Saturday, April 26, 2008

Everest 2008- Latest News

Hey All,

Sorry for the lack of updates, but communications have been difficult lately. Everything is cool here, I have been busy with my acclimatisation cycles, with three nights spent at Camp 1 (6060m) and one trip to Camp 2 (6400m). The trip up to Camp 2, up the Western Cwn or Valley of Silence as it is sometimes known, was truelly awsome, with the huge walls of Nuptse and Everest's West face flanking us on both sides and the Lhotse face and Lhotse (World's 4th Highest Mountain) at the head of the valley providing an awsome background for our climb.

Acclimatisation is going well and my time to Camp 1 is now down to just under 5 hours. Not bad by normal standards until you get passed by Pem Chheri, one of our Super Strong Sherpas, carrying a 30kg load. He makes Basecamp to Camp 1 in 2 hours! and onward to camp 2 in a total of 3 hours. I spoke to Pem in Camp 1, the other day, as he was making his way back from Camp 2 to Basecamp.

"Rest day tomorrow Pem?"
"No, back to work on Camp 2" replied Pem
"Why don't you just stay up there tonight then?" I asked

His simple answer typified the incredible physical ability of the Sherpas

"Not necessary"!!

In between our acclimatisation cycles we have a fair amount of time here at Basecamp. Our 12" DVD player has been working overtime of late with a typical example being watching the complete season 2 of the excellent US series "Entourage" in just 2 sittings!. Also to releave a bit of boredom we took part in a research programme for NASA. Ok Ok I'm bigging it up a little truth, it was for NASA research, but was little more than a 400 question Physchometric test, which from what I could gather was analysing our perception of risk and how much of a nutter you must be to climb Everest.

We have got 2 more cycles to do on the mountain with the main aim of these to sleep at Camp 3 which we hope to have completed by early May. It will then be a case of watching the weather forecasts and planning summit bids.

Hope this finds you all well.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Everest 2008- Into the Icefall

With our team's Puja completed we have made some tentative climbs through the icefall in the last few days, with this mornings climb reaching a couple of hundred vertical metres from Camp1. Politics have re-emerged and we are being prevented from moving to Camp 1 until the Nepali army arrive in Basecamp!!.

The icefall was always the part of the route that I had slight worries about, but in reality I enjoyed my first 2 forays. Pemba Tshering (1 of our Sherpas), who accompanied us through the icefall this morning told us that the route is longer this year but safer..good news. That said, crossing a couple of aluminium ladders strapped together, with a bottomless crevasse beneath your crampons, making sure your spikes straddle the rungs and trying to ignore the towering ice serac above your head ensures that this is still not a place to get complacent or for anyone of a nervous disposition!.

On the health news a few team mates have gone down with the cold, but I have avoided it thus far and despite living with only 50% of the oxygen that you are enjoying I have no symptoms to report...well apart peeing like a racehorse as my body excretes all the bi-carbonates it needs to balance the pH for this altitude!..a minor inconvenience!.
Our plans are to head up to Camp 1 early in the week unless more Everest 2008 politics emerge..what a year!.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Everest 2008- Basecamp

Hello from Everest Base Camp. I swung into basecamp, fit, well and acclimatised, on Sunday after completing the trek with nights in Chukung, Loboche and Gorak Shep. We have only just got the Comms Tent up and running hence the delay between dispatches. It's great to finally get here and get into my individual spacious 4 man tent after the nomadic existence of the last 2 weeks. Its quite a change from the tea houses we have been staying in with -15 degrees Celsius temperatures measured on the last few nights and avalanches going off like jet aircraft flying over the tents during the night. I've also managed to enjoy my first shower in 2 weeks!..yeah I know what what your thinking..and your right..tad smelly..but that's expedition life.!!.

That's pretty much chapter 1 closed and I now focus on climbing on the mountain proper with the first leg climbing to camp 1. This involves negotiating the Khumbu Icefall, which is the most dangerous place on the whole mountain. A mass jumble of ice with gaping crevasses and overhanging seracs as big as houses. The ice fall is constantly moving which makes this place so dangerous. In order to forge a safe passageway through, each team, pays a group of sherpas called the Icefall Doctors a fee, to set aluminium ladders across the crevasses (sometimes 3 in length), fix ropes and anchors and maintain all these safety features throughout the climbing season. At this time only half of the icefall has been fixed so we are on rest days for a while.

The other thing we must do before going on the mountain is have our Puja. The Puja is a sherpa tradition where prayers and offerings are given to the mountain in order to ask for safe passage. The ceremony is led by a Local Lama, goes on for a couple of hours and will see our climbing equipment, crampons, ice axes, harnesses etc also being blessed as well as a few cheeky wee beers and a chang chaser. It all cumilates in the central flag pole resplendent in prayer flags being raised on our Puja stone where it will fly till the end of the expedition.

So not much climbing to report at this stage but hopefully by the weekend we will be into the icefall. Sorry for the lack of pics but is just prooving too costly and difficult at this time.