May 9th: Update from Basecamp

Greetings from basecamp on the North side of Everest once again. Thank you for the comments from so many people over the last few days. It’s very nice to get the messages of support and they mean a lot and give a lot of positive energy. Really important on these long expeditions.

Together with the rest of our team I just returned two days ago from a 4 day acclimatisation cycle, back up to the North Col at 7050m elevation.

My mother always used to tell me never to go grocery shopping on an empty stomach. It will lead to me making bad decisions. Well I have decided never to make decisions about my high altitude climbing future whilst on an acclimatisation cycle. It could also lead to me making bad decisions.

It was an uneventful, and successful acclimatisation cycle. However it was tiring and quite miserable with some long days and nights with the inevitable sleeplessness, cold and general lack of energy that high altitude brings.

We made the push from basecamp upto ABC in one long day, skipping the Interim Camp. This is a height gain of 1200m from 5200m to 6400m at ABC, and covers around 17 horizontal km. A morning’s training exercise at sea-level in Singapore, but here at altitude it takes on a different dimension. I set-off at 7:45AM with the single intent of making it to ABC that day without being too exhausted. 7.5 hours later I pulled into ABC quite happy to arrive and still in control of the situation. Mission accomplished.

The whole aim of my movement on the lower slopes of Everest while acclimatising is to arrive at my destination in control. I pay little attention to the time it takes me to get there. I prefer to walk or climb alone if possible as I can travel completely at my own pace. If I can arrive 5,6 or 10 hours later and still be taking photo’s/video’s, looking at the scenery and sitting down on arrival to drink tea and chat, I know I am in control. If I arrive and havn’t taken a photo for the last 3 hours, can hardly talk and head straight for the tent then I am not in control, and am overextended. The problem with getting overextended in climbing is that it becomes easy to make mistakes. You stop putting on sunblock when you need to, don’t clip the rope properly, don’t watch your feet and trip on your crampons, stop drinking, all small things but can escalate into big problems later on.

I thought I was guaranteed a good sleep that night at ABC after a long day of physical toil. Instead I spent all night, lying in my sleeping bag staring at the tent fabric in minus 20 degrees C. Watching the minutes count down on my watch until sunrise. Sunrise on the mountain is a magical time. When the suns rays hit the the tent for the first time in many hours and the feeling of warmth slowly starts creeping through your veins.

We had a rest day to recover from the walk-up. Above 6000m facial edema becomes common. People’s face start to swell with fluid during the night. People really look like crap over breakfast. Margaret summed up the mood we all felt: I don’t feel like sleeping, I don’t feel like eating, I don’t feel like reading my book, I don’t feel like going for a walk, I don’t feel like doing anything. That’s high altitude lethargy.

I spent most of the day lying in my tent reading Annapurna South Face, by Chris Bonington. I had one main aim during the day. Not to pee into my drinking bottle. My drinking bottle and my pee bottle are similar colors. I need to have them both inside my sleeping bags at all times so they don’t freeze. Its very easy to pull the wrong one out at the wrong time for the wrong use. By 4pm I had successfully pee’d into my drinking bottle. At least I did not drink it I guess. On Aconcagua in 2005 I drank my climbing partners pee. She had pee’d in the cooking pot during the night during a storm and forgot to empty it or tell me in the morning. I boiled it up with a teabag. Earl Grey. It didn’t taste to bad.

That night I had another night of staring at the tent fabric. I occasionally dosed off to some very vivid dreams of being stuck in a tent battling up the south face of Annapurna whilst drinking my climbing partners pee. I maybe got 2 hours of sleep.

Daylight could not come around fast enough. And what a day it was. Light snow on the ground, not a breath of wind. Perfect for climbing to the North Col. I was feeling very lethargic after two nights of bad sleep. The problem was not so much the lack of sleep, but not being able to recover from the walk up BC to ABC. I resolved myself to a long day of physical and mental torture putting one foot in front of the other.

