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A clear view of the summit of Everest (from Namche)

From one of Namche Bazaar's internet cafes (altitude 3400m/11,000ft), I'm trying to catch up, despite the sensory overload and backlog of events since I last blogged - not to mention the distractions of street noise and meter ticking at 10 rupees per minute: this is only half the rate in our Namche lodge but still five pounds per hour, a small fortune in Nepal!

The highlight so far was today's pre-dawn excursion from our lodge to the military base which has an amazing viewpoint towards Everest, flanked by Nuptse and Ama Dablam. So I have finally seen the summit of the world, clearly and with awe. I watched the light dawn over the ridge about 7 am. Most iconic of all summits, Everest has entered the English language and seems an overworked metaphor, as whenever somebody is a bit stretched they talk of attaining their "personal Everest". To me, the Nepali name Sagarmatha ("goddess of the sky") seems much more fitting. (Chomolungma, meaning "Mother of the Universe", is the Sherpa/Tibetan name.)

Afterwards, I had a heart-warming experience. On return to the viewpoint later, I had carelessly left my wallet in its cafe-museum. Noticing later, I returned a third time, not in panic, but with total confidence that the Nepali attendant I had spoken to would have kept it safe. He had, and I knew I didn't need to check its contents, although obviously I was happy to reward his honesty: rupees to the value of about 40 pounds in sterling could have represented considerable temptation. So here in Nepal, Friday the 13th was my lucky day.

We (the Xtreme Everest volunteers) are certainly working hard. Our daily routine begins with a half-hour testing session (blood oxygen saturation, pulse and blood pressure, then a strenuous 2-minute step test, then re-test, then swap places and repeat all). We do this before breakfast and sometimes it is followed by further tests (blood samples, exercise bicycle and neuro-psychological). We have trekked so far between Lukla and Monjo, over precarious suspension bridges and steeply uphill to Namche Bazaar. My maximum power output at Namche was a mere 140 watts, but producing it was just as big an effort as the 170 watts at Kathmandu.

We realise that things get inexorably harder as we gain altitude: Base Camp has about 50% of the oxygen available at sea level. But our morale is good, we know why we are here and we are getting feedback on our performance. We also had a good briefing on the brain from a young doctor in Kathmandu, and last night an excellent talk on hypoxia by Monty Mythen. He is a Professor at University College London, and also a great communicator who involves his children in his professional life: his use of Brio toy railway to explain hypoxia will remain with us all a long time.

Comments (1)

Sandra Bardwell:

Great to read your blog from Namche - so far, so very good it seems. Hope your apparent good fortune with the weather continues.
Be prepared for a stream of questions a few weeks hence!


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