Report from Base Camp
by Audrey Salkeld
April 19, 1996
This has been a week of consolidation and acclimatization for the members of
the IMAX/IWERKS Everest Expedition. All the climbers except Sumiyo (who was under the
weather) climbed and filmed in the Icefall before sleeping at Camp 1. Ed and
Araceli then climbed on to Camp 2, sleeping there also before rejoining the
others at Base. Today, everyone except assistant cameraman Robert Schauer has
gone up again and are expected to be away for six or seven days, during which
time it is hoped to sleep as high as Camp 3 and make a carry from there to Camp
4 on the South Col. This is all part of the slow and steady process of
accustoming the body to ever-higher altitudes.
The weather has been extremely changeable. The first night that the team slept
at Camp 1 it was incredibly windy back in Base Camp and all of us there were
fearing the climbers must be having a rough time of it with what Robert calls
the "Lhasa-Kathmandu Express," the fierce wind out of Tibet which funnels over
the South Col and through the Western Cwm into Nepal. In fact, on the
mountain, they were enjoying calm and windless conditions, which only shows how
localized the weather is up in these high mountains.
The next day started cloudy, but cleared to one of boiling heat. Before long
the glacier was a mass of bubbling watercourses and many of the tents developed
moats around them. Our scientist, Roger Bilham, left the expedition and was
accompanied back down the Khumbu glacier by David Breashears and Robert Schauer
with the IMAX/IWERKS camera. They wanted to film him retrieving his GPS equipment
from Kala Patar. That went well, and they had good views back to Everest, but
a 4 hour wait up there in the hope for fine sunset shots was foiled when clouds
rolled in again to obscure the view.
There followed two snowy days with no sunshine at all (and hence no possibility
of generating any solar power) before fine weather returned yesterday. The
combination of fresh snow and warmth has triggered an exceptional number of
avalanches and stonefalls from the cirque of mountains around Base Camp, and we
lie in our bags at night listening to what sounds like the 1812 overture as
they crash around us.
During this period (13 April 1996) we celebrated the Nepali New Year—Year
2053. On a purely domestic level, one of the minor achievements this week has
been the mastery of successful yogurt-making, which we try to do every day. In
fact, no one can have any complaints about our food up here. Ed and Paula
Viesturs have seen to it we are enviably stocked with delicacies; Changba (our
cook) works magic in his kitchen, and various team members see to that we are
plied with international cuisine.