Category Archives: Everest 2012
Grant’s Update from ABC – May 15th 2012
( via SMS to David Lim)
Left BC at 615am – arrived at ABC at 2pm. I hate this 17km walk. Hope its the last time. Few coughs in the team but everyone made it in their own times OK. Tomorrow – to the North Col. I feel good and cant wait for some climbing. Sick of walking. Thanks for so many beautiful messages to satphone from all over the world. Gives me a huge lift. Out from ABC
[ David’s NOte: Please note that you are best texting Grant your best wishes on his Thuraya mobile number (see earlier post) as he will NOT be able to read your comments until he returns to basecamp. I will send some selections of course, but do, if you wish restrict your greetings to a 100 character SMS if you are texting him directly. Cheers ]
MAY 14th – It’s time…
“A ship in harbor is safe but ships were not built for that”
Tomorrow we leave basecamp for the last time for the summit of the world. I am unsure of our exact schedule yet. But tomorrow we will make the long push, 17km and 1200m of vertical height gain from basecamp to advanced basecamp (ABC) at 6400m. From ABC we will again monitor the weather and decide when to push higher.
I will make updates by voice post from my satellite phone. If you see a post from me titled VOICE POST this will be a short voice recording I have made from the mountain. You can replay this on your computer. (For some reason it does not work well on IPAD’s I am told?)
I feel so fortunate and excited to be in a position to be about to ATTEMPT to realise my dream. My dream is not just to stand on the summit of Mt Everest. My dream is to climb those final 500m vertical metres of Everest’s North East Ridge to the summit. The 500m which I missed last year. To climb along the highest ridge traverse in the world. To feel the exposure under my feet looking down to the mighty Rongbuk Glacier 10,000 feet below. To work my way over the three infamous rock steps. To stare down into Nepal and Tibet from 8848m.
I am also afraid of failing to reach the summit this year. Failure hurts. Not because of what I think I look like in front of other people, but internally within myself. Getting up every morning and looking in the mirror as I brush my teeth I get reminded of who I am. Sitting in a crowded bar, in the office, on a plane my mind frequently drifts away to the North East Ridge of Everest. 6 months ago when I announced I was returning to Everest a friend asked me – what happens if you fail again? I told him truthfully that if I fail it will be very hard. But my desire to climb the ridge is stronger than my fear of failing to climb it. I cannot live my life failing to attempt.
We have a great team of Sherpa’s with Altitude Junkies. They have worked extremely hard stocking the high camps and getting oxygen into position. Attached is a photo of them taken this morning. What a wonderful bunch of men, epitomizing the qualities that make people great. Tough, hard working, friendly, extreme athletes at altitude, yet so down to earth, honest and humble. In turn for their hard work I am proud to say I am on an expedition where they are very highly respected and treated extremely well.
On summit morning from camp 3 , I will be climbing with Pasang Nima Sherpa (see attached photo). As with many Sherpa’s, Pasang Nima is small in stature but huge in power. Being able to carry loads of oxygen cylinders/tents and other equipment up to 8300m, where most people who live at sea-level would not be able to drag their own body weight. He also makes me look tall which is quite rare. I kind of like taking photo’s beside him.
Finally I want to thank the following people who have enabled me to be in this position today:
Graham, Dicko, GT and the team from John Foord
Darren Blakely and the team from UFIT
Mark Lamb, Chris Lloyd, John Hunt, Stitch and the SCC sevens committee
Chris, Jasmine, Steve and the team from Citygolf
The staff from Kongsberg Maritime especially Edina Lee, Siti, Latif, Bill Stuart, Phil Andrew, Daryl Morse and Geir Skogen who cover my duties when I am away.
To the Taranaki Rescue Helicopter Trust – Michelle and Jayden, thank you for allowing me the opportunity to work with you and give something back to my home province which has given me so much.
To the people following my blog and making positive comments and wishes. I hope I can repay your enthusiasm and generosity of spirit.
Finally to Stephanie my wife. Thank you for for being you and allowing me to be me.
I will have my satellite phone with me on the mountain. If you would like to send positive messages of support the number is below. Its probably not a good time to call me to sell insurance or a new credit card as I won’t be too interested, plus I don’t have any money. I can tell you that messages of support when I am in the high camps, breathing oxygen, lying in my tent in minus 30 degrees C, feeling exhausted and a little scared give a huge morale boost.
Thuruya Sat phone number: +88 2167 6006 005
You can send short messages from your mobile phone or from:
Input my number and enter a message less than 100 characters (its says 160 characters but that is not correct – it cuts off some of the message if its too long).
Please be sure to enter your name when you send a message – so I know who you are!
This is Axe signing out for the last time before the summit push from Everest basecamp in Tibet.
May 11 – Irvine’s body and the summit day route
Summit day route
Attached below is a zoomed up photo of the north east ridge of Everest – taken by myself from here at basecamp. I have zoomed in significantly on the high portion of the ridge and the route from high camp 3 at 8300m to the summit. Of particular interest are the three rock steps, clearly visible even from basecamp here around 20km horizontal away and 3000m lower.
It will take our team around 5 – 6 days to reach high camp 3 at 8300m. From Camp 3 we launch for the summit in one push. Camp 3 is the highest campsite in the world. I aim to reach camp 3 around mid afternoon. Camp 3 is more of a rest stop for a few hours than a camp. It is so high it is in the deathzone. The deathzone is that area above 8000m where the human body cannot survive. You count your time in the deathzone in terms of hours. The longer you stay the weaker you become. Until you die. Hence getting up and down from the deathzone as quickly as possible is crucial. The slopes at Camp 3 are very steep and the tents are cut into platforms on the side of the mountain. Its not a place to slip as you will have a very long 3000m fall down to the Rongbuk glacier.
After arriving at Camp 3 mid afternoon I will have a few hours rest until around 10PM when I will start preparing to leave the tent for the summit. Melt snow, drink something, dress, put on harness and climbing gear, head torches, spare’s of everything and the many other tasks required to leave the tent safely into the freezing night. I will leave around 12pm (midnight) to begin the climb to the summit. I will have two bottles of oxygen. Each bottle will last for 8 hours (at a flow rate of 2l per minute). That’s 16 hours in total. Hence I need to get to the summit and back to camp 3 within this time. Running out of oxygen is not an option. Climbers who are too slow and do run out of oxygen generally remain forever within a few feet of where the oxygen runs out.
I will climb directly straight up the exit cracks, onto the north east ridge proper. The climbing will be in the pitch dark, by light of my head torch. It will be very cold, maybe around minus 20 or minus 30 degrees. I will have a full down suit, goggles, oxygen mask, triple insulated boots and crampons on, making my movement over the steep terrain cumbersome and awkward. I will have 3 layers of gloves on my hands, the outer layer being a huge thick mitten which makes clipping and unclipping from the ropes very awkward. Frostbite is a huge concern. Any exposed flesh will freeze within minutes. Taking my hands out of my gloves to work the ropes, even for a short time can result in the loss of my fingers forever. Contact lens freeze in people’s eyes. Even breathing bottled oxygen, my mind will be working very slowly and my thought process will be fuzzy and unfocussed. I will have the problem solving skills of a 7 – 10 year child. I know, I was there last year.
From here I will follow the highest ridge traverse in the world. For almost one horizontal mile and 500m of vertical height gain to the summit of the world. The route is littered with corpses of climbers who have died, mainly on the descent.
The ridge traverse is extremely exposed. I will be placing one foot in front of the other, often with a 10,000 foot drop directly below my feet. As Phil our team leader keeps reminding us, If you fall on the north ridge and you are not clipped in to the ropes you will die. It’s so steep.
