Rest and Recovery

It’s very easy to lose track of days here, but I believe this is our third day down from our last rotation. It’s been a very restful three days, with an hour and a half walk back down to Gorak Shep yesterday to use the internet. The rest of our time has been taken up with reading, watching films in the evening and playing cards; resting to get rid of any Khumbu coughs and to build our energy back up for the next rotation. The difference in the oxygen percentage and the humidity means that people really are getting better quickly down here, as well as letting us all sleep better and walk around without feeling out of breath. It was quite amusing yesterday walking down the path the Base Camp trekkers are using on our way to Gorak Shep, as, because we’ve been here almost a month and are very acclimatized, there was a huge difference in our breathing and those that had just got here. Some were walking incredibly slowly and gasping for breath, whilst for us the air feels normal and we were able to walk straight past.

We leave for our next rotation the day after tomorrow, another 3am start, but this time skipping Camp One and going straight to Camp Two. We’re doing this as Camp One is currently an avalanche risk, having been buried under an avalanche off Nuptse yesterday, and had the wind from an avalanche hit it the day before. Luckily no one was killed, but one Camp Two cook has been evacuated by helicopter after breaking his back running from the avalanche; he’s now stable in Kathmandu. Going straight to Camp Two will make it a very long day, and there’s going to be the opportunity of staying in Camp One if any members feel as if they’d prefer not to go on. So far, however, we all seem to be in accord that we’d prefer not to stay in the risk area.

This next rotation will be all the way up to Camp Three, and spending a night there without oxygen. We’ve all heard horror stories about this night there, and can’t say we’re looking forward to it particularly! Sleep sounds elusive and the altitude will most definitely make itself known. Team members who might not benefit from this night may be just “touching” Camp Three before descending for the night in Camp Two instead.

We’re sorting out snack food for the rotation tomorrow, and have had the pleasure of enjoying Rob’s cooking for lunch this afternoon! He cooked Chili Con Carni and it was very good indeed. I believe it’s Sushi Night again tonight – not that Jenny’s spoiling us or anything… The photo I’ve attached is of a section climbing down in the Ice Fall – I wish I could attach a whole album, but I’m afraid that just isn’t possible. For some great photos and another blog you could take a look at Alpine Ascents website as they’re doing a cybercast from Everest and are posting photos most days.

One last thing to mention: While we were up on our first rotation my grandad, my dad’s dad, Duncan Shuttleworth, passed away. He was so very loved, and we’d now like to dedicate this climb to him. Of course without taking any unnecessary risks, we hope to summit in his honour.

First Rotation Complete

I’ve heard that my last audio blog wasn’t completely audible, so apologies for that – the signal evidently wasn’t too good in the fairly narrow valley between Everest and Nuptse. We all had a successful first rotation, spending two nights at Camp One and two nights at Camp Two. With Camp Two being higher than the summit of Denali we were sleeping higher than I’d ever slept before, and the effects were definitely there.

Moving up to Camp Two, otherwise known as Advanced Base Camp, took almost 5 hours, moving nice and slowly for cope with us trying to acclimatize at the same time. Besides a couple of ladder crevasse crossings at the beginning that stretch of the climb is a simple walk up the middle of the Western Cwm, avoiding the sides in case of avalanches. You get to the bottom of Advanced Base Camp though and it’s another 45 minutes up to AAI’s camp. I think we’re getting used to this pattern, but it doesn’t make that last stretch any easier.

The rest day at Camp Two wasn’t great at all for me. I woke up suffering from the altitude and was off my food all day. At that sort of altitude you don’t feel like doing anything at all, so I spent the afternoon napping, and then went promptly back to bed after dinner! Others were in similar boats regarding food and lethargy, but we all coped in our own ways and were up at 3:30 the next day for an early breakfast before our descent.

We left camp at just past 5am and had wonderful views of the sunrise on the mountains opposite us. We sped down to Camp One carrying sleeping bags and mats to leave there for the next rotation (we all have second ones down at Base Camp to lessen the load carrying as much as possible for the Sherpas), and left almost all of our other stuff up at Camp Two for next time. The first part of the descent was made more interesting when Steve almost fell off a ladder as too many people tried to help him and his ascender would only move with difficulty, but he was saved by Lakpa, Jose and some friendly Sherpas who all grabbed the rope at the side of the ladder and helped him regain balance. Straight after this Michael punched through the path with one foot into a crevasse, but fortunately was able to pull it out without an issue.

After a break at Camp One we carried on down towards the dangerous section. My dad and I were right behind Garrett at this point and when we reached just before this section he told us that we were about to enter it and to go ahead – he’d wait and relay the message onto everyone as they passed. So the two of us moved off as quickly as we could, a little ahead of the others. It turned out to be exactly the right thing for us as there was no one else in sight for quite a while and we had a really great time speeding down at our own pace and even taking ladders side by side when there were two of them placed next to each other.

