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Himex Newsletter 9 – Manaslu 2010

Two mountaineers navigating a glacier on a Gasherbrum II Expedition
Russell reaching for the ball.JPG
Matthew in cricket action.JPG
Adam displaying his professional cricket skills.JPG
Lacchu has certaintly more skills than cooking.JPG
Matt entertaining the team with his musical skills.JPG
Ellen, Alan, Aaron, Billi, Woody and Pieter clapping to Matt's tunes.JPG

The following blog is courtesy of Billi Bierling, Himalayan Experience:

Power shortages, musical delights and a cricket match

Due to the severe power shortage we are currently faced with here at base camp, this latest update on Himex’s Manaslu 2010 expedition will have to be brief. What would normally be very good for the Nepali power situation is becoming a bit of an issue for our electricity supply at 4,700m. As most of the country is getting its electricity from hydropower stations, Nepal usually suffers frequent power cuts due to the lack of rain during the dry season. At times, the country is faced with up to 16 hours of so-called ‘load shedding’ per day. Here at base camp we need the sun to power our 13 batteries, which we use to charge our computers, satellite phones, iPods, camera batteries, lights for the mess tent – especially for late nights, Bigan satellite internet system, etc. but without this natural power our resources are getting pretty low. “The solar panels charge even without the sun, but it certainly cannot meet the high demand, so we have put a hold on charging all electrical devices,” Adrian explained.

So here we are, surrounded by clouds and rain and the most sought after item is certainly the umbrella, which is used to walk across base camp, where approximately 15 expeditions from all over the world have settled down now.

Bringing a guitar up from Kathmandu was just the right thing to keep our spirits up and on Wednesday the Himex team enjoyed a good evening with Matt’s tunes. “I have compiled a list of songs from which you can choose,” he said presenting a detailed catalogue of songs, which were partly his own and partly cover songs. While Matt was playing his tunes, he was musically supported by Woody scratching the cheese grater and Russell banging a couple of spoons. ”This is how we used to make music in the old days,” he called out.  It was yet another evening filled with lots of laughing and it showed the amazing team spirit among the Himex crew. “My tummy really hurts from all this laughing,” said Aaron, who is getting more and more into the British sense of humour and its intricate lingo.

Russell cracked open another two cartons of white wine and everyone was enjoying this special treat, especially Suzuki who seemed unstoppable. “I only had one bottle of wine,” she said when she was asked whether she had a hangover the following morning. “Suzuki can drink Billi and me under the table,” commented Ellen, who completely missed her bedtime and left Thursday’s party as late as 11pm.

The initial plan of going back to Camp I and then to Camp II on Friday was postponed by one day as the weather forecast does not look good for the next couple of days and the avalanche danger would just be too high farther up the mountain. “Even though we are all wearing avalanche transceivers, including the Sherpas, I would not want to take the risk,” Adrian said. However, there is hope for improvement in the weather soon. “Friday marks the start of autumn in the Tibetan calendar and I am sure the weather will be better from now on,” said Phurba Tashi, who is also hoping for the sun to arrive as his Sherpa crew is also getting bored and tired with the rain.

High altitude cricket match

On Friday morning, Russell motivated the whole crew, including the Sherpas, to get their rain gear on and build a cricket pitch in order to put the new cricket set to use. Within a few minutes about 20 people were milling around shifting rocks and flattening the ground to make a perfect field.

After Adam had put up the wickets and Russell had demarcated the pitch, most members, guides and Sherpas were on the field playing a game of cricket, which would have certainly been rained off in any other place. “I was gasping for breath but other than that it was like playing in England in May,” our cricket star Adam said.

Friday’s game may not have been the highest cricket match in the world – the 2009 Himex team played a breathless game in the Western Cwm on Mount Everest at about 6,400m – but it was certainly one of the wettest matches with one of the most interesting balls. Matthew sacrificed the rain cover for his rucksack – a very bold move considering the weather – which he made into a ball and rounded it up with some medical tape. “I am glad they made a softer cricket ball as we certainly don’t need any cricket related-injuries just before we are going up the mountain,” a worried Doctor Monica said.

The match lasted for about 20 minutes and the players displayed remarkable commitment and pretty good cricket skills, including Lacchu who threw the ball towards the batsman with a vengeance. Not everybody was involved in the game though and some of us were standing inside the dry mess tent trying to understand the rules of the match. “Who is doing what?” a baffled Rene asked me, however, I was unable to give him an answer as cricket is probably as much Double-Dutch to me as it is to our Dutchman Rene.

After the short frenzy of playing cricket in the pouring rain, the team has now settled back down in their mess tents and the Sherpas are back in their quarters trying to figure out what to do for the rest of the day. Fortunately our day is broken up by our meals and Russell’s stories about the ‘good old days’.

And so we will stay here for another day trying to kill the day with reading or playing cards as writing emails or listening to our iPods might no longer be an option with the lack of solar power. But with Phurba Tashi’s prediction we are all counting on the weather to improve and are looking forward to getting higher up on the mountain. If all goes well we will leave for Camp I on Saturday, spend one night there, advance to Camp II on Sunday, ‘tag’ Camp 3 at 6,900m on Monday and be back at base camp on Tuesday, 21 September. Until then we will be out of touch, however, I hope that our second acclimatisation trip goes well and provides me with lots of interesting news to write about.