Days 16 Postscript/April 6, 2009 (Monday)
Nestled comfortably inside my tent and sleeping bag as snow and intermittent avalanches continue to fall in the Khumbu cirque, I can now reflect on the completion of the first phase of the expedition: getting to EBC in good health and high spirits. Check. One quarter of the trip is now complete: while certainly non-trivial, acclimatizing and trekking to 17,500 feet above sea level, the next two crucial phases will be much more difficult:
II: Work my way progressively higher on the mountain during 3 rotations, ultimately spending a night or two at Camp III, 24,000 feet, in preparation for my summit bid. In between rotations I'll have days of rest, boredom and longing for home. Mentally this will be the toughest task, with the summit still a far ways off...
III: The summit bid itself, likely the hardest physical task I'll ever undertake.
The team experience has been wonderful so far, but several of our trekking team members will leave us in the coming days. They've proudly reached their personal summit, and have already begun to think and talk about real showers, flights home and their real worlds --- it will be sad to see them go, yet the tenacity it took to get me back to Everest this spring will have to keep me focused on the coming weeks of exhausting climbing and intervening periods of homesickness...
Another aspect of being back here in the Himalayas is readjustment to the frigid temperatures: in Houston we call it cold when somebody accidentally nudges the air conditioning below 70 deg F... One of the folks who spent last night here in EBC noticed a low temp of minus 15 in the early morning hours. I plan to stay in my sleeping bag until at least 7:45 am, when the sun first hits our base camp, and my thin blood can withstand the discomfort of dressing and walking to the dining tent for hot tea.
Tomorrow is a big day for unpacking and sorting of gear. I have two enormous duffel bags in my tent this evening keeping me company, one with high altitude clothing and technical climbing gear, and the other with more conventional camping gear, medical and scientific equipment, and countless ziplocks with odds and ends. I'd liken this settling in period to Post Insertion procedures we run on orbit, just after obtaining orbit on a Space Shuttle flight. You need to set up critical gear, stow supplies in locations where you'll be able to locate them promptly, and generally prepare for the mission ahead.