Leader: Chris Harling
Departed 2nd November 2019
The team have arrived back in Kathmandu, and are enjoying a well deserved shower and a rest.
The team arrived safely back at Lukla at 3 this afternoon after a rapid trek down from Namche. Weather permitting, they will fly back to Kathmandu tomorrow.
We have now left BC and trekked down to Sanasa a lovely rustic hamlet about 3km from Namche. Tomorrow we will explore Khumjung village and possibly head up into the Kyajo Ri basecamp valley before returning to Sanasa. The team preferred to have an extra day in the mountains rather than head straight back to Kathmandu.
At midnight yesterday we set off from camp 2. The weather seemed perfect, mild and not a breath of wind. Several parties’ headlights could be seen way above us on the Grey Tower – highlighting the scale of the crux of the whole route. Despite the altitude and climbing by head torch we actually enjoyed the mixed rock and ice climbing and soon found ourselves catching and overtaking other climbers who didn’t seem used to climbing with crampons on.
Linking the couloir of the Grey Tower to the Mushroom Ridge was an amazing traverse across vertical rock on a ledge of snow only 10 inches wide – requiring an arched back and face pressed against the rock to avoid tipping off backwards!
Once on the ridge we seemed to ascend into a distinct layer of wind, which we would be blasted by all the way to the summit. Up until now we felt over dressed. But suddenly we were fighting the heat sapping cold air where movement was needed to maintain warmth – especially to the fingers and toes. After several airy snow crests and short steep pulls up near vertical snow we reached the only flat section of the route – the site of Camp 3. Too exposed to the icy wind, we didn’t even pause here – the final summit ridge beckoned. Maintaining blood circulation to the fingers became more of a task as we climbed – clinging onto the handle of the jumar also squeezed the blood from the fingers so alternating hands was very important, as was wiggling fingers and toes every few minutes.
Several surprisingly steep sections of rock and ice punctuated the last few hundred metres to the summit – good technique was needed to overcome the steep pulls. Eventually the horizon began to turn orange and the surrounding Himalayas lit up slowly but surely. We were now only 100m from the top and the end of the physical and mental battle was in sight. We had overtaken all but one pair of the climbers who had set off before us and had climbed efficiently. Almost exactly 7 hours after setting out I joined Steve and Phurba on the surprisingly flat summit, where we sprawled in a fatigued state. The views were incredible – Everest, Lhotse, Nuptse – looked close enough to touch. Island Peak looked like a little pimple, nestled at their foot. It was too cold to admire the views for long – Phurba seemingly immune to the biting cold, snapped a few selfies of the exhausted huddle before we headed down the fixed ropes to Camp 2 – another long battle against the steep snow and ice – but at least now we were in the sun and the wind decreased as we got lower. The four abseils down the Grey Tower couloir required the utmost concentration, with multiple ropes to chose from on each section. Not easy when severely sleep deprived.
We were all determined to get to camp 1, so packed up all our gear and made the tricky descent down the rock towers and ridges, slowly and surely whilst burdened with an overly heavy backpack. Somehow we all dug deep into our motivation and made it down to basecamp that same afternoon. So we are all back enjoying the luxuries of basecamp and looking forward to letting our bodies recover from our exertions.
We are now back at basecamp enjoying a well earned two days rest after the adventures of the last foray up the mountain. On the 15th we returned to camp 1 – everyone making the climb faster than the previous one. We had the luxury of 4 tents between the 7 of us so plenty of room to spread out and get to grips with the stoves – melting snow and ice for our water and food needs.
We set out at 8 am the next morning aiming to tackle the awesome climbing leading to camp 2. Despite carrying fairly heavy bags we made good progress – enjoying the sunny rock and airy traverses which lead to the infamous Yellow Tower. Some had the goal of free climbing this and made a great effort until big boots/heavy sack/6000m altitude dictated otherwise! Steve, Ollie, Phurba and myself were pleased to arrive at Camp 2 in around 2.5 hours and cached food and summit gear in the tent before scoping out the Grey Tower – the first major challenge on summit day. Fergus and Chris G also did really well almost making the Yellow Tower despite feeling off colour.
We were all back at Camp 1 by early afternoon and packed up before switching big boots for trainers and heading back home to basecamp.
We plan to head back to Camp 1 on the 19th, Camp 2 on the 20th and begin our summit attempt that same night into the morning of the 21st. Fergus, Chris and our other sherpa will have one extra day’s rest and follow up one day later.
Yesterday we made our first carry up to Camp 1 – the team did really well making the 1100m ascent in good time and all importantly making it back in time for dinner! It was great to have a look at the route close up and get a true sense of the scale of the mountain.
Today is a rest day and it began with our Puja where a Llama from Panboche Monastery came and asked the mountain gods to bless our climb with safety and good luck. We will rest tomorrow also as we need to build strength and acclimatise more before staying at camp 1 and climbing to camp 2 for the day on the 16th. High winds are forecast after this, so we will use this time to rest at basecamp while we wait for better summit conditions.
Rest day today. Sorted out all our mountain food, had a radio briefing, done 2 sessions of fixed rope training and team are all currently excitedly packing for our first carry to camp 1 tomorrow.
We have now arrived at base camp after a 2 hour climb up from Panboche this morning. The visibility was incredible as we ascended with an amazing 360 degrees of Himalayan giants around us including Pumori, Taboche, Nuptse, Everest, Lhotse and of course Ama Dablam towering over us. Shortly after arrival we were shown into our cosy mess tent and given a tasty hot lunch. Later we picked tents and made our own little homes – finally unpacking our kit bags after days of being on the move. Team photo coming tomorrow hopefully when the sun is out and we spend the day resting and preparing for our first climb to Camp 1.
Today we reached the final village before Ama Dablam basecamp! Fantastic conditions and jaw dropping views round every twist and turn of the trail between Namche and Panboche. Criss-crossing the main valley we notched up at total of 1700m of climbing during the day over 12km. We also had time to slip off our trail shoes and have a look round the Tenboche Monastery and watch the monks practice their dance routines – probably for the up coming series of Strictly Monk Dancing. We are all currently basking in the heat of the lodge stove at the very welcoming Namaste Lodge. The team is very much looking forward to arriving at basecamp tomorrow and making it our home.
Great acclimatisation day today in Namche. Firstly we had a leisurely stroll up to the Tenzing Statue and Everest viewpoint from where we could also see a clear shot of Ama Dablam from camp 3 upwards.
We then felt the famous Everest Bakery calling and descended back into the village for coffee and cakes! Ollie and Fergus opted for pizza and retail therapy for the afternoon while the rest of the team with Jogi our trekking guide, headed into the Thame valley for a 2 mile stroll through a beautiful pine forest to a hamlet called Theso. It was lovely to be on a very quiet trail with very few trekkers and sample lunch from a more rustic tea house, where the hosts made us most welcome!
Tomorrow our journey to basecamp continues up the Khumbu Valley, to Pangboche, which will be our final stop before the climb up to Ama Dablam.
Fantastic day’s trekking from Phakding to Namche Bazaar. Lots of spectacular suspension bridges and towering white peaks today. Very hot in the sun on the climbs today but nice and cool in the shade. Looking forward to an acclimatisation day tomorrow and hope to get at least a glimpse of Everest. We did see Nuptse today through a very narrow gap in the trees.
The team have flown into Lukla and now begin to acclimatise as they head towards Namche and then to their first views of this majestic mountain. Fingers crossed for good weather!
The team have arrived in Kathmandu, have had the briefing at the embassy and will now fly to Lukla.