I’ve worked it out now; most days follow the same pattern.
Each evening we eat dinner in the mess tent at around 6:30pm. Chris the Loxton’s chef hasn’t yet quite managed to sort out the Sherpa chef, who seems to think that our Loxton’s food is to be eaten as well as, not instead of, local food.
Last night we had beef in Boddington’s ale, which is a complete meal in itself, but the chef insisted on serving it with rice, dahl and curried potatoes and vegetables. We’ll get this sorted.
During dinner the banter amongst the team reaches new levels with everyone ribbing everyone else about everything. The temperature is well below freezing and everyone is sat wearing down jackets and woolly hats. By the time pudding is served (tinned fruit) our feet are freezing as the floor of the tent is packed ice. The dining table has slowly sunk into the ice and now become a coffee table.
By 8:00 pm everyone has drifted off to bed in a tent that is unbearably cold. The trip from the mess tent to our own tents is navigated by head torch. I strip down to boxer shorts and pull on a couple of T-shirts before climbing into a cold sleeping bag and shivering. Last night I solved this problem by filling my three drinking water bottles with boiling water and putting them in my sleeping bag. Last night I was quite warm. Sometimes at night there is a hailstorm and often thunder.
During the night the temperature really drops. Water bottles freeze solid, batteries in our gadgets stop working and any moisture on the pillow turns to ice. Next morning I don’t want to get out of my warm bag but eventually the sun rises and hits the tent and turns it into a sauna. I get dressed but the ceiling of the tent is covered in hoar frost from condensation which now starts to melt and drips everywhere.
I’ve kept my boots inside the tent in a vain effort to keep them warm but the shoelaces are frozen rigid. Outside and into the warm sunshine, a visit to the toilet tent (not pleasant) and into breakfast. Loxton the dog is usually hanging round waiting for his own serving of Loxton’s food.
After breakfast we load our backpacks with foul weather gear and three litres of water and set off on the day’s trek. Today we climbed two mountain peaks which from below looked impossible.
On the climb altitude kicks in making us breathless so we can only move at a snail’s pace, stopping every few yards for a rest. We cover ourselves in sunscreen and have to wear sunglasses as without them we’d get snow blindness. We constantly overheat and have to adjust our dress all the time to keep cool on the ascent and warm on a stop or the descent.
Our trek today was fantastic. The weather was good and we had a real sense of achievement on the summit. Loxton the dog accompanied us every step of the way.
Frankly I’d have quite happily had a rest day today but the paratroopers set off at a blistering pace before the rest of us had even had breakfast. They announced they were going to climb the high peak which I’d no intention of doing but there was no way we could suffer them boasting on their return so we had to follow. At the top of the first peak Richard announced he was going to do the second. I hesitated a moment but then reluctantly followed. I was glad I did.
Malcolm and Richard at 4,400 metres
A couple of Sherpas followed us to the summit of the first mountain. They watched us snack on Mars bars and then produced boiled eggs and chapattis!
The weather is entirely predictable. Hot sun in the morning but the clouds always come over at about 11:30am. During the afternoon it’s usually cloudy and overcast and often a rainstorm. We have lunch in the mess tent, soup and chapatti, and then into our tents for a doze.
This trek isn’t exactly enjoyable but has been good for acclimatisation, fitness training but mostly for getting us used to the bad conditions that will face us for the next 50 days.
Tomorrow will be a good day. We pack up and leave at 7:00am to go down the mountain to warm weather.
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