Summit Push!!

So this will probably be the last written post I do before our summit attempt (unless something drastically changes in the next 12 hours or so). We’re off tomorrow morning for our final foray up the Ice Fall, starting at 4am! It’s incredibly exciting but also very nerve racking; not in particular this first part, having done it a couple of times now, but going back up the Lhotse Face I think will be a big mental challenge from having not been on top form last time we climbed it, and therefore remembering how difficult I found it.

We practiced with our oxygen masks today, as you can see from the photos, and learnt how to put together the mask, regulator and tank, and how to change them and sort out any problems with icing up. We’re using the old style Russian regulators, with new style masks with mini bottles that minimize wasting oxygen. The tanks are lighter than they look, weighing about 4kg each when full. We’ll be carrying two of them with us I believe when we move up to Camp Four, and will be sleeping with them over night at both Camp Three and Camp Four.

There’s isn’t anything else to report since yesterday, but in advance I want to thank Jenny for the birthday cake I know she’s making my dad for tonight, as his birthday is tomorrow! Again, a memorable birthday I should think, but also a long and difficult one. We’re heading straight up to Camp Two again, and expect it to take somewhere around 10 hours (I think that’s what it took us approximately last time…).

Well then, I’ll update you soon via an audio blog, and hope that you all stay safe and well whilst we’re up on this last rotation. Ttfn!

The Calm Before the Summit Push

We arrived back at Base Camp yesterday morning from our drop back feeling refreshed and pleased to be “home”. As I think you’d have gathered from my last blog we all enjoyed the time down at a lower altitude and all fell like we benefited from the thick air. There’s not much yet to report from being back: Having showered and settled back in we’ve spent the day relaxing waiting to prepare for our next and final push. I went down and visited Becky, Molly and Bonita and had a very social afternoon stopping in for a long chat with Adele on the way back – Becky and Molly are both off up tomorrow morning for their summit push, aiming for the weather window on the 18th/19th, but Adele and Bonita are staying back at least for another couple of days (Bonita perhaps longer) as they wait for Lhotse to be fixed. It’s looking as if they’re going to try and fix this summit simultaneously with Everest (16th/17th), but many are expressing their doubts that this will actually happen so perhaps slightly after.

Tomorrow we’re practicing and becoming familiar with our oxygen systems, learning how to check them as well as making sure we can use them comfortably. We’ll be heading up the mountain the day after, but keeping our summit day a little flexible to take into account the number of teams who’ll be on the summit ridge when we want to go up, as well as of course the weather. It’s an exciting but nerve racking prospect leaving for our final attempt. It’s now the be all or end all. We just hope that everything goes safely and that we all feel strong and healthy. Fingers crossed and I’ll update you once more before we leave!
I’ve attached some random photos just for the sake of showing you more: A yak on our drop back, crossing a ladder above Camp One with Nuptse behind, and another photo of the Ice Fall.

