Archive for September, 2009

Last Post Before Summitting?

Sunday, September 13th, 2009

Last update I wrote was from Nyalam, a town we rested in while on the road in Tibet to help with acclimatization. It was the last place with an Internet connection; I am sending this through a sat-phone modem (for a modest price). Since there will not be that many interesting and exciting things for the next couple of weeks, I will probably not be writing too much, if anything. Using people’s computers that have been charged by even different people’s solar panels, I don’t want to be hogging their equipment for little updates. You can get most of what I would write at for the next few days while we try to go to the higher camps for our acclimatization. Make sure to tune in to close to the end of the month (Sep 24/26 or so) as that is when we should be starting our summit attempts.

But I will make the most of this post and fill you in on the happenings lately.

After Nyalam we moved to Tingri, another town along the way that was a little bit higher in elevation where we rested for a couple of nights. Here is where I started feeling really shitty. The food was horrible, and even though I was forcing myself to eat, I found myself losing weight (noticed by my watch fitting looser), low on energy, etc. It didn’t help that we had the exact same dish of crappy Chinese food for four meals straight. Now some food I could eat for 4 meals in a row (tomato soup, spaghetti), but this was definitely not it. Not sure if this is also somehow tied in but I started to get some stomach issues that made me go to the bathroom more frequently than I would have liked.

Now there is a reason I am getting into the details above. Here success, which is either reaching the summit, getting as far as your body lets you, or any other personal goal people may have set for themselves, are not really dependent on one’s climbing ability. They are dependent more on staying healthy and avoiding getting affected by altitude, bad food, unclean water, lacking sanitary conditions, colds, coughs, sore throats, bad nutrition, you name it. It’s basic survival. For each of the things above there’s either pills you can take to prevent/treat it, or a method you can implement (boil water, sanitize/wash hands, etc.) This gives the entire expedition a weird focus, as people are constantly popping pills, waiting for water to boil, worrying about clean hands. I myself do the same, as one slip-up in getting an upset stomach at the wrong time can end my expedition. I limit my pill-popping to Diamox for altitude reasons, though I took some stomach antibiotics at base camp to get rid of something my body could not fight on its own.

After Tingri we moved to Base Camp (BC), where we set up some tents for sleeping, as well as a dining tent and a separate kitchen tent. Here we were finally free of the food forced upon us in the towns, and we had our own cook make meals from our own food. The food was unbelievably delicious! Even rice, which we were sick of after almost a week of it non-stop, was delicious compared to the stuff we had previously.

Now the fact that the food was good may seem like such an insignificant fact, but really it is a necessary physical as well as psychological ingredient to successfully climbing a mountain. We will end up losing lots of weight on this trip, and if we can’t even build a good base at the start we have no chance of any success.

To be continued…

Inner Thoughts and Trip Impressions

Friday, September 4th, 2009

Hello all, I thought I would post a bit of an update not just on where we are and what we are doing, but how I feel about all the things I have seen and experienced so far.

First I will go back to the Friday before I left, after leaving work in Calgary. As I was walking from the office to the train station, I had all these thoughts about the trip. They were not really positive; I was aprehensive in going, I was thinking, “Why am I leaving this beautiful city and this beautiful life with all these wonderful people and all these wonderful experiences that I have been having since coming back. Why am I leaving all of that behind for the unknowns of a different city, country, continent, and then place myself in so much discomfort of expedition mountain climbing, away from the basics of Calgary life that are in-obtainable luxuries here in the Himalayas.” This was on my mind and combined with knowing that I still had to spend all day getting all my things together, and the next day packing it all into two bags.

Luckily my brother called to wish me a happy birthday (I spent my birthday with these thought and with packing!) and I could talk some of that out and that made me feel better. And I knew I was going along with the trip so it had no effect on whether I would go or not. In the end I saw it as another aprehension of doing something just before doing it, but once you started it’s not that bad. It’s like dreading work as you are getting to work, but once you get there it’s not that bad. Or not wanting to go work out or excercise, because the mind is telling you to be lazy, but once you go and are doing it you enjoy it, and enjoy the after effects as well.

This aprehension went away as I was flying in, but came back for a little bit as the culture shock of Kathmandu took me by surprise. Luckily, the people that I will be climbing with, and the ones that are organizing the expedition, are awesome people. We’ve had many interesting chats and discussions and funny jokes, all with people that are, for all intents and purposes, still strangers. That’s the wonder in going expedition climbing, barely anybody brings a friend, and so everyone ends up being friendly to everyone else. So I look forward to spending the next month with them and building up some good friendships.

A bit of a view I have on the locals here: The Nepalese are some of the nicest people I have met. People greet you in the street, smile as you walk by, and seem to be quite happy living the life they live. Perhaps another example of a financially poor nation that makes up for it by being richer than most in happiness, something people in the developed northern hemisphere don’t seem to have a concept of. The Tibetans are also very nice people, and they have about them a very specific look. Almost all have rosy cheeks, which makes the babies (and the ladies) very cute. The Chinese are a different breed, and although officially Tibet is a part of China, really it is not. The people are different, the languages are different. The Chinese here seem to me to be imposing, trying to show superiority.

