I am raising money again for the Leukaemia & Lymphoma unit at UCLH in London. If you have already donated last year thank you very much. If you have not and would like to I would be delighted:
Jules presenting at the “Destination Travel Show” at Olympia, London.
In April I left the UK to attempt to summit Everest to raise funds for the Lymphoma Cancer Unit at UCLH that saved my Dads life. After 6 weeks I am delighted to tell you that I summited Everest on May 13 at 9:49am……… and I am now back in 1 piece with only mild frostbite !
I would be delighted if you would donate to my charity. Its:
13th May continued
We descended quickly and stopped once for a small cuppa her maj’s finest and a mini mars bar – just enough sugar to fuel me, Then we descended to camp 4. When I go there I was walking like a drunken man, I could hardly put 1 step in front of the other. Lakpas said we need to get down to camp 2, there was a storm coming in and we could not stop overnight at camp 4. I said I needed to rest and needed 2 hours sleep at camp 4. I got to the tent, kicked off the crampons and got in. My thermorest and sleeping bag were all laid out so I kicked off my boots, and harness zipped up the tent and got into the sleeping bag, summit suit and everything else still inc oxygen, still on. I turned the O’s back to 0.5l/min fro sleeping ……. And crashed out like a baby….
I woke to Lakpas pushing his way into my tent. He plompt himself on the tent floor
“Jules we go – storm coming !! I help you pack”. I was in the sleeping bag in my long johns. The Sherpa have very little sense of personal space as they all live together. So Lakpas made no move to get out of the tent so I had to redress and get my all in one suit back on while he watched – I was past caring but it was a bit intimate in the tent with him breathing over me, but he also felt a bit like my protector.
I got changed, rammed the sleeping bag into its small bag (down crushes up really small hence it’s a great bit of climbing gear) and then started the laborious job of folding up the thermorest. It involves squeezing all the air out then folding it in 3 and rolling it up ridiculously small and fighting to get it into it even more ridiculously small bag. Its great when it folded up but it made my fingers bleed on more than one occasion. There were various chocolate bars scattered around the tent – I showed them all in. We need a drink !!!. Lakpas disappeared and re appeared with a big pan of coffee he had already brewed. I grabbed the tin cup I had used for noodle soup the night before – bit of noodles left but no doubt it will add flavour – I handed over the cup and Lakpas filled it with coffee (I don’t drink coffee but I knew he had made it specially and it takes about 1hr to boil a pan of water at 8000m (you should try it – takes for ever at high altitude). I gulped it down and he drank the rest out of the pan.
Then we strapped the rucksacks shut and headed out. It was windy on the south col as always but it was also sunny and the bad weather had not come in yet.
“Come on we go !!” Lakpas started leading as though he had achieved a great goal in dragging me away from camp 4. We started heading down, it involved climbing up in places but mostly down and across the Lhotse face. The Lhotse face is very steep and very dangerous so not a place to make a mistake and indeed I have just heard that a Sherpa fixing ropes on the Lhotse face fell yesterday from above camp 4 and fell all the way down to camp 2 and the western cwm – he died !! There have been 5 deaths that I know about this year on Everest, a guy made eth summit yesterday and then got frost bite on the way down and dies at camp4. I can’t understand that, I would have thought once you get to the relative safety of camp 4 you should be ok ??? My thoughts go out to the family and friends and all those that have died. For those that think its not dangerous, there is no rescue above camp 2 – the air is so thin helicopters cant fly above camp2, so if you get into difficulties that pretty much it – it is impossible to drag a body – nobody has the strength to drag one through the snow – if you fall, that’s your grave !!
Lakpas let me lead and I tried my usual, 1 step, 2 breaths, 1 step 2 breaths, not quick but a very steady pace that I knew I could maintain. Every 50m we had to fasten and unfasten around the anchor point on the fixed rope. We were now on the very steep Lhotse face. I tried not fastening in as the effort to keep bending over, unfastening and re-fastening the carabineer ever 50m was a huge effort and I could just hang on with my hand – “Jules – fasten in, fasten in – you MUST” shouted Lakpas – it was just the kicking I needed so I fastened back in again. As we neared camp 3 it started to get dark. I have left stuff in the tent at camp3 I said to Lakpas. He said he would go and get it as the tents were a small way off the direct decent route. I said ok and that I would wait in the middle of the main camp3 area for him and have a 10 min break. I descended a very steep part on my belay and then carried on arm wrapping the rope into the middle of camp 3. By now it was quite dark and I pulled out my headlamp torch. I gulped down the rest of my water and ate another mini mars bar (thank goodness for mini mars bars).
Lakpas caught me up (there was nothing in camp 3- shit – some bugger had nicked my stuff and it include my Arteryks jacket that Vicky had given me as a present and I really liked it). Oh well at least I had physically made it down so far so I had to be thankful for that. Me heading down as it get dark.
Lakpas sat with me, removed his mask and got his cigarettes out – you have got to be shitting me !!!! This guy is unbelievable. I was still breathing heavily on my O’s. I pulled my mask aside “I’m going to head on down – you’ll catch me up”. He nodded. I headed off – I was absolutely creamy crackered and I knew one slip now on this straight decent would probably be my last. I did one section, clipped out ad clipped in past the now 100m fastening points, then another then another – jeepers how far down was this section ??? I had done it before and it didn’t seem that far but in the dark with only my headlamp torch it seemed to be taking forever and I could not see more than 10m in front of me so I had no idea how far it was to the bottom. I was arm rope wrapping on the less steep parts and I was using my descender and belaying on the steeper parts. As I was so tired I was belaying more and more as I didn’t trust myself to arm wrap on the rope and actually hold on. I was now cursing Lakpas and Dr N for making me climb down to camp 2. I knew that even when I had finished the Lhotse face I had a 3km trek across the western cwm to camp 2. By now I had no water left and was beyond tired- my stomach was screwing up like it was eating itself. I decided the only way to do this was to just focus on abseiling the Lhotse face and then having a good rest at the bottom and worry about the 3km trek later. Lakpas still hadn’t caught me up, so I was all alone in the dark and I was curing him. I was so tired, I couldn’t see more than 10m in the dark and I was starting to get very worried that I wouldn’t make the bottom. I looked up and I could just make out a headlamp torch in the distance, that would be Lakpas and about time, but he was coming slowly. I knew he was absolutely knackered too. I reached the last section of the Lhotse face. I recognised it because it is virtually vertical and I needed to belay myself down. I was very nervous now as I was still alone and even in the day light this was tricky and I couldn’t see what was under my feet. I inched down bit by bit, my feet stumbling on the vertical ice surface. This was fucking stupid – what the hell was I doing on the vertical Lhotse face in the dark after summiting Everest – absolutely bonkers – somebody should be fired over this !!!! I continued to curse as I inched down. I eventually reached the bottom with a serious sense of humour failure, then there was a ladder to negotiate over a crevasse and then an uphill bit – bloody hell – anything else Everest wants to throw at me !!!!. I manage the ladder just as Lakpas caught up. Then I inched up the uphill bit – I was so, so, so slow, there was nothing left in the tank and it had been on empty for some time. I go to the top of the hill and it was now just a trek to camp 2. I slumped down in the snow.
Lakpas caught me up and slumped down beside me “They come with drink” he said. “Who the guys from camp 2” “Yes” thank goodness for that. He gave me a gulp of the small amount of water he had left and we had a couple of foxes glacier mints each (good for sugar) then we dragged ourselves to our feet, pulled back on the rucksacks, pulled on our O masks (I was sucking on it like my life depended on it still although it was not strictly necessary now we were close to camp 2).
We trudged on and on and on and there was nobody there with drinks. “Where are they ???” “I radio”. He prattled away in Nepalese. “They come and they go as we not here” ”Fuck – well we are here NOW and I desperately need a drink – can they come back out – I am absolutely out of fuel !!!!!!!” You know when you are past the point and desperation has deserted you – you’ve gone too far. A drink would be lovely but I was past it and what else was going to go wrong !!!!
He radioed again and said the cook was coming. But the cook coming meant the cook walking 1 km and us walking 1 km to meet each other. My throat was as dry as a desert. I rummaged in my pocket for another mint or anything. I found another 2 foxes mints and gave Lakpas 1. We trudged on and on and on. It was just the knowledge that I had to keep putting 1 foot in front of the other like a robot – nothing in the tank except the survival instinct and the very irritating knowledge that we could have stopped at camp 4 or camp 3, no supplies thought and there were plenty of supplies at camp 2 along with a cook !!
At long, long, long last I saw a headlamp torch and thought great it’s the cook. As it got nearer it appeared to be 3 headlamp torches, brilliant, a welcome party. As they got near it was 3 Sherpa’s – they were nothing to do with us, they were climbing to camp 3 at 9:30pm at night – nutters, and NO WATER. What does a man have to do on a glacier to get a bloody drink !!!
We trudged on and on and on . I saw another headlamp torch – probably another bloody Sherpa going to camp 3… but no it was the cook – he held out a Nalgene bottle full of orange squash – I grabbed it, ripped my O mask aside and tipped it up sending juice spilling all over my face and down my suit, I glugged it down – it tasted like the best orange juice I had ever tasted. I came up for air and handed it over to Lakpas. He gulped at it noisily and passed it back. I swigged slightly more elegantly – I could feel the juice trickling down my throat and into my very empty stomach – it had a sort of hollow echo about it and I felt t splash into my stomach. I sat down – wow that was better. My legs felt very, very wobbly. We were almost there 1km to go. I knew I had to just keep going and not collapse now. I glugged some more juice and we sat there for a few minutes before Lakpas said “Come we go”. I dragged myself to my very wobbly feet. Just one foot in front of the other, just one foot in front of the other……
The cook set off at a pace that seemed like he was running, It was then that I realised just how incredibly slowly we had been going. “Wow, wow, slow, slow” I shouted. The cooked looked around and then slowed right down. We very slowly moved towards camp 2. We eventually arrived and there is a small slope to get up to the mess tent – it seemed like a massive hill to me and took me about 10 minutes to climb what would normally take me about 1 minute. I dropped my rucksack and O mask outside and walked into the mess tent “Hi how are you” said Isaiah “Absolutely knackered but pleased to summit – where’s Jella and Tahar ?”. “They were exhausted and have gone to bed”. I knew how they felt. The cook boy brought in some more cold juice which I glugged down. He offered me soup and then Dal Bhat (Bloody Dal Bhat but anything was good). Tomato soup and then rice and lentils (Dal Bhat) and he asked me if I wanted some mushrooms – yes please an did I want some meat – YES PLEASE. By this time I had the rice, mushrooms and meat curry it was a feast fit for a king and a real credit to the cook and cook boy – I was very happy but it was hard to eat it. I was so tired and my stomach was struggling to cope with this sudden smorgasbord of food. I knew I had to eat and get my strength back ad that Lakpas would probably want to go down to EBC tomorrow but right now I had to focus on eating and then getting a good night’s sleep and hopefully not dying of a heart attack in the night – that really did concern me. I also had to find a free tent, get out my thermorest and blow it up and get out my sleeping bag. No small feat in my current state. I grabbed my rucksack, went up the small hill to the tents and looked inside. I found one with a thermorest already out in it and shuffled in. I pulled out my sleeping back/ I then grabbed my 2 Nalgene bottles and headed back down to the cook – I was starting to get cold and I needed boiling water in the Nalgene bottles in my sleeping bag otherwise I doubted I would have enough energy to stay warm all night. The cook kindly filled them and I headed back up and crawled into the sleeping bag pulling it tightly around my head, beeny hat still on. It was freezing. I soon warmed up against the Nalgene bottles and fell to sleep.
I woke with a start at 3am. The Nalgene bottles had lost their heat and so had I. I was cold in the bag. But at 3am there was nothing I could do. There was nobody about and to get out of the sleeping bag was to risk freezing to death. I pulled the cords around my head and shoulders tightly and tried to go to sleep. It took about half an hour before I eventually fell to sleep again hoping that I would wake up in the morning and they wouldn’t find a frozen body in the tent.
I woke around 8am. I wasn’t sure if I had summited Everest or whether it had been a dream and we were just at camp 2 on the way up ??? My brain started computing the last few days and I realised I had. I felt strange but somehow special. I was very pleased I would be able to go home and tell my 2 daughters I had done it – we Mountains are not quitters and I had lived up to the motto and I hoped they would be proud of me.
I had porridge and pancakes (with lots of honey(energy)) for breakfast. The cook and cook boy at camp 2 really are very good with the limited cooking facilities and limited food. Here we are:
The cook, Dawa, top chap, spent 40 days up at camp 2 in April and May. The 2nd Sherpa cook boy had to be evacuated with altitude sickness after 10 days !!!!
Lakpas was waiting faithfully for me – he looked a lot better. He said to me to lead and off we went in our usual order, 1 foot in front of the other. My legs did not actually feel that bad – I think because all the movements we had done the day before had been slow, but I knew I would tire very easily. We moved steadily back to camp 1, stopped for drink and then moved on to the icefall. It was now around 10am and the sun was coming on to the icefall. Not a place you wanted to be with teh sun on it and I knew we would need to move quickly through it. We belayed down the first part
The one relatively safe place in the icefall is the “football” pitch about 3rd of the way down which is a relatively flat area where there are no overhanging ice cerracks that could fall on you. We agreed to stop their and headed down fast to the football pitch. We got there and there was a guy on the phone, sounded like a banker, telling somebody on the phone that they were “a fucking idiot that couldn’t organise a piss up in the brewery !!!”. I listed thinking that he needs to get a new career and should focus on his climbing and not whats happening back in the office. He passed the phone to his Sherpa and then keeled over. I looked over. I am a mountain first aider so thought I ought to help. I rushed over – “are you ok ?” “No my head is killing – it feels like it’s about to split apart”. “I am a first aider can I help ?” “I’m a doctor but feel free to check my vital signs” – so not a banker then !! He had been on the phone to the global rescue people trying to get them to send a helicopter. The next thing I knew I was speaking to the doctor down at base camp. The chap was called Amit and he was a doctor in Leicester UK. Lakpas wanted to press on down the ice fall as it was getting very dangerous but I could not leave a fellow Brit on the mountainside with HAPE or HACE. I told them to get a helicopter very quickly. I then got the Sherpa to cover Amit with his coat to keep the heat off him and put some snow on his head to try and cool it down. He was starting to suffer from a brain embolism. I tried to distract him by talking about his family – he had 3 kids and the oldest was just about to start University. He was very proud of his kids and they had all done Ben Nevis as part of his training for Everest. I sat talking to him trying to cool his head for 40 mins while we waited for the helicopter. Here we are loading him in
His Everest attempt was over but he got back to Kathmandu safely and was fine once he had got down the mountain.
Lakpas and I carried on down the icefall and it as now pouring with water with many ice screws no longer holding – we moved very fast past all the overhanging ice and reached crampon point. A few minutes later good old Dr Nima turned up with a celebratory beer – what a top bloke !!!!
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Thank you for reading this. Your support has meant a lot to me
“Dedicated to my Dear, Dear Friends, the Sherpa’s of the Khumbu valley – You are the loveliest people in the world !”
13th May continued
I caught up with Jella and Tagar. When thecsherpas caught us up they said we would do the next section to the ridge and then stop. My harness was still coming down with the pressure of my rucksack & really pissing me off along with the 3 pairs of summit mittens which were making everything incredibly hard work. I was already v tired and all of this was getting me really hot and bothered. I thought right lets just focus on getting to the tea break point. I was also dying for some light so I could see what the hell i'm doing and where the hell I'm going.
We arrived at the next ridge and I keeled over in the snow. I lay there for s couple of minutes before removing my rucksack, keeping my Oxy mask on. Lakpaspassedme a cup of incipid looking brown stuff that was mildly warm and I drank it. He could have passed his pee and I'd have drunk it.
I stood up and tried to adjust my harness. I was delighted to find that I had actually not tightened it right up, but now I had there was a chance that he rucksack k would not push it down again. I also poured hot tea over my Jumla to try and free it up. Things were going better on this leg and as I turned around behind me to see where the Sherpas were I noticed that I could just make out the shadows of the mountains in the far side of the western cwm - it was starting to become light. Readers - most of you will have no idea how hard it is doing everything by a headlamp torch and not by real light. So I was delighted to see the natural daylight coming.
We climbed on and on and on, then the Sherpas said we would soon reach the “balcony” (the 2nd Col half way up Everest
where you can look out over Tibett or Nepal). This is a changeover place for O's so another chance for a rest. When we got to the balcony I had a sore stomach and indigestion, prob linked to the stress of the climb and poor food over the last 48hrs. we stopped for another sip of tea – and when I say sip – it was one of those tiny hip flask cups. I gulped it down and Lakpas said it was time to change my oxygen. I assume the cost of pressurised O’s is relatively minor so the trick is to keep changing the bottle to make sure you don’t run out. The bottles can then be filled and used again next year. The gauges never read true at altitude so although you fill it up at sea level it looks half full at altitude due to the change in pressure. We screwed the new bottle into my regulator and I put the bottle in my back pack. This now made my back pack much heavier which I was not happy about but at least it was light now and I coul see what I was doing AND I could see how far it was to the next ridge – bloody miles !!!!
We pushed on again and I could now see, as it was fairly light, that we had a huge spine ahead of us to climb - when I say huge I really mean huge !!!! It was the spine that wound up Everest. A combination of snow and rock. Rock is really hard to climb with the crampons on because they don’t grip, but slide off.
Again I was following Jella and Tahar on the fixed rope with Lakpas and Dawa bringing up the rear – it was 1 step 4 breaths, 1 step then 6 breaths – it was very, very slow going but we kept pushing on and on and on and on. I was now clear day light, no idea what time and I could see a ridge up ahead that looked like the end of this section. Could this be near the top, could this ???, could it ??? I had no idea but did my usual trick and decided to just focus on this section and getting to that ridge, just that ridge then we would see. We pushed on and on and on and my down suit was now quite hot from all the climbing and my Jumla was jamming all the time. I didn’t mind so much now because I felt there was a hence I might make it.
