Month: May 2013

End of trip round up … for now

Sorry it’s been a while but we’ve been a bit busy of late and in some communication black spots.

The latest news is that Ilina and Steve made the summit on 23rd May in fine style and in super quick time – summiting at just after 3 in the morning. The downside is that this meant they didn’t have a view. Anyway since then we have all returned to BC, packed up and trekked out.

Last time, when Adam Booth and I made the summit, you may recall that the conditions were rather inclement and we had windchill well in excess of -40. Consequently, despite getting WiFi connection, and Simon in Melbourne receiving my call request, we didn’t actually get connected. Shame as it would have been a world first for video conferencing from the top of the world. In the meantime there are a couple of other guys out there with corporate sponsorship who have therefore beaten me to it. Hey ho.

After our ascent of 13th May I later found out that we were the 3rd and 8th Westerners to summit this year (2 had summited a day or so before). There were two others on the summit with Adam, there were 2 others from Himalayan Guides (and indeed we had been sharing with from BC onwards – well done Jan and Mel), there was a random guy on his own when I got there and that was it.

There were two Westerners with their Climbing Sherpa who turned around at The Hillary Step (soooo close but, in the conditions we had soooo far), there was an Australian chap with snow blindness who turned around with his Climbing Sherpa below The South Summit (and who Padawa, one of our Sherpas, went BACK up to The Balcony to assist after we’d descended to The South Col – for no reward) and there were another 3 random individuals descending having not summited as well. So all in all 7 (plus 5 Sherps) summited and 6 (plus 3 Sherps) didn’t. By all accounts a quiet day in Everest (except for the roar if the wind).

Since then the floodgates opened and other teams had been trying to summit in the wake of our success … but there were a few teams who obviously hadn’t been checking the forecast (or didn’t have access to one) because they were trying in ludicrous conditions and, as a consequence, failed dismally.

On a later visit to C2 Ilina went over to see a lady she’s met along the way and described their C2 set up as being akin to part of a shanty town with the situation inside looking like the retreat from some winter battlefront. Dishevelled people who had been mismanaged, abandoned (that’s right – one lady was left to her own devices to get down from C3 and was eventually piggy backed by our own Dorje Gyalgen back to C2), who had set out from The South Col in totally inappropriate conditions for their experience, without having strict Climbing Sherpa support and who then returned in dribbs and drabs on the verge of panic, and close to death, back to The South Col.

For them their trip was over. 0% success rate and 100% dissatisfaction. The piggy back lady still had 5 bottles of oxygen unused but, to get permission to try again she had to return to Base Camp to call the boss in Kathmandu to find out if it was possible to reascend. So they had no comms with BC and no BC manager who could make executive decisions. And you can almost guarantee that by the time she got down and was rested enough to try again time will have run out.

Anyway I digress … but I do get angry when people are charged an extraordinary amount of money to attempt this beautiful mountain only to find that their personal dreams are swept away by sheer incompetence, utter mismanagement and a complete lack of understanding of logistics, acclimatisation, health issues, weather forecasting etc etc. And at the end of the day some of these situations become completely unravelled at the edges and people’s lives are at stake. The client, their Sherpa (if he’s around), other people’s Sherpas who get involved in rescues and other climbers who are already at the edge of looking after themselves, let alone assisting others.

Anyway that was a while ago and since then Jon, Ilina and Steve have all realised their dream of standing on top of the world. Jon, under a bit of pressure because of UK work commitments, made his ascent on a reasonably busy evening bit managed to keep ahead of the crowds and negotiated his way safely down to C2 that day.

Meanwhile the rest if the team waited patiently and eventually made their ascent on pretty much the last day of the decent weather on a clear, still evening by the light of a full moon. What a great way to be rewarded for waiting. And to top it all they were on the mountain on a quiet(ish) night with around 30 other climbers.

Anyway the trip is almost over and we are due to fly to KTM from Namche Bazaar early tomorrow morning. We’re certainly looking forward to a few luxuries that we have been without for the past 2 months … namely a decent shower, a proper shave, clean sheets and a proper bed etc. We’re also looking forward to bring able to eat in restaurants and choose what we’d like to eat and drink etc etc.

