An update from Paul by satellite phone at 12.30pm GMT (Nicky)
Summary: Long, slow, painful.
It all started well with the team leaving early (although not early enough it would turn out) and feeling good having slept on oxygen. Things soon took a turn for the worse: first, we saw the remains of a team’s camp taken out by an avalanche (or perhaps the serac which injured the Sherpa yesterday) and, second, it quickly became apparent that all the issues on Everest this year have resulted in almost all teams, including ours, attempting to summit on the same day.
What did that mean? Major traffic jams. The trip to Camp 4 took twice as long as it should have with many teams (I would estimate 150 – 200 climbers) on the mountain at the same time.
If we are to try to avoid some of the crowds during our summit attempt we have time for little more than a one hour lunch break before we leave Camp 4. This doesn’t allow much time to refuel before making, what is expected to be, a 16 hour round trip. It means we could be on the go for more than 30 hours. (Hopefully some of the late night partying in my younger days will help get me through!)
While extremely rich coming from me (as very much an amateur climber) I do question whether, given their level of fitness and skill, some climbers should be attempting Everest particularly in a year when summit attempts are compressed into one or two days. I imagine that some will miss their opportunity to summit after such a long climb today and little time to rest.
I now need to end this call and go on to oxygen so that Pierre and Nathalie are not too much stronger than me!
An update from Paul by satellite phone at 10.30am GMT (Nicky)
We awoke early this morning to make our way to Camp 3. We were all packed and ready to go when we received a call from Base Camp. One of the climbing Sherpas had been hit by a serac* and needed to be rescued by the other climbing Sherpas. We held back while plans were made for the rescue. We finally set off at 9am, by which time the temperature had risen from -20 to 40 in the Western Cwm. This unhappily coincided with the day we needed to wear -50 one piece down suits.
Today was probably the toughest day for me so far due to a combination of the heat, the new longer route to Camp 3, slower climbers already on oxygen on the steep part of the climb, and some muscle wastage. (Some, probably most, would say I didn’t have much to begin with!)
Tonight we sleep on oz** before leaving for Camp 4 with oz at around 5am. A number of people planned to summit on the 18th but given the recent accident I expect they will now also be trying to summit on the 19th. It could be busy…
* (Nicky: for the non-moutaineering among us: a block or column of ice formed by intersecting crevasses on a glacier)
** (Nicky: oxygen)
An update from Paul by satellite phone at 11.30am GMT (Nicky)
Our team has arrived at Camp 2 after successfully navigating the Khumbu Icefall for the third time. We were pretty tired after a gruelling 7 hour climb, but glad it was not the 10-12 hours it has taken some of the other teams.
While still enchanting, the Icefall does appear to be becoming a risker place to be and I am glad I will only have to go through it one more time. It could be my mind playing tricks on me but I thought I could hear and feel it moving much more than earlier in the season. At one point my Sherpa’s foot broke through the ice plunging him knee deep into icy water.
After a short rest we will be setting off on the new route to Camp 3. While this route will take a little longer, hopefully it will avoid the persistent rockfall of the previous one. We also hope by the time we arrive at Camp 3 the team of rope fixing Sherpas will have completed their job of attaching the ropes to the summit. Otherwise it could be a lengthy stay up high or the end of our expedition.
Currently we are experiencing heavy snowfall, but the winds are low.
There has obviously been a lot of discussion of the last few days following Russell Brice’s decision to cancel his expedition. However, while we are not out of the woods yet, things seems to be looking up on the mountain with the remaining teams all cooperating and working to get all of the logistics in place for people to make an attempt on the summit. Ropes are now fixed to the South Col and we have begun to establish and stock our camp 4 with essential supplies. With any luck, the ropes to the summit will be fixed in the next couple of days making it possible, subject to weather, for teams to begin jostling for position to launch their summit bid. The forecast calls for some strong winds for a few days but then it would appear that there is a period of calmer weather, potentially making a summit push possible. We will seek to get into position in the next few days and then see what happens….
If all goes to plan I will probably not be able to update the blog (except perhaps by sat phone, which I have yet try) so will try to phone in updates to Nicky. With a bit of luck, I will be lying by the pool at the Katmandu Hyatt drinking cocktails before too long.
Our vacation is now over having been summoned back to base camp to get into position for our summit push. A few days at lower altitude definitely seems to have revitalised everyone and even got rid of the Khumbu cough, so hopefully we are in as good condition as possible to attempt the summit. What took us 3 days of walking on the way in we just completed in a day. Hopefully, I have seen the last of the trekking trails having now completed most of the base camp trek twice and a good part of it 3 times! If all goes well, I will catch a helicopter from base camp to Katmandu – a mere 45 mins – thereby avoiding the trek back Dowty Lukla. There would seem to be lots of hitchhikers willing to jump aboard. First things first though…..
Although we were actually in Pheriche…..
The uncertainty over when and if we would eventually climb Everest finally took its toll while we were in Pheriche. While Pierre held firm,Nathalie and I fell off the (very long) wagon and spent some time at the altar of “San Miguel” in the hope that this would bring some better news. An Everest veteran had warned me that this moment would come and had prescribed the appropriate “medicine” to deal with it. I’m glad to report that this momentary lapse seemed to do its job and we are all now safely back on the wagon until the job is hopefully done!