Daily update: A lesson in high-altitude group dynamics

Dave and Mike have learned many lessons along the trail, including how to save their equipment from dust and how to save each other from, well, each other.

Dingboche, Nepal
12:00 noon local time (2:15 A.M. EDT)

Rest day
Today is a rest day before heading up to Loboche, which sits at 16,100 feet (4,907) meters. After that, it's up to Gorak Shep, and then to the Everest Base Camp. We're pretty psyched. From our camp, we can see the face of Island Peak. Talk about a motivator. Unfortunately, it looks like there's a lot of fresh snow up there. Huge pillows can be seen from camp.

Island Peak (Imja Tse)

We went to sleep last night with sleet and snow hitting our tents. Just a dusting, but enough of a weather front to keep things pretty cold and damp. From camp, you can sit and watch the weather systems roll up the valley from Namche. It's foreboding and mysterious at the same time.

We're sending our expedition gear on ahead today. A group of porters is taking a portion of our gear ahead to save time. But because of the weather patterns, we're keeping a good portion of our GORE-TEX with us. Right now it's probably in the 60s with a nice breeze. But looking down into the valley, we can see another storm system blowing in. We're getting ready for another cold night.

Mike and Gerry are down by the river doing some laundry. I'll follow soon. I don't think my tent mate would let me get away with not doing any.

Everyone's health is getting better. Our oxygen levels are okay—not great, but beginning to stabilize. My pulse rate had been high, but went down this morning to 90. Yes, I said 90. Typically, my resting pulse is in the 60s. My O2 level this morning was 84 percent. Since I have no other symptoms of AMS, then this is all right. We had a really hard day, so this reading was to be expected. Basically, I need to hydrate myself more than I have been doing. Shame on me.

I hinted at a topic the other day. Group dynamics. Expeditions are like small, moving villages. You have cooks, porters, guides, and clients. Now picture these people all within a 100 square yard—and oftentimes less—area. Everyone has space issues. Everyone has his or her own idiosyncrasies, "me-time" demands, and other personal needs and desires.

During an expedition, we try to learn things about our partners as quickly as possible. For example, I learned that Mike sometimes snores. I can't stand snoring. If I have to sleep in the same tent as Mike for almost a month, Mike will end up falling on his crampons one evening (insert wry grin). But seriously, something as simple as a snore can have some pretty bad consequences. Let's see what can happen.

First, his snoring keeps me awake. This isn't good at any time, but at high altitudes, it's worse. If I can't sleep, then I can't recharge my internal batteries. If I don't recharge my batteries, I can't perform well on the trail or mountain the next day. If I don't perform well on the mountain, then I put the others in the group and myself at risk. Someone could be seriously hurt—or worse—just because I didn't get a good night's sleep. Now, one day may not hurt me, but compound the lack of sleep over several days, and you can see what can happen.

Communications on this expedition have taken on a whole new meaning. We keep nothing inside. If we're overly tired, we tell the group. If we feel the least little headache coming on us, we tell the group.

And then there's the "me-time" issue. When you're tent-bound with the same person for 12 hours at a time, you really need to understand spatial issues. Personally, I get cranky if I don't have some time to myself (no comments from the crowd back home please). So people know, when I have my journal or book in hand, leave me alone. Back off. Get away. Approach at your own risk. Basically, it's about recognizing your traveling companions' needs and respecting them. Like I said, there's very little privacy on an expedition, so creating that little space of your own becomes vital to your mental well-being.

Tech stuff update. Dust is playing havoc with all of our gear. But never fear, our intrepid guide, Bruce Andrews, suggested duct tape. Yep. So we're attaching some plastic bags with duct tape, and that should protect our laptops and satphone. If any of you out there have suggestions that you think will work, please post them at the bottom of this article.

Batteries. Mike has shut down all non-essential functions on the laptops, and we've cut use down to a bare minimum. We still have a few laptop batteries left before we have to break the seal on the monster gel-cell (our back up).

Thank goodness for my Sony Walkman. It's the sports model and, so far, it has withstood dust, water, and cold temperatures. Rudra, our Sherpa guide, has taken a fancy to it as well. He doesn't know it yet, but when this trip is over, I'm giving it to him. He certainly deserves it.

Well, that's about all for today. Time to rest and drink plenty of fluids for tomorrow's big day. Thanks for everybody's support back home. Seeing the comments and knowing that everyone is sending positive thoughts our way means a whole lot. Sometimes, to get over the next hill, it's a thought, an image from back home that helps you make it up that next hill. So, in a word, thanks.

Want to win a TechRepublic baseball cap? Share your climbing experiences or give the guys encouraging words by posting your comment below, or send us an e-mail. It's that simple.And so you don't miss one step of David and Mike's climb up Island Peak, subscribe to our free TrekMail. Be one of the first 2,000 subscribers to our TrekMail, and you'll get a cool TechRepublic flying disc!

David Bard has been a fixture at TechRepublic for some time now. At one time he was editor in chief of LinuxRepublic and then AdminRepublic. Currently, he occupies space as an editor in chief with TechProGuild. In addition, he’s a freelance writer who has covered extreme sports for years. He also is a writer of horror and—contrary to what his climbing partner may think—is hoping the expedition to Nepal doesn’t provide fodder for his next story. When he’s not at home teaching his year-and-a-half-old daughter why it’s not a good idea to eat rocks, or trying to convince his wife why yet another expedition really is necessary, he’s usually off in some remote section of woods trying to discover himself. He’s still looking.

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