On the summit!

The summit bid - part 2!

 22/05/10 - 23/05/10 Camp 3 and the Summit!

At last the weather clears and it's more trekkers bars and handfuls of raisins for breakfast while we melt snow of dubious cleanliness for water. I've brought some effervescent vitamin C orange tablets to add to the water and they go absolutely crazy at this altitude, almost leaping out of our nalgene bottles as they fizz about like shaken champagne and disappear in about three seconds. This time we are climbing on oxygen and for some unknown reason my tank is already half empty limiting me to a flow of only 1.5 litres a minute. It's not much as most people are on 2.5-4ltr but the difference is incredible and it feels, if not like sea level, then perhaps like climbing at 6800m. The progress to Camp 3 is limited by the fact we are mostly trying to climb up a rocky slope in crampons (except John) but after a slow start we get there in under 5 hours which is great timing. On arrival at Camp 3 there's a bleached old sleeping bag by the path. Sad to say it contains the first of many bodies that line the route to the summit...more on this gruesome aspect later.

There's only one three man tent for the four of us but it's so bitterly cold we pile in and try and get some rest. For me it's not possible, despite a couple of bad nights sleep the summit is tantalisingly close. Actually it's not, the view is foreshortened, but it almost looks like you can touch it. I'm trying to think of a way of describing the view from Camp 3. Stunning, Amazing? these are just words and don't really do it justice. Luckily I took a short film which will hopefully at least partially do the job. Unfortunately this was the last time the video camera functioned, above Camp 3 it gave up in the face of the altitude and freezing cold (wish I'd known at the time). At around 8pm the first teams started to leave Camp 3 for the summit push. Natan Ji and Lhakpa wanted to go at the same time because it was their cousins with the first group, but we had discussed this with Anil down at ABC and he said we shouldn't leave before 9.30pm. Our later departure time was based on our speed and he was concerned we might arrive in the dark before dawn. Both John and I were keen to avoid this scenario as we wanted good views and those all important summit photos for sponsors (and so people would believe it if we actually made it). We swallowed as much food as we could and boiled up more snow for our vacuum flasks, the only way to carry water without it freezing within minutes. Then the Sherpas wisely started heating boots and gloves over the little gas stove. At just after 9.30pm we piled out of the tents and put on our crampons, packs, oxygen masks etc. I've already used words like freezing and bitterly cold so I'm running out of appropriate adjectives here (I told you my vocabulary wasn't up to it). However my watch read minus 20C which is the lowest it goes, I suspect it was a bit lower, but not much, and thankfully at that point there was little wind.

The path led slowly upwards and Natan Ji and I started to pull away from John and Lhakpa. However we soon caught up to some of those who had left earlier as our route ascended a rocky face towards the ridge. They were moving incredibly slowly and we started to get cold behind them. I asked if we could pass them but they either didn't understand or chose not to. John and Lhakpa caught us up and we made painfully slow progress upwards. They kept stopping, again and again holding everyone up and at one point the fella at the front simply sat down in the middle of the route blocking it so he could have a rest! I discovered at this point that having someone make your blood boil doesn't actually contribute to keeping you warm. Where the route widened we would pass people in the slow group, who I imagined glaring at us behind the beam of their head torch, until we were stuck behind the main offender. Perhaps I'm being harsh on the guy but there was a long queue of people behind him and Everest, especially the Death Zone, is not a place to linger and get cold, yet he refused to allow anyone to pass him. He was stuck on a tricky section being unable to gain purchase on the icy rock with his crampon. I reached up and held his foot in place for him allowing him climb up, but got no thanks. Natan Ji made a hand gesture towards him which I was surprised he knew, being a seemingly nice lad. We followed up and luckily the route hit a snow slope and finally Natan Ji and I were able to burn up it past him - we were free at last and though we would have chosen to wait for John and Lhakpa they were way back in the queue and we were so cold we wanted to get moving. We soon reached the top of the ridge and could see there were no headlamps between us and the final summit pyramid over a mile away, what a huge hold up! Unfortunately for those nearing the summit it looked inevitable they would reach it in the dark as I remember looking at my watch and it was 1.40am, perhaps by holding us up so long he had done us a favour.

