Saturday, 30 April 2011

Back to Everest Base Camp

Photo: Greg Healey Collection

The whole team are now back at base camp having successfully completed the first stage of our acclimatisation. All but one of the team reached around 7000m on the fixed lines to the North Col. The trek from ABC to BC which took two long days in ascent only took four hours on the way down. However that evening involved a quick jaunt back up to just below Intermediate camp to check on the progress of two of the Lhakpa Ri team.

Base camp feels very luxurious after the demands of the last few days. A chance to recuperate, eat well, wash clothes, shower and generally get ready for the next stage. The Royal wedding was celebratated / avoided with yak sizzlers, onion bhajis and more milky tea. Everest always surprises and this time it was a 20' Swiss alpine horn being played at BC.

This morning we completed our oxygen training with the Top Out masks which we'll be wearing to the summit. There was plenty of practice in fitting the cylinders, keeping the mask working at 8000m and problem solving. The final challenge was a night walk up the frozen river with the whole system of mask, goggles and headtorch.

Everest itself is looking very snowy and we're forecast a couple of days of bad weather, but we're still planning to head back up in the next few days, aiming to spend a couple of nights on the North Col reaching 7500m.

Friday, 29 April 2011

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Everest North Col

Photo: Greg Healey Collection

Tuesday was a big day for the team with our first attempt on the 7000m North Col, a height record for most of the group. 13 climbers and 9 sherpas made an early start up to crampon corner and across the East Rongbuk glacier to the headwall. A couple of hours later the Sherpas were all running back down the fixed lines having dropped their loads at the North Col as we plodded our way slowly ever upwards.

The CTMA ropes bypass the scene of last year's serac accident giving a steeper but more interesting route to an exposed camp. There is only one ladder this year, 20m below the north col which gives an interesting finish to the day. For some of the group the bottom of the ladder was their highpoint, but 7 of the team wobbled their way higher to the camp which was being buried in spindrift. Throughout the day we had every type of weather from burning sunshine to full on blizzard conditions. A few gaps in the maelstrom gave us views of the snow ridge up towards Camp 2 from the North Col.

The descent went well even as the avalanche risk increased as the snow continued to fall. A quick plod back across the wanded glacier and we arrived back at crampon corner. The final excitement of the day for some of the team was finding an unconscious Sherpa slowly being buried by the snow. They managed to get him on his feet and a good team effort saw him safely delivered back to his team at base camp suffering from nothing more than exhaustion.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Arrival at Everest ABC

Photo: Greg Healey Collection

The whole team has successfully arrived at advanced base camp at 6400m. The preceding intermediate camp was just a rocky staging post for one night, but it did mean we were served dinner and breakfast in bed by our hardworking Sherpa crew. The two day trek up the moraine gave some stunning views over to Baruntse, Nuptse, Lingtren, Lhakpa Ri and Everest itself, but as we arrived the snow started to fall and continued all night.

This morning we woke to a winter wonderland but progress has stalled on the mountain due to avalanche prone slopes below the North Col. After our efforts of the last two days today was an acclimatisation day, but Heather found the effort to design and construct a luxurious throne for the toilet. This involved a shaped foam seat, arms and a back rest, reading material and a toilet roll holder! Simple pleasures at high altitudes can make all the difference.

This afternoon we rigged fixed lines on the penitentes opposite the camp giving some icy steps to ascend and descend up to grade IV, and harder than anything on the way up to the North Col our ultimate aim for the next few days.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Everest Base Camp Acclimatisation Complete

Photo: Greg Healey Collection

We've now completed our program of acclimatisation from base camp with all but two of the team having reached 6000m on the bouldery ridge behind our camp. The preceding day we reached 5800m following the frozen river which is the water supply for our cook team. This gave a unique experience with stunning ice formations and a good challenge without crampons.

The afternoon snow showers of the past few days have been replaced by unrelenting strong winds which are battering the camp, driving dust into every corner. Wind rage is a common phenomenon in these conditions, but everyone is bearing up well and the banter is still good natured.

Today we finalised our systems for the fixed lines, Chris rigged the world's best / worst ropes on some steep moraine. The group had to deal with knots, multiple ropes, dodgy anchors, slow climbers, traffic jams, wind, dust and two demanding guides!

Over the last couple of days 140+ yaks have been loaded up with all our equipment for higher on the mountain. Tomorrow we begin our two day journey up the East Rongbuk Glacier to our Advanced Base Camp situated at 6400m just below the North Col. We'll complete the 22km trek up the moraine three times before our summit bid but for our first attempt we'll break it down into two days with an intermediate camp at 5700m.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Everest Puja

Photo: Greg Healey Collection

The team are currently hiding in their heated mess tent watching '300' as the snow falls. This is our first bout of bad weather preceded by some stunning lenticular clouds. Strong winds this morning made our Puja or mountain blessing a lively experience. A pair of Lamas came up from the Rongbuk Monastery for our two hour ceremony which ended with a flour fight, plenty of Everest whiskey and a really positive vibe for the challenge ahead.