As the trip draws to a close I’d like to thank you for following and supporting our venture with your comments, likes and shares. Whilst I’m at it I’d like to thank Mark Ashford for configuring some of the electronic equipment to make communication possible, Suzanna the housekeeper at our B&B who has had to work flat out in my absence, my Dad for helping out with the school run and, last but not least, to Ali, Grace and Max for putting up with me being away for such a long time.

And , again, to you, dear reader, for following our progress.

Many thanks – Tim

Reporting from The South Col

At The South Col with Ilina, Steve & Stuart. Tom has descended to C2 unfortunately due to exhaustion. Setting off in to the night to try & summit early tomorrow. Sorry to be brief but saving batteries. Watch this space. T

The first ever LIVE(!) video link up from the summit of Mount Everest using FaceTime – well, almost!!

Well I know it’s been a bit quiet of late but that’s because I haven’t had a signal for sending updates … and that’s because rather sneakily Adam and I have slipped, unnoticed, under the radar to the summit of Everest.

Basically as I wrote the last update we were making preparations for a couple of us to try for a summit bid. It’s still quite early in the season and not everyone in the group was well enough rested to be attempting the 7 or 8 day round trip. Adam has been cruising at altitude and so it was decided that he and I should go for it.

We arrived at C2 in great time on the 8th May and chilled for the rest of the day playing cards and drinking. The 9th was a very welcome rest day where we went through the last minute issues of what gear, food and supplies we definitely needed and what we could perhaps do without. It was another day of cards and rehydrating as well as some time dedicated to mending Sir Edmund Hillary’s summit goggles! That’s right – Adam has managed to borrow the original goggles that Sir Ed Hillary wore on the first ascent of Everest when he summited with Sherpa Tenzing Norgay on the 29th May 1953 – making this year the 60th anniversary. Very fitting, therefore, that Adam has brought them back to the summit.

On the morning of the 10th we donned our down suits and big boots and made our way to C3 (7,100m) and set about drinking and snacking knowing full well we were probably not going to get much in the way of sleep. Partly through excitement, partly because it is so much colder up at C3 and partly because of the altitude induced sleep apnoea we’d be experiencing.

The 11th saw us up and brewing bright and early to enable us to get on to The Lhotse Face ahead of the crowds. Having said that it’s been pretty quiet this last few days as a lot of the groups were unable to react so quickly to this weather window combined with the fact that a lot of their clients just weren’t ready.

The journey to The South Col continued out of C3 up The Lhotse Face which is angled at around 50 degrees and it’s a long way before the angle eases – not the best start to the day after a night of little sleep. The route then headed left across the face and up through a short steep section called The Yellow Band. After this there’s a huge corrie to be negotiated before getting to The Geneva Spur – a short section of steep rock. After the GS it’s an easy trail to The South Col where we got the stove on and rested (!) and ate and drank until it was time to set off in to the night.

Or at least that was the plan. In fact it was blowing an absolute hoolie and we sat out a raging storm with winds well in excess of 60mph which meant we didn’t sleep a great deal! But at least we hadn’t set off in the night because it would have been a very difficult task (and realistically it’s plenty difficult enough already).

So after a day if resting, eating and drinking, we eventually donned our down suits, big boots and crampons, got hooked up to our oxygen supply and rather excitedly set off in to the night.

There are a few reasons for travelling by night and it’s not just to catch a glimpse of the shadow of Everest being cast over the mountains below as the sun rises. Once at the summit you’re less than half way there and it is much safer to be descending in the light of the day with the warmth of the sun.

At night as we travelled we managed to keep reasonably warm in our down suits despite the temp being around -30C because we were expending energy ascending the slopes to The Balcony (8,600m) and on to The South Summit (around 8,750m). There was a fairly constant wind and this created a windchill effect well in to the -40s.