Of the three rock steps, the most infamous is the 2nd step. This is around a 30m high vertical rock cliff. The 2nd step is involved with endless speculation regarding the first ascent of Everest. Could the British climbers Andrew Irvine and George Mallory have scaled the 2nd step in 1924 on their way to the summit? Or was it to much of a vertical obstacle at 8500m above sea-level in freezing conditions for them to climb? Thankfully these days there is a short section of ladder which allows the hardest part of the step to be more easily overcome.
Hopefully I will arrive at the summit in the early morning as the sun is rising. It will be a very short time on the summit. 10 or 15 minutes maximum. Take some photo’s, try and enjoy the time there, but ever mindful I am only halfway, and my oxygen and strength levels are becoming less and less, minute by minute.
Now time for the descent. The most dangerous part of the climb. When I am most tired. And down climbing is harder than up climbing. 80% of the accidents and deaths happen on the descent. Slowly I will retrace my steps, being careful to stay clipped into the rope, but even this wont stop a fatal fall. After a few hours I should reach camp 3 completely exhausted. A temporary safe haven for an hour or two. But its still camp 3 at 8300m, its still in the deathzone and its so high that my body is dying. Staying here is not an option. I will need to drag myself up and somehow find the energy to descend further down the mountain, as far as possible, into the thicker air and also lower down where there is more shelter from the threat of bad weather. Being stuck at camp 3 with the return of the jetstream winds between 100 – 300km/hr is also a death sentence.
Hopefully I will make the North Col that day and rest there that night. The next day making my way down to ABC for more rest before the long plod back to basecamp. I will be completely exhausted for days after the summit climb.
Andrew Irvine’s body – Axe’s theory
One of the greatest mountaineering mystery’s of all time is whether or not George Mallory and Andrew Irvine made it to the top of Mt Everest in an early British expedition in 1924. They were climbing exactly the same route as I am climbing the North Col, North Ridge route. They were last seen in 8th June 1924 disappearing into cloud high up on the ridge, either above or below the second rock step. Exactly where they were is not clear and this is the source of huge debate. If they were above the second rock step then the ground becomes easier and there is a very high chance they could have made the summit and been the first people to climb Mt Everest (instead of the Sir Ed Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing in 1953 from the south side almost 30 years later).
George Mallory’s body was found in 1999 as marked on my photo here. He had a broken leg and appeared to have taken a long fall probably from high off the summit ridge on descent. See the below YOUTUBE video of the actual discovery of Mallory’s body in 1999.
But did he make the summit? The pair were allegedly carrying basic Kodak camera’s, but no camera was found on Mallory. He had mentioned he would leave a photo of his wife on the summit and no photo was found on his body. The hunt continues therefore for Andrew Irvine’s body and the camera. There is a chance after all these years that the film in the camera could be developed and maybe show proof that they did or did not stand on the summit? There are many theories floating around about where Irvine’s body maybe. I have added my theory about his body’s position to the photo below.
I believe Irvine and Mallory were descending together in bad weather (I do not know if they made the summit or not). They were following the ridge line and were roped together, Mallory took a fall, Irvine tried to arrest him with his ice axe. The rope pendulum’ed and snapped, Mallory fell a long way, broke his leg and died in the position marked on the map. Irvine continued downclimbing the ridge, but died of exposure/fall a short time later in the approximate position I marked on the map. Thats my theory anyway!
Well that’s all from basecamp here. A huge hello to the class from St Patrick’s School in Inglewood, New Zealand. Thank you for your nice messages and thoughts. Also a special hello to Sonia Rova and her father Gerard. Thanks also for your kind messages and I hope to meet you one day in Inglewood!
The next two weeks are the culmination of years of training and preparation. Its going to be a very exciting, exhausting and nerve wracking time. I can’t wait. Stay tuned!
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:
- The rope fixing team to fix the ropes on the mountain(today I think/hope they will reach 8300m)
- Our Sherpa team to deliver oxygen and other equipment to the high camps on the mountain
- Our Sherpa team to return to BC here and rest and recover from their effort (These guys are supermen at altitude, seriously)
- 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.
May 6th: Summit tactics, and Grant’s Options
.Hi, As Grant gets to going down to BC after a successful 2nd acclimatisation round, I attach below an email I sent him exploring options. I thought it would be interesting for his legion of fans to understand how we ( as in Everest climbers) think about the days ahead. It’s a constant state of flux depending on health, mental preparation, the weather, and making choices. So here is the excerpt where I discuss with him some of the options open, and a new 3rd option at the end:
I got a sked that may match yours
3 BC – IC
4 IC- ABC
5 ABC – NC
6 NC + higher
7 NC – ABC
8 ABC – BC
9 – 12 rest and recharge
13 onwards – wait and do an early summit push?
13 BC – IC
14 IC- ABC
15 ABC – NC
16 NC+higher – ABC
17 ABC – BC
18 – 21 rest and recharge
21st onwards – poss summit attempts
I have factored a steady 8-day summit window that includes a descent to BC. You can use that as a benchmark to factor in dates and so on for your exit from the Rongbuk
BC – IC
C3-summit – C3/C2
C2/C3 – ABC
ABC – BC
My feeling is that you could feasibly go for an early summit push based on the fact that this push would be your 3rd push up high with at least 2 nights at NC. If t fails, you have time for a second summit attempt, not to mention waiting out bad weather ( we waited 11 days at BC! ). The 2nd option above makes you much stronger, IMO, but then you only have one realistic window in late May or early June. If there is a long spell of unstable weather, you’d only have ONE shot at the summit. In the mid 90s, many summitted in mid May like May 10,11 and so one with the possibility of one more window opening up in late May ( we summitted May 25th, and mant got lucky on May 27, 28, 29). However, I have observed that for the north side in recent years, many are pulling off summits well into the monsoonal 1st week of June.
I felt OK to go after a push to around 6700m, and then a night at 7300m on the lhotse face – very common cycle. North side, we did one night at NC before making a summit climb – we could have done with a 2nd cycle. Don’t forget too, you arent really getting much rest above 5500m, so you are draining muscle mass the longer you wait. The key is to make the push when your declining condition crosses the rising acclimatisation line in an X/Y type chart
I would complete this coming cycle and assess my strength, mindset and conditions. AND I would NEVER be tempted to push for the top without at least a 4-day cycle of rest to get my glycogen supplies topped up ( usual 72 hours+ after a big workout) at BC, carbing up for the climb….
Which option do you prefer?
After the May 6th chat with Grant, my view is that he takes a bit longer than others to acclimate to zones above 6500. That , coupled with the very tough walk to ABC; a THIRD option exists after tomorrow; whereby, he could, after some days of rest at BC ( say May 7.8 and 9) ; hike up to IC at 5900m to ‘top-up his acclimatisation, and then maybe do a hike to ABC from IC and back down to BC on May 11th. Factoring in 4 -5 days of active rest at BC; technically, he could comtemplate making a summit push anytime from BC from around May 15th. He might also want to actually, irrespective of his fitness, hike a bit more slowly between camps to acclimatise better. For example, it may be better to take a steady 10 hours from BC to ABC, then to do it in 8, and then hang around at ABC for 2 hours waiting for your team to arrive.
As mentioned, a nice steady 8 day window is what Grant needs to summit. And this sometimes means hiking to ABC in bad weather and laying in wait for the good weather window which is critical for the days going up to NC, C2 ( 7650m) and C3 ( 8300m) prior to the summit push. So mathematically, if the weather cooperates, Grant could be making the top anytime around 20th or 21st of May. Health, how far the fixed rope and upper camps have progressed, sustained bad weather and all sorts of factors affect this very theoretical schedule for now.
Ulimately, Grant will have to weigh all his options, and how he is doing for the final decision.