The whole descent took my dad and myself just under 4 hours, with everyone else coming in spread out soon after. It was a race to the shower list, and I managed to get on there first. A mixed blessing, as it meant that I also got the coldest shower… But I can’t complain. Base Camp guide and solo Lhotse climber Ben Jones got back to camp the day before we got down, so it was lovely seeing him here again. Unfortunately we also had to say goodbye to Camp Two climber, Steve, who made to his goal and has actually flown out of base camp this morning by helicopter to make his flight to Kathmandu. I think we’re all jealous of him staying in a proper bed tonight with a proper toilet and shower. He’s already missed though.

Many of the team have come back with terrible coughs from this rotation, the so called Khumbu Cough from the dry, cold air, made much worse from exertion. Both my dad and Chris we believe also caught a throat virus and so have been talking with very rasping voices for a couple of days, although both appear to he clearing up well. Touch wood, so far I seem to have avoided any terrible cough or sore throat, I hope it lasts! We now have 4 days of rest and recuperation, trying to sort out the coughs etc. Today was very restful, with everyone doing almost nothing, but tomorrow we’re planning a trip down to Gorak Shep to use the internet. An exciting prospect for us climbers experiencing weeks of withdrawal from social networking, emails and internet in general.

By the way, the photo of me shows Everest behind to my left and Lhotse behind to my right – it was taken above Camp One, and the Cwm is created with Nuptse coming up to the right of Lhotse – opposite to Everest, creating a semi circle. You can actually see it behind my dad in the photo of him. Hope you’re all well. Ttfn.

First Foray into the Khumbu Ice Fall














Today we left at 9:30 to go for the first time into the ice fall. It was a
really lovely hot morning, and the ice fall was great fun. Equipped with
crampons, helmets, harnesses and ice axes within easy reach we climbed up
the route about 1/4 of the way up the ice fall, to the first ladder over a
crevasse. Most of the route is fixed ropes, and we used ascenders
sporadically and carabineers all the time for protection. It wasn’t too
steep up as far as we went, but there were bits and pieces of climbing up
ice slopes and scrambling, and it was all up and down over spectacular
glacier ice. I think the photos give you a bit of a taste of what it’s like
in there – it’s all broken up massive ice blocks where the glacier is having
to bend as it meets the ground. It actually moves a couple of meters
vertically every day, which is one of the big risks associated with it – the
moving ice means that ladders and fixed ropes have to be constantly
monitored, and there’s always the danger of falling ice. Today we didn’t go
into the “popcorn” section of the ice (where the broken pieces move
frequently), and stayed where it was really relatively safe. However, the
main risky section is above the “popcorn” ice – where there are overhanging
ice cliffs above the left side of the route.
We start off at 3am tomorrow to go up through the ice fall to Camp One. This
is so that we get through the ice fall whilst it’s coldest, when the ice is
least likely to move. We also make sure that we move quickly through the
dangerous areas, and try not to stop anywhere with objective hazards. It
should be approximately an 8 hour day (I think we will be moving a little
slower than a lot of other groups). This first rotation will have us
spending 2 nights at Camp One before moving up for another 2 nights at Camp
2. Unfortunately I won’t have any internet connection, so I’ll be audio
I’ve had my last shower today before the rotation, and I think we’re all
tentatively excited about finally moving properly above base camp, although
of course I can’t say I’m overjoyed at the 2am get up or how cold it will be
at that time. It wouldn’t be the same without it though. After today, I am
very much looking forward to going back into the ice fall.
I’ll let you know how our early start and long day go tomorrow, and hope
you’re all properly appreciating being warm where ever you are!

Back to Training

My elbow is quite a lot better today, although still not perfect, so I was back to training out on the glacier for the ice fall. It was a really fun, hot morning practicing abseiling, climbing up and down the ice, and ladder crossings, all with big gloves and mitts on so that we’re prepared for later. This is just a two line update, as there’s nothing else really happening! Off for pizza now. Ttfn.

Rest Day

I know I mentioned a more exciting photo today, but I’m afraid I wasn’t actually out there to take any. That elbow bruise that I briefly talked about in my last blog disappeared on my left arm last night, but got quite nasty on my right arm. It swelled up and I have quite a limited range of movement with that arm, so to keep it safe and give it time to heal I was ordered to stay behind from the training today and ice my elbow instead. I still listened to the lesson on belaying (again, a recap for most of us) and then went and sat in the kitchen tent and chatted to Jenny, our chef, while she made bread. The others returned saying that the extra practice was good, but that they hadn’t learnt anything new, so hopefully I should be fine to slip straight back in tomorrow.

