Jaime and Andy were slowly lead back into high camp. I cried again during their return. The radio transferred the news to ABC, where Owen called Jaime's wife and Andy's girlfriend. We had been keeping them up to date. Trying to stay one step ahead of an internet distorted media.
That afternoon, Asmuss and I lead them down to Camp 3, at 7900 meters. Phurba and Lopsang met us there with hot drinks. The next day, around 3:30 on the 25th, we stumbled into ABC. Each of us had tears in our eyes.
Back at high camp, the movement of Oxygen was our primary concern. I stumbled to the Russian Camp, in which a lone women, who spoke no English was in distress. Her three friends were missing. Her radio did not work. But it was rumored Oxygen cylinders were stored in this tent, and we had her expedition's permission to use them to help both our team and the Russians trapped above. We rigged a radio transfer in which a Russian team mate in ABC could talk to her, but we couldn't talk back. With tears in her eyes, she tried to listen, but her heart was so full of questions. She reluctantly gave me some Oxygen and two more of our Sherpas set off, laden with the precious gas.
A few hours later a Russian stumbled down to us, and as we fed him tea and dexamethazone, two new Russians climbed up to us.
By the time I got to the top of the Exit Cracks, two Sherpas were trying to help the Spaniard down. Naoki was was being pulled by Karsang, his speed and energy had rapidly diminished. I was becoming hypothermic after more three hours without Oxygen. Russ was constantly on the radio, first helping me deal with the Spaniard and then encouraging Andy, Asmuss and Jaime to keep moving.
Before departing the ridge crest for high camp, I found the bottle with the least amount of Oxygen and began to suck O's. I made it back to the safety of high camp at about 3 pm. Naoki was the only client in sight. By this time Owen was safely at ABC, Evelyne, Robert and Marco also arrived for dinner. Keiron and Ellen slept at Camp 2. Naoki and Karsang made it to Camp 3 by dark.
Throughout the afternoon, I heard Russ calling up to them, but I was too busy with my own trials to listen in. I found myself managing a lunatic asylum. Bottlenecks kept occuring as tired climbers, possibly suffering from Cerebral Edema, simply sat down along the route and zoned out. We'd be stopped for ten to thirty minutes at a time. My oxygen supplies were rapidly draining.
The Summit Pyramid, a big triangle of snow that dominates the North Side, is far from the top. In the middle of the slope, our pal Evelyne was descending, the first Swiss woman to reach the top. I was so happy for her, and we stopped and smiled and hugged. It was a great hug, filling me with some needed energy.
After filming Marco and hugging Evelyne, I had become seperated from the groups, and continued alone across this slope and entered even more slabs of rock. The view: thousands of feet of air leading to the Rongbuk glacier. Thin strips of rope led me on and into a narrow cleft. With little ledges, the downward sloping rock is criss crossed with the scratch marks of crampons. Every crampon that has been here has slipped at least an inch every time a climber weights it. The technique: try to fall upward a bit faster than you were slipping downward.
In the middle of the Third Step, a flash of purple crested the summit ridge. It was Marco, on his snow board, surfing the summit pyramid of Everest. We were psyched. I stopped and pulled out my video camera and captured a few turns. Giant rooster tails of snow shot backwards, catching the light and magnifying his whole show.
He surfed by us, and then stopped to re-adjust a binding. I tried to wait for him to carve more turns, but the cold was burning my fingers and the view was destroying my nerve. Marco was literally standing on a crest of a bulge, no it was a sheer cliff face. Catch an edge: you fly then die. He needed to repair his binding and then...
At 1:30 am, we were congregating outside of Asmuss' tent, dressed for battle, but with the spiritual hopes of pilgrims. Asmuss was yelling "Where is Chris?" through his oxygen mask. "I'm right here," I yelled back in muffled syllables. He sounded angrier the second time, so I took the mask off. I knew right then that communication would be limited to the person whose eyes you could look into. We were entering outer space: our headlamps shot forth bright beams of concentrated light, our masks were fed by tubes leading from the cylinders on our backs, ice axes were in our hands, and crampons strapped to each foot. A jumar, attached by a tether to our harnesses, was gripped by our mittened hands and clamped onto the rope that stretched outward and upward into the darkness.
