Robert asked me about Tommy's birthday. He would turn 60 on the mountain. How could we celebrate it?
"A cake?" I shrugged. I dismissed the idea as soon as the words left my mouth.
"Let me talk to Paul," Robert cautioned.
Later, Robert told me that it was all set. Paul could do it.
I found Paul later in the day. I remembered his propane burner and muddy floor (see post here). I pressed him for the secret. "How do you bake a cake up here?"
Paul's eyes twinkled like a CIA man. "I'm a magic chef."
So that's how the plan was hatched. Robert, Paul and I agreed. Before we went on our acclimatization hike from Moir Hut Camp we would have a little party.
Fourteen kilometers and one day later we sat in the mess tent, ostensibly to receive a briefing on the late afternoon hike.
Robert came in, clipboard in hand. He gave me the nod.
I cleared my throat and rose to my feet. "Before Robert gets started, I want to say a few words."
Somewhat surprised, the group turned my way.
"This is my fourth big mountain in five years. I've worked with some fine companies in that time, but none finer than Kandoo Adventures."
"And we've had some fine guides in that time, but none finer than Robert and his team."
(As an aside, let me interrupt my own speech to tell the dear reader that everything I had just said was not just speechmaking. I cannot muster enough words of appreciation for the fine way in which Rachael Bode from Kandoo's London office arranged this trip. And even though our experience on the mountain was still early at this point, the expertise and kindness of the guides was extraordinary throughout. I enthusiastically recommended Kandoo Adventures for your future big mountain experiences.)
I undoubtedly said a few more words appropriate to the moment, and, in fact, was probably still speaking them when the sound of singing was heard outside the mess. It was our guides and porters! They were singing a happy song: Bomba eh! Suddenly, the tent flap opened and in walked Paul carrying a cake! Everybody cheered!
Paul was dressed in his apron and baker's hat. In his hands was the most beautiful birthday cake I had ever seen. The Bomba eh song morphed into the Happy Birthday song. We clapped, admired Paul's fine work, and secretly thanked Tommy's mother for bringing him into the world on a day when his future friends would most appreciate a dessert. After a few more laughs and slaps we decided that the cake should be left as a reward for after our acclimatization hike and dinner (one cannot become a mountaineer without developing a fine sense of delayed gratification). We took pictures and left the cake on the table.
One doubts that such surprise could ever be topped, but wouldn't you know it . . . on the following day another member of our group had a birthday! Nico was as shocked as the rest of us when we heard the singing again on the following afternoon. Paul and company paraded in with a second gift of sweetness! Nico's cake was every bit as lovely at Tommy's, but his was baked on a gas burner at 15,300 feet! Nico's father, among us, was so happy he cried. It was a birthday to remember.
Paul is a magic chef indeed!
So in the end we had our cakes. And we ate them too.