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  Mt. Everest 2005: Gavin Bate



Gavin has climbed Everest twice before, yet never actually stood on top of the world. Yet. hopefully this will be a case of third time lucky!

But there is far more to it than that: this expedition is all about climbing one mountain to move mountains for some very special people in the foothills of the Himalayas. There is a very specific goal in mind and we offer you the opportunity to take part in various aspects of both the expedition and the project.

The first time Gavin Bate climbed Everest was on the south-east ridge in 2000 he turned back at the South Summit, just a 100 vertical metres from the top. That was part of a 7 Summits odyssey, to climb the highest peaks on the seven continents in one year for the Millennium. The team used full Sherpa support and bottled oxygen and were the first to summit Everest in the year 2000. In all respects it was a successful expedition but one that personally left Gavin with unfinished business.

The second time he tackled Everest by the Northeast Ridge in 2002 with Northern Irish friend Will Canning. This time no bottled oxygen or climbing support was used, and they tackled the harder north ridge from Tibet. It was a tough trip and they reached the Second Step, just 200 metres from the summit, when Will dislocated his knee in a freak accident. It took the two men four days to descend back to Advance Base Camp, much of it in the teeth of a Himalayan storm.

In between those two expeditions Gavin founded a charity called Moving Mountains which helps street children in Kenya and promotes community projects in a number of villages in the Solukhumbu region of the Himalayas. He did this after years working and living in Kenya and Nepal and seeing first hand the effects of poverty and marginilisation.

Now Moving Mountains is an established charity helping many people and Gavin uses the profile of his expeditions to raise awareness and funds. More than simply raising funds, he is keen for people to see the work of the charity first hand and to experience how the charity works.

The interest in the villages of Khari Khola, Bumburi and Bupsa in Solukhumbu began with friendships formed during many expeditions into the Himalaya. Babu Chiri Sherpa, Ang Rita Sherpa and Chhongba Sherpa are all from that area. Babu became an icon of Nepalese mountaineering, when he made the fastest ascent of Everest in just 16 hours from Base Camp.

Unfortunately Babu died in 2001 on Everest, but the rapport between Ang Rita, Chhongba and Gavin is now a formidable team which runs a joint operation between Adventure Alternative in the UK, High Country in Nepal and the often for the benefit of the Moving Mountains Trust.

Not only do their treks, expeditions and teaching or medical placements offer a very special experience in this incredible country, they have pioneered a charter for the rights of porters which it is hoped will spearhead a change in the industry.

For Gavin’s third expedition to climb Mount Everest he will again be attempting the South East Ridge, this time solo without bottled oxygen or Sherpa support. He goes to Everest in April 2005.

The expedition has a purpose, to raise funds to complete two major projects in the region that will improve the lives of the people who live there. These people are identified as underprivileged, living a largely subsistent lifestyle with no welfare from the state and no donor support. The money will help:

  • Install a micro hydro electricity plant in the small village of Bumburi (cost £30,000).
  • Pay for running costs and refurbishment of Khari Khola hospital for 3 years (cost £5,000).

Please give to his good cause: DONATE NOW!

Gav says: "I have been exploring and expeditioning all my life now and have seen some remarkable things along the way. But time and again I return to the people I have met, both in the slums of Kenya and in the rural villages of Nepal, whose lives and friendships have so deeply affected my own.

"If my expedition to climb Everest, and finally succeed in completing the Seven Summits for all that is worth, can make these projects happen with the Moving Mountains Trust then all my efforts will have been worth it.

"For me, as far as personal achievement is always going to be a major motivation, far more powerful is the desire to use this expedition for a more worthwhile purpose."

The Climb of Everest – Under the Gloss (by Gavin Bate)

Climbing Everest is no longer a novelty in the mountaineering world. Cynics claim it has become a cheque-book trail to the top of the world. Technology, accessibility and western money has not reduced the height of Everest by one inch though and it is still a major challenge to any adventurer, some would say the most exciting challenge in the world.