Asmuss and I are drill sergeants, barking orders to dress and depart. We want to move up and have been "brewing up" since 5 a.m. Ironically, the rest of the mountain is on a different schedule. The Sherpas are climbing up from Camp 2, Andy's gang is trying to crawl out of these tiny pup tents in which they could barely sleep. A certain lassitude has descended upon the team. Departure is delayed from 7 am to 8 am. Later this is updated to 9 am. We tell our gang to brew up...quickly.
Finally, unable to control ourselves, we begin replacing each climber's oxygen cylinder with a fresh one. The slower climbers are pushed out the door. The miracle of Oxygen begins to take place. Yesterday I climbed twice as fast as the team, today I can barely keep up.
We are now just one day away from our summit attempt. The last few days have been rather hectic as we arrange for everyone to get to the top camp later today. As I write this all the members, guides and Sherpas are at camp3 (7,900m) making final arrangments to leave for the top camp (8,300m). In a few minutes they will be leaving wearing oxygen masks. They should be at top camp in about 3 hours, where they will rest for the afternoon before setting out for the summit at about 01.30am tomorrow morning.
In the meanwhile the Jagged Globe North Col group has trekked up to ABC. 4 of the 5 members plus David Walsh all reached the North Col two days ago. Yesterday was a rest day for them, and today they have departed for BC and tomorrow they will head back to Kathmandu.
The expedition is moving as two groups from ABC and the hope is that today we will be reunited at Camp 3. Asmuss and I are climbing with Naoki, Jamie, Owen, Ellen and Kieron. We spent last night at Camp 2, squeezed into two of our tents and two of the Australian Army.
Andy, Marco, Evelyne and Robert are hopping past Camp 2 adding an extra 400 meters to today's climb.
The Sherpas: Phurba and Karsang (Nepal) are pushing from Camp 1 to Camp 4. This will allow them to set up some extra tents and organize the camp for our arrival. Lopsang, Karsang (Tibet) and Dawa will go from Camp 1 to 2. and Chuldim, Danuru and Dorje will go from Camp 1 to 3, then return to sleep at 2. This complicated plan is needed to set ourselves up for success: Oxygen will begin to be used at Camp 3, additional tents need to be set up, all sorts of small peices are being moved around.
Wouldn't it be wonderful if the Great Wizard of Oz was giving out certificates for courage, university degrees on ticking pocket watches on the summit of Everest. He'd be busy right now, because the Sherpas of the American team just (9:30 a.m.) reached the summit. Wow!!!! Great news for us all. In ABC, the shouting started in the American camp and quickly spread among us. The sound grew louder and louder, 200 people spread along 300 meters, banging pots and pans, yodelling and clapping. Smiles and pats on the back signalling our need to grab ahold of the fixed ropes and go!!!
You know you're in trouble, when you roll over in your tent, at 21,400 ft. (6400m) and the first thing you see is a crushed cardboard party hat and a New Year's noise maker. As the battle with hypoxia is slowly won, you begin to remember a few things about the night before.
May 17th is the birthday of some of the greatest people (my dad for instance), including Evelyne and David Walsh (David is the leader of a "North Col" group that is part of the greater Himalayan Experience Everest 2001 entourage). In little need of an excuse, we decided to host a birthday bash.
In my debut dispatch from Everest, I am choosing to write about a subject that I value, and a quality that exists in our expedition. Call it teamwork, group dynamics, camaraderie, or just plain getting along with each other. I feel as qualified as anyone to write about it, as I am the veteran of several commercial expeditions (some with great energy and others in which the climbers were simply too lazy, old or unmotivated to accomplish the task). I am also a serious participant in stressful, international, multi-day team races (Eco Challenges, etc.), where team interaction is key.
Yak men are guiding their teams of Yaks through ABC, here to drop off one team's gear and pick up a departing team's unrealized dreams. It is great to see the yak men, dressed as they are in warm and cozy fleece jackets that were donated by our friends at Carphone Warehouse.
Carphone Warehouse gave Russ over 200 fleece jackets, knowing that the yak men, villagers and monks that live at the base of Everest, would greatly appreciate the gift. A fleece jacket really is the perfect gift for these folks, who live in unheated houses and scratch a living from an inhospitable environment.
