Newsletter 514 May 2000
May, 12-14, 2000 days 44-46
He's looking old, folks!! Graham Hoyland woke up, wishing this dream was over. It was his birthday. Forty three years old and still not smart enough to give up climbing for golf. This is actually his second birthday on Everest. How foolish can you get?
The rest of us had plenty of fun at his expense. Russell and the Sherpas were with us in base camp and it didn't take long before the pop tops were pulled on a few Pabst Blue Ribbons. We pulled the tables into the sun, served horsedourves and invited a bunch of British and Dutch climbers over for a party.
Russell gave Graham some peices of a tent and some kind of old food tin, excavated from a camp site at 7,900 meters. These scraps of canvas and the sections of tent pole were from the 1924 British Expedition. Graham's uncle was one of the climbers on that team.
We've been kidding Graham for weeks about setting up a big canvas tent on his front lawn, stocking it with old climbing gear and calling it a museum. Well, he's on his way to a curatorship now.
Keiron, Tony and Daniel were climbing from ABC to the North Col, missing the party. Luckily for them, as the British Army didn't finish drinking our beer until long after midnight.
High on the mountain, the Japanese clean up expedition pitched in, again, carrying and fixing ropes from 7900 meters to 8300 meters. This has really opened the doors to summit, allowing teams laden with gear to establish their high camps. Still no ropes are fixed above 8300 meters and the snow is so deep up there, old ropes aren't to be found. It will still take either a bold or a strong team to push for the top.
May 13 Day 45
Moses would love the walk from base camp to ABC. He'd be chuckling to himself. Imagine, his Red Sea trick being repeated in Tibet. The glacier seems to be tossed upward. Towers of ice, 45 feet tall, border a gravel pathway. It is such an easy and beautiful trail. And the ice is sculpted by the sun and winds into thousands of different shapes.
Early in the a.m., Jean, Mark, Graham and I left base camp for the 22 kilometer hike to ABC. It was a cloudless day. Not even a slight breeze shifted the snow on Everest. Every feature stood out. Remarkable.
It was a good omen. Tony, Daniel and Keiron were headed for the 7,500 meter camp. The climber half of our expedition was pushing itself upward again. We could all sense the shift in momentum.
The crystal clear skies were shifting a lot of the other teams into gear. The trail to ABC was getting crowded. The fixed lines leading to the col were beign yanked and tugged on. Rumors of summit attempts were in the air. In fact, Nima, the Tibetan Laison Officer was moving up to the 8300 meter camp along with a few strong Spanish climbers.
On the South Side, climbers pushed upwards from the South Col, only to be turned back by the deep snow.
It is a rough season on Everest. A train of yaks and a handful of porters carried a few climber's hopes off the mountain yesterday. In fact, a number of teams have already ordered yaks to arrive at ABC on the 22nd of May. They are counting down the days and making bold pushes upward right now.
May 14 day 46
It was light at 4:30 a.m. and the heat of the sun at 6 a.m. drove me from my tent. During the five nights I've been away from ABC, a major shift has happened. I think its Spring. Purple finches are sitting on the rocks, singing to each other. I can drink my coffee in a light vest, instead of a bulky down parka.
We spoke with the boys at the 7,500 meter camp and they were dressed in their down suits, and pushing upwards by 7 a.m. Their goal was to climb to the 7,900 meter camp, in an effort to get better acclimated and familar with that section of the route.
Despite the relatively warm temps and low winds, Daniel had some problems with cold feet. When they did finally warm up, thanks to pouring a thermos of hot tea on them, he cruised ahead of the others. Keiron climbed to 7,700 meters and having his feet chewed by his boots, decided to head back down and limit the erosion of his toes. It was so warm he said that he had his down suit tied around his waist and wore only a T shirt!!!!! Tony and Daniel pushed on, tagging the 7,900 meter camp around noon.
While they toiled on the hill, most of us enjoyed a rest day. Chung and Chuldim made there way up from base today. All 8 clients are now back at ABC.
The Tibetan- Sanish teams that were poised at the 8300 meter camp turned back. Another summit hope put on hold. Despite running low on coffee, our team's morale is really high right now. With our climbers now cruising up and down the hill, with our gear in position and the weather being so stable for once, all talk is of summit attempts. We still have a week of work ahead of us, but it seems so manageable. And most importantly we have plenty of time and potato chips.