Newsletter 429 September 2008
While I am sitting here typing and enjoying my last real cup of coffee for a few days, lots is going on on the hill. Our members are moving to Camp 1 at 5,700 meters with 6 days of food and all of their high altitude gear on their backs. Our summit push begins today!
Meanwhile, our Sherpa team is on day two of a herculean effort to get the mountain into shape for our attempt. As we had feared, the storms of the past 10 days have almost pushed us back to square one. Four days ago, our Sherpa team and I attempted to see the state of the upper mountain, but massive avalanche conditions and another 2 feet of snow kept us at camp 1 and no higher. In the last three days the sun finally graced us, and we had the weather we have been waiting a month for - high pressure, zero cloud build-up, and intense sun. These 3 days of sun caused avalanches all over the peak, and have once again made the mountain reasonable for travel. The downside? The storms have also covered all of the fixed lines and our camps with at least 2 metres of snow, and often 3+ metres (10 feet). So our team of 8 world-class Sherpas spent 16 hours on the hill yesterday - first completely refixing the ropes from Camp 1 to 2, and then digging for hours to attempt to find our tents. When they finally struck a tent, they were in holes far above their heads, needing to pass the snow out of the hole via burlap sacks. Of course the tents are completely destroyed from the weight of the snow. And even after 5 hours of digging, the team had not yet uncovered the storage tent, which holds all of our gas, stoves, sleeping bags, etc.
So today they are back at it. Their goal is to finish uncovering Camp 2, carry up and set up all new tents, and then continue to Camp 3 where our crucial oxygen supplies along with all of our tents, stoves, and sleeping bags for Camps 3 and 4 are located. We fear this camp could be under as much as 5 metres (16 feet) of snow, and without it we will not have the time or resources to make a summit bid.
So even as we begin our move to Camp 1, our stomachs are a bit tied in knots and our ears glued to our radios for any word from the Sherpas. If they are successful today, the weather forecast looks excellent and our team is healthy and strong. All of the members have pushed back their international flights a week for the chance at this summit. Today will tell us if we have this chance!
Stay tuned for updates via satellite phone from our summit push!
Adrian Ballinger, Himalayan Experience