Five and a half hours later I pulled out onto the North Col. Physically it was tough. If I listened to my physical being I would have given up at the bottom of the fixed ropes. So mentally I shut off and thought about other things. It was definitely easier climbing up in better weather than it had been the week before. On the Col I sat on the snow beside Phil and Andrew Locke as the rest of the team made their way slowly up to join us. A few photo’s and a couple of Satellite phone calls to the Stephanie and David Lim and it was time to go back down the ropes.

Attached is a short YOUTUBE video of the climbing up the North Col.

The next day after a 6 hour walk I was back in basecamp at 3pm, just in time for happy hour. One bottle of Lhasa beer later I was high as a kite and ready for bed. I am a cheap date at the moment. What a joy to be back in basecamp. A hot shower, clean clothes, but most importantly the luxury of being able to lie down and go to sleep the entire night (well at least until 5am when I usually get up).

One of the first things I also did when I returned was to call my sister Debra, in New Zealand. For those of you who are new to reading this blog, Debra was very nearly killed in February in a car accident in New Zealand(read more here). She has finally left hospital, but not the hospital bed, which has been moved back to her house and she is recuperating there. I havn’t managed to speak to Debra for over two weeks, so it was great to hear her voice. She sounds much stronger and more positive than when I last spoke. She currently spends 4 hours per day doing rehab exercises on her smashed legs. The discomfort I am going through on this mountain is nothing compared to what she is going through and just talking with her as usual gave me strength.

So the situation is now. I am fully acclimatised to climb to the summit of the world. Now it becomes a waiting game. Waiting for:

  1. The rope fixing team to fix the ropes on the mountain(today I think/hope they will reach 8300m)
  2. Our Sherpa team to deliver oxygen and other equipment to the high camps on the mountain
  3. Our Sherpa team to return to BC here and rest and recover from their effort (These guys are supermen at altitude, seriously)
  4. A weather window where the wind drops down to less than 30mph for a few days so we can sneak up to the summit and down without getting turned into icicles or blown off the mountain completely.

This season on Everest is turning to be a real event, especially on the south side where rockfall and other issues have sent some major teams home early. For more info on this please read Alan Arnette’s excellent daily updates on his site: http://www.alanarnette.com/

UPDATE on NORTHSIDE numbers.

A Polish team has turned up here on the North Side. I have updated the post I made on total number of climbers from the North Side. Click here to check it out.

Enjoy the below photo’s.

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Posted on May 9, 2012, in Everest 2012, Videos. Bookmark the permalink. 43 Comments.

  1. cheers Axe…an awesome update and video…great to hear you sister is on the road to recovery. cheers stef, su and ollie

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  2. Axe, remember you in prayers! Journey mercy brother!

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  3. great post, though it has put me off earl grey tea…great to hear you are poised for the final push – good luck!

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  4. so you are ready??? how absolutely exciting!!
    last year we were desperately waiting on health updates, this year total anticipation of a summit!! great news about debra!
    i probably shouldn’t mentioned shirl musselle’s “haaaarmless chardonnay” – did you ever get got by that one? sorry, maybe another night staring at the tent fabric dreaming about pee!!

    Stay warm and safe, Love from all of us!

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  5. At first I thought that pink thing at the bottom left corner that pops up so often in your video is your nose, ha ha.
    How are you? daisy’s very excited every time he gets your phone call.

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  6. Chris Reynolds

    Great. Video mate hope the weather is kind to you this time. We’re all routing for you back in Singers

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  7. Hey Grant,

    Great to hear things are going so well. I hope the weather and other things cooperate so you can make your dash to the summit. It sounds like you are ready to go, body and mind. Also great to hear that Debra is recovering. Don’t forget to take the banners with you for the photos on the summit!

    Take care and stay safe,
    Dazza

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  8. We loved the video Grant and your blog is awesome as usual. Great talking to you and good luck for the summit push. Very exciting. Bye the way can seriously recommend some good meds to help with the sleeping issues, just don’t think they’d be compatible with mountaineering!!