At long last we got to the ridge - Oh my word – it looked like we were almost there. I had heard of a false summit of Everest and there was a long hump backed ridge directly ahead and I assumed this was the false summit so the actual summit must be just beyond this ? Tahar was net to me so I said lets go. He said there was something wrong with his oxygen mask, it kept freezing up and he was going to wait and speak to the Sherpas. One of them caught us up and dived in my rucksack and cranked my O’s up to 4l/min – twice what they’d been on – WOW – NITROUS, it was like rocket fuel. If the others didn’t want to go I was off – summit almost in site, summit fever. The wind was blowing like mad now on the ridge and was coming from the Nepalese side so we were getting continually blasted. The only respite was when we dropped onto the other side of the ridge. I climbed along the ridge and it disappeared down to the Tibetan side and when I climbed down, out f the wind, there were 8 people all milling around sorting themselves out. I walked past them and a guide and lady were just getting ready for the next push so I slotted in behind them and followed them up the next very, very narrow ridge rising about 1km on either side (wouldn’t really want to fall off that). We climbed up the spine. The guide was taking it slow which suited me as I was knackered and I was watching how he tackled each section, although you could have thrown any climbing at me and I would have scampered up it, summit fever was kicking in big time. We climbed the Hilary step to reached the crown of the spine and, shit, it was a false summit and we had to go down and back up a higher ridge the far side. Hopefully this was the summit. We climbed down and back up the far side. I was panting like mad now, every bit of uphill was absolute agony and required many stops to get my breath even on “nitrous O’s”. I now thought we were heading for the overall summit and pushed on. I could not see anybody on the top but thought they had probably just left – we reached what I thought was the summit – you’ve got to be shitting me – this was ANOTHER false summit. We went down the far side and up the other – another false summit and then I saw what looked like the real thing with 3 people sitting on it. It was a long slow hill up to the very small snow covered plateau. I dragged myself up step by step by step, 2 people in front and 3 behind. The 3 behind looked more exhausted than I was. I eventually go to the 3 people – I stood there sucking on my Oxy mask trying to get my breath, then I lifted it aside and said “Is this the summit ?” “Yes it is” said one of them YIHHHHHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH. All 3 of them stretched out their arms to congratulate me. I shook them very enthusiastically then slumped down in the snow.
Well there it is, I made it to the highest point on earth. 80% of people die on the way down because they have not left enough in the tank to get back so still that little challenge to manage.
I waited up on the summit for the others. Lakpas had my camera and I had an old 35mm wind camera just in case the electronic one didn’t work. I planned to phone my elder daughter Steph from the summit so I pulled out my iphone and sat sleeve. Both had been in my down suit to keep warm and in spite of this my iphone had frost on the front – it was useless. I was a bit disappointed because I really wanted to phone Steph from the highest place on the planet. Never mind I had brought gifts for both my 2 gorgeous daughters to the summit to they would get these later and there aren’t many objectives that have been to the highest place on the planet.
I sat on the summit and the 3 guys ledt. I was all alone on eth summit of Everest. My down suit was doing well but I kept pulling off my outer gloves to drink, eat mars bars et and my hands were getting really cold. After 20 mins I saw Jella coming then, Tahar and what I thought was my Sherpa, Lakpas. I waved at them as they very, very slowly climbed the last hill. They came and sat down with me and we all shook hands. I don’t remember anything after that. I just remembered getting up and leaving the summit because I had suddenly become very cold. As I walk back down the windy side ridge I noticed a hole in the snow just over the ridge so I climbed over and got in so that I could warm up. Jella and Tahar came past and then the Sherpa. He tapped me on the head and pointed down. I said my hands were very cold and I needed to warm up. He pointed down again. He then checked my oxygen cylinder and told me the disastrous news – I was out of OXYGEN !!!!! I nearly freaked out. He pointed down and said oxygen cylinder down. His English was very poor and I knew Lakpas English was god so I assumed I must be delirious. I jumped out of my hole and started to head along the ridge. I had no idea how far egg spare oxygen cylinder was. I took about 10 steps and collapsed on the ground, gasping for air, slumped over the ridge. I couldn’t breathe. I remember somebody telling me that to do Everest without O’s is 1 step to 15 breaths. I knew I would never make the oxygen cylinder, I didn’t even have any idea where the Sherpas had stashed it. I looked around at what I thought was Lakpas behind me. I put my hand over my mouth and nose to indicate the mask, I wanted to suck on his mask. He didn’t seem to understand me I put my head up against and put my hand over my mouth and nose, then pointed to his Oxy mask – “Your mask” – he looked blanked “Your fucking mask……your fucking mask !!!!!”. Why couldn’t he understand me – I thought Lakpas understood good English. The desperation of the situation and the futility seemed to wash over me and a calm descended. I could now see my 2 beautiful daughters, Steph and Lizzie, in front of me and I realised that this was probably it. I was calm now. I looked at what I thought was Lakpas and smiled calmly – he had tried…………
What I didn’t realise is that this was not Lakpas. Under the Oxy mask and the goggles I couldn’t see who it was and they both had the same green summit expedition suits. This Sherpa was Dawa and he had never summited Everest before and was very young. When I had been invited on the expedition the deal was that I would have my on Sherpa for the summit to accompany me and my personal agreement with the expedition team was that he MUST have summited Everest at least twice. I figured this was not too onerous but if a Sherpa had summited twice before he would have a pretty good idea of the route and whole process and be able to aid me if in difficulty. What I didn’t know is that Tahar’s oxy mask had frozen up and could not be cleared. Lakpas in his decency had offered Tahar his Oxy mask to allow Tahar to summit as he (Lakpas) had already summited 5 times before. It would mean that Lakpas could not go to the summit and it would be left to Dawa, the inexperienced Sherpa, to look after the 3 of us. A very decent gesture by Lakpas. Unfortunately Lakpas could not have seen that it was one that nearly cost me my life. If Lakpas had been on the summit he would have immediately checked everybody’s oxygen and known the danger. So why did we not have a 3rd Sherpa as there were 3 of us ??? Jella was on a very tight budget and had decided NOT to have a Sherpa. So he was basically leveraging off mine and Tahars Sherpas. I didn’t mind this and Jella was not the kind of guy to try and take advantage when he hadn’t paid for something. But it meant that we did not really have the full Sherpa support we should have had and with Lakpas giving away his oxy mask it meant we had 1 inexperienced Sherpa for 3 of us in the most dangerous place of all – the summit……….
…… I was slumped on the ridge and everything now around me was swimming and I had this warm feeling inside. I love my daughters so much and the funny thing is I didn’t feel any pain at leaving them – just a sense of calm. So this is it, this is what it’s like when you slip away. ……… I felt a nudge on my left arm. I turned to look at Dawa and through fuzzy eyes saw him pushing something into my left hand. I looked calmly down at it and saw a black fuzzy mass in my hand. Hmmmmm what’s this I thought, something to eat ??? I pulled it closer to my fuzzy eyes and looked at it ???? It was black and rubbery and hard in places – what was it. Somewhere in the back of my mind a very small window opened…… its Dawas oxygen mask, put it on. I looked at it again and wondered ??? Then very slowly put it over my nose…………..
……….. I breathed slowly ……. Oh my word, it was like somebody had opened a tiny chink of light in the distance, I breathed more heavily , I was now like a new born baby sucking on a mothers nipple for the first time, and more heavily and more heavily, I came shooting towards the light at the end of the tunnel and it became brighter and brighter and brighter , and I was breathing now more and more and more heavily sucking in the oxygen more and more deeply. I pulled my head off the ridge and looked around, Oh I am still on the summit of Everest. I had the mask now so firmly clamped to my face that even Iron Man couldn’t remove it. I was gasping for breath after breath and I could now feel my toes and fingers again. I don’t know how long we stayed there for but I kept sucking on the mask. Eventually when my senses had fully returned I let go and offered the mask to Dawa. He shook his head. He pulled the Oxy cylinder out if his back pack and switched it with mine. I then pulled back on my mask. I was happy to wait for him to get the Oxygen cylinder or to share his mask on the way down to the oxy cylinder but he seemed content to switch bottles and walk down himself. I have no idea how fast he managed to walk down to the other oxy cylinder ? He knew where it was & I didn’t. I have no recollection of that decent down to the oxy cylinder. I just know he switched bottles and headed straight off leaving me to sort myself out. I was the last person on Everest that day and I soon caught him up and shortly after that we caught up with Lakpas who had been sitting waiting for us a short way down from the summit. He had managed to get a spare oxy mask from another expedition team so was now in fine fettle. It did take me a while to work out exactly what had happened to the summit that day. I did not know all the facts until sometime later. They say 80% of people die on the way down – I can now see why and I can now appreciate how incredibly dangerous Everest summit is. I now have frost bite in 1 finger and 2 toes but I consider that a price worth paying for what I consider to be one of the ultimate challenge in the world.
We descended quickly and stopped once for a small cuppa her maj’s finest and a mini mars bar – just enough sugar to fuel me, Then we descended to camp 4. When I go there I was walking like a drunken man, I could hardly put 1 step in front of the other. Lakpas said we need to get down to camp 2, there was a storm coming in and we could not stop overnight at camp 4. I said I needed to rest and needed 2 hours sleep at camp 4. I got to the tent, kicked off the crampons and got in. My thermorest and sleeping bag were all laid out so I kicked off my boots, and harness zipped up the tent and got into the sleeping bag, summit suit and everything else still inc oxygen, still on. I turned the O’s back to 0.5l/min fro sleeping ……. And crashed out like a baby….
To be continued……
I woke at 8pm on 12th evening after 2 hrs sleep. The wind was now howling like mad and buffeting the tent around. It was also pitch black so I reached for my headlamp torch which I'd put in the tent side netting as I always do at EBC for when I need a pee in the night.
I put on the headlamp torch and listened. I could hear the wind howling and voices faintly through the wind (bearing in mind the Sherpa tent was 12.inches from ours.
I heard russli got and All of a sudden the outer zip was being pulled on our tent. Then I heard the inner zip go and a whirlwind of snow blew into the inner tent all over our sleeping bags. " hi" said Lakpas. "We not going as wind too high. We go hour later - I speak Doctor Nima" "ok" I said. The adrenalin was running now and I new it would be difficult to get to sleep again even sucking serious O's. Lakpas disappeared in a whirl of snow into the black night again. "I'm not going anyway. I'm going to sleep until the morning and then head back down with my Sherpa" said Isaiah. " are you sure you won't change your mind ? Let's all go together and summit ?" . "No i must be true to what I came to do so I am not going higher than camp 4 because i cannot afford to pay for another permit". I sensed there was no changing his mind. " well my dear tent buddy I wish you a safe decent and hopefully catch you at camp 2". And that was it. He rolled over and settled down for the night. I woke again every hour and shouted through to the Sherpas "are we going yet ???" Each time the same answer came back "no, too window, speak to Doctor Nima on radio in an hour". Later on I could see headlamp torches flickering past so I new at least 1 other expedition was going for the summit !!! I woke again at 11:30pm. I was now getting seriously worried that after 3 days tough climbing we were not going to get our shot at the summit. I shouted to Lakpas "ARE WE GOING ?" "I call doctor Nima". I heard the radio crackling as Lakpas spoke to Dr Nima then Lakpas shouted across the tents "ok we go!"
WOW - the news I had been waiting for. My heart lept 2 beats and I sucked heavily on my Oxy mask. I could feel the adrenalin surging and I was now incredibly nervous. The wind was lashing the tent and I had to get all my climbing gear on - electric heated socks, summit boots, down suit (already on) climbing harness, crampons, 3 pairs of gloves etc etc. Lakpas passed my crampons into the tent and told me to put them on inside the tent - that is something you never do because it stops the tent but is an indication how bad the weather was outside.
I was eventually ready and I looked over at Isaiah, he rolled over and continued snoring - I took off my oxy mask to get out and pull my rucksack out of the tent. I stepped out gasping for air and went almost flying off my feet. There were 50mph winds whipping the snow up over the S Col. I gasped and dragged out my rucksack and grabbed the oxy mask and sucked on it hard. "Come on we go" said Lakpas. I could see the headlamp torches of Jella, Tahar and Dawas disappearing into the whirling snow and heading up towards the summit.
I pulled my rucksack on - 1 oxy cylinder, a litre of tea and 2 of water - and I can tell you it's HEAVY, and we started trudging after Jella, Tahar and Dawa. I could feel the adrenalin running and the Oxy but I was so tired from the climb to camp 4 earlier that day and the climb to camp 3 the day before and the climb from EBC to camp 2. The wind lashed the snow against my face, the climbing harness kept sliding down from the pressure of my rucksack and I thought it was because I had lost so much weight. I passed Dawa and I could see Jella & Tahars headlamps up ahead and I could see other climbers further up the mountain - the headlamps looked so high up above me I couldn't possibly imagine ever having the energy to climb up there and just felt like giving up. I could see Jrlla & Tahar up ahead of me and I saw them stop and I thought I will just focus on climbing up to them. By now we were on the fixed rope and had our Jumlas clipped in. Every 50m there would be a fixing stake and I'd have to clip a safety carribiner around it, undo my Jumla and re-faster above the fixing stake. To make matters worse my Jumla started to freeze up, and I'm wearing 3 pairs of gloves so it's incredibly hard to do anything except very simple manoeuvres and a Jumlas not a simple manoeuvre. I was becoming more and more frustrated with my harness falling down, my summit mittens, my frozen jumla, my heavy backpack, my fatigue. Was this all too much and was it time to call it a day? I'd given it a good shot and I'd got higher than ever before at camp 2, camp 3 and camp 4 so surely there was no shame now in quitting ??????
But what would my 2 daughters think of me ? I have always told them we Mountains are not quitters. Was I as their father going to be able to live up to that ????
To be continued !!!!
12 may continued......
After 20 mins I decided I needed my thermorest as my butt was freezing on the snow. I pulled it out of my bag and lying on the back with my knees up (3 big guys in a tent for 2) I started to blow it up. This is 2 big breaths then grab the oxygen mask and suck, repeat the above about 30 times - absolutely exhausting. At about half way up it was filling the tent above me, Jella and Tahar - Imagine a john Cleese camping sketch !!! I managed to get it under my butt and over my rucksack and then pulled my smokey bacon socks off and layback to finally relax.
Next thing my Sherpa Lakpas pushes his head through the tent zip "heeeeeeelo - I make nother tent". I said not to bother for me I was fine. "No, no I make nother tent for me and you" he said. But unconventional sharing with a Sherpa but what the hell - I'm only at 7800m with no oxygen. Even if he fancied me I don't think he'd have the strength to do anything. So we lay in the 1 tent while Lakpas rattled around in the whirling wind outside creating another tent - they're good these Sherpas !!!
All of a sudden his head appeared again - "gi me yer stuff !!!" By now Dawa, Tahars Sherpas had appeared with Isaiah. I passed out my thermorest, then sleeping bag, crampons, backpack (after packing the icy mask - figured I could make the leap from 1 tent to another. I pulled on my summit boots, bid Tahar and Jella farewell and headed out. The wind now was really howling across the south Col and nearly blew me over. I dived into the tent with snow swirling in all around me. And there was Isaiah - Arrrr ok I was sharing with Isaiah, not a horny Lakpas. Not quite sure if that was relief or not. Isaiah is a good wholesome American lad that teaches at Sunday school and has definitive principles, as you (the reader) will see.
Isaiah had got himself sorted out longways (he's at best 5ft6in but very determined and not to be underestimated - remember his 80km run before coming to EBC). So I said to him he was quick getting up to Camp 4 without Oxygen & it was looking good for him for the summit without O's. He said "I didn't make it without O's". I said I thought that was the point. He said it was taking too long so the Sherpas put him on O's. I said how did that affect his summit bid without O's ? All the while we were discussing this we were chomping through whatever food we had in our packs - me was wine gums, a tune salad (compliments of Dr N - tuna bloody salad - I needed more than that to fuel the beast !!!), twix's and mini mars bars (you'd be amassed how much sugar and fuel is in a mini Mars !!!!).
Isaiah then said "I'm not going up" I'm like "wow - what ?????, we've come all this way and you're pulling out ? But you can do this, you're v v strong - you can't pull out now !" He said "I came to do it without O's. I've gone on O's so I don't want to waste my permit (ed 1 permit = 1 summit) so I am going to start again from EBC". I had to admire Isaiah for his principles. He said without O's and he was absolutely sticking to it. Perhaps putting him in the fast group, knowing he wanted to summit without O's hence would be very slow was a bad mistake. We chatted a bit but he was adamant. Once we leave camp 4 for the summit the Sherpa bonus is payable whether we make it to the summit it not. Our expedition leader had been v clear and fair enough to the Sherpas.
We were told departure would be 9pm (we were going to climb during the night) and to get up at 8pm and get ready. Right just time for 2hrs shut eye. Oxy mask on and out I went !
12 May - camp 3 to camp 4
The Sherpas said they would come up from camp2 and we should be ready for s 5am start. All sleeping bags, thermorests packed ready, down suits and oxygen in and ready.
We rose at 4am and started to pack. By 5:30am Jella and Tahar were ready and left. Isaiah was determined to do it without O's so wanted to wait for the Sherpas. I left at 6:30am and bumped into Lakpas coming up the lhotsec on the route.
He apologies for being late and said their alarm had not gone off. I said no worries and Jella & Tahar had gone on ahead but Isaiah was waiting for him at the tents. (Our expedition tents at camp 3 were tucked away so you had to go out on a limb and back again to the main trail - hence why I met Lakpas at the T piece of the trail.
Lakpas said no worries, he would collect Isaiah and catch me up - I never saw him again that day until I reached camp 4.
I headed off alone up the remainder of the very steep Lhotse face. I could see climbers ahead of me and climbers/Sherpas behind. My aim was not to be overtaken. It was so steep I was dragging myself up on my Jumla on the rope embedded in the slope. I could see what looked like the ridge directly sheSd and I decided to count rather than look up 1,2,3,4 steps etc. I reached 100 and looked up, about s 3rd of the way up the Icey, lightly snowed steep Lhotse slope. I counted to 200, it was 1 step, 2 breaths etc, etc, etc then I counted to 300. Now I was getting close to I watched the ridges horizon and got closer and closer - it was agonising. I decided I wasn't going to stop until I got on the ridge. I dragged myself on and on and on up the Lhotse face. I finally got to the ridge, well what I thought was the ridge. It turned out to be a collection of rocks and when I looked- shit !!! The climbed now traversed the whole Lhotse face at 90degs, then climbed up and over a rocky out crop to beyond what I assumed must be the south Col where camp 4 is. Camp 4 is the Col (south Col) between Everest and Lhotse (Everests poor sister at 8400m). Because it's the Col the wind rips through causing havoc to the tents.
