NEWSLETTERS - Everest North Side 2005

Newsletter 321 April 2005

The entire team was settled into advanced base camp by April 20, but North Col member Oliver Smallman succumbed to some form of high altitude stroke and had to be evacuated to base camp on the back of a yak. Thankfully he responded well to treatment from expedition doctor Terry O'Connor and the combination of oxygen and the lower altitude meant that he was able to fly back to London, on Friday night having made a spectacular and welcome return to full health. He is much missed by his team mates, but is still expected to raise lots of money for the endometriosis charity he has chosen to support.

David Tait, who was another evacuee, has now rejoined the team after a hasty return trip from base camp to Kathmandu for treatment on a tooth. David had shelled out a considerable amount of cash having a thorough dental examination, including x-rays, on March 9, but an old root canal treatment flared up due to the altitude. A Kathmandu dentist did the necessary for a mere $25, but the travelling expenses amounted to a rather more substantial $2,000.

Everybody else is well, although obviously the jump up from 5,200 to 6,400 metres has taken its toll in small ways. Breathlessness, headaches, upset stomachs, disturbed sleep patterns and nausea are all part and parcel of staying at this altitude for any length of time and nobody has escaped totally unscathed. But the Himex food, as always, has continued to surpass all expectations, with a slap-up feed of Australian lamb shanks and mint sauce the other night meeting with approval all round.

Showers are a luxury at this height, as all water has to be melted down from ice chopped from the glacier. Four cook boys are on a continuous rota, chopping ice for cooking, cleaning and washing - of humans and of clothes. Toilet facilities also have to be treated with respect, although - pardon the pun David - there were some teething problems early on. The red team - headed by Bill Crouse - discovered that their toilet barrel had no seat, but maybe that was preferable to the yellow team's barrel which had something more akin to an ejector seat, which one member discovered to his cost, getting fired off backwards twice before he got the hang of it.

After an acclimatisation walk up to crampon point at the foot of the glacier, the first wave of members left for the North Col today (April 22). This was Leo Rub's summit day as he was only ever going to the North Col, accompanied by Andy (Frog) Taylor. Mark (Woody) Woodward and Duncan Chessell accompanied the aspiring summiteers, Peggy Foster, Jez Benton, Antoine Boulanger and Soren Gudmann. Most of Bill's red team, plus a couple of yellow team members - Chuck Dasey and Grania Willis - take on the North Col day trip tomorrow, with the remainder - including the three Japanese climbers Akimoto Fujibbayashi, Chieko Shimada and Shinichi Ishi - moving on up on Sunday.

The Sherpas, headed by Phurba, have already put in the fixed lines to 8,300 metres and chopped the platforms ready for the tents at camps two and three. Phurba says he would have easily been able to summit on Thursday if he hadn't had to work and Big Boss Russ still says that everyone could summit and be back in the Red Onion Bar in Kathmandu before the end of the month. The members are a bit more conservative however and plan to remain on the original schedule of summiting somewhere in the last two weeks of May.