To pee or not to pee? – that is the question.
Clearly Tim has gone off his rocker I hear you say. But this is just one of the aspects of high altitude mountaineering that I thought I’d share with you.
What generally happens on the hill is that we are all tucked up in our down sleeping bags by around 8 because it is just too cold to sit around in the mess tent. So after a few minutes wrestling out of clothes and in to sleeping bags it’s time for a quick read and then slumber. And when sleep comes it can be really really deep. I generally have a fantastic deep sleep and then wake up bursting for a wee. But it’s cold out there and I’m all toasty in my bag. And, hey, I can hang on for a while until it’s time to be getting up. Or can I? I generally doze on and off for ages trying to get back to sleep but the feeling of discomfort is soooo overwhelming that returning to sleep is nigh on impossible. Best check the time to make sure I can make it until breakfast, and it’s then that I discover it’s around 11.30p.m. Aaarrrggghhh.
So clearly I’m not going to make it until getting up time, in which case it’s pee time. Now I used to always get up and go outside and admire the view of the stars whilst having a tinkle. But that was on lower peaks where the temperature is generally a few degrees warmer. But since being introduced to the pee bottle I have been converted. I won’t go in to the gory details but basically you pee in to a bottle and do the top up. Depending on the time of night depends on whether you are advised to empty it straight away. If you empty it straight away then this tends to send a shower of frost crystals over your unfortunate tent partner as you open the tent zipper and discharge the contents outside. But if you decide not to empty it then the risk is that it freezes, thereby rendering it unusable again that night – which could be a BIG problem if you decided you desperately needed to go again. And when you sometimes have to go three, four or even five times a night this could suddenly become a BIG problem.
Anyway, enough of that, I’ve had a pee in a bottle and emptied it. Back to sleep? Er, no. What happens next can only be described at H.A.T.A.T. (High Altitude Tossing And Turning). You try for all your worth to sleep but it just doesn’t happen. Every time you turn over you get showered with ice crystals. Your tent partner does the pee bottle thing and showers ice over you. You get bouts of sleep apnoea and feel that you are suffocating. You breath freezes on to the inside of your sleeping bag and forms an icy crust around your head and shoulders. And so it goes on. All the way through the night. Until about 5 in the morning when you eventually doze off only to be woken up at soon after 5 when the tent starts getting very light as the sun come sup. So another hour or so of tossing and turning until it’s time to get up.
And that just about sums up the average night on the hill.
Thankfully we are now down at Base Camp for a well earned rest. When we first arrived here and this was our highest altitude then all of the above was part and parcel of being at altitude. But now that we have been sleeping far higher, in actual fact Base Camp produces really deep long sleeps.
I’d write some more but I’m off to bed.