I could just see tiny match stick men climbing up a steep slope way in the distance and disappearing over the rocky out crop. They were miles away and all I could think is this had better be camp 4. I climbed a bit higher then started the traverse of the Zlhotse face. At least with S traverse it's not exactly steep but it was still exhausting and the site of that steep rocket outcrop to climb. I could see the climbers on the rocket out crop and they'd take 3 or 4 steps then stop and slump on their knees. I knew it was going to be hell even on O's. Luckily there was a hazey cloud cover stopping the full heat of the sun in the western cwm.
I struggled on and on until I got to the steep rockey outcrop. I was wearing my light down jacket, long johns & trousers and my down suit. I was absolutely boiling so I decide to take the down suit off - this involved removing my harness on the steep Lhotse face, one slip and I'd be a gonna. I took off the harness and left it attached to the rope. I then unzipped the trouser legs and slowly slid the legs off. Then I removed my back pack & oxygen cylinder. I had to be extremely careful that the backpack did not career off the mountain. Eventually my down suit was off so I re- put on the harness and then stuffed the down suit in my backpack next to the oxygen cylinder. Oh yeah, I had to keep the O's mask on and attached to the cylinder in the back pack the whole time -. No mean feat.
The sun had now come out again in full force on the western cwm and Lhotse face. Once I'd removed my suit I set back on the path and cracked on feeling a lot cooler. There were a couple of Sherpas behind me so my objective was to stay ahead of them - no mean feat.
I reached the Ricky outcrop, attached my Jumla and began hauling myself and my ludicrously heavy rucksack up the Rick face. I convinced myself that the south Col & camp 4 were just up the top of the rocky outcrop. I knew in reality that others unlikely but I had to convince myself it was the case or I'd just pack up - I was so knackered from 2 days solid climbing from base camp.
I dragged myself up and up and could see a Sherpa in yellow above me. As I reached the rocky ridge I decided not to look for camp 4 but get myself over the ridge, recover my breath and find a relatively flat & safe spot where I could sit down and sip a cuppa Her maj's finest and have a mini mars bar (they powered me to the summit & back). I climbed over the ridge and saw a relatively flat bit ahead. I pressed on, 1 step, now 4 breaths, 1 step 4 breaths & got to the flat bit. I slumped down and slowly slid off my rucksack making sure to attach one of my carribiners to secure it. I looked around - sure enough no sign of camp 4 but I could see the south Col and the climb now was around the side of the mountain and onto the south col, so no more vertical Lhotse face. I had a couple of cups of tea and a mini Mars bar all by lifting my oxygen mask & then pulled on my rucksack, stood up and strapped up the rucksack and pushed on. As it was not do steep I could do 1 step, 2 breaths, 1 step, 2 breaths. I kept my eye on the Sherpa ahead - just needed to keep him in sight.
As we rounded the corner I could just see the tents - phew, nod more objective achieved, camp 4 - and the highest I'd ever been. I staggered towards the tents absolutely shattered. I had heard the 4 of us were sharing 1 tent. Anything would do as long as I could get out of this wind - it was ripping across the col from Tibet to Nepal - around 35-40mph.
I came to the nearest tents and shouted Asian Trekking - they pointed to a tent. I went over and Tahar & Jella were already there in the tent, had fired up the stove I. The tent entrance & we're cooking noodles. I dumped off my rucksack and sank down in the wind outside the tent. "Here noodles" shouted Tahar above the wind. I grabbed the tin bowl of noodles. I lifted my oxygen mask and ate like a wild man slopping the noodles everywhere in between gasps for breath and sticking the oxygen mask back on. I new I had to get out of the vicious/bitter wind. "Can I come in guys ?" "Yes other end" said Jella. This was a small 2 man tent. I went to the other end and all 6ft3ins of me disappeared into the tent on top of Jella. Jella & Tshar had taken their socks off and it stank and they were lying in their summit suits on top of there thermorests and sleeping bags. Tahar and Jella moved themselves across the tent with their feet up to give me enough space to get into the end. I pulling in my backpack and shoved it as a headrest before I flunked down on the snow with my feet up. I zipped up and tent and just lay there for 20mins sucking on thecoxygen mask. I was completely knackered. It was surprisingly calm inside the tent after the vicious wind outside and with 3 of us in down summit suites m, surprisingly warm. I knew I had to get off the wet snow underneath me but just needed time to rest. I was now getting used to the stench of rotten bacon feet
Left camp 2 and had 5 crevasses to climb followed by a 3km trek across the khumbu glacier and then the dreaded Lhotse face which is an ice wall at the end of the valley which is 70% in places. Arrived safely in camp 3 after a 5 hr slog up the Lhotse face - Sherpas-less so the 4 of us have to to cook tea on a little gas stove. The tents are dug into the ice wall so you don't want to wonder in the night. In addition we need to go on O"s, and have brought up our own oxygen mask, so was expecting somebody to show us how but nobody here. There are 2 oxygen bottles In each tent and I'm sharing with Isaiah. So I just grab one and start screwing in the regulator. There is a massive his then it stops. I remember Dr N saying 0.5l/min so I twist the regulator to 0.5l and push the mask on. I'm not sure how I am going to manage to sleep with a mask on but we'll see.
Once sucking on the 'o's the mask is amazingly comfortable and I feel a lot better. Within 30mins I am asleep b
All for now little power.
10 May - EBC (5400m)
Arrived safely at camp 2 after a 9 hr climb - the sun came out on the western cwm and fried all 4 of us - it was unbelievable. I ran out of water half way through the western cwm to camp 2 and staggered into the nearest tent at camp 2 to get water. We are all exhausted but we move into camp 3 at 9am tomo.
Saving batteries so next update from camp 3
9 May - EBC (5400m)
I've just got up, 8am Monday and it's d-day -1, the 4 of us are off tomo morning at 2:30am. I am incredibly nervous and I can feel the adrenalin already kicking in. I must stop the adrenalin & try & calm the nerves. I normally do this by being quiet and focusing on what I need to prepare to take up. A lot of equipment I have already taken up and left at camp 2, summit suit, summit gloves, thermorest, sleeping bag, camera, summit chocolate.
We have just heard one of out Sherpas has been taken ill up the mountain and is going to be helicoptered off - people are dropping like flies, even the Sherpas, and it does nothing to calm my nerves - it's a feeling like waiting for a school exam but far worse.
There is an increased level of excitement in the camp this morning. Although most people don't know the 4 of us are going up early I can hear Jellas screams of excitement in the mess tent all the way down the hill to my tent as I get up. Ivan hear the occasional laugh from Tahar. Isaiah is more reserved - a quiet American guy who's birthday it is today.
The 4 of us met with Dr Neema after breakfast and he explained how the climb would go, 1. all together to camp 2 for 1 night, separate tents as no risks.
2. Then camp 3 for 1 night - share a tent for warmth (no cuddling mind) and to support each other and share a small gas stove to cook - boil in the bag. I have shoved some teabags and powdered milk and sugar in my rucksack.
3. Then camp 4 may be all 4 of us sharing 1 tent depending on whether the Sherpas have managed to get additional tents up - it will also be very windy as camp 4 is on the Col (south Col) so the wind whips through the Col from Tibet at high speed. We are only there for max 5 hrs so not really a bother if we are a bit squashed, then go for the summit around 9pm and we climb through the night on outlet headlamp torches. All being well we should arrive on the summit to see the sun coming up.
We have heard that several other expeditions are also going for the summit in the same window so it's important to make an early start for the summit so that we do not get stuck behind a slow expedition team (we are on 1 rope) in case they will not let us past. The biggest concern is the Indian army because they have around 35 soldiers here. Imagine getting stuck behind that train. Dr N has stated if we're not on the summit by midday we turn around regardless. If you work it out by midday I would have been climbing for 15hrs. I'd be absolutely toast anyway by that stage. People that get into difficulty do so on the way down because they have used up all their energy getting to the summit.
The funny thing is that I am not worried about the physical side, I know from climbing and ski touring in the Alps that I can push my body well past its limits for several hours, but I am worried that by doing so u may grind on a heart attach or I may suffer from a pulmonary adema - pressure/bleeding in the brain (if you don't get down v V quickly you die). Like Alan Arnette who got this at camp 2 and had to be helicoptered off the mountain. I have no control over the 2nd and everybody gets headaches heading for the summit so it's at what point do you decide the headache is too bad/dangerous and turn around.
Anyway I am just sharing some of my inner thoughts with you - it will be one hell of a 5 day adventure and I shall be praying hard !!!
It's just started snowing:
Oh jolly Dee, I've got to trudge through this lot tomo at 3am as well !!!! My tents the one on the left. Imagine crawling into this tent at 10pm at night with no heating and trying to sleep - now imagine doing this for 6 weeks solid - hell on earth !!
We have just heard that Kenton Cool has gone up with his client (he calls himself the James Bond of Everest !!!!!!) and so have 2 other expedition teams so clearly people think it is possible to make the summit.
My Darth Vader impression:
My lovely oxygen mask that I have to wear from camp 3 even when I'm sleeping. 0.5l/min when sleeping and 2l/min when climbing. I think it's a gt fashion accessory that will catch on in london when people see this blog !!!!
I will have limited access now only with my iPhone linked to the sat phone. The sat phone lasts only 30mins and no way of re-charging. So I will try to get a message out from camp 2 & 3 but if I don't manage pls do not worry.
Steph, Lizzie I love you both very very very much - Dad xx😘😘
8 May - EBC (5400m)
Another rest/wait day. I went up to Pulmori high camp this morning and all the Indians wanted to come with me so it was me, Sunita, Harshad and Ratnesh with me leading. It is quite difficult to find the route as its all rocks so no path and you have to clamber over loads and loads of rocks.
That's Sunita sitting and Ratnesh just coming up
>>> We then lost Ratnesh on the way - a 3* Guinness book of record holder and he's trailing behind. We got to Pulmori high camp and could see Ratnesh at Pulmori base camp 200m below us, rosy bugger. I am not sure if it's "will" or "fitness" but he's going to have his work cut out on Everest. Anyway we had a nice morning and the back for lunch.
After lunch I had my obligatory weekly dribble (shower) and it was snowing - so standing in a small tent naked when it's snowing outside......., it was bloody bracing, and I don't think I've ever got dressed so quickly, nice clean clothes - yum. Here's the poor yak going home just outside the shower tent in the snow
It then took me 10mins chasing my old socks round the shower cubicle !!!
Spoke to Dr N yesterday - he is moving the summit schedule forward and sending 4 people early on the morning of 10th May. It will take 3 days to summit and 2 days to get back down. The chosen team is:
- Jella (30yrs old & the fruitcake who cycled his bicycle here from Belgian)
- Isaiah (29yrs old & the fruitcake who ran a 100km race the week before coming to Everest)
- Tahar (27yrs old & spent every weekend over the last 6 mths running through the snow in Megeve)
- Jules (old fart & went out on his mountain bike a few times)
............ I am sure you get the general gist of the team inequalities above - one person sticks out - what the Fad&£@ am I doing in this ? I am going to get my butt severally dragged all over Everest. I have tried to explain to my young cohorts as the "ahem" father figure I feel we should take a VERY steady pace and save some "fuel in the tank" for the summit. V mature of me. Yet I know once my young cohorts get let off the leash on the big hill they will get v competitive.
I have to think positively. We have been given 3 to 4 days (13th or 14th may) to make it to the summit because there is a jet stream coming in and when it hits the top of Everest the winds will be up to 125mph. To put in context: get yer motor, get on the M1, open the sunroof, crank the motor up to 125mph then try standing out of the sunroof .......... Yep you get it, it's impossible to even stand up and I would get blown off the summit. Well I'd get blown off well before the summit.
I am however delighted to be picked for the first push because if we don't get another weather window this will be the only shot - but I am also incredibly nervous as this is it - 2 years in the making, can I do it ?
One more days rest tomo then up at 2:30am on Tuesday morning for the big hill !!!!
7 May - EBC (5400m)
Another rest day. We learnt today how to use the oxygen masks that we need above camp 3 to the summit. Never used one before and It's a bit like diving - learn to use the equipment or you may well die.
Heres Doc Neema demonstrating
And here's Harshad with the mask on
To think I have to wear this contraction while I sleep (oh yes we have to keep them on while we sleep at camp 3 & 4 - apparently all the dribble collects in the mask and you wake up with dribble all over your mouth and nose and have to wipe it off and try and sleep again) and while I climb from camp 3 at 7200m to camp 4 to the summit at 8850m, that's 1650m of vertical climbing and dribbling. Ooooh yeah and there is a gt big cylinder of O's that I have to lug around with it !!!
Iain's sunburn from the western cwm yesterday
That's all folks. !
6 May - EBC (5400m)
Another rest day. I have decided to head up to Gorepshep (sometimes referred to as Gorepsh"one"t) - safe to say we have been advised to never eat anything there. It's the nearest "village" (3 stone buildings) to EBC and is an hours trek down the Khumbu valley and is only open for 2 months during the climbing season. And it's the nearest place to get provisions. I wanted some Weetabix and chocolate for the summit push. You may think why Weetabix ? What I do is crush up 3 blocks in a plastic bag, put in 3 spoons of powdered milk (no fresh milk up here) and 5 spoons of sugar. Then at camp 3&4 for breakfast tip this mush into a bowl and just add hot water. Makes for a lovely sweet hot porridgy breakfast & to have something hot and sweet filling your stomach before a 7 hr climb is very important. Most people struggle on the way down from the summit because they have summit fever and use all their energy to get there then have nothing left to get back to camp 4. Dr N was showing us pictures of people sitting down on the way back from the summit. It is critical not to do this because there is a risk you'll never get up again.
Calories - average mail consumes 2500 calories a day. Jella, who is a Physio, has a very sophisticated watch with GZpS and altimeter that calculates his calories burnt . To reach camp 2 we each burnt up 7500 calories. Allowing for the fact that we eat 3 meals a day of 2500 calories and we had breakfast that morning then that means that in order to compensate for this we would have had to eat 8 meals in the evening on arriving at camp 2 just to maintain our weight. It gets even worse the higher up you go so for summit day our calotype burnt will be something like 12,500 calories. That's the equivalent of 5 days meals - who needs a slimcea diet - just come to base camp.
My love handles have gone - stomach like an ironing board - my GF will be pleased.
Those are my ribs either side the it just caves away to my stomach.
I've also lost my appetite, but that normal at altitude, it's just that Dal Bhat and spam just does not appeal any more. I have tried staring at the spam and dreaming of the "steak with asparagus tips and Stilton" from the Old Chequers, my fav pub near my farm...... I did try very hard to visual the steak but as the spam hit my taste buds I just wanted to break into a monty Python song about Spamalot !!! The key thing is to keep eating and the rest days revolve around the 3 meal times 8am, 1pm, 6:30pm and the banter in the mess tent - and of course playing cards. I have played more cards in the last 6 weeks than in the last 10 years and that saying something as I play a lot with my 2 gorgeous daughters Steph & Lizzie. And how I wish every time we play cards at EBC that it was Steph & Lizzie sitting across the table from me - rock on end of May.
Got a lovely email from my Dad this morning telling me not to take any unnecessary risks and wishing me good luck for the summit. This is spurring me on. I just hope I don't let anybody down.
Also had some lovely drawings from Bo Hale, of me climbing Everest - Bo thank you so much. Bo's mum is reading him my blog ..... With certain bits left out I hope !!!
5 May - EBC (5400m)
Another rest day. With my cold sore I am taking advantage of the rest. I will go and do something tomo (track up Pulmori high camp etc)? But just now I feel really knackered today and have dosed a lot in my tent.
At lunch time Dr N said he had decided on the teams.
Team A - Those that were well and not suffering from cold, chest infections etc and did their rotations (includes me)
Team B is people that are behind with rotations due to illness
Team C is the 2 girls, Sunita and Hazel who are not doing Everest but Lhotse. Lhotse is a smaller mountain next to Everest.
The Sherpas are finishing fixing the rope to the summit and are setting up camp 4 and moving the oxygen bottles into place. Once this is complete the Sherpas will have a few days rest then we go for the summit - team A will start on 13 May. Team B will be several days behind.
13 may - EBC to camp 2 for 2 nights
15 may - camp 3
16 may - camp 4 for few hours rest then leave around 9pm for summit
17 may - summit early morning then get back to camp 4 or camp 2, weather and body permitting.
Oh yes one embarrassing story today - after breakfast porridge I felt the need to go. I whizzed down to our luxurious toilet tent
We access from the back and you can see they have built the stone work up so that we sit in on the disabled toilet chair and drop straight into the blue barrel. The barrels are them removed and carried down the Khumbu valley. Well I was having my 10min dream time when suddenly a Sherpa tried to remove the blue barrel and another Sherpa tried to unzip and enter. Well I now have zero dignity - this is my one pleasure a day and it was worse than the foil bags and completely ruined my contemplation time. The Sherpas then remained outside the tent waiting for me to finish listening to every little release of gas !!!!!!! And at 5400m there's a lot of it.
On that happy note I close for the day.
4 May - EBC (5400m)
Yesterday afternoon I was knackered. After a shower and lunch I was falling to sleep reading my book in the mess tent. Needed to try and stay awake otherwise if I slept in the afternoon I wouldn't sleep in the night. Eventually got to bed at 20:30 feeling really really tired after reaching camp 3 and 3 days up the big hill.
Another prob we have is that most of the sleeping bags are made of goose down (incredibly warm) but the small goose down feathers work their way out of the sleep bags and into the air and we breath them in.
I woke violently at 1:30a coughing like mad. I had pulled all the cords on my sleeping bag right so just my face was showing and in my choking state could get my arms out to open the zip and get my headlamp torch. A few moments of panic as I was coughing my guts up then I managed to get an arm out and pull the zip, grab my headlamp torch and sit up still coughing. I pulled one of the Nalgene bottles out of the sleeping bag and took several big swigs to try and swallow the feather. Eventually it went down. All around me was very still and Icey. I've had several of the moments in the last few weeks and it's the seizure of panic before the brain works out what's going on, that I hate. I lay back down and zipped up before I realised I wanted a pee. So I unzipped the bag again and searched for my pee bottle (we all have them and the girls have a wee-she (never seen one but apparently it turns a girls into a boy for a few minutes !!!!!!!!!!!!!) cos if you thinking I'm getting out of my tent in -20c you've got another think coming. Thing that always terrified me is if, in my dozing state I drop the bottle on the sleeping bag !!! Haven't done that in 2 years but still 4 weeks to go !!!!
