Reflections on Everest
After dozens of Everest teams had descended on Kathmandu and kept the town buzzing for a few days, it is now relatively quiet as more or less all climbers have gone back home to reflect on the last couple of months during which they climbed – successfully or unsuccessfully – the highest mountain in the world.
This is just a quick update to let you know that everyone, including all the Sherpas, are back down at base camp safe and sound, which is a good thing as the icefall seems to be melting at an alarming rate due to the warm temperatures that have been engulfing base camp over the past few days.
Apologies for the late posting of this Newsletter but due to technical difficulties we were unable to get it onto the website on Saturday, 22nd May, when 12 members, 17 Sherpas and four guides of the Himex team summited Mount Everest. The first members of the Himex crew to reach the top of the world were Jing Wang, Nima Sona and our guide Hiro, who got there at 6.05am.
Himex crew on their push for the summit
Sorry for the late update on where the members of the Himex team are, but bad communication and the fact that I am back in Kathmandu has made updating this site a bit more difficult than anticipated.
One of the highest First Aid courses in the world
With most other teams reporting about the summit pushes that are currently happening despite the short weather window, the alleged race between two women trying to become the first Finnish female to reach the top of Mount Everest and the high winds, I will spare you any more details about the weather forecasts and the waiting game that is currently being played by all expeditions.
Another day at base camp
While I was walking down the hill to reach Lukla in two days, life at base camp has carried on as usual.I spoke to Russell last night and he told me that the guides and some team members had moved some more rocks to flatten the base for the tents (the glacier is obviously melting away quickly), and that Himex and some other teams had made the new helipad an even better one.
Leaving the Land of the Sherpas
The Himex expedition is now well into its fifth week in the Khumbu region, which is the home of the Sherpas, the mountain people who look after us so well in the Himalaya. The Sherpas are actually an ethnic group that arrived in the eastern parts of Nepal from Tibet around 250 years ago. They used to live off the trade with Tibet, however, when China occupied Tibet in 1950, the borders were closed and trade between the two countries was reduced to zero.
New helipad and other recreational activities
Base camp has been reasonably quiet with most teams having moved down the valley to recover from the strains at high altitude and enjoy some ‘lodge life’. As already mentioned, the Himex team has opted not to go down to the lower elevations but stay at base camp and use the time to relax or watch movies in the White Pod, go for walks, write emails or do more exhausting activities, such as building a new helipad.
Base Camp Salmon
Even though I tried to stay away from writing about food and what our team was served for dinner at base camp, I simply cannot deprive our readers from the amazing feast we had on Saturday night, when “Base Camp Salmon’ was on the menu.
Back to Base
Thursday was a big day for everyone here at base camp with our three Sherpas and Adrian returning from Camp 2 after having reached the summit of Mount Everest the previous day. With Phurba Tashi’s 16* summits, Dorji Sonam’s 12 summits, Ang Rita’s seven summits and Adrian’s two summits, the Himex team has put a total of 37 summits on the top of the world on Thursday. “I guess together with the other six Sherpas from IMG and Alpine Acents, there must have been around 80 successful summits up there in one day,” said Russell.
First Summits of the Season
On Wednesday the 5th May at about 11am, Russell received a radio call from the summit of Mount Everest. The caller was Himex Sirdar, Phurba Tashi, announcing that he had just reached the top of the world for the 17th time after having successfully fixed the rope to the summit. Tashi and his team, consisting of Himex mountain guide Adrian Ballinger, Dorje Sherpa and Ang Rita Sherpa, were part of the Sherpa crew that was responsible for fixing the rope from the South Col to the very top.
With the weather having improved and the Everest region being once again filled with bright sunshine, most members of the Himex climbing team have now arrived at Camp 3, which is nestled two thirds up the Lhotse Face at 7,300m. However, three of our members were not feeling very well during the acclimatisation phase at Camp 2 at 6,400m, and are currently on their way back down to base camp. Rather than carrying on to Camp 3, Shari from Australia, Eiko from Japan and Feng from China decided to regenerate and refuel on food and energy at the lower elevations of base camp.