Bits and Pieces and Life Changing Decisions

So the last couple of days have consisted of more rest and eating and sleeping, until, today, we started on our way back up to Base Camp. We’re staying the night in Pheriche at a very nice tea house where I have my own en suite and feel very smug about it, and are planning on moving on up to Loubouche tomorrow and Base Camp the day after. Moving up today we could all see the positive effects of the rest we’ve had – we took the same amount of time to come back up as we did to get down there a couple of days ago. We’re all feeling strong and, although coughs haven’t quite disappeared, are looking and sounding a lot more put together than we did after our last rotation.
Today was the type of day that is the reason people can love trekking. The weather was perfect, warm with a slight cool breeze, the views were beautiful, we were going a comfortable pace and we all felt great. I almost didn’t want to arrive here.
The news on the mountain that we’ve heard is that they were planning on trying to fix to the summit either today or tomorrow (10th or 11th) before the winds are forecasted to come in on the 12th. We’re aiming to get back and in position for a potential timetable where the earliest summit date could be the 20th – the winds are forecasted to die down on the 19th. So, with our schedule, we should have two or three rest days at Base Camp before heading on up to get in place for our summit push. That is all, of course, weather dependent.
The life changing decisions I mentioned are not actually related to the mountain: Whilst at 6500m I made my decision on where I plan to study for university. I readdressed this at a more sensible altitude, and still came to the same decision and in the last few days have officially confirmed my choice. Albeit getting in to study veterinary in the UK I’ve actually decided not to do this (something I never expected from myself) and have decided to study in the West Indies, Grenada, instead. I decided it would be more fun. Scary decisions though!
I also appear to have broken my coccyx descending the Ice Fall last time we came down… The doctor in our group says that it’s pretty common and there’s nothing I can do about it – it’ll just be painful and will heal by itself. It is painful, however it doesn’t make any difference to my climbing, and generally doesn’t bother me at all when we’re moving, more when I sit down. So, c’est la vie, and life carries on.
The other thing that I forgot to mention on our descent was the wonderful birthday cake Jenny made for me! It was orange and vanilla and had brilliant decoration showing a picture of a climber being carried away by balloons with Everest below and writing saying happy birthday. It was delicious. On the subject of birthdays I’d also like to say happy birthday to my mum for yesterday!
On that note, I hope everyone’s enjoying and appreciating the little comforts in life, and is healthy and happy. Ttfn.

Drop Back

We’ve now descended all the way down to Debouche, and wow, I didn’t remember it being so far from Base Camp. It really is wonderful down here: Our appetites are huge and we’re all sleeping like logs. Some even say they can see cuts healing already. As well as the physical benefits of the drop back seeing trees again is a little like balm for the eyes; you get far too used to snow and rocks up at Base Camp and above and it’s a pleasant shock to the system to see dogs and horses and plants around.
Yesterday was a long day descending over 1000m in quite poor conditions. The day started off sunny, but while we ate our lunch in Loubouche it started to snow and the wind picked up. We left the tea house having to walk into the wind with snow blowing straight into our faces; potentially the worst trekking conditions we’ve had so far! Luckily, being down so much lower, it wasn’t too cold. Just wet. We reached Pheriche having hardly stopped for a break all afternoon as we preferred not to extend our time out in the snow, and were surprised and pleased at the food our new lodge offered. “We ate well last night” would be an understatement. Being encouraged to eat double portions on this drop back we all took advantage of the unusually good menu and ordered enough to feed a mini army… Plus desserts.
Today we had a very short day of walking in lovely sunny weather down to the Rivendale Lodge. After lunch Jose, Rob and I then spent a really nice, relaxing afternoon sitting up at the Tengboche bakery eating cake, drinking coffee and chatting before picking up various cake orders from some of the rest of the team (who have promised to return the favour!). Everyone else spent the afternoon relaxing, reading and generally enjoying the thick air.
We have all been surprised at the Himex decision to pull out from Everest this year, and can only comment that it seems a premature decision considering the date now and the length of time before the usual summit windows. Both our guides and IMG (and probably most of the other guide groups on the mountian too) are not the type to take risks and have always put safety first and yet haven’t come close to suggesting aborting the expedition, and our whole team is firmly in support of all of our guides’ decisions thus far. As far as we are aware: The route through the Ice Fall is more straight forward and direct than usual, however the end of the route goes closer to the left, and therefore is closer to the seracs. It’s then a matter of objective and subjective hazard. The ice is an objective hazard that you must always be aware of. However, by moving quickly through that area and moving at sensible times of day you minimise that risk significantly. We’ve now moved through the Ice Fall four times and haven’t felt in particular danger; no more than you would expect in this area in any year. As for the Lhotse face, as I mentioned in my previous blog: Yes, there was rock fall risk, that is why a new, safe route was established up to Camp Three which many climbers and Sherpas are now using. The weather is improving and with the new snow there are high hopes that the rest of the Lhotse Face will be safe for continuing fixing very shortly. It’s just a waiting game – not a permanent high risk for the season.
That’s the picture as far as I can see. As always with my blog I’m trying to give you a realistic picture, without any rose tinted glasses. That wont be changing any time soon. I hope everyone’s well, ttfn.
Ps. Laurence’s hand is pretty much better and he will definitely not be going home any time shortly! Unfortunately I have also been recently informed that the Camp Two cook who broke his back running from the avalanche has sadly passed away. May he rest in />