Personally, if I am feeling well, and have been sleeping well at ABC ( Grant is not), and earlier push would be great. And if that fails, I should have options for a 2nd attempt, as there would be time left before the monsoon season. If I am feeling a little less acclimatised, I would either do the full blown 3rd cycle ( as Option 2) or the modified 3rd cycle ( Option 3), before making a summit push, at the risk of havng only one chance at the top.
So many factors and choices make the tactics on Everest very interesting. I hope this helps readers get a grasp of what goes through our minds when we are on a climb.
May 6th – Round Two – to the North Col
( via satellite telephone from Grant)
Hot Off the Phone!
Got a call from ‘da man’ just 10 minutes ago. They took about 5 1/2 hours from ABC to the North Col. A fine morning, leaving their tents at 8am and reaching the Col at about 120pm. NO wind, but the afternoon overcast weather has come back again. Feeling tired but no drama. The plan is to return and sleep at ABC tonight making it 3 nights in total at ABC. Tomorrow – rest at ABC or bomb back down to BC. Grant is presently about in the middling of his group in terms of speed and performance on the mountain. Some thoughts:
” This isn’t a climb. It’s a battle” – Grant Rawlinson
Saturday May 4-5th – BC – ABC
( update by SMS via David Lim)
Made in from BC to ABC in one day ( Friday) ! Knackering hike over 8 hours. Rest day today. Wind has stopped but snowing all day lightly. Tomorrow – we will aim to tag North Col. Poor sleep at ABC last night. Other then that, I feel good!
May 3: Flaming pants and round 2 coming up
The most exciting thing that has happened to me in the last 5 days stuck here at basecamp is my pants caught on fire when I got to close to the heater. I can report there are no long term physical injuries except to my pants and my pride. I had been complaining for the last few weeks that the heaters were not strong enough. I have stopped complaining now.
I have made a short YOUTUBE video here of a tour of Everest basecamp. We have a beautiful basecamp, especially considering everything is temporarily set-up in tents at 5200m in very strong winds. It is so nice in fact I thought a tour of the tents was worth a short video.
The view of the North Face of Everest from our basecamp here in Tibet is mindblowing, breathtaking, spectacular and mesmerizing. I can never get enough of staring at it, anytime of the day. It sends shivers down my spine when I see the plume of snow raging off her summit. Even at night time as I head for my tent I can makeout the ominous huge dark triangle of the North face.
From basecamp, mentally Everest has the upper hand over me. The same as many problems in life, they often seem larger when you stand back and stare at them. From basecamp Everest looks too huge, too windy and too high for humans to climb. It is not until I am on the mountain, climbing on her flanks, doing battle step by step, higher and higher that I can finally believe I have a chance of summiting her.
I attach two photo’s below. One showing a windy day on Everest (today) with the huge summit snow plume, and the the other a day with hardly any wind and no snow plume for comparison.
The last few days have been spent waiting at basecamp and looking and discussing weather forecasts. To a point I am sick of talking about the weather. Thankfully it looks like the winds which have kept us pinned down for the last few days will subside tomorrow. Allowing us to leave on round 2 of our acclimatisation. We will make a long single day push from basecamp, skipping Interim Camp at 5700m all the way to Advanced Base camp at 6400m. I expect to be very tired tomorrow night.
I am extremely excited about this next acclimatisation push to get higher up on the mountain. I hope to reach between 7300 -7500m. Getting high on the mountain is what I dream about. This is where I want to be. Pushing myself as hard as possible, high up where every step is taken with care and has consequences. I can’t currently think of anything more exciting and beautiful in my climbing ambitions than edging along the summit ridge to the summit with 3000m of exposure under my feet. Unfortunately I have to spend a great deal of time ‘plodding’ between Basecamp and Advanced Base Camp but this is part of the cause.
I would like to say a big thank you all those people who are following my trip. To those people who make comments, I try to reply individually to each one, however due to restrictions to the internet here in China this is often difficult.
Thanks again to David Lim who will make short updates on my progress over the next acclimatisation cycle.
Until next time, this is Axe siging out from an Everest Basecamp currently being battled by wind and snow.
PS: Hold you mouse over the photo to see the caption. Click the photo to enlargen.
April 30: Photo upload from basecamp
April 29th: Wind, wind, wind…. why is there is so much wind?
The following is a day by day account of my recent acclimatisation cycle up to the North Col at 7000m. I am currently sitting in basecamp recovering and enjoying writing this blog in the sunshine, but ever present wind. I would like to thank David Lim for updating my blog from the Thuruya Sat phone messages I sent him from higher up the mountain. Also a huge thanks to my wife Stephanie for uploading the video to YOUTUBE.
(Please look at the 3D fly-through on my home page in YOUTUBE to identify area’s and camps on the mountain which I refer to below)
Wind, wind, wind…. why is there is so much wind?
Day 1 Basecamp to Interim basecamp
Finally after 7 days acclimatising at basecamp we are set to leave for our first acclimatisation cycle further up the mountain. It is exciting to wake up in the tent in the morning and know today will be a day of action. After breakfast and once the sun warms up the comm’s tent I post a quick last minute blog from my computer then set off with my backpack for Interim camp.
The walk to Interim camp follows the main Rongbuk Glacier then turns off up the East Rongbuk Glacier. It is around 9km horizontal distance and rises from 5200m at basecamp to 5700m at Interim camp. I enjoy this walk, having been up and down it 8 times last year. I know it well and enjoy the undulating nature of the terrain. There are 7 climbers in our team and people generally walk in pairs or by themselves. I walk with Margaret Watroba. Margaret comes from Western Australia and last year summited Everest from the South side. She is aiming to become the first Australian woman to summit Everest from both the South and the North Sides.
After 2 hrs walking we stop at a spot on the East Rongbuk called ‘Japanese basecamp’ for some lunch. We all have a packed lunch from our Sherpa kitchen comprising a boiled egg, some digestive biscuits, apple and a small bun. Its a nice walk. We continue on towards ABC, passing teams of Yaks and their herders, both listening to music through our headphones and enjoying the exercise.
Just before Interim camp the weather turns. The wind picks up and it starts snowing heavily. I know I am very close to Interim camp when I lose the trail. The snow comes in and covers the track. We stop for 5 minutes in the wind and snow and I try and find my bearings again. I make a quick call on the radio to Phil, our team leader at Interim camp. They tell me there is a yak team coming down, so after a few minutes I see them coming down through the snow which points me back to the trail. Ten minutes later we are in Interim camp. It is a good reminder that I am on a mountain and that even following a simple trail can be difficult when the weather turns.
I share a tent with Mark Horell, an English climber. This is Mark’s 4th 8000m expediton and 1st attempt on Everest. Quietly spoken and modest, Mark is a real outdoor’s man and runs an interesting website with information on his far flung adventures from around the world. (http://www.markhorrell.com) We lie in the tent and eat soup and a bread roll for dinner before drifting off for the typically interrupted sleep representative of moving to higher altitudes.
Day 2 Interim basecamp to Advanced basecamp (A.B.C)
After an OK sleep we wake to two bowls of steaming two-minute noodles thrust through the vestibule of the tent. Mark has a small altitude headache and does not want his, so I eat both of them. We pack and leave quickly for the walk to ABC.
Most teams spend two nights at Interim camp acclimatising to the altitude. Unfortunately because of the nature of the camp, it is difficult to get clean water. There is such limited space that all the Yaks must spend the nights here also. I refer to it as Yak Shit camp. Phil our team leader does not like Yak Shit camp, as a number of his previous team’s become sick here. Hence he decided we will spend only one night here to lesson the chance of becoming sick. Having spent a number of nights here last year I don’t mind the camp so much. Maybe growing up on a farm and being surrounded by animal shit all though my youth helps out.
