Leader: Robert Smith. Departed 29th March
30th May: Everest – No Easy Days
Everest comes up in everyday conversation or media quite frequently nowadays. It is not uncommon to hear someone proclaiming what a tourist destination it has become, and how easy it is to climb. Many of us will have work colleagues who have trekked to Everest Base Camp, or know a friend of a friend who has been there.
Anyone who does think climbing Everest is easy, should have experienced just a small amount of what our group has been through in the last week. Since leaving Advanced Base Camp on 22 May, every day was a hard struggle to gain height towards the top. Spending nights at 7050m, 7800m and a day and evening at 8300m, there have been no easy days or nights.
Steep arduous climbs in difficult weather, were followed by pitching tents in high winds on stone platforms in precarious placements. Melting snow, keeping warm, getting as comfortable as possible, snatching sleep amidst the noise, has been our lives. Trying our best to drink and eat to replenish our bodies, while they respond with lack of appetite or nausea, was a constant challenge to maintain energy levels. Ours has been simple existence, though not a pleasurable one.
Unfortunately both Mark and Angus took unwell, just after leaving Advanced Base Camp, in the worst timed illnesses of the trip. It is hard enough setting out on a summit bid feeling 100%, but suffering from an illness makes it a near impossible task. They both did their best reaching Camp 1 and Camp 2 before making the sensible decision to turn around.
Seb, Sas and myself continued from Camp 2 to 3, reaching the world’s highest campsite. If you can call a random collection of mountain tents balanced on and tied onto rock platforms, on a 45 degree slope at 8300 metres a camp site. Building a platform and putting 2 tents up in strong winds used up precious energy, but there was no alternative if we wanted shelter. We spent the afternoon melting snow to re-hydrate, resting and eating.
By 2200 we were outside the tent strapping on crampons as the wind and snow flurries whirled around us. Other climbers’ headtorches shone across the mountainside, confirming this was the best opportunity we would have to climb this mountain. A long queue of climbers joined the route, and it was a slow cold climb to reach the North-East Ridge of Everest. Sas made the tremendously difficult decision to return to Camp 3, while she still had the energy.
Once on the ridge, the climbers spaced out, and the landmarks of the route to the top of Everest stretched out before us in the paling dawn sky. The Tibetan plateau on one side, the high mountains of Nepal on the other, with Makalu standing tall. In front of us the first step, the infamous second step, third step, snow field with the rock traverse disappearing from sight to the right side. The final snow ridge, the false summit and finally, finally the summit of Everest at 8848 metres.
Seb and I were lucky enough to see the view from the highest point in the world, for a brief time. As soon as we were lower down the mountain, the weather deteriorated with high winds and heavy snow. Our camp on the North Col was battered and we lost two tents, while some other companies have since abandoned everything they had there. Once at ABC more heavy snow fell, making even trips to the North Col to retrieve equipment difficult.
The heavy snow since summit day has prevented the yaks from reaching ABC, while the walk down the East Rongbuk Glacier had changed appearance completely. Now we sit at Base Camp for the final evening under Everest’s view, looking forward to the simple pleasures of running water, a solid bed to sleep in, and a change of clothes.
28th May: All the team have now cleared down to ABC and the sherpas have cleared all equipment off the mountain. Seb, Sarah & Rob will head down tomorrow to BC. There has been a large amount of snow in the last 36 hours which is delaying the yaks reaching ABC.
26th May: Sarah is now down at ABC. Seb is now at the North col with Phurba and will head down to ABC tomorrow.The team have decided not make any further summit bids. It looks like the winds will be dropping again soon but there is also significant snow fall expected. Sarah did start out on summit night but turned round shortly after leaving camp 3. Mark reached camp 2 and had the night there before heading back down with Pasang sherpa.
26th May: Gus is now down at BC. Mark is at ABC with Rob. Sarah is on her way down from the North Col. Seb is on his way down from Camp 2 to the North Col.
25th May: 18:45 hrs Nepali time – Rob is now at the North Col with one of the sherpas. Seb & Phurba are an hour away from camp 2 and plan to saty there tonight. Seb is fine but tired. Mark and Sas have cleared down the mountain.
25th May: 14:15 hrs Nepali time – Rob is now at Camp 2 and Seb & Phurba are on their way down to Camp 2.
25th May: 10:45 hrs Nepali time – Rob is now at Mushroom rock below the second step. Seb and Phurba are not far behind on their descent after reaching the summit at 9:30 hrs Nepali time.