The ridge is a strange place, a thin rocky scramble at around 8500m. In the dark its a cold, windy balancing act as you constantly clip into new ropes (ignoring lots of tattered old ones) and slide around on ice and rock in crampons trying not to think about the drop into the murky darkness below you. After what seemed like minutes but was actually a couple of hours (I was enjoying myself immensely) we reached the famous Second Step where so many early expeditions had been forced to turn back. Now there is ladder there which a Chinese team put in during the 1970's, and though it has been secured since then it's still a heart in the mouth climb as it wobbles below you. At one point I looked down and saw the unmistakable reflective strips from boots and a jacket on the rocks below the step, another body of a fallen climber - it really helped to focus my oxygen starved brain on the climb and making sure I was absolutely definitely clipped into the newest and most secure looking rope. At the top of the ladder there's a relatively tasty outcropping where you are nastily exposed and have to reach up into the unknown and swing a leg up and over. I think that move will be burned into my memory for a long time to come.

After the Second Step its a relatively easy, though still exposed, route to the summit pyramid (the First Step is no real obstacle). The wind had picked up and we waited for John and Lhakpa who had eventually freed themselves from the 8000m high traffic jam and they caught up with us after we stopped to swap oxygen cylinders. However it was too cold to hang around and they were happy for us to continue ahead. There was a slow brightening low in the sky to the east and soon, as we followed the stunning ridge, the view below us was revealed. I tried to film it but thats when I discovered the video camera was now just dead weight. We could see across the Tibetan Plateau for what seemed like thousands of miles and to the south lay Nepal with endless white topped peaks stretching away from us. There was also a thunderstorm in a valley to the south and we stood and watched the lightening glowing through the clouds from above, it was utterly breathtaking, and so cold. We carried on slowly edging towards the elusive peak and I started to really believe we were going to make it. At one point Natan Ji stopped and casually swung a leg up onto the snow as we chatted about the view back towards the Rongbuk Glacier and Base Camp. From my position I could easily see that he was resting his right leg and most of his weight on a cornice - an overhanging build up of snow. I could also see that this cornice was only about a foot thick and below it I knew was a 5000m, thats right a 5km, drop down into Nepal. I edged forward and gently pulled him back onto relatively solid rock.

At last we neared the summit pyramid and passed another body next to the path. It was an odd sight, like the person had simply decided to take a rest and had curled up against the cold for a nap. Sadly Natan Ji explained this was exactly what had happened. The fella had reached the summit and having worn himself out decided to take a short rest on the way down. Six years later he was still lying there frozen in time, his girlfriend had been waiting for him down at Base Camp. The bodies are a painful reminder of the fragility of human life up here. Even as I write this back down in ABC I haven't quite resolved the issue in my mind. The bodies are left strewn by the path, but who could or should be allowed to move them? By seeing them and then choosing to continue we are accepting the risks as they did and still choose to continue. I don't have the answers to the many questions they raise I'm afraid.

Onwards and upwards and we reached a steep rocky face. The rope went straight up over it and we were in for a decent bit of rock scrambling at last. By now there were only about four other places on the planet at the same altitude and here we were enjoying a bit of medium grade scrambling. A bit like the Lakes, only much, much, higher. The sun was edging closer and we topped out to see the final section before us. As we climbed the snowy slopes of the summit pyramid the sun burst onto our backs. The timing was, without doubt, absolutely perfect (thanks blood boiler). The ropes curled round to the right over a rocky stretch and we passed those who had already been to the top exchanging handshakes, well dones and good lucks. "Fantastic, Congratulations" said one as he passed me. "I havent made it yet" I replied, deeply terrified of jinxing it all when we were so close. The route then turned back onto icy snow, we went up over a false summit and there before us was a small mound of snow covered with prayer flags. We climbed up towards it and it was like being in a dream. Natan Ji beckoned me up first but I refused and insisted he went up ahead. He stepped up then knelt at the small shrine to pray before making way for me. I looked at my feet then took the final steps up onto the tiny patch which is the highest place in the world, I'd actually made it. I looked up and punched the air feeling a massive rush of adrenaline and emotion. I looked down at the sun and turned round slowly taking in the view, everything was below me and stretched away beautifully. Natan Ji beamed a huge grin and we hugged and slapped each others backs. A group of climbers emerged from the South Side and I made way for them on the tiny patch to enjoy the view. I could see all the way to our Base Camp, into the Khumbu Valley and the Nepal Base Camp, from there you can see everything. Huge mountains look like tiny hills. I took a quick sweep with my tiny camera on film mode then it too packed in, despite being carried snug and warm in my chest pocket. Oh F**K! (sorry Mum) no summit photos! The sun was up, there was barely a cloud to be seen and I was standing on the top of the world - I've never wanted to take a photo so badly in my life. Then Natan Ji produced a small, black, square object from his pocket. I could have kissed him. The south side group left the summit and we stepped up again. I took photos of Natan Ji and he did the same for me, then a friend of his came up from behind us and we took some for him too. One final look round as another group approached and I stepped down feeling an enormous outpouring of relief, we had made the summit and after three months away from home there was no more climbing upwards. I could descend, get back to Kathmandu for a shave and a shower and warm night in a proper bed. Then I could at last go home. I pulled the sat phone out of my pocket and dialled Jen, convinced it wouldn't work. "Hello? Ed? Is that you? Are you okay? Have you made it? Where are you?" "It's me Angel" I replied and then my voice broke with joy, relief and sheer, utter exhaustion (wuss, I know, but you try it) "I made it".

