Newsletter 45 May 2000
Dispatch covering May 3 to 5, 2000. Days 35 through 37, Correspondent: Chris Warner. Pushing the route to 7,900 meters.
3 May - day 35
With the sun shining, Tony, Daniel, Andy, Mark and Graham, set off from ABC for a few nights of R&R in base camp. In total we are a team of 23 climbers and support staff. Now there are but 9 of us at ABC and boy is it lonely without the constant hypoxic comments and debaucherous behavior of our supposedly educated team mates.
Russel and I set our minds to bigger tasks, like figuring out how to prep the mountain for our summit attempts. We would like to have camps 2&3 in place by the time our team returns to ABC. That would allow them to accelerate their acclimatization and familarization with the route.
Normally, there is an attempt at sharing the responsibilities of fixing the ropes, with all of the other teams on the mountain. Afterall, everyone uses the ropes. The trouble is that carrying spools of rope (6 kilos- 13 lbs. each) to the high point and then fixing the ropes, by anchoring them to pitons, rock outcrops, ice screws or snow pickets, is really exhausting work. It is easier for everyone to wait for another team to do all of the hard work.
Excepting for three hundred feet, at the very start of the route, we've put in all of the fixed line on the mountain so far, miles of it. We've been trying to organize a meeting of all the teams, in an effort to finish the task of fixing ropes, but so far it has been too easy for teams to avoid meeting.
Anyway...the hardwork will only be done by the most aggressive and ambitious team. Seems like that's us.
4 May - Day 36
I slept through my alarm, waking to Russ' call at 4:30 a.m. The two of us, along with our five climbing Sherpas, have agreed to take control of the fixed line situation. We can't be held back by the 20+ other teams that all mean well, but can't seem to get anything besides candy bars into their packs.
We set off from ABC (21,500 ft. - 6450 m.) at 5 a.m. It is light enough to allow us to climb without flashlights and we set off at a record breaking pace. We arrive at Camp 1 (the North Col) at 7 a.m. and quickly change into our down suits, One Sport boots, Carrera goggles and bulky mittens. We shove 400 meters of rope in our packs. And we are off. >From Camp 1 (23,000 ft. - 7060 m.) we clip into the ropes heading to camp 2 (24,750 ft. - 7500 m.) I struggle to keep up with these guys. I've never climbed with a faster group. Normally it takes climbers 4 to 5 hours to get to Camp 2 from the col. We do it in just over 2.5 hours, stopping near the top to fill our packs with gear they've stashed on an earlier attempt to reach Camp 2.
We've got work to do. Digging a platform for our tents and arranging all of our gear, before heading even higher. Within 30 minutes of arriving at Camp 2 we are on our way.
The route from here to Camp 3 is mostly on rock. In our packs are the heavier 11mm static ropes, brought to the peak by the British Army group, but carried from Camp 1 by us. It is like carrying a lead weight at this altitude. Each rope is 60 meters long and we stretch them from point to point. It takes about 30 minutes to secure each rope and we are a pretty efficient team. Phurba, perhaps our strongest Sherpa, leads out with one Sherpa feeding the rope and the rest of us organizing the route and tying off the mid points. As soon as the rope is strung, one of us gladly takes a rope from our pack and preps it for the next section.
By 3 p.m. we made it to our Camp 3 at (26,070 ft. - 7900 m.). We had been climbing for 11 hours, gaining 4,570 ft - 1450 m. I've got to tell you, it was an impressive day, climbing that hard, accomplishing that much, at that altitude. I sat down on a rock, and checked out the summit. It seemed so close, although it was still along way away.
It was on the descent that I realized how tired I was. While it took under two hours to descend to Camp 1 at the North Col, every part of me was exhausted. Dawa, one of our Sherpas, descended about an hour before us and had tea waiting. I drank two big bowls worth and crawled into a tent.
While I made a nest for myself with 4 sleeping bags, Russ pushed on to ABC. I envied him the chance to sleep in his own sleeping bag, but hadn't the leg strength to descend any further. The Sherpas, always impressing us, chose to sleep at Camp 1 as well. They wanted to ferry a load to Camp 2 the next morning.
5 May - Day 37
I slowly came to life, as the sun rose. It was 5 a.m. and my internal alarm clock was ringing. I was dehydrated, hungry and yearning for a cup of coffee. Since my night at Camp 1 was unplanned, I didn't bring any of that good old Everest Blend with me. (An aside: when I showed up in Kathmandu with nearly 25 pounds of the Riverside Roastery's Everest Blend coffee, everyone was a skeptic: How could we possibly drink that much? Well now that they are all junkies, the jugs are less than 1/2 full. I think a crisis is looming. For you coffee lovers: hi altitude Mexican blended with Sumatra and French Roasted. Get's your feint heart going.)
I crawled out of the tent before 6 a.m. and the Sherpas were already dressed and organizing loads. It was impressive. Here I was heading to ABC for breakfast and they were climbing to Camp 2.
Luckily, today was a perfect day, perhaps the best we've had since arriving. I was back in ABC in 40 minutes, cradling a cup of coffee. The sherpas zoomed up to Camp 2 and were back in ABC for late lunch.
The last two days have been significant for us. Camp 2 is up. The fixed lines stretch to Camp 3. The climbers are resting and recuperating at base. Given a week of good weather, as forecasted, and the help of some other teams with the fixed rope, and our side of the hill will be prepared for our summit attempts. Chris Warner Advanced Base Camp - 6460m Everest 2000 - North Side.