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Base Camp Home Away From Home For Whittaker
Posted on April 30, 2010

By Leif Whittaker

It’s been over a month since I said goodbye to the comforts of home and embarked on this expedition and, to be honest, I’m starting to miss some things. Staying focused on the mountain is important, but during the fat part of the trip, when our team is resting and recuperating at base camp, waiting for our next rotation up the Icefall, it’s hard not to think of my own bed, my own town, and the loved ones whom I left behind. I find a passage in my father’s journal that sums up my feelings exactly. This from April 4, 1963: “Would love to lay on a beach somewhere and not freeze and gasp for breath.”

Still, it’s not for a lack of luxuries that these homesick feelings arise. On the dining table where I’m writing there are probably over fifty condiments, including numerous hot sauces, as well as hot drinks and hot maple syrup—of every imaginable sort. Twenty feet away, piled in a plastic tub, is an assortment of candy bars, energy bars, nuts, jerky, general snackage. Above that there are shelves of board games, card games, table games, DVD’s, and novels. Heck, we even have two Whiffle ball bats and three golf clubs, in case anyone feels like putting in the Icefall, and Mark Tucker has constructed a horseshoe pitch next to camp—I lost two out of three yesterday.

Instead of playing cribbage, my father and the climbers of his era would memorize poetry to pass the breezy afternoons. To this day, he can still recite Robert Service’s “The Cremation of Sam McGee” without missing a verse, and he’ll do so, occasionally, to the great enjoyment of whatever guests might be visiting. The closest thing to poetry that I’ve memorized since arriving here are the arcane two-letter words that are essential to scoring big points in a game of Scrabble. Dave Hahn, having been to Everest more than a dozen times, already has these words memorized and regularly uses “QI” or “ZA” to utterly dominate a game that, as a writer, I should be good at.

Besides varied forms of entertainment, base camp is outfitted with, believe it or not, a shower. Although somewhat rudimentary, the feeling of hot water and soap after a week without it is a pleasure beyond comparison.

So it’s not that base camp is uncomfortable. Perhaps base camp is even too comfortable. When I’m stuffed into a tent at 20,000 feet, waiting for the next challenge, the next day of climbing, I rarely think about anything but that challenge. However, when I’m playing chess, munching an Almond Joy, and debating the merits of wool versus cotton, I sometimes wish, like my father, that I could be sitting on a beach somewhere, enjoying the sun.

That’s exactly why we need to keep moving, to keep climbing even if we should be resting, so that we don’t get too homesick or comfortable. Dave and I stroll onto the medial moraine in search of lost artifacts. All we find are a few rusty cans, a few unidentified remnants from the past. But it feels amazingly good to be walking, to be scrambling up icy valleys even on the ankles of the mountain. The walk brings my focus back to Everest. In two nights we’ll be climbing through the Icefall and I’m so excited to be moving up again.

Author: - Friday, April 30th, 2010

  1. Jackie Grant

    Namaste from Scott’s Grandma Jackie. It’s nice to know the whole team is in Camp 2 and I can imagine white light blessing you all at once. There are many of us following your steps as closely as possible. jg

  2. Randy Martin

    How is your knee doing?

  3. david

    i won’t be on everest but i’ll be trying out some of the new First Ascent gear next week in colorado during a 14er snow route climb. i’m expecting good results of course. good luck up there and take care of yourself.

  4. Karen White

    This messege is for Michael Brown. This is from friends and family in Laclede Kansas. We are here thinking of you. Take Care and God Be With You All. kw

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