The summit bid - part 1


With the huge help of the fantastic team here, massive support from everyone back home and a hefty slice of luck with the weather, I am still stunned to be able to type the news that we were able to successfully summit Everest at around 6.00am on the 23rd of May! It was by far the most physically exhausting yet ultimately rewarding few days of my life. But enough of skipping to the good bit, if you've been subjecting yourself to my blog for this long I'm sure you can handle just a couple more days of build up from where we left off. I'm certain that I don't have the vocabulary or skill with words to do the experience justice, but I'll do my best (if I fall short in this email, I'll be happy to meet any of you for a pint to chat about it face to face).

20/05/10  Back to the North Col

Woke up early again to find a healthy fresh layer of snow on the ground. It's amazing how quickly the weather here changes and how intensely important it becomes to you. I was feeling both extremely excited about finally setting off and nervous about the challenge that lay ahead. The summit of Everest looms large over ABC and you can't help but stare up at it so many times watching the length and strength of the ice plume. More eggs for breakfast with chapattis and lashings of peanut butter and jam, all washed down with hot sweet tea and cans of coke held back especially. From now on we need to get serious with calories and cram as much as we can into our systems (I'm not complaining). We get kitted up, check and recheck everything then... well it's time to go, a couple of quick photos and Anil waves incense over us all and we chant and throw rice onto the glacier as a placating gift to the mountain gods. With that we are off and I start to mentally go through the contents of my pack, have I got everything? can I lose any weight? the walk to crampon point is fine and there are a few others who have settled on the same summit day as us so we chat with them about their plans and, inevitably, the weather. The climb up the North Col is tough with a full pack but we've been here before and like most of Everest its just about endurance, keep on going and after a few hours you'll make it. Camp 1 was pretty busy with several climbers and sherpas standing around looking at the state of the tents under a couple of feet of fresh snow. The wind had also picked up and one of the guys I had chatted to on the way up the face had arrived just in time to see his tent picked up by the wind and blown over the side of the mountain, seriously bad luck but as he was part of big team they were able to replace most of his lost gear. That night the wind was a constant howling presence and hardly a soul got any sleep.

21/05/10 Camp 2

Once the warming sun eventually arrives after hours of staring at the roof of the tent there's nothing for it but to get out of our sleeping bags, into our down suits and then begin the long process of melting ice for water. Later than intended we finally break camp and begin the long gruesome climb up the snow and ice slope to Camp 2 at 7800m. The weather remained windy and brought gusts of snow but so long as the summit date remained clear I was happy to deal with crappy conditions lower on the mountain. At first its relatively easy going but as you climb higher and the slope becomes steeper your pace really slows and breaths become gasps as you try and fill your lungs. The slope is a series of false summits and its mentally tough as well as physically draining. Just before the end of the snow slope and I was overtaken by climber using oxygen, then another, and another - it seems every year people begin to use oxygen lower and lower on the route. We weren't intending to use it until Camp 2 but some people were on it from just about the North Col and, if I'm honest, I was jealous at that point as I struggled upwards. At the end of the snow slope there is still a couple of hundred meters of altitude to gain as the path switches to horrible lose rock covered in scratches from years of crampon abuse. It's a horrible, knackering part of the route and as the camp is essentially a long line of tents on a thin ridge arriving doesn't necessarily mean you're done climbing. Our tents were close to the top of the camp which I had to tell myself would make the next day easier at least. As I said Camp 2 is a long line of tents and after decades of use it's a scattered with the debris of previous expeditions, that plus thick clouds, a cold wind and being shattered drove me into our tent. I think John, being pretty tall, struggled more than I did on the lose rock and I asked Lhakpa to go and take him some O2. After that John climbed the whole way without crampons! I tried to call Jen on the sat phone but we were cut off after about half a minute and I couldn't get back in touch, just hoped the message of our safe arrival was enough. That night we ate as much as we could from the previously dumped supplies. I ate numerous trekkers bars and choco pies, which are like wagon wheel chocolate bars but with more marshmallow. Over the course of the expedition I must have eaten nearly 30 of these I reckon much to John's amusement. He called them a deep south delicacy and said they had to be eaten with deep fried chicken. If I'd had any deep fried chicken I'd no doubt have eaten that too.


