Friday, June 20, 2008

Everest 2008- Final Thoughts & Photos

Hello All,

From speaking to many of you, I believe you have been missing tuning into my blog of a morning, so I thought I would do one more dispatch to satisfy your cravings!

It's been 3 weeks since I returned back to the UK and have finally started to upload my photies and so I have posted a link to my flikr site at the end of this dispatch, where you can have a peek at a sample. Unfortunately there are no photos of the summit day, as you may remember I reached my high point at around 4 am and was in complete darkness and my return leg.. well lets just say taking photos was not on the agenda!.

Many of you have asked me about the football match with the Nepali Special forces and I had forgot that I hadn't blogged the outcome so here's the story..

With many of my players either missing in action or still climbing the mountain I worried that we wouldn't be able to field a team on match day. With the carrot of the match being filmed for the History Channel I managed to sign up a couple of German centre forwards on a mad night out in the Namche Bizarre pool hall on the trek out. Also on our first day back in Kathmandu we managed to sign up a local Nepali shop owner with the small fee of buying some of his fake North Face T-shirts. I set about trying to get us stripped, by approaching some well known restaurants and bars in Kathmandu but to no avail, so on match day we played with our tops off ..skins!

It was our first night back in Kathmandu and as you can probably imagine we were eager to unwind after what we had all been through in the last 10 weeks and so with the knowledge of the match being scheduled for 10 am the following morning we thought it was a good idea to hit the town and boy did we hit it. A mad, very late, but good night was had by all and gathering at breakfast the following morning I was worried to see that some of the team were missing in action, although I was pleasantly surprised that our 2 German friends, from Namchee, had somehow remembered and turned up. Those that had trapped, me included, were either still drunk or feeling the worse for ware. I had organised the bus for 9 am and so set about trying to assemble a team, which required the rapid recruitment of 3 American students that were attending classes at the Hotel. I had negotiated the release from their studies with the white lie of we were doing this for charity and again used the History Channel carrot...thankfully it worked.

So it was a squad of 13 players that boarded the bus and myself and Ian Taylor set about trying to sort out a formation and allocate players to positions. Now Nepal isn't renowned for their football prowess and this was the main plank of my team talk..but either is America hmmm, but I thought we would be okay. We arrived at the park in good time where I met my good friend, Major Rana. He was certainly taking this game seriously and had recruited a referee, 2 linesman, netted the goals and had decked his team out with matching strips. Quite a crowd had gathered and with the film crew's cameras rolling we lined up for the pre-match photos. To our great surprise, a goat was then presented onto the pitch, as is the way in Nepal, and got a respective but somewhat surprising round of applause. It seemed quite pleased with itself not knowing that the winning team had the 'honour' ! of cutting it's throat before it was sacrificed to the post match barbecue!!.. what can I say "when in Rome?!"

Okay so I'll get some excuses in early ..1.We were a team that were pretty much spent from 10 weeks at extreme altitude 2. It was +37 degrees Celsius 3. Most team members were either still drunk or worse for wear from our crazy night out. Never the less, my team talk plank was quickly shot down in flames as the Nepali team ran rings round us, showed some real footballing skill and it was with dejection that our team red faced..more so from the effects of the previous night, left the field 4-0 down at half time.

I changed the formation for the second half going from a standard 4-4-2 to a 4-4-3, and the early minutes of the second half brought encouragement. The American boys, maybe for the fact that they hadn't been climbing Everest or been out the night before, were probably our best players and we managed to create a few chances. I was very surprised at the skill, pace and footballing prowess that the army boys displayed and they managed an other 3 goals before the end of the game. So it was with a sound 7-0 thrashing that we left the field to head for the barbecue and a few 'hair of the dogs'!. Big thanks to my good friend Major Rana for not only helping organise the football match but also for all his help in his role as Liaison Officer throughout what was an extremely tough political season on Everest....Top Man.

Again I would like to thank everyone who supported my expedition and hope you enjoy the pictures.

