Thursday, January 31, 2013

Progression of Climbing

Climbing up to the mountain was quite different from that of in Spring.

At first, there were only four teams at the base camp, compared to more than sixty teams in the last Spring season.  The teams are: a Polish team of six, with two -- a Russian and a Romanian -- individuals, climbing Lhotse; a Japanese team of thirteen, but only three of them would climb up to Camp two and only one climb the Hornbein-Couloir (West Ridge) in solo (others are camera staffs), the SPCC team of four, and the Korean.

The Korean team planned to climb Lhotse as well, for various reasons: Everest and Lhotse share the route up to just 100 meters below (around 7750 meters above sea level) the last camp; The fee for the lower peak is much cheaper.  I was the person who supposed to climb Lhotse.

This is why the Koreans and the Polish agreed to make the route above the Camp two together.  Although of course Sherpas are their first manpower to make the route, other members who were not supposed to fix the rope were to carry quite a lot amount of luggage up to higher camps.

The second reason is cold.  In contrast to the Spring season, the temperature gets lower as expedition progresses.  This means that if you go higher, it be much colder than the other season.  It proved much more difficult for strong winds and freezing temperature.

A climber on the scary Khumbu icefall 

Climbing up a section of the Khumbu icefall

Crossing scary ladders over countless crevasses at the Khumbu icefall

Climbers right below the camp one

A climber on the "popcorn field" where avalaches were frequent among the Khumbu icefall

At the Camp one.

Sherpas carrying loads to the camp two, on the Western Cwm.

A climber on the Western Cwm

A climber at the foot of the immense Lhotse face

Digging up the hard snow to set up tents for camp three 

The Polish tents at the camp three, 7,200 meters high.  

In the tent of the camp three (myself)

Climbers going back to their base camp, where every hot things - food, water, tents, and people.  However, it was like a maze as not a few climbers lost their way here in Khumbu glacier

Collapsing Rock

A huge rock at the base camp was collapsing, in one day morning.  Most people came to see.  Laugh.  The day before that day, Sherpas had tried to collapse down intentionally because, as they said, it was dangerous to let the stone by itself slide down.

However, I did not understand clearly whether it was something to be laughable.

After months stay of their village in another part of Nepal, now I realize the importance of the comic to them.  But, still I could not say why and how the occasion became an event to a comic phenomenon.

Members and Sherpas

Only after arriving at the base camp, and after almost finishing to set up the camps, they enjoyed a time the Koreans and the Sherpas introduced each other.  It was to the organizational companies who take part of arranging the expedition, that is, who join as guides, cooks, and other staffs, which food they need to buy at Kathmandu or along the way to the base camp, and so on.

The Sherpas were four: two of them were my Spring team's staffs, one were the leader's in 2007, and another was a person recommended by another Korean mountaineer.

In a morning at the Everest base camp.  Lingtren shines behind a cameraman

the Sherpas and the Koreans having time to introduce each other, at the early stage of the expedition period

Before going into the mountain, Koreans with Sherpas have trained climbing skills at the glacier near the base camp

Sherpas at the kitchen tent

Preparing Climbing at the Base Camp

Arriving at the Everest base camp area, the elevation of which is 5350 meters above sea level, all the people firstly set up the camps.

Arranging the Dining tent.  Sedentary style is, as far as I know, only applied by Koreans as for the dining tent in mountaineering expeditions.

Early September, snowing at the base camp.

Having dinner with head-light, for the electricity has not yet been settled

Evening the camp ground

Make a table of sedentary style with plastic boxes

The first three days they organized the huge amount of luggage

A SPCC (Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee) person.  Composed of several local Sherpas, they set up the route from the Khumbu glacier to the Camp 2 (6500 meters), with, of course, payed.  This person came up to us to borrow the "Korean rope" to fix the route.

Lingtren shines behind the base tents.

A Korean member with a Sherpa organizing luggage into the storehouse

Tents for the high camps also need to be checked again and finally

Puja at the base camp.  Climbing gears were dedicated to the mountain god

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Leaving into a journey

One would say, there is a liminal -- Latin, meaning threshold -- period that clearly separates before and after.

Flying over the large capital, Kathmandu

Landing onto the Tenzing-Hillary (Lukla) Airport, which is scary enough to be almost always a signal, for the visitors, to start their journey.

Looking up the Himalayan mountains on the way to Thukla (4600 meters) 

It is my argument, however, there CANNOT be a period of such, that distinctly separates two different phases and that a person can grasp into his mind.  This is rather a philosophical thought, against most structuralist theorists.  I will return to this theme later.

Launching Expedition

The Korean Everest expedition, named "2012 Korean Peace Expedition," is composed of ten Koreans.  Most of them are in their twenties; only one among them -- myself -- has experienced the low level of oxygen in the air above 8,000 meters.

They initially have planned to climb the "Kangshung Face," the immense east face of the highest mountain.  The face is one of the hardest face in the world to climb on, as George Mallory who "discovered" the face firstly ever among the climb-minded people in 1921 mentioned like (I don't remember the exact words) 'only stupids may think to climb this.'  Now, there has been established two routes.

the immense Kangshung face of Mt. Everest (click to enlarge)

The Koreans had planned to climb through a new route, via east ridge which called "Fantasy ridge."  Three teams had tried so far the unclimbed route, returning their home in vain.

The "Fantasy Ridge" - behind the climbers - and the Kangshung glacier, seen from 8600 meters on the southeast ridge of Mt. Everest. (click to enlarge)

However, it was at a hotel in Kathmandu where they finally decided to climb the popular Southeast ridge.  The Chinese government had rejected all the applications of Visa into the territory of Xizang (Tibet) province, only for the mountaineering purpose.  People guessed, as a political vote of the region has been scheduled, the government has been afraid of any riot involving foreigners, especially of the "radical-minded" mountaineers.

"I once thought to forgive up the expedition," the leader said.  The climb, especially only through the scary ridge, was his dearest wish.

And, the name "Peace" of the expedition meant symbolically a reunion of North and South Korea by executing a joint expedition, as it had planned but failed to make.  

Puja for the members

After arriving Kathmandu, usually a few days the climbers from another country stay at the capital for buying some goods, joining with their guides and so on.  The first glimpse of Nepal, a country struggled severe turmoils ranging all the sectors of its society currently, only serves to the nature-lovers' eyes as fragments of confusion, though.  

To them, the political, ethnic conflicts, or any other concerned to the native, ongoing within the society would endow least meaning.  If you say, "fighting against nature" as such has always been the single most significant to the people who leading one's own life for such a way.  

For Sherpa (in terms of the occupational), the Himalayan guides as their way of caste, on the other hand, to climb a highest mountain always involve danger, danger which man may not be in control.  Safety will be met only if you be guided by any unknown being, which usually understood as god.  Any kind of puja (religious service) practiced by Nepalese shows their pray for their future.  It is of course true to Sherpas, as they do so before getting into mountains as guides.  

This autumn season, it has been known that no lama (Buddhist priest) will be joining as a Sherpa with the climbers on Mt. Everest and Mt. Lhotse as well.  So, the four Sherpas hired by the Korean Everest Expedition decided to visit a gompa (temple) at the famous Boudhanath for worship.  Korean members also had been invited to join them.

Puja in a gompa at Bouddhanath, Kathmandu

However, as things turn out, a "big" lama has been invited to the Everest base camp for perform a puja.  "More is good," one Sherpa said.  Two teams of the Korean and a Polish team jointly made a ceremony, one day at the B.C.

Koreans and Polish, as well as Sherpas, giving a service at a puja, at Everest base camp