For six long days, mud, rain, entangling tree roots & hanging vines, steep slopes, and angry rivers all conspired against us to impede our progress towards base camp. We are travelling a new route from the north pioneered earlier this year by our guides who pieced together several long-abandoned tribal hunting routes. Our entourage includes 30+ porters from the local Moni tribe, those with machetes in front helping to thin the dense jungle growth. Only 13 non-tribal people from the civilized world have ever set foot along this route (all of them climbers). We felt privileged to be travelling through these remote areas and villages where the children have never seen white people, let alone digital cameras with instant images & videos of themselves! I'm sure they'll be talking about the "white magicians" for months!
These experiences made our daily forced march to Base Camp almost bearable. For nearly a week, our routine consisted of powering ourselves up, down and through the most difficult terrain we have ever experienced. Once we accepted the fact that our super dry Gore-tex outerwear was useless against the incessant rain; and that the leach-inhabited mud puddles could swallow your leg up to your knee without notice, we simply laughed about our current reality.....it was either that or cry. After 8-9 hours we would reach camp and collapse, exhausted into our tents. We re-fueled with as many calories (carbs mostly) as possible in order get up before 6:00am and be ready to slide our feet back in to our wet, muddy boots to repeat the entire process once again. On Tuesday afternoon September 23rd, we finally arrived in to Base Camp at approximately 13,800 feet and tried not to think about the misery of re-tracing our steps on the return trip. Now it was time to take a day of rest, wash some rancid smelling clothes by the scenic lake and prepare for our summit attempt.
Injury Report From the jungle:
Denise - Various bruises & scrapes on all four limbs, including a bruised ego. Right knee is holding up pretty well (thankfully). Bump on head from log falling on top during tent erection process.
Paul - Deep gouge on left shin inflicted by sharp and slippery rock while crossing river. Pain with massive swelling & bruising to follow. Also, bumps and cut on head in separate accident.