Can you imagine the embarrassment of any mom, if they had to see their grown children celebrating Mother's Day by wearing Russian aviator masks and goggles c/w long hoses stretching to an oxygen cylinder? I was embarrassed to just be among this group of Halloween rejects. Seriously folks, dressing up like that is a bit absurd if it wasn't, "learn how to climb on Oxygen day." To an Everest climber, today is the second most important holiday in the month of May. Simply a coincidence that it fell on Mother's Day, the most important holiday. Think of the gift of grey hair and sleepless nights that we've given our moms. Pretty thoughtful, eh!!
While our comrades fought their way uphill, wading through knee deep snow to reach ABC, those of us at BC perservered through our own torturous day. Lacchu made us pizza for lunch. And Ellen and Chris baked a carrot cake to die for. Happily we survived this gastronomic challenge.
All activity on the mountain self-arrested today when a snowstorm plouged in, dumping knee-deep (well, for Ellen, that is) snow on ABC and several inches on Base Camp. Chris, Andy, Asmus, Ellen and Owen are thus spending their eleventh day 'resting' at BC--an Everest code word for 'inflating the jowls'--and plan to hike the 15 miles to ABC tomorrow. The other half of the crew found itself covered in snow at interim camp this morning but decided to plunge ahead to ABC when Jaime happened to see some text from Naoki's book: "All work and no play makes Naoki a bad boy" is apparently scrawled throughout the tome and when the others saw it, they fled. The capricious weather affects people differently.
As I write the radio is crackling with the voices of the Sherpas and Russ. Early this morning, 7 Sherpas left Camp 1 at the North Col and headed up the mountain. They are carrying the last loads of Oxygen bottles to Camp 4 at 8300m/27400 ft.
In total we will have 95 bottles of Oxygen on the mountain, a few reserved just for medical emergencies. Each bottle weighs 3 kilos/10 lb. and costs us $380 to buy, fill and transport to ABC. By the time they reach Camp 4, a bottle must be worth $450-500. Oxygen bottles are worth their weight in gold, especially when you factor in the safety and performance they offer. Each climber will sleep on a bottle at Camp 3 (7900m/26000ft.), then climb on a second bottle from Camp 3 to 4. That bottle will be set at a flow rate (1 to 2 liters per minute) that will allow us to nap, etc., at high camp.
Clouds are racing past the summit, changing directions every few hours and dumping thin layers of snow on the mountain every evening. Some mornings we awake to a dusting of snow, some afternoons a mini cold front races through camp, dumping three or four inches. The weather has not been stable.
The first few days of the unsettled weather has been a blessing for most of us, allowing us to recuperate from our sore throats and limps. Now, after nearly a week in base camp, patience (not being a patient) is the problem. We want our chance to climb.
"Where have we been?" Can't you tell by the coughing, wheezing, bloodied noses, limps and gum infections that we've been having fun on the slopes of Mt. Everest. We've been climbing, putting one crampon in front of the other, sliding our jumars up the fixed lines, and hyperventilating to the beat of a country and western song. We even, quite dramatically, lifted our heads and took in the sweep of mountains on the horizon, but only for a second, of course. Always have to get back to the important task of hyperventilating.
Owen, Ellen, Marco, Roy and I left ABC on April 28th and climbed to Camp 1. It was a really nice day. We each crawled into a nest of two sleeping bags and settled in for the night. By 8:30, Owen, Marco, Ellen and I headed off for Camp 2. Roy, at the wise age of 62, headed back to ABC to save his strength.
Another Everest season has come and gone. It was busy, successful and had it’s fair share of drama.
Many reports on other sites have had a good old say about us, some saying a few positive things, and others saying a lot of negative things. So be it, but at least I should let you know how our trip went as far as I am concerned.
This year saw the strongest team I have ever had the chance to assemble. Clients, guides and Sherpas all mixed and worked very well together. The team was strong, motivated and all had a keen will to reach the summit.
Chocolate cake and hard work are more reliable than luck
Almost all of us, including two "trekkers," have climbed to the North Col, the site of our Camp 1. This climb can be pretty tough: over 600 meters (2000 ft) of altitude is gained by using a series of fixed lines up the steep headwall. The terrain definitely keeps your attention, more than a dozen crevasses are crossed, steep sections exceed 50 degrees, and the single line of ropes, is clogged in places by climbers heading up or down against the flow of traffic.
Climbing to the North Col is another major step in the physical and psychological battle for the summit. If you can't make it, or do so after a bitter struggle, you're left with well deserved doubts. Are you fit enough, are you acclimatized, is your heart really into it?