 Just before half past 8 this morning local Tibetan time, the boys stood on the top of Everest. Congratualtions lads, we are so very proud of you. They are under strict instructions to be extra careful on the descent. No doubt Ed will blog all about it very soon.....


 The boys inform us they are at camp 2. They are well and continuing to enjoy the expedition so far. Tomorrow should see them head for camp 3 in the morning, have a rest and then start their summit bid (all being well) tomorrow night.....watch this space......May we just comment, however, on the fact that Ed has informed me (it's Jen and his sister Katy updating the blog tonight, by the way, who are wine tasting this evening for an important upcoming Laughton family wedding in August - so we apologise in advance for this blog) that he has cooked for the boys in the last few days while they are high on the mountain. This is a man, who despite tackling the highest peak on earth, is yet to tackle the oven in his own home! 12 years and I have been cooked 2 whole meals - pizza and chips (very nice, Ed, good first effort) and extra special microwave meals for his proposal bid (it worked, so no major complaints there). However, I am looking forward to experiencing his newly found culinary skills once he returns safely. Good luck tomorrow boys, we love you lots!!! 


 This is my last blog before the summit push and it seems a good time to say thanks again to everyone for their support, I wouldn't be here, and we wouldn't have raised such a fantastic sum for charity, without the help of family, friends and great sponsors. Many Thanks.

So the plan is to leave tomorrow morning (20th) for Camp 1 on the North Col. On the 21st we plan to push up to Camp 2 (7800m) and spend the night. On the 22nd its an early start to get to Camp 3 (at 8300m) in the 'Death Zone'. We will then hopefully get some rest and fluids before leaving at around 10.00pm on the evening of the 22nd to climb through the night. This will give us a possible summit time, if all goes to plan, of between 6.00am - 8.00am on the morning of the 23rd (1am-3am UK time). We then hope to get back to Camp 2 or Camp 1 depending on time and energy levels. As I said this is my last blog as we wont be carrying the laptop and satellite system with us. However I'll have the satellite phone with me and Jen has kindly agreed to receive calls at all hours with news of our progress to update the website.

Today John and I have been sorting and packing gear (to yesterdays list I need to add crampons and, ahem, toilet paper) plus we had a little stroll up the side of the moraine whilst using oxygen. I have to say I really like it, makes you feel almost normal, so in a way I'm looking forward to getting to Camp 2 when we can start to use it. I know Reinhold Messner climbed Everest without it, but you can't use him as a realistic example and I have few enough brain cells already.

Right then, best wishes everyone and I hope to blog again in a few days. I know I'm 30 years old, but I feel like a kid on Christmas Eve.
The Himalayan Ecstacy flag we hope to carry to the summit. Says it all really.....
Both of us in ABC. Note the geodesically designed tent in the background.....
John and I by the glacier. He's very tall, and I'm pretty sure I'm standing in a hole!
The route betwenn base camp and ABC. The path goes right through the middle. It's a tough walk but the views are incredible
Our puja cairn and flags at basecamp with Everest and her ice plume in the background
John on the frozen river at basecamp


 Today we've been taking it easy again, reading and keeping our drainage channels clear and flowing now the glacier is in serious melting mode. What I really should be doing is getting all my gear finally sorted for the summit bid. It's vitally important to take absolutely everything you need, whilst being of critical importance not to take anything you don't. There's no margin for deadweight after all. Unfortunately I can't decide what I definitely, definitely do need and what I definitely, definitely don't. The plan is to travel light of course and so far the definites are: Down suit, high altitude boots, summit socks, sock liners, thermals, fleece, two sets of gloves, glove liners, hat, balaclava, buff, sunglasses, goggles, headtorch, spare headtorch, spare headtorch batteries, sleeping bags, sleeping mat, camera, video camera, spare camera batteries and memory card, sponsors summit flag, water bottles, thermos, satellite phone, spare satellite phone battery, radio and spare batteries, chocolate/trekkers bars and sun block. Oh, plus my climbing gear like ice axe, harness, jumar, slings, figure of eight etc. So as I said, we'll be traveling light.

