Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A Happy Yak is a Healthy Yak

5300 m - Today I was able to fulfill my personal goal of giving back to Himalayan Experience Ltd. as we started the process of deworming yaks here in the Khumbu valley.

A small yak 'train' owned by Phurba Tashi’s sister came into camp early this morning. As you may recall from my earlier dispatches, Phurba is our #1 Sirdar or head Sherpa. He organizes the Sherpa staff at base camp when loads needs to be carried high on the mountain and he also climbs with us on the mountain (reminder: he has stood on the summit of Everest 14 times). The majority of the yaks used on our expedition come from Phurba's family.

Thanks to the generosity of Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health, we administered the first dose of Safe-Guardâ, a liquid suspension dewormer designed to effectively treat lung worms, stomach worms and intestinal worms. My goal has simply been to provide some rudimentary veterinary care for the yaks that have carried most of the supplies which have made our lives a little bit easier here at Everest BC. I treated the first 3 head of yak using the automatic dosing syringe that came with the dewormer (see photos). Then I taught Phurba to do the same because ideally the yak will need to be treated again in approximately 6 weeks. Logistically and hopefully I will be back in the States at that time. Phurba and his family own a couple hundred head of yak so he will be able to adequately treat all of them not only this Spring with the two doses, but also administer a dose this Fall. Because of Intervet/Schering-Plough’s help, Phurba and his family should have enough dewormer for next year’s climbing season as well.

Phurba did an excellent job administering Safe-Guard and the yaks (the few we did today were actually crossbreds) could not have been more cooperative. Please see the photos attached as well as the video I created under the "Healthy Yak" page.

With the “deworming of the yaks” underway it is now time to climb on the flanks of mighty Mount Everest. We have been broken up into two climbing teams. I will be on the first team (appropriately called the Yaks) which actually leaves at 2:30 in the morning on the 29th of April. The second team (called the Yetis) will leave on May 1st . The climbing plan is as follows: Climb through the Khumbu icefall and provided all goes well, both in terms of feeling well and timing {need to be through it by 7 a.m. at the latest as the next section of climbing in what is called the Western Cwm (pronounced coom) can get extremely hot}, we will either stop for a night at Camp 1 or more than likely ascend to Camp 2 at 6400 meters. If the latter, we will stay at Camp 2 for two nights before breaking into two more teams to ascend the steep (~45 degrees) and icy Lhotse face on our way up to Camp 3 for a night.

Camp 3 is high on the face with the tents being anchored into platforms chopped out of the ice by our Sherpa staff. Camp 3 sits at about 7400 meters so clearly the day from Camp 2 to Camp 3 will be one of the hardest on Everest. This is the day we will wear our down suits for the first time. Can anyone say Ho, Ho, Ho? (yep, mine is red).

After a night at Camp 3 we will descend to Camp 2 for a night and the following day descend all the way back down to our BC for a few days rest. This should put Team 1 into BC on May 4, give or take a day. Team 2 will likely be back down to BC around the 6th give or take a day. Depending on the weather, we will then head back up Everest for one last push, this time for the summit! To say the excitement (and a bit of anxiety/anxiousness/nervousness all rolled into one) is growing would be an understatement. I will try my best to dispatch from the mountain when possible yet realize this is a very busy and serious time for us. I will be in touch when I can. Namaste from HimEx Everest BC!