Friday, June 14th. Losing track of days. Pulled into camp 4 this afternoon and regrouped, having nearly lost Sherpa Farrell to a crevasse in the Khumbu Icefall just shy of West Hurley. He had wandered slightly off route to retrieve a Burnett Farms turnip, a critical element of Team Leader Romano’s Fermented Turnip with Yarrow Vinegar. Farrell knew its absence would throw off the overture to Beaverkill Hatchery Trout with Angelica Goat Cheese and Dill Buds, so when he saw it slip out of Specialist Elsen’s backpack and roll like Marie Antoinette’s head towards a crack in the ice, he took it upon himself to enact a rescue. Unfortunately the crack widened upon his approach, and by the time Team Leader Valk heard his cries, his legs were bicycling air: without his instinctive deployment of a Stone & Thistle duck leg, thrust deep into the rim of the crevasse, he would have been lost. Thank heavens for Team Leader Romano’s inclusion of Agnolotti with Duck Leg and Spring Onion in the expedition inventory! Farrell was ultimately retrieved by forming a human chain and proffering him a sturdy stalk of Marguerite Uhlmann-Bower foraged milkweed (later to be deployed in Milkweed with Bramley Mountain Farm Bone Marrow and Amaranth). It had been a close shave, and it sent a shudder of collywobbles (sadly not on the menu) through the team; a stern reminder that it is exactly when things are going well that Disaster’s ‘black sailed unfamiliar’ appears on the horizon. Whilst praising his heroism, Valk nonetheless took a moment to censure Farrell for his rashness. “No single turnip is worth the life of a team member” she reminded us all, memorably. And how true. Had we lost Sherpa Farrell or – more importantly – the contents of his backpack, there would have been no Smoked Burnett Farms Pork Shoulder with Rhubarb Pie, no Slow-Cooked Pork Loin with Burnett Mibuna nor Townsend Pond Fish Sauce Front Leg. Farrell, it transpired, had been carrying the entire piglet; his loss would have utterly erased all traces of pork from the menu. We moved on, chastened but relieved.
Evening, June 14th. The storm rages without, we huddle within. Sherpas Farrell and Richards check inventory and dress fennel fronds for the Bramley Mountain Bavette Steak. Team Leader Romano experiments with Madalyn Warren Rhubarb Ice, in the form of a frozen knob which we all take turns suckling. Tiredness setting in, Sherpa Schmid-Stelmashuck lifts team spirits with finger plays enacted upon the wall of the tent by candlelight; her ‘Pat the Bunny with ambiguous appendage’ is particularly engaging, bringing smiles to chapped lips. Elsen hand-sifts Little Delaware pine-needles for the saucily titled Black Bottom Spruce Custard, Valk massages Stone & Thistle Duck Breast with Spring Garlic, Black Garlic and Dan Finn Moonshine Maple. Guide Rovine dials in by satellite from base camp with pairing suggestions. Team PINES double-check Harpersfield and Byebrook Farm aged Tilsit and Gouda stocks while Team Table audit the staples; Crystal Valley milk, Last Harvest Farm eggs, Seneca Lake Salt, Cowbella butter. One-by-one we attempt sleep. Forecasts promise all clouds will clear tonight and we will wake to a new, clear dawn.
Tomorrow we ascend.