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  9. Sonia Candy-Rova

    your experiences are truely inspirational grant, i am enjoying your updates (as are my class = some slight modification needed.lol) all the best for the next stages in your climb and i (we) look forward to reading about it! cheers, Sonia

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  10. Carol Spragg

    Hi Grant from Room 5, St Joseph’s School, Stratford. The children ask every day if there is a message from you and are always pleased when there is, especially when there are photos. We’ve been doing some reading about Everest and Sir Edmund Hilary in class, so their general knowledge is increasing.
    Cheers
    Carol

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  11. Great update – we were wondering how you were getting on and check in every day. We loved the video and the the writing – when will the book be out? Put us down for the first copy.
    Good luck for the summit.

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  12. Hi Axe, I know this is a big ask but if you get a chance can you video climbing the First and Second Steps with your helmet cam? I know you will have a lot more important things to worry about at this time but it would be great for us to get an idea of what Mallory faced when he was up there.

    Thanks.

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    • Hi Mike, you are right it is a huge ask! I will try my best but it depends how cold it is and how dark it is etc. Lets see how it goes. I would also like to get some great footage on the steps.

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      • Thanks Axe,

        No worries, be careful up there, it was just a thought and we would hate you to take any unnecassary risks.

        Good luck.

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  13. Hi Axe.

    I really enjoy reading your blog. I’ve learned so much from you and I look forward to every new post. Thanks so much for taking the time to write. I’m sure you’d rather be doing something (or nothing 🙂 else.

    Well done on your progress so far. I’m especially impressed with your mental attitude. It’s very tough to tune out what everyone else is doing and set your own pace. But I’m sure you’re doing the right thing.

    Good luck on the days ahead. We’re all with you in spirit, beaming you support and pulling for you.

    Cheers,
    Lexy von Peterffy

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  14. Kate (Isadora) Smith

    Well done Axe.I get up each morning and first call is to check for your blog so you can imagine my delight to find this brilliant blog and video posted this morning, it truly is a great blog and together with the video I felt to be on that mountain.When a chap like you who is so fit and well is seen to be dragging one foot after the other it really brings the reality of the effort home to us. As you were going up the final ladder a little feeling of panic came over me. The thought struck me that I was in limbo land. Which ever way I decided to go I was going to face a difficult struggle, no helicopter could come for me and I would have to go up or down under my own steam.I imagined suddenly being taken ill, what on earth would I do? Have you ever panicked like that, it must be petrifying? I have read many biographies where illness has struck and somehow the climber has survived, I suppose you must get an inner strength from somewhere.Please give my best wishes to Debra, as one housebound creature to another.After the disappointment of our Walking Heroes from the UK let’s pray and hope you have success and a reward for your efforts. Cheers Kate

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    • Hi Kate, I sure will pass your nice wishes to Debra. The climbing upto the North Col is actually pretty easy and I don’t get scared. However on plenty of other steeper climbs mainly in NZ I definitely have those moments you describe. When there is no fixed rope and I am leading a steep climb is generally the moments when I get the most scared. At the time I generally hate the experience, afterwards I look back on it and am proud to have got through it. Its sad to hear about your walking wounded from the UK, I am sure they will get another shot. All the best Kate. I hope you can improve soon and get out and about also??

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  15. Sophie sorgo

    Great to read your news, take care, stay safe, keep aiming high 🙂

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  16. Axe
    Amazing post as ever. Sharing it here with my colleagues in Brazil and we are all captivated. Enjoy basecamp and all the best with the summit push.
    Nicola & Shorty xxx

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  17. Arla Escontrias

    Greetings from San Francisco… I love reading your blog..wishing you great success!

