It’s 5:45 a.m. and Renan and I are up and throwing the last of the goods into barrels and duffels. What stays? What goes? Where are my shoes?■TAWOCHE 2k10 dispatches #2
Our days in Kathmandu have been good…a productive and creative time to sink back into Nepali culture before getting on a plane to fly into the mountains. There is no doubt it is time to get out of the city and up into the hills. The flight to Lukla is a time-warp…you get on the plane surrounded by the amenities of modern life and 45 minutes later, after landing on a super sketchy runway that angles steeply uphill, find yourself surrounded only by trails, monasteries and deep gorges. No more car horns and pollution…it’s sick!
The motivation and creativity are running thick and Renan and I are busting at the seams to capture our trip and bring everyone back home along…it’s good to be here, but the extended tribe is never far from our thoughts.
The good news is the plane didn't crash...and there is no bad news.■TAWOCHE 2K10 dispatches_#3
The lights that dot the hillside outside our window go out one by one...it’s late in Namche. Our floor is less carpet space than duffels overflowing with camera and climbing gear.
Namche is the hub of almost all activity in the high Khumbu and yet now in the off season, it’s hard to find a shop open before noon. We’ve been here for two days, breathing the thinner air, adjusting to the cooler days and hanging out with the Tibetan traders below the village. Thamserku, Kwangde, and Kusum Kanguru tower above us in an impressive trifecta of ice and stone...conditions look good and we are stoked.
Tomorrow we’ll leave before the sun hits the village and wander up the Thame valley towards Tibet. Our friend Chhewang Nima will come along fort he ride.. You’ve never heard of him...but you should have considering he’s climbed Everest 17 times (yeah, you read that right)! His is just another example of Sherpa modesty and stoicism.
The next four days will take us over the Renjo La at roughly 17,400 ft., down to Gokyo, and finally to Phortse where we will stage for our attempt on Tawoche. Three friends, two cameras, one trail....epic.
Turn up the RADIO! Coming at you live from 17,000 ft. below the South Central (Gangsta) Buttress of Tawoche…■TAWOCHE 2k10 dispatches #4
Renan and I are stuffed in a tent suffering from pounding altitude headaches. This after our 4,300 ft elevation jump yesterday on our final approach to BC comes as little surprise. We have never actually been accused of being the sharpest bowling balls on the shelf…so go figure.
Tawoche in all her glory rises above us another 5,000ft. With the view, comes the all to familiar rollercoaster of emotions that precede any alpine endeavor. Balancing fear and intuition, angst and energy, the action vs. the idea….they all flow into your already pounding cranial vault, leaving you exhausted before you’ve left the ground.
Since our last dispatch, we are one man, one camera, and one crucial lens down. Chhewang accompanied us to BC, but has since descended to Pangboche to wait. One 5D was tragically lost to a windstorm last night, as well the lens attached. Left with merely pieces, I am more than just a little bummed that the culprit time-lapse didn’t even make the cut for the dispatch.
Thanks for hanging with us…while we have no real comms up here, it means a lot to us to know someone might be listening.
c & r
Waking at 3:30 a.m. is the least of my concerns. We haven’t really been sleeping anyway. Our minds are filled with “What Ifs?” and scenarios that leave us wondering if we are struggling against basic fear, or fighting intuition.■TAWOCHE 2k10 dispatches #5
Alpine climbing is a labor of love…it’s type 10 fun…the kind of fun that doesn’t have to be fun to be fun. In fact, most of the time spent in the actual activity is consumed by the minds’ pursuit of the base desire that has thrust you into the situation to begin with. In short, it is not something that makes a tremendous amount of sense.
Following your instincts isn’t really an option because your instincts tell you not to leave the ground. But conversely, not leaving the ground isn’t a viable option either…because fighting your desire to climb leaves you more miserable than the climbing itself.
We think about friends we’ve lost in the mountains and wonder if they were feeling the same thing the last morning they crawled from their respective tents. There is a massive question mark that hangs gloomily above the whole situation, and this morning is no different.
I light the incense and tuck it into the makeshift Stupa. Over my shoulders, pre-dawn light outlines the horizon…the dark figures of Makalu, Baruntse, and Ama Dablam. The last of the gear is shoved into the packs in silence as our labored breath rises into the light of our headlamps. The only thing left to do is start climbing. Greater fears are boiled down to specific distractions: Will there be water? Will the weather hold? Can we climb fast enough? And before we know it, the sun warms our backs and we are high above the valley floor on new terrain. The fear melts and melds with joy to create a hybrid emotion that feels almost tangible.
Like my friend Colin Moorehead says, “Climbing is the truth.”
c & r
“This is our decision to live fast and die young.
We've got the vision, now let's have some fun.
Yeah it's overwhelming, but what else can we do?
Get jobs in offices and wake up for the morning commute?”
As we told our sponsors before the climb, we’ve gone rogue like Sarah Palin. We are off the grid…
As we wake up battered and depleted, everything points us towards bailing. Only we are too hard headed to concede defeat, not realizing in fact that we are just too stupid to know when to call it. We haven’t had water in a day or so…but who needs hydration anyway? Talking with this degree of cottonmouth makes me sound like I am speaking in tongues…Renan looks at me with confused, puffy eyes. Are we really going up? I am as confused as him…the answer is a surprisingly emphatic ‘yes!’
I dodge rocks as Renan leads through some choss. He short fixes, I jug, dry heave, swing leads, dry heave more, and suck down hard candies like an addict locked in the throes of withdrawals. I can’t wait for the snow, for the water, but we still have hours to go before we get there…if we get there. But the unspoken common ground is that we are down to go up…
As are artists, we are locked in a constant struggle between what we want to capture, and the energy our bodies can afford to give. It’s an instinct to reach for the camera, but one that nearly always falls second to the tasks at hand. Often times, I criticize myself for not shooting more…for not nailing the perfect image…but then again, I am fighting just to move. As athletes, we are succeeding, but as creative individuals, we are flailing…it hurts.
There are multiple points in any given day, during any given hour, or on any given pitch, where I want more than anything to call it in. I want to yell up at Renan that I’ve had it. I can’t swallow, can’t talk…can barely breath, and all of it makes me want to descend. I know he feels the same because I can see it in his face. But our mouths stay shut, moving upwards steadily as a cohesive unit. No, it doesn’t make any sense…but we’ve never pretended to understand. Life is reduced to a consecutive series of familiar motions. Our arms begin to cramp due to lack of fluid. The glands in our mouths stop producing saliva. We are dried up…
All the variables in the equation equal out towards descent. But math was never my strong point…apparently Renan suffers from the same learning disabilities.
c & r