24th August 2017: Day 6 in Siemienova glacier (Victor Toh)
Today marks the final day we are spending in our Base Camp at Siemienova glacier. Our instructor, Edwin, had told us the night before that the chopper would be coming at 10am subjected to the clear weather, hence all of us were eagerly awake by 6.30 a.m., and preparing for the pack-up. Some of us were anticipating for a good weather today, and our concerns were alleviated when the sky became clear and bright at around 7.am. Thankful for the good weather today, we rushed and started to clear and pack our belongings and tents. It was quite a rush to firstly clear out the items from the mass tent, pack the rubbish bags and finally collapse the individual tents. We encountered some difficulty in collapsing the tents as the snow and weather conditions have made the sides of the tents firmly etched to the surface and the rocks, and equipment such as ice-axes had to be used to pry out the rocks where the strings of the tents were attached to.
With everyone’s goal of leaving the base camp quickly and the timing of the chopper of 10 a.m., it was heartening to see the whole team working together to pack up the equipment and the tents. All of us, including Edwin and our local guide helped to take down all the tents and finally the mass tent. At around 9 a.m., we went to the snow clearing and cleared out the snow surface to provide a visible surface for the chopper to land on. We spent about 30 minutes flattening the snow ground with our boots, and all of us were eagerly performing this ‘chopper ritual’ in anticipation for the incoming chopper ride.
Unfortunately, there was a delay from the chopper at the Kyrgyzstan border side and the chopper did not arrive until around 1p.m. When it finally arrived, all of us frantically loaded our belongings and bags onto the chopper and we waved goodbye to our Siemienova base camp, a home to us for the past 6 days.
It was about forty minutes of uneventful ride back to the Kyrgyzstan border and which we managed to clear the immigration and took four-wheel jeeps back to Karkara camp, where we stayed the night. Upon arrival at the camp we were glad to be greeted with piping hot soup as well as a meal set that consisted of something which looked like mashed rice and minced meat inside a bell pepper plant. It was a very good meal, and none of us complained as it was a good change of food after six days of dry rations and instant noodles. We proceeded to check and repack our equipment after the meal, and most of us also enjoyed a nice warm shower and sauna in Karkara camp. Feeling refreshed and energised, we manage to spend the rest of the afternoon and evening sorting out of equipment and administrative matters.
Spaghetti was served for dinner, which most of us ate ravenously, including a few with second and third helpings. After dinner Edwin held our final debrief, where everyone shared ideas and reflections about the expedition. It was a good get-together after the trip where each of us shared our personal opinions and reflections regarding our expedition. I believe from this debrief we have learnt more about how each of us felt regarding the six days and how teamwork was essential for this expedition and not just individual prowess and expertise in the mountains. We also learnt more about Edwin as he shared some of his reasons and ideas why he never stopped climbing mountains as well as some of his experiences in Everest and other Alpine mountains. We finally turned in at 10.30 p.m. after the debrief, back to the slightly better tents that Karkara offered.