Paul Pottinger’s Adventures from the Top of the World

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Breathe It In

Everest 2016  •  May 10

5-6-16 through 5-10-16

Well, here’s the thing: I was sick during the C3 rotation.  I did well on the way down, but had been very slow on the way up.  And, even back in EBC, my cough and sinus discharge continued.  It was clear that I needed to heal and improve if the summit was going to happen, and getting better at 17,300 feet is a genuine challenge.  The time-honored approach seemed to apply: Go Down, Young Man.

And so I did.  With some fabulous teammates who also had some respiratory issues to deal with, we all flew down to Namche Bazaar the next morning.  You can well imagine the state of affairs in my EBC tent: Reeking laundry strewn everywhere, gear in a riotous chaos, just begging to be dealt with.  But no, instead I packed my stuff anew and headed down valley.  In a way it was almost a relief to leave everything behind like that.  Almost….

We chose to fly rather than to walk.  This would save precious energy, and get us lower faster.

The flights were a total blast.  I was stunned to see how quickly the landscape rolled by beneath us.  Trail sections that took an entire day would pass by in under 5 minutes.  Clearly, this is the way to travel if time is on the agenda.

Looking across the crater from the heli pad to our camp.
Looking across the crater from the heli pad to our camp.
The Team Hybrid tents are just downhill and to the left of the HQ tent.
The Team Hybrid tents are just downhill and to the left of the HQ tent.
Looking a bit to the right, including the Khumbu glacier and icefall.
Looking a bit to the right, including the Khumbu glacier and icefall.
Everest West shoulder on left, Nuptse on right, separated by the icefall.
Everest West shoulder on left, Nuptse on right, separated by the icefall.
And, looking down-valley. We will head this way when the chopper gets here....
And, looking down-valley. We will head this way when the chopper gets here….
The Nuptse hanging glaciers... always impressive.
The Nuptse hanging glaciers… always impressive.
Greg Vernovage at the heli pad: Large and very much in charge.
Greg Vernovage at the heli pad: Large and very much in charge.
Pasang Kami knows that patience is a virtue.
Pasang Kami knows that patience is a virtue.
Mingma Sherpa, a legend on Everest.
His brother Mingma Sherpa, a legend on Everest.
The Lovebirds, AKA Lowrys, waiting at the EBC heli pad for their ride.
The Lovebirds, AKA Lowrys, waiting at the EBC heli pad for their ride.
Emily Johnston: Always enthusiastic.
Emily Johnston: Always enthusiastic.
A bird from Manang Airlines arrives to take our friends from another team down to Namche, too.
A bird from Manang Airlines arrives to take our friends from another team down to Namche, too.
Emily and the Lowrys are excited to breathe in the rich air at 11,200 feet.
Emily and the Lowrys are excited to breathe in the rich air at 11,200 feet.
Our chariot arrives....
Our chariot arrives….
Our view as we lift off. (GoPro Screenshot)
Our view as we lift off. (GoPro Screenshot)
Looking down the glacier as we scoot a short distance overhead. (GoPro Screenshot)
Looking down the glacier as we scoot a short distance overhead. (GoPro Screenshot)
Nuptse glides majestically by. (GoPro Screenshot)
Nuptse glides majestically by. (GoPro Screenshot)
Siva watches the world roll by. (GoPro Screenshot)
Siva watches the world roll by. (GoPro Screenshot)
The town of Gorak Shep appears in less than a minute... walking, this takes exactly one hour. (GoPro Screenshot)
The town of Gorak Shep appears in less than a minute… walking, this takes exactly one hour. (GoPro Screenshot)
Next comes Lobuche Town. (GoPro Screenshot)
Next comes Lobuche Town. (GoPro Screenshot)
The trail below is clearly visible... Man, this sure beats walking. (GoPro Screenshot)
The trail below is clearly visible… Man, this sure beats walking. (GoPro Screenshot)
Turning left over Dukla, revealing the valley leading to Phortse. (GoPro Screenshot)
Turning left over Dukla, revealing the valley leading to Phortse. (GoPro Screenshot)
Here's Pheriche... Ama Dablam looming overhead. (GoPro Screenshot)
Here’s Pheriche… Ama Dablam looming overhead. (GoPro Screenshot)

Weather was a bit fickle, and so we stopped briefly in Dingboche on the way down, which was lovely.