We set off for ABC as soon as I finish the noodles and pack our bags. I wander along at the rear of the group. The first part of this journey follows the ‘miracle highway’. This was named named by George Mallory in the 1920’s and is a medial moraine ridge smack in the middle of the mighty East Rongbuk glacier. This moraine ridge gives a very easy path up an otherwise very difficult to negotiate glacier. Almost like a miracle, hence the name. I spend the first hour lost in thoughts about George Mallory and those early English expeditions attempting Everest. What sort of person would George have been like? What would it have been like in the 1920’s coming here to Everest? How much harder would it have been back then?
After 2 hours walking I catch up to Margaret and as I near the invisible 6000m barrier the altitude catches upto me. Any thoughts of George Mallory and the early expeditions fly away in the freezing wind as I near the Changste basecamp. Hitting 6000m feels like someone has injected a syringe into my body and sucked out every drop of energy. I plod along step by step, very slowly, almost in dis-belief at how hard putting one step in front of another is. My right hand holding my trekking pole starts to freeze in the cold wind. My left hand is warm enough as I leave it in my pocket. I feel hungry. I did not bring much food for the walk to ABC today. One digestive biscuit in total. I tell Margaret I need to stop. We huddle beside a large ice block which gives some protection from the wind. I take off my right glove and put my barehand inside my jacket and under my armpit to warm-up. It gets painful as the circulation returns. I eat my digestive biscuit. I am still hungry. I ask Margaret for some food. She kindly gives me some energy goo’s. I scoff them and have some water from my bottle then we continue.
For another brutal 2 hours we climb 400 more metres until we reach Advanced basecamp. It is impossible for me to explain how tiring it is climbing to new altitudes when you are acclimatising. I stumble into Advanced Basecamp a beaten man. Completely spent. The first of my altitude headaches is building up inside my head. I sit in the small dining tent dome and drink some milk tea with the rest of the team.
Milk tea the beautiful, hot sweet liquid that soothes my raging thirst in the freezing cold. At least I dont need to vomit I tell myself. After two cups of milk tea I make my excuse’s and stumble down into my tent. I am still insanely thirsty however I can feel the construction workers inside my brain starting to increase their activity. An altitude headache is the king of headaches. The feeling of the middle part of your brain being squeezed in a vice. Without medication a bad altitude headache has me on my knees holding my head in my hands rocking back and forth.
Not wanting to get to this stage I search in my tent for my new best friends Ibuprofen tablets. These amazing little tablets are pain relief and anti-inflammatories. I pop two tablets and lie on my sleeping bag listening to the wind rock the tent. I feel thirsty but to tired to get out of the tent and get a drink. After a few minutes my team mate Mila from Russia, comes to my tent with a flask of milk tea. I fill up my Nalgene with 1 litre of the beautiful milk tea. It is exactly what I need. She did it quietly without asking. I wont forget it.
After 20 minutes of lying still, the Ibuprofen kicks in. My headache subsides. As I slowly sip on my milk tea I can begin to think about other things. The thing I think of most is what happened last year when I first visited ABC and pushed my body too hard. I developed High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (H.A.P.E). Climbers call it the ‘death rattles’. H.A.P.E causes your lungs to fill with fluid until you drown. The noise your breathing makes is like a rattling or gurgling sound when you breath in and out. I know it well. I start to worry that I have pushed myself to hard to get to A.B.C too quickly. There is nothing I can do now except monitor my body closely.
Day 3 Rest day at A.B.C
I have a restless sleep, woken frequently to drink, pee into my pee bottle, pop more Ibuprofen and listen for the ‘death rattles’.
A doctor told me last year no amount of mental strength or human spirit can stop the physical deterioration of your body above 6000m. ABC being at 6400m is a miserable place to spend time in. Not that the actual area itself is dirty or disgusting (although there is a fair amount of trash around), but the altitude makes it hard to live. I have to be here to force my body to develop more red blood cells and acclimatise to the less oxygen in the environment. But the whole time I am here I am physically weakening. Muscle mass is wasting away. I have little appetite. Sleep is difficult even though I feel tired and lethargic. And the wind, forever bearing down. Beating on the tents. Beating and numbing exposed human flesh. There is no flat ground, you are either walking uphill or downhill.
I spend the day walking as quietly as possible around basecamp, between my tent and the dining tent. And drinking. Drinking, drinking, drinking. As my body acclimatises I need to drink so much liquid. I sit down at breakfast, and drink 5 cups of milk tea. I then fill my 1litre Nalgene and force myself to drink that. I am forever peeing. Either in my pee bottle in my tent or walking outside the camp and peeing onto the glacier. I can’t seem to drink enough to quench my thirst. It seems to run straight through me.
In the afternoon I walk for 10mins across the moraine. I start looking through the trash and high altitude rubbish which was been left here by previous expeditions. I find two pigs feet, an empty whisky bottle and a snow stake. I can use the snow stake for climbing in NZ. It has the words ‘Indian expedition’ written in black vivid marker pen on it.
Day 4 Another rest day at A.B.C
Everytime I wake up during the night and first thing in the morning I listen for the death rattles. Its always a relief to breath out and in strongly and not hear any gurgling.
I still pop Ibuprofen every 4 or so hours as the headaches return. I try and balance my rest days by ‘resting’ and letting my body adjust, but at the same time keeping up some basic movement to keep my blood moving without ‘over exercising’ which brings on worse headaches. This is the theory anyway. In practise I spend long periods lying in my tent, staring at the roof getting depressed. Long periods of inactivity do not bode well with my mental state. I am not designed for high altitude mountaineering. Out of 63 days, I count around 15 days only as active climbing days on an Everest expedition. I love climbing. I don’t love lying in my tent for days popping Ibuprofen listening for the death rattles
This year I bought a brand new super lightweight climbing harness. I spend the morning rigging the harness with my ascender and safety line, and fitting my new crampons to my boots.
Jamie McGuiness comes over in the afternoon for a chat. I climbed with Jamie last year on Everest. He is a nice guy but he likes telling me I smell. I retire to my tent to have a wet wipe bath. But my wet wipes are a frozen solid block. I lie in my sleeping bag and put the wet wipes in my sleeping bag to thaw. After 20 minutes I can scratch 3 wet wipes off the top of the block. I then undress completely in my sleeping bag as its too cold outside. I use the 3 wet wipes to clean myself. After that I change my thermal top and bottom and feel like a million dollars. Clean as a whistle. I even put some deodorant on. Come to think of it, I could have just used the deodorant and skipped the wet wipes entirely.
Day 5 Another rest day at A.B.C
I dont feel like a mountaineer. I feel like a tourist in the mountains, wandering around with no fixed objective. I need to keep reminding myself that while I am waiting here my body is acclimatising. I put on my climbing boots for the first time and go for a walk for 30 minutes up towards the North Col. Margaret comes with me. Margaret takes some photo’s with sponsors flags for me. I also take a photo with the picture of the school children from Room 5 at St Josephs School, Stratford. (See below). These kids are following my progress on Everest which is very cool. I look forward to visiting them in Stratford when I am back there after Everest.
I receive an SMS from David Lim on my Sat phone. He asks what my schedule for acclimatisation is so he can check it. It makes me think of what I am doing. Am I being responsible and making the correct decisions on my acclimatisation? Or am I am just following the the rest? After last years near disaster with H.A.P.E I know I need to be very careful.
I have pushed myself hard to get here to ABC. Tomorrow the wind speed looks low enough to attempt to get to the North Col. I decide right then I will spend two more nights here, make an attempt to get higher to the Col then whatever happens the following day I will retreat down to basecamp to recover, regardless. As soon as I make the decision I feel better. Back in ABC, I discuss with Phil my plans. Phil is a very good communicator and easy to talk with about things. He tells me he is fine with my idea.
