My apologies for taking so long to update my site with the first blog of my Mount Everest 2011 expedition. Instead of blogging about everything that happens on the mountain like last year I had wanted to wait till I had some interesting news for you all to read. However, after receiving many emails enquiring about how the expedition has been going I have decided to bow to pressure and update you via this site as often as possible with the progress of myself and our team.
01/05/2011: A quick note on developments since arriving at Base Camp (BC)
On the 15th of April we all arrived in a convoy of jeeps to Everest BC, North. Our Sherpas and catering staff had travelled a couple of days ahead of us to get the foundations of base camp set up and ready for our arrival. On arrival it didn’t take long for people to settle into their tents, for the previous 10 days we had been sleeping in sleeping bags while acclimatising in Nepal so adapting to life at BC was made significantly easier.
Having pre-acclimatised in Nepal before travelling through Tibet and up to BC North, the majority of the team were looking very strong and healthy,. All had been able to avoid the common ailments associated with travelling through Nylam, Zangmu and Tingri where levels of hygiene are significantly lower than that on the trail in Nepal. The benefit of the time we spent acclimatising in Nepal therefore cannot be underestimated and a real difference can be seen between the health of people this year compared to last, where a number of people were already suffering upon arrival at BC.
For the first 5 days at BC we followed a very relaxed schedule which allowed team members to acclimatise on the surrounding hills at their own pace. It was left very open for individuals to decide when and how they wanted to reach the recommended 6000m mark before moving up to Advanced BC (a recommended prerequisite before moving up to interim base camp then on to ABC). A lot of different approaches were therefore adopted depending on how individuals were feeling and what they felt their bodies could handle. This relaxed approach worked very well with all bar one of the team reaching the recommended 6000m mark.
After we received our first weather report the decision was made to move up to ABC, stopping at interim base camp on the way in order to aid in our acclimatisation. The walk up to ABC is 20 kilometres,and is across boulders, scree and often knee high snow. There is also a gain in altitude of 1300m and for this reason interim camp is used the first time we travel up to ABC.
The majority of the team set off early after breakfast, full of enthusiasm, en-route to interim camp. For those of us who had experienced the delights of interim camp before (which are few and far between!) we chose to set off after lunch, hoping to spend as little time as possible there. Since interim camp is only used once or in emergencies, it is not equipped as thoroughly as BC or ABC. That combined with a bitter wind, funnelled furiously down the valley in which interim camp is situated in, makes for a rather uncomfortable night!
During the night there the snow started to fall. By the morning, and the time the majority of people were setting off up to ABC, the snow had actually started to thaw, allowing one to see a vague trail leading up to ABC. After a couple of hours of plodding over boulders and scree, we reached the East Rongbuk glacier which takes us the remainder of the way up to ABC. It is here the real push starts, as the gradient of the trail increases and one finds themselves pulling harder on their lungs for each breath.
Our Sherpa team once again lead the way up to ABC with a team of yaks, a couple of days ahead of us. This meant that on arriving at ABC the majority of the team were greeted with a hot cup of soup and a comfy mess tent to collapse into. Somehow though I managed to miss our camp (even though it was marked with red tape, and instead proceeded onwards and upwards towards to the top camps of the other teams at ABC. Whether it was because I was enjoying the walk so much (very doubtful!!!) or because I was plugged into my i-pod and distracted by the amazing tunes I downloaded before coming out I’m unsure. More than likely though it was because last year our ABC was right at the top of the slope and I automatically assumed it would be somewhere similar.
Unfortunately for me it was starting to chuck it down with snow pretty heavily again by this point, and my radio was shot so I could not contact anyone. It seemed inevitable that I would have to search all of the teams ABC camps in order to locate ours! Out of pure luck though, and not long after reaching the top of the many camps located at ABC, I bumped into one of my Sherpas from last year, Neru. He kindly offered me soup and food in his camp before directing me back down to where ours was located.
The next day at ABC was spent resting and recuperating, for the climb up to Camp 1 on top of the North Col the following day. There was an apprehension among certain members of the team, who wanted to get up the north col and back down to BC as quickly as possible. For while we were ahead of this year’s schedule by a couple of days, we were over a week behind last year’s. In the end though (as is often the case) the weather proved the deciding factor, for the skies opened up that night and laid such a large amount of snow both on ABC and the North Col that the risk of avalanche on the climb up to Camp 1 was so great that no one was able to leave ABC that day.
The snow continued throughout the second day at ABC and throughout the night, thankfully the snow fall was considerably lighter though which meant there was a possibility of climbing up to Camp 1 the next day. A decision was made by our Sherpa team shortly after breakfast on the third day that they would be load carrying up to Camp 1, and not long afterwards the majority of our team decided to move for Camp 1 as well. The climb from ABC to Camp 1 is on fixed lines, straight up the head wall of the North Col, though before one arrives at the head wall they must cross the East Rongbuk Glacier by following a trail of red flags to avoid the crevasse.
The climb up to Camp 1 from the foot of the head wall normally takes 5 hours on average. Though in seriously poor visibility and when snow is battering against your face, the climb can often take much longer. I will write a full report over the next couple of days about our climb up to Camp 1. though for now I’ll say that four of the team made the top and the majority of the others made the final ladder just below Camp 1.
Having been up to Camp 1 at 7000m last week and having completing stage one of our acclimatisation, myself and the team are currently back in BC resting. Weather permitting we hope to return to ABC tomorrow (02/05/11) to attempt stage two of our acclimatisation and climb to 7500m, then spend 3 nights at Camp 1.
I will endeavour to update you all on our progress daily from now on, signal permitting.