We made an unexpected left over the medial moraine and over Dingboche, which you can see on the right. Must be a weather or fuel issue stopping us from going all the way to Namche in one go. (GoPro Screenshot)
We made an unexpected left over the medial moraine and over Dingboche, which you can see on the right. Must be a weather or fuel issue stopping us from going all the way to Namche in one go. (GoPro Screenshot)
Nice approach to the stone helipad in Dingboche. (GoPro Screenshot)
Nice approach to the stone helipad in Dingboche. (GoPro Screenshot)
Looks like we have a welcoming party.... (GoPro Screenshot)
Looks like we have a welcoming party…. (GoPro Screenshot)
Yay it's the Lowrys and Emily, very nice. (GoPro Screenshot)
Yay it’s the Lowrys and Emily, very nice. (GoPro Screenshot)
Emily is clearly stressed out by flying up here. (GoPro Screenshot)
Emily is clearly stressed out by flying up here. (GoPro Screenshot)
Our ride, headed back up valley to get more cargo before coming back for us. (GoPro Screenshot)
Our ride, headed back up valley to get more cargo before coming back for us. (GoPro Screenshot)
Support staff for the helicopters readies the fuel for the next dustoff.
Support staff for the helicopters readies the fuel for the next dustoff.
The tiny village of Dingboche, quiet and lovely.
The tiny village of Dingboche, quiet and lovely.
Emily and Siva await the next flight from Dingboche.
Emily and Siva await the next flight from Dingboche.
Our friends' Manang chopper arrives first.
Our friends’ Manang chopper arrives first.
Then comes our ride. Emily is not happy at all....
Then comes our ride. Emily is not happy at all….
We ate lunch at this tiny village on the way up. (GoPro Screenshot)
We ate lunch at this tiny village on the way up. (GoPro Screenshot)
The lovely, green town of Pangboche, home of Lama Geshi. (GoPro Screenshot)
The lovely, green town of Pangboche, home of Lama Geshi. (GoPro Screenshot)
The trail from Pangboche up to Phortse.... high, rugged, and painful when we took it home last year. (GoPro Screenshot)
The trail from Pangboche up to Phortse…. high, rugged, and painful when we took it home last year. (GoPro Screenshot)
Tengboche comes into view on the left side of the chopper. (GoPro Screenshot)
Tengboche comes into view on the left side of the chopper. (GoPro Screenshot)
The scenic trail from Namche to Tengboche flies by in an instant. (GoPro Screenshot)
The scenic trail from Namche to Tengboche flies by in an instant. (GoPro Screenshot)
Namche Bazaar comes into view. Sweet. (GoPro Screenshot)
Namche Bazaar comes into view. Sweet. (GoPro Screenshot)
Emily guides Siva and me to a world of delights in Namche.... (GoPro Screenshot)
Emily guides Siva and me to a world of delights in Namche…. (GoPro Screenshot)

Our time in Namche was just great.  It really felt as though we were on vacation.  That may sound odd (after all, isn’t this whole expedition a vacation?).  But, that is how it felt.  Sleeping on a mattress, with an electric blanket, sleeping in as late as I chose (10 AM), eating endless portions of good food and drinking nice coffee and plenty of beer.

And, as always, breathing in the rich air. The 11,200 foot atmosphere feels like  a rich stew.  My cough subsided to a great degree, and very rapidly.  Sinus discharge improved measurably.  My fingertips began to heal, and after a few days the iPhone was almost ready to recognize my fingerprints (not yet, but I could tell it was getting close).  I cleaned up my beard, cut my hair, clipped my nails, took long showers, and generally began to feel human again.  We took a relaxing stroll along the trail to Thame, which rolled through lovely forested terrain and revealed a variety of beautiful mountain flowers.  A super fun, relaxing time for sure. I would not have believed how well the healing process worked if I had not undergone it personally.

The challenge was timing: After about a week—perhaps less—the body’s acclimatization to higher elevations begins to wane.  I had just been at 24,600 feet, what was I doing about two miles lower?  When should we return to EBC?  First of all, it felt odd to have the team split into different groups, I did not like that at all.  Second of all, there is the inevitable FOMO: Fear of Missing Out.  We were in touch with EBC regularly, so we knew that we were not in fact missing ANYTHING.  But, the desire to get back onto the mountain was real.  We are here to climb Everest, after all.  May 10 seemed to be a fine time to return, and so we did.

A painful note: I took lots of photos in Namche, some really quite good!  Two stunning pieces of news: First, there was no card in the camera.  This happened because I was working on my blogs from the rotation, and needed to import the pics to my laptop.  Second, there is no real warning by the camera that it has no card!!  Truly.  Why not a big flashing warning “NO SD CARD!”  Nope.  It let me click away happily… until I realized a few minutes ago that none of my photos was captured.  Argh.  I like Sony, I really do… perhaps one day they will test their products in the real world.

More on our return to EBC in the next installment.

Concept for this portion of the trip: Trust your guides, trust your team… do not trust Sony.

16 thoughts on “Breathe It In

  1. I’m happy and relieved to hear that your lungs improved so quickly. Stay well. I am thinking about you and looking forward to your next post. You can dooooooooeeeeeeeet!!!

  2. Too bad about the photos. You’ll have to get by with the other thousand or so! Happy that the lower altitude helped with a quick recovery. I hope it lasts long enough to get you to the summit and back. Be safe. Xox

    1. Thanks Mom, no major loss I assure you! Doing fine up here now, waiting for the weather to cooperate. Love you.

  3. You can detect that the iPhone is getting closer to recognising your thumbprint??? No SD card in the camera??? The madness has captured you my boy… down the mountain, down the mountain :-). Nah just kidding. Get back up that mountain fast. You are climbing it for me too, and (except for the two times I tried) I don’t do failure!!! ;-).

  4. Hey Paul,
    Riveting stuff dude. Glad you are better and looking forward to hear more about your arduous climb.

    Some kidney folks are asking for the updated version of catheter related infection management if you could whip that out when your O2 sats are >80.
    Cheers
    Arthur Eric Anderson

    1. Hey buddy! Great to hear from you. Truly sorry about delay with that protocol… I assure you, it’s best if I not try to think too hard up here. I feel strong like bull, smart like tractor. Promise to get that done soon as I’m home… whenever that may be.

  5. Keep it up, Paul! Beautiful photos. I cannot wait to hear more about it when you return. Sounds like you heading back to the summit soon with healthy lungs. This is great news.

    1. Thanks Rupali! We are just waiting for the weather to cooperate…hope to be home by June, but this could be a late season. Will keep you posted. Thanks for following along…. and I know UW is fully under control with your capable hands!

  6. Glad you are back at EBC . We are cheering you all on from 100 ft above sea level. Be safe.

    Maybe I will do Mt Si in your honor!!

  7. I hope you had a ton of Chilly Chicken with my friend Pemba at the Khumbu Lodge- Because it actually tastes like chicken.

    For me the summit rotation is in many ways the easier rotation. The last lap around the track. Less mind fukt.

    The finish line is in sight P2!!!

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