Day 6 Day trip to North Col
Finally a day of action! The day is windy. The night was windy. I get out of the tent to the scene of other expedition tents having been destroyed by the wind in the night. The Sherpa team have done a great job of setting up our camp which is still standing strong.
I dress in climbing boots, pack my crampons and ice-axe, 2 litres of water and some snacks and head off first of the group up towards the North Col. I am determined to push hard today to get as high as possible as I know I am going down tomorrow. I walk slowly with my music in my ears and my buff pulled protectively over my ears and mouth to shield me from the wind. After one hour I reach crampon point, so named as the first point of the climb where you start to wear crampons as the nature of the terrain changes from rock to snow and ice.
Phil passes me going strongly and Ian soon after also passes me. I put on my new crampons, and am really impressed with how easy it is with the new strapping system. My old crampons which I used for the last 12 years caused me problems at 8300m last year with their cumbersome strapping system.
I plod for another one hour across the snowy plateau to the base of the North Col and the start of the fixed ropes. The North Col is around 400m vertical of snow and ice, leading to the North Ridge. At 3000m lower this climb would be a fun solo, or a pitched climb on a rope of two with a mate. Here at 6600m elevation, it is more of a grunt as you jumar up fixed rope, fighting for breath and energy after each movement.
I take a seat next to the base of the fixed rope next to a loan climber. We start to talk. As we talk I attempt to put on my new harness. Its windy and my hands are cold. My old harness which I used for over 10 years is a faithful friend. I can lie down in the dark in a tent with freezing hands and put it on without even looking. My new harness has got me all confused. Maybe its the altitude. It takes me several minutes of getting tangles up in my crampons, getting it around the wrong way before I finally admit defeat and sit there staring at the jumbled mess between my feet. Its impossible. It can’t go on. Its not designed correctly. Maybe this is a good excuse to give up and go back to ABC? Then I spot two small buckles which need to be undone to easily slip it on. I feel a little embarressed at this pathetic display.
The other climber introduces himself. His name is David from Hungary. I immediately know who he is. His basecamp manager emailed me a few months ago about their expedition. I did some research into them and found that David and his teammate were involved in an ice-fall on the North Col in 2010. David’s teammate was killed. David was injured. I wondered how David felt about preparing now to climb back up the North Col the route that killed his friend two years back.
David set-off first climbing. I decided to climb behind him. He is attempting Everest without oxygen this year. It felt great to be climbing something finally instead of walking around like a trekker. The first pitch had some blue ice. I soon got into a ryhthm, slide the jumar, pull myself up, step up each leg. Slide, pull, step, step. David was making a load carry to the Col, with a tent etc. I was carrying very little so I soon past him.
The wind became stronger as I climbed higher. As this was my first time to these altitudes and I was acclimatising it was brutally hard work. Slowly I climbed by myself, higher and higher up the fixed ropes. The higher I climbed the longer I rested between each step. After 4 hours from leaving basecamp I had almost reached the top of the snow ramp just under the North Col camp site. The wind was barrelling in and freezing my hands. Climbing at altitude is brutal enough to deal with the lack of oxygen alone. If you add in high force, freezing winds then it becomes much more of a struggle. Each gust freezes your extremities, makes breathing the raw cold air very painful and seems to suck the energy from your body.
Looking down between my legs I saw some of my team mates turning back and heading back down the Col. I later found out this was due to the cold. Reaching the snow ramp I was feeling very tired and my hands were freezing. I now had about a 50m low angled traverse to get to a ladder which leads steeply 20m upto the North Col itself. I took it 5 steps at a time. Stopping for 2 or 3 minutes after each 5 steps to pant, bend down and shelter my face from the wind, massage my freezing hands and recover enough energy to continue. It was not pretty, or fast but I finally made it to the base of the ladder to see my teammate Ian descending. He also looked beaten up. I used the last of energy getting up that thing he gasped to me. We sat there for a minute or two. would you mind taking a photo of me climbing the ladder I asked? sure but you will have to be quick, I am too cold and need to get down he replied. Fuck it I thought. I have photo’s from last year climbing this thing. We wished each other a safe trip back down the Col and he set off down.
As I sat there I wondered if I should climb the final 20 or 30m to the Col or try and warm my hands and make a Satellite phone update to my blog. The mountain made the decision for me, and the winds seems to suddenly drop off. I worked on my hands to get some warmth back into them then pulled out the satellite phone and made an audio post. Not sure if it worked or not I also called David Lim who seemed surprised to get a call from the North Col of Everest, then also called Stephanie to say hello. It seemed bizarre to speak to someone in a warm safe environment at sea-level while sitting at 7000m in freezing winds on the North Col.
The wind did not let up for long. After half a snickers bar and some mouthfuls of water I set-off back down the Col. Reminding myself to be careful on the descent. I abseiled the steeper sections and for some less steep parts in the centre I arm-wrapped the descent. Arm-wrap is where you face forward down hill and wrap the rope around your arm to act as a brake. This is a fast way of getting down but you need to be careful to stay in control.
It took me just under one hour to get down. I was very tired when I reached the bottom. The combination of the new altitude and the freezing winds had taken it out of me. I felt more tired after 6 7 hours of climbing the North Col here at 7000m than I did after a marathon 29 hour day climbing the West Ridge of Malte Brun in New Zealand in February at only 3000m elevation.
As I crossed the plateau back to crampon point the wind upped its intensity. Breathing hurt, the air felt so cold. I stopped and took a short video (see below). I tripped on my crampons twice and fell over forward. This only happens when I get tired. I was quite relieved to reach crampon point which offered a little shelter and take off the metal spikes from my feet.
From crampon point the trail is on mixed terrain down to ABC. Most of the trail is rocky moraine, with some icy and snowy patches. Coming across one icy patch I contemplated getting my axe off my pack. Bugger it I thought too tired. After two steps, bang, I slipped straight over on my back. I lay there for a minute feeling winded and tired and looked up at the clouds rolling past. How nice it would be to have a quick sleep here I thought. Struggling to my feet I took two more steps down and bang, I was flat on my back again. I am glad no one saw this I thought to myself. How to climb Mt Everest if I can’t even negotiate a small icy patch on the trail?
Hahaha Grant Rawlinson, we saw that, both times I heard a voice shout out. Jamie McGuiness came wandering around the trail and had witnessed the event. He came over and helped me up and untie my camera strap which had caught around my jacket in the falls. We had a quick chat.
20 minutes later I was down in Advanced basecamp, and was greeted by Phil with a mug of steaming milk tea. What heaven.
I was tired but very happy. I feel like a mountaineer again.
Day 7 A.B.C to Basecamp
Another windy night. I feel at times the wind is going to pick up the tent and blow it away. With me in it. Even though I am tired I don’t sleep well. The roar of the gusts of wind coming, the shaking of the tent. It sometimes feels like I am in a washing machine.
We all leave soon after breakfast. I walk with Margaret and her Sherpa named Cheddar. My legs feel a little tired on the walk down. I remind myself I just climbed a 7000m peak yesterday. It takes over 5 hours to get down to basecamp. We get hammered by the wind as we come down the miracle highway. At one point it almost blows me off my feet. Wind, wind, wind, why is there so much wind? cries Margaret. I am beginnnig to hate the miracle highway.
We reach basecamp around 3pm. Each 100m we descend the oxygen feels richer, my thoughts become clearer and more positive, the temperature seems warmer and breathing becomes a little easier. Coming back to basecamp is like re-entering Shangri-La. The ground is flat, we have a large spacious dining tent, nice food. We even have some beer and wine.
That night I get into my tent after dinner and the wind is still rattling the fabric. For some reason it really pisses me off. Why won’t the wind just ease up for awhile? I can hardly sleep at all that night.