Let me give you an example from the border crossing between Nepal and Tibet. First of all, what you need to know is that even though there is a bridge that makes up the border, and this bridge can be driven over, motor vehicles do not seem to be allowed to cross. This means that entire fleets of semi trucks come to the border, are unloaded by labourers, and goods are carried across the border by porters, through customs and immigration and everything. Then they get re-loaded back onto other trucks, etc. (this happened with our checked baggage also). We saw ladies carrying large propane cylinders on their backs, strapped to their head as seems to be the normal way of carrying things here, and then on top of the propane cylinder was a basket with her baby in it. Wow. Anyways, on the Chinese side one of the officials/guards was slapping some of the porters and hitting their load because they were not standing in a clean line. This same official told me as I stood by the passport counter and rested my hands on it, not to touch the counter. And in general their presence in Police stations and other official building seems imposing and unwelcome.

Alright, on to another topic. Diamox is a drug used for (among other things) helping climbers acclimatize to elevation. I wasn’t sure about whether or not I should take this drug, but I have and I am absolutely amazed at it’s effectiveness. In 24 hours we went from Kathmandu at 1350 meters, through the border crossing, and into a Tibetan town of Nyalam at 3750 meters. Then, after sleeping very well during the night (which is not normal when moving to a new high altitude), we went on a quick hike up to above 4000 meters. I had no problem, the altitude made for some tough breathing, but that is nothing and quite remarkable. To ascend 2400 meters in 24 hours, and then go climbing even higher the next day is unbelievable. Normally people should ascend 300 meters per day (or 600 per day then rest day, etc.)

Alright, that’s all I had on my mind today. Will post more as news develops. Bye Bye!

Getting to Tibet

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

Hey everyone! Just checking in from the Chinese side of the Nepal/Tibet border. So from the last post there was a change of plans, there were supposed to be strikes on the road to the border so instead of leaving this morning at 4:00 am, we left at midnight instead. We drove pretty much all night, and got to a washout in the road at about 5:00 am. Luckily by then we had passed the area with potential strikes, so that part was a success, and we were not too far from the border either. We had to wait until after 6:00 when the Nepalese would wake up and be able to organize us a bus on the other side, so there was a little bit of waiting involved. That’s pretty much what the rest of our day would look like too; getting across the border was a lot of lining up, waiting, getting our bags seached, all done very throroughly, and lots of idle time waiting in between (and catching little naps whenever possible).

So the crossing is behind us, now we will head to Nyalam, and that will be our rest stop for a couple of days, before we head to Tingri for another couple of days. Or that’s the plan anyways, people who have been here before have this saying “This Is Tibet”, and you never know what you will get. We’ll see how those plans work out.

Alright, I have to head out as our bus will be leaving soon, take care and see you all!

Kathmandu and Moving to Tibet

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009

My impressions of Kathmandu so far: arriving after 30 hours on the road (or in the air rather), being tired, in a new place, wondering why I am here, being exposed to a foreign culture, all that added together was not fun. The first day and night I was afraid to walk on the street, go to a shop, without being told exactly where to go or actually going with someone. I felt very much out of my element. However, by the next day it was all different, I had a sleep, took some time to walk around and get to know the area, found out the people were not all that bad, etc. So now it’s not that bad of a place! Definitely a decent place to meet and start an expedition.

So what’s been happening in Kathmandu so far with all our group? We’ve been organizing everybody, we’ve had gear checks to make sure everyone has all the right equipment, picking up some last minute items in town, team dinners to get to know the other people, etc. The people in our group are actually split into climbers of two different mountains, 13 of us heading up Cho Oyu and another handful heading up Shishapangma. We’re all climbing with the same company so we will all be travelling to Tibet together and acclimatizing together there in the next couple of days. We had a big group meeting after breakfast today where we went over the details of all the trip into Tibet, some of the interesting details I will
list below:

– We depart tomorrow morning (3rd Sep) at 4:00 am.
– Getting to the border by road can take 4 hours or maybe 20 or more. 4 if the roads are good, and who knows how many if there are washouts (which are likely, we are still in monsoon season here), at which point we have to stop, unload the bus/trucks, carry everything over the washout, load it back into another bus/truck, drive to the next washout point, repeat. Apparently this was done 5 times in one of the previous expeditions, we’ll see how much we have to go through!
– Crossing the border means unloading everything, having porters carry our equipment over a bridge, and loading up new cars/trucks.
– No pictures are allowed to be taken on the border.
– We should be ready to maybe see Tibetans getting arrested/beaten/interrogated for attempting to cross into Nepal illegally. I personally hope none of that goes on while we are there.
– Staying in Tibet means staying at a government-dictated hotel. They tell us where to stay, what to eat. That’s communism. Apparently the hotels there are really bad, dirty, we are told to bring our own
sleeping bags and not use any of their blankets.

Those are the main points that I remember.

I’ll try and post an update from Tibet, apparently we can expect internet access there, and let you know how good/bad it actually was.

On the updating note, I had not anticipated updating this blog during our actual climb, but it might just be possible to send out updates every once in a while, so I will do my best to do just that. In case there are no updates here for a while just know you can always rely on going to and getting some of the latest information there. Oh, and by the way, if you don’t want to check here for updates you can sign up to get an email when I post an update, just click on the link at the top right of the main page under Pages titled “Want Email Updates For New Posts?”

Take care and see you soon!