25th May: 08:30 hrs Nepali time – Rob decided to head back down as it was getting too cold on the summit. He passed Seb & his sherpa on their way up on the rocks just below the final summit ridge. Rob will wait at the 3rd Step for them to return. He said they are now on their way down.
25th May: 08:00 hrs Nepali time – Rob has reached the summit and plans to wait for Seb on the summit.
25th May: 07:00 hrs Nepali time – Rob & Seb are now at the top of the 3rd Step. Just the snow slope and the final zig-zag on the rock quadrahedron to go before the final summit approach.
25th May: 05:53 hrs Nepali time – Rob & Seb are now at the top of the 2nd Step.
25th May: 04:40 hrs Nepali time – Rob has sent a brief text to say he and Seb are at mushroom rock (8500m). Sarah is at camp 3. It’s not clear at this stage if Sarah left for a summit bid or decided to stay at camp 3. Rob has said it’s cold and windy and it was a slow start due to a lot of people heading up this night. Hopefully when Rob calls in we can provide more detail on the rest of the team.
24th May: Rob, Sarah Seb & the two sherpas are now at the top camp and are planning to leave for the summit at 22:00hrs tonight Nepali time. Rob said it was a tough day today with strong winds and now it’s snowing. Mark has headed up to camp 2 with his sherpa. Angus has headed back down to ABC.
23rd May: Rob sent a text today to say that he, Sarah & Seb are now at camp 2 at 7800m. Mark is now at the North Col with his sherpa. Angus started out with the rest of the group heading to camp 2 but wasn’t feeling well so descended back to the North Col with his sherpa. Both of them will try again for camp 2 tomorrow. Rob, Sarah & Seb along with the sherpas will move up to Camp 3 tomorrow. Providing the weather holds they plan to make their summit bid in tomorrow night around 22:30 hrs Nepali time.
22nd May: Rob has called to let us know Mark had a bout of sickness and has gone down to Advanced Base Camp for a rest.
21st May: We arrived at Advanced Base Camp 2 days ago on Monday 19 May. Since we were last here our Sherpa team have managed, despite challenging weather conditions, to transport enough equipment higher up the mountain, to give us an opportunity to mount a summit bid. We will still have to carry more oxygen with us when we leave ABC, for higher up, but now we have a chance.
Following a meeting this morning with the China Tibet Mountaineering Association (CTMA), who fix the ropes here on the North side of Everest, their team will attempt to finish fixing the mountain on 23rd providing the winds drop sufficiently on the 22nd. Gradually the pieces are fitting into place here on the North side of Everest.
Our weather forecast predicts reasonable conditions on the 25th before winds increase again on the 26th. So for now our plan is to summit Everest on the 25th. It feels like we are threading a needle rather than taking advantage of a generous summit window, but it is the best opportunity we have at the moment.
Future updates will be from the mountain with satellite phone via the Adventure Peaks office.
18th May: This Everest season is challenging. High winds have made any progress on the mountain hard work since we were last above Base Camp. Winds continue to fray the many Prayer Flags around Camp, along with resolve and patience.
Teams are sharing information and working together. In the last week, we have been generously invited for dinner with Kobler and Co. and 7 Summits Club; both being very enjoyable evenings. It is not every evening you get to play pool, on probably the highest table in the world!
This current period should be prime time for summit bids, yet teams are struggling to prepare high camps, that need to be in place before the final summit rotation. The China Tibet Mountaineering Association (CTMA) have not yet completed fixing ropes on the mountain. Also the weather forecasts have not predicted a definitive good weather spell, that could open the door to Everest’s summit. However, time is passing. Some teams have moved to ABC today, and following a collective team meeting today with the CTMA who will attempt to fix ropes in the next workable weather, most others will move up tomorrow.
We will be among the teams moving to Advanced Base Camp tomorrow. From there we will be in a better position, if a favourable weather forecast arrives, to make our summit bid. So we leave behind the comforts of Base Camp, again for the long walk up the East Rongbuk Glacier, for what we hope is the last time.
After a rest period at ABC, once ropes are fixed and favourable weather arrives, we will proceed to North Col / Camp 1 7050 metres for 1 night. After that we will climb to Camp 2 at 7800 metres for 1 night, continue to Camp 3 8300 metres, resting there for the remainder of that day. Then we will continue to Everest summit leaving between 10pm and midnight, climbing overnight and arriving in the early hours of the morning. A simple plan on paper, but first we need not inconsiderable things to happen, before we have a chance to make a summit bid.