The next day is a nice rest day at basecamp. Phil as usual, explains and discusses possible summit strategies amongst us. He has much experience on the North side of Everest. But he was not here last year when I was. Phil’s memories of Everest from the North side are of potentially long summit windows, and possible earlier summit’s that the South side. He sometimes makes the North side sound friendly.
My memories from last year of the North side are of a mountain that hated me. Of Pulmonary Edema and tooth abscesses. Of huddling into the exit cracks at 8350m at midnight on the 26th May, with my eyes closed against the huge wind gusts, screaming painful insults into my oxygen mask as my fingers froze.
I will post some more photo’s of the climbing route up the north col tomorrow.
Bye for now from a windy basecamp in Tibet.
April 25th update – Tooling around at ABC
( by SMS vis David)
My plan is to spend one more day here at ABC and then wander back for a rest before the 2nd cycle. On the 26th, we’ll wander up part of the way towards North Col ( 7000m) and then bomb back to basecamp – long walk – but all downhill.. Still popping ibuprofen and drinking like a fish. – Which tells me my body is acclimatising. Hope all is well in Singapore.
Apr 23 Update from ABC
( by SMS to David Lim)
Today has been a rest day here at ABC. Reading Hillary Clinton’s book. ripped it in half to share with Margaret. People can’t sleep well owing to the jump in altitude. Windy.. Some sherpas are resting too – even they suffer from headaches. 2nd death reported from the south side. There may be more deaths. Pretty crowded over there.
April 22 update – Advance basecamp reached!
( via SMS to David Lim)
Arrived at ABC in 6 hours today – completely knackered (David;s note: ABC is at 6500m, and a 21km hike from basecamp; and about 10 km from IC). Been resting in my tent popping ibuprofen for my nice headcahe. Pee bottle is frozen. It’s cold. Hope to feel better tomorrow after some rest. Resting pulse is 80. I am slow at acclimatising over 6000m. The fixed roped from the bottom of North Col have been fixed to 7900m ( David’s note: This is just above C3; and at the top of the north ridge. From here, the route swing northeast onto the broad slopes heading to the 8300m summit camp)
Next few days look windy up high..
April 21 – 1st round acclimatising
After a very windy Puja ceremony, the weather decided to change these last two days at basecamp. The wind disappeared completely and we have been baking here at basecamp. It was 35 degrees C inside the dining tent during lunch today. 25 degrees C outside the tent in the sunshine and when the sun goes down at the end of the day it drops to minus 15 degrees C.
Yesterday 46 or 47 Yaks turned up at basecamp here, accompanied by their very hard looking herders. After much weighing of loads, discussion and negotiation they took 1.8 tonnes of our equipment for the two day trek up to Advanced basecamp. This is 17km of horizontal distance (according to my GPS measurements last year) and around 1200m of height gain. Advanced basecamp being around 6400m elevation.
In days gone by, high altitude theft of equipment was a real issue on the North Side of Everest. Fortunately this problem became less and less over the years as the nature of the climbing teams who visited the North Side changed. However yesterday it was interesting to note the presence of a particular climber in basecamp who has built a reputation over the years for taking other teams equipment. As well as the ethical issue of stealing, taking other teams equipment from high camps has life threatening consequences. Oxygen, tents and food are literally the difference between life and death up high. Judging by the seriousness of how the Sherpa’s in certain teams especially where taking the presence of this particular climber, I would not like to be in his shoes if he does get caught taking anything this year. I guess at the end of the day it is his decision.
I have done one more round of basecamp and meeting with the teams I missed the other day. There is a rumor that one more team may be coming in, but I can’t find any confirmed information about who they are and if they even exist yet. Bill Burke may be turning up later in the season also after his attempt to summit from the south side but he is not here now so I am not counting him. I can fairly confidently say that the numbers here now for the summit are as follows:
Climbers for summit: 109
Sherpa’s/Tibetans for summit: 101
We leave for our first acclimatisation cycle today. We will be gone for 5 8 days depending on many factors e.g. weather and how people are feeling with the altitude. I won’t have a connection that I am aware of to update my blog during this time except for voice dispatches which I will make by Satellite phone. I am hoping that this cycle goes more smoothly than the last years first cycle when I ended up with H.A.P.E at Advanced Base Camp and had a struggle getting down.
Below is a team photo taken at basecamp just before the yaks and the Sherpa’s departed for higher up the mountain.
Back row left to right: Gelje, Tashi Chusung, Da Pasang Sherpa, Pasang Ongcho Sherpa, Pasang Nima Sherpa, Pemba Ngtar Sherpa, Ang Gelu Sherpa, Dorjee Sherpa, Chhedar Sherpa, Kami Neru Sherpa, Chhongba Nurbu Sherpa, Ngima Neru Sherpa, Tenzing, Tashi. Front row left to right: Phil Crampton, Luidmila Mikhanovskaia, Margaret Watroba, Ian Cartwright, Grant Rawlinson, Mark Dickson, Mark Horrell.</p>
20th April – Note from David Lim – Acclimatisation Cycles
While you are waiting for Grunto’s next update; news just in that a veteran sherpa has collapsed and died at basecamp ( south side) is sobering that altitude sickness can strike anyone. Grunto’s next acclimatisation cycle will probably involve them making a trudge up the moraine to the camp know as Intermediate Camp – usually around 5900m, a dreadful kind of place with lots of yak shit everywhere – but essential as a stop gap prior to push to Advance Basecamp at 6500m – one of the few places on Earth you can actually trek up that high witout climbing gear. A cycle can take a few days, letting the body adjust. This is NOT his schedule, but a first cycle could be to go to Intermediate Camp, overnight there, and return; or push up someway to Advance Basecamp. Onthe 2nd cycle, a night at IC, then a push to ABC for a night or two there. On the 3rd cycle, to ABC, skipping IC altogether, then a few days at ABC involving a foray up to North Col ( 7000m). The 4th cycle is often the summit push
19th April – Video post of the windy Puja
Attached below is a 2 minute video of the wind on Everest yesterday and our Puja ceremony. The Puja went very well and was enjoyed immensely by the whole team. It is very important, especially for the Sherpa’s, that the ceremony goes smoothly and fun is had by all. As you will tell from the end of this video, I definitely enjoyed myself. Shortly after standing on my head and drinking glasses of Rakshi (rice wine), I retired to my tent for a very long sleep. Approximately 15 hours. Enough said.
A short update from the North side rope fixing team, who have fixed ropes upto 7700m (Camp 2). It looks like the jet stream will be pounding the mountain for the next three days however. We plan to leave Saturday 21st for our first acclimatization cycle up the mountain.
April 17th – Location of basecamps and number of climbers on the North Side of Everest
I have spent the last last two days visiting the other team’s here at basecamp. I have made an audit of the number of each team’s climbing members. I also climbed the moraine wall to take a panorama photograph and marked the positions of each basecamp on the image below.
The information I have gained below is from asking members from each expedition. Where possible I tried to speak to the leader, when not available I spoke to whoever was available. The information below is as accurate as possible given the circumstances.
For the audit of climbers, I count climbers and their guides together in one count, and Sherpa/Tibetan’s going for summit in a separate count for each team. I have not counted cooks or other support staff for teams.
I apologise in advance if I have got any numbers wrong. If I have and you have more upto date information please email me (email@example.com) or post a comment on this post and I will update it as we progress to get things more accurate. At the end of the season I hope to get the number of successful summiter’s and can thus calculate an exact percentage success rate.
As time goes on team members will drop out due to injury and sickness, however I am not sure I can accurately track that.
I will update this post as I get more information.
TOTAL CLIMBERS KNOWN AS AT: June 15th, 2012
Total number of clients attempting summit: 118
Total number of Sherpa/Tibetan attempting summit: 114
Key (see number in red on the photograph)
1. Entrance to basecamp.
Site of Chinese Army security point. No one without valid climbing or trekking permits is allowed past here.
