Thursday, November 12, 2009

Made it...

Wow - that was definitely interesting.  I learned a ton of old-school and expedition-specific techniques, a bunch more Hindi, and the names of about a quarter of the students.  I thought remembering eight English names on a 3-day Rainier climb was hard...


A three-day march brought us to Base Camp, complete with generator and electric lights, 10-person canvas tents, a stone shelter with propane stoves, a cook staff, and the biggest pressure cooker pot I've ever seen.  Porters carried up daily fresh vegetables and eggs, and the ten goats I watched being weighed at our first camp were regularly made into mutton stew.  (I love the idea of being able to pet my, or my fellow climbers', dinner's fuzzy nose.)  Once a week there was even a "mail run" - money could be given to a porter who would bring back sweets or TP the next day!  Crazy expedition stuff.


Over 18 days of hiking in and practicing around Base Camp we covered ice climbing, crevasse crossing, basic snow skills, navigation, and height gain.  Some things were the same, some from about 20 years ago, and a few things were just straight-up new to me.  Such a strange mix of old and new techniques.  Fortunately, a guy who works with a climbing-certification organization paid a visit as well, so I wasn't the only person insisting on crazy things like manufacturer-specified angles of ice-screw placement.


And despite being the "slow" instructor, both in the speed of my students and my non-understanding of daily instructions in Hindi, everyone was great, super helpful and largely indulgent of my ignorance of daily camp workings.  On top of it, I had to take my turn as Duty Instructor, responsible for making sure everything happens on time and in line.  But I don't know what I'm supposed to be ordering or finding out during morning parade, let along the Hindi words for "attention" and "at ease"... (Actually, I do now - Sabdan and Vishram, in case you ever need to know.)  One of the hardest things I've ever done, truthfully - maintaining a (relatively) even keel through not knowing what's going on, trying to suggest improvements while not being condescending, and generally having to sit back and watch a situation I would normally be at least partially in charge of run completely differently.


My basic goal of understanding more of how climbing works here has definitely been accomplished.  Larger goals will come with time - I intend to do more with the programs here, though I'm not sure yet in what capacity or timeframe.  Down from the mountains now, we're back to more ceremony and logistical management than activity, and I'm about ready to go.  A couple more days of graduation rehearsals, assessments, etc, and I'll be on my own again, in charge of my own time.  Amazing how important that is when you don't have it.

2 comments:

Div said...

Was nice reading your blog! What is the highest point you went up to?

Suzanne said...

The basic course doesn't climb a peak, but we went for a hike up to 16,000'. Beautiful up there!