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  18. Best of luck Axe!! from Newcastle Australia. Cant wait to hear of your success!!! Angus

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  19. Hi Grant we are enjoying your blog .Andrea is picking it up from India as well as Joanne and Kirsten here in NP. Cath and I have been talking to Deb in the last few days she is being totally positive,which is great.We intend to see your M & D before we leave.Do you want anything taken to Singapore ? We’ve made contact with Stephanie and she has great with her suggestions on what to do and see.Looking forward to Dinner with you guys on the 26th June . Take Care Alan & Cath

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    • Hi Alan and Cath, will be great to see you in Singapore and nice to hear the whole Morris Whanau is reading the blog! I cant think of anything taken to Singapore at this stage – thanks for the offer though. Safe travels and see you soon!

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  20. Awesome blog and clips Axe. This is a much better reality series than the Kardashians.
    Hearing the breathlessness and sensing the effort in the video brings us a small step closer to your reality.

    We have an hypoxicator system we use for altitude simulation for athletes. I dialed it up to 6500m yesterday and did a couple of minutes- getting it ready for a climber who was coming in for some acclimitisation training before heading to a South American climb.

    Very difficult to just sit and breathe let alone doing anything-and I have the luxury of being able to take the mask off and breathe normally- and no cold to deal with.

    Great admiration for what you are doing(no desire whatsoever to do it myself however!Vertigo on a steep hill for me!or a TALL BUILDING FOR THAT MATTER!))

    Stay strong and sure footed!

    regards Iain Ansell

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    • Hi Iain, it would be pretty awful going straight onto 6500m from sealevel – no wonder you felt like crap! Thanks for the nice message anyway. What mountain in SA is the dude heading to? Hope all is well in NZ.

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  21. Hi Grant! Loving your blogs and video clips! Brilliant news about your sister’s recovery….that will be such an inspiration to keep you going on this massive challenge you are about to face! Really good to hear that you are adjusting to the altitude this time round without all the hellish nightmares of last year! TAke it easy and enjoy the whole thing…hope the window to the summit opens very soon for you as I could imagine the hanging around waiting could be the biggest mental challenge of all! Take extra care and enjoy the ultimate view from the top of the world! Be safe!! Rach 🙂

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  22. Sonia Candy-Rova

    we are in room one at st patricks school in inglewood, taranaki, nz. mrs rova is our teacher and she showed us your website. we are watching your videos and reading your blogs and we think that you are pretty amazing!!! we liked this blog especially when you pee’d in your drink bottle. one of our school virtues is to be motivated and you sure are! you have the support of room one and this afternoon we said a prayer for you and also the irish blessing. we all rush to school each day to see if you have posted anything new. thank you for choosing to support our taranaki rescue helicopter. take care. god bless, room 1xxxxx

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    • Hello Room 1, St Patricks in Inglewood! Thank you for your very nice message. I am very happy to hear you are following my progress on Mt Everest. The first mountain I ever climbed was Mt Egmont/Taranaki. Now I am waiting at basecamp here at 5200m which is over twice the height of the summit of Mt Taranaki. I need to wait for the strong winds to die down on the summit of Mt Everest so we can try and climb to the the top and back down quickly before they start up again. Thank you also for your prayers!! Bye for now.

      Axe

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  23. Hey Axeman – SOunds like your going great guns and your more than ready for
    the big summit assult as soon as all the preps are ready and the weather is settled. I know in my gut you will “knock the bastard off” this time aounrd. Good luck and keep the blog updated coming.

    Dazza W

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  24. Emma Reumers

    Hello my name is Emma Reumers I go to St Patricks school Inglewood and Sonia Rova is my teacher we have been looking at your website and we have seen the climbs you have done I think it is pretty amazing what you do. My Dad is Gerard Reumers and he thinks you are the man and would love to meet you one day. I hope you make it ( there must be some pretty amazing views where you are and make sure you visit us at school ha ha ha),Dad will definitly be there with all my hope Emma

    aged 9

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  25. well done axe i hope you make it to the summit and i come from st Patrick and my is zaydyn all my hope from zaydyn

    Like

  1. Pingback: Axe on Everest – New Post 30 April « Taranaki Rescue Helicopter Trust

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