The afternoon was dedicated to resting, and I took the opportunity to file my fairly blunt crampons back into sharp points, apparently an extremely useful activity for its results on the Lhotse face. I don’t really have anything else to report. I feel as if I’ve acclimatized well to this altitude, and haven’t suffered from any type of headache in days, touch wood. The team is all eating well, and anyone feeling the altitude seems to be dealing with it successfully. The only thing left for quite a few members to kick is the cough that’s all too common from the dry, cold air up here. However, we have just had a second Sherpa helicoptered out because of illness, and we all hope he’ll recover quickly back down at a lower altitude. Hope everyone is enjoying the spring time, ttfn.

Ice Fall Practice

At 9:30 this morning we were all out and kitted up for training for the ice fall. To begin with Jose taught/reminded us all about rappelling while the other guides set up two courses right at the bottom of the ice fall for us. About half way through this 7 of Hopwood’s Base Camp trekkers (from the UAE) found our camp and came and said hi to my dad and myself! Two of these were Jim and George, people that my dad and sister had climbed Kili with and I’d heard lots about. It was wonderful of them to come and find us, especially with how far it is to walk from the start of Base Camp to our camp… Hopwood himself is apparently sick from the altitude so stayed at Gorak Shep, and the rest of the team (Ron included, Rick if you’re reading!!) turned back at the start of Base Camp because of exhaustion or illness, or so I was informed. It was disappointing not to see Hopwood, as it was because of him that I’m here right now, but we were really touched by the others visiting.

We then went on to the courses and had a really awesome morning using our ascenders to ice climb up pretty steep faces (one almost vertical, without ice axes – it’s all in the legs), cross ladders over water (added incentive not to fall off), climb down other steep ice faces and rappel over near vertical ice walls. Believe it or not, I found the hardest part climbing down the steep ice faces – you’re meant to arm wrap around the rope and really lean forwards so that your crampons can grip, but you had to really stamp your feet to get a grip. Safe to say that my first attempt did not go well. I slipped and have quite badly bruised my elbows. The second time round was loads easier though, which was very relieving, and we all had a really great time.

This afternoon was spent on a social visit to Jagged Globe go and say hi to Adele Pennington. I think she’s probably the first person I could really call a mentor for me; as the first female mountaineer I’d met, not only did she take us on a brilliant winter course in Scotland, she also sat down with me and was really very frank about all the practical aspects that, being a female in the mountains, you really ought to know. It was so wonderful seeing her again, and we’ll hopefully climb together again in Scotland, but this time as friends instead of guide and client. Three of us went down for the afternoon, and sampled Jagged Globe’s (Adele’s team, a British guide house) scones and tea. It was very good. And we even brought back a bag of properly British Yorkshire tea for the team.

We’re all really looking forward to more training tomorrow, it’s meant to get more difficult, so hopefully I’ll be able to show you some even better photos! Ttfn.

Puja Ceremony

Today has been a wonderful day. It’s been warm pretty much all day and we
started the morning (after showering to be clean for the ceremony) with a
Puja. This was almost a 3 hour ceremony and is one of the two big
celebrations of the trip; it’s done so that the Gods will provide safe
passage up Everest and is a Biddhist ceremony that’s very important to the
Sherpas. We had our crampons, ice axes and other bits and pieces of choice
blessed. It started off with singing and offerings and rice throwing, and we
all took lots of photos – the offerings included huge bowls of food and
drinks with something smoking at the side the whole time. We were given milk
tea or an alcoholic beverage (all of the Sherpas had the alcoholic version)
and sat in the sun to watch. Next a huge flag with massive lines of prayer
flags attached was raised onto the alter and the prayer flags almost
inclosed our whole camp; we also had another piece of string tied round our
necks as a blessing – this time multi coloured. It continued with
chocolates, popcorn, other snacks, beers, cokes and shots of both whiskey
and chang being handed out to everyone (I tactfully avoided the alcohol
besides when they were pouring spoonfuls of a liquid from a mug into
everyone’s right palm which we were meant to sip, which we discovered to be
beer), however other members of the team soon discovered that the effects of
alcohol are much stronger at altitude and our ladder practice afterwards was
promptly cancelled! One of the reasons behind the alcohol was that the
dancing that followed is meant to be better when drunk! As you can see in
the photo, most of us then got in a long line in front of the alter, put our
arms round each other, and attempted to follow the Sherpas’ dance. It was
much more difficult than it looked, but it was brilliant fun and lots of
people were singing. I forgot to mention – before this happened, when we all
stood up to clear the floor for dancing we had to throw both rice and flour
in the air. After we did this the next part of the ceremony was smearing
flour all over each other. All of our faces were covered and we had
brilliant fun.
The rest of the afternoon I spent with Becky and Mollie, other young British
female climbers with Henry Todd, and meeting Bonita Norris. It’s now dinner
time, so I have to go. Ttfn.