Woke up around 7:30am feeling better but still v tired. Breakfast at 8am then it's time to sort everything out
- adjust crampons
- insulate Jumla (metal against my glove climbing to camp 3 nearly gave me frost bite)
Took a bag up to the kitchen and said to the cook "any chance anybody can do some washing for me and I'll pay dollars". I heard a shriek from the back of the tent "dollar yeah, dollar yeah!" It was the wash boy. I looking at the cook and he justice later to give the bag to the boy. The boy had a huge great smile on his face. I said look I have some wash powder here as well. He nodded enthusiastically and disappeared into the back of the kitchen tent.
When I came up for lunch I saw my UP's, thermals and socks strung up all over the outside of the mess tent. I subconsciously though good job I brought my best UP's and not the ones with holes in !!!
Today was the day of technology failure do good job it's a rest day. The internal scratch card system went down....,,, and my sat phone ran out of credit. So I have to email the sat phone guys I the uk to get more credit but the Nepalese scratch card system has also gone down , bugger, bugger, bugger.,
So I decide to head higher to where the helicopters land. I'd like to say to "the helipad" but that would be a wild exaggeration. The pile of rocks that the helicopters manage to land on, would be a much more appropriate description. I tried from there are got into the local scratch card system and managed to contact the sat sleeve people - so tonight all back up and running but it has been a long slog.
Her's S picture from the a-hem "helipad" back to our tents.
Mine is the one in the distance with the orange sleeping bag strapped to the roof. Behind us is not the icefall but just some ice mounds that we have to clamber over to get to the icefall in the background.
Also got a cold sore today. Always a sign I am run down, and plenty of acyclovir slapped on - need to treat it quick. Need to treat anything quickly at this altitude.
We have just had dinner and played cards for an hour. I don't think I have ever played so much cards in my life or been so ignorant about what is happening in the rest of the world as I can at best send email and surfing the net is a wild dream. This is like the good old days of dial-up , and that on a good day !!
So rope fixing will continue and we hope will be fixed to the summit by 9 May, then we can go for the summit. We hear the Indian Army are planning the first assault. Bit of a nightmare as their are 24 of them and you don't want to get stuck behind them. But an issue for another day. I am knackered so hitting the v cold sack.
Night night. !
3 May - Camp 2 (6700m) to EBC (5400m)
So last night over dinner Dal Bat of course the Sherpas said we had to go down the next morning. They said up at 5am and 5:30am start down. I know why they do this because of the last section to EBC, the dreaded ice fall. We need to be out of the icefall before the sun hits it. The thought of getting up in the freezing cold at -15c/-20c was horrible. I tried to suggest 7am but Dr N's orders. I know why, because he wanted to make sure that the slower members of the expedition were through the ice fall before sun up.
I felt someone shacking my tent "breakfast 5 o'clock, breakfast, porridge 5 o'clock". It was so cold there was a layer of frozen ice crust on my sleeping bag. I quickly pulled on my small down jacket & shell jacket, trousers, thermals, 1 pair of socks, teeshirt and sweat top had been on all night. I wear double socks so I looked around the tent and had to chase the other pair across the ceiling. They could have been as old as the hills and I'd still have put them on. I headed down the lethal slope for breakfast, porridge and pancakes - the Sherpas boys had done us proud. I heaved 3 spoons of sugar onto everything and lots of jam on the pancake. The hands in the mittens were so cold I grabbed a thermos, filled my Nalgene bottle and shoved it between my thoughts and put my hands on it. Slowly I could feel the circulation coming back.
The only prob is that we are supposed to leave now 5:30am but we have to pack up everything in the tents, ground sheet, thermorest, sleeping bag, summit suit, summit gloves, socks etc. There are only 7 tents at camp 2 so the 16 of us share them and leave all the gear in the compression bags under the table in the mess tent. Imagine rolling up a sleeping bag and trying to get it back in the small bag it came in from the shop - it's always and incredible fights and almost impossible. Now imagine somebody sucks all the oxygen out of the air and asks you to do it ......... Welcome to camp 2, oh and then you've got a 3 hr climb back to EBC. I was up their in my tent hugging and puffing (and little piggy house would fall down) for over half and hour. Eventually 3 compression bags emerged and I carried then down the hill to the mess tent before returning for my rucksack and back down to the mess tent again. Then I had to get my flask filled with tea, get my Nalgene bottled filled with water, put on sun cream, put on my harness, my hat, my helmet, my crampons, my gloves, then poo literally, I had left my poo bag outside the toilet up the hill. Oh NOW - back up the hill again to get my lovely time foil poo bag, and guess where that's going, in the top of my rucksack exactly in line with the head oooooh! There's one thing, if it leaks I'll know about it pretty quickly. And I guess best not to fall backwards in the way down - could be v v messy.
So 6:30am your truly is knackered, feels like he's done 5 rounds with Mike Tyson and he hasn't moved one step off camp 2. Of course everybody else had gone. RIGHT - time to get in the zone and motor. My good fag smoking friend Pemba is waiting for me - what a top bloke. He could have gone with any of the others but he waited for me. Probably find he was allocated as back marker and yours truly is reading something into nothing, but I am happy in my illusional world - particularly on Everest !!!
Me with Pemba in close pursuit
So we set off down the western cwm with my trekking poles and just needed to get my rhythm, 1 step, 2 quick breaths, 1 step, 2 quick breaths etc. In no time I had caught up with Sunita...., then Harshad, then Anish. Saw Christoff but he veered off somewhere. Time for a quick tea stop st camp 1 then straight into the ice fall. It starts with s 40m abseil. If I was in England I'd think about this v carefully and no doubt there'd be a safety Marshall to check before I went over. None of that here, just push a loop of rope through the descender and down you go. So off I went with my faithful Sherpa, Pemba, in fast pursuit (bit of an exaggeration as he was strolling along behind me). We stopped for a cuppa her maj's finest at the football pitch, just 5mins as it gets v cold, and Pemba had his obligatory cigarette and off we went.
This is what we have to climb through
It's all fallen blocks of ice and you can just see the rope lying on top of the huge ice blocks - that the route
There were a lot of climbers from other expeditions near the bottom of the icefall coming back to EBC after their rotations. Pemba said do you fancy the abseil over the ice, "it's v steep and nothing at the bottom as the ice caves in ?" This way we avoid several ladders and queuing. In for a penny in for a pound. Clipped my little loop in and off I went - had visions if myself as Tom Cruise but prob more postman pat ! Got near the bottom and Jeepers nothing to put my feet on, the ice caved in just as Pemba had said. Nothing for it but a big push of the legs and in we go. If you cock this up you go sideways and smash your shoulder or back into the ice. My execution was near perfect thank goodness and my feet touched the ice deep below. I finished lowering myself and I clipped. Pemba looked at me as if to say "ok". We then headed out of the icefall and the 35min trek back to our expedition tents. Sorry guys but I smelt like an old pork chop so had to have a shower so pantometer will reset to 1 tomo.
Got back and had a catch up with Dr N. Apparently there has already been a 20% fallout of climbers. So for the 250 that are here already 45 have packed up and left
Alan Arnette has also very sadly had to be helicopter evacuated from camp 2 to hospital with a pulmonary adema yesterday. My Cuz will be v interested in this.
For us now several days rest and wait for a clear weather window for the summit.
2 May - Camp 2 (6700m).
It's 2nd attempt at Camp 3. We pilfer go yesterday due to the weather. We decided last night with the Sherpas to go at 9am, so no crazy get up.
All of a sudden 2 Sherpas come rushing into camp 2. They had been fixing the line above camp 3 and they had all been caught in an avalanche. Oh s£&)(;t. Luckily nobody was injured but they'd had enough and we're off back down to EBC for a couple of days rest. So was our attempt at camp 3 cancelled again - know of course not, we're indispensable !!! They trimmed back the trip to crampon point just before the Lhotse face. The Lhotse face is a sheer ice wall which varies between 50deg and 70deg. If that doesn't sound steep try finding a road in the uk that over 40deg and try walking up a 70deg slope - you can't. It was overcast and cold so I thought I had better try out my new summit suit
It's so cold at night at camp 2 (6700m) that everybody buts on their summit suits in the mess tent.
That's the Lhotse face on the left. We climb up the messy bit in the middle, camp 3 is in the middle of the messy but and we then traverse over to the left where you can see the rock moving down from the south Col. Here's another picture of my fag smoking Sherpa, Pemba
I am the Michelin man supreme. It's made of goose down so is surprisingly light and easy to move in, but although there's a flap I have failed to master the delicacies of the evacuation. Let's hope I don't need to on summit day. Dr Neema knows s chap that got frost bite in his buttocks ....,, another story. So imagine being wrapped in this and then having to go outside in -20c, get into a tent, take it off and crawl into a freezing cold sleeping bag !!! Yeeeesp - bloody horrible. I digress but we have a 20% drop now at EBC overall (see below).
Anyway back to the story - so we're heading towards camp 3 and I'm trying out my summit suit. I put my thin downing & she'll jacket in my back pack to be on the safe side and off we went.
Well I made in 500m and I am not kidding you, I felt like a trussed Turkey in an oven on full board. My hat of to Rab for a superb suit but a tad heavy duty for camp 2. I peeled it off panting like a dog and had my thermals and trousers underneath anyway, then just pulled on the small down jacket and shell and cracked on. If the trust be known I was still exhausted from the EBC to camp 2 climb and at 6700m you generally only sleep for 2 hrs, then wake, then sleep for 2 hrs etc do its not v restful sleep and I was tired. The first part is an hours trek on a gentle slope of ice towards the end of the valley and that's where the Lhotse face starts. I trekked up there doing my usual 1 step, 2 breaths, 1 step, 2 breaths - everything looks so close but takes ages to get there. I had said at breakfast that if there was the chance to climb the Lhotse face to camp 3 I was going to give it a chance. Jeela and Tahar were the same. I could see them just up ahead of me because I had stopped to take my Michelin suit off. I looked at the Lhotse face and it looked incredibly steep.
Gives you a better idea. When I got to the bottom of the Lhotse face I was already out of breath. I clipped into the rope and pulled for dear life, every step was agony and there was a group of Sherpas just coming up the valley behind me and they would soon be upon me and didn't want to hold the poor chaps up. Needed to find a rhythm - and it was 1 step up, 4 breaths, 1 step up, 4 breaths. Every time I got to a rope anchor point I had to unclip and re clip. The effort made me sink to my knees and gasp for oxygen. Even the Sherpas were the same. I said to Pemba "we'll, pant pant pant, grab, pant pant pant, a cup of tea, pant pant pant, on that ridge" " yes ok fine" apart from the fact that the ridge was not a ridge but a mild change in gradient. I got to the next anchor point and clipped on and tried to sit down without sliding off the Lhotse face. It was so steep that it was impossible to take off the rucksack and pour tea anyway. "How much further, pant pant pant, to camp 3?" " it's just over next ridge - about 30 minutes - you want to turn back ?" " no way, pant pant pant, let's go". We cracked on 1 step up, 4 or 6 breaths, 1 step up, 4 or 6 breaths. I noticed that the Sherpas were also struggling and no longer catching me but seemed content to climb 10ft below me and Pemba. I looked up and could see Jeela and Tahar sitting on a big pile of summit ripe that had not yet been laid. It was so steep there was no where else to sit. Even when I could see the boys just above me it still took me 10 mins to get to them. I climbed on the rope behind Jeela. We each congratulated each other on making it.
The Sherpas around us were chipping out ice to make flat spots just big enough for a tent. So this was going to be our camp 3, so no nipping out for a pee in the night then !
It took us 2hrs to climb the Lhotse face to camp 3. We abseiled/rope wrapped back down the same rope with Tahar (the french fireman) leading and descended to the bottom in 20 mins !!!! Ee then had the trek back to camp 2. After his obligatory cigarette, just to piss me off, Pemba was off like a dog at a race track. I new I couldn't maintain this pace I was so knackered so I slowed off. I could feel a certain points tunnel vision coming on everything narrows and you feel light headed. I new I had over done it. So I just stopped for a cup of her maj's finest out of my flask and then pushed on. We arrived back in camp 2 around 40mins later. The rest of the group had just gone as far as crampon point which was all they needed to do. I felt pleased that I had got to camp 3 because at least I now know I can do it.
- it snowed all night so we could not go to camp 3 and have been trapped in the rain and the snow in our summit suits playing cards in the mess tent with no heating - at least the cook has kept the thermos full of boiling water coming so plenty of hot tea. It's so cold that people have taken to pooing in their tents - into the foil bags of course. I hope nobody misses and I get their tent on the summit push. It's amasing how things go down hill when you can barely breath and it's blooming freezing
Hopefully weather wi improve tomo and we can get up to camp 3
I Annie going to leave the mess tent and crawl into my freezing sleeping bag in my freezing tent. Yours from a breathless and freezing camp 2 !!!
30 April - Camp 2 (6700m).
We had a unbelievably gruelling day. Me, Jeela, Tahar,
Jeela & Taghar left at 2:30am
The rest of us left at 3:30am.
I lost the Sherpas I the ice field and did 3/4 of it solo before a Sherpa caught me up. I arrived at camp 1 at 8:10am and had tea then headed on. I was absolutely creamy crackered and it's like some telling you when you are absolutely out of energy - not far to go, just another 50 miles - I kid you not that's what it felt like. Anyway made camp 2 at 12:10am an hour after Jeela and Tahar which considering they set off an hour before me was about right.
No sign of Sunita, Harshad, Alesha.
Tahar, Jeela and I had lunch and went and sorted out a tent each, thermorests sleeping bags etc and then had a snooze.
Harshad riled in a 4:30pm and said Aleshahad not felt well this morning & had turned back & Sunita had stopped at camp 1.
So out of the 16 of us on the expedition we are dropping like flies and only 4 are still on track with the rotations etc.
You have to take into account that Dave does his own thing along with Carston & Brian who have their own personal Sherpas and seem to do what they wish in terms of rotations.
Camp 2 is -20c at night, and I cannot tell you how horrible sleeping in a tent at -20c is. I am wearing my special summit down jacket nearly permanently. It's been snowing all night
April 29 - EBC (5400m) to Camp 2 (6700m).
We had a friendship cake for tea last night before 6 of us head off up the icefall
Which Dr Neema kindly arranged and then dissecting with surgical skill
After the cake I Headed to bed early last night, 8:30pm, for our 2:30am start to camp 2. Thought best to evacuate the bowels now as opposed to 2:30am and -8c the brain may not be functioning and I don't want another urine face incident. Popped into the toilet tent ( size of a garden hut) and OMG ....,,,,,, somebody has deposited ON THE SEAT. Jeepers, I mean come on, this is the only decent toilet from EBC, to camp 1, to camp 2, to camp 3 to camp 4 to the summit !!!!! It's my 10mins of daily relaxation and contemplation......, but there is no way I am sitting on that. I beat a very hasty retreat and decided I could contain myself and I'd rather stand in the snow and drop into a foil bag tomo (we had a subsequent witch hunt and believe we know who the guilty party is). Not a good start. The only toilet left is the Sherpa stand and drop toilet in a microscopic tent. You have to grab hold of the 2 pokes inside & position yourself before delivering, hoping not to catch your trousers or over balance the tent - that would be very embarrassing lying there with your trousers around your ankles in broad daylight and 100m from the heli-pad !!!! Bit cold too !
So I dosed off hoping to get a good 6 hrs sleep when I was rudely awaken by the sound of some one coughing like mad, almost choking and then gobbing . It was Andy in his tent with his chest infection. He's 4 tents down from me but the racket was unbelievable.
I could also hear several avalanches descending into to the valley from Pulmori and Nuptse next to us. I eventually dosed off and it was so cold that my iphone shut down, so no alarm, but luckily I woke at 2:40am. I think it must have been the rustling of the others In my group getting up - only 6 of us on this rotation. I decided to change rucksacks at the last minute (2:40am) for my bigger one as I have to take my down summit suit, summit mittens, electric socks etc up to camp 2. And then I need to carry everything up to camp 3 to sleep there.
So up at 2:40am, breakfast at 3:00am and departure at 3:30am in the freezing cold with my headlamp torch lighting the way. It's a 40 min trek to the start of the ice fall. A point called "crampon point" as its where we put our crampons on. We arrived there and already could see a snake of headlamp torches up the mountain. Some of our Sherpas had left at 1am to take supplies up to camp 2 and also to take more tents and equipment to camp 3.
I had just put on my crampons when some Sherpas came the other way and said the ice fall had collapsed oh my word !!!! And there was no way through. We quickly called Dr Neema on the radio and he informed us that our earlier team of Sherpas had made it through before the collapse and we're now enjoying tea at camp 1. Thank goodness for that. We had several more radio calls with Dr Neema and decided there was no point in going on. Crampons off and we Trekker back to EBC. By 5:30an I was tucked up in my now v cold sleeping bag and crashed out until 8:30am. It will be same routine all over again tomo morning - up at 2:30am etc.
My thermorest has to go up the mountain with me and it's impossible to squash it into its small bag at 2:30am so I have already packed it which just leaves me with the tent liner, a 1inch foam mat and my sleeping bag between me and a massive block of ice. I have also damaged 3 discs in my spine from rugby and had a spinal decompression operation so I need a bit of padding or a v rough nights sleep and v stiff in the morning - so cunning plan
I have folded my 1inch foam mat in 2. If you look st the pillow at the top you'll see I am now sleeping on an 18inch across piece of 2 inch (clever eh!) foam. Any slight movement and I fall off !!!! I imagine this would be like being in gaol. Not that I ever intend trying it out. The first few days would be hell, the first week tough, the 2nd week not brill then you kind of get used to it. It's a bit like EBC. When you come down from camps 1, 2, 3 & 4, EBC seems like luxury with a tent to yourself, a small gas heater in the mess tent and a dribble cunningly disguised as a shower - ooooh absolute luxury.
Well short of putting in a picture of a toilet seat with a deposit on it, which I decided not to do, I think that's it for today.
May be off the radar for the next 4 days if the sat phone plays up !!! I am not looking forward to the 7-8hr climb to camp 2 tomo -wiish me luck !!!!!
April 28 - EBC (5400m)
The average Nepalise earns the equiv of $700 a year. So I got a lovely big grin and handshake from the wash boy this morning as I think he appreciated the $10 dollars I gave him enormously but not as much as I appreciated him washing for 4 day old UP's and bacon dented socks. If I'd left them for any longer they'd have got up and walked to the washing bowl.