Next update will be from Advanced Base Camp, hopefully with positive news.
13th May: There are many things that need to run according to plan to enable high mountains to be climbed. Everest, the highest mountain in the world requires many many things to run according to plan, to enable an attempt to reach it’s summit. However nature has no interest in our attempts to reach the top of the world. The Sub-Tropical Jet Stream, which at this time of year should not be a concern is presently over the Himalaya, bringing with it wind speeds of 100km/h. It has been impossible for the teams fixing ropes on the mountain, and Sherpa teams to make any progress on the upper mountain. Even at Base Camp, more than 3000 metres below the summit, the wind has been constant, rattling tents, blowing dust, disturbing sleep and fraying people’s patience. Established camps at North Col 7050m, have been battered, tents damaged and some equipment lost. However if climbing Everest was easy, we would all know someone who had done it already.
So here we wait. Wait for the fixed ropes to get finished, wait for our high camps to get established, wait for our bodies to rest and recover from our last trip to altitude, and wait for good enough weather to allow us to make our summit bid. Most people who come to climb Everest are successful, driven individuals. Most of those people are not used to waiting for situations beyond their control. So rather than pushing ourselves to the limits of physical endurance as most expect, for now we must learn the virtue of patience, and be content with that.
We have plenty of time in our schedule, for these exact predicaments, or any other than can get in the way. Jet streams, strikes, illnesses, landslides, yak shortages, earthquakes, fuel bans. At least we are still fortunate to be on the mountain, and in a position to be able to climb once everything is in the right place at the right time. But for now, we wait.
9th May: Today Mick, Mel and Purba got to within 250m of the summit of Lhakpa Ri before turning around. They were both extremely tired and winds were increasing. All three returned to ABC at 1300 local time. Mick and Mel will return to BC on 10, yaks are arriving here at EBC tomorrow night. Rob
8th May: We have had a successful rotation to the North Col / Camp 1 at 7050m for 2 nights. Seb, Sas and myself came back to ABC yesterday, while Mark and Angus are now descending to here. Also Mick and Mel are currently climbing the slopes of Lhakpa Ri in great conditions.
Sleeping above 7000m on Everest is not a comfortable experience. Even if you are fortunate enough not to suffer from altitude illness including headache, loss of apetite, nausea or insomnia you still have to endure subzero temperatures and almost 12 hours of darkness. A normal routine will have you ready for sleep (if you can) before 7pm. Anything that will freeze or needs to be kept warm is inside your sleeping bag: camera, VHF radio, satellite phone, MP3 player, spare batteries, water bottle, sun cream, climbing inner boots, spare socks or clothing. Life can be a bit cramped in your sleeping bag. Everything else is packed away to prevent it getting covered in ice overnight. So if you have managed to fall asleep, you will likely wake a few hours later wishing it was morning only to discover that it is closer to 10pm. Several more awakenings will likely follow until you finally notice at 5am it is getting light. There now follows a period where the tent gradually warms up if it is not windy, and the ice slowly thaws, not too quickly or dripping water covers your inner tent world. Then follows some negotiation as to who lights the stove to begin the hydration and breakfast process. Keeping hydrated is crucial to aid acclimitisation and prevent altitude illness, while food is literally fuel when you want your body to keep performing at high altitude.
Sleeping at the North Col was a new record for everyone on the team, and the extra acclimitisation climbs above camp pushed limits further. Now we will return to Base Camp for our final rest period before our summit bid. The Lhakpa Ri team will follow in 2 days time, with a night in Base Camp before they start their homeward journey.
5th May: Advanced Base Camp – Once Again. Both the Everest and Lhapka Ri teams are now in Advanced Base Camp. Both teams had tough days to get here, with the Everest team walking in snow for the final few kilometres, in conditions more reminiscent of Scotland than Tibet. Good work by Sas for providing the team wine gums for morale en route. A heated tent and a bowl of noodle soup were most welcome, after nine hours on the trail. Everyone went to bed early and awoke to a beautiful morning; more of a surprise given the weather forecast for more snow. It was so hot earlier it was uncomfortable to sit in the dining tent with all doors open. However it is snowing heavily now, so overheating is no longer a problem.
