Thursday, 24 April 2014

Last Blog from Everest.

Today appears to be the day when even the most optimistic expeditions gave up hope. Why has this come about?
Obviously we have had a tragic accident with 16 deaths and multiple injuries. Some Sherpas no doubt feel that the mountain should close in honour of the dead. Some may feel the risks are too high to continue. Some see this as an ideal time to extract concessions from the government. Some are struggling to balance loyalty to their employers with solidarity towards their families, friends and community. There are some rumours of intimidation as well. Decisions taken now whilst feelings are raw may not be in the long term best interests of the Sherpas. Some western tourists will no doubt be revising their choice of Nepal as a trekking destination.
It has been a big disappointment to miss out on climbing Mount Everest. But I now understand much more how such an achievement would have depended upon massive logistical support to compensate for my own lack of strength and experience. The Sherpas would have provided most of that support and borne most of the risk. If this is the year that they re-balance the risk/rewards in their favour then good luck to them.


Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Helicopters buzzing around with unusual colours. Could be the men from the ministry or perhaps rich Americans bailing out the fast way.
The best source of information is the blog maintained by Alan Arnette and it would appear that a critical mass has been reached now that the large American company IMG have cancelled their expedition. Future Everest expeditions will no doubt change. They will become more expensive as Sherpa benefits improve and more use is made of helicopters to bypass the Icefall.
Our Yaks should be here on Sunday morning for our bags and we can begin the 3 day walk out. Looking forward to a hot bath.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Well at last the news we have been half expecting. David Hamilton (our leader) is prepared to hold out until all hope is exhausted but has informed us that realistically the Everest climbing season is over. Too many of the Sherpas are simply unwilling to climb the mountain this year. A few hard core mountaineers will do it without Sherpa support but we are not in that league.
Yaks have been summoned from Luckla and will be here in 4 days. Its then a 3 day walk back to Luckla followed by flights home via Khatmandu. Should be back in the UK the weekend of May 2nd.
Naturally we are all disappointed but it is sobering to think that we would have been passing the avalanche site at just that time of the morning a few days later. It could have so easily been us.
Anyone want to buy high altitude gear - reasonable prices.....
A big meeting of everyone at base camp this morning (after a memorial service for the dead Sherpas). Representatives of the Sherpa community and the western climbing companies spoke. The missing party was the government (understandable as no-one can come straight up from Khatmandu to base camp without getting very sick).
The majority of the Sherpas clearly want to quit the mountain in respect for the dead. They have issued a 13 point set of demands to the government which look on the face of it unachievable. There are so many possible outcomes to this but time isn't on our side.
In the meantime the glacier is melting. The floor of my tent is getting very uneven and there are little rivers running throughout our camp. The JG food is still much better than the tea houses but how I long for Helen's cooking !

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Groundhog day again. The sherpas appear to be on some sort of strike without any leadership. They are putting a list of 13 demands to the government today - most of which are reasonable but unlikely to make any difference. They are cutting off their nose to spite their face but the wiser council of the older sirdars doesn't seem to be effective. The first problem is there being enough experienced sherpas at base camp to get the fixed rope secured safely to the summit. Then there is the specific problem that JG do not have enough sherpas to form a viable expedition - although of course more can be recruited.
I am taking each day at at time. I am eating well, resting rather than excercising to give my throat chance to heal. It is so frustrating looking up at the icefall and wondering what lies beyond the narrow neck 2,000 ft higher up. Hopefully we might get a chance to find out but the odds are lengthening. The sherpa dispute will be resolved as all disputes eventually are - but we don't have unlimited time.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

The icefall has been closed for 4 days by agreement between the teams. The shortest route is the most dangerous. A longer route away from the avalanche danger may have to be created. The extra days in base camp might give my sore throat chance to heal. Every time I swallow it feels like a knife is being thrust into it. A chance to wash some clothes as well. Our Sherpa team is seriously depleted - down from 13 to 6 we understand (1 death, 5 injuries , and 1 on compassionate leave. The Sherpa community is very close and all of
them have been touched by this tragedy. My own motivation has certainly taken a knock. Helen will be in the air now on her way back to civilisation. There are some very strange clouds above Everest. I think they are lenticulars indicating very strong winds on the summit.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Well todays plans were cancelled as news came through of a major avalanche in the Icefall which caused multiple injuries and fatalities. I believe our own Sherpa team has been affected although I wouldn't like to offer any detail as there is so much misinformation around. One of the most serious accidents ever on the mountain. A very sad day indeed. For more news you might google the American reports such as NBC.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Hiked up to Pumori advance base camp today (5,700 metres). I am definitely in better shape for eating well but still at the back of the group. This might not be too important in practice but psychologically it puts pressure on me. I visited the doctor regarding my Khumbu cough and was advised to gargle with salt. The good news is that my oxygen saturation and pulse rate are normal. The doctor assures me that there is no reason why I cannot summit and that the speed merchants often fall away later on. I hope she is right.
Tomorrow we are negotiating an obstacle course in the lower icefall constructed by the sherpas.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Watched Goodfellas last night after dinner. Today we put on crampons and helmets and ventured out onto the lower Icefall. The shock is how hard the ice is. It is bullet hard and you really have to be very positive with your crampons. Hopefully when we go through for real there will be some good steps cut already. I can see that efficient use of crampons is the key to saving energy in the thin air. Back at camp now and looking forward to an afternoon reading a book. Doesn't look like Phillip will be returning - if only he had been wearing his helmet.
The weather is usually sunny in the morning and snow in the afternoon. Regarding pictures, the charging and wifi have not really settled down yet and so I haven't risked sending a picture but will do over the coming days. I expect that the Jagged Globe web site has some pictures on it. Tomorrow we hike up to about 5,700 metres as part of our acclimatisation.
Bye for now.

