Newsletter 321 April 2003
BC to ABC - 15th to 20th April
Further apologies to all for delay in getting these dispatches out. Comms. probs. and various issues with gear and folk etc. but now we're fully established at ABC all should be a little smoother. Well, at least as smooth as operating this technology at 20000 feet can be (when I tried to boot up yesterday evening, the hard disk was frozen, literally).
Chung, Matt, Andy, Laura and Herman set off for Interim Base Camp (IBC) around 10:00 am taking it deliberately slowly. After clearing up some comms. issues Tony follows at 1:00pm and all are tucked up in IBC by 5:00pm. IBC is no tourist trap; a large hoop tent to sleep 10, about 11kms up the East Rongbuk glacier.
It is permanently manned by a sherpa with a VHF radio to cope with the constant traffic up and down the 22km hike from BC to ABC.
Everyone who set off for IBC yesterday, gets into ABC. The Sherpa team have done a superb job in establishing enough infrastructure for us to have a tent and a cup of tea on arrival. Most of us are sporting huge altitude headaches but are pleased to be in ABC.
We are now at 6500m and its been a huge jump and it will take a while to acclimatise.
One or two folk are suffering from blurry vision, and in one case, occassional flips into black and white, but this will all pass. Nausea is prevalent and appetites are suppressed. Andy and Laura our, trekking companions, achieve a hard fought personal best altitude and complete their goal of reaching ABC. They have added immeasurably to the social richness of the team's journey in.
The rest of our team: Tryntje, Sue and Gernot, together with two new trekkers, Sissell and Francoise attempting the North Col, arrive today at ABC.
Mean time Tony, Matt and Chung take a hike up the glacier to the"crampon point" (ie. from this point on, its active glacier or climbing).
This a rest day in ABC as we all try to let blood oxygen saturation levels catch up. Typcial readings are in the low 70% or upper 60%'s. Tryntje our paramedic tells us that if a casualty with a blood O² saturation of less than 60% was picked up at sea level, the patient would be deliberately paralysed and made to breathe through a tube. Clearly, it's not quite so bad for us, but it is an indication of the struggle the body has surviving up here.
Most of us are sleep deprived and have headaches but generally things are improving and the weather is ludicrously warm during the day (ie. low minus's rather than minus 10 or 20 which would be more normal). It won't last, so we'll enjoy it while we can.
A further rest day after the altitude shock load of reaching ABC.
Our red blood cell counts need to go up and the swellings of our brains need to decrease. This is what gives us our altitude headaches.
We are planning to make our first assault on the north col tomorrow, weather permitting.
We use the day to do final equipment checks. Everyone has different ideas re: ice axes, leashes, jumars, safeties, etc. and rescue equipment. Generally things are OK. Some of the team are familiar with the climbing techniques of 8000m peaks and the rest will have no problem bringing their general mountaineering experience to this big hill.
Although an early start was planned, the experience we all had, whilst trying to sleep, made it pretty clear the North Col was off today.
Thunder claps and 60 to 80 mile an hour winds resulted in other camps loosing some personal gear and a couple of badly erected box tents being flattened in the early hours. Some heavy snow and the ominous rumble of avalanches further up the valley, left us in no doubt about the right decision. Later in the day, the snow stopped falling but the wind stayed and there were plenty of photo opportunities as we were treated to dramatic 100mph spin drift ripping and boiling in vortices off the top of Mt. Everest and all the surrounding 7000m and 6000m peaks.
Tony Kelly - Climber
Himex 2003 North Side Expedition
Advanced Base Camp - 6500m
Monday 16:52 Nepali Time
21st April 2003