Base Camps on mountain expeditions can present in a variety
of ways: on snow, on rock, or in our case on a beautiful terraced meadow
perched on the flanks of Nanga Parbat. It is
summer here so the wildflowers are abundant and spectacular, providing a rich
colorful landscape for strolling from the dining tent, to the sleeping tent, to
the communications tent, to the shower tent.
Drinking, cooking, and cleaning water come from a crystal clear glacial
spring that runs 100 feet behind our dining tent.
The proximity of our bathroom tent allows one to experience
a longer amble across the lavender-washed fields, thankfully.
As much as it is our jumping-off point to scale Nanga Parbat
Base Camp provides what are commonly assumed amenities in urban and suburban
settings, but here at 14,000 feet are nothing short of luxuries. Examine our body cleansing options: simple
hands and face washing requires our kitchen staff to heat water on a kerosene
stove, then transfer it to a 5 gallon plastic insulated sports dispenser. This is welcome as not only a refreshing but
necessary precaution, as sanitation is paramount to preventing germs and
illness from spreading throughout the expedition members.
We also have one of the commercial-grade showers that are
available in outdoor stores, the type that you fill with warm water and hang, and
then stand under while fidgeting with a tube to direct the stream to various
body parts. We had a pump attachment to give the unit pressure so the stream
was adequate to scour soap away. I say
"had" because the fitting of the hose attachment at the pump side kept failing
at crucial (soap in eyes) moments. Not Good.
We'll send that project back to the manufacturer's R&D Department. Meanwhile there is still that little issue of
a suds-filled face. So we consulted our
resident home improvement expert and team member, Nelson Laur, to design a
newer, more effective unit.
Our man was in his element; within 15 minutes he'd converted
a water-toting bin (about the size of a 5 gallon bucket, but squared and with a
thicker wall) into a supreme shower unit. A fitting and showerhead with an
on/off/flow feature had been brought in case such an engineering task presented
itself. **Pause now for audience applause** To everyone's satisfaction and
enjoyment the shower is now a prime feature of Base Camp living.
A few notes on the support staff from Adventure Tours Pakistan. Samander Khan oversees everything from
drivers taking us to and from the main road to organizing porters to giving
guidance to our lead cook Ghazan Khan and essential assistant cook Amanulhaq. Samander, the wise sage, is honored and
respected by all who have passed him on the trail or entered our camp. At times
he will pose, statue-like, outside the cook tent wrapped in a seasoned wool
blanket and gaze thoughtfully, meditatively in the distance. His body language upon greeting you is warm
as he gently, carefully, but confidently envelopes your hands with both of his
in a genuine and sincere embrace.
Ghazan, our cook is an experienced expedition chef from
Hunza (5 hours to the north) who has spent the bulk of his time in the Baltoro
region. This is his first visit to Nanga
Parbat Base Camp. He and Amanualhaq
spend between 12-15 hours a day prepping, cooking, and cleaning for us. They cook delicious and plentiful meals. The smiles they exhibit when we express how
much we enjoy their culinary creations is beyond words. They beam with pride and satisfaction.
Today they are working especially hard as we host the 1st
Iranian Nanga Parbat Expedition for a sumptuous lunch feast.
Finally, speaking of food and sustenance I'd like to give a
huge shout-out of thanks to Ari and the folks at Pixie Mate' in Boulder,
Colorado. We have all been enjoying the variety of mate' teas Pixie generously
provided the expedition. Several members
who have never tried mate' before are now sworn believers. For those of you who
have never tried mate as an alternative caffeinated beverage, Pixie is the best
around. Good stuff.
Time to go eat and socialize.
Until Next time......Dan Jenkins
Epilogue: We spent
part of our day watching two Germans through the binoculars who were attempting
to do the second ascent of a ridge flanking the southern side of Nanga Parbat and possibly connect that with the first
ascent of the ridge to the summit. It
would be a bold and dynamic climb. They had already climbed Nanga
Parbat two weeks earlier by the standard route which our team is
climbing. This morning Samander had come
forth saying they were descending a horrendously dangerous slope to Base Camp
as they had radioed him yesterday saying they were out of food and needing to
retreat to the valley floor. At 4 pm
this afternoon Chris Warner and I met Joseph and Luis as they had safely
returned to the moraine 45 minutes from camp.
We talked and fed them Snickers, crackers and fresh water. They are currently in our camp recuperating
and telling the tales of their epic week on the ridge and subsequently dreaming
of future endeavors in the mountains. Camaraderie of the mountain community at its