Second Rotation Complete

We’re all now safely down at Base Camp after an early morning descending the Ice Fall and are already thoroughly enjoying the comparative luxury it offers. We persuaded our guides for a later start, having had a long day up to over 7000m and an early start the day before, and were off down towards Camp One at about 6am. The trip down took about the same amount of time as last time, approximately 4 hours, and the whole team moved quickly as we all feel much more comfortable and efficient clipping in and going over ladders. One thing I noticed today just before we got into the main section of the Ice Fall was just how blasé you become about crevasses; we would be walking over tiny snow bridges with a gaping crevasse going down 50m on each side of us, and no one blinks an eyelid, or more often just doesn’t even glance down. This isn’t usually a coping mechanism either; it’s just that you cross so many of them that they stop being of particular interest or awe. However, every time we pass it the place that the Sherpa fell still revives my fear of the crevasse crossings.

We were pleased to find Lawrence here when we got down and to find out that the Base Camp doctors have been really pleased with how his fingers are doing and have predicted that the swelling should go down in two days, and that he should still be fine going back up with us, but perhaps going on oxygen after Camp Two so that the tissue doesn’t refreeze. He is currently on oxygen right now, and slept with it over night too, as that helps his fingers to recover. We definitely never expected anyone to get frostbite at that stage, and now our guides keep checking that all of us are looking after our fingers and toes!

This whole rotation was definitely a trial. Much more so than the last one. Spending five nights at 6500m drains you of energy and depletes your appetite. Waking up every morning to a frosted up sleeping bag and snow on the inside of your tent, as well as becoming out of breath just going to the bathroom, just doesn’t do it as far as motivation or enjoyment is concerned, and I found myself thinking more and more about Base Camp and tea houses, and even of back home. So arriving here today has been such a relief – with showers, and a warm mess tent, and thick air we’re all feeling great. Even if the showers were taken in the snow. We’re going down on a drop back about 1200m lower than we are now; heading off tomorrow morning, spending one night at Pheriche before carrying on down to spend another three nights at Debouche. This is meant to give our bodies a chance at healing themselves, and gives us a mental escape from the mountain too. The oxygen percentage should be at about 80 percent (approximately) down there compared to 50 percent up here, so cuts that have refused to heal for weeks, and our Khumbu coughs (which I have developed with vengeance over the past two days) should be able to clear up in that time and we should be back to full energy ready for our summit push.

Current happenings on the mountain: The new route up the Lhotse face is going really well, despite getting a little crowded at popular times of day. It’s currently much safer than the normal route due to rock fall, however it’s currently snowing with little wind and this is predicted to continue, so the snowfall should make the face much safer and will allow for line fixing to continue. A meeting has just ended where they’ve decided who will be fixing up to the South Col, and it’s been decided that, weather permitting, that will start on the 7th/8th, ready for loads to be carried up and for, when the weather window opens, for line fixing to continue up to the summit. So, all is looking good, and this weather is favourable. Good news, besides the fact that Base Camp is now quite cloudy and cold, where as before we would usually have a couple of hours of nice warm sunshine in the mornings!

That’s about all for now, or at least all I can think of, so hope you’re all well. Ttfn.

I forgot to mention the photos I’ve attached: In the photo of looking down
the valley you can just see Camp Two on the right hand side, in the rocky
area. This was taken just before getting onto the Lhotse face, and shows
down the Western Cwm. Then you can see my dad and myself looking very
attractive in our big down suits. Finally there’s a photo of the start of
the new route up the Lhotse Face. The person in the picture is my dad, and
you can’t tell at all from the photo, but where he was was actually 70
degree ice, which involved a heck of a lot of effort, and some skill too.
None of us were particularly elegant to begin with, but you soon learn that
at that altitude you just can’t maintain a hectic scramble.