The last of the climbing team arrived at Advanced Base Camp (ABC) on April 19th. The Sherpas arrived on the 16th, and with the help of Kharsang, who had arrived a few days earlier, scraped a fantastic campsite from the rock covered glacier. Hiking to ABC was a challenge for each of us. It took two days to hike the 22km (13 mile) trail, gaining over 1300 m. (4000 ft), on a rock covered glacier.
The only trail markers were the ever present clods of yak dung. Getting lost, no matter how mind numbed the altitude was making you, was nearly impossible. Just follow your nose.
On the Move: Leaving Base Camp and Establishing Advanced Base Camp
126 yaks, each loaded with over 40 kilos (88 lbs.) of equipment, food, propane gas cylenders, rope and oxygen bottles are plying the pathways of the Rongbuk and East Rongbulk glaciers this week. Our team is moving up the hill.
The journey from Base Camp to ABC follows a 22 km (13 mile) trail, climbing to 6400 m. (21,000 ft.). ABC is situated along a thin strip of rock covered glacier, perhaps 50 meters wide and 300 meters long. This leaves hardly enough room for the 26 expeditions that hope to climb Everest this year. With a shortage of space in mind, Karsang, one of our Sherpas, ran from BC to ABC on the day he arrived, claiming a choice peice of real estate for our team.
The jeeps rolled across the Tibetan Plateau, climbing up dusty hills, passing streamers of prayer flags, and after a quick new view, dropping down the other side. Eagles and ravens circled above the passes. Yak men, driving their herds toward fresh pastures, scarcely noticed our passing. The winds were howling, but the movement of jeeps, yaks and eagles signaled the return of spring.
The year's first flight to Lhasa lifted off the tarmac a bit late, but did not disappoint. Circling up and out of Katmandu, we had great views of the city's brick red buildings and a dozen temples. The Monkey Temple, high on a hill, was the last to disappear.
Rising above the haze, the sky turned a cobalt blue, and mountain after mountain reached upwards. All of Nepal and Tibet's 8000 meter peaks were lining the flight path: first Dhaulagiri, then Annapurna, Manaslu, Shishapangma, Cho Oyu, Everest, Lhotse, Makalu and finally Kanchenjunga. Ama Dablam, Jannu, Melungtse, Mera and a hundred other peaks, all worth dreaming about, filled in the carpet of white and black peaks far below us.
Russell Brice (New Zealand). Russ is the expedition leader and the owner of Himalayan Experience. This will be his 11th expedition to Everest. Russ has guided over 35 Himalayan expeditions and is a founder of IGO8000, the association that regulates commercial expeditions to 8000 meter peaks.
Andy Lapkass (USA). Andy has been on more than 20 Himalyan expeditions and has summated Everest twice. This will be his second season as a guide on Russ' Everest expedition. Andy also competes in adventure races. He and Ellen Miller were on the same team in the Borneo Eco-Challenge, competing against Owen West.
Snow seems to be the theme of the last 24 hours. The Sherpas, climbing from Camp 3 to Camp 4 ploughed, despite the fatigue and lack of Oxygen, through knee deep snow. The two hour climb took over 4 and only 3 of the 7 Sherpas made it all the way.
The delay in climbing up made the descent even worse, as an afternoon storm hit them at high camp. They battled back down, arriving in ABC after 7 pm. For the Sherpas it was a long and tiring day.
Meanwhile, Evelyne and Robert hiked back up to ABC. Keiron, Jamie, Naoki and Marco went to Interim camp. The rest of us delayed our hike, hoping to go in one shot from BC to ABC on the 11th.
As I read the weather report, my palms began to sweat. The summit was in reach, as the winds were to drop, the temperatures would rise and settled weather would descend upon us. The Sherpas were preparing to move up to Camp 1 and then boldly establish Camps 2, 3 and 4. Owen and Ellen were spending the night at Camp 1, hoping to climb to Camp 2 on a sunny, barely breezy day.
I was shaken from my sleep, just past dawn, to the ripping of my tent's outer layer. I had tied my tent to another, which having been recently evacuated by our departing trekkers, was pried loose from the rocks it was lashed to. Filled with only a few foam pads, the tent was picked up by a fierce gust of wind, tore itself free of my tent and flew more than two hundred meters down valley.