Day 14/April 4, 2009 (Saturday)
We're now on the terminal moraine of the Khumbu glacier, our home for the next several weeks. Lenticular clouds scream over the summit of Everest, and the fierce wall of Nuptse dominates the foreground. Our general trajectory up the glacier, around the base of Nuptse, upwards to Everest base camp is obvious --- and just 1400 vertical feet away. Several of us are feeling very well acclimatized and will depart directly for Everest Base Camp (EBC) tomorrow, while others will take a bit more leisurely pace and stay over at Gorak Shep, arriving at EBC on the 6th of April instead. We are fortunate that April 6 is an auspicious date for the Sherpa people, and this has been selected as the date for our puja ceremony --- more on this in a couple of days.
In preparation for the team's move up the mountain, Eric Simonson from IMG gave a good talk on the physical challenges ahead, the need to be self-aware of impending difficulties, and generally looking after one another. Afterwards, team members stopped by my room, one by one, for a quick medical review: pulse ox check, review of how they had acclimatized thus far, and any issues they've had or currently face. Everyone acclimatizes at their own pace, and there certainly are challenges to the gastrointestinal and respiratory systems up here, but overall the team has done remarkably well so far.
As this was a day for our bodies to adjust to the thinning atmosphere, roughly 16,100 feet above sea level, we took short, easy walks around the greater Lobuche metroplex. I ventured to the Italian-Nepalese research station, a three-story glass pyramid at the base of Lobuche glacier, with friendly trekkers and Lobuche climbers Joe Aloi and Dave Bakker. It was good to stretch our legs a bit, but my lungs were thankful the trek was only 15 minutes in duration. There we met Kaji, the Nepalese caretaker of the lab complex, who described some of the meteorological and biomedical science conducted there (some with NASA collaboration), and invited us in for a brief tour. Staffed 12 months of the year and capable of housing up to 26 scientists, I'm sure the isolation felt here during the deep winter months isn't that much different from that experienced by winter-over crews at Antarctic research stations.
Onward and upward!