Newsletter #68 April 2013
Almost at Everest Base Camp
The Everest team is only one day away from Base Camp whereas the Lhotse/Nuptse crew has just arrived in Pheriche, where they will be spending another rest day before heading up to the comforts of our Lobuje camp.
"Everything is ready for the team to arrive, said Russell, who had gone ahead to make sure everything is running smoothly at base camp. "We are in our usual spot and the Sherpas have done a great job setting up the camp."
The Himalayan Experience Sherpas had already been to Camp 2 and according to Russell, there is more snow on the Lhotse Face than last year. "This certainly bodes for a safer route."
In the meantime, the Lhotse/Nuptse teams have arrived in Pheriche and I was able to have a quick word with our Lhotse guide Suzanne, who rang me from their lodge in Phortse last night.
"Despite all the different languages and nationalities, the team is getting on great," Suzanne reported. "Everyone seems to have acclimatised pretty well and we are excited to be catching up with the Everest team soon."
It is only a matter of days until the two crews will be united and can get settled at base camp before they head back down to climb and acclimatise on Lobuje East.
For the last three years, Himalayan Experience has used this beautiful and technically interesting 6,119m (20,070ft) trekking peak to acclimatise rather than spending a couple of nights at Camp 1. "It makes sense to climb a 6,000m-peak rather than acclimatise on Everest. The views are certainly greater and we have one less trip through the Khumbu Icefall," he argues.
In order to make the most of their acclimatisation trip, the team will spend two nights on the summit, which is at about the same altitude as Everest's Camp 1.
However, before they do more acclimatising they will have time to get used to their new environment at a higher altitude, explore the surroundings and rest.
In the meantime, I would like to introduce you to another member of our Everest team, who has a very special relationship with the highest mountain in the world...
...meet Rochelle Tracy Rafferty
Rochelle Tracy Rafferty from New Zealand has a long list of climbing experience under her belt and has scaled several high mountains on every continent, such as Aconcagua, Kilimanjaro, Kinabulu in Borneo, Mt Wilhelm in Papa New Guinea and Mount Cook in New Zealand. She used to climb with her late husband Paddy Freaney, who was also a very close friend and climbing mate of Russell Brice. The 42-year-old is currently in the process of finding her feet and going to Everest could mark a new beginning for her.
How did you first come across Everest and who/what inspired you to climb it?
I feel Everest is part of the New Zealand mountaineering psyche. I first learned of New Zealand's connection to Mt Everest through school as a youngster, and this year is particularly poignant to be a Kiwi on the mountain as it is the 60th anniversary of Edmund Hillary's and Tenzing Norgay's first ascent.
My inspiration for climbing Everest comes from my late husband Paddy Freaney, who passed away just one a year ago. Paddy was 32 years my senior, but we packed a lot into our 20 years together, travelling and climbing throughout much of the world. Paddy made two attempts on Everest during the 1980s; the New Zealand West Ridge expedition with Russell Brice in 1981, and the British North East Ridge expedition in 1986. Paddy did not get the chance to summit, and so to me, - there is no better way to honour him than to fulfil his dream.
Other inspirational figures include Ed Hillary, a childhood hero; my friend Russell Brice (who mastered the art of mountaineering through Paddy's instruction); Barry Dalkie - a very inspirational teacher and friend to whom I owe much, and two other contemporaries of Paddy's, who are both personal friends - Brummie Stokes and Ran Fiennes.
How did you prepare for this expedition (physically/mentally)?
I am generally pretty fit, however through Paddy's illness and death I have not been able to get into the high hills of New Zealand - the reason being is that I have lost my buddy. We did everything together, and over a 20-year period, you become attached in a way that seems inseparable - until the unthinkable happens, and then - where do you begin? Finding a climbing partner is not an easy task especially when living in an isolated rural location. In order to put your trust and life in someone else's hands you need to build a rapport and that doesn't happen overnight. It takes time. So - in that respect I am a little unprepared. I have managed to get some exposure back under my feet though which is great. Mentally, I am pretty tough. People say, in me Paddy met his match, and my final journey with him is all the motivation I require.
What do you think you will miss most on this trip?
Besides not having my soul mate with me, I will miss terribly the camaraderie and love of my close friends in the upper Waimakariri valley within which I live.
State a regular habit (daily/weekly) of yours and how do you think you will be able to pursue it on this trip? If not, do you have any alternatives?
I am not a habitual person, besides getting out and about in the hills at every opportunity, and so in a way, I shall be in my element. I always grasp every opportunity with enthusiasm, as though every day could be my last. Any luxury items you are bringing on this expedition? If so, what? I have never been keen on luxuries, and this trip shall be no exception. Of considerable significance though, and a poignant reminder of people, places, memories and future dreams; I would have to rate my Ipod as being the most significant item packed.
What will you carry to the summit?
Besides Paddy's ashes, I will carry the hopes, dreams and well wishes of all my very dear friends who have been incredibly supportive, caring and inspirational. I will also have three small stones; Rose-quartz - the stone of love; Citrine - for new beginnings; and Tiger Iron - for courage, strength, willpower and confidence. Never shall I forget what has been, but this trip for me is a new beginning.
Billi Bierling in Kathmandu