Best wishes


Sunday, May 25, 2008

Everest 2008- Summit Story

A 5 am start on the 22nd saw the team leave our Camp 3 tents, on the Lhotse Face, knowing that very night, we would be going for the summit. We were now sniffing supplementary oxygen on a low flow rate, as we continued up the steep icy face and the traversed left across the Yellow Band and up the Geneva Spur onto that famous of Everest landmarks, the South Col. We met a stream of climbers coming down from camp 4, and as we carefully negotiated our way around them on the fixed lines we heard stories of 3 deaths the previous night which, as if we needed it, re-emphasised what dangers lay ahead.

James, my 24 year old tent mate, and I got to Camp 4 on the South Col, around midday, which gave us 9 hours to rest and hydrate before the summit push. As much as we tried, no sleep would come and before we knew it, the 8pm alarm sounded and time to get ready. The 9 pm start replaced the usual 10 pm start, in an attempt to get out ahead of what we had predicted would be a busy summit night. As we popped out our tents at just before 9pm we quickly realised that other teams had had the same idea, with a long line of headtorches already making their way up to the Balcony. James and I had been teamed up with Mingma (going for his 13th Summit) and Tshering Sherpa, and were to lead out the team. Mingma seemed to be on a mission and we quickly started passing all the other teams on the way up to the Balcony. We were joined by David and Pasang and within an hour had passed around 60 climbers topping out on the Balcony in under 3 hours, we were motoring as a usual time would 4-5 hours to this point. It is usual to change oxygen bottles at this point but as we had been so quick we hadn't used a lot of the gas and so continued up the ridge a bit before we changed.

We made good progress up the ridge and were cresting the South Summit at 4am when I started to get a suffocating feeling, like someone was holding a pillow over my face, quite frightening at 28,000ft. A quick diagnosis revealed a frozen up valve on my oxygen mask. With hard blowing, banging and prodding of a knife, the valve was freed and I could breath again and the dizziness that ensued quickly disappeared.

From the South Summit you can see the main summit with only the knife edge ridge and the Hillary step guarding the upper slopes, only around 100 vertical feet still to climb. I started along the ridge but part way along my vision went and I was only able to make out shapes not the best position to be in when you have to climb along an icy trail, only a foot wide in places, with a 12,000ft drop on one side and a 10,000ft on the other. Tshering, at only 19 years old, was brilliant and got me back along the ridge to the South Summit and down a few hundred metres where my vision started to return. He made sure I clipped in properly to the fixed line and got my feet placements verified as we negotiated some steep and very exposed terrain, he truly was a hero and I owe this young man a hell of a lot. Half way between the South Summit and the Balcony my vision returned and I could make own way down. That was just the thing, heart, lungs and legs I was in good shape and felt really strong and was able to cruise down to Camp 4 pretty quickly.

The next day I boosted down to Camp 2 and today made it safely through the icefall, for the last time, down here to basecamp. Despite losing 10 kg I physically felt pretty good and am happy to be safe, however I am gutted to have got so close. I am sure I will get over it in time but at the minute it's a bit sore. I have to realise that without the support of my team mates and sherpas I could have been like one of the 5 climbers that didn't make it down on the day before and the day after our summit day.

I would like to thank all those that have supported my expedition and for all the kind comments and emails I have received. We are swinging out of basecamp tomorrow morning and will be back in the UK next weekend.

Best Wishes

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Summit Push

Dear Friends, Family and Fans,

This is Mara writing, Jagged Globe base camp manager. Just a quick couple lines to let you know about the last 24 hours up here on Everest. Martin & co left the South Col for the summit push last night just after 9pm. I'll leave him to fill you in on the details of what was definitely an epic climb, but for now, just know that he's back safely at high camp.

Making good time through the early morning hours Martin got all the way up beyond the Balcony, the South Summit, and just beneath the Hilary Step when we got word down here at base camp that he'd lost vision, a hypoxia induced event. Needless to say the decision was made to descend immediately. It was an intense few hours as he descended with the assistance of Pasang, Tshering Pemba, and David. Thankfully, by the time they dropped down to 8000 meters he regained function and now reports that he's fully recovered and resting for the night with the rest of the team at the Col.

I'll leave the details for Martin to fill in himself on his return down here in two days' time, but he wants me to be sure and let you know that everything is well and he thanks you all for all your support.

