I’m writing this covered in flour and sampa and clutching a tin of Budweiser having just completed our puja (or blessing) for the climb. Our Sherpa team won’t contemplate beginning the ascent until the necessary ceremony is completed with offerings to the mountain gods for safety on our climb.
A large cairn was built outside the dining tent containing a tall flag pole, which prayer flags were dangled off to all corners of the camp like spokes of a wheel. We left our ice axes and crampons beside the cairn to be blessed, and Norbu, the most senior of two members of our sherpa team who are studying to become monks, chanted mantras for about an hour. Various foodstuffs were left beside the cairn to be consumed once the chanting had finished. Most of these seem to be alcoholic. It’s 10.30 in the morning, but I’ve already had several shots of whisky and a couple of tins of lager.
Grains of rice are tossed into the air as an offering to the gods throughout the ceremony, and towards the end one of the team came round smearing our faces with tsampa flour. Hence we are currently all sporting grey beards, which suit some of us more than others.
Some team members have been receiving emails remarking upon the ‘lyrical’ writing style of expedition leader Robert Anderson, who has been posting the official expedition dispatches to the Jagged Globe website. As Robert is a published writer of three books about his mountaineering exploits, this is perhaps not surprising, but in an attempt to spice up my own turgid blogs, I’m now going to give you a description of Cho Oyu base camp in the style of Robert.
The view from base camp is dominated by the arched profile of the Turquoise Goddess herself, rising up to the west like a giant white pepperpot. To our south are the snowfields of the Nangpa La, drifting towards camp like a white shroud tickled by ant like figures passing over in procession. This is the ancient trading route between Tibet and Nepal, and 2 or 3 days over the border is the Sherpa village of Namche Bazaar in Nepal, now a town of tourist hotels catering for trekkers on the Everest trail. Base Camp itself is a jumble of rocks pitched on top of a glacier. The ice groans beneath us like a wounded whale and occasional rock falls puncture the silence as folds of glacier melt and freeze like a tub of ice cream taken out of the freezer and put back in again.
Once again I’m keeping my blog short, as Four Jokes as waiting to check his emails. We went for a short walk up the glacier to 6000m yesterday, which has been good for our acclimatisation. Tomorrow, if the weather is fair, we’ll be making our first foray onto the mountain proper by going all the way up to Camp 1 at 6400m, from where we should get a good view of our summit route.
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