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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Update from base camp

Hello everyone, Ronnie here again from group 1. I have pleasure in saying 'hi de hi' from basecamp! Group 1 arrived on 10th April after a long, (550m height gained) slog from Dharmasala. It was a pleasure to escape from this place which will be remembered by all groups as the worst toilets ever experienced! . The important bit of news is that all groups are at basecamp since groups 4&5 arrived safely today.

So what's life like at our basecamp 5100m high in the Himalayas? I will try to illuminate it for you, of course at the expense of certain individuals reputations.

My image of a basecamp has been something along the lines of putting my tent pegs into soft alpine grassy meadow whilst wearing tshirt, shorts and sandals. Other expectations include perhaps an oasis amongst angry snow capped mountains with a cheery hello to the passing trekkers. Andy described a scene where the small trees sway in the light wind, breeze induced waves lap on the small lakeside beach and the sun shines from as azur blue sky. WRONG! The brochure lied.

It's true we have a lake close by our tents, but no one has seen it yet and we're unlikely to. The only infinity pool we are likely to see is the endless expanse of thigh deep snow. So, now we have two rows of thirty accommodation tents, with a trench of snow separating them. And we have named this lakeside road. It is definitely not 'sur la page' 'Auf dem Strand' or any riviera that I've ever seen. We thought it may be possible to get Big Jim to jump up and down on the area where we think the lake is (since he's the tallest) to see if he can break through the ice with his feet touching the bottom before his head disappears. No, my lovely blog friends. No swim up pool-bar for us, handy ATM, oR cocktail menu for 'Manaslu tours'...and yes we did actually pay for the privilege of being here.

Since we've been here there has been one snow storm delivering a dump of snow measuring about 50cm on top of what we already had, which was delivered over a 36 hour windy period. This fresh snow fall has killed any possibility of climbing Larkye peak, so I and a few others have been for a wee saunter around basecamp.

I went on my own little wander as the snow and wind started to build no without knowing it became the first of the expedition to pass the Larkye La (except for family Pollards). I then descended to the glacier and up a wee boulder strewn snowy lump. This was an expedition height record which lasted a meer two days in the light of Super Sam V and our French colleagues who just simply opened their wings and climbed higher and faster than anyone else on a rare morning off research testing.

The weather was terrible. I had a wee man on one shoulder saying "you're on your own Ronnie, that is the terror of these hills, the weather can come doon just like that... You're DOOMED." On the other shoulder another wee man was saying "Och, relax Ronnie, it's just a winter walk on your neighbourhood Cairngorm plateau". By the time I started to descend I found David, sent like a search and rescue dog to find me. After 4 weeks of trekking and with all that facial hair, the dog analogy is fair, but perhaps unfair on SARDA dogs, because they smell better!

With all groups here now, we have over 40 tents for accommodation, dining, research, toilets and kitchens. But pride of place is the 'Denzil dome!' This is our power hub for solar energy, radio comms, repair and maintenance. And tonight where the quiz will be held! Like a wee shed, at the bottom of the allotment, but 10.5m squared and bright orange, it wouldn't look out of place on the moon.

Of course, with all this power and plenty of people about, the research work has commenced. Being in group 1 and first to arrive, it's natural that we've done the bulk of work around establishing basecamp for the needs of our researchers. However when I was asked if they could test the solar panel power output by attaching electrodes to my nipples, and if there was a meer tingle then it would indicate the weather was overcast! I declined such a kind offer.

Even without such unofficial tests Gabs, James, Sam O and Sam V's teams still take unashamed delight in poking, pricking, prodding, measuring, and exercising us poor trekkers. The only thing missing is a hamster wheel! In all seriousness, with such bad weather, it's nothing short of a miracle that such sophisticated equipment and capable people can produce any results at all.

Every night for over three weeks nights now Simon A has pestered group 1 for their oxygen saturation and pulse rates for his school project back home. However there was pay back with one particular figure, 56! Yes 11.04.59 was his date of birth and we were able to make a celebration and force him to eat a Nepali version of an orange iced birthday cake.

We've seen Heather's gymnastics over a barrel, Simons face plant, the skills of our solar panel snow sweep brigade, but nothing compares to Guillome's one piece high altitude suit. This Elton John's throw away can be described as ideal for both the leopards of Manaslu or the Cougars of Montreaux!

Some quotes from our 'doctors':
- "it's hard work staying alive at altitude, I'm knackered after an hours snooze"
-"it's been so cold I'll be happy to see my penis again"
-"treating AMS is just have to pee out all the bad altitude!"
Five years training and that's the best we can find...oh boy!

Finally, now that all our members of group 4&5 are here at basecamp, it's a pleasure to say that everyone is content and well. It's true that some continue to have gastro and altitude related illness, but nothing serious.

So on that note,apologies for my nonsensical ramblings, and a safe time to all of the blogs readers, especially all the little Minklets out there.

Yours Aye
Ronnie Robb
Group 1

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