After Hours

Daily update: Emotional highs and lows

At an altitude of 16,000 feet (4,877 meters), almostEverest trekkers Mike and Dave are realizing that the climb isn't just a physical struggle; it's also a mental challenge.


4/19/00
Loboche, Nepal

Greetings from Loboche. At around 16,000 feet (4,877 meters), it beats any altitude David or I have ever achieved. We hit the trail at 8:00 A.M. and arrived in Loboche at 1:30 P.M. Along the way, we stopped for lunch around 10:30 A.M. at a forlorn little village called Duhgla. Duhgla was on a windswept hill with the Himalayas looking down on us—an incredible sight.

The trek to Loboche involved slowly walking ever upward through a valley that was a glacial moraine—we walked on rocks, rocks, and more rocks. Giant chipped white incisors—the mountains of this region—ringed the desolate valley. Closer in, the lower mountains were black—basalt I believe, though it's been ages since I took a geology class (almost as many ages as it took to form these giant peaks). We are truly in the Himalayas now.

Today's picture shows a long stretch of cairns on the approach to Loboche. These cairns are to honor and memorialized those who died attempting to summit Everest. The cairns display prayers and, sometimes, names and dates.

Cairns lining the valley approach to Loboche. The valley is full of such memorials.


Loboche is the last town we'll pass on our ascent, and it's more of an outpost in the wilderness. They have a radiotelephone here that can be used to arrange helicopter evacuations. In the last few days, we've seen the helicopters going back and forth, sometimes below us, sometimes above.

David was extremely ill with altitude sickness today. I think all he could eat all day was one Cliff bar. Bruce started him on 500 mg of Diamox, and he struggled all day up the valley. We had someone port his pack for him. He's today's hero. Based on my pulse/O2 readings, Bruce also started me on Diamox—250 mg—and another dose later at dinner. I was okay until the last stretch. On a level, barren plain, believe it or not, I just ran out of energy. I started counting footsteps as a way to slowly concentrate. From where I first felt faint to where I stepped into the campsite was one thousand thirty five steps, if you're interested to know.

I collapsed, Dave collapsed, Gerry collapsed. After taking a nap and getting some fluids into us, we're all doing a little better. Typing this note doesn't make me winded any more. You might wonder if all this hardship is worth it. It most definitely is—on every level: spiritual, mental, and physical.

In fact, I thought you might like to know what the emotional highs and lows are for us every day. There's a pattern, for sure. You begin the day knowing you're going to be challenged past any limitation you ever thought you had. So you have to psyche yourself up for that. If you're feeling okay and not too sick, you get into a slow stride—what we've been calling the rest stride—and you realize that it will be possible. When you reach the top of the hike, you feel completely overwhelmed with the knowledge that once again, you've taken yourself past where your body ought to be able to go. It can almost make you weep. However, you realize that you will have to do this every day of the trip, and that can be depressing. Finally, you're not at camp yet. David and I have compared notes on this, and I was amused to learn we both then start thinking, as we walk, exhausted, those last few hundred feet, "Where the hell is the damn camp! Why does the damn camp always have to be on the other side of the village?"
That previous sentence has been cleaned up from its original state. Mike and Dave's version was a little stronger. Cool as our boss is, he'd have to fire me if I didn't editorially "lighten" the verbiage. Just FYI…
A couple of interesting things happened to me today. I got to walk with our Sherpa guide, Pasanz. Actually, Pasanz walked with me to make sure I was going to be okay. He was ready to take my pack if I couldn't carry it anymore. In the meantime, he's carrying the battery/spare laptop bag. Folks at work have seen me carry my tan briefcase with the shoulder strap. That's what we're using for the giant—and heavy at around 20 kilos—battery backup. This briefcase is being toted places I never imagined it would go. It's a very incongruous sight, as Pasanz uses the shoulder strap as a head strap, porter style, and slings the bag over his back.

Anyway, today Pasanz showed me some small fragrant bushes with dried red flowers, clinging to the black hillsides. These, he said, are called Sunbati and are used for incense. Every morning, they are thrown on the cook fire as an offering to Buddha. The smoke goes up to Buddha along with prayers for well-being. Pasanz then showed me some scrub Juniper bushes, called Dube, and explained that these, too, are used for incense. There is also a third incense found in the mountains, but we didn't see them.

Only three laptop batteries to go. If I could get one to last more than two hours, we could use it for two days. We're on the right track. Using a setting to conserve battery power, I've lowered the processor from 500 to 250 MHz, and that may finally do the trick—the drain on the battery power seems to have slowed.

Quote of the day: As Gerry once again gets dressed to leave the warm comfort of our tent for the latrine tent, "This rehydration is for the birds."

Peace,
Mike
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Mike Jackman is an editor in chief of TechProGuild, an editor of PC Troubleshooter and Windows Support Professional, and also works as a freelance Web designer and consultant. Together with his co-editor in chief David Bard, he is traveling to Nepal to report on high-altitude technology and to climb 20,285-foot Imja Tse. In his spare time (when he can find some), Mike’s an avid devourer and writer of science fiction, parent to two perpetually adolescent cats, and a hiking enthusiast.

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