So I was talking about my electronics yesterday and my fab solar 3 panel fold out. Essential as theonlyvother options is this:
his is the solar powered battery pack for the whole camp. There's a mad scramble every morning to find a plug socket before everybody else. Imagine 16 of us with mobile phones, laptops, cameras, heated socks (got a pair for the summit - fab) razors etc. You don't realise how much power you consume until somebody limits it. The Die hard group of 5, we were playing cards last night in the mess tent at around 21:30 and the lights began to flicker and then died. We all fumbled in the dark for our headlamp torches and in investigation realised that that lovely charging unit is only the power for the lights in the mess tent !!!! Hmmmmm, so too many laptop (or was it my sexy electric socks ???)
As we're delayed and its another rest day I had a quiet word in the Chefs "shell like" and he rigged the shower up for me. Gave the old boy a good scrub which he really appreciated after 4 days in the same pair of UP's. The UPs walked out of the shower by themselves.
This is a picture of some skeletal chap who's just had a shower !!!
Look at that amasing patio underneath me ..... It has had some admiring glances from the Sherpas and only an English Farmer could build such a lush structure !!!! Needs daily attention as the glacier is continually melting under the tent and patio !!!
This is a photo taken from behind my tent showing the view I have out of my tent each day.
Some amasing ice structures that I look at - I forget how incredibly beautiful, if harsh it is here. Although it looks like I am on rock this is just rock that has fallen on to the surface of the glacier - I am on a sodding great block of ice !!! ..... And yeah it is frigging cold !
Talking about skeletal my climbing harness is now done up to the max and It's still loose so I took the good old Swiss army penknife out yesterday and chopped some bits off !!! My GF will be doing her fruit over this because you never modify harnesses. I was telling the chaps this morning and Dr N was telling us about a previous climber who chopped the leg loops off her harness and then fell down a crevasse and without the legs loops popped straight out to her death !! Jolly ... Don't worry I didn't cut out the leg loops, I just needed a bit more room for the old boy !
We heard this morning that 2 people died yesterday from altitude sickness, one coming down from Loberche summit (that I did last year) and another arriving st EBC. V sad.
How are our boys doing. We currently have 3 on the big hill
- Christoff, Andy and Isaiah all made it to camp 1 to stay the night
Christoff was v Ill with a splitting headache and even Diamox couldn't shift it so they put him on oxygen over night and he came back down yesterday. Christoff said could he have a chat with me like an older brother so I said fine. He said he was thinking about quitting but I said to him not to make a decision when he's just come down. Give it a couple of days to get his head straight then decide.
- Isaiah made it to camp 2 and came back at 10am this morning still coughing dreadfully
- Andy has not returned yet but he apparently also made it to camp 2 and we know he takes it v slowly (hare & tortoise). He'll prob beat us all to the summit.
- I actually forgot Carston - that's because nobody knows what Carston's doing, apparently he's doing his personal Sherpas head in ( and that pretty difficult with Sherpas), stay at camp 2, go to camp 3, go back to camp 1 hmmmm can't quite decide !!!!
Carston has just arrived back - came and had a chat at my tent. He's such a character, told me how he was dreaming of cuddling up to a sexy girl at camp 2 and then how he fell out with his Sherpa st 5am this morning because he hadn't packed. The most colourful character on this expedition ... except me !! Somebody said we are like Laurel and Hardy. Passes the time.
Never a dull moment here - We have a couple of new boys, Rainesh (indian) and Anish (Nepalise). Last night at supper Rainesh was wearing a teeshirt that said "God loves bikers" and "Indian Biker Week". I though prob Indian's equiv to Sturgess or Daytona in the USA. I though hello a kindred biker spirit - could be a good bit of chat. So I started talking to him .... Blow me over, this blokes got 3 Guinness book of records on a motorbike. All bonkers because of course we're all bonkers here. So he has the GBR for riding a motorbike while standing on the seat - eg not touching the handle bars, previous record 16km, he nailed it doing 32.3km. Man alive I'd be lucky to get 50m standing on the seat. The other 2 are similar records. It turns out in spite of having an MBA, him and 4 mates have a stunt bike group and tour all over India doing shows. And I am sitting right next to him chatting like he's a best mate. Awesome dude.
Well we are off up the bill hill again tomo - up at 2:30am in the pitch black and a 7 hr climb straight to camp 2 for the night then camp 3 for the night - wish me good luck - I am v nervous !!
April 27 - EBC (5400m)
So Dr Neema wanted to delay out next rotation until day after tomo but we all want to crack on so we are off tomo for our final rotation. The rope is going up the Lhotse face between camp 2 & camp 3 and is apparently 1km long. The Lhotse face slope is an average of 50deg. If that doesn't sound much go and find s 50deg hill and try walking up it. Now had a down suit, huge climbing boots, crampons and helmet and cover the slope in ice - yep that's hard !! So we'll be up at 2:30, leave at 3:30 to get through the icefall before sun up and we are heading straight for camp 2 - it's around 7 to 8 hrs climb, so a real slog, with temperature changes all the way up, so layers off, layers on, layers off etc.
My electronic gadetry:
From top to bottom
EY power unit (superb, donated by my GF). For the techies has a diode so does not discharge to the solar charger when the sun drop.
Thuraya satellite sleeve for my iPhone
Yellow solar charger - useless, don't buy one
Fold out solar charger - superb - buy one
Just having dinner - pizza (which is good), rice (OK) and spam (spam, spam, spam , spam - it's Monty Python time !!!! Dr Neema informs us that the Sherpas are flat out on the ropes tomo up to camp 3 so we need to delay for a day - SO ..... Rest day again tomo !!! Yippeeeeee - hell is delays for 24hrs
I know Cuz, Vicky, Dave, Renee, Lisa and Hannah are reading this but not sure of the wider audience. ? If you are reading this do drop me an email to let me know,
One other thing, in attempting Everest I am raising money for the leukaemia & lymphoma cancer unit at UCLH in London, who saved my Dads life. Any donation will really spur me on
April 26 - EBC (5400m)
So today is the 2nd rest day. As usual we've been advised to do some trekking to go up higher so I decided to go to Pulmori high camp - it's the mountain opposite Everest. The route is clambering over rocks and it's difficult to find your way so I asked Dr Neema if there was a spare Sherpa. He said no they had all gone up the icefall v early to move the rope from camp 1 (you'll remember we got permission to helicopter the rope to camp 1 in my earlier blog) to camp 2 and start fixing the rope from camp 2 to camp 3 to camp 4 to the summit. It's a v long rope.
Anyway so I am on my own. Just before I left I thought I am in desperate need of some clean clothes but fancied the executive option so I had a quick word with the kitchen boy and for $10 he will do all my washing - lovely jubley - I handed him a big bag full of my UP's and very quickly heading up to Pulmori high camp. Lot of rock scrambling and lost my way a couple of time then saw some climbers above me, and saw the trail and arrived at Pulmori high camp.
Sat up there with a beautiful view of Everest
To the right of my head is the icefall and Everest is the highest peak in the background. From base camp we cannot see Everest because Nuptse is in the way, but from Pulmori high camp I can see the ice fall, the south Col and the summit of Everest. A great vantage point across the valley. Took me 1.5hrs to get up to 5800m and had to be back for lunch at 1pm and estimated 45 mins down and was spot on.
This afternoon 2 new members of the expedition turned up, a Nepalese chap Anish & another Indian, Ratnesh. Not sure why they are so late in the day but nice to have new faces in board.
This morning the 3 sickies (Isaiah, Christoff, Andy) left for their first rotation. Feels positively healthy in the EBC mess tent with out all the coughing and spluttering and I wish them well for a successful rotation.
We have 1 more day then it's our final rotation, up at 2:30am to get through the icefall before the sun hits it and we head for camps 2&3.
Then it's 4 days rest at EBC, wait for a clear weather window and we go for the summit.
Dr Neema is getting forecasts from Canada and Kathmandu. I joked that Kathmandu forecast was to look out the window and type to which everybody in the mess tent fell about laughing and luckily so did Dr Neema.
Well a quiet day which has been quite nice and this evening I got a lovely bag full of clean washing - worth every penny. !!!
April 25 - EBC (5400m)
So yesterday I reached camp 2 at 6700m. That's the higest I've ever climbed and it all went to plan so quite chuffed !!
Last night back at EBC I had a rough nights sleep. I think with the adrenalin pumping for 3 days I didn't realise how exhausted I was and in that state I often dream weird dreams which wake me constantly. I was dreaming about Thor and Iron Man at EBC and we were painting a wooden hut. Maybe it was my dislike of tents kicking in and I was praying for deliverance to a wooden hut !!! Who knows ??
Breakfast at 8am and got out as late as poss at 7:45 to stretch and make it in the nick of time before everybody else pinches the scrambled egg. I would have thought eggs would be hard to transport up here but there seems to be tonnes of them. Perhaps they is a secret hen laying barn near by ! It may be the one I was trying to paint !!!
Just lying in my tent now reflecting on the last few days.
- The trip up the icefall from EBC to camp 1 is hell, up & down, up & down (3hrs 40mins)
- the trip from Camp 1 to Camp 2 is actually not bad at all. Other than the 3 massive crevasses at the start it's like skinning (ski touring, does not involve drugs) up the Argentiere glacier in Chamonix for those that know it (2hrs 40mins). Boy give me my skies and I'd nail some of this downhill stuff ......., perhaps next year - lol !!!
Haven't done camp 3 yet as that is the next rotation.
So Dr Neema told us 2 pieces of v interesting news:
1. The rope to go from camp 2 to camp 3 to camp 4 to the summit is being helicoptered to camp 1. The Nepal ministry have at long last agreed to this. This saves many Sherpa trips through the icefall carrying the rope but helicoptering anything up the mountain has always been a huge bone of contention with the ministry but I think they are desperate for a good result this year after the last 2 disastrous years. The rope is normally carried up 1st week of May but now means we are a week ahead of schedule. So why not take sections of rope by helicopter up to camp 3 & camp 4 ? The reason is that the air is so thin that helicopters cannot fly above camp 2 and they only really like to go to camp 1. This is why people cannot be rescued above camp 3 and their dead bodies are still up on the mountain (not a gt thought but part of the challenge of the worlds highest mountain)
2. We have only 1 more rotation. Was going to be 2 but for the 6 of us that have just gone up Dr N is happy. This is great news. The next rotation will be EBC straight to camp 2 (6700m) (man that is going to be one almighty climb) stay the night Camp 2 to Camp 3 (7400m) - lunch - then back to camp 2 and stay the night Camp 2 to EBC
THEN .......... We are ready for the summit push. I will not have seen camp 4 but it is really more of a resting point for 4 to 5 hrs before we go for the summit (a 6hr climb).
The other slightly worrying factor is O's and the summit suit - both could save my life but I have never worn/used either. When you go climbing you have all the familiar bit & bobs with you, your best penknife, your harness, your favourite rucksack etc. that you've used hundreds of times in need so you get used to handling difficult situation with your familiar kit. I will none of this. It's like a fish out of water ........ And at 8000m+ that's not a great idea. Still I'll have my fag smoking Sherpie with me so if things go wrong let's hope he's not having an off day and has not run out of Embassy no6's.
Here's my special 8000m summit suit modelled by my girlfriend Vicky.
Bit of a passion killer ........particularly the axe.
We are now on 4 days rest before the final rotation. Of course "rest" means go and climb some little peak to keep fit. Today is definitely a true rest day as I'm knackered but probably trot up to Pulmori high camp tomo
Needed a shave this morning and no mirror. So of course I just asked Tahar - every french man has a mirror even at EBC & "Voila" the mirror appeared. !!!! He did say I'm heading into the shower but I made it very clear I was not bringing it into the shower for him.
Well tomorrow the 3 sick boys, Christoff, Isaiah and Andy get up at 2:30am to do their first rotation. If all goes well, and I am praying it does, then they will be a few days behind on the 2nd rotation and will then hopefully catch us up for the summit push. The 3 boys all headed straight to their tents after supper.
It's now just me, Tahar and Harshad left in the mess tent and I am irking out every bit of heat from the gas fire and reading "when you dead you dead" by Guy Martin the motorcycle racer. Not sure that a good read for Everest but I am enjoying it.
The view out of my tent and you can just see the 2 Sherpas under the flags collecting water for our camp ... Not easy walking on that stuff.
April 24 camp 1 (6200m) to EBC (5400m)
Last night we were standing outside the tents at camp 1 when this little beauty dropped next to us:
Got a sphincter twitch as mine is the tent in the middle. But I remembered their is a crevasse in between us and the Avalanche. They are popping off all over the place.
So a knock on the tent at 5:30am "milk tea...milk tea ?" Tahar, who is squished next next to me gets up and grabs the mugs of tea. The wind is howling outside the tent and it's still -8c. And the thought of a 2 hr climb in this is not making me want to get up. We also have to pack al our gear. Sleeping bags stay up here but the rest we have to cart down. I have gulped a bit of tea then snuggled back in my bag - bloody hell its cold. Then the twitch begins, then again. I don't blooming believe it - the 2nd half of last nights solid now wants to come out. I unzip my bag and grabbing my thick downing, pull it on. I look for my climbing boots amongst my rucksack and climbing gear next to me, and pull the liners on. I then shuffle half out the tent and pull the outer liners on. I then rush over to the small Sherpa tent with the stove "do you have a poo bag ?" He points in the corner. I grab one and look around the tents for somewhere semi private - impossible. At the end of the tents the Sherpas have dug an 18 inch hole you can squat in. I'll be on full view but that'll have to do. I unfold the bag and I'm about the squat when the wind whips up the bag and blows it away. I chase it past the tents and just catch it. Sweaty rollocks. This is no fun. Then I have an idea, as we are clearing out the tents I'll go in the front enclosure of the tent - will be a bit tight but not as windy. I tell Tahar my plan and he miraculously started shifting his stuff with lightening speed. Everything out and now time to go. I know I would not have made it anywhere near base camp. I wrap up the contents in the silver bag, grab my other silver bag and stuff them in the top of my rucksack, praying they don't split on the way down.
Everybody is long gone except my Sherpa smoking buddy. He is waiting for me to bring up the rear end - I tried to explain to him that I had just done that but it was lost in translation (prob quite a good job).
We headed off after the 4 others and 2 Sherpas. Jeela has decided to stay 2 nights in camp 2.
I catch up Harshad and Tahar at the 1st 40ft drop. We have to loop in our defenders and go down. It's now 6am, still freezing and I've only had a cup of tea - I am not laughing. 2 Sherpas come up behind us a grab the ropes and drop out of site. So much for queueing. I look in and facing the slop drop over the edge. It quite amazed me that if I was in the uk this would be a very carefully E executed exercise taking problems some 15 mins with safety ropes etc. Her it's just clip in and over you go. I hit the bottom, un loop and clip into the next rope and start clambering over borders. Tahar, the Sherpa and I move forward leaving Harshad and the other Sherpa behind. We move on quickly but every climb out of a crevasse is a huge effort for me. 30 mins later we come across Sunita and Alisha and another one of our Sherpa. We stick behind them and I am glad because I am absolutely knackered. We then get to a ladder and their Sherpa indicates for us to pass. So past we got and my fag shocking friend speeds up. After 20 mins I tell him I need to stop for some water - yes he says, just around the corner at the football pitch (so named as it is a big flat area in the Khumbu icefall and relatively safe - there are no safe areas, you just want to get the hell out of there as fast as you can). 15 mins later we get to the football pitch and stop. I gulp water down and find a mini Mars bar and some biscuits (that I don't even like). I shove the lot in and gulp down some more water trying to desperately suck in the thin air between chews. "We go, we go" says out Sherpa as he finishes his cig. I have to say there is nothing left in my tank. I follow blindly clipping in and clipping out. The ladders suspended horizontally the crevasses are a big problem because I am tired and flat out if steam and if I miss a footing (crampons tips on one rung and cramping heels on the previous one) I'll drop into a 100ft crevasse. I am clipped onto a very slack safety rope and I'm not sure how far I will fall and don't wish to try it out.
In and in we go, then we see Brian heading up shortly followed by Carston, both with there own private Sherpas. I wish them well and we move on. And on, and on, and on.
At long last we reach the bottom of the icefall and crampon point, where we can take off our crampons. We still have a 35min trek back to our camp. My smoky Sherpa friend sets off at a pace which means I am almost jogging. I think he must be catching a plane or have a hot date back at camp !! I asked him to ease up a little and he does for 5 mins. Eventually we reach our camp and 2 dishevelled and exhausted people walk in. The Sherpa looks like he's done some work but is no where near in the state Tahar and I are in. It's 9am and we head straight for the mess tent where there's tea waiting and noodle soup (of course). I drop my rucksack and crash into a chair. After breakfast I have s shower and changed my clothes. It so cold here that nobody really sweats but the clothes still get stinky. I feel s lot better with a fresh set on. Everybody arrives back safely and we all have lunch.
After lunch I head to my tent to sort out my climbing gear. I get into my sleeping bag for 5 mins and crash out for 2 hours. It's been a very good and tiring 3 days.
A shot of me heading from camp 2 back to camp 1 yesterday.
So we're In camp 1. It consists of 6 sleeping
Tents and we're doubled up and a small kitchen tent where the Sherpas can cook rice and tea and bring it to our sleeping tents. There is no mess tent and no where to go. As the afternoon wares on the temperature drops dramatically, it's -10c and there are no heaters. Tahar and I are in out tent, we've rolled out the thermorest sleeping mats and our sleeping bags (mine is a Rab -30c. We're both fully dressed and I our sleeping bags. It's now 4pm and there is nothing to do other than stay warm in the bags and read. I am trying to finish "Mayor of Casterbridge". Very gripping and I'm on the last few chapters.
I finish the book and the Sherpa comes round with soup and dalbart (rice & veg). Believe me at 6200m & -10c I'll eat anything just to stay alive - if you've seen the film "alive" you'll know what I'm talking about. If somebody said this is Yak meat and it was actually human, I'd eat it - it's that desperate........ and EBC is a 3 hour climb and civilisation is another 3 day trek - what the b£&@)(oks am I doing here ???