One of the sad things about being away from home for so long is missing things like my fantastic little nephews christening. Still it looks like the summit bid will now be on the same day, which is a happy coincidence (apologies for not being there little fella but I'll see you soon). Best wishes to everyone back home and elsewhere, including the Oz contingent.

Hopefully Jen has been able to add some pics for those interested. As it stands only one more rest day to go...


 Yesterday we left Base Camp after a breakfast of chapattis and peanut butter and at first it was a great hike in sunny weather up the side of the Rongbuk Glacier before turning to take the East Rongbuk. However once past Intermediate Camp at 5800m where we stopped for lunch, the weather closed in and the altitude starting to really kick us despite our previous acclimatisation. About an hour before ABC a freezing wind picked up and it started to snow - all in all it was a really testing day. At ABC I was telling John how disappointed I was to have found the trek such tough going. However voice of reason that he is, he made the quite valid point that climbing vertically 1.2 kilometers over 12 miles up to an altitude of 6400m was never going to be easy - good point that man, well made. We received a hearty welcome from Natan Ji and Lhakpa, though I suspect it was the new food supplies they were most pleased to see arrive. They'd completely run out that morning and had to make do with frozen potatoes for breakfast and biscuits for lunch.

Today we are recovering and it is definitely a welcome rest day. It was bitterly cold in the tents last night but today my watch's thermometer tells me it's 45C in there. No wonder our bodies can't decide whether we are too hot or too cold. After being so pleased to get back to BC originally it's definitely great to be back here now that the summit attempt is nearing. Plus the sun is shining and if there was any wildlife up here I'm sure it would be birds-a-signing. Best of all there's virtually no wind which is a welcome relief. This morning I've been going through my gear for the summit bid already, two days early, what can I say?


 Fantastic news - Anil has been out and about with his ear to the weather grapevine and news reaches us of a lovely stable weather window from the 23rd to the 26th or 27th. Its the news the whole camp has been waiting for and everyone has been lifted by it. Having a date to aim for (we're hoping for the 23rd but will see how busy it's likely to be) does really make it all seem real again. We had a good long chat about all the options and have decided to go up to ABC on the 16th, have two or three rest days and then go for it. It's going to take four days from ABC to try a summit attempt but knowing those four days are getting closer is a fantastic feeling. Every morning John and I emerge from our tents and the first thing we do is look to the south where the huge hulking north face of Everest sits, we check the snow cover, amount of cloud and wind and then discuss it in detail over breakfast - and now we are at last heading up there!

As if by magic the weather here in ABC has even decided to cheer up with the wind now alternating between gusty and breezy, such a refreshing change from the tent deforming battering we've had. I've been to a couple of other teams and they are all excitedly discussing dates and movements - yes it's true we have reverted to school kids, but who wouldn't with such a unique prize edging into possible reach. One of the other teams leaders dampened the mood somewhat by telling me how a fair proportion people have bowel/downsuit problems up there, but it's going to take more than the threat of possibly embarrassing myself above 8000m to lessen my good mood - despite I have editorial powers over this blog so you lovely lot would be none the wiser.

Tomorrow has become a designated 'rest day' which means it will be much like any other, except that it is Anil's birthday. This means we might sneak in an evening beer if we can get our hands on any. During the day we'll grab a last chance for a bucket shower down in the relative warmth of BC and then pack as little gear as possible for the hike up to ABC on the 16th, from which lofty spot I hope to blog next. Happy Anil's Birthday everyone.


