Establishing ABC and toilet talk
Moving mountains, we - or rather the sherpas mainly - flatten spots for our camp
20 April - ABC 6400m
Moe, Julian and Jamie slept in the dining tent, comfortable too! Breakfast in bed even; it is cold here, well below freezing, so pee bottles are far better than dressing up for nocturnal journeys. This morning was Moe's record, filling his 1.5 litre pee bottle in one hit! We are wondering if Moe is literally pissing himself away. Moe fills his monster bottle every night; Julian has to make do with a litre bottle only, and Jamie doesn't have one at all, managing to comfortably survive the night without disturbance.
The only problem with pee bottles is of course it is cold in your tent; do you let it freeze and then hopefully manage to thaw it out in the morning, or do you open the tent a fraction and stretch your arm out as far as it will go and tip it, hopefully not into your boots etc...
We finally escaped the comfort of the dining tent to the sound of rocks being thrown around. I wish I had taken a before and after shot, the sherpas including friends from Arun filled holes, hacked down mountains and made level tent platforms. We helped a bit, but it was obvious who was used to the 6400m/21,000ft altitude.
21 April - ABC
It was a cool night, around -18C in the tents.
Over breakfast - when else - Julian recounted his operation last night. He has swelling around either his saliva gland - less serious - or a wisdom tooth problem. Yesterday on antibiotics it seemed to be getting better, but as last evening, once in bed it got worse. So out came the needle and syringe, and with a mirror he self-operated. Three times jabbing himself before knowing for sure he doesn't have a visible abscess. Ouch!
Julian has just returned from the yesterday-built toilet saying it was a pleasure! We have a toilet tent up and inside is a barrel plus plastic bag. Moe is about to go, yesterday while making it Jamie and Dawa discussed the design; should we go low, so that the toilet tent can handle the wind (most camps don't even have a tent, only rather short rock enclosures) or big, as Dawa said, so that Moe might be able to get in wearing his down jacket. We went big, and are about to find out if it was successful. It was, a pleasure too, was the comment!
In years past toilets were simply that, a dug out hole and the waste left to 'disappear' naturally, but up here in the cold it doesn't, and dried toilet waste blowing around isn't hygienic.
So for the last year or so, all waste and rubbish has to be taken down to BC where it is disposed of properly. Basically we go to the toilet in a barrel and when that is full it is sealed and taken down; we expect to fill two barrels. We pee outside though.
We collect rubbish into kitchen waste and separately burnables, and these are taken down to BC as well. Rubbish will only be burned at the end of the expedition as the sherpas believe burning anything other than offerings will pollute the mountain.
Everest and rubbish
A standard criticism leveled at the Nepal Everest trekking region is the trail of rubbish to the base camp. This simply isn't true now; each village has their own rubbish pit that they manage, burning off the rubbish every so often, and there are bins on the trail, and even twice-yearly trail clean up campaigns by the Namche youth group. Given the numbers of people who live there permanently and the numbers of visitors to the park, many of whom are less educated porters, the region is surprisingly clean.
The base camps for the big mountains both in Tibet and Nepal are much cleaner than in years past, and there is no going backwards. The next area of concern is on the mountains themselves. Ask virtually any mountaineer and climbing sherpa and they don't want to leave rubbish but the reality of clearing camps in difficult conditions means there is still used oxygen bottles left on the mountain, although these are often cleared the following season as they can be refilled. The next big problem is human waste; on Denali people now shit in bags and this is tossed down designated deep crevasses, in Yosemite National park big wall climbers shit into a PVC pipe big enough for the multi-day climb.
In the Himalaya tossing waste into crevasses is a solution in some areas, but probably the best solution will be to shit into a bag, let it freeze, and bring all waste off the mountain. This has yet to happen but will in a few years, I think.
© Jamie McGuinness - Project-Himalaya.com - 2005