Month: April 2013

Some photos from our last rotation.

 
In The Khumbu Icefall
 
A tricksome ladder crossing
 
Spectacular ice sculpture
 
The view up The Western Cwm
 
Camp 2 … luxury!
 
The view from C2 to The Lhotse Face
 
 
That ladder …. mended with string.

First rotation done and dusted

We’ve just had a great 4 night foray on the hill and everyone is in fine spirits.

The Khumbu Icefall is on pretty good condition this year. Other than the recce we had on the 22nd Apr this was the first time the team had been all the way through it and, thanks to the 3 week trekking and acclimatisation schedule, everyone made it through to Camp 1 in great time, even though they were carrying reasonable loads.

We arrived between 9 and 10, having departed at 5a.m. and chilled for the rest of the day. When I say ‘chilled’ I mean rested in our tents with the doors open trying to get any breeze there may be and with sleeping bags over the tops of the tents to try and create some shade. It’s absolutely baking at C1 … until the sun goes down.

The next day saw most of us go for a mooch along the trail towards C2 to gain a little height and then back to C1 again. Thankfully the second day at C1 was a little cooler with a smidgen of a breeze so was a little more tolerable.

As we were setting off to C2 on the 3rd morning a tent next to ours went up in flames. I went over to assist as much as I could and doused the burning gas canister in snow. Thankfully no one was hurt but the three occupants (one of whom was still inside the tent (and still in her sleeping bag!)) were clearly very shaken by the episode. A very close call.

Anyway we then mozzied on to Camp 2 which is situated at around 6,400m and the journey was over and done with in around an hour and a half to two hours. It’s a gradual incline with a few ladders to cross but in the great scheme of things it’s an easy(ish) day – as long as you start early or you get frazzled as the temperature quickly goes from -20 to +30 when the sun comes up.

At Camp 2 we have a cook crew, a kitchen tent and a dining tent. So most of the rest of the day was spent playing cards and chilling.

Everyone had a great night and them we had an early start to go for a walk towards The Lhotse Face. Again everyone was in fine fettle and we quickly gained altitude and stopped for a rest at 6,700m. We could see the Climbing Sherpas fixing ropes on the face but didn’t venture up as we’d only get in the way.

We were quickly back down to C2 where lunch followed by an all afternoon cardathon took us through to dinner time.

Another headache free night for everyone, an early breakfast and we hit the trail. The trick about coming down to EBC is not to start in The Khumbu Icefall to early or we’ll be in the way of the Sherpas who are coming up from Base Camp, but equally not to be too late or it just gets too hot. So we descended to C1 by about 08.15 and then after we collected a few bits and bobs we’d left there we started down in to TKI and had the first third of it pretty much to ourselves.

Having said that I did see two clients being short roped up towards C1 by heavily loaded Climbing Sherpas. Surely, if you can’t make it to C1 without being dragged there, you shouldn’t be on the mountain? Perhaps this would account for the helicopter we’ve just seen fly in to The Western Cwm?

Later on we came across quite a big group making very, very slow progress upwards at around 9. They were clearly suffering as by now it was boiling hot and they should have started earlier. Not quite sure who’d made the decision to start late but it was clear that they had compromised themselves. Ideally you want to be arriving C1 between 9 and 10 and clearly this group weren’t going to be there until well after 12 (and some even as late as 2 or 3 by the looks of it).

All in all the passage through TKI is good going bit there is one area in particular where it’s definitely not a good idea to stop and take a picnic. Most of the ladders are well placed and stable – with a couple of exceptions.

One section of the climb consists of a ladder leaning against a wall at about 50 degrees to the left on top of which two further ladders have been tied that kink back towards the vertical. It feels most precarious and off balance but at least it’s sturdy.

Another couple of ladder sections are more of the horizontal type crossings and over some quite deep crevasses. One in particular consists of two ladders tied together on a 20 to 30 degree incline but the ladders aren’t quite sitting level so there’s a 15 degree tilt to cope with as well. And to top it all … it’s a little bit springy and moves around a little. Most disconcerting going up on the way to C1 but even worse coming down it on the return to Base Camp.

