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  Everest 2006: Fi and Paul: At camp 4 getting ready for our summit attempt

Location: Camp 4
Altitude: 7900m
Local Time: 4:30pm, Monday 22nd May
Weather: Fine most of the day with late cloud

Hi everyone, it's Fiona here.
Well we're now at Camp 4 and providing the weather holds out, we'll be heading for the summit tonight - hopefully to reach the top sometime tomorrow morning.

A Night on Oxygen
The oxygen sure does make a difference and we both had a pretty good night's sleep last night at C3. At first it felt very strange lying with two oxygen bottles between us and wearing a mask that nearly covers your whole face and it makes it very difficult to turn from side to side given the tube connections. We felt like some kind of astronauts - especially given we were sleeping in our down suits as well. With the oxygen on, a lot of what you can hear is the sound of the air flowing in and out - much like when you're scuba diving - so it's a very surreal feeling.

Climbing up to C4
We started the climb today at around 6am and headed slowly upwards continuing up the Lhotse face. After an hour or so the route traverses over to cross the Yellow Band. On getting to this outcrop, it seems as though it's actually sandstone - giving it its yellowish colour and name. In fact, during our climbing on Everest we seemed to have passed through areas with granite, quartz, limestone, and shale / slate - a pretty interesting combination. Not remembering much from any geology I may have learnt, I have no idea how these combinations come to exist here together. Any ideas?

Anyway, we continued up and over this rocky outrop and traversed through another large snowy section, stopping for a break in the middle - Gu Gels all round. The next obstacle was the Geneva Spur - a rocky and snowy ridge to climb up. With the fixed line, none of this was too difficult - but still pretty hard work. However, the oxygen made a huge difference - although we'd still be gasping for breath after a steep section, our recovery was much faster and after a couple of deep breaths, we were ready to go again.

Near the top of the Geneva Spur one of my crampons somehow came off. This could have been a disaster but luckily the safety strap caught it before it had a chance to go sliding down to Camp 2. So Paul strapped it onto my pack and I (very carefully) climbed up to the top of the ridge where there was a safe spot to reattach it. From here it was a pretty flat traverse around to the South Col where Camp 4 is located.

Camp 4
The South Col is a very large saddle between Lhotse and Everest. It's very different from Camp 3 where you can barely walk out of your tent, here the site is flat and as big as a couple of sports ovals. There are probably around 15 tents here from all the different groups. IMG has 4 up at the moment. Another great thing about this camp is that IMG provide extra Sherpa support so that we don't have to melt our own snow for water.

There are a couple of others from our group and then a couple of other groups which are planning to attempt the summit tonight as well. I'd guess around 30 people all up. This seems like a good number, because if anything goes wrong we're not alone on the mountain, but it doesn't seem like it will be too many so as to cause congestion.

From Camp 4 we have a head on view of the route up Everest. It looks magnificent but it's a bit disappointing and intimidating to know that we are at Camp 4 and still have all that way to go. Even from up here, Everest looks absolutely massive.

The Preparation and Anticipation
Now that we're here, we're drying boots out, loading new batteries into torches, sorting out our gear to wear and take, and later when it gets cold, we'll be heating various items in our sleeping bags before we head off. But most importantly, we're trying to drink and eat plenty so that we don't crash and burn on what will probably be a very long night and day. (Many people leave around 9pm and don't get back to camp until very late afternoon the next day - hopefully we'll be earlier but who knows.)

As my pace is slower than Paul's, we're planning for Mingma and I to leave sometime between 8pm and 9pm tonight, while Dasona and Paul will probably leave sometime between 10pm and 11pm. If all the stars align, we might hit the summit at the same time, but in reality, Paul will probably pass me somewhere along the way - it will probably be too cold for him to slow down for long.

So now it's crunch time. Time to see whether we're strong enough to do it. There are only 950 vertical meters that separate us from our goal. At home, that would be a strenuous but pleasant day-walk. But up at 8000m, it's bound to be a different story.

Biggest concerns? Getting cold hands (for me), and for Paul, cold feet. We both have a tendency for these parts to get cold easily and the night spent climbing on Everest will put us to the test. We're both clear that if we get too cold and can’t warm up quickly, we'll turn around.

Otherwise, I'm worried about being too slow and having to turn around before we reach the summit. After the 1996 disaster almost everyone will be making sure they are heading down by midday-early afternoon to ensure they're back at camp while it's still light. I'm certainly not known for my speed and would be disappointed if I was traveling well but couldn't make it in time. (But not disappointed enough to keep plugging on regardless.)

Anyway, we'll just do our best and see what happens. There is still a chance that we won't be going anywhere if the winds are too high tonight. It's just got a little breezy now but the forecast is for decreasing winds tonight and lower winds tomorrow. Fingers crossed!

A Special Message for our Families
Please don't worry too much! In a lot of ways, this will be just another day of climbing - nothing different. We'll always be with our wonderful Sherpas and in radio contact with Mary at base camp, so there's not much room for error. Remember, we love you and can't wait to see you all when we get back (except for those OS who we'll have to make do with speaking to!)

Well, that's it for now - back to the hydration and rest program.

If everything goes to plan, Mary will be sending out updates on our progress throughout the night and tomorrow.

Keep your fingers crossed for us!
Fiona & Paul


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