NEWSLETTERS - Everest South 2011

Newsletter 143 May 2011

The first nights below the Lhotse Face

On Thursday morning, we were woken with a loud ‘Good morning’ by our kitchen staff pretending it was the usual wake up call. However, looking at my watch, it was different this morning as the team was shaken out of their sleep at 2am – one hour before they were due to leave base camp to go to Camp II. Shortly after the wake-up call, the climbers slowly crawled out of their sleeping bags and were greeted by a starry and calm night. “I know it might be clear out there but I just don’t want to leave my warm sleeping bag,” we heard Woody moan from his tent.

When we gathered in the mess tent at 2.30am, some of the team members were already eating porridge and drinking coffee while others where still faffing with their harnesses, boots or rucksacks. “I think there are more people seeing us off than actually going climbing,” Alan said looking at Ellen, Monica, Russell and I who did not shy the early morning hour and the cold to send the team off on their first trip through the icefall.

Slowly but surely everyone had arrived for breakfast, and at about 2.45am all members and guides were eating and drinking, trying to take in as many calories as possible before leaving base camp for the next six days. “Even though we think this is our last proper meal, this is not the case as we have two cooks at Camp II who will look after us during our time up there,” said Adrian.

After more dithering and adjusting harnesses, headlamps and boots, the 10 members and three guides left the Himalayan Experience base camp at 3am on the dot, looking strong and confident. “Fortunately they left on time, so the ‘leaving committee’ can go back to bed,” Monica yawned. Shortly after the group had departed, we heard the Sherpa team stomp through the camp – some of them were coming down the mountain and some of them were going up to Camp II with the team.

All of the members, guides and Sherpas are equipped with avalanche transceivers and radios and they are required to call in when they reach certain landmarks. ‘We want you to call once you get to Camp I and again when you leave Camp I and then when you finally reach Camp II,’ Russell ordered the group.

We received the first radio calls during the night and when Russell, Ellen, Monica and I gathered in the dining tent for breakfast at 8am, Adrian called down telling us that he had arrived at Camp II. “The conditions were perfect and Camp II is looking good,” he said. Over the next few hours, the other climbers trickled in and set up their temporary home for the next four nights. “We had a great three-course lunch and everyone is feeling good, even though a little tired,” Adrian called down.

While the team and some Sherpas are high up on the mountain, Russell, Monica, Ellen, I and a group of Sherpas cleaned and dried out the White Pod, washed laundry, wandered down to Gorak Shep to send some emails or, in Russell’s case, went to yet another rope fixing meeting at base camp. And as far as the Lhotse crew is concerned, they have finally arrived at Lobuche base camp, where they will stay for another two nights before they arrive at Everest base camp.

Billi Bierling at Everest Base Camp