So we dropped down this morning from C2 & we’re now back at Base Camp for a rest. Not sure when the next rotation is going to be but it will be soon enough for sure.

The only thing to add is that, as you may have heard elsewhere, there has been a hoo haa on the hill (not involving our group or Sherpas) and there’s a lot of rumours and accusations being banded around and some associated negative press. For our part we are very well informed about what happened as one of our group knows one of the guys involved very well. However, despite that we are issuing a ‘no comment’ press release – it’s not for us to quote or comment or to get misrepresented. Sorry and all that but the politics are complicated enough without us issuing a comment and by inference appear to be taking sides. Suffice to say it is a sad situation that appears to have blown out of all proportion. A mountain out of a molehill appropriately springs to mind.

I’ll keep you posted. Tim & Co

The Khumbu Icefall

So we’ve been at Base Camp since the 20th and we are well and truly settled in. The first day involved us getting our hands on our freight from the UK and KTM and generally sorting ourselves out. Needless to say there was plenty of washing water and shower activity as well.

The next day we were supposed to be up at 5 for an early breakfast followed by a foray in to the Khumbu Icefall. However, it snowed most of the night and the visibility was pure white out conditions. I had a quick chat with the Climbing Sherpas and we decided it was prudent for me to stay put with the group.

The Climbing Sherps headed out and I woke people to tell them not to get up!

I was up and in the kitchen at 7 and the Climbing Sherpas came back having made it 2/3rds of the way in The Icefall – apparently in some quite challenging conditions so I was glad we’d stayed put (we later heard about waist deep snow being ploughed through between C2 and C1).

We were up for the usual 8 o’clock to get breakfast and it was still claggy but by now the wind & snow had stopped. Half an hour later and the vis cleared and we were eagerly scrabbling to get ready and go for a recce in The Icefall.

The start of the Icefall is only 5 minutes away from our camp and we were soon donning crampons and harnesses and taking our first steps on the lower slopes of the mountain. The initial 40 minutes or so of the route are relatively straight forward and unroped (glad we weren’t in there in the early morning white out) and then when we hit the ropes I ran a tech session to acquaint everyone with safe travel techniques.

Another hour or so and we were encountering our first ladders. The first few are for climbing up and then a few horizontal ones are in place to aid progress over the increasing number of crevasses we were encountering.

If folk are together then they can assist each other by pulling the ropes tight to create a kind of bannister for the ladder crosser to use for balance. Once across the first person then pulls the ropes for the second person and so on and so forth.

What to do, however, when you get to a ladder and you are on your own? Well you clip in, as usual, pick up the ropes and lean forwards thereby taking up the slack from behind and creating your own tension. This position means that you’re leaning forwards and looking down and into the vast yawning chasm that you are about to cross. It’s all very well saying to yourself ‘don’t look down’ but you have to to see where to put your feet. Needless to say it takes a bit of getting used to.

So in and out took around 4 hours and we were soon back having a late lunch followed by my usual array of snacks and goodies that I provide including pâté, crackers, cashews, liquorice allsorts, fruit pastilles, pistachios, olives and gherkins.

Unfortunately we were then unable to manage much of tea on account of being thoroughly stuffed, so we settled down to a couple of series of Green Wing – thoroughly recommended by the way – and retired to bed.

As generally happens when staying at Base Camp nights become better and sleep easier and it’s great that there isn’t a sign of a headache or any adverse reactions to altitude amongst the group.

That, however, is possibly all about to change as we ready ourselves for our first foray to Camp 1 (and hopefully on to Camp 2) tomorrow. All being well we’ll have 3 or 4 nights on the hill before returning to Base Camp for a few days’ rest.

Hopefully the luck we were all bestowed with at yesterday’s Base Camp puja will see us well and the snow will have settled down. There have been the inevitable avalanches pouring down the usual faces and gullies following on from the snow fall we’ve had but the icefall is, by all accounts, in good condition beyond where we recce’d to the other day. Next time we’re there we’ll be carrying a reasonable load so it will make for fairly slow progress me thinks.

I’ll keep you posted when we get back down.