It is good to see our Sherpa team again, and catch up with progress on the mountain. There has been a steady stream of climbers ascending the North Col today, both up and down. Hopefully we will be following in their tracks tomorrow, weather permitting, to spend 2 nights camped up there. Although there are never any guarantees up here, and all progress is weather dependant. Our weather forecast predicts snow, and just how much falls each day will dictate whether we can advance.
As well as spending two nights camped at 7050m, we will climb to 7500m without oxygen as another stage of our acclimitisation. As Angus has figured out, as soon as we feel comfortable at a new altitude, we push higher, and begin the whole acclimitsation process again. Not everyone’s idea of a break from work, but that’s life in the big mountains. This rotation Seb will sleep at Camp 2 (7600m) and climb to 8000m without oxygen if he feels strong enough, continuing his programme to climb Everest without oxygen. The Lhakpa Ri group will have another two rest days here at ABC before climbing the North Col and then tackle Lhakpa Ri after that.
30th April: Today we are sitting in the very pleasant temperature of our large comfortable dining tent, enjoying the calm morning weather at Everest Base Camp. We are in day 3 of 5 rest days before our next rotation. In contrast to our lives at ABC, where everyday existence can seem a challenge, we are basking in warmer temperatures, more oxygen and general comfort. Domestic chores are ongoing, including haircuts, hand washing laundry and our highlight to date, celebrating Angus’s birthday. Our cook team, Purna, Rosan and Ringi even managed to bake a cake, quite a feat up here at 5200m. What would the ‘Great British Bake Off’ make of that?
We have been joined at EBC by the Everest North Col / Lakpa Ri group, who must think we do little more than sit around, play cards and drink tea! But to be fair they have joined us in the middle of our rest period, and without this our bodies will not recover from the last rotation higher on the mountain, and consequently be ready for the next foray. We have already trudged up the hills they are currently on, while they prepare to move to Interim Camp and then ABC. Both teams should be at ABC at the same time and climbing the North Col together, for us the second time.
Other teams are currently at Base Camp or ABC. Calm weather days encourage people out of their tents and they can be seen milling about, lounging on rocks, or sorting equipment in the sun. Some teams visit the different camps spread around our communal site, while others keep to themselves, wary of catching colds or infections. There are climbers here from Brasil, Malta, China, USA, Britain, Ireland, France, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Germany, Norway, Russia and Poland among many others we have not yet met. From time to time, we also have visits from local Tibetans peddling fossils, jewellery and traditional artefacts, though some may be more traditional than others.
So for now, we relax and make the most of the good food and favourable weather. Overnight temperatures drop to -6C in our tents, while the daytime sun warms them up to the point where we have to open doors to let a breeze cool things down. The team are passing the time resting, reading, chatting, blogging, repairing equipment.
Meanwhile our sherpa team have remained at ABC and are load carrying tents and stoves higher up the mountain. Clearly we would not be attempting this climb without their ongoing hard effort and support. We will see them again in a few days.
Tomorrow our final yak train will travel up to ABC with additional food and fuel, and the bulk of our oxygen cylinders. On that note, it’s time to go and re-weigh expedition barrels, prior to the greeting, pleasantries, allocation, disagreements, haggling, and agreements that organising a yak train involves.
27th April: Yesterday the team climbed to the North Col of Everest at 7050 metres in good style. Despite trying weather conditions, with strong gusting winds and blowing spindrift, everyone made it to our objective for Rotation 1 on the mountain. Seb went a stage further carrying an overnight pack up the fixed lines, and spent the night on the North Col, as part of his acclimitisation to climb Everest without oxygen. He is currently on his way down and we will re-group here before descending further.
Today we are heading back down the trail to Base Camp, an easier day but still 6-8 hours walking. Everyone is looking forward to the relative comfort of Base Camp with a lower altitude. The North Col was a new high point for everyone in the group, at 7000m higher than any mountains on any other continent.
We are all looking forward to a rest period before our next rotation, and meeting the other Adventure Peaks team who are coming here to climb Lapka Ri.
25th April: Everest Advanced Base Camp – 6400 metres.
The team are all doing well and have settled into life at ABC at 6400 metres. It is noticeably colder here, and down suits are now fashionable for dinner!