As the tent are on a slope and Tahar is on the upper he roles into me all night. Much as I like him it ain't gonna happen. I keep pushing him back up the hill. Then the weather worsens and the storm comes it. I not off then I am suddenly jerked awake the hole tent is rolling from side to side being lashed by the wind and the noise is indescribable. I'm lying there thinking if this tent blows away up at camp 1 both Tahar and I are toast - there is nowhere else to go and I am scared. I say a little prayer and ask God to forgive me sins and accept me into heaven if I don't make the night. The wind buffets the tent all night and I doze and wake to the howling sound then I doze and on and on it goes. I look at my watch praying it is nearly morning and it's only 11:30. This is going to be one miserable night if I survive it.
I woke 3 times and needed a pee - I have a pee bottle so that I can wee in front of Tahar but it's full so I have to slightly unzip the tent - snow cones whirling in - I stretch out my arm and pour the streaming liquid as far from the tent as possible, about 2 ft, that's going to smell lovely in the morning. This has gone repeated twice in the night. Thank goodness it's only wee.
At 6:30 I wake up again and a nice Sherpa brings the tea pot round. Tahar yells to Jeela "whats it like outside", Jeela replies "darling it's wonderful, get your bikini on and get out her and don't forget to shave your legs". I'm glad the boys still have a sense of humour after last night. Of course it's not fine - it's still blowing a gale, but less so and we have a 3 to 4 hour climb to camp 2 !
Well I am glad to be alive after last nights gale but I am not looking forward to climbing in this wind. Our nice Sherpa man brings round a huge pot of steaming porridge and slops some in a tin bowl and passes it through the crack in the tent. This is it so we'd better enjoy. I actually love porridge. I gulp it down and pull on the boots and down jacket and step out for another pee. It's blowing but it's time to get ready, climbing boots, jacket, harness, ice axe, helmet, buff as the air is freezing, sun cream, water, gloves, spare gloves, flask of tea, rucksack etc.
We're all outside now strapping on our crampons now and you can see a stream of about 8 people from another expedition expeditions out 500m away who are already on their way. Suddenly there is a loud bang and the 8 people are engulfed in the Avalanche
We waited with baited breath and I was thinking bloody good job we didn't set off 10mins earlier - we save a few figures emerge at the top end then a few more etc. Luckily they had only been hit the the cloud of snow created by the Avalanche and not the falling ice - the ice would have killed them. I looked around at everybody - there were some pretty unhappy faces. One of the Sherpas shouted in pigeon English "we go ......we go". Well I though "stiff upper Wilson, lead on !" As Captain Mainwaring would say, and off we went.
Now the western cwm is the stretch from camp 1 to camp 2. I had read that it was a gradual slope up the centre of the valley from c1 to c2. Which LYING TOE RAG wrote that ?. The first section is climbing into 3 crevasses and them using our Jumlas to climb out a 40ft sheer wall of ice. Basically there's on rope and you have to haul yourself up it. Nobody told me this before I downed a huge bowl of porridge. Just looking at the first 40ft wall of ice made my stomach go into overdrive and I was belching like a 1930's model T ford. My poor digestive system doesn't take kindly to looking at these things and doesn't know whether it's coming or going - coming is belching, and going is farting, hopefully without the follow through !!!
The first one Imamate, huffing like a 90 year old doing a marathon at the to, the 2nd there is a Sherpa stuck at the bottom who can't climb it, he does however a backpack & so do I, but being fair his is "just" a tad heavier than mind. After his 2nd attempt he hands me the rope, I click in my Jumla and pull for all I'm worth (bear I mind I am a 15 stone lump and I'm at 6200m, what iNm saying here is give me a break). The bottom is almost impossible as there are no footholds for my crampons. I pull with all my might and manage to move the Jumla up the rope. A bit higher up are some foot holds, I full with all my strength again and ram the points of my crampons into the solid ice. I make 7ft and it's just enough to get my feet into the warn areas where others have climbed. With a bad nights sleep and the altitude It feels like my heart is about to explode out my chest and cover the ice wall in red guey stuff. I pant like mad and then take another step. I repeat this 30 times and then drag myself on top and collapse panting. I can still seems tent at camp 1 and I am absolutely creamy crackered. How the hell am I going to have the strength to get to camp 2. The porridge will have to either get me there or ejaculate it's self out of my mouth. Let's hope it's the former.
The Sherpa and I climbed another one of there walls and once I'd recovered set off up the western cwm at a very very very (you get it) steady pace. Now the glaciers are smaller and have ladders suspended across them so no need to go up and down. After an hour I stop with the Sherpa to take tea, her maj's finest I'll have you know, and biscuits but sadly not rich tea digestives - can't have everything. Jeela appears in sight closely followed by Tahar. They catch us up and stop for a rest. I then get up and pull on my rucksack. "You gets want to go past ?" No no we'll join you" I was pretty chuffed at this knowing how much younger they are than me and both of them have been training for this for months and months. My training consisted of getting the mountain bike out and pumping up the tyres, then going back in doors and having a cup of tea !!
So we all got ready and I indicated for Jeela to lead but he said no you go ahead. It was another two hours up the cwm so off we went at a very steady pace. I flund if I treated like ski touring, 2 breaths in between each slow step, I could get in a rhythm. Tahar and Jeela seems quite happy with the pace and our Sherpa wash happy as he was CHUFFiNG ON A CIGARETTE - give me s blooming break. I am giving it my all and this blokes treating it like walk in the park with a cig !! These Sherpa boys really are amasing - I have just admiration for their physical climbing abilities and their humble and friendly nature.
We were told that camp 2 should take about 3 hrs. So as we push on, its nearly the 2 hr mark (tea and bickies every hour), I spit some tents, could this be camp 2. So we keep going and come to the outskirts of camp 2. "We rest here, about 20mins to our tents". What I didnt realise is that camp 2 is build on the steep mountain side and their is a HUGE difference in elevation between the bottom and the top, guess where we are ...... At the top. - Betty swollocks. We spent the next 49 mins climbing from plateau to plateau each time I was thinking we'd made it I pushed on only for the Sherpa to head for the next plateau, and at speed as he had determined we were the fast ones. I started to feel sick just as he turned the corner and stopped by a blue tent. I lent heavily on my ski pole and thought that Sherpas a lucky chap because if it had been any further my porridge was coming to say "hello" on his front !!!! Camp 2 has a mess tent so we all went into a sank into the waiting chairs. A friendly sherpa appeared "milk tea, milk tea" oh yes pls I said and slurped and the hot brown liquid - it tasted fantastic. We had arrived in 2hrs 40mins. I had barely got my breath back. "I now do you noodle soup" " only if you want your walls redecorating in noodle soup" I said "just give me 15mibs to get my breath then noodle soup would be lovely" The others rolled in a bit later.
We all had a nice lunch, noodle soup and Dal Bhat - of course. Then Bobby bowl decides he want to evacuate this morning porridge. Now we are not allowed to leave ANYTHING on the mountain including our poos !! The Americans have invented the silver bad system. It's about the size of an under sink bin liner - not huge for the buttocks of a 6ft3 big guy - so you gotta aim straight. So I asked if there was anywhere I should do this - up on the rocks !!! Oh great - the place is busy and i've got to crouch behind a rock I public. These moments should be special, enthroned yourself somewhere private and contemplate the world - this was an amasing view, not in private, with no handles at -10c (a dare you to just try it). Any way I found a friendly looking rock, spread the foil bag (not a large landing area) and braced myself against the rock, blooming heck it was cold (mkmrt). Then just when you don't want it, it's a solid. I haven't had one of those since I've been here. And it's only come half out. Try as I may I could it get the remainder out. I don't mind a joke but I am not enthronement myself half way down the western cwm where I'll prob fall into a crevasse. You know these moments are special and there is nothing like a complete evacuation of the bowl to make you feel a good job well done - well this certainly was not so I wondered back to the mess tent with my silver foil bag in hand. Everybody wanted to play cards and as I was the only one smart enough to bring them. I thought after I've dealt them you would want to touch them if you'd just seen where that hand had been 5 mins ago !!!! Anyway we had a couple of gt hands of cards
Here's me outside camp 2 mess tent with one of the oxygen cylinders we're going to use.
Just behind me is the Lhotse face that we have to climb from camp 2 to camp 3.
We got back to camp 1 in an hour and I am now freezing in my sleeping bag. It's a 5:30am start to climb back to EBC. All in all s v successful first rotation
Night night from a freezing tent at 6200m
This is going to be brief because I have a throbbing sensation in the front of my head
So we got up at 2:30am this morning. It snowed last night and the wind is howling and buffeting the tents, almost as bad as it could get ...., I hate early morning. Today is climb to camp1 so we leave at 3:30am and need to get to the top of the ice fall by 11am latest. So at breakfast are:
Carston & Dave are doing their own think.
Iain, Hazel and Mel are still down the valley do I assume Iain is still ill Isaiah is still ill and down the valley.
> So 9 of us doing the first rotation ........ Or so I thought. Andy, having got up at 2:30 turns around and says he's not feeling well so he's not going - the same from Brian.
Dr Neema tells Christoff he can go up but as he has been ill he must come straight down again & not stay at camp 1.
Jeepers......... So now we are down to 6. Not exactly great considering there are 16 in the expedition. But that's the way things go, Khumbu cough, food poisoning, diarheae etc
So Jeela is going ahead at his fast pass, the rest of us set at 3:30. It's a 35min trek to the start of the icefall with headlamp torches on as it's very dark. When we get to what they call "crampon point" we need to put on out harnesses and crampons and clip into the rope through the icefall. It is much tougher this year, the route is longer and a lot more up and down. We head off with the Sherpa leading and me behind. It's quickly clear that Sunita is not on top form and going slow.
The Sherpa in the lead cracks on and I stay on his heels with Alishs behind us. We quickly pull away from Alishs and the sharps keeps going so so do I. We get to what they call the "football pitch" and we stop to let the others catch up. The wind is blowing an absolute gale whipping up the snow around us and sitting still in the snow is v colde. Tahar catches up and we exchange pleasantries in french. We have now been sitting in the howling wind for 20mins and I tell the Sherpa I am getting cold so he agreed we should push on. Just before camp 1 we arrive at a 40ft vertical wall of ice with 3 ropes hanging over it. There is a lady at the bottom of 1 and I take the next. She can't get up using her Jumla so I explain how to do it and where to put her feet. My Sherpa shouts "forget it, go up". So I do as I'm told her. I suppose she is not in our expedition so it's up to her expedition team members to sort her out - a taste of what's to come higher up the mountain I expect.
Tahar and I trek into camp 1 at 9:20am and are both absolutely knackered. We have been climbing solidly through the ice fall for 3hrs 20mins. The Sherpa says your sharing so pick a tent. I ask Tahar "c'est Bon si nous restons dans la meme tent ?" "Oui pas de problem". So we both kick off our crampons and harnesses and crawl in and we both don't move for the next hour.
Alisha arrived at 11am, Harshad at 11:30 and Sunita at 12:00 - Sunita looks absolutely wasted.
So here we are. We're staying the night then we climb higher to camp 2 for lunch then back down to camp 1 for another night
Right my heads throbbing so I'm off
Sorry guys, we're heading up the ice fall tomo so it requires a good shower and a clean pair of UP's and socks
Talking about fundamentals I have not had a solid pass through me since we arrived in base camp. By the look of the toilet neither has anybody else. It with the explosive nature of gases up here the toilet looks like a bomb site. Dr Neema has got the Sherpas to clean it up and asked us to aim straighter. I can understand that from the front, but from the rear - I thought we just sat their and let rip. Anyway that's just to give you a flavour of living at 5400m.
While we're on it I have just been to the toilet tent and ......... NO BLOODY toilet paper again. I have to trek up the hill to the kitchen tent and get some more toilet paper. I don't mind a joke but this is the fifth time I've done this and if it was a squirrel emergency I may not make it to the kitchen and back. Call me the toilet paper boy ! Anyway we have to cart all the poo off the mountain (thats the Royal "we" the poor Sherpas do it in barrels, but not the wee. So we have to poo in the barrels but wee at the side on the stones and it drains into the glacier. So I'm enthroned enjoying my moment after collecting the toilet roll and holding my manhood to ensure I don't wee in the barrell and I though right time to wee on the stones now and as I stood up my bowl switched and sprayed urine all over my face !!! I don't mind a joke but I just had a shower this morning. That'll be another 30 mins to clean that mess up !!!!
On the team health front things are not good
Iain (Brit) Hazel and Mel went down the valley to do Island Peak. When they left Haz was not well - now Iain had been so unwell they have not done Island Peak and are staying down the valley for the moment
Ishiah (USA) tried to come up in 3 days. He's been so unwell that he's had to go back down
Christoff - is getting better but is still not 100%
Andy - has an infection on his lungs
Sunita - had her head over a bowl of hot water and smelling salts this morning but not sure what's wrong with here.
Jeela - still has his stinking sore throat and cold.
Jeela and Ishaih are the 2 fitness Greeks in the group and have been hit poss the hardest. - it's incredible what this altitude does to you
So far, apart from a bit of yak butt throat, I'm ok.
Talking of altitude they had a wedding on the heli pad at base camp a couple of days ago. You cannot fly straight into base camp as the altitude would make you collapse or worst give you a pulmonary adhema. Can you imagine the wedding invite - pls come to our wedding, you've got to trek for 9 days to get there !!!!!! That's dedication from your friends and family or a v lonely wedding !!!
So tomo we are doing rotation 1 (of 3), up the ice fall at 4am (in the dark with headlamp torches) to camp 1, stay the night, next day climb to camp 2 for lunch, then back to camp 1 for the night and then back to EBC next day. So 3 days up Everest.
It's surprisingly warm this year - only -8c at night and warmer during the day. This is not good news because when the sun hits the icefall and warms the ice ...., it eh hem, starts to fall, ....... get it, "Ice Fall" !!!! And last time we were in the icefall I saw the effects of an ice collapse 2 days earlier - it was like a 3 storey building collapsing. In spite of what I said in one of my previous blogs about the beauty of the ice fall and it not scaring me, I still think it's v beautiful but because of the warmth and because the route is more complicated this year (more climbing into and out of crevasses so it takes longer to get through it) I am v nervous about tomo. I want to be out of the top of the ice fall before the sun hits it. The estimates this year are 5 to 6 hrs to get through it !!!! Last year 3 to 4 hrs.
Before we start I. Earnest on the mountain we & the Sherpas ( v v important to them) have a Puja. This is a Buddhist ceremony and a monk has trekked up specially from Tengboche for the ceremony. We all have to bring a piece of climbing equipment which is "blessed" I suppose. And the Sherpas had build a very pretty stone alter and hung out prayer flags.
You can see the Icefall in the back ground. So the monk chants a section of the 160 Buddhist books and another chap bangs a drum and the monk every now and again bangs some symbols ad they burn dried pine tree branches - I have no idea what he's saying but this goes on for about 45 mins during which time we're all served copious amounts of tea. At the end we all stand up and take a pinch of flower from a bowl and on his command throw it in the air. Then the Sirda comes around with the same flower bowl and paints it on our faces
Than the best bit - we all get cans of lager (I kid you not !)
... And it was San Miguel premium lager - pretty good at 10am and 5400m. These Buddhist boys know a thing or two !!!!
After all the morning excitement and my shower it was lunch time.
After lunch I headed out in search of Alan Arnette. I have mentioned him before. He blogs about all the Everest team, size, who's in them etc. His website is the go to website for Everest. AND he does some fantastic work raising funds for altzimers. His mother had altzimers. My dear Cuz, Steve, asked me to look him up and thank him for all his wonderful work, which I did from Steve especially but also from me, and here we are.
Alan told me he uses climbing as a way of finding - "do you want me to come round and talk about Alzheimer's or do you want me to come round and talk about climbing Everest, and we'll mention the Alzheimer's fund raising".
I wish him well on his attempt at Lhotse ( the 8400m mountain next to Everest), and he wished me all the best with Everest.
What a really super guy. It was a real pleasure and honour to meet such a humble man.
Reading through my blog and looking at the pictures, particularly the back ground to the Puja, I do realise what a lucky guy I am to be here with such spectacular scenery.
Before I go through the icefall again tomorrow, I just want to say to my 2 gorgeous daughters, Steph and Lizzie , I love you very very much - Dad.
So Crazy Carston made me get up an hour early to go to Pulmori high camp. Pulmori is the mountain opposite Everest and from Pulmori we can get a good view Everest. The way up is extremely rocky and the route quite hard to find. I asked if we had a Sherpa coming with us - Carston replied "I have my own personal Sherpa" I said "what ?", " Yes I have my own Sherpa - come on let's go". As we set off I asked Carston if he was going to pick up his rucksack with water, food, poo bag, sun team, warm jacket etc. "The Sherpas got it" he said. I was absolutely gobsmacked !!! This guy has a personal Sherpa to carry all his stuff. He told me when we go for the summit he will have his own personal Sherpa and another climbing Sherpa like the rest of us. He also has 2 extra oxygen bottles so he can be on O's from camp 2. We will be on O's from camp 3.
Along with this he will be in one of the 1st commercial flights into space.
These guys just fascinate me. They are so far removed from TV dinners it's unbelievable. And more stories come out every day.
Carston wanted to stop in the Pulmori high camp for 4 hrs to help us acclimatise. There is nothing there other than a lot of rocks. Here's me sunbathing on the pile of rocks:
We talked about life, about Carstons trips across Europe and Australia and of course about women. And in the silences between I read my book " The Mayor of Casterbridge" by Thomas Hardy, which I picked up at the Namche Bizarre. An absolutely fascinating book which I struggle to put down.
I also took a picture that shows our route up Everest
o you can see the glacier coming streaking off the mountain and winding to the right. Where it bends the corner is the start of the Khumbu icefall climb to camp 1&2. We then climb up the western cwm. There are 2 mountains on the left and Everest is the mountain in the background. Lohtse is the mountain in the background in the centre. We climb up the Lohtse face to the Col in the background between the 2 mountains (Everest & Lohtse) and then turn left and work our way up the ridge to the summit of Everest climbing the Hilary step in the process. Camp 4 is just below the Col. So when we leave camp 4 we have to climb this huge ridge in 6 hrs at over 8000m high
This is a picture of me heading down Pulmori. - it was a v windy. You can just see our tents, yellow specs, down by the white glacial stream.
So today is a rest day. This means washing
Brian the Aussie took a picture and posted it saying "Pommie doing an Australian criminals washing". It's gone viral in Australia. Of course I would never touch an Aussies UP's.
..... and playing "7's" in the mess tent
My daughters Steph & Lizzie taught me this and the guys are now hooked on it.
