glad the photos are back as they're fun to look at. Just wanted to thank you both for the msg and call today...sorry I couldn't answer....patients til late but had dinner with the fam which was really nice. Keep doing the fun things...much more enjoyable for us to read about. You guys are really giving me something to 'sing' about - loved the present. With love and wishes, jacqueline
Posted by: QECVI Everest fans on April 5, 2006 01:33 AM AEST
Hi Paul and Fiona!
Congratulations on reaching Base Camp! We have a "potty" question for you today! Where does the waste go from the toilet tents at Base Camp? Inquiring Canadian minds want to know!!
Posted by: Don McComb on April 5, 2006 10:15 AM AEST
Hello Paul and Fiona! Greetings from Sunny Miami, Florida! I want to wish you all the best luck in your quest for the summit. One question, any problems adjusting to the altitude at base camp? Or did the slow adjustment to altitude in the hike there work ok. In a couple of years I'm thinking of doing the hike to the base camp. I was into mountain climbing in a big way back in the 70's,for the most part in the western U.S. Don't think I can do it at that level these days, though I expect I can handle the hike you just completed. Anyway looking forward to tagging along via the computer on your quest. Once again, best wishes!
Posted by: Suzie Retschko on April 5, 2006 02:13 PM AEST
Hi Fi and Paul,
Good to see you have reached your first milestone - base camp. Now I guess the real fun/ challenge starts.
All well hear in terms of my pregnancy, only 7 weeks until our second little girl arrives - cant wait. That should be around the same time that you are progressing close to the summit?? Not sure what your timetable is, I guess weather dictates it to a certain extent.
Good luck and keep well. I hope Paul's throat improves.
Suzie, Martin and Mia.
Posted by: Laura & Jonno on April 8, 2006 06:40 PM AEST
Bridge & Chris. CONGRATULATIONS, we are thrilled to hear of your engagement news. Such an exciting wonderful time. We will pass on the link to the London girls.
Looking forward to the London leg of your engagement party.
Lots of Love, Laws & Jonno