Paving the way to the summit
After having spent one night at the dizzying heights of Camp 3, our high altitude team should now be well acclimatised and physically ready to go for the summit. However, before they will be pushing for the top of the world, they will be back at base camp, to rest, eat, sleep and wait for the weather window to arrive. They are currently all back at Camp 2, where they will spend another night before we can welcome them back here at base camp.
Fresh snow and medical matters
On Sunday, we woke up to a thick coating of snow covering the entire Himex base camp, and our first move was to clear the snow from the sagging tents this morning. The fresh snowfall has also affected the movements of our team up at Camp 2, and those members of our group, who were supposed to climb up the Lhotse Face to Camp 3 today, will now have another rest day at Camp 2 before they are due to move up on Monday.
The Holiday is Over
Like every day, Nima and Mingma knocked on everyone’s tent to hand the members their cups of bed tea and hot towels on Thursday morning. It seemed like business as usual, however, the only difference was that this friendly wake-up call did not come at the usual time of 7am, but in the wee morning hours at 1am.
Interview with Jo Drnek
Those, who know Jo Drnek, might have wondered why his profile had not been put up on the website so far. For some bizarre reason, Jo and I did not meet in Kathmandu and as I only got the chance to interview him here at Everest base camp it took quite a while for us to put up his profile. I would like to apologise for the delay, especially to those who have been waiting for Jo’s turn on the Himex Website.
Where does all the rubbish go?
Monday night saw the first of the famous Himex parties of the season, which was staged in the ‘White Pod’ where clients and crew members had the chance to get together. The reason for the party was that the team had finished the first acclimatisation phase on Lobuje Peak and was getting ready for the second phase on Mount Everest itself. Unfortunately, the turnout was pretty slim, and had it not been for the dozens of dancing Sherpas, the staff and the few attending clients would have had to party by themselves.
Concerted Rescue Efforts Show Success on Lobuje East
Sunday was a full-on day for the Himex team with the day starting off with a serac collapse in the Khumbu Icefall, which fortunately did not cause any injuries or affected anybody directly, even though dozens of Sherpas were on their way to Camp 2. At around 4.30am, both Russell and ‘Narly’, one of the Himex guides who was ‘on call’ that day, noticed an increase in the radio traffic.
Ready to go up the big hill
As I am sitting here in the warmth and coziness of the ‘White Pod’ some of the expedition members are slowly trickling in after having summited Lobuje East for the second time. Everyone is looking well and very pleased with themselves for having actually ‘bagged’ another Himalayan peak rather than acclimatising on Camp 2 on Mount Everest without a good view. “I think it is a very intelligent solution to do the acclimatisation trip on Lobuje.
Fixed ropes, fixed rules, fixed price – and great teamwork
The Himex base camp is very quiet with most of the climbers currently climbing Lobuje East or getting ready to do so. While I am writing this, the first group has arrived on the summit, with the second group just heading out to go to high camp.
Russell is the owner of Himex and has been leading expeditions to the Himalaya for more than 16 years. The 57-year-old was born in New Zealand and now lives now in Chamonix with his wife. Russell’s first trip two Everest was a very special one. In 1981, he came here together with his climbing mentor, Paddy Freaney, to climb the treacherous and difficult West Shoulder of Everest.
Monica Piris Chavarri
Monica Piris is our expedition doctor and this is her third time working on Everest for Himex. Unfortunately I did not get the chance to do an interview with Monica as I only had a couple of days to talk to all the expedition members and guides, and Monica was busy getting the huge medical kit ready for the trip. Not only did she have to prepare the medical kit for Everest base camp, she also had to put together small kits for the trek to base camp, the trips to the high camps and, of course, for summit day.
Trips to Lobuje East and through the Khumbu Icefall
The Himex Base Camp has been very active over the past few days and I have barely had the chance to catch up with all the goings-on in our little village at an altitude of about 5,300m. Most members of the team have now moved down to our Lobuje camp to tackle Lobuje East over the next few days. The team has been split into two groups and the first group is just about to climb up to the high camp.
The Himex team of guides
After having introduced you to most of the members of this year’s team, I would also like you to meet the guides, who will do their utmost that this expedition will be a successful and safe one.
I would like to start off with Adrian, who was guiding on Everest for the first time in spring 2009. It was great to have Adrian on the team last year as he was always in a good mood and there was always a smile on his face.