Our rotations start on the 22nd April. This means climbing up and down between the camps to help our bodies acclimatise. (If we went straight for the summit without acclimatising we would get a pulmonary adema and die).
So the 1st rotation is going to be
1. Climb to camp 1 (6100m) and sleep the night
2. Next day climb to camp 2 (6400m) and have lunch then return to camp 1
3 Spend a 2nd night at camp 1 then return to EBC.
We will then rest for s few days before the 2nd rotation
To get to the summit we need the rope fixed. There are 2 parts
1. The icefall doctors do EBC to Camp 2 (managed & paid for by the Nepalise Gov).
2. The expedition teams do Camp 2 to the summit (managed & paid for by the expedition teams)
So the icefall doctors put the rope up the icefall and to camp 2 before the climbing season (April & May).
The expedition teams get together and normally put the rope from camp 2 to the summit the first week in May. The rope is extremely long and takes many Sherpas many climbs up the icefall to get the rope to camp 2.
The great news is that the Nepalese gov has given permission to fly the rope to camp 1. This will save much time and many dangerous trips through the icefall carrying the rope and it means that the rope can be fixed earlier than 1st week of May. The plan at the moment is to start fixing the rope on the 23/24 April. This is fantastic news because it means that we get an earlier chance at the summit and once the rope is up it means that the expedition managers are committed to the summit.
So tomorrow the crazy Dutch guy, Carston, has suggested we (me & him) climb to Pulmory high cam
Crazy Carston tucking into lunch. He has paid for 1 of the first commercial flights into space and has been to Russia doing weightless training. It's the one where the plane goes up and then dive towards earth and you float for around 30secs. He said he tried to take a drink of water but the water just floated in front of him and he could not find a way to move forward to get it. He tried swimming but it doesn't work - crazy guy but gt fun.
Pulmory is the mountain on the opposite side of the valley to Everest and it's the mountain that all the ice fell off last year killing 21 people and injuring over 100 at EBC. Pulmory high camp is 5700m & Carston has suggested we take books and sit up there for 4hrs. I have agreed. It not a dangerous route and the higher altitude for 4hrs will help us both acclimatise.
And I need every bit of help I can get for our Everest rotation on the 22nd April. The hugest I have ever been was last year camping for 2 nights on Loberche summit at 6200m. So Everest camp 2 at 6400m will be a new high for me. 200m may not sold like a lot but at this altitude it can take 3 to 4 hours climbing !!!!!
Bit of a techi update but for those interested in how this all works hopefully my blurb above was useful.
Yesterday Dr Neema our expedition leader announced that we would be going to "look" at the ice fall and up at 3am for departure at 4am. Anybody that knows me knows that I am NOT a morning person. I went to bed at 8pm with 2 Nalgene hot water bottles with boiling water and fully dressed determined to get a good nights sleep. I went out like a light and woke up at midnight absolutely boiling. I peeling off my sweat top and trousers, threw out the Nalgene bottles and woke up at 2am freezing. I will eventually get this right. I woke to the alarm at 3am and the inside of my tent had icicles all over it. I unzipped my sleeping bag and quickly pulled on my climbing clothes. I had sorted everything out last night & packed my rucksack, poo bag (invade I get shirt in the ice fall, headlamp torch, crampons, harness, climbing axe, climbing boots, 2 pairs of socks, shell jacket, down jacket, thermals, sun cream, 1l water, chocolate bars, thick climbing gloves, climbing carabiners and jumla and descender, trekking stick, etc etc. It's a huge load of gear. If you get the gear wrong them no climb as its a 35min walk to the start of the icefall so a round trip would be 1hr 10mins & the climbing team would be well gone.
So we all arrived in the mess tent at 3:30am for breakfast, thats me, Tarhar, Alisha, jeela, Brian but ..... no Andy !!! So 4am arrives and goes and everybody is cursing Andy. Dr Neema goes to get him and at 4:20am we depart and leave a Sherpa behind to bring Andy. It's freezing cold, pitch black and we are clambering over rocks and ice, up and down, up and down to get to the icefall. When we get there its 5am and it's just starting to get light. This is my favourite but because watching the light & sun come up across the valley in such a remote area is a real privilege and it is so beautiful. The same with the ice fall. Although the lots of people are very scared of the icefall I find it really beautiful and as the sun comes up it hits the bottom of the icefall and over a 2hr period you can watch a line moving up the icefall changing it from shadow to sunlight - it's magical (and also incredibly dangerous once the sun hits the huge ice seracs).
I asked the Sherpas how farces are going to go and they say as far as we can but we NUST turn back by 10am. This is because the sun will be full on the icefall and bits start dropping. When the Sherpas go up carrying provisions they leave at 1am. Nobody goes through the icefall in the afternoon.
So we put our crampons on and headed into the ice fall. We had ladders suspended over crevasses - this is our team and its a 100ft drop
And 5 ladders up the side of a crevasse
Doesn't look too bad but when you bear in mind the ladders are lashed together with bit of rope and the whole assemble is held in by 1 ice screw at the top - hmmm, and it's 35ft high !!!! This ladder is only here because 2 days ago this whole area collapsed in the afternoon and the previous route was across the top, so we are now in a massive crevasse and climbing out. Nobody was hurt.
We ploughed on into the icefall heading for camp 1. Around 2/3rds of the way up all the other climbers, Alishs, Jeela, Brian and Tahar wanted to turn around. I felt good and wanted to carry on and try and make camp 1. You have to bear in mind that the objective was never to make camp 1 today but just to have a look at the icefall. The other thing is that if we make camp 1 late we cannot stay and have to come back down and the sunlight will be all over the icefall. I managed to persuade 1 of the Sherpas to carry on with me and Tahar said he would come too (good lad). The sherpa, thinking we were the 2 keenos shot off like acrabbitvour of a whole. Within 5 mins Taharcand I were wheezing like asthmatics running a marathon. We had to ask him to stop for a rest and then to go slowly. We got just short of 6000m and the radio crackled to life. Just at that moment the line of the sun cast it light on us. The whole bottom section of the icefall was now melting in the sunlight. The Sherpa said its Dr Neema and we have to turn around. I said can we make camp 1 but he said it would be 1.5hrs of up and down, up and down. Although we are only 100 vertical metres below camp 1.
So we turned around and headed down. Some it's are vertical but there is v little safety and you just rope warp (twist the fixed rope around your arm and plung down. We watched a big lump of ice come down off the side but luckily the icefall doctors have built the route through the middle of the icefall. Harder work going up and down but safer.
Here's me with a mouthful of mars bar
You can see my Millet climbing boots made specially for summiting Everest, lots of layers so hopefully I don't get frost bite in my toes. You can also see that I am attached to the fixed line by my carabiner and short rope which is attached to my harness.
When we got back to camp it was lunch time, then I crashed out for a couple of hours. And a special treat tonight was chicken curry for dinner. It was delicious but the Nepalise have a habit of leaving the bones in - makes it a bit crunchy but it was delicious.
Tonight discussion turned to what we should do on the summit - one guy sisd he had met a climbing group called Lipstick lesbians, so we thought perhaps 3 guys kissing simultaneously on the summit, or wearing batman capes and mask to the summit. 1 guy suggested removing his underpants until we all pointed out he'd get frost bit somewhere v painful and never have kids, until I suggested he could do a superman and wear his pants on the outside.
This is what happens when you have a bunch of mature adults with absolutely nothing to do (except breathing) for most of the day. I hate to think what level we'll decent to at the end of 6 weeks together !!!
Sorry guys - had to have a shower today so pantometer reset to 1. My hair looked like a Rastafarian & my socks smelt like bacon !! I am now sleeping fully dressed each night except downing jacket, and last night was cold. My big toes were absolutely frozen and as I was last out the mess tent (no surprise there) the hot water in flasks was now luke warm so my Nalgene hot water bottle was Luke warm. Lying in my freezing tent I was convinced my big toes were getting frost bite. I woke up several times in the night and they felt v v cold but in the special sleeping bags I couldn't reach down to my toes without unzipping the bag that was now covered in a crusty layer of ice, do I, don't I, do I, don't I ........ In the end I drifted back off to sleep and woke at 6am my toes still freezing. I crawled out of my bag and felt my toes through my 4 day old socks. They were freezing. I tried to warn them with my hands and in the end decided to pull I my boots and head to the mess tent. I crabbed a cuppa of her maj's finest and gulped it down and with great relief I slowly but surely felt the warmth coming back into my toes. If anything goes wrong up here, toes, hands, throat, head they it takes ages to recover at altitude and will probably mean hopes of Everest are dashed.
Our tents on the glacier
What looks like dirt is just shingle covering the glacier - this whole area is one giant ever moving glacier & we have to regularly adjust and tighten the stay ropes. My tent is the one on the left.
The shower is a warm barrel of water up on top of a glacial mound with the pipe going into a shower tent (see pic)
Very rudimentary but works. The blue barrels on the RHS & if you look v carefully you can see the red pipe swinging across to the tent. I can get my rasta hair washed and give everything else a good scrub. I told the kitchen Sherpas at breakfast I would like a shower and they got some hot water ready and said as soon as the pipe unfreezes in the sun I can shower - by 10:30am I was on, & although the it was a warm dribble it was bloody lovely. You can't beat a good scrub down after 4 days.
We've just had lunch and it's tuna, sautéed potatoes and coleslaw. They try v hard to use fresh veg so every meal is some fresh veg and meat (spam) or fish (tuna). As I like tuna and don't mind span it's all good with me. The food is brought from the kitchen tent next door in big silver salvers and we just help ourselves (makes me think of days of the Raj but of course I am way over doing it).
It's simple but wholesome and we need to stay healthy for the summit push. Even with 3 meals a day my body is burning up huge amounts of calories to stay warm so I will still loose at least 2 stones while I'm here.
This afternoon we're off to practise climbing over horizontal ladders with our crampons on because there are at least 4 sections in the ice fall where the icefall doctors have strapped aluminium ladders together to get across crevasses. Apparently there is one section where they have strapped 4 ladders together - imagine the spring on that - as we're off into the icefall at 3am tomo I'll find out !!!
We have 3 guys in the expedition that are attempting Everest without O's (oxygen). Jelle, Isaiah and David. The risks are that they will be much slower than us on O's and hence may make the summit too late and not get down and also they have a much greater risk of frost bite in their fingers and toes - jolly dee. We're all a bit crazy but these guys are sixpence short of a shilling ! But lots of respect to them and I wish them and everybody in our expedition the very best of luck.
Isaiah did a 100km race last Saturday before coming here. And 2 years ago Jelle came to climb Everest but to make it more difficult he bicycled from Belgian to EBC (yes from Belgian on a pedal cycle). Everest was closed when 16 Sherpas died.
So if you want to meet extreme people this is the place !!!!!
we're always being told to drink plenty of fluids and we all keep pee bottles in our tents because it is too cold to find the toilet tent at night. Well last night I woke at 3am bursting for a pee. I unzipped my sleeping bag which was covered in ice, knelt up and grabbed my pee bottle. It just kept coming until I had filled my pee bottle, not wanting to splash all over my sleeping bag, I grabbed the cup from my thermos and filled it almost to the brim. Figured I could wash it out. I very carefully placed it behind my chair (the ine I can't site in because the tent is too small). I thought I'll carefully remove that in the morning.
When I woke up I was relived to see the thermos mug was still right way up with s layer of frozen pee in too. I knelt up in the sleeping bag and carefully took hold of the cup and manoeuvred the cup around the first leg, hit the 2nd leg and pee went everywhere. I might as well have just hosed down the tent last night !!!! Sweaty rollocks !!!
You know when you're trying to be careful and you do the exact opposite !!!
Who said baby wipes don't come in very handy at 5400m. They should rename them man wipes
It was the Andy (the polish guys) birthday today so the guys made him a cake
Made a lovely desert to dinner - this is the inside of our mess tent and the only place with any heating and that's a small gas camping heater - hmmmmm !!!
It was also Brian (the Australians) twin sons birthday today and he managed to get through to them on Skype to wish them both a happy birthday".
So we are dropping like flies
Yella (no O's) has flue
Mel has had chronic diarrhoea and sickness and has gone down the valley Christoff is still suffering from altitude sickness but now on Diamox and starting to feel better Brian has diarrhoea Hazel has a dry cough & tight chest
Blooming terrible - won't be long I am sure before I come down with something.
Tahar ( the french guy) got chatting to some french people with a big camera and has just spent the last 2 days as an ice climbing stunt double for french movie they are shooting at EBC ......., it's all excitement here !!
A picture of me practising ice climbing yesterday
There idea of fun is a 50ft drop. I got my harness on and the Sirdar (Sherpa climbing chief) beckoned to me. I'm like "me ?" ... " you want me over there ??" "Yes and up you go". Ooh great so I'm first in front of a whole expedition team that I don't know except some of them are hard core climbers. Well I climbed up there like my life depended on it and at the top was wheezing like an asthmatic doing a marathon. Bloody hell its hard work at 5400m. ......... But we have to climb to camp 3 which apparently is nearly 1/4km of this at 7000m - Ooooh jolly hockey sticks !!!
If your wondering it is just the tips of my boots and my right hand holding me on !!!
Today was a rest day so guess what's, We went for a 3hr stroll climbing 300m. May may not sound much at sea level but it's a lot up here. No ladders this afternoon but we're told its tomo and the day after is up at 3am and into the ice fall.
With no ladders this afternoon we spent all afternoon playing poker. One of the guys here is entering the Vegas poker tournament next year !!!! We were only playing for peanuts, literally.
Tonight it's snowing so it's slippery as hell around the tents and v cold. Too Nalgene water bottles for me tonight
Here's a shot of my home for the next 6 weeks
Cozy eh - check out the chair !!!!! Not enough head height to sit on it but everybody needs a chair - home from home !!!!!
Update 12 April - Loberche village - 4900m
So to get wifi you have to buy a scratch card in the lodges run by "Everest link" a bunch of entrepreneurial Nepalise. So I bought one yesterday in Dingboche and it turns out it gives you 200MB of download AND only last for 15hrs. ........ Shortly afterwards the wifi went down at the lodge !!! Hmmmm ok so do we get a refund - not on your Nellie !!...., hmm what a gt system. Managed to get the Thuraya sat phone working this morning and downloaded 20 emails , v slow but at least I am completely independent at EBC.
Left Dingbocke around 8:30am this morning after Sunita had given us a stretching session, she is a personal trainer and I hurt in places I never new existed !!! We then headed off. My expedition team last year list one of my expedition bags at Periche so I decided to diverted and go via Periche just on the off chance that they had kept my bag. After a 40min hike over the hill I arrived at Periche & found the lodge (there are only 3 so it was not hard). I asked about the bag and got lots of blank expressions, I tried raising my voice (very British) "MY BAG FROM LAST YEAR, is it here ?" "Wait, wait, wait here" so I stood around for 30 mins until La Grand Fromage arrived. When I say Grange, she was 5ft nothing, but v lovely and spoke good English. I explained my predicament and she said that she was sure she did it have it as she remembered by expedition coming back late last year and if they had left a bad she would have stored it. But she said I could look in their store. Ok good. Then it turned out her Dad had taken some bags up to EBC and taken the key - dandelion and boolocks (mkmrt). So I thanked her and left to catch up with the rest of our expedition team. The valley was quiet without a sole
Was quite eerie when you consider I am 4 days trek from civilisation & not a sole around - still kicked on a pace in v thin air to try and catch the rest
Caught up with the rest of the group at the lunch stop and it was one of Dr Neema's cousins (no surprise there then). After lunch see brought out a lovely cake
It is Nepal New Year and the date is 2073. So Nepal is 47 years ahead !!! ...... I didn't even dare ask, particularly at 4700m. We trekked onto Loberche village at 4900. This is just higher than the summit of Mont Blanc (4800m) and I can tell you the trek today with the long diversion to Periche has really taken it out of me. I've also got a runny nose from breathing in bucket loads of eau de yak butt !!! I can tell you it's not a perfume I would recommend for the girlfriend, it's a definite passion killer !!
We checked into the lodge and this is the last lodge before the dreaded EBC tomo and 6 weeks in a tent on a large block of ice. I am praying its not as cold as last year when it dropped to -15c every night - it was hell on earth. Then it so good news is it's snowing outside the lodge window !!!!
I have to say I was whacked on arrival and after some lemon tea both Christoff and I crashed out for a few hours, and tonight even the Sgerpas are huddled around the 1 heating stove in the middle of the eating room. I would like to say "restaurant" but that would be an outrageous exaggeration. I think one up from the EBC mess tent.
Dawa Sherpa, the expedition organiser and MD of the company told me that this expedition would not be as luxurious as last years with my previous expedition - I thought bloody hell I thought last year was rough.
With all this to think about and my runny nose there is no wonder I crashed out this afternoon. But, do you know, it's still going tone exciting to turn up at EBC tomo and check everything out and work out how I can make myself as comfortable as Poss for the next 6 weeks.
I leave you with that happy thought !!
Update 11 April - Dingboche - 4200m (rest day)
Pantometer: 2 Had a lovely dinner last night - just couldn't do another Veggie Dal Bhat so had the "meat" hamburger.
Came in a lovely bap. Bit of chilli sauce and it tasted delicious .... And yes I was knackered from the Trek. Up this morning at 7:30am and breakfast at 8am, what a treat - it's a rest day today - we spend 2 night in Dingboche to let our bodies acclimatise. So what to do on our rest day in a desolate landscape with rocks and snow ............ And no skies !!!! No probs, our eminent leader decided we should go for a small trek !!!! You know what's coming ! - we climbed from the village 4200m to 4800m
You can just see the village in the valley bottom. It ONLY took us 3 flipping (mkmrt) hours then to top it our eminent Sherpa guide, Kastle Sherpa, decided to run down..... Yes run down from 4800m. Well nothing for it but to leg after him. I thought if I go flying in the dusty dirt my Everest attempt is in the bin. Man alive these Sherpas are like steel. With v little oxygen we raced all the way down to Dingboche. It was only me and him left at the bottom so he gave me a tour of the village, and even that was almost at jogging pace. To slow him down I suggested a cuppa tea and a piece of cake (our v enterprising lodge has opened a bakery for westerners and they do lovely blueberry cheesecake). It is amazing up here in an incredible remote area in a village that is only occupied for 4 months of the year that you can get blueberry cheesecake. We have the American to thank for that. And it was delicious. After the cheesecake it was back to reality - see photo.