All the best,

Friday, May 16, 2008

Everest 2008- It's Go Time

Just a quick dispatch to let you know that we head off on our summit bid tomorrow night ( actually 2 am on the 19th). The Sherpas have been working tiredlesly, stocking up Camp 4 and it's just about ready for us. The schedule detailed in the previous dispatch still applies at this time. Unfortunately I will be out of contact until I arrive back in basecamp next Sunday, so I have asked our basecamp Manager, Mara, to post a dispatch, for me with details of how it all pans out. Thanks for all the support this far and it's now time to sharpen the focus for the next 7 days.

Best Wishes and Speak soon


Thursday, May 15, 2008

Everest 2008- Golf @ 17000ft!!

A few of the team decided to stay up here in Basecamp until the summit push, and this gave us the opportunity to compete against Mark Tucker from International Mountain Guides (IMG) in the Khumbu Classic Golf Competition. Played on the edge of the Icefall with only a 3 and 9 iron, I guess it is probably the highest "course" in the world and definitely the trickiest. After a brief explanation of the course rules, which let's just say were unique!, we set off in a stroke play format under the glare of the History Channel Camera's. The game came down to the last hole, the par 5 "White Monster", with Jagged Globe's Ian Taylor and Tucker tied at level par. Two good drives off the Ice block made it difficult to split the pair until Tucker sliced his second into the rough, well when I say rough I mean a crevasse really!. Having to take a drop shot Tucker finished with a 6, which allowed Taylor's par 5 to bring him the title. Thanks to Mark for a real fun day out on the "course".

Anyway back on the climbing news, we have a proposed schedule for our summit bid, which of course is very dependent on the weather and getting logistics in place. Here it is;
19th May- Basecamp - Camp 2
20th May- Rest Camp 2
21st May- Camp 2- Camp 3
22nd May- Camp 3- Camp 4
22nd May/23rd May- Camp 4 -Summit-Camp 4 (Climb through night)
24th May - Camp 4 - Camp 2
25th May - Camp 2 - Basecamp

As I said this is all very provisional at this stage and so I will confirm nearer the time. Other than that all's good here.


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Everest 2008- Camp 3 (7150m)

A 2 am start on the 9th of May , saw the team move up through the icefall with the aim of reaching Camp 2. Half way up the icefall a thunderous crack indicated a huge collapse/avalanche. Since it was dark all we could do was stay where we were and hope that we were not in the firing line. Fortunately we were not but frightening all the same. The ladders across the crevasses don't bother me, but as we approach the monsoon and the temperatures increase more and more serac collapses are likely and that is what is slightly unnerving each time we venture through the icefall. The good news is that, hopefully, we only have to venture through twice more.
After a brief stop at camp 1 to pick up some kit, we moved up the Western Cwn to Camp 2 and got caught in some real heat. Most people would imagine Everest to be a very cold place and it is but when the sun is out the Western Cwn is like a solar oven with temperatures reaching 40 degrees Celsius.

We had 2 nights in Camp 2 before setting off at 2 am on the 11th May for our climb to Camp 3 on the Lhotse Face. With very little precipitation this year so far the face was a very steep blue icey place, which required lots of front pointing on our crampons and jummaring all the way. With the ice so brittle people climbing above would shower ice down onto you, I took a few lumps onto my well justified helmet but unfortunately Ian took some ice in the eye and is seeking medical attention as I write this.

After a semi comfortable night in Camp 3 we descended to camp 2 in windy conditions where we had another night before making our way down here to basecamp this morning. James, Ian and myself were first down and were met by the film crew at the edge of the icefall where we shot off a bit of footage.

So that's us finished our acclimatisation cycles and are hopefully ready for our summit bid. We will now rest up here at basecamp or drop down the valley for a few days. The fixed lines have been fixed to camp 4 but the tents and oxygen have still to be moved up. So we wait for that to happen and keep studying the weather forecasts before deciding on a summit date. I will let you know as soon as we decide.

1. A birthday shout out to Davey Boy out in Cairns Australia. All the best Amigo.
2. Good luck to Glasgow Rangers for tomorrow Night.