Cheers – Tim & Co

Arriving at Everest Base Camp

We’ve arrived at Gorak Shep in fine fettle. There’s a lot of people on the trail and it suddenly feels quite busy (and impersonal).

The fact that we are all well, acclimatised and having a super great time completely justifies the leisurely 3 week trekking schedule.

The past few days have seen us sleeping higher than Everest Base Camp, we made a mass ascent of Pokalde (5,800m), crossed the Kongma La and descended to Lobuche.

We awoke to a snowy trail and cloudy skies but the trek here was super easy – especially compared to the hoards of trekkers who are having difficulty along the trail. They all seem to be having a great time, and I hope that they’re enjoying the highlight of their trip, but I am sooo glad that my group are in much better shape both physically and mentally.

We’re just having some lunch at Gorak Shep, the last ‘village’ on the trail, and then we’ll be mooching the last hour and a half to EBC where we’ll be settling in to ‘home’ for the next 3 to 5 weeks.

We’re destined for a complete rest day tomorrow where we’ll be unpacking all the freight and baggage that we’ve been separated from since departing KTM. I imagine the shower tent will receive some use as well as bowls of hot water for doing some laundry. On the 22nd we’ll go and have a look see in the lower stretches of The Khumbu Icefall where I’ll acquaint the group with how to negotiate the ropes and ladders. After that we are having a Base Camp puja (blessing) on the 23rd and then we’re aiming to be sleeping at Camp 1 (and Camp 2) on the 24th onwards for 3 or 4 nights.

So this is the end of the (easy) fun trekking phase and the start of the transition to the more serious (but fun) expedition phase.

I’ll keep you posted. Cheers – Tim & Co

Resting

Just a quick update … we arrived Dingboche (4,400m) yesterday and are now having a nice day resting, washing, showering and generally chilling. Watched Monty Python & The Holy Grail last night which is being requoted and re enacted today with much hilarity.

Tomorrow we’re off to a beautiful camp site above Bibre and after that we’ll be gaining height up to the Kongma La (around 5,300m) – the campsite with the best views in The Khumbu. We’ll be there for two nights before dropping down and making our way to arrive EBC on the 20th.

Comms may be limited until EBC bit if I get a chance I’ll fire another update across.

Out for now – Tim & Co

Down and round

Today we dropped down from Gokyo to Phortse – a rarely visited village on the ‘other’ side of the Gokyo valley. It’s reasonably inaccessible unless you make the effort – and we made the effort and have been dutifully rewarded. We saw only 4 other trekkers all day and this is the start of the high season!

The route drops down towards Machermo passing the 2nd and the 1st lakes which are in a stupendously brilliant setting. Just before the hike up towards the village of Machermo we hung a left and crossed a make shift bridge to be on the eastern side of the valley.

I haven’t been along this trail for about 14 or 15 years and I had forgotten what a brilliant trail it is. It is much narrower than the more oft trodden trails in The Khumbu and Gokyo valleys and has precipitous drop offs for a lot of the way. It is quite an undulating path and follows around ridges and in to valleys quite a bit, so is generally furhter than you think, but generally the vistas that you are rewarded with are spectacular.

So we have dropped around 900m and are spending the night here before following the trail around to Pangboche – again a rarely trodden path by the multitude of trekkers (and thankfully so).

It’s only a couple of hours to Pangboche so we’ll be having a chance to catch up on some washing and laundry before mooching up to Dingboche.

 
A porter sparking up on the top of the Renjo La (around 5,350m)
 
Mani stones and the view across the 3rd lake to the Renjo La from Gokyo
 
Looking back towards Cho Oyu (8,201m) the 6th highest mountain in the world
 
Our team of porters on the trail.
 
