Report from Base Camp
by Audrey Salkeld
April 21, 1996
All climbing members of the team are now on the mountain, where they plan to
remain a few more days, spending another night at Camp 2 where camera assistant
Robert Schauer is expected to join them today. He is a day behind, having been
trying to shake off an upper respiratory infection, which was not helped when
he accidentally stepped into a freezing lake up to his middle while climbing
Kala Patar last week. Ed Viesturs forged ahead of the main group, carrying a
load to Camp 3, from where he reported the going between 2 and 3 was very icy.
He will not be sleeping there, but rejoining the others at 2.
Base Camp is now quite a city with a dozen or so expeditions camped along the
mile of the moraine strip. It is curious that, having voluntarily removed
ourselves as far as possible from the trappings of the so-called civilization,
expeditions then appear to vie with one another in creating alternative
'civilizations' of ingenious comfort and complexity. Elaborate mess tents have
sprung up, with electric lighting and in some cases heating, music, comfy
chairs and tables, as well as all the business paraphernalia of phones, faxes
and e-mail, though these latter have proved fickle in practice. Even the
Sherpas compete in the construction of impressive camp kitchens, mostly sangars
(dry stone walls) with pitched roofs made from heavy-duty tarpaulins and laid
out inside with all the economy and efficiency of kitchens in the best
There are several doctors at Base Camp—we share the services of the New
Zealand doctor on Rob Hall's team—and Gamov bags are available both at Base
and at Advance Base Camp in the Western Cwm. With these, it is possible to
simulate the pressure of lower altitudes for the emergency treatment of victims
of one of the serious high altitude disorders like HAPE or HACE
(altitude-induced pulmonary or cerebral edema).
Yesterday, a young British climber with Mal Duff's expedition staggered down
the Icefall in very poor condition after a serious heart attack. He was on
oxygen all last night, under constant supervision, and evacuated by military
helicopter early this morning to the coronary unit in Kathmandu hospital.
At Base Camp the main activities continue to be sending expedition postcards
and keeping up with our washing! We socialize as much as possible with other
groups—and trade good books to read. Every so often some outdated
newspapers and magazines arrive by runner, so when all else stops we catch up
on news of the world outside.