 Anil got news of the weather to come for the next few days this morning and its not good. The strong winds we are getting at base camp are only worse higher up and the Tibetan/Chinese Mountaineering Association that we have to pay to fix the ropes are really struggling to get the job done. We can see from here the absolute battering the top of the mountain is getting, with the famous Everest plume of ice crystals screaming continually from the summit in 100+mph winds. Its certainly an impressive sight but not one we want to be looking at unfortunately. So our hoped for summit push for the 22nd has been pushed back to perhaps the 24th or even more likely the 26th, and all the while we wait in BC we lose our hard fought acclimatisation from higher up the mountain. So do we stay put or go up again? If we go up the altitude will start to weaken us again, it's a tricky balance but the plan at the moment is to go up on the 15th as a compromise of sorts. This also allows us to be ready if an earlier window arises. Personally I'm keen to get going and climb as soon as possible. An added incentive is my flight on the 5th of June back to the UK. Moving the flight shouldn't be too difficult, though expensive, but extending my visa beyond the 5th when it expires is likely to be a Nepali beaurocratic headache I could do without. Plus after three months away I'm looking forward to seeing people and having some home comforts again. Mostly though I want to get on and climb the mountain, which is the whole reason we are here.

In the afternoon we heard from ABC about the havoc the wind was playing up there. Our toilet tent was down (no surprises) but so was the kitchen tent. Incredible really, we helped weigh it down with about half a ton of rocks. Several other teams were having the same problems. Down in BC we went around all the tents adding more and more boulders to hold them down. The wind got stronger and stronger and swirled round the valley from all sides. The team next to us had their store tent blown down with the poles mashed beyond repair and another lost their kitchen tent down here. We soon lost our BC toilet tent as well. Still the winds got fiercer until the dome tents we use for sleeping in started to get blown away from the camps around us. I saw one get whipped 20ft in the air and fly the entire length of the valley. After that I spent some time weighing down our own sleeping tents. We would get some warning as a roar would come down the valley with a huge dust cloud and people just had time to dive on top of anything valuable. In total four climbers lost their tents, I just hope all their important gear was already up at ABC. It would be lovely if the wind stopped, just for half an hour, but it blows 24/7 here varying from very strong to hurricane force.

Still, it gives me plenty of time to kill in the tent mulling over the absurdities of life, such as why we are all here risking so much just to climb a mountain, or how politicians can squabble like children and still think they are the best people to run a country, or indeed the question of intelligent design - Nick Griffin exists and surely the two are mutually exclusive...


 Having spent a great deal of time sitting and eating recently it was time to get up and do something so John and I followed a tributary river off the side of the valley. It was a beautiful walk in great sunny weather but the infamous wind here just keeps on blowing hard all day and all night. The river was frozen over in places with steps of frozen snow/ice across the floor of the valley that created a kind of frozen natural amphitheater, which was pretty stunning. It then opened out into a wide valley with peaks all around and absolutely no sign off human life as far as the eye could see.

It was good to get moving again as most of our time is spent waiting for news of the weather. The top of Everest is currently being battered by 100+mph winds which we are getting a taste of down here. Its a total no go death zone at the moment so we sit and wait for an improvement. Latest prediction is that we leave BC on the 14th for ABC, but these plans change daily as we get more up to date info. Latest news is a possible summit attempt on the 22nd, but its so far in advance we'll have to wait and see. Best wishes to everyone back home, hope all well. Ed


 Another relaxing day at Base Camp but the wind has been blowing a very strong gale most of the day. We got the laptop to work eventually and sent some emails then had a good long chat with Anil about the plan for the days ahead. It looks like a possible weather window might open up around the 17-18th and then a second around the 20th-22nd. However we are looking at such long range that its difficult to know - will keep you updated as and when we hear anything new. I then spent some time wandering around the camp looking for Brits so I could find out the election result - which sounds...interesting. I also got the chance to speak to Sujan in Kathmandu (another brother in Himalayan Ecstasy who manages the office and is a great guy). There has been maoist strikes and blockades for 5 days so he had to hire an ambulance to smuggle Kenny into the city during darkness. Nepal is one fascinating country. In the evening we asked Anil to make chicken chilli again - but twice as much - then finished the lot. Went to bed feeling very full and content. Not a great blog I'm afraid but the idea is that we do as little as possible for the next few days - sorry.