The magnificent path to Phortse
 
Great trekking
 
A random Yak
 
Drying yak pattes on the walls in Thare

Up the Thame valley and over the Renjo La

Sorry to have been off line for as few days but we have been up a fairly remote valley and over the first of our high passes. There’s been zilch in the way of signal which, in many ways, has been quite refreshing. We’ve been able to enjoy the trekking and the sense of isolation as well as having little in the way of distractions. And to that end we have started to enjoy each other’s company and the team are getting along really well.
We’ve had the first couple of our chats where we’ll be covering poignant issues before we get to Base Camp or on the hill. Subjects have included Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), HACE and HAPE as well as frostbite prevention, how to avoid getting cold hands and feet and the importance of concurrent activity. We’ve also been chatting through various permutations that we may encounter during our acclimatisation rotations on the hill and the group feel that they are actually a part of the expedition rather than just being treated as a commodity. I’d like to think that they are starting to have a sense of ownership of the expedition – after all it is the trip of a lifetime and it’s nice to know what is potentially going to be happening through the next few weeks. I also hope that they will all be taking away some top tips, handy hints and a sense of awareness of how to organise and run an expedition so that they can build on the skills and knowledge they have already.
 
The last few days, since departing Thame, have seen us trekking in almost complete solitude. We saw a couple of other trekkers on our way to Marylung where we stayed for a couple of nights and hiked up above the settlement to around 4,800m. Then we continued past the turn off for the Renjo La to go to Ayre (around 4,450m) where we had the place to ourselves. After a night here we trekked up the hillside to join the main trail over the Renjo La and are now camping in idyllic surroundings at 4,950m. So we are out of teahouses for the next week or so and under canvas and being tended to by Bhim, one of the best cooks I have come across. We have worked together a few times and he is exceptional and the great news is we have him with us for the next two weeks as well as for the duration of our stay at EBC.
 
This is the first of our high camps and we’ll be gaining height and trekking over the Renjo La tomorrow before dropping down to Gokyo. There seems to be a keen contingent to go up Gokyo Ri for sunset so we may be in for a long day tomorrow but this is then followed by a relatively easy day down to Tagnag the day after.
So apart from the odd tummy rumble (which have been successfully been blasted with a ‘Cipro Bomb’) everyone is in fine fettle, we’re all sleeping well and just enjoying the fantastic environment.
A selection of random photos and out for now.
 
Sorry to have been off line for as few days but we have been up a fairly remote valley and over the first of our high passes. There’s been zilch in the way of signal which, in many ways, has been quite refreshing. We’ve been able to enjoy the trekking and the sense of isolation as well as having little in the way of distractions. And to that end we have started to enjoy each other’s company and the team are getting along really well.
We’ve had the first couple of our chats where we’ll be covering poignant issues before we get to Base Camp or on the hill. Subjects have included Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), HACE and HAPE as well as frostbite prevention, how to avoid getting cold hands and feet and the importance of concurrent activity. We’ve also been chatting through various permutations that we may encounter during our acclimatisation rotations on the hill and the group feel that they are actually a part of the expedition rather than just being treated as a commodity. I’d like to think that they are starting to have a sense of ownership of the expedition – after all it is the trip of a lifetime and it’s nice to know what is potentially going to be happening through the next few weeks. I also hope that they will all be taking away some top tips, handy hints and a sense of awareness of how to organise and run an expedition so that they can build on the skills and knowledge they have already.
 
The last few days, since departing Thame, have seen us trekking in almost complete solitude. We saw a couple of other trekkers on our way to Marylung where we stayed for a couple of nights and hiked up above the settlement to around 4,800m. Then we continued past the turn off for the Renjo La to go to Ayre (around 4,450m) where we had the place to ourselves. After a night here we trekked up the hillside to join the main trail over the Renjo La and are now camping in idyllic surroundings at 4,950m. So we are out of teahouses for the next week or so and under canvas and being tended to by Bhim, one of the best cooks I have come across. We have worked together a few times and he is exceptional and the great news is we have him with us for the next two weeks as well as for the duration of our stay at EBC.
 
This is the first of our high camps and we’ll be gaining height and trekking over the Renjo La tomorrow before dropping down to Gokyo. There seems to be a keen contingent to go up Gokyo Ri for sunset so we may be in for a long day tomorrow but this is then followed by a relatively easy day down to Tagnag the day after.
So apart from the odd tummy rumble (which have been successfully been blasted with a ‘Cipro Bomb’) everyone is in fine fettle, we’re all sleeping well and just enjoying the fantastic environment.
A selection of random photos and out for now.
 