Anyway we both made the summit with our respective Climbing Sherpas but there was no way we were staying there in these conditions. It was a great shame because as we were going towards the South Summit there was the most amazing sunrise with a fantastic 360 degree panorama. And of course because we were moving so slowly there was plenty of time to be taking it all in.

Anyway Adam summited about an hour ahead of me and very quickly started descending.

One of my aims (on top of summiting) was to make the first EVER live video link up from the summit. I’d had a few practice calls with a guy in Melbourne who was going to record the whole affair and distribute it accordingly.

However, although I managed to get a strong enough signal the ambient conditions didn’t allow me to get all this done. Consequently the batteries I’d carried along with all the electronic equipment (all in around 5kg) didn’t take too kindly to being woken up and after 5 minutes all decided to go back to sleep! In a way it’s a great shame because this was going to be the first FaceTime call and Blog update etc from the summit. However in a way it’s just as well that it all powered down otherwise my finger tips would be far far more affected by the cold than they actually are!

Presently they tingle quite a lot due to some (thankfully reversable) nerve damage but it’s nothing you’d notice if I was wearing a glove (only joking, there’s no visible damage). My ability to do fine delicate operations, like pluck my eyebrows, is slightly affected but other than that it feels a little bit like someone else’s hand so there’s always a silver lining – you just need to look for the positives in these situations.

Fingers crossed I’ll be back up on Everest in a week to ten days with the rest of my group but I probably won’t be bringing the 5kg of miscellaneous electronic items up here with me next time – it’s taken a LOT of my energy and I need to be in tip top condition if I hope to be back for a second ascent in a season.

Sorry I haven’t been able to post any pics with this update but I’ll try and get some uploaded in a less challenging environment!

All in all we only met a few other climbers – 3 of whom turned around at the Hillary Step, 2 who turned around below the South Summit (one of whom had snow blindness because he forgot to put his goggles on when the sun came up), and another 2 who were dawdling their way back down below The Balcony. I’m not sure of the exact figures but it would appear there were 5 other summiteers along with their respective Climbing Sherpas so a quiet day … except for the incessant noise of the wind!

Cheers and all that – Tim & Adam

Resting and waiting … and waiting …

So now that we are done and dusted with the rotations and acclimatisatioin schedule it is time to wait, and be patient … our time will come.

A few days ago it looked like there may be some favourable weather and a few of us were primed and eagerly waiting the green light. The weather changed significantly enough for us to realise that it would be far too windy to be venturing up the hill and so we all descended to EBC. That was a couple of days ago and we are now waiting and watching and listening and being patient.

For me this is a difficult period because folk often feel that sitting at Base Camp is wasted time. The weather doesn’t look to be bad enough for long enough to warrant dropping down the valley for a rest at lower elevations – it would be a shame to go down to be called straight back up again when the weather was looking to improve. That would amount to quite a lot of effort being expended in the name of having a rest!

So we are confining ourselves to Base Camp for the time being and spending time chilling, reading, playing cards, stuffing ourselves with snacks and generally trying not to think too much about the reality of the forthcoming exertions …. whenever that may be.

For the time being I’ll not even divulge any thoughts about dates and potential weather windows because I would hate for folk to start getting all in tizz and excited about nothing. The other reason is that there are some expeditions watching what we and other teams are doing. Not only are they watching at Base Camp but they are tracking our blog, tweets and updates. If I mentioned potential dates, only to find that I was unable to update a change of plan because of lack of reception on the hill, then this could have far reaching consequences for teams who are not so well equipped with weather updates. The other thing is that we are obviously keen to keep our cards close to our chest to try and make the best use of the information that we have.

We do have some great allies and are happy to be working in cooperation with some of the other well respected teams … but we are VERY wary of the lesser equipped teams who have clients who are clearly out of their depth who have signed up with companies who have a very poor success rate and a very low pedigree.

So for the time being that is it – we are waiting and there is very little to add. Even if the situation  changes I may not necessarily update but please don’t lose patience you’ll find out about our successes in due course.

That’s all for now. Except to add my usual thanks for all the messages of support. It means a LOT.

Cheers – Tim & Co