2. Site of Mallory and Irvine Memorial (see photo below). Also the basecamp of an expedition called ‘Rolwaling Excursion’ .
The team did not look to have arrived when I visited however the Tibetan crew told me there was 7 climbers for the summit??
NUMBER OF CLIMBERS FOR SUMMIT = 4
NUMBER SHERPA FOR SUMMIT = 4
3. Location of stone toilet.
This is built on a large mound which is also the best spot to pick up the reception signal for those people using CHINA MOBILE service. CHINA MOBILE can be picked up all over basecamp but reception is fickle and drifts in and out. From the top of this mound I found the most reliable spot.
4. Mountain Monarch basecamp A 6 person Albanian team (including a father and son) with supporting Sherpa’s
NUMBER OF CLIMBERS FOR SUMMIT = 6
NUMBER SHERPA FOR SUMMIT = 6
5. Arun Trekking basecamp run by very friendly Lhakpa Rangdu Sherpa. They have two clients, a Russian and a French gentlemen.
NUMBER OF CLIMBERS FOR SUMMIT = 2
NUMBER SHERPA FOR SUMMIT = 4
6. Altitide Junkies basecamp. 7 climbers, 9 climbing Sherpa’s.
NUMBER OF CLIMBERS FOR SUMMIT = 7
NUMBER SHERPA FOR SUMMIT = 9
7. CTMA Chinese Tibetan Mountaineering Association rope fixing camp
NUMBER ROPE FIXERS FOR SUMMIT = 12
There is a Chinese team of climbers which I found it very difficult to get an accurate answer of the number of climbers as everytime I asked I got told a different number.
So I am making a best estimate here based on my research.
NUMBER OF CLIMBERS FOR SUMMIT = 5
NUMBER SHERPA FOR SUMMIT = 10
8. There are 3 expedition basecamps grouped closely around this rocky mound:
Adventure peaks working with Himalayan guides
4 x Swedish climbers and 4 x British climbers plus one Canadian guide.
NUMBER OF CLIMBERS FOR SUMMIT = 9
NUMBER SHERPA FOR SUMMIT = 4
NUMBER OF CLIMBERS FOR SUMMIT = 5
NUMBER SHERPA FOR SUMMIT = 4
Chinese Team from China Geographic University in Wuhan
NUMBER OF CLIMBERS FOR SUMMIT = 4
NUMBER TIBETAN/SHERPA FOR SUMMIT = 5
9. Project Himalaya basecamp
NUMBER OF CLIMBERS FOR SUMMIT = 2
NUMBER SHERPA FOR SUMMIT = 2
Andrew Lock is sharing basecamp with Project Himalaya but climbing solo without oxygen
NUMBER OF CLIMBERS FOR SUMMIT = 1
NUMBER SHERPA FOR SUMMIT = 0
10. 7-Summits Club and 7-Summits Adventure basecamp.
NUMBER OF CLIMBERS FOR SUMMIT = 25
NUMBER SHERPA FOR SUMMIT = approximately 18 (to be confirmed)
11.Indian Mountaineering and Skiing expedition basecamp
NUMBER OF CLIMBERS FOR SUMMIT = 15
NUMBER SHERPA FOR SUMMIT = 6
12. Kobler & Partner basecamp
NUMBER OF CLIMBERS FOR SUMMIT = 9
NUMBER SHERPA FOR SUMMIT = 11
13. Asian Trekking
NUMBER OF CLIMBERS FOR SUMMIT = 10
NUMBER SHERPA FOR SUMMIT = 7
14. Chinese expedition 2 Chinese climbers sponsored by a company with 15 Tibetan guides
NUMBER OF CLIMBERS FOR SUMMIT = 2
NUMBER TIBETAN SHERPA FOR SUMMIT = 4
15. Snout of the mighty Rongbuk Glacier
16. Turning point up the East Rongbuk glacier which teams take on the way to Advanced basecamp
17. Summit of Mt Everest
18. Monterossa expedition basecamp Spain/German/Italian/Poland and Ecuador climbers
NUMBER OF CLIMBERS FOR SUMMIT = 8
NUMBER TIBETAN SHERPA FOR SUMMIT = 4
19. Cho Oyu Trekking – Polish team – no permanent basecamp. Arrived later in season, for apparently 20+ days only on the mountain. One climber reported sick with AMS and returned to Kathmandu early on.
NUMBER OF CLIMBERS FOR SUMMIT = 4
NUMBER TIBETAN SHERPA FOR SUMMIT = 3
The image below is copyright to Grant Rawlinson.
CLICK THE PHOTO TO ENLARGE
Interview with Jayden Strickland – Taranaki Rescue Helicopter Trust
Those of you following my blog for sometime, will know of my sister Debra Avery’s car accident on 24th February 2012. Debra was severely injured and after some great work by local ambulance, fire crews and bystanders, was extricated from her vehicle and flown to hospital by the Taranaki Rescue Helicopter Service. Debra is currently on the long slow road to recovery. You can read more about her accident in my previous blog titled ‘Why do bad things happen to good people’.
Debra’s accident and subsequent rescue prompted me to work with the Taranaki Rescue Helicopter Trust during my climb on Everest in 2012. I am very proud to be working with the TRHT. To date we have raised $3,900 for the trust. I am very thankful to those people who have donated from all over the world to-date. As I have mentioned previously regarding donations, please do not feel pressured to donate money at this point. I encourage readers to follow my progress on Everest, tell your friends about it and enjoy the entertainment from the comfort of your homes. I try my best while working in the confines of an extreme environment, to bring you along with me on my journey through regular blogs, video’s and voice dispatches. I do not know if I will make the summit of Everest this year. After my attempt last year the extreme cold, horrific wind and the threat of altitude sickness make me very scared. No man or woman can conquer Mt Everest. We can only be lucky enough to sneak up to her summit and down again safely, on those handful of days per year when she lets us. At the end of the climb, what ever happens, I hope you will have enjoyed following the journey, and if so may be inclined to make a donation.
Behind every highly professional organisation there are great people working. I have had the pleasure of working closely with Michelle Zehnder and Jayden Strickland from TRHT. I am very thankful for both of them for agreeing to work with me with so little time before my climb. Jayden is the Chief Crewman for the TRHT and attended Debra’s accident scene onboard the rescue helicopter. I thought it would be nice to hear the ‘inside story’ of what the TRHT is all about. Jayden kindly agreed to an interview which you can read below.
Hello Jayden. You are a member of the TRHT. Can you explain your role with the TRHT, and how you became involved?
I am the Chief Crewman for TRHT, I am responsible for the training and management of paid and volunteer aircrew/teams and the serviceability of the rescue equipment these people put there lives into i.e. rescue harnesses/stretchers etc. Our various teams consist of experienced ordinary citizens within the Marine, Alpine and Bush environments whom require continual training in the environments they may face. I became involved with TRHT in Jan 2011 after leaving the New Zealand Navy as a Petty Officer Helicopter Crewman and Instructor, which I served almost 11 years. I sought a change in my flying career from Military operations to rescue work and since leaving the forces I have never looked back.
What kind of training are crewman required to go through?
Helicopter Crewman are required to meet a high standard of Airmanship to perform Emergency Medical duties onboard a rescue helicopter. My previous training with the Royal New Zealand Air Force and Navy had me well placed for the role on a civilian rescue helicopter.
I portray to people, a Helicopter Crewman in the flying environment is the eyes through his or her mouth to the pilot, as in most cases the danger area for a helicopter is most likely behind or underneath the aircraft out of the pilots visual range, and this needs to be relayed to the pilot by a crewman before an incident happens.
