By STEPHEN REGENOLD
The trek to Mount Everest Base Camp is almost complete. The first wave of the Expedition Hanesbrands team, including lead climber Jamie Clarke and myself, are scheduled to be at Everest’s tent city Saturday, April 10. But for the past three days, the crew has continued along the traditional trekking route, from our lodge in Pangboche, up the valley to Dingboche for a night, further to Lobuche, and, finally, tonight in Gorak Shep.
It is a dusty outpost, Gorak Shep is. An “end-of-the-Earth” kind of a place. Scott Simper, the expedition’s photographer, had hoped to skip over the village altogether. “It’s not a fun place, lots of sick people,” he’d warned. Indeed, at 17,000 feet, the human body is not initially happy to be breathing the thin air and yak-dung smoke that accompanies the arrival into town.
But it’s not so bad after all. We have, er, modest rooms again tonight in a lodge. Our cook staff, four Sherpas hired for the expedition, are here and they will make us dinner. Life is good.
Before the sun set, I hiked a bit higher than Gorak Shep for a look around. Kala Patthar is a popular day climb, a small sub-peak below Mount Pumori and across from Everest. By non-Himalayan standards, it is huge. Kala Patthar’s peak tops out with prayer flags and cairns at an airy 5,550 meters. That’s over 18,500 feet.
With a Sherpa guide, I huffed and stepped ever up on a trail for an hour and a half to gain the top. The view looked down on Everest’s Base Camp and straight across at the black pyramid of Everest itself. Wind kicked as we neared the top on Kala Patthar. Prayer flags buzzed in the gusts. I put a rock on my ball cap on the ground so it wouldn’t blow off, and then I stepped out to a perch. The yellow dots below were tents at Base Camp. A little city of nylon at the base of the biggest mountain in the world. It’s where I’ll be tomorrow, and where Expedition Hanesbrands really starts to happen. See you there soon. My next report will be from a tent.