Daily update: Campsite routines and secrets

Just what constitutes a "typical" day for our almostEverest trekkers? What do they have for breakfast? (More yak?) What if they have to go to the bathroom in the middle of the freezing night? Mike shares several campsite secrets.

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

Again we sit in a bowl, surrounded by the fractured, snow-encrusted pyramids all around us. Rest day—such a wonderful phrase has never been spoken. The weather's clear now; chilly in the shade, baking in the sun. I had a chance to shampoo down at the creek and to do the accumulated laundry. Just seeing it all spread out and drying on the rocks makes me feel better.

There are a couple more tweaks I can do to this battery-hog of a laptop, but I need the help of our staff back home. For instance, I want to turn off the splash screen that comes on when you power on and power off the laptop but, for the life of me, I can't remember what registry setting it is. I hunted for a little while yesterday and couldn't find it. So, once the IT gurus back home tell me what the setting is, off it goes. I turned off sound, background pictures, video enhancements, the CD-ROM, and a bunch of other non-essentials. The more I find, the more I'll turn off.

I thought I'd take a bit to talk about what we do around camp. First of all, though you dread it when it's cold, there are times you have to get up in the middle of the night—out of the warm tent—and go to the bathroom. In my down jacket pocket, I keep a pair of glove liners, a roll of toilet paper, and a headlamp. I try to keep a quart of water with me at all times so if I wake up at night, I can sip a couple of ounces to help keep hydrated. The air is very dry up here, and to avoid altitude headaches or other symptoms, we want to keep drinking all day and all night.

We play cards after dinner. The four of us sit around the little table in the dining tent playing vicious games of hearts.

The morning starts most often with "bed tea"—our cook staff brings us a cup of tea that we can sip while still in our sleeping bags. Then we get up and tend to our personal hygiene (brush teeth, etc.), and have a communal breakfast—usually hot milk, cold cereal, hot cereal, some eggs, and toast. If it's not a rest day, we organize all of our gear, which gets tangled and spread out each day, then we break camp. We ask for boiled water to refill our water bottles. We have to adjust the duffel loads for the porters and yak team, decide what to carry in our daypacks for the day, fill our trail snacks, and, trekking poles in hand, we set out on the trail. The higher up we climb, the heavier our packs are getting. Sure, they seem heavier anyway, but they really are—we must prepare for more weather extremes, which means carrying more fleece, down, windproof shells, and now, our snow pants as well.

Although I feel comfortable now, just the short hike to wash my clothes winded me. I hope that by tomorrow I'll be acclimated to 14,000 feet (4,267 meters). Of course, by the end of the day tomorrow, we'll be up another 2,000 feet (610 meters), slowly walking with the lock-kneed rest step, and panting again—starting all over.

For all the parents out there, here's an incident you might appreciate. Migma, one of the cook staff and porters, is only sixteen years old. Today, he was by the river, painstakingly washing his laundry using a pan, a bar of soap, and a scrubbing brush. Man, when I had a sixteen-year-old in the house, I couldn't get him to clean a thing! It was all I could do to get him to do his chores. It makes me think that, while I wouldn't want to entirely give up my way of life, I wish there was some way to get that kind of personal sense of responsibility back. If anyone has the answer, please post something to this dispatch, and our friendly editor will forward it to us.

See ya tomorrow.

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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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