I absolutely deny this is me in the photo - I have no idea how to do washing. I have girlfriends to do that !!! It's been v dry this year and my Treking trousers were almost walking around by themselves - needs must !!!
So tomorrow Loberche village for 1 night, then hell on earth - yes Everest Base Camp (EBC). The good news, I hear, is that it is not as cold as last year and the snow is not as bad as last year. So I hope when I leave the Mess tent every night around 10pm and try and find my tent on the glacier, that I won't go A over T and end up breaking my rib like last year. I didn't tell the expedition leader last year as I was afraid he wouldn't let me climb, and let's be honest I still have another 23 ribs holding my lungs and heart in !!
Plan going forward - When we get to EBC we do 3 rotations before the summit - let me explain, in order to adjust to the altitude we need to climb up higher & then come back down, then go a little higher and come back down etc. Otherwise we run the risk of a brain embolism (bleeding in the brain), or blindness like Christoff last time, the veins in the retina are some of the smallest so burst first blinding you - Hmmmm nice).
We are going up from the south side (you can go from the north if the Chinese will give you a permit) So there is
So we do 3 rotations, then go for the summit:
EBC - camp 1 - EBC
EBC - camp1 - camp2 (stay the night) - EBC
EBC - camp1 - camp2 (stay the night) - camp 3 - camp2 (stay the night) - EBC
EBC - camp2 (stay the night) - camp3 (stay the night) - camp4 (rest for 4 hrs, and suck on some major O's) - go for the summit (continuing to suck on O's) - camp4 (stay the night sucking on O's) - then get the hell out of there !!! ...... And hopefully get my teetotal climbing buddies to have a few beers and celebrate.
As an aside, heard some terrible news - my French friends in Morzine were avid readers of my blog last year so if you're reading this I send my very best wishes to my great friends at La Chaudanne which I here has burnt down. I hope everybody is ok ? This is mine & my daughters favourite restaurant in Morzine - I send you my very best wishes. I also send my very best wishes to Bernard & Evelyne.
10 April - Dingboche - 4200m Pantometer: 1 I am sorry guys I know you will all be disappointed that I have had to change after 3 days. My roomy Christoff discovered that at the 40 room lodge we stayed in last night ...... there was actually 1 shower, $6 a pop. I succumbed and boy it was lovely so a change of UP's was in order ! We let's see how long this pair can last - I suspect once I get to BC it will get more exciting !!! We left Tengboche at 8am this morning and by 9am were high up on the hill
You can just see Tengboche on the plateau above my head in the distance, we moved quick .... and if you're wondering, yes it was a big drop behind me ! Nepalise are mainly Buddhists and they believe the mountains are their gods and to set foot on a mountain is to anger that god so everybody requests a blessing from a monk and asks the monk to pray to appease the mountain god, in this case Jomo Langma (Everest). We had a real treat today because we visits the Lama Geshe (like a minir version of the Dalai Lama). He is the top monk in the valley and we got a blessing from him and gifts, a neck cord, a scarf and what looks like a book mark with a chant on it and some wise words from Lama Geshe
Aleysha getting here blessing. Was quite something to experience and I need all the help I can get ! One of the bridges that we were suppose to cross today
I guess it had seen better days !! We found a way round on a wooden springy bridge ! Just had lunch and we have all crashed out on the cafe benches. We are now over 4000m and it's hard going for everybody in our merry band of 7. There's a real lack of oxygen and because the wind is howling and blowing up the dried yak poo on the trail we have been told to put our buffs over our mouths and noses - Jeepers it hard enough breathing without having to do it through a buff !
We have passed snow en route and the temperature has really dropped. I have been in my -27degree sleeping back for the last 2 nights. Arrived in Dingboche and it's a small collection of stone houses. It's so cold that my iPhone froze up outside - had to come in and re-boot it. Comms is also getting much harder - there is no phone signal at all and if you want wifi you have to pay US dollars to get access via a satellite - that how you're getting this tonight. I decide when we arrived it was time to initiate my climbing colleagues to my card games. As there are Indians, Belgium, Polish, French & Nepalise in our merry band I needed something easy to explain. My daughters, Steph & Lizzie, taught me 7's a few months ago and we have been playing it and drinking lemon tea for the last 2 hours. It may be blooming cold & exhausting but we are having fun !!!
In Khumjung yesterday there was no water and because they had no snow over the winter water is v v scare so no washing. I had to use my babywipes to clean my face & bottled water to clean my teeth this morning. It did make me wonder whether the cook washed her hands last night before preparing dinner ? But I feel fine this morning. So I have decided to launch the "Pant" count. This will be the number of days I have warn my pants (I know this will be hugely amusing for some of my male friends). But come on let's face it with no water I can't wash them.
Pant count = 3
Today we saw the school set up in 1966 by Sir Edmund Hiliary with one Tin hut - today it is a collection of stone building and still the original Tin hut exists and is still used as a class room. The secondary school next door only opened in 2011 and again it is a small stone building.
I also went to see the hospital (more a stone house) set up by the Sir Edmund Hilary Canadian trust in 1966. Orig just 2 beds but now 15 beds. Here is the birthing room
We're heading up the valley to Tengboche for tonight. Here we are on the trail having lunch:
We are now 7 as Tahar (french, red top) has joined us. How come the french always look so cool even when trekking to BC. Interesting to see if he still looks so cool at 8000+m !! He's actually a lovely guy (Paris fireman) and was here last year but like me the earthquake stopped any attempt at the summit. He actually doesn't speak great English (of course the common language we all speak is English - vive Les Anglais, and thank goodness). But it's a great opportunity to practise my french during our down time. My roomy Christoff also speaks french. Ooh la la ! Vive les Anglais a la summit ! Unfortunately the quantity of Veggie Dal Bhat is catching up with me, and the lunch stop toilet left something to be desired -
Luckily I managed to straddle it with out splashing !!! More worryingly the vegetable garden was right next to the toilet hole. They use the excrement as fertiliser ...... and I'm not kidding !!! I will leave you with that happy thought ! Oh, the leaves are to push over the hole to cover the last evacuation to stop it smelling and the animals eating it !!!
Great drug for altitude sickness is called Diamox. Tried to get some in the UK but you can only get on prescription as it's quite dangerous if you OD, and didn't have time as I was away with my 2 daughters skiing just before I left for Kathmandu. So headed out yesterday into the Namche Bazar and walked into the first shop and said "do you by any chance sell Diamox" "yes of course sir" and he pulls out and ice cream container with a load of foiled back packets in it. "Any Iron tablets ?" "Yes of course sir" I'm sure if I'd asked for Beluga caviar he'd have said yes and productef a pot of black grainey looking stuff. So I bought my dodgy Diamox and Iron tablets and headed back to the lodge.
Woke up this morning at 6:30am and quaffed one of my dodgy iron tablets - it said chew, so I did. And I didn't drop dead afterwards......... Phew !
Went to have my usual morning wash and there was loads of blood in the basin. Thought I'd got a nose bleed. I thought this isn't good if blood vessels are bursting at 3400m and I've got to get to 8800m. Oh sugar (mkmrt). Then I realised it was coming from my mouth. I spat out and the basin was full of blood. I turned to race out the door to find Dr Neema when I suddenly had a thought. I took a good couple of swigs of water and spat out and it cleared. It was those bloody chewable iron tablets - frightened the life out of me.
During the day's treks the team have been chatting about our experiences and it turns out Christoff has been twice before to Everest but not summited and last time became blind at camp 2 and was rushed back to Kathmandu with burst blood vessels on his retina and Andy has been before and was going for the summit up at 8000m and suddenly felt v I'll and had to turn back. Sunita has summited before (total respect and she's a girl too - ooh bet that'll get a few comments) but she had to wait 6hrs hanging on the rope above camp 4 but told us it was summit or die. Ever heard that phrase summit fever !!! Oh happy days - why am I doing this ???? Toughen up man and stop wimping about.
Today we left at 9am and trekked to Khumjung village. We really are now heading out into the wilds. We are now at 3800m which 600m less than the summit of Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in Europe.
When we got to Khumjung Dr Neema invited us all round to his parents for tea. This is a real treat because we get to see inside a real Sherpas house, not just a lodge.
They have a fully fledged Buddhist temple in there house and look at the size of the door way (Dr Neema in the photo)
So I am chatting to his Dad and asking him who he has met over the years, "oh I climb with Chris Bonnington 3 times and also Messner". These guys are gods of the climbing world - I was gobsmacked. Sir Edmund Hikary was the first man to summit Everest with Tenzing Norgay. So his fathers said "oh yes I have Tenzings personal case from the expedition" ooooooh wow, this was something else. Here I am holding the legend, Tenzing Norgays metal case for his personal effects.
Later I went in search of the Sirda (Sherpa climbing team leader) from last years expedition who lives in this village, Perba Tashi Sherpa. I pop into his house and he was there and welcomed me in and we drank tea together. He holds the world record for summiting Everest 21 times (yes that was twenty one). I am just honoured to be in his presence. I then find out that he and Dr Neema are first cousins. The Sherpa community is such a small community in spite of the many many villages in the valley that it just blows me away. I am completely humbled by these lovely people. A picture of me with Dr Neemas mum next to her clay cooker.
Dr Neema, our expedition manager, brought up 54 super fit marathon runners to do the base camp (BC) to Namche marathon (each year there is a marathon). A few wouldn't listen to him about the need to walk slowly up the Khumbu valley & acclimatise and ............... 5 had altitude sickness at BC and couldn't run the marathon. It's the hard and the tortoise.
So I was lying in bed in the lodge last night and thinking of changes for the summit & I thought of 4 things:
1. The hare & the tortoise (acclimatisation) 2. Russian roulette in the ice fall 3. Over 100 things that have to fall into place on the summit day (stomach, feet, legs, no avalanches, good rope, weather etc etc) It's a blooming miracle anybody ever makes it !
Today we're up at 6am and we trek to the Namche Bizarre. My view for the first hour (see photo)
He was a bit smelly too !!
We have also started crossing the many suspension bridges (see photo)
It's a sunny beautiful day today and I'm getting to know my fellow expedition team mates and it makes it a very enjoyable. Andy, the polish guy, has walked/skied to both the north and south poles (v hardcore & impressive)
Our lunch time cook today (see photo) cooking on a wood burning hearth.
||Me on the bridge
|We are now at the great Namche Bizarre - the last bastion of civilisation (has a proper pub" before Everest "
||I call this picture "the exploding donkeys"
So .... Up at 5am (I really am not a morning person but my time clock is so screwed up, and the adrenalin is now flowing that I woke at 3am (swollocks - (my kids may read this).
We headed down for a specially organised early 5:30am breakfast, but the hotel forgot !!! So we delayed leaving to catch breakfast at 6:15 and got a rollicking from the driver as he thought we were going to miss our "scariest in the world" flight.
Quick pic at the airport
Here is the motley crew so far (from L to R)
Alesha (Australian - just left school)
Sinita (indian - fitness trainer, top of the Hindie caste)
Harshad (Indian - IT in Mumbai)
Me (handsome devil)
Andy (Polish - doesn't seem to work so perhaps a drugs dealer - we will find out over the next 8 weeks !)
Christoff (Belgium - investor/entrepreneur)
16 in total so 6 so far (and a real mixed bunch but the common factor is we are all v driven), 5 have already left for base camp (inc 3 Brits) and we will not meet them until BC. That leaves 4 - where are they ?? The whole thing is much more relaxed (an interesting word for Everest) than last year which suits me but it means I have to keep a close eye on my expedition bags and where i'm going, or supposed to be going.
We are now sat in a coach on the Tarmac waiting for our plane for the roller coaster ride from Hell - rock on !!!"
Plane arrived and after a nail biting ride with turbulence worse than a rollercoaster we are in Lokla.
The runway at Lokla ends in a 400ft sheer cliff - see photo of our plane taking off back to Kathmandu.
It sort of falls off the runway !! So I am really looking forwards to the return trip ...... not !
Lokla is 2870 metres and I can already feel the air is thinner as I'm breathing more heavily walking around. Not a prob at this altitude because just like a very high ski run in the Alps, but as we are trekking higher today let's hope the body can start producing more red blood cells quickly without giving me a heart attack. A comforting thought !!"
Overall looking good, at BC its
...... and we have been promised meat at least once a day but ...... wait for it........ It may be Spam, here I break into a Monty Python Spamalot song, spam, spam, spam .... La, la, la ..... the altitude is already pickling my brainSo we have now arrived in the village of Phakding at the Mountain Lodge (v appropriately named) for the night. Was supposedly a 2hr trek but took us 4hrs. Not quite as quick as those Sherpas yet !!!!
Woke up to a phone call from Christoff - apparently Miss Elisabeth Hawleys representative is here and wanted to interview me. Miss Hawley started keeping records of Everest summits in 1964 (bearing in mind the first summit was Sir Edmund Hilary in 1953 and there were very few summits up to about 1970. Her's is the definitive list of who has summited. I was not interviewed by her last year as the expedition I was with controlled everything with an iron fist - so nice to be interviewed this year.
Then just caught the back end of breakfast before major re-pack.
|We have one expedition bag that goes straight to EBC, the other expedition at follows us up the Khumbu valley during out 20 day trek to EPC and has our sleeping bags, thermorest and warm evening jackets in it, and of course the rucksack for waterproofs, water and technology that will get broken (iPads, iPhones, solar panels etc. )
Had to also start the hand washing to leave a clean pair of up's and teeshirt in the hotel.
Then booked a Japanese massage (who said this climbing lark was hard work) before the teams 4pm conference and dinner. Only 6 of us there but seems a v relaxed expedition. We can climb when we like - no restrictions. To get to Lokla there are 2 routes, helicopter or plane. You really don't want to get the plane as the runway is sloped onto a cliff. Apparently it is the most terrifying plane ride in the world. Last year we got helicopters. But guess what, we leave tomo at 6am and yes you've guarded it, we're getting the plane. S£&@7t, I am more nervous about this than I am about the summit !!!!!
Right must get some sleep as I'm up at 5am for the scariest plane in the world - Walt you've got nothing on this !!!
Arrived at the yak & yeti hotel. It turns out there are 16 of us on
> the expedition (a big number). But only 3 of us in the Y&Y. Why ? Because the 3 other Brits are walking all the way from Kathmandu to EBC and have already left as it adds 5 days to the trip (I fly to Lokla). And the Indian contingent are a bit strapped so they are staying in a hovel in the Thamal, tourist area of Kathmandu !!!
So I have checked in, nice place, and rang reception to get Christoff and Aleysha's (my cohorts) room no's to see if they want to go for a beer tonight.
Some to Christoff and he's up for hitting Thamal tonight. So got a shower and headed down to the lobby. Bit nervous because I am stuck with 15 people I don't know for 8 weeks so need to do a Botox jelling to see if there are any good eggs - last year spent the whole way up the Khumbu valley drinking and playing cards with my good buddies Dan and Scott and had a great laugh. Would be nice if I can find delinquents to replicate that with this year !!!"
Christoff is an entrepreneur from Belgium and we had some spicy chicken wings and American spicy pizzas and I had a few beers. Christoff is not drinking and taking this whole thing a bit to seriously but we'll lighten him up.
Hit the sack about 10:30pm and keeled over.
It's a 14 hour journey from Heathrow to Kathmandu with a stop over for 1:45hrs stop over in Doha. I am flying Qatar - really nice clean efficient airline even in steerage - being a movie junky I managed the new Ricky movie, the Big Short (excellent) and half of the Martian with Mat Damen. Can't wait to see the end but could be a long time before I find out what happens !!!!
Got to Kathmandu airport - bit like Luton 20 years ago. Got through customs really quick (last year 2hrs) and thought gt but now been waiting over 1hr for my baggage - but no worries, I've got to slowdown and settle in for the next 8 weeks so no rush.
I am meeting my expedition buddies at the Yak and Yeti hotel (quite famous with climbers) in Kathmandu. I don't know anybody so will be an interesting 2 days trying to work out everybody and hopefully I will bond with 1 or 2 people, otherwise it's going to be a very long 8 weeks !!! It's a funny thing but longer term you usually bond better with people you didn't at first !!!!! Will be interesting as we will be relying on each other at the camps and cooking together (I hate cooking) and if I'm honest I am a little apprehensive !!! Roll on tonight's rendez-vous
3 April 2016
My girlfriend, Vicky, v kindly dropped me to Heathrow T4 for my Qatar airways flight to Kathmandu. She was a bit upset to see me go which made it harder, but in a nice way.
Everest is a bit like a massive exam, before it starts you get nervous, just before even more nervous, and once it starts (board the plane) you can think that you are now eating into the 8 weeks, so every day it's getting a bit closer to finishing. I am also v v apprehensive as this year I now know what I am letting myself in for !!!"
I am on a plane flying back from Morzine after 5 gt days skiing with my daughters. And the altitude won't have done me any harm for the big E
Here we are skiing off piste down Vallee de la Manche.
And here's my daughter, Steph, tucking into a giant hot chocolates with whipped cream. Well her's and mine. Best hot chocolates on the mountain !!
I'm allowed a few extra pounds as I will lose between 2 & 4 stone at Everest. At altitude you lose your appetite but I know this so I force myself to eat and I'm can only assume you also lose the weight because the body is working so hard to keep warm.
This has been a gt few days with my 2 lovely daughters. The hardest part about Everest is being away from my 2 daughters for 8 weeks, it's a long time. And I will dream about our skiing trip together many, many times over the next 8 weeks and think back with very fond memories.
"So here we go again - I ask myself most days why do I feel the need to do this again ?? I must be mad. I just know that if everything goes according to plan this year, rope, weather, food, no Buddhas revenge etc and some make the summit, if I don't go come 1 June I will always wonder if I could have made it up the big hill !! And although it's a cliche, I do like the excitement of living outside my comfort zone. I am not so keen on the though running up to it and sometimes hate living outside of my CZ but the feeling afterwards is well worth it.
But philosophical I know. So I am in Poland at the mo and with my very good friend Peter and his lovely GF Emily and my GF Vicky. Peter was in my expedition last year and we have been good friends ever since. We are here to do some climbing in the Tatras mountains and we are also going to see aufchvitz (which a lot of people don't realise is in S.W. Poland). As a reader you may think this is in prep for Everest but it's actually just a long weekend to visit some friends and see Poland - and what a great country - very modern superb road system, 4G in most areas and cheap food & booze, what's not to like !!!
Here's a pic of me climbing.
|And another of me and Peter in training. He is one scarey guy and an awesome climber - like a piece of wire