Last night it dawned on Joe and Simmo that there was a distinct possibility that the game might be this morning, and not tomorrow, as planned, as Kirt and Wes and the captains had decided to make best of the good weather in case it doesn't last. It has been sunny everyday since we got here and fairly warm in the daytime, apart from when that wind was blowing through out bones. Drisla had been trying to contact anyone on radio who was already up in Gorak Shep to see what the situation was but all night had no response and even this morning there was radio silence. It made breakfast a silent affair as the boys were thinking that they had missed their opportunity to make history. It was once in a lifetime for them. Though they were feeling much better healthwise, they were keen to get up the track to Gorak Shep to see if they could get on the game.
Earlier this morning, I was awoken by Drisla at about 5, it was low light outside but by the tone of the way she said, 'Zooby, you're snoring. Again.' I kinda knew that I must've had a) a good sleep b) a rather large snoring session. Yes, I guess, I shared with Drisla for one night as the boys shared a room and we were keeping costs low by sharing. Because everything was pre-paid accommodation and food-wise, every time a person has something from the menu, it cost The Everest Test some dough.
Filling water bottles we made our way up the rocky track over the glacier. Now, I was expecting, when someone said the word 'glacier' to be white and pure and somewhat beautiful. Not really anticipating that it was covered in scree (not very often I get to use the word 'scree', but I like it, it makes it feel very adventuresome) and was rocky and brown. Once we were high enough to see the Khumbu glacial valley, we did see high ice walls and icepools which gave away the fact we were following the glacier.
Joe was a star. Although my pack had gone ahead with the rest of the team yesterday, my equipment pack of 2 cameras, sleeping bag, toiletries, 4 litres of water was heavier than ever. At this altitude, breathing wasn't the best as the air was thinner. At some points we'd be higher than we were sleeping at later on tonight (which is a good thing for acclimatisation, but a bad thing when you're feeling a little weaker than ever). Ever so often, when I couldn't carry on, he'd offer to carry my pack for a while, just so we could get on. I took him up on the offer every so often but really, I couldn't let him do it the whole time.
Halfway up while we were on our many swap rests, these two Aussie dudes came clambering down the track and we'd got talking to them. Drisla asked them where they'd just come from (well, where else, but just in case they'd come straight from Base Camp) and the dreaded question, whether they knew if the game was today.
'Oe noe. The gayme's not teal tomorroe. Youe goies hev noe warries.' He couldn't have sounded more laid back. I shall italicise his words just to make them look like they're relaxing. The boys' relief was unmistakable.
After about 2 hours (I think), we'd crossed the glacier, gone even higher, scrambled over sharp rocks, rested countless times, we made our way over another hill and there below us, looking like matchboxes, were the teahouses of Gorak Shep. The rest was a relatively easier downhill.
When we got to the first teahouse, they said that we could eat as it was gone lunchtime. Joe and Simmo had to simulate entering the compound again as Wes wanted to film the last two players, lost heroes, re-joining the group. The guides were tucking in to a meal of dhalbatt which looked really tasty as we'd not really had any at this point, it was mainly fried potatoes and such the like. At least the dhall would have given us a source of protein which we were all missing... I said to Dharma, who was eating his lentils with gusto, 'that that looked really nice.' He said, 'No, you will have sandwiches,' smilingly, thinking I'd be pleased. My heart sank to think that I'll not have really tasted Nepali trekking cooking apart from potatoes.
I'd received message from FuddA that 'the eagle has landed' via radio and that my backpack was settled in her room awaiting my arrival. I'd be sharing with Joe, which was cool as he was funny and he chatted about stuff, and I think we were banished to each other's company as both of us were really loud in whatever noises we make while sleeping.
I went out onto the pitch after snacking on some dry cheese sarnies, feeling like a scolded child, for some reason. For some reason I get this image of my head of my friend Andrea Hall while eating these sandwiches. I have no idea why. I think it's just the way I was eating sandwiches. Reminded me of Andrea. Out on the pitch there was some sort of commotion going on. There were two groups of people dressed in what looked like uniforms of some sort, lined up in an orderly fashion, one group of Asian (probably Nepali) and the other were whites (I can't tell whether they're European or Oceanic or North American, so I'm gonna call them 'whites'. If you think that's me being racist, that's tough titty. They were white. Nuff said. Kirt was was in the middle of all of this hubbub, talking to some elderly chap with a cap on.
I walk around the site, the frozen lakebed. Like the rest of the 'glacier' I see no evidence of ice, or lake, or bed. A few people are at the far end of the oval, facing the other two teahouses where team Hillary are sleeping tonight. I check it out. Of course, it's slightly more welcoming, they seem to have got the better deal but at this late stage, who cares, you know. Who cares. I was excited to have reached Gorak Shep.
Some people go off to Everest Base Camp (or EBC, or even BC, as it's called by regulars) to check it out and check out the bakery. Yah. Bakery. I make an attempt to send some tweets and even check out facebook (why?) while here as there seems to be an internet connection here (I check my Blackberry just in case there is a signal. No) but at 25 rupes a minute, best left to do very little on it. Money is running out. That's why I thought I'd twitter. If you want to check out my tweets it's here.
Dinner around a noisy table. AlexFuddA says that she's running out of water. I say that we can go to the far side of the oval to check out the spring water there. I have 'muslims' which we can use to filter our water, referring to the two muslin filters that I brought with me for use with springwater. And muslims became the word du jour that made us laugh. No one is going to have a memory of this, or find it inoffensive apart from Alex and me. Any chance I got to take my helpful little muslims out, they got used. It was getting dark when we started to take water from the spring. There were some locals who were there too, so we waited for one of them to be free. Ice cold! Oh my god! I'd never felt anything that cold.
We head to our teahouse and the atmosphere is thick with something. The boys are sitting quietly and it is solemn. Ah. The team selection by captain Haydn and VC Goonit. Not an easy choice. Not sure where to look. Wes is documenting it on film with all the difficulties that entails, batteries running low, tape running out, not enough sound. The boys have to go into a room with Goonit, Haydn and Wes to be told whether they'd made the cut or not. Everyone thinks it's shitty and is a bit miserable about the whole thing. The chaps outside speculate on who is in and why they are in. It's not great. I can't really do anything to alleviate the tension so I go and check out what the other team is doing. They're not making their selection until the morning so the atmos might be a bit more relaxed.
When I get there, I see that George Powell, the lead photographer, is stretched out on the sofabench with VixNix tending to him and Drisla not far. I think he's got a line in him. He had to have been assisted the rest of the way from BC as he was severely dehydrated, his eyes were listless when I was trying to engage with him. Apparently he'd been up to Kalapatthar earlier that day, then gone on to BC, without any rest, with Kirt and VixNix.
I'd joked with him 'Get well Georgie, I don't know your camera!', which garnered a little smile, which made me feel a bit better. In all seriousness, I didn't know his camera, which was waaay better than mine (and besides, since my adapter went 'missing' on day 5, I'd never been able to successfully recharge my batteries for my digital, I was flying on slide film for the rest of the trip. I'm glad that I had 3 rolls left).
It turns out that the 'elderly chap' from earlier today is Russell Brice, one of the best known expedition leaders around and the others were part of the HimEx team - his clients and guides. A few months ago, when Russell Brice got wind of what Kirt was attempting to achieve, for a laugh, he got it in his head that he was going to challenge Kirt to a game even higher than the one that we were going to play tomorrow.
Tomorrow. Shittyfuckfuck. It's happening. This is where it's gonna be. After a year of my involvement, it's just hit me. It finishes tomorrow.