K2 Expedition 2018

Jake’s Blog #13: The Puja Ceremony

Location: Basecamp

Another good day in basecamp, with plenty to keep us busy. We had a perfect view of climbers making their way up to Camp 1 on Broad Peak, watching them through binoculars. Whilst it helped us to recognise the route, the tiny dots on the huge mountain underlined the scale of the ascent from BC to C1.

We don’t believe that there was any activity on K2 today – although apparently a few of the teams who’ve recently arrived might have done an acclimatisation walk up to ABC.

This morning we had our Puja Ceremony. This is a traditional Nepali ceremony conducted by the Sherpas to bless the expedition and bring us good fortune. Ang Pasang spent 3 years studying in a Buddhist School, so he conducted the proceedings. The Sherpas build a stone lapsoo (like a dry stone table) which they wrapped in brightly coloured material. We brought our key climbing equipment (helmets, boots, axes and crampons) to be blessed. Ang Pasang chanted the words of prayer, whilst burning incense and sprinkling rice over the lapsoo and our equipment.

Our Puja Ceremony, blessing the expedition, and our equipment before we start our climbing

Our Puja Ceremony, blessing the expedition, and our equipment before we start our climbing

We all rubbed rice powder on each other’s faces as well as sharing food and drink, and even a bottle of ‘Hunza water’ (a local spirit). The Sherpas unfurled prayer flags, which stretch from the lapsoo around the camp, bringing wonderful colour to our surroundings, and we were all presented with silk scarves. We finished with dancing to Nepali music (played through Bluetooth from an iPhone of course!).

It was a wonderful affair – full of sound, smell and sights and shared with great friendship. I hope that the ceremony with appease the mountain gods, and bring us success and safe return from our forthcoming adventure, as we take our first steps into the mountains tomorrow.

Jake and Ang Pasang at the Puja Ceremony, with rice powder on our faces, and our special scarves around our necks

Jake and Ang Pasang at the Puja Ceremony, with rice powder on our faces, and our special scarves around our necks

This afternoon we spent in the glacier practicing our rope work. A few of the members are less familiar with using fixed ropes, and for the rest of us it was a good opportunity to shake off the cobwebs.

We were joined for team by 3 members of the Japanese team, which of course gave Sauori a great chance to speak to someone in her own language (poor her having to put up with us the rest of the time). They confirmed that they haven’t properly reached C2 yet, but have caches tents and fixing equipment underneath House’s Chimney.

Sauori practicing her rope work in the glacier

Sauori practicing her rope work in the glacier

One of them spoke very good English, so with him translating when required we had a very jolly afternoon. As they left to head back up to their Basecamp, it was with great delight that I was able to present them with a bag of Tesco’s Oriental Snack Mix! They were understandably amazed and delighted! Even though it’s a small gesture, it’s things like this which help build bonds between teams on the mountain. In places like this, you absolutely need to make your friends before you need them!

All things being good with the weather, we plan to do our first acclimatisation climbs early tomorrow morning (possibly leaving as early as midnight). With all this sitting around in basecamp, I’m looking forward to getting up onto the mountain! Let’s hope the weather holds!

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