Any climber will agree that there are easy ways and hard ways to climb a mountain and choice of route is an obvious deciding factor. The SE ridge is the most common route and every season it is fixed with ropes that are bound to make any ascent 'easier' technically.

Some would say that clipping onto a 5000 metre rope with a jumar at the bottom of the mountain, and having a Sherpa carry the equipment and oxygen all the way to the South Col is not really mountaineering. For sure it makes the challenge easier, but the success rate for Everest still remains at only around 22%.

Some maintain that since 90% of all expeditions on the south side follow the well-trodden SE Ridge route, there are two main factors that will make a difference to the difficulty and extent of the challenge of Everest. The first is not using any Sherpa support and the second is not using bottled oxygen.

Sherpas ...

Sherpas have become synonymous with Everest ever since Edmund Hillary made the first ascent with Tenzing Norgay in 1953. Their strength, dependability and humour has become legendary all over the world; indeed their race has become a byword for endurance. Climbing without their help involves having to make up to seven independant ‘carries’ of up to 20kgs on the mountain to place the four camps, to a high point of 8,000 metres before even thinking of attempting the summit. When you do this, you realise how strong the Sherpas really are.

Physical challenge camp by camp ...

The challenge is largely in the physical effort required. People need to be highly fit, motivated and careful. The Khumbu Icefall is a broken mass of ice boulders and seracs tumbling down a 2,000ft frozen waterfall from the lip of the Western Cwm onto the Khumbu Glacier.

The Western Cwm itself is a giant valley, baking hot by day, deadly freezing by night and riven with huge crevasses. From the top end of the Cwm, the Lhotse Face extends 5000’ up a steep face of ice to the South Col itself.

The South Col at 8000 metres is the final camp before attempting the summit where many brave people have perished or become lost on their descent. It is a bleak, windswept and virtually uninhabitable spot on earth, littered with old oxygen bottles, scraps of tents and even some bodies. Every action here becomes an effort of willpower, a case of mind over matter as the body literally begins to shut down in this so-called Death Zone.

Summit Challenge ...

The challenge here is to husband one's strengths with skill, so that there is enough left to get to the top and back down again safely. This also requires luck and timing. Luck that the factors for success dovetail together at that very moment when the south col is reached, because generally a climber only gets one chance for the top. At this point it becomes a game of probabilities, with the odds stacked in favour of the mountain.

To simply stay healthy at high altitude for a long period of time, living on a cold glacier is a challenge. At extreme altitude the most important addition to self-preservation will be bottled oxygen. It gives strength, warmth and life.

With or without oxygen ...

In fact to compare climbing Everest with or without oxygen is to compare chalk from cheese. Every aspect of the climb becomes harder and more dangerous. Rate of ascent is slower, strength is sapped far more quickly, mental acuity is severely reduced, the body’s immune system and general health breaks down and the prospect of descent in the event of a problem is virtually nil.

All this without even mentioning altitude sicknesses such as pulmonary and cerebral oedemas, which occur when the body is simply unable to cope with the reduced amount of oxygen in the air. Getting the acclimatisation absolutely right is essential because without oxygen there is no room for mistakes. Judgement is absolutely crucial. Perhaps most especially because Everest is the only one of the highest peaks in the world which requires making a camp at 8000m. It is this factor alone which puts her in a different category to the rest, placing the climber in an entirely unique and unusual situation.

Doing it the Right Way ...

In this sense every single climber who stands on the South Col at 26,000ft and looks up that glassy black bulk of the summit faces the same effort of willpower, the same extreme environment and the same fear that Hillary and Tenzing no doubt felt in 1953.

Everyone would agree that to climb Everest without bottled oxygen and relying entirely on one’s own resources is a harder way to try it. Some say it is plain crazy. But, as Alex Lowe once said: "The best mountaineer is the one having the most fun" so this will be a major part of the approach to the climb. It is not so much the moment of standing on the summit that matters, but the manner in which you get there.

Please give to his good cause: DONATE NOW!

Much more on Gavin in the near future

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