Newsletter #1929 May 2013
Leaving Base Camp
“Our base camp is pretty much packed up in barrels and boxes, and I am very relieved that all our Sherpas have finished their last trip through the icefall,” Russell said when he rang me a few days after everyone had left base camp to either walk or fly to Kathmandu.
The New Zealander and a few of his Sherpas were probably some of the last people to leave the now deserted place as most expedition leaders, guides and members had left long before them to either go to their respective countries or back to Kathmandu. “The kitchen staff had gone, all our unmarried Sherpas had left for their home villages and at the end I was left with a few Sherpas and my last surprise guest,” he continued.
The mysterious visitor was the ultra runner Lizzy Hawker, who had already stayed at the Himalayan Experience camp at the end of April, when she broke her own world record and ran from Everest Base Camp to Kathmandu in 63 hours and 8 minutes. This time, the 37-year-old Brit headed to the Everest region to compete in the Everest Marathon, which takes place on 29th May, the day Sherpa Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmund Hillary climbed Mount Everest for the very first time 60 years ago.
“I will run the marathon and then carry on to Jiri,” Lizzy said modestly. Adding another 80 kilometres to her race is not really surprising as running a mere marathon distance would just be a warm-up for her. “I will spare myself the road running and take a bus to Kathmandu,” she continued.
First Kiwi Pilot in Nepal
While Russell and the Sherpas were dismantling base camp, his members, guides, doctor and blogger left the Khumbu Glacier either by foot or helicopter, which has become almost the norm for getting back to Kathmandu.
“I would not mind walking and reflecting on my climb but I also want to get back to my family,” said Herbert, who had opted for the helicopter, which usually flies via Pheriche and Lukla to Kathmandu.
Jason Laing from New Zealand, who has been hired by Simrik Air to support the ever-increasing helicopter traffic to and from Everest base camp, is one of the pilots, who have been extremely busy this season.
“It has been an amazing experience and I have learnt a lot from the other two pilots here. Flying at high altitude is certainly challenging considering that I had never flown above 15,000ft before I came here,” Jason told me during our flight to Kathmandu.
The Queenstown resident is the first pilot from New Zealand, who has taken on the challenge of flying in Nepal. “One of the most difficult things was communicating over the radio, which is crucial for flying,” he explained. “I could not understand their way of speaking English and they had trouble with my Kiwi accent – but now we are ‘incommunicado’!”
However, communication was not the only challenge for Jason and transporting climbers, who desperately wanted to get back home, became rather testing for him. “At high altitude you have to be really careful how much weight you carry as the B3 helicopters can only take a certain load,” he said.
On one occasion, Jason was told that his load consisted of two passengers and 100kg of luggage, however, the helicopter struggled on take-off, which was rather surprising to him. “When I was finally airborne– and it was touch and go – I turned around and realised that one more person with lots of luggage had jumped into the helicopter.”
Despite the trials and tribulations, Jason is excited to come back in the autumn season, which is usually busy on Manaslu, the 8th highest peak in the world. “Even though shuttling between Lukla and Kathmandu could be a bit boring over the time, the beauty and challenge of flying in the Himalaya has been wonderful. Siddharta, the owner of Simrik, has asked me to come back next season and I am very happy to accept.”
While most teams have finished their climbs, Jason is still busy flying back and forth to base camp to collect the few remaining people and, of course, some of the paraphernalia that has been used on the Khumbu Glacier over the past two month. “It is amazing what people take to Everest,” said our guide Woody when he came back from the summit of Everest, which was his 9th time. “I even saw an inflatable palm tree at the South Col at 7,900m.”
In order to get more organised with taking down the rubbish from the higher camps next year, Russell and Phurba Tashi are trying to come up with a plan. “Maybe we could get the garbage in one place, which will make it easier for the Sherpas to take it down,” said Russell, who pays his Sherpas a fee per kilo of rubbish brought down from the higher camps, which is an incentive for the Sherpas keep the mountain clean.
As far as the Himalayan Experience expedition is concerned, Russell can look back at a successful season. “I am very happy that our expeditions to Lhotse, Nuptse and Everest were successful and our members and Sherpas went up and down safely.”
This was Russell’s 18th Everest expedition and some of our members expressed their gratitude and trust in his expertise and experience after they came back from the summit.
“I was with Russell when he cancelled the expedition last year and I was happy to come back this season,” said Javier Perez from Mexico. “I would not go with anyone else - to me he is the Number One when it comes to safety.”
“My experience was wonderful. Everything was there and I got all the encouragement I needed – I was not missing anything,” observed Rochelle Rafferty from New Zealand, who emphasised Bob’s delicious meals. “Without Bob’s fuel I would not have made it to the top.”
“This is my third expedition with Russell Brice and as usual the trip was very well prepared. I guess we are pretty spoilt as our camp is probably the best in the whole of base camp,” said Valdis Spruzs from Latvia. “If I want to climb another big mountain, I will definitely go with Himalayan Experience again.”
Herbert Hellmuth from Germany believes in Russell’s solid knowledge and his gut feeling for the mountain. “Russell has vast experience and he completely met my expectations. He did everything humanly possible to get me up to the top and I would like to thank him for that.”
For Himalayan Experience, the 2013 season was certainly a successful one and Russell can leave the Khumbu Glacier and get back to Kathmandu in time for the celebrations for the sixtieth anniversary of Sherpa Tenzing Norgay’s and Sir Edmund Hillary’s first ascent of Mount Everest, which have been organised in Kathmandu for 29th May.
Last but not least, we would like to congratulate all our members, guides and Sherpas for their success and thank everyone, who was involved in Himex’s success on all three mountains, namely Everest, Lhotse and Nuptse.
Without the support and hard work of the Sherpas, the kitchen staff, our doctor and of course the expedition leader, our expeditions would not run so smoothly.
So, thank you very much for everyone who was involved to make this season such a successful one.
Billi Bierling in Kathmandu