Honghai Li is a documentary maker from Shenzhen in China. The 33-year-old climbed Manaslu with Himex in autumn 2009. He is married and has a three-year-old one son.
Himex expedition kicks off officially
The expedition has finally begun with the Sherpas, guides, clients and more or less everyone at the Himex base camp getting together for the traditional Buddhist Puja. As I mentioned in one of my previous Newsletters, the Puja is a very important part of any Himalayan expedition, especially for the Sherpas as they believe that without this blessing of the Gods they should not be working on the mountain.
Daily routine at base camp
After a relaxed trek to base camp, the team has now made this barren but also striking place their home. The members and guides have moved into their tents, which were put up by the Sherpa crew during their preparation work in the last four weeks, and made it as cosy as possible. The secret of a really cosy tent is actually the use of a little rug to cushion the space between the rocks and the mattress. I remember being very jealous of the guides’ tents last year, as they all had cosy carpets in their abodes, which made the atmosphere in their tents so much nicer.
First Sherpas arrive at Camp 2
I have just received a phone call from Himex guide, Adrian Ballinger. He was very excited to have finally arrived at base camp and said that everyone was well and happy to have settled down in their new home.
Living in the Land of the Sherpas – but who exactly are they?
The world ‘Sherpa’ often creates some sort of confusion and trekkers are often not aware of the fact that the Sherpas are actually an ethnic group of Nepal. They often refer to their porters as Sherpas, however, they are probably more likely to employ a ‘Gurung’ or ‘Tamang’ as a porter than an ethnic Sherpa. Ethnicity is pretty complex in Nepal as there are around 101 different ethnic groups in the Himalayan country.
The team has finally reached ‘home’ where they received a warm welcome from the Himex’s climbing Sherpas and the kitchen staff. Russell’s crew has worked here for the past four weeks to make this camp as comfortable as possible. The three mess tents are laid out with carpets and have electrical light, the huge “White Pod”, the golf-ball-shaped structure that looks like a hotel on the moon, is equipped with comfy sofas, an espresso machine and a flatscreen television for movie nights and all personal tents feature a comfortable mattress and a pillow. The members have the choice of socialising in the mess tent, in the White Pod or just find peace and quiet in their own little tent.
The team has now arrived at the camp near Lobuje village, which is the penultimate stop before they reach Everest Base Camp, the place they will call home for the next seven or eight weeks. Lobuje village, which lies at an altitude of 4,930m, usually gets very crowded as many teams spend a couple of nights there to acclimatise properly for the height of 5,350m, which they will be faced with at base camp.
Taking in the views at Dingboche
After having spent a day in Tengboche and its famous monastery (it was built in 1916 and actually destroyed twice – once in the big earthquake in 1934 and once in an fire in 1989), the team has now arrived in Dingboche, which at 4,410m is the perfect place to acclimatise. Most expeditions traditionally stop in Pheriche on the other side of the ridge, where the famous Himalayan Rescue Association is located.
Rest Day in Kumjung
Kumjung lies at an altitude of 3,780m and is the perfect place for the Himex team to spend a couple of days acclimatising to the higher altitude. It is not as busy as Namche Bazaar, where most expeditions stop for two days, and it has some historic value. Kumjung is the village where Edmund Hillary built his first school in 1960, which was the beginning of many projects in the Everest Region.
Inching closer towards the goal
After having spent a few days in the colourful madness of Kathmandu, most of Himex’s clients (climbers and trekkers), the guides and the expedition doctor are finally on their way towards Namche Bazaar. They had a very early start on Wednesday morning as flights to Lukla traditionally leave at the crack of dawn to avoid the cloud cover that normally moves into the Everest Region later in the day and makes landing on the tiny airstrip impossible.
Himex Everest Expedition 2010 is kicking off
After having put 59 people, including Sherpas, guides and clients on the summit of Mount Everest via the South Col Route in 2009, Himex is back on the Nepali side of the world’s highest peak. This year Himex owner, Russell Brice, is leading a team of 18 clients, 24 climbing Sherpas, five mountain guides and seven cook staff, and following last year’s success rate of 86 percent, the team will once again try to aim for the best.