5 May. Return to Base Camp from acclimatisation rotation.
Firstly, despite the best of intentions it is very difficult to get information out there as the internet service is poor at the best of times, and very expensive for what we are getting. But we fight hard on this. We have just spent 6 nights on the Everest summit route (our location continually is being tracked on
Today is Thursday I believe, according to my iPad anyway.
The Khumbu Icefall is the first major obstacle. This involves a raise in altitude of about 750metres over about 5 kilometres. The icefall would be a very spectacular if it was a waterfall but as it is constantly flowing ice is a mess of broken up ice blocks, consistently slowly moving down the steep valley. The past years have shown many expeditions choosing to acclimatise on other peaks to reduce the hazard of the icefall, as did we by summiting Loboche Peak some days ago. We still need to pass through the icefall 6 times ( or 5 if you have a paraglider- hopefully). At each pass of the icefall conditions were different due to the movement of the ice and the ladders we crossed on the training climb had been moved or disappeared. (check out Joes handiwork on the link below)
Our first attempt was more a training exercise predominately for ladder crossings, which are numerous. Early starts are advisable as the ice has a tendency to become more unstable in the heat of the afternoon.
Friday 29th April at 3am, yes, 3 in the morning, we unwillingly crawled out of our sleeping bags, had an egg and toast, with a hot cuppa tea, then headed to camp 1, (6050m) just above the ice fall, arriving there in the afternoon completely bugger… (sorry). Anyway, at least we made it safe and sound. Vertical stretches up the biggest ice blocks you’ll ever see, combined with ladders tied together horizontally over cavernous cravesses (keep your focus on the rungs and where you place your crampon points, not the drop below).
The following day, Saturday 30 April , up at a more reasonable hour, 5am I think, we headed for camp 2 at 6450 metres, after a bit of muesli with hot milk, thanks to Lobsang, our chief guide (breakfast in bed at 6000 metres). A long slow uphill grind, no real climbing, just slogging it out and arriving for lunch. We leave quite early to avoid the unrelenting heat of the sun, yep during the night it might get down to - 20, but the heat of midday can be intolerable. Camp 2 is at 6450metres and most expeditions use this as an advance base camp. Our camp included a cooks tent, with a cook, a meal tent and a loo. Smaller dome tents for accommodation placed in a manufactured flattish spot amongst the rocks. Incidentally, most helicopters altitude limit is around camp 2.
Camp 2 on the Western Cwm with C3 out of sight up the mountain top of photo
A rest day followed which was welcomed by all the team. Drinking copious amounts of water (funny how hot water tastes ok up here) and the odd cup of black tea just to break it up, sometimes hot chocolate with powdered milk and a ginger bikky- that’s a treat. Reminder to me, when we leave for the summit push in a weeks time or so, have heaps of mars bars or similar easy eating food, - eating anything is difficult at these altitudes but without food the muscles get to a point that they tell the brain “you do it, I’ve had enough”. You just have to force down the food or the body stops.
The next day (Monday 2nd) we advanced our acclimatisation to 6800m with a trek further up the Western Cwm (yep - that’s really a word for the area of snow valley that feeds the upper part of a glacier). It’s also moderately steep grade with the odd cravass to jump, and as you get closer to the valley head, we stopped for a rest, just as ropes were needed to continue, but that was enough for today.
At the top of the Western Cwm
Another rest day. Tuesday 3rd. Living at high altitude is difficult, you eat because you have to, sitting around is a pleasure but still the time rapidly marches on, unless it’s night time when, because sleep is a luxury the nights take forever (my experience anyway).
The following day (Wednesday 4th) was another acclimatisation day to camp 3 at 7200 m, the maximum we are planning to reach. This is because at C 4 we will be assisted with oxygen. C4 is at 8000m ( the summit being at 8848m give or take what rock you wish to rest on).
This was hectic to put it mildly with vertical sections, steep grades requiring rope ascenders for 100’s of metres. Lots of ice requiring careful crampon placement. C3 is positioned on a steep slope and really is only a short term sleepover on the way to C4. We returned to C2 just around lunch, yep, for rest in preparation for an early start back to base camp the next day.
Look at this ice bridge in the icefall
Leaving at 6am to beat the sun (somewhat), on Thursday 5 th May, we had, what I found a leisurely trek down the western cwm, past the location of C1, into the icefall and out the other side to base camp in time for lunch. More ladder crossings, abseiling, steep ice lock descents with an awesome day of clear skies and little wind. Probably the best day I have had however the odd creaking of ice reminders that we are not in a place we should linger for long.
Back in BC it’s time for a few days to recover, plenty of good food and hopefully good sleep while we await the summit push. We require about 7 days of good weather, but the forecast is pleasing at present - no control over that though.
Thanks for all the well wishes everywhere. We are just getting started at the very serious stuff. More to come as the end of the story draws closer - how will it end, that’s the adventure I suppose
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A final word from a person I am very proud to call a friend, Gary Newton. “You are doing this for us”. Rest assured Gary. We are doing it for you