Monday, March 31, 2008

Everest 2008 - Permit!!

I stated in my last dispatch that I wouldn't be blogging again until Basecamp, but I thought this news was worthy of putting up with the frustration of extremely slow connection speeds and increasing on-line costs.

News reached us yesterday evening that Jagged Globe Everest Team i.e. my team were granted the first permit from the Tourism Ministry. Huge thanks are due to Adele, Kit and Sangey, who have been working hard on the permit back in Kathmandu. Although I have not seen the conditions of the permit, I am assured it offers a workable solution to allow a summit attempt. Adele now leaves Kathmandu this morning to catch us up on the trek into basecamp.

Everthing else is cool here and we continue our trek without the doubts of the last couple of weeks.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Everest 2008- Dingboche (4300m)

We are here in Dingboche for the next 2 days. We had a good walk up the trail today and popped into the 600 year old monastery in Pangboche where the resident Lama gave us all a blessing for our expedition. I think this will be last update I will be able to do before basecamp which we hope to arrive in 7 days time.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Everest 2008- Thyangboche

The team and I are all here in Thyangboche (3850m) fit and well and in good spirits. The trek from Namche was stunning with Everest looming large in the distance for the early part of the day and arguably the best looking mountain in the World, Ama Dablam, also providing an awesome backdrop throughout the day. Here in Thyanboche, I dropped into the monastery for some good Karma as you can see from the attached picture...hope we get some. We will have a night here before continuing up the trail towards Basecamp tomorrow. Our freight which has now been released from customs in Kathmandu is now chasing us up the trail..we hope to see it in Basecamp. Thanks for all the comments so far they are really appreciated, sorry for not responding but connection time is at a premium up here and so I am limiting myself to only updating the progress.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Everest 2008- Lukla landing

Here's some of my footage of the landing at the Lukla Airstrip on Tuesday Morning. Check it out.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Everest 2008- Pictures

A good nights sleep here last night in Namche and enjoying a rest day right now. Another rest day is scheduled for tomorrow but we may stretch our legs a little in the surrounding foothills. The following day we will head up to Thyangboche (3770m) where we will get the chance, hopefully, to visit the famous Monastery. No news as yet of the permit situation but we continue to move towards Base Camp in eager anticipation. Here are some pictures from the trek so far.

Everest 2008- Namche Bazaar (3450m)

We had a super smooth start to the base camp trek with a seamless check-in for our flight up to Lukla. The flight, often labelled the worlds' most dangerous, was exhillarating but not dangerous. I sat up front, just behind the pilots in the wee Twin Otter and got fantastic views of all the surrounding vistas and of course the landing as we dropped onto the 20 degree angled runway. Watching the pilots bring the craft to an impressive handbrake turn into the disembarkment paddock was testimony to their undoubted flying prowess.

We set off that morning up the valley following the Dudh Koshi river to our first stop of Phakding (2600m) where we stayed in a tea house and spent the night playing some cards with the Irish lads showing the early form.

The next morning an early start saw us enter the Sagarmartha National park and press on up to Namche Bazaar which is the capital of the Khumbu Region. Many large suspension bridges were the highlight as well as our first sighting of Everest. We are set for a rest day here tomorrow as we allow our bodies to acclimatise to this increased altitude.

I am having difficulty attaching pictures right now but will post some from the past few days as soon as I can.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Everest 2008- Kathmandu

Hello and Happy Easter from sunny Kathmandu. A delayed schedule saw me arrive here late last night just in time for the staff at the Summit Hotel to stage a welcome puja ceremony for us all and then a quick dinner was followed by a couple of drinks as the team did a bit of bonding. Two off our team, commuting from Dublin, did not meet the Heathrow connection, and should arrive later today or tomorrow. We are a team of seven climbers, 3 Irish, 2 Scots and 2 English, with an Expedition Leader, Deputy Leader, Base Camp Manager as well as all our Sherpa., Porter and Kitchen crew. The news on the permit is that a joint proposal by all the teams has been accepted by the ministry but they have referred it up to the Nepali Cabinet for final approval. We should know tomorrow morning but the way things have been panning out of late I will not hold my breath on that one. All going well, we will start the 10-12 day trek into basecamp tomorrow morning. It will all start with the exhilarating flight up to the mountain airstrip of Lukla that I enjoyed so much back in 2005 and then it's on foot all the way. I hope to have a couple opportunities to post dispatches on route but no guaranteed dispatches until we get our communications set up at basecamp.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Everest 2008- Expedition Begins...Hopefully!!

