Massive apologies for the lack of communication since before our summit attempt: I actually sent an audio blog the day we got back down but have just found out that it never went through! I am healthy and happy and already safely back down at Base Camp with the rest of the team. Our summit attempt was, how to put it, different, shall we say. Kami, my dad’s summit Sherpa, has now summitted Everest 18 times and said that it was the worst weather he’s ever been up in and that he didn’t think we were going to get up. My summit Sherpa, Mingma, who’s been up 15 times agreed, and Lakpa, who’s now been up 16 times has got frost nip/wind burn on his face for the first time ever. All in all, the weather was awful. Our forecasts turned out to be wrong, and instead of the winds dying down at 9pm they appeared to keep up or even get worse. That being said, 5 out of 7 of our team of clients made the summit, and all of us are down safely with all of our fingers and toes, albeit looking as if we’ve been through the wars with the majority of the team getting wind burn, sun burn or frost nip on their faces. It’s all superficial and will heal up soon, but for the mean time most of us look a mess! I’ve included a photo of us down at Base Camp before we showered for your amusement.
We were very strong as a team and that was a massive factor in us being able to make it on the 20th as we could summit and get back down relatively quickly – leaving at 9pm, summiting at 6:10am and getting back to the South Col at just past 10am. We were the only team to make it that day from the South Side, and over took quite a few other teams that started out from Base Camp and later turned back. Some of the things that we saw both on our way up and down have been horrific and I know will haunt a lot of us for life. I ended up crying on my way up and as the night dragged on your imagination really does take hold with all the shadows and rocks. Because of the weather the sun didn’t even start to make itself known until we were at the summit ridge, and with the biting wind and snow being blown around our whole jackets froze, we couldn’t get into our water bottles because the lids were frozen on, we couldn’t get into pockets because zips were frozen, eyelashes, eyebrows and hats had icicles on, and our oxygen mask valves kept freezing up. Because of the wind Chris actually had his corneas freeze at the balcony and therefore went temporarily blind and, obviously, had to turn back immediately and made his way down the whole triangular face without being able to see. Luckily his eyesight is completely back to normal and he’s doing well.
Jim also had to turn around because of a frostbite scare with his fingers just before ascending the Hillary Step (which I’ve included a photo of). He was so close, but returning with all your digits is far more important and so he turned around only 300 vertical feet (I think) from the summit, but fortunately his fingers are all intact and healthy. Laurence’s fingers have faired incredibly well after his frostbite earlier on the trip and have only improved with time.
Our Lhotse attempt was called off due to weather forecasts for the following night and because the top isn’t actually fixed yet. Seeing as the last 200m is a technical ice climb without any fixed ropes AAI wouldn’t guide us on it, and I don’t have technical ice tools with me anyway. Ben Jones successfully summitted it though, and fixed the majority of the route with one other person, but didn’t have enough rope to finish it. He said it was terrifying with the amount of rock fall and was actually hit in the knee with one falling rock. Fortunately that too is much better now. Our guide Eric was solely a Lhotse guide, not Everest, so whilst he didn’t summit with us he actually went up to the summit of Lhotse yesterday during the day to avoid the bad weather and, as a very good technical climber, did the last section with ice tools and no fixed line. He’s half way down the Ice Fall now and should be joining us shortly for a celebration tonight.
We descended down to Camp Two the day after we summitted (having slept amazingly well on oxygen) – it felt pretty easy because we stayed on oxygen the whole way down, but with all the downhill my feet and knees felt battered. It was such an amazing change there – having felt out of breath and fairly rotten while staying there before, this time it felt like luxury and the air felt thick! Having descended the Ice Fall today in record time, about 3 and a half hours, Base Camp feels like a five star resort. Well, almost. We’ve even got to the stage where we consider the toilets here civilized. We’re celebrating our safe return, successful summits, and personal achievements tonight, and my dad and myself unbelievably expect to be home tomorrow. Because of my dad’s injured knees and time restrictions we’re hoping to catch a helicopter to Kathmandu in the morning, and to fly back to Dubai in the evening. It’s going to be such a shock to the system.
Other things to mention include my dad and myself now completing the Seven Summits, which we’re both very proud of and I believe I now hold the British record as the youngest female to summit Everest. We also thought of my Grandad on the summit and I even found myself saying a prayer, which I never usually do.
One last thing: I’d like to say a massive thank you to everyone who’s supported us through this, and to our brilliant team who really bonded well and looked out for each other, and maybe most importantly to our guides and Sherpas, who we couldn’t have done it without and whose strength pulled us through it all.