Yesterday was a great trekking day. We departed Kyanjuma bidding farewell to Tashi and Lakpa and trekked up to Khumjung where there are the most amazing mani walls.



The trail steadily gains height to a small col where we then dropped down to the tiny airstrip at Syangboche, above Namche.



After a well earned tea break we carried on down and picked up the trail through the woods to Thamo. This valley has a completely different feel to the Gokyo and Khumbu valleys and the trail is gently undulating in the most amazing forested area.



We stopped in Thamo for lunch before continuing to Thame which is at around 3,800m where we are now spending 2 nights. It was also the day that we met up with our final team member, Ilina from Macedonia, who trekked in a day behind us. It’s great that we are now a full complement.

That was yesterday – today has been a most auspicious day. Unbeknownst to us there was going to be a very special puja taking place at the monastery above Thame. It’s a fantastic monastery in the most amazing setting sitting high on the hill side and almost built in to the hillside.



We mooched up to the monastery, which is situated at around 4,000m, and were able to attend the most amazing spectacle of horn and trumpet blowing, bell clanging, drum beating and chanting.


Usually a spontaneous puja when you arrive at a monastery will be conducted by one monk who happens to be around at the time. It is always a great intimate affair and generally lasts around 30 to 45 minutes.

This one was being conducted by 35 monks and lasted for around 3 hours! Although it was a general puja we were accepted in to the monastery as well and blessed individually by the head monk.



I’ve only happened upon one of these big pujas before – which happened to be at The Rongbuk Monastery on our 20005 Everest Expedition on the North side. To witness one again, especially bearing in mind what we are here for, was a fantastic event.

This afternoon we have had a chat about altitude and acclimatisation, AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness), HACE (High Altitude Cerebral Oedema), HAPE (High Altitude Pulmonary Oedema) and the importance of hydration. The team are starting to refresh their knowledge about how to avoid problems associated with ultra high altitude mountaineering and how to deal with any problems that may occur. They are really starting to look out for each other already. This is definitely a positive aspect of trekking together as a team, away from the hustle and bustle, where folk start to morph together in to a team. Having a disparate group of competitive individuals accomplishes very little and indeed can undermine the safety of the expedition as people become competitive with each other as well as with the mountain. Having a group who help each other along the way, however, is mutually beneficial to the expedition and makes for a far safer experience all round.

From here we will be heading up the Thame valley for the next few days before heading on up and over the Renjo La. We’ll be having our first night under canvas below the pass as part of our acclimatisation before going up and over to Gokyo. I guess that reception will be very limited so this may well be our last proper update for a while.




Remember to check our progress on Twitter (timmosedale) and FaceBook (tim.mosedale) as I’ll be able to text updates when we get sporadic signal.

That’s all for now but just a final word to say many thanks for all the well wishes and texts that have been coming in – it’s nice to know that you guys and gals are following our progress and rooting for us.

It’s started …

Well it’s very nice to be in The Khumbu after the hectic arrival and transition through Kathmandu. Despite the fact that the baggage allowance for the Lukla flight is only 10kg Iswari managed to do a fantastic job and we arrived in Lukla with all our bags and barrels for the next 3 weeks. The main Everest gear will be shipped directly to EBC at a later date and will be there for our arrival.

We trekked to Monjo and stayed with my friend Pasang Dawa. The beauty of being based on the 1st night at Monjo (instead of Phak Ding) is that it makes the next day to Namche so much shorter and indeed we were there for 11a.m. Coffee and doughnuts were gratefully received and after lunch we grabbed another coffee before heading to Kyanjuma to stay with Tashi and Lakpa.

Today we trekked up to The Mong La (just short of 4,000m) via the hidden staircase and had a leisurely lunch before heading back down to Tashi’s again.

Tomorrow we’re off to Thame and the day after that we are going to be meeting up with Ilina, our final  teammember for the expedition.

So far so good and everyone is enjoying the trekking and each others company. There’s been a bit of snow around so we’ll have to see if the high passes are open but we’ll just take it a day at a time.