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  Everest 2006: N. Ireland and England Everest 2006 Expedition: Another death on Everest


Update: OK, where do I start?

Well, Hassie and I trekked from Advance Base camp to base camp yesterday for thankfully our last time, this trek has got no easier as time has gone by, this trek has probably become the most hated part of our adventure, so we were very glad to see the red tents of our base camp.

Anyway, we left base camp over a week ago and our ambition was to make a summit attempt, little did we know how successful we would be and still we cannot believe that we made it. Every time anyone mentions Everest a massive comes across our faces and fact someone suggested yesterday that if I grinned any more the top of my head would fall off!

So last week before we left BC we got a long range forecast and the predications were that the 17th May 2006 would be a prefect summit day with low winds at the summit of Everest. So we did our calculations and left BC on the 10th May giving us, a rest day a ABC and enough days to be a position to attempt to reach the summit on the 17th May. So we set off for ABC, after arriving we meet up with our climbing Sherpa team and we discussed our summit plan. Thankfully they all agreed we our plan and all necessary arrangements where already in place for our summit attempt.

D-day minus 4- we left ABC and climbed back up to the North Col again, this was uneventful but we were much faster than previous attempts so we hoped that this was good omen. After a night there with not much sleep, although mind you some got a lot more than others. Geoffrey’s cough had only got worse and he took the wise and difficult decision not to continue on, while we set off up to camp 2 at 7700m high on Everest’s North Ridge. (Unfortunately the radio system was still not working properly, and by this stage of the guy’s trip I had not had communications with them for over 4 days. This was extremely frustrating, as not only did I want to speak to Raymond and find out how he felt, but I needed to pass on the all important weather forecast-K) We passed through the North Col camp we met up with another Expedition leader who was using the same weather forecast source as us and he suggested that the predications had changed to the 18th and not the 17th , so this was not great news for us, however we were on our way and that was it, there was no turning back at this stage.

Now the climb to 7700m was probably one of the toughest days I have ever spent in the mountains, the climb consists of a steep snow ramp that gains 700m in height and can only be described as torture. Women always complain that childbirth is painful and that men have no idea of what pain is, well try high altitude mountaineering some time you may find it comparable? (Not that I am in a position to argue this one, but…surely most child labour needs pain reducing drugs and lasts for more than 5 hours?-K) So after 5 hours + we arrived at our camp exhausted and sore, however that’s not the work over for the day, then you must start melting snow for water and this process goes on for 3-4 hours! Everyone then went on to Oxygen for the first time that night and this was a bizarre experience for the first time. Most of us did not really get much sleep that night.

Next day we set off using our Oxygen masks for the climb up to our 8300m camp, our last and highest camp on the mountain. This we had been told was not a hard day and would take around four hours to complete, this we found hard to believe, however this was true and was much easier than the day before. We arrived into the camp around three in the afternoon and we then set about melting snow again for drinking, this process again went on for hours.

The camp at 8300 m is strange and an uncomfortable place, every task you try and complete is very difficult and takes a very long time to complete. We set our departure time for summit that night to be 22.00 and everyone was to ready to go at 21:30 to allow some tolerance.

At 20:30 we got on the radio to the other tents and told everyone to get ready to go, well as expected this got a quick and positive response- not. So after numerous calls we finally got a reply and everyone started to get ready. Then at 22:00 we got out of our tent into the freezing cold (at least -20oC) and of course there was no one ready, so eventually at 22:30 everyone was prepared, and at 22:40 we finally got going.

This was a great feeling and hard to believe that what we had been planning for years was about to come to a conclusion, and that eventually we were going to have a summit attempt. So after 2 hours we climbed up onto the North East ridge of Everest, there was no wind although it was very cold, but we were comfortable in our down suits. After a few minutes on the ridge we came across the first dead body, this was quite unnerving and we passed by as quickly as possible. The ridge was a lot more exposed than we had expected, so after another hour of so we came to the first step, a notorious rock step on the ridge. This was a lot harder to climb than we imagined and after gaining the top of it, Steve turned to Hassie and asked “is there anything harder than this?” and lying of course Hassie answered, “No I think that’s it!” Needless to say the there was worse to come! So we continued to traverse along the ridge on to the second and most famous feature named “the second step” this we climbed with a little difficulty, but we knew that this was the major difficulties over and the rest of route to the summit was easier that what we had already done. We then continued along to a feature called the Mushroom rock and here we changed Oxygen bottles to a new bottle. The route from here leads up a snow field and then traverses along to the summit ridge, the sun was starting to rise at this time and the view over the other mountains was truly spectacular with everything below our feet at this stage. We finally we gained the summit ridge and could see the prayer flags on the summit, this was a unbelievable moment for me and one I will always remember, after another 20 minutes, Hassie, Steve, Dawa Sherpa and I stood on the top of Mount Everest, we hugged, we shook hands, we cheered, a dream come true.

Hassie got on the radio to Kate at Base Camp and he cheered for minutes before even saying anything! After a few minutes later, Jonathan, Fergal, Jangbu Sherpa, Lil Tamang arrived, they had, had a small problem with an iced up oxygen mask that had delayed them, we all rejoiced, shouted and basically went slightly mad, at this point in time.

After 30 minutes of trying to take photos without success because unfortunately everyone’s camera was frozen we gave up. We had carried the Duke of Edinburgh Award flag to the summit to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the scheme. We took some time to try and take pictures of the flag on the summit. In the ethos of the scheme decided that we would not leave the flag on the summit, but bring it back down to present at a later date to the Award staff. We departed the summit and the descent was along the same route as our ascent, the only difference being that this was bright daylight and not only illuminated only by a head torch. I think if we had seen what we had to ascend in these day light conditions we may have not reached the summit? The ridge was far more difficult than we expected.

We descended with just a few scares along the way and safely returned to our 8300m camp at around 11:30 still not believing what we had achieved.

Camp was then packed up and we all returned to our 7700m camp, Hassie, Jonathan, Steve, Dawa Sherpa and Lakpa Sherpa stayed here for the night. Fergal, descended to the North Col, Jangbu Sherpa, LIl Tamang, and I descended on to Advance base and arrived in at 18:30 that evening totally exhausted.

The sat phone never stopped ringing all evening and I eventually switched it off at 12:30 to try and get to sleep! Although worn out I still could not sleep with the excitement of what we had just achieved.

The next day everyone returned to Advance base camp around lunch time, still smiling all the time, we had just got five people on top of the world, with no injuries, just unbelievable!

That afternoon unfortunately reality hit us when we heard the awful news of the death of Jacque, a French climber who had travelled from Kathmandu to Everest with us. He was attempting Everest with his wife Caroline and friend Roland. Jacque got into trouble at the summit, Roland and his Sherpa spent 6 hours trying to get him down but unfortunately had to leave Jacque to save their own lives. Caroline was at Advance Base camp when she received the terrible news and our hearts go out to her at this time, Jacque was a really nice guy and we are all sadden by this tragedy. Other sad news was that one of Skiers who were attempting to ski off Everest, had also died, we had met them many times and again this news was very hard to take and our thoughts go out to his family.

Everest is a dangerous place, we knew that before coming here but the last few days have really hit home to us, we have had great success and luck, and others have not.

People have asked would you go back and attempt it again? No is the answer.

Hassie, Kate and I are in BC now enjoying the Oxygen rich environment, hopefully the rest of the team will return to Base Camp later today and I will report some more very soon, in the mean while thanks to everyone who supported us, helped us and has followed our expedition, and sorry to finish this update on such a sad note.


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