The news from our man in Kathmandu, is that a lengthy 5 hour meeting was held at the Tourism Ministry on Thursday morning. The meeting was drawn to a close without any decisions regarding the nature of the permit restrictions being known.

So our teams decision is thus..we will head to Kathmandu, as scheduled tomorrow, and see what the permit states when we arrive on Sunday. If the nature of the permit contains restrictions that effectively make the summit unattainable, for instance by not allowing any access to the mountain before 10th May, then we will abort our Everest Expedition. We hope that the ever-increasing number of climbers in Kathmandu angry at the possibility of having their dreams thwarted by the Tourism Ministry's indecision might tip their hand. So, we should go and hope that the Tourism Secretary is good for his word and the permits to be issued are good for the summit.

Thanks for all the many good luck messages I've received and all those who came out for a drink last night. A good night was certainly had and I am just about recovered from the effects of a very late night.

Next dispatch will be from Kathmandu.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Everest 2008- Latest News

News reached me today from my Expedition orginiser, Jagged Globe, that their representative in Nepal met with Nepal's Prime Minister in Kathmandu this morning to seek resolution as to whether or not we will be able to climb this year. The Prime Minister passed the decision over to Nepal's Tourism Minister, who was busy campaigning in another part of Nepal for the forthcoming election on April 10th. The day was then spent with the Jagged Globe's representative getting in a Helicopter to track him down for a chat. I await the outcome of this meeting but hope to get news by tomorrow morning. This is a slight glimmer of hope. I was also advised not to unpack which was more optimism than I had shown by the fact I hadn't even started packing!

Meanwhile many expeditions who planned to climb from the Tibetan side are in a worse position. Their plans are toast with no entry being allowed into Tibet at this time. Many expeditions have also decided against trying to switch over to the Nepal side and have postponed their climbs until 2009. If we do get the opportunity to climb I think it will be a quieter year than previous on Everest which is the only positive thing I can take from the current situation at this time.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Everest 2008- Expedition in Doubt

Developments in China/Tibet and Nepal in the last few days have put my Everest Expedition in serious doubt. China, who are running an expedition to get the Olympic Torch to the summit, have closed the Mountain from their side until May 10th. This morning, after much pressure the Nepali authorities seem to have followed suit.

The reasons behind this seem to be that the Chinese fear that their expedition will be disrupted by "Free Tibet" protests. This was the case last year as they put a rehearsal expedition together on the China/Tibet side of the mountain.

The thing is that you just can't start an Everest Expedition after May 10th, you need the whole of April and early May to fix the mountain and get acclimatised, so this ruling basically ends any ones hopes of summitting. There is a bit of confusion about the statement from the Nepali authorities as it states ""Expedition teams will not be allowed to move from Nepal's Everest base camp from May 1 to May 10,". This would perhaps mean that teams could be on the mountain during April, but how they could ensure everyone was off by May 1st is questionable. It is also very optimistic of the Chinese to think that they will summit by May 10th as this is in the hands of the Mountain and more realistically the weather. If the weather delayed the Chinese, it would put back everyone's expedition which needs to be off the mountain before the monsoon arrives in June.

This untimely decision by authorities, of both countries, has not only a huge impact on hundreds of mountaineers, who are just weeks and days away from setting off to the mountain but also the livelihood of many locals, sherpas, porters etc.

I am due to fly out next Saturday and, like many others, have been planning and training for this expedition for years. To say I am gutted, by these developments, is a huge understatement. I can only hope that in the coming days things change and a compromise can be sought.

I have copied a link to some recent web reports that show the latest developments.