Last night there were few inches of snow, to add to the atmosphere. We had a complete rest day after our arrival, followed by a walk yesterday to a point known as ‘Crampon Point’ higher up the trail. From there we had a great view of the route up to the North Col, which will be our greatest challenge so far. Today our third wave of yaks arrived from Base Camp; it’s no easy task to organise loads, ensure availability of yaks and get good enough weather to enable the journey. It’s a truly unique sight to see a yak train lumbering along the rough trail following the glacier moraine, flanked by ice penitentes. The yaks arrival brought our supplies for the important Puja ceremony, where a local Lama Holy Man holds a service to bless climbers, sherpas and equipment. Scriptures are read, rice and flour thrown in offering and everyone drinks and eats. It’s a memorable event in every Himalayan climbing trip , and today’s was no exception.
Tomorrow we continue our climb to the North Col at 7050 metres, up a steep headwall weaving our way by the easiest route. It will be our first proper day on fixed ropes, with an occasional ladder to cross, and is the gateway to the upper slopes of Everest. Seb will be spending the night there with one of the Sherpa team, while the rest of team will descend back to ABC and wait for his arrival the next morning.
Good weather allowing, our next blog will tell you the tale. Robert Smith
23rd April: The group have now arrived at Advanced Base Camp but there has been a delay with Yaks so our Base Camp internet connection hasn’t yet arrived. Fingers crossed they will arrive tomorrow so we will have some better updates then.
We will have a head up to Crampon Corner at 6500m and plan on going to the North Col on the 26th. The group are all still strong and feeling well.
20th April: Firstly we are all safe and well here at Everest Base Camp. The avalanche which occurred on the South Side of Everest shocked us all here; the sherpas and climbers there have our thoughts and sympathies. Many of the teams here have climbed with those killed or missing. Difficult times.
We have had a busy time since arriving at Everest Base Camp, while adjusting to our new home at 5200 metres. Checking equipment,weighing oxygen cylinders, learning how to use our radios, trialling our oxygen mask systems, as well as 2 acclmitisation days up to 5500m and 6000m. The first of our equipment left yesterday on 10 yaks accompanied by 4 of our sherpas to establish Advanced Base Camp. Tomorrow we set off in their trail, taking 2 days to cover the 22km up the glacier with a height gain of 1200 metres. It has been windy here at Base Camp since we arrived with a good amount of snow yesterday thrown in for good measure. Hopefully temperatures will rise in the weeks to come, and the weather will settle. Our target after settling into life at 6400m at Advanced Base Camp will be to climb to the North Col at 7060m. This will be a milestone in our acclimitiastion and be the culmination of our first mountain rotation. Hopefully we’ll be able to send more news from Advanced Base Camp on our progress. Robert Smith
18th April: Rob rang today with a brief update on the team. Everyone is at Everest Base Camp, and they have had a good day dealing with general admin and having a briefing about Oxygen.The team’s thoughts of course have been with those on the South side of Everest.
Tomorrow the group plan to ascend up to 6000m to acclimatise. We will let you know more details when we receive another update.
15th April: We arrived at EBC Tuesday after spending nights in Kodari, Nylam and Tingri. The truck broke down before Rongbuk, but we managed to find a replacement which was returning from EBC and transferred all cargo and carried on.
We’re a bit behind schedule setting up Base Camp but are comfortable for now. Purba and I will go through the barrels tomorrow, the rest of the team will have a rest and admin day. The following day, Thursday, we will have an acclimitisation hike up the frozen river. All good for now. Rob
12th April: At 5am this morning the team left Kathmandu heading towards the Tibetan border. They will cross over into Tibet at Friendship Bridge and then drive to Nylam at 3700m. Tomorrow they will head to Tingri at 4300m, where they will hopefully get their first views of the dramatic North Face of Everest and all being well will arrive at Everest base camp on Monday.
5th April: Rob rang today with a quick update. Today the team climbed Tsergo Ri at 4850m for acclimatisation and then started the trek to Base Camp of Naya Kanga ready for the start of their ascent. Everyone is well and the weather is being kind, so we wish them every success on their climb of Naya Kanga and hope to hear more soon.
1st April: The team and I all landed safely at Kathmandu then transferred to our hotel close to the famous bustling Thamel district of Kathmandu. The next day we left the Kathmandu valley and drove northwards to Trisuli Bazaar, and then joined the military road which winds above the river valleys, eventually dropping down to cross the Trisuli River.
Everyone is feeling well and we have now trekked into the Langtang Village at 3400m with beautiful weather and really nice mountain scenery and views. We have had very limited mobile signal so we’ll send more updates and photos as we get a better signal.