Seeing the “Mountain of the Spirit” definitely lifted everyone’s spirits, and so the excitement at the prospect of moving to base camp was definitely heightened. Well, maybe for everyone except me. I’d woken up that morning feeling rough – a dull but persistent headache at the base of my skull pounding away, and some nausea roiling my stomach. The prospect of a long slog to base camp wasn’t exactly appealing. The symptoms weren’t surprising – we’d jumped about 2000m in a day and gone even higher on our hike. But no one else seemed to be suffering so I was also feeling a bit sorry for myself.
Food seemed like the last thing I wanted, but surprisingly I ate my chapati breakfast with vigour and felt a lot better afterwards. It seemed like all we’d done on this expedition so far was eat, but a good appetite is a good thing!
So, thankfully, by the time we came to leave (and a couple of ibuprofen later), I was feeling strong again. Which was good, because I had 1400m of ascent to get up! The walk followed somewhat the same route as the day before, but then meandered upwards. We crossed several gushing rivers and the track for the most part was well worn – I guess that’s the impact 400 climbers will have! There was a sort of temporary tea house at half way, so we stopped for some tea and potato momos for extra energy. Yum.
I suppose I only really have Aconcagua base camp to compare to, but on arriving at Manaslu base camp I was amazed at the sprawl of tents and camps in front of me. They seemed to stretch as far as the eye could see across the rocky moraine, some fenced off, some with huge banners indicating either the team or the company that was climbing. Incredible. Even after arriving at base camp, we had a fifteen minute walk to get to the Elite Himalayan Adventures camp (their motto: always a little higher), and we were all tired and eager to stop at that point.
But what a welcome to the Elite base camp! The dining tent was lavish and warm, with a “faux grass” carpet, comfortable chairs, and of course plenty of tea and juice waiting for us. There was a charging station in the vestibule, a giant communications tent, a cooking tent, two toilets and – of course – our individual tent homes. I was surprised and delighted to see the tent decked out with a foam base, mattress and pillow – no need for the thermarest yet. It was also so comforting to have my own space. I spent the next few hours sorting through my bags, arranging the tent “just so”, and changed into some new clothes since I hadn’t had access to my main bag in three days. Joy! It’s also a lot warmer here than when I was on Aconcagua, which makes it a lot more comfortable too. No need to wear a summit suit right off the bat.
I’m sure these are the details that you’re looking for, but I know people are curious so I will describe the toilet situation! Essentially… it’s a bucket in a hole in the ground, surrounded by rocks. Yes, you still need to squat. But it’s concealed within a windproof tent for privacy so I promise it’s not so bad! Just no looking down… Also, as it poured with rain in the middle of the night, I decided to make use of my sheewee and pee bottle set up. Um – I won’t go into details here but it was a bit of a disaster! Hopefully practice makes perfect? Got a month to find out.
Dinner was roast chicken and veggies, really delicious. After dinner we were treated to welcome cake and introduced to all the climbing Sherpas. I don’t know yet who will be “my” Sherpa, but they’re all incredibly accomplished and experienced guys so I’m not worried at all.
Apparently there is a shower tent also somewhere in camp, and my plan is to check that out later today! We’re having a rest and catch up on personal admin today, double checking all our climbing gear, remembering knots before our training on the mountain. Tomorrow will also be the puja ceremony – the blessing that will wish us good luck on the mountain. I’m also remembering that base camp life is a lot of rest, patience, and down time. Sometimes I’ll jog a few steps – like when I took a self timing photo! – and remember how high we are and how difficult catching your breath can be. Mountain life!