 Great nights sleep, good breakfast, lots of oxygen - life is good again. After breakfast I had a glorious warm bucket shower and washed some decidedly unpleasant smelling clothes. Lunch was simple veg and rice, just the sort of simple food our stomachs were craving. After lunch we walked to the town of Rongbuk. Dipen has a friend in the US who was planning to come visit him here in BC as part of a Lhasa trek. Her sister sadly has cancer and she had sent Dipen something of her sister's to take to the summit. Unfortunately Dipen is now back in Kathmandu recovering from his operation, but we still wanted to go and meet his friend and explain we would do our best to get the item to the summit. The walk to Rongbuk was surprisingly easy in the thicker air despite John and I both still suffering slightly. We waited at the Rongbuk Monastery Hotel (it's not as salubrious as it sounds and I think it's where Michael Palin stayed on his 'Himalaya' programme). Unfortunately Dipen's friend didn't arrive but we did get chatting to the Lama of the monastery. He's one of ten kids, with three of the son's being lamas and one daughter an 'Ani' or nun. Amusingly Tibetans can't pronounce 'L's so our expedition chief Anil is well know around here as 'the nun'. The lama then very kindly invited John, Anil and I to his home for dried goat's leg and lots of sweet black tea. It was a fascinating insight into their lives, his sister's daily chore of making butter lamps etc, and he didn't seem to mind too much that both John and I only nibbled a small piece of meat politely. The wind was up for the walk back and by the time we reached camp we were shattered after the 6 mile round trip, half facing into the infamous Rongbuk Glacier gales, so much for a rest day. In the evening Anil cooked chilli chicken and it was the best meal I've had since leaving England. I'm starting to really like being back at base camp. Now all we need to do is fix this laptop so it works on a regular basis and doesn't need to be turned on a hundred times before it works - all suggestions to Jen gratefully received from any computer/apple experts that might by chance be reading this. The generator here also makes electrical things smoke, so we'll have to ask other teams nicely for charging from their solar panels (ours is back in ABC).


 Woke with a very uneasy feeling in the stomach again, I think it must be a combination of poor diet, dirty water and weakened immune system from so long at altitude but the feeling I had last night has got worse and John has developed similar symptoms this morning. Neither of us has the energy to go up as planned, and with news of a sooner than previously expected weather window for a summit attempt the decision is made to get the h*ll out of ABC and return to BC for rest and recuperation (and some good food hopefully). It was a long descent of about 12 miles, which feels very long at this altitude, but as I got lower I could feel my lungs filling and energy returning. We got to BC late in the evening, grabbed some soup and popcorn and crashed out exhausted.

05/05/2010 - Some pictures

 Top first, the pics are as follows.....
i)  John close to camp 1 before descending
ii) Ed trying out the oxygen
iii) The 'eye' and some of the avalanche debris - a few days after the avalanche and so the route now veers off to the left rather than going directly underneath the eye
iv) ABC on the edge of the glacier (although it is currently under 2 more feet of snow)

 The boys are hoping for good weather and plan to head back up to the North Col tomorrow all being well.....watch this space for blog updates. 

05/05/2010 - What to do?

 Woke up after a good nights sleep at ABC and happily tucked into eggs and bacon for breakfast (I'm getting fat whilst attempting to climb Everest!). ABC has been under heavy snow for several days and there's no sign of it stopping yet. We spent most of the morning sorting out food for the high camps and testing our oxygen bottles. We also had a long chat with Anil about the plan for the next few days. In theory we are now sufficiently acclimatised to return to Base Camp for resting before a summit push - which most other teams are now doing. In fact it appears we might be more acclimatised than many. However there is just another time to squeeze in another push to Camp 2 at 7800m and both John and I would really like to do that if possible, both for acclimatisation and also because its just fantastic being up there - how often do you get the chance to sleep at those kinds of altitudes?. It's going to be tight in terms of days, John has his mind set on it but after more than two weeks above 6400m + the idea of thick air, warmth, a shower and a few days recovery from cold and coughs etc at 5100m sounds very appealing to me. We wait for news on the weather, when the window might open for a summit push and will work backwards from then.

04/05/2010 - ABC and Kenny

I would have liked to have stayed to 7100m for longer but no food meant it was time to go down, plus most people had abandoned camp the day before in the better weather. The trip down the North Col was spectacular though in all the fresh powdery snow. For the first two thirds of the descent we didn't see another soul and it was almost like having Everest to ourselves. However as we got lower and the clouds cleared the temperature shot up rapidly. It was scorching hot when we got to the glacier and John took off all of his clothes down to his thermal bottoms and t-shirt, only for the clouds to come back and it begin to snow by the time we reached crampon point. In the end he had to run back to camp as well as he could with massive high altitude boots that are a foot and a half long (he's a big guy and even my high alt boots are of comedy proportions).

