4 days ago we left Periche (4200m) for the final few miles to Everest Base Camp (EBC) with a stop over at Lobuche (4900m). EBC is about 5300m so we were going up 1100m again, but this time, with previous acclimatisation and a rest in Periche, it was much quicker and easier to gain this height. We even decided to skip Gorak Shep and the famous view of Everest, as the weather was cloudy and not worth the extra effort to get to the lookout. After 2 weeks of trekking the lure of base camp was stronger. On the way we past a memorial of people who have died whilst mountaineering, on Everest and other peaks in the area.
It's great to eventually get to EBC: individual tents, dining room, kitchen, toilets, all set up in separate tents on the rocky glacier moraine. Best of all, no more packing and unpacking every day. Our private tents have a big thick mattress and pillow, and plenty of space for all the gear we have brought. Set back away from the kitchen and tents of the trekking groups, it's quiet and has a great view of the ice fall we're going to be negotiating in the next few days. I spend some time organising my gear (its the first time I've seen my Rab summit suit!). Its also the first time I've had a shower in 10 days, I don't want to take the dirt all the way to the summit! and it feels great to be clean again.
Before we can go through the ice fall, a Puja ceremony must be performed, the last blessing from a Lama, which needs to be given before we can head up the mountain. The ceremony, however, is best reserved for auspicious days, either a Friday or a Monday. The next is Friday which also happens to be the 13th! but its also the Nepali New Year, 2069 in their calendar. This is as about as auspicious as you can get, so will hopefully, at least cancel out the Friday 13th superstition.
In the meantime we spend 3 days resting, acclimatising, eating, and doing some ice climbing practise. I'm so glad I started doing this in Chamonix. Its not a good place to start, you don't want to be wasting mental and physical effort learning this on the way up Everest! Thanks Peter for the crash course in Chamonix, what a great help!
The Puja Ceremony
This 2 hour ceremony is extremely important in any climb of Everest. For a start the Sherpas wont climb without it, its kind of a celebration and blessing rolled into one. Before the ceremony starts all the climbers take their important equipment, such as boots, ice axe, crampons etc to the Puja (located within our site), in order for them to be blessed by the lama during the ceremony.
The Lama arrives, we drink tea, he chants, drums play, and the equipment is blessed (thampa flour is thrown over the gear). After a while it turns into more of a celebration, with everyone drinking chang (rice wine) and beer. Just before the end of the Puja everyone grabs some flour and at the right moment we all throw it over anyone else in close proximity. Dancing and involuntary! drinking of rum marks the end. We can now look forward to an early morning walk through the ice fall!