Ben – The Beasting

The Beasting of Ben

It is 5am on Saturday morning. Last time I saw 5am on a Saturday I was staggering around Hobart, a drunken university student in search of a souvlaki. This time I was woken by a rude Israeli man who thought that outside my room would be a great place to hold a loud conversation…I got up to (not so politely) tell him that it wasn’t! The cheeky bugger said, “Shut your door then” I just stared him down with my crazy morning eyes and wild hair, he left shortly afterwards. “Hi my name is Ben and I am most definitely NOT a morning person…”

Being wide awake, I am now downstairs drinking black tea, listening to the planes take off from the airport next door, as in right next door, I could spit on the planes should I so desire. I am tired so please bear with me if this blog is a bit scattered.

Oh look, something shiny…

Blog update…hmm.

Two things you should know about proper mountaineers (which as a non-proper mountaineer, I have only recently learnt):

1) They abbreviate everything: Crampons = Poons, Ama Dablam = AD, Ama Dablam Base Camp = ADBC, Going Overland a lot = GOAL.

2) Words take on a new meaning. To walk along a glacier, sweating like a fat lady in a bakery is not called ‘trekking’, it is called ‘Beasting yourself”. When you have spent a day covered in snow, trudging along slippery, muddy tracks and wishing you were home with a hot chocolate it is not called ‘lousy’ it is called ‘less than ideal’.

I left off last time with skanky, oily shoulder length hair and in desperate need of a shower. Pleased to report that I managed a bucket shower in a small, cold room. This is quite a trick as, in the cold, when you pour water over yourself you get warm, then random parts (think: the extremities) start to get immediately cold. I managed to wash the last few weeks of trekking out of my hair. I am pretty sure that when I pulled all the loose hair out of my brush it ran off under the door, but maybe the poor light was playing tricks on me.

Our retreat (for want of a better word) back to Thamel has been quite enjoyable.

Everyone is now well acclimatised, pack fit and getting used to each others’ potty humour. I remember that Mal once said, and I agree, that it is a good thing to have at least one girl on expeditions to tone down the testosterone. With seven boys the jokes are becoming increasingly, umm, raw…What’s the hardest thing about Rollerblading?

Day one of our return to Lukla was uphill. This is a double edged sword as I have a dodgy right knee that prefers going uphill, but also I have a lazy attitude which prefers going down. The smoo had firmly settled in the valley closing out any views, but also keeping us nicely cool under the effort. Smoo is fog/cloud/drizzle-stuff. Up and up we went, then around, then up. Occasionally the smoo would open up a dummy hole to give us a glimpse down impossibly big valleys which were dotted with terraced farms, short trees and I-don’t-know-how-to-describe-the beauty-of-this-area, views. A dummy hole is when the entire sky is smoo, but then a patch of blue shows, making all the dummys say, “I think it’s clearing.” Read my blog and you will learn actual meteorological facts kids, just wait until I get onto technical climbing terms!

Late in the afternoon, just as the smoo was turning to proper rain, we got to a tiny, shit-ridden teahouse 300 meters below the pass. We had climbed around 1600 meters (for actual information on place names, heights etc, check out Mal’s updates: www.verticalresources.org). Had we done this climb as un-acclimatized people we would be suffering, like that pale looking guy in the corner with his head in his hands, but as we were acclimatized to 5000 meters it was just a big walk.

The teahouse was overrun with nice smelling trekkers just starting from Lukla and the more pungent variety going out to Lukla. Settling in to relax with a snickers Bar and a tea someone, I don’t remember who, went to the toilet and returned with a somewhat haunted look. When people travel in Asia they tend to come back banging on about squat toilets. In the hills of Nepal a decent squatty is a luxury. Mostly toilets are a hole covered with some planks and a hastily built shed. Wobbly floorboards make the experience rushed, non-existent ventilation makes it multi-sensory. Remember the scene in Lord of the rings, where they are at Mount Mordor and one Hobbit slips, the lava can be seen boiling below his legs as a friend pulls him back up onto the ledge? Yeah, that.

Moving away from toilet stories (However, if you want just one more toilet story, check out the first chapter of my book at www.redrucksack.com/book there is a ripper in there, one which I shudder to recall…) The following morning we woke at 5am and readied ourselves for a big push down to Lukla.

Before going down, we had to go up. The pass had, until recently, been closed due to the storm. We slowly glaciated our tired way up 300 meters to crampon point, then traversed a lovely crunchy, grippy slope. Being early, the smoo had yet to close in and the views were expansive (I wonder when I’ll run out of descriptives? When I start describing everything as ‘radical’, you’ll know I have exhausted my vocab). We could see right down huge valleys to little terraces and forests. To our surprise a lot of groups were coming over the pass in trekking boots, with no crampons, and certainly no skill. One large chap at the tail end of a European group nearly knocked me off the hill when he slid past uncontrollably. It was kind of comical, but mostly, “Do not knock me off the hill with your lack of skill, champ.”

Down we went to below the snow line, to the tree line, through farms, past Yaks blowing trails of steam out of their noses, and over big gullys bridged with fallen trees, and finally into Lukla. Back at the same teahouse where we started around 14 days ago (again for actual information see Mal’s updates!). We sat in the courtyard drinking, you guessed it, tea and rubbing our thighs absently. We had descended over 2000meters in a day and were feeling it. A large, fresh looking group arrived and amongst them was Sidi! My old mate Sidi.

Sidi, or Sidi Mamma was our climbing sherpa on Manaslu in 2011. We get along really well and I hold him in huge regard after how he helped me on the summit day. We had summited the bastard (you know that you have ‘properly’ climbed a mountain when you can only refer to it as ‘the bastard’ or ‘that F#%king hill’ for years afterwards). On the way down Mal and the boys were going to stay at camp three but I wanted to go lower as I was feeling a bit off. Long story short, I got a little bit lost, in my tired, hypoxic state I wasn’t thinking straight and was super scared. Sidi got out of bed and came to my rescue, we went to camp two together and spent a cold night spooning under my sleeping bag (Sidi had left his up at 3).

Note: My wife Jette has given me limited permission to spoon other men: when I am cold and scared on a mountain…and as long as I am the big spoon.

Sidi, Mal and I retired to the dining room to drink tea and catch up on the last few years. He was thrilled that I am now married, I am thrilled that he has another baby and is looking happy, fit and prospering. This random catchup had me grinning throughout the night. Sadly we will miss Sidi by one day in Kathmandu so will not have the chance to take him and his family out for a Thai feast this time.

Being that we are now hitting up the Khumbu valley we will be using Yaks to carry our heavy goods so we held a small function for our porters where we filled them up with Ratchi, tipped them generously and sent them off to paint the town red. Mal and the boys went out to play pool but I stayed in and caught up on emails.

Today we are off up the Khumbu, I am really interested to see how the area has changed since I was here last in 2010. I’ll keep you posted.

Blue skies and happy feet (finally),

Ben

PS – For all the parents of members out there reading this, all the boys are doing well and are having fun. I’ll be letting them do an update on my blog after we have packed away the POONS and CRABS at ADBC. A reader has requested more interesting information about Andrew than his size and the state of his beard, but sadly this is still a work in progress.

PPS – if you have any questions, or want me to write about any specific aspect of this adventure please feel free to ask in the comments section below. I have a trusty Admin who can send me details of requests.

Oh and the hardest thing about rollerblading is telling your family that you are gay.

One Response to Ben – The Beasting

  • Ari van Eysden says:

    Just a good luck greeting to you Ben and the team. Keep the interesting stories coming! Just glad our kids aren’t quite as ‘crazy’ as you lot but, heck, someone has to do it.

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