A few very welcome rest days before we step out onto the icefall. I am eating well now and feeling much stronger. I have a Khumbu cough but not as bad as when I was last here. Most of the guys have it to some degree.
Watched movies after dinner for last two nights - a chick flick (holiday) and my favourite -  Taken.
The Jagged Globe set up is first class and I am confident about their safety drills. One sad note was the fall and concussion of Phillip, one of our climbing team. He was evacuated by helicopter and I doubt if he will be able to rejoin us. He was my fellow "grey man at the back" so I will miss him.
I miss Helen now she has gone back down but I now have to build bonds with my team members.
Lying in my sleeping bag at night I hear crashing avalanches and what sounds like gunshot as the glacier slowly moves. This scope for time lapse photography at night is immense but it is so cold outside.
I think about 50% of the climbers have now arrived. It's a truly weird place.
bye for now

Sunday, 13 April 2014

At last - a new blog update. Communications and charging facilities have been non-existent for a week. We are now at base camp.
We stayed at Dingboche and Chukkung in the Imja Valley and did a couple of high climbs before making our way to base camp via Gorak Shep where we climbed Kala Pattar.
I have had real difficulty eating the lodge food. Maybe I am too picky but the constant supply of fried pasta, noodles and potatoes all tainted with the smell of burning Yak dung and eaten in the half light, meant that I arrived in base camp in pretty poor shape. On Jagged Globe advice I visited the doctor who said that I had no symptoms of AMS (acute mountain sickness) but I that my reserves were seriously depleted. Fortunately we have a few days rest and the food at base camp is really good. I am feeling better - particularly as normal bodily functions have also returned.
Helen is staying with me at base camp this evening in my 5 man tent (in a 5 season sleeping bag as well). Her oxygen saturation figures are amongst the best in the whole group and though it was a struggle she got to 18,750 ft at the top of Kala Pattar.
Waking up at base camp is surreal. The helicopters starts flying in at around 7 a.m. This morning we had a Puja ceremony - a lot of Buddist chanting followed by throwing tsampa and rice over our shoulders. Helen and I passed on the Chang which is a Tibetan beer made from rice.
The view up the Khumbu icefall is daunting. Our Sherpa team have already been up there establishing camps 1 and 2. My attitude to the summit has changed. It really is a bonus. It may just come along one day but it doesn't pay to think about it. The most important thing is to stay physically and mentally healthy. We have ultra marathon runners, cross country champions, channel swimmers etc in the group. They fall prey to the same illnesses. I am hoping that the "grey old men at the back" saying is true.
Should be able to send some pictures tomorrow after Helen has left for home.
Bye for now.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Today we climbed a local peak to 5,100 metres (16,500 feet) - an altitude record for Helen. Had great views of Ama Dablam, Makalu, Island Peak, Lohtse and more. We have almost climbed as high as Everest base camp altitude so this should stand us in good stead further up the valley. The food is still dreadful but the local bakeries provide some compensation in the form of apple pie and chocolate cake. So far so good !

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Trekked to Dingboche today to 4,400 metres. Most of us are feeling the altitude now but we are here for a few days. Nice touch today when we called at the house of the regional Lama who blessed our expedition with a Puja ceremony asking the gods to give us success. Helen and I are pacing ourselves to base camp. Better to arrive healthy than first. Everest no longer visible for the time being.

Friday, 4 April 2014

We have arrived in Deboche on our way to base camp. We have 10 climbers and 4 trekkers (including Helen of course). The walking has been strenuous with two tough climbs into Namche Bazzaar and Tengboche. We have had some wonderful views of Everest but will not see it for a while now as we get closer and it is hidden behind Nuptse - another giant. The weather tends to be intense sunshine in the morning with cloud and usually snow by late afternoon. The food is ....passable. Helen can eat it but I will only make it to base camp with supplemental chocolate and cake. We have a good group containing some serious athletes - however I feel strong, a niggling knee strain seems to be clearing up and my back problem has all but disappeared. Tomorrow we rise above the tree line and the landscape will become bleaker. So far Helen and I are acclimatising fairly well. We have had a few headaches but are currently feeling good.