Thick clouds have been rolling up the glacier on a daily basis at Vinson Base Camp, obscuring the runway and sweeping around our tents for over a week now. With a heaviness of white that sometimes obscures even the far side of Camp, taking to the skies in the Twin Otters for a return from the ice has been well and truly delayed.
With no lack of ice, guide Scott Woolums set to work on a towering Christmas tree, honed from ice blocks and capped by a sculpted star of ice. A few spare climbing ropes serve as coiled decoration, snow wands soon circled the base and the ubiquitous paper snowflake, cut from the left over news papers made an appearance both on the tree and in our dining tent.
With the camp surrounded by crevasses, and solo journeys outside the red flags not such a good idea, the exercise of the day consists of rapid circumferences of our Camp. While many are going the wrong way for the traditional Koru of Nepal as pointed out by our resident Sherpa and Guide Lakpa Rita, the meditative effect should hopefully be the same.
Christmas afternoon the ALE team formed into teams and were soon locked in competition in a geographic quiz – made much more interesting by our wide range of nationalités and travels. While naming the five bouroughs of New York city may have only caused a moments pause for those of us who have lived there, the smallest country in the world by area and population, the largest island in the Canary Islands and the largest African country took a wider range of geographic knowledge. Sans internet, some turned to their phones for travel photos to prove their point.
Today it was outside for avalanche beacon training, with buried beacons scattered into the deep snow drifts that have built up around our tents and guide Tom Weston leading us through camp. Better than a scavenger hunt any day.
With over a week of fog and only rare glimpses of the sun, the library has been well perused, and the card games have frequently gone on well past midnight. We have discovered that with a few simple rules, speaking a common language isn’t necessary.
And with the lack of internet, it is a return to good old human conversations, with most of the worlds’ problems solved twice over.