Therefore Helicopter Crewman are to have a high standard of “situational awareness”, mathematics, distance judging, be a team player, leadership towards direction and commanding, map reading, radio communications operations, meteorological understanding, ability to multitask, calling as you see it and preempting judgement calls (in the case of winch rescues), maturity and common sense. These are all tested through a vigorous conversion to type instruction by a qualified instructor. Once all the ticks are in the boxes you are then allowed to spread your wings to fly as a member onboard a rescue helicopter.
Can you give us a run down on the services the TRHT performs?
Taranaki Rescue Helicopter Trust offers a versatile range of services to our community (and outer Regions). Taranaki, New Zealand can experience some harsh weather and environmental conditions coupled with great outdoor and sporting activities, we have sea, bush, alpine and main highways surrounding us (more local details here http://www.taranaki.co.nz). The need for a well equipped, multi role helicopter is essential to carry out our tasks.
Taranaki Rescue Helicopter Trust owns a Agusta Westland 109 Power helicopter capable of carrying out the below tasks:
Search and rescue platform, i.e. we will be tasked to search for missing or injured persons in land and sea environments. We are equipped with a 600lb (272kg) rescue hoist, beacon tracking equipment, multiple radios to communicate with other emergency services and ground search teams. We have experienced volunteers trained in the Maritime and Alpine conditions.
Rapid response, to and from accident and medical incidents. Taranaki has been known as “Tiger Country”, this means our patients are often found in remote areas inaccessible by road ambulances or so remote the patient could face a long journey back to hospital for treatment. The aircraft can reach the entire Taranaki region within 30 minutes!
Inter-Hospital transfers, patients who require urgent surgery in specialist hospitals are flown by the Taranaki Rescue Helicopter as we can deliver a “door to door” service. Enabling our patients to get their specialist care in the quickest possible time.
Police assistance, the Rescue Helicopter can quickly role into a Police deployment platform delivering members of the Armed Offenders Squad to safe points near the incident.
On average TRHT performs around 200-300 missions per year. Flying around 350 hours per year at a cost of $3000NZD per hour!
On Feb 24th 2012 you were a crew member on board who attended the rescue of my sister’s (Debra Avery) car accident. Can you give us a run through of the rescue?
I remember the day clearly, we were in the office at the time and I heard the call on the Ambulance radio (not a response call for helicopter to go). The call came through as a two car MVA (Motor Vehicle Accident) persons trapped and a mention of injuries. The location Toko (East of Stratford, Taranaki) and instantly knowing the location we knew it would be vital for the services of the Rescue Helicopter to attend. The aircraft is always on the heliport apron in a standby status, equipment ready, fuel topped up. So all is required is for aircrew and medical staff to board start up and get airborne.
In a short amount of time we knew Ambulance communications were assessing the appropriate resources to utilise and mobilize for the best care of the injured, our pagers were then activated to respond. The flight time to Debra’s location would be 12 minutes by air.
In this flight time the crew are navigating to the scene via real time road maps and gps waypoints. The aircraft utilises a combination of on board gps Garmin 500 and 296, and a Panasonic Tough book with Topographic mapping and a Bluetooth live gps feed. The crewman is in constant communication with Ambulance, Police and Fire communications to paint a picture of what is happening on the ground and statuses of the patients. On locating at the scene we are assessing a suitable landing spot for the helicopter to avoid traffic, livestock and power lines and other hazards. In this incident we were graced by the knowledge of Toko volunteer fire brigade on the best landing site already setup and marshaled. They had cut a pathway through the No8 wired fence leading towards Debra’s vehicle. Who at the time of our arrival was being extricated from the vehicle.
The scene a silver two door flat deck ute with damage to the front right hand side, resting on the right hand verge of the road. Another vehicle (Debra’s) a green unrecognisable Mazda Familia (identified by a number plate search) 4 door sedan perched precariously down a bank. Severe frontal damage sustained, secured by a strop to prevent further movement down the bank whilst emergency services work to release Debra. Cutting equipment was required to release Debra from her vehicle and enable St John staff to assess her full extent of injuries.
Debra was carried by the volunteer fire fighters to the rescue helicopters crew and paramedics position at a safe point in the middle of the road. From there St John paramedics and helicopter staff worked frantically to stabilise Debra, administer required pain relief and prepare for transportation to Taranaki Base Hospital.
On loading Debra into the aircraft there is a slight moment of relief from emergency workers at the scene, they had done their job well and now it is up to the St John paramedic and us the flight crew to delivery Debra to Taranaki Base Hospital for controlled emergency care.
On arrival at the Taranaki Rescue Helicopter’s heliport Debra was transferred to a waiting Ambulance to transport her into Emergency Department.
What were your initial thoughts when you saw Debra’s condition at the accident scene?
My initial thoughts when I saw Debra’s injuries were of the severe pain she must be in and how could anyone survive this. Our thoughts are with the patient and doing our best to get them to hospital as fast and safely as we can.
Where does the funding come from to operate the Taranaki Rescue Helicopter Trust?
Funding is crucial to Taranaki Rescue Helicopter Trust. The Rescue Trust relies heavily on community funding through sponsorships, fundraising events and telemarketing. Our operational costs exceed $1.5 million dollars per year. We source around 29% of our funding from the New Zealand Government and the remainder 71% is obtained through community appeals.
Any fund raising initiatives or donations are welcome from groups, individuals, corporates as every dollar raised provides Taranaki (and outer Communities) with a free air medical service.
How do you enjoy working for the TRHT?
To be truthful the job certainly has its “ups and downs” (no pun intended!). Taranaki Rescue Helicopter offers a vast range of jobs and the saying “every day is never the same” is well and true. Successful missions much like this one of Debra’s makes it all worth while.
What’s the most difficult rescues to perform?
Every rescue has its varying degree of difficulty. What maybe a piece of cake one day maybe influenced by changing weather conditions, obstructions, lighting conditions, hazards the next. It is perceived in the rescue industry winch recoveries to be the most difficult or dangerous as they tend to be conducted in the worst environments where patients or survivors require immediate evacuation.
How do you handle dealing with working in such a highly stressful environment where you are involved daily with extreme cases of human suffering?
For me whilst in a situation its remaining calm, taking steps methodically, putting in practice my training received and on job experience. Afterwards it pays to talk about your experience with your work colleagues who may have been in the same or similar situation. We have great support network between St John paramedics, Surf Life Saving and TRHT teams..
What does your family think about you working in a dangerous vocation such as this?
My partner Bex supports my career choice, I’m sure there is an element of worry as I rush out the door in the middle of the night to respond to a job. But our processes here at Taranaki Rescue Helicopter Trust are robust and safe. Safety of crews and patients are high priority.
Jayden, thanks for taking the time out for this interview and to you, Michelle and all of the staff at the TRHT, keep up the good work!
For more info on TRHT please visit: http://trht.org.nz/
Donations can be made on-line by following the link on the left hand side of my blog or visit the ‘Community Tab’.
Photo below is of Jayden Strickland, beside the Rescue Helicopter.
April 14th – Video post from Everest Base Camp
We we have safely arrived here at Everest basecamp, 5200m elevation on the tongue of the mighty Rongbuk glacier. It is windy as usual and the summit of Everest is covered in cloud and looking exceptionally windy. We have had a busy day setting up tents and organising the camp, but it has come together very nicely and I am very inmpressed with the organisation of the Altitude Junkies team.
Attached is a short video post, 60 seconds only but it gives you an idea of where we are. I am a little hazy in the thinking department as it was a jump from 4400m upto 5200m today. Hence I mistakenly mentioned the date was 24th April instead of 14th April in my post!
Click the following link to watch the video on YOUTUBE.
Over and out from Everest basecamp in Tibet!