NEWSLETTERS - Everest South 2013

Newsletter #1027 April 2013

Life behind the scenes goes on, while members ‘hurry up and wait’

“It has just occurred to me that exactly twelve years ago, Evelyne, Naoki and I were on the North side of Everest together with Himex,” Ellen blurted out during one of our dinners. And it is true – in 2001, Ellen Miller from the United States, Evelyne Binsack from Switzerland and Naoki Ishikawa from Japan summited Everest from the Tibet side under the leadership of Russell Brice.

“This shows that people are coming back to climb with us even after more than one decade,” Russell said. “I have to say that I am very proud of this year’s team. We have a strong group and most of our members have climbed one, two or even more 8,000m peaks either with us or another expedition.”

This is the way, Himalayan Experience wants to head more and more in the future - making sure that Everest aspirants will have been on at least one expedition to an 8,000m peak before they head to the highest mountain on earth. “It would be great if they had reached an 8,000m summit, however, what is more important is that future members have been on a big expedition before they attempt Everest,” Russell explained. “Of course, they need the climbing skills and altitude knowledge but being on an 8,000m expedition also takes a lot of mental preparedness, which can only be achieved if you have been on such an expedition before.”

On Thursday night, when the teams were reunited at Everest Base Camp after having come back from Lobuje East, Russell threw a spontaneous party to celebrate the end of the first acclimatisation rotation. He put on his suit and tie, invited all members to the White Pod and awarded everyone with a ‘punishment balloon’ for various misdemeanors that had occurred during the expedition and were spotted by our great leader. No matter whether it was ascending to base camp too quickly, asking too many questions or, in Herbert’s case, eating too much chocolate.

With Woody acting as our 80ies DJ, everyone got their dancing shoes on and danced into what seemed to be the wee morning hours…. well, it was actually only 11pm when we all crashed into their sleeping bags – exhausted but certainly happy and ‘well-entertained’.

After the party, life at the Himex camp seemed to have calmed, however, not for the Sherpas who continue to work hard on the hill. “On Friday, 17 Sherpas from Himex and other teams started to fix the Lhotse Face to Camp 3 but unfortunately they were not successful,” Russell told the group over dinner. “They tried to follow the route on the right but one of the crevasses is just too big to get over.” The Sherpas took the rope down again and started fixing the route farther to the left on Saturday.

Hurry Up and Wait

As mentioned in one of our earlier newsletters, our teams are not planning on going to Camp 2 before Camp 3 is not established. However, on Sunday morning our guides Woody, Suzanne, Shinji, Francoise and Bruce will venture to Camp 1. “It is good for us to know the route before we take the members up; it is some sort of familiarity check,” said Bruce.

Other events at base camp were the distribution of the traditional Himex hoodies to all members, Sherpas and staff, with Bob, our outstanding chef from Manchester being particularly proud of it. “You know, I had no idea what I was letting myself in for when I had a 10-minute-interview with my neighbour Russell Brice in Chamonix at the beginning of the year,” the hardworking cook said. “Being here is nothing like I would have ever imagined. It is like a life away from my normal life,” said the 61-year-old.

The Himex kitchen is more or less running non-stop, with Bob and the kitchen staff getting up at 5am to prepare bed tea and breakfast for the members every morning. “We boil more than 1,000 litres of water every day,” said Lacchu, who has been working for Himex since the very beginning. “We need water for cooking, showering, washing, drinking – well, we basically need water for everything.”

“Having Bob here has been a real delight and I am actually worried about putting on weight at base camp, which would be a first,” said Ellen while scraping her plate for the last remains of the Tirami Su Bob had miraculously produced one evening. Fresh fruit, lamb chops, Crème Brule and smoked salmon pie are just a few delicacies Bob has served us at 5,350m.

Cooking for the Queen

Given Bob’s amazing menu, it is not surprising that he cooked for the Queen of England a few years ago. “I used to run a hotel called “Under Scar” in the Lake District in the north of England and for some bizarre reason, the Queen chose our modest restaurant for her lunch break during a visit to the region,” he explained. “It was a real honour to have her there and I think she enjoyed her meal.”

Saturday also saw a few more goodbyes with Max, Debbie, Maya and Yanzee leaving our base camp. Debbie and her son Max from South Africa were trekkers, who came to stay with us for three nights and got a very good insight into how an expedition actually works. “It has been an experience of a lifetime and I cannot believe how much I have learnt over the last few days,” said Debbie. “Most trekkers only get to see ‘trekkers point’ but they have no idea what expedition life is like. Russell has really made us feel welcome and we felt part of the team.”

It was also sad to say goodbye to Maya from Kenya and Yanzee from Kumjung in Nepal, who had climbed Lobuje East with us. The pair had stayed with Himex since the beginning of the expedition but as Maya, who is only 17 years old, has to go back to school in Kenya, it was time for them to leave.

Depending on the progress of the rope fixing and the weather, the Himex team will probably move up the mountain to the higher camps in a few days. Check out our website for more news from our expedition!

Billi Bierling at Everest Base Camp