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.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Everest 2008- Lucky Number 8- Olympic torch


I was awoken by the now familiar sound of the small jet aircraft circling the Summit. Over the last week, the aircraft had been capturing the progress of the Olympic torch team as they made their way up the other side of the mountain. Making my way to the mess tent at 7 am news reached me that the Torch had in fact reached the top. Reports were that over 20 climbers had summitted by 6 am Nepal time. I guess it was always going to be the 8th that the Chinese summitted, being that it is their lucky number and the Olympics start on 08/08/2008!!.

The news of the summit was met with great cheer here on the South side basecamp; the army cheer because they can now go back home and the climbers can now climb without any of the restrictions that were in place. With that in mind we leave at 2 am tomorrow morning for Camp 2 and onward to Camp 3 in the next couple of days to finish our acclimatisation. The team will be back down in BC on the 13th May where we will be resting up and planning our summit bid.

Other news is that we have the film crew from the History Channel arriving today to document the build up to, and our summit bid from a basecamp viewpoint.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Everest 2008- Day 43!


Most teams have retreated down the valley in search of a more comfortable oxygen rich environment, but we have decided to stay here in what has become a very snowy Basecamp. Our hope is that things conclude elsewhere on the mountain in the next couple of days and we are in a position to get an early push up to Camp 3 to finish our acclimatisation.

We managed to freshen up our DVD collection with an exchange of films with the lads from the Adventure Peaks team. This has gone some way to relieve the boredom that is rapidly setting in around here. It is now 43 days since I left the UK, this amount of time saw me summit Cho Oyu and be back in sunny Kathmandu on my last expedition. Everest, especially from the South is a very long expedition and staying focused, with all this downtime, can be difficult at times so thanks for your comments they have been excellent for morale. On a plus point, after all the years of planning and waiting for this expedition, we hope to only have 3 weeks left on the nearly there.

I can't believe of all the years to come here that my team, Glasgow Rangers, gets into the UEFA cup final, and I am going to miss the final down in Manchester. Can someone from home, who hasn't switched to Sky +, record the game (DVD/VHS) for me, I will be truly thankful. Staying on the football theme, myself and Ian Taylor (Fellow Team Member) are trying to assemble a team to play the Nepali army back in Kathmandu on our return. Major Rana, our Liaison Officer and top scorer for the army, has assembled the Nepali team and it looks like it could be and entertaining conclusion to our expedition. That said playing the Nepalese in their own back yard at 3000ft above sea level might not be the most sensible idea but will be fun all the same.