Back here we unfortunately found out the sad news that Kenny still hasn't been able to acclimatise and his eyes are bothering him so he is leaving. I feel really bad for him because Everest is damned expensive and really is usually a once in a lifetime experience.  We have plenty of time to think on a long expedition and I also wonder what his sponsors are going to think. We've heard of many people who have given up already, some can't acclimatise, some get sick, some miss their families too much and others just give up because its too hard. We heard about one person who gave up at crampon point because it was too tough and he was sponsored by a well known natural science magazine and TV channel (they told me they didn't sponsor Everest expeds....). You cant help but wonder how they feel after they gave him a high tech camera, watch and other gear running into the hundreds if not thousands of pounds.

03/05/2010 - Ridge

 The next day was extremely hot and sunny so we dried our sleeping bags from the hoar frost they had collected and then decided to head up the hill.  So far no one had made it to 7800m as far as we knew.  Most people were turning around at 7200m or 7300m because of the high winds and heading back to ABC. The snow ramp before Camp 2 ends at 7500m and so we wanted to at least make that - but we expected a lot more in such great conditions. As we walked across the North Col it was truly awesome - we looked down on Pumori (a 7000m+ monolith in Nepal - Jen and I had spent the night at it's base camp last autumn). It was our first view into Nepal and it was pretty damn cool. Pumori is a significant mountain (the team we were with failed to summit unfortunately after sleeping in their harnesses and helmets due to falling rocks) but it just looks like a hill from here. As we crossed the Col, the wind went from nothing to mild hurricane in just a few steps and it stayed with us the entire time. It was clear for the first hour or so, but slowly the clouds enveloped us and by midday I couldn't see John, who was only 20 meters behind me at most.  In fact, for much of the time I could barely see the rope laying on the snow. The snow 'ramp' turned out to be a snow wall of between 45 and 80 degrees - mainly 70-80 - that you had to dig the frontpoints of your crampons in and muscle your way up. It just went on and on in the whiteness and your calfs and quads burned and your lungs were screaming for more oxygen. The wind and snow kept blasting in your face stronger and stronger every step upward.  We had a 2pm turn around time and by then we'd reached 7450m - almost the top of the snow - but with visibility so bad I couldn't see the end of the ramp and I was genuinely worried about getting at the very least frost nip in my fingers so I headed back - foolishly I had left my better summit gloves in ABC. Still 24,500 feet sounds impressive for a high point so far.

It was a long way down, but so much easier than up. The clouds lifted to a degree when I got back near the Col and Camp 1 looked tiny perched on the corniced ridge and covered in all that snow. I didn't feel that bad when I got back, other than a little tired, and with it being John's turn to play masterchef over our little stove we ate all of the food we had left before filling our water bottles with boiling water to warm hands and shove down our sleeping bags to fight off the cold before another good nights sleep.

02/05/2010 - Blizzard

 Today the plan was to push up to Camp 2 but the weather made leaving the tent all but impossible, so we figured an extra day at 7100m acclimatising couldn't hurt. We sat huddled in our lovely warm down sleeping bags listening to the hurricane force blizzard that raged outside, constantly buffeting our tent. At one point a neighbouring tent actually ripped free from its moorings and landed on top of our own. Luckily the tent Vango have kindly given me simply shrugged it off in the storm undamaged. A second later it crashed against our tent again and it remained a collapsed heap full of gear next to our own till the blizzard abated. At one point I left the tent during a brief lull and was chatting to Stu, the leader of another team through a crack in his tent door. We were discussing plans and conditions when he asked me if I'd made it any higher that day? I replied "are you kidding? the weather today is...." unfortunately I was unable to finish the sentence as a blast of wind and snow had knocked me clean over. A quick retreat to the sanctuary of the tent was in order for more melting of ice and swapping of bad jokes with John. Many people lose their appetite at altitude but neither of us shared that particular worry. Packaged meals, soups, cereals, trekking bars, chocolate - all were devoured - even though most people have a lot of trouble eating here.  We could hear people coughing and puking all around us from the altitude, but luckily we had no problem.

01/05/2010 - The North Col

 A good breakfast inside us now our appetites have mostly returned and we head up the North Col. The weather is bakingly hot with the sun reflecting off the ice and snow. Its slow going with too many people on the ropes in places, but despite a belly which hasn't totally recovered I was still overtaking people. At one point I got caught behind a famous rugby player and spent some time staring up at his arse looking for a way past - a privilege that I can think of several people who would have enjoyed more than me. We made it up to Camp 1 and collapsed into our tent before starting the laborious process of melting ice to combat the dehydrating climb. A quick soup for tea and we slept really well despite the cold and increasing wind.