The whole team are acclimatising well with the majority having reached 5500m up the frozen river just behind our camp. The Adventure Peaks Lhakpa Ri team also joined us yesterday and will be sharing our expedition as far as the North Col. Base camp rumour is that the ropes are fixed to the North Col but this is yet to be confirmed. Over the next couple of days we all hope to break the 6000m barrier before making our first trek up to ABC.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Settling in at Everest BC

Photo: Greg Healey Collection

We made an early morning start from Kathmandu for the drive north to the Friendship Bridge into Tibet. The road traverses some impressive valleys and we saw the unfortunate remains of another Everest team's freight lorry which had fallen off the road. After lunch the border crossing into China was fairly painless but we were forced to spend a night in Zangmu due to a problem with the landcruisers.

Another early start saw us enjoying the recently completed sealed road to Nylam on the edge of the Tibetan plateau. Here we bumped into the Adventure Peaks' Lhakpa Ri team who should be joining us at base camp in a few days when they've completed their acclimatisation. The road now crosses a 5000m pass before descending to the frontier town of Tingri.

The final off road approach from Tingri was fairly cloudy with a few snow showers, but as we arrived at the site of our base camp the weather cleared giving some stunning views of the north face of Everest minus the characteristic plume.

Our base camp is ridiculously luxurious containing a heated mess tent with lighting, a DVD player, carpets, individual sleeping tents with mattresses, and shower facilities. Our whole team of Sherpas, climbers and cooks are now together for the first time numbering some 33 folk! There are around 7 other large teams already in residence and confusion reigns as some teams are on Bejing time while others including ourselves are sticking with Nepalese.

The sun hit our tents at 7:40 today for the start of a very productive day. 105 oxygen bottles were weighed, marked and sealed, 120 man days of food was organised and bagged up, radios were issued and tested, copious amounts of tea were drunk and things are all moving in the right direction. Yak sizzlers for tea followed by the Dark Knight on the TV.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Our Tibetan Everest Odyssey Begins...

Photo: Greg Healey Collection

In a few hours we will be heading north to Tibet via the Friendship Bridge. Today has been pretty busy but I think we've ticked the 101 things that are involved in leading these expeditions. The indomitable Ms Hawley paid us a visit this morning to ascertain our plans and regale us with a few stories. She was particularly interested in Jaysen who she believes is the first Mauritian to ever attempt Everest. It's also the Nepalese New Year today so Kathmandu has been pretty manic despite the heavy rain. There's been no Lukla flights today so we timed our exit to perfection.

Our Sherpa team will reach base camp tomorrow and start to build the luxury encampment we'll call home for the next couple of months. Our expedition couldn't happen without the hard work and dedication of our team of regular Sherpas.

Sirdar - Dorjee Khatri
Base Camp Manager - Bhola Paudel

Climbing Sherpas:
Mingma Gyabu Sherpa
Sonam Dorjee Sherpa
Dawa Dorjee Sherpa
Namgyal Sherpa
Ang Phurba Sherpa
Wangchhu Sherpa
Nima Thundu Sherpa
Nurbu Bhote Sherpa

BC Cook - Gyanu Lama
ABC Cook - Surrendra

Our Khumbu trek gave us plenty of time to acclimatise so we plan to spend one night in Nylam and arrive at Base Camp on the 15th April. The demands of Everest now include dealing with a mess tent which contains lighting, heating, carpets and a DVD player so don't believe the tales of hardship with which our team will return!

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Stage 1 of Everest Acclimatisation Complete

The whole team are now back in Kathmandu eating, washing, shopping and generally getting themselves ready for the rest of the expedition. Lukla airport's weighing scales told the story with some of the team having lost up to 5kg during our acclimatisation trek. This despite very healthy appetites and the Snicker Pies!

The trails were very much busier as we trekked out to Lukla. Our celebrity team member was recognised by one new arrival requesting an autograph. As we climbed the final hill I recognised the spot where I'd had to rescue a porter trapped beneath his load during our Ama Dablam expedition but no dramas this time. However while stretching my legs around Lukla that evening I came under friendly attack from a group of small children hurling yak dung! The things the guidebooks don't tell you!

Paradise Lodge lived up to its name and the extra oxygen meant folk slept very well. The flight back to Kathmandu was pretty uneventful despite a new pilot under training and we've spent the rest of the day completing our kit checks spending plenty of money with Andy & Shona. We now have our Everest permit from the Chinese amd everything is falling into place. A few final items on the checklist tomorrow and we're heading for Tibet on the 14th.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Everest Acclimatisation Going To Plan...

The Khumba valley is very quiet for this time of the year with only a few groups of trekkers alongside the Everest teams making their way to base camp. The news that the Ama Dablam Base Camp teahouse wasn't open yet meant we changed our plan and continued up beyond Pangboche on the main Everest trail with a short day's trek to Dingboche (4350m. That afternoon saw some of the group visit the lakes below the north ridge of Ama Dablam reaching a height of 4750m with no ill effects. The following day the whole team climbed the 5100m Nangkartshang Peak just to the south of Polkalde.

Today with everyone acclimatising well we descended back to Namche Bazaar in under 6 hours via the Everest memorial at Pheriche. There were plenty of storm clouds pushing up the valley with some big rumbles of thunder but it stayed dry and we're now consuming copious amounts of milky tea sat round a roaring yak dung stove. Tomorrow is another long but easy day down through the forests to Lukla and an early morning flight back to Kathmandu on the 12th.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Everest Acclimatisation

We're currently relaxing just below 4000m in the village of Pangboche nestled below Ama Dablam. This is the home of many of our Everest Sherpas so we're staying in Nuru and Sonam's sister's lodge. Yesterday's acclimatisation walk took us to Khunjung giving some of the team the oppurtunity to climb above 4000m. We were also able to visit the monastry to view a yeti skull. The afternoon was spent absorbing more culture in the Sherpa museum and coffee and cake in the bakery. Today was our longest trek so far but a leisurely lunch in Tengboche including Mars Bar and Snicker pies broke the day up. Our plan is now to spend a couple of nights at the 4600m Ama Dablam base camp climbing to 5000m to complete this stage of our acclimatisation.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Everest NE Ridge Expedition 2011

For the next 70 days I'm working as a co-leader on the 2011 Adventure Peaks Everest expedition. The full team of 13 climbers & 2 leaders successfully conquered Kathmandu when we all arrived on time, in the right place, with all our equipment. A quick turn around was in order as we were due to make an early morning flight to Lukla the following day. For a variety of reasons we have opted to acclimatise on the normal trekking route to the south side of Everest as far as Ama Dablam base camp. This means we should then be able to make the overland journey from Kathmandu to the North side of Everest in a couple of days. The trekking in the Khumba region is one of the world's great journeys and we intend to make full use of the good food and accommodation afforded by the teahouses to enable us to arrive on the mountain fit, healthy and acclimatised.

We survived a very memorable flight in to the infamous airport at Lukla. Tension was heightened when severe turbulence caused the air hostess, who makes the journey several times a day, to grab Chris' leg in fright. Other aircraft returned to Kathmandu but our pilot persevered and we made a smooth landing on the severely short and inclined runway. A gentle afternoon's walk brought us to the village of Phakding and a very luxurious teahouse with en-suite toilet and shower facilities.

Today we have continued our trek making a leisurely ascent to Namche Bazaar, the capital of the Sherpa region which also gave us our first views of Everest. The trail is incredibly quiet this early in the season but absolutely stunning with the flowers and blossom of spring. We plan to spend two nights here obeying the traditional mantr of climbing high & sleeping low. Tomorrow's highlight should be apple pie in Khumjung at just under 4000m with amazing views of Everest, Lhotse and Ama Dablam.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Everest 2011 Itinerary

This is an outline plan so please assume it will change dramatically based on acclimatisation, weather, illness, rope fixing, games of Risk at BC, random world events etc.

2nd Apr Depart UK
3rd Apr Arrive in Kathmandu
4th Apr Fly to Lukla
5th - 11th Apr Trekking on the south side of Everest
12th Apr Fly to Kathmandu, final preparations
13th Apr Drive to Nylam, Tibet
14th Apr Drive to Everest Base Camp (5200m)
15th - 19th Apr Acclimatisation treks
20th - 21st Apr Trek to ABC (6400m)- 22km of moraine!
22nd - 24th Apr Acclimatisation
25th Apr Climb to North Col (7000m)
26th Apr Return to BC
27th Apr - 3rd May Acclimatisation - eat, read, watch DVDs etc
4th May Trek to ABC
5th May Move up to North Col
6th May Climb to 7500m & return to North Col
7th & 8th May Return to BC
9th - 12th May Rest & relaxation
13th May Trek to ABC
14th & 15th May Final preparations and rest
16th May Climb to North Col (7000m)
17th May Climb to Camp 2 (7800m)
18th May Climb to Camp 3 (8200m) on oxygen
19th May A wee day out to the top of the world!
20th - 30th May Spare summit days
31st May - 5th Jun Clear the mountain
6th June Drive to Nylam
7th June Drive to Kathmandu, dinner at Rum Doodle
8th June Shower, shave & shandy in Kathmandu
9th June Fly home for tea & medals

Friday night film