TUESDAY, MAY 20, 2008 DISPATCH #6: At 9:10 AM New York City time, which would
be 6:50 PM Nepal time, I received a call from Phil. He said that the first
summit team consisting of himself, Steve Lawes and Michael Herbert were going
to leave in about an hours time for their summit bid. He said he would not try
to call from the summit for fear of the battery of the satellite phone going
summit team, which would be the remainder of the Altitude Junkies, would be
trying to top out on the 24th of May.
I will let you
know more the moment I hear anything further! Trish Crampton
Altitude Junkies Dispatch No.5 - Namche Bazaar,
This is the first dispatch we have been able to make for an
extended period on account of base camp restrictions on communications imposed
by the government, so Brad Jackson has walked down to Namche Bazaar to send
In summary, everyone to date is in very
good health and we have made two trips through the ice fall to load carry to
camp 1 (6,000 m) and further to camp 2 (6,400 m), and are now waiting to go to
through to Camp 3.
In more detail. After arriving at EBC,
we started to acclimatize and acquaint ourselves with the infamous Khumbu ice
fall. Between the 10th and the 14th May we all made our first sorties up the
icefield and had our first introduction to the Khumbu icefall doctors
ladderwork as used to bridge crevasses and surmount ice cliffs, as well as
making sure our harnesses, slings and carabiners were all in perfect working
condition. This was also an opportunity to really meet our sherpas for the
first time, and I think once again we were all humbled by the strength and the
professionalism of the Nepalese Sherpas.
During the following days, we continued
our acclimatisation and rest cycle in preparation for our first complete foray
to Camp1 An early 4:30 am alarm was set for the 18th April and at 5am, 7 sleep
deprived climbers set out for the Khumbu icefall after several cups of milk
tea. The morning glow provided a cool
start but there was no wind and conditions were perfect to negotiate the
towering seracs. To be brutally honest in our early days of acclimatisation
for many of us, the climb through to Camp 1 was much more strenuous than
expected. Our group took 5-9 hours to make the relative safety of camp 1 but
we all arrived in high spirits by early afternoon and after fighting over the
choicest freeze-dried foods, we quickly settled down into the laborious
process of melting snow and preparing evening freeze dried meals.
Our initial plans to leave early the
next morning were thwarted by morning high winds, so we wallowed in our
sleeping bags till 8am and made our way back down the mountain at 9am. The
trip down the icefall was relatively uneventful, although some of us
encountered some of the traffic jams on the ladders as other expedition teams
made their way up and down the Khumbu icefall.
The following week required more rest
and acclimatisation and individual team members made hikes partially up the
lower slopes of nearby Pumori, to Gorak Shep, and up Kala Patar as part of
this process. Usually, on all expeditions to Everest, climbers are known to
return home many kilo's lighter-but there might be an exception with our team.
Our cook Kumar keeps surprising us with his culinary delights and
mouthwatering desserts beyond our belief. Highlights have included, Chicken
cordon bleu, hamburgers, pizzas, chicken pie, apple pie, fresh fruit,treacle
tart and delicious heart warming soups.
During this week our sherpas set up
Camp 2 with our second big Mountain Hardwear Space Station dome tent and our
fearless Camp 2 cook Lhakpa valiantly made his way to Camp 2 in preparation
for our arrival. On the 27th, six of our team made the same early wake up and
bleary eyes congregated in the dining tent to drink tea and a welcoming meal
of porridge. Walter thought it prudent to completely recover from a niggly
cough and ascended the following day.
With Lee and Phil setting the pace, our
team was pleasantly surprised to find our second foray into the icefall much
easier. Psychologically we were much more prepared for the distance and
physically we were much more acclimatized. We were all very relieved to shave
off several hours of our previous ascent time and arrived at Camp 1 much less
exhausted. The icefall doctors had been very productive in our absence. New
ladders and rappel lines had been put in place, easing up several congestive
areas through the icefall. Phil continued the journey that day to Camp 2 to
help Lhakpa prepare for all climbers arrival at camp 2 the next day.
At Camp 1 we once again tucked into our
freeze dried food and with the absence of anything else compelling to do, we
were all snuggled into large down sleeping bags by dusk light at 6pm. Camp 1
proved to be consistent and the next morning once again proved to be windy and
we we were all reluctant to leave the confines of our sleeping bags to make
our way to Camp 2.
As had happened previously, the wind
started to die down by 8am and we all managed to start off by 9pm. Walter
obviously having completely recovered, made very swift work of the icefall and
greeted us just as the 6 initial climbers set off for camp 2.
The 27th of May started off slightly
windy but glorious sunshine and for all of us westerners was our first
exposure to the full glory of the Western Cwm. The gradient to Camp 2 was
slight but arduous and after several more horizontal ladders we arrived at
camp 2 after 2-3 hours. Lhakpa and the Sherpas had set up the Mountain
Hardwear Space Station dome and Trango 3 person tents. After the rigours of
melting our own snow and preparing freeze dried meals, it was very well
appreciated to have jolly Lhakpa prepare our drinks and meals at Camp 2.
Half of us spent 2 nights at Camp 2 and
the remaining climbers spent 3 nights . At dusk we witnessed the alpenglow
splashed on to the Lhotse face but the cold bundled us into our tents none too
long after the sun set past Pumori.
The descent to Base camp via Camp 1 was
considerably easier than the previous descent. The icefall doctors had
attached further rapell lines and improved some of the more precarious
ladders. As the word had been given by local authorities for all parties to
descend from the mountain, the traffic was basically all one way, that being
Once settled back at base camp we are
basically awaiting word from local authorities to ascend to Camp 3 (7,100 m)
for our last acclimatization climb before our summit push. The whole Nepal
side of the mountain is basically on standby, including fixing ropes to and
setting up camps 3 and 4. We are hoping to be able to ascend sometime early in
the second week of May.
Brad Jackson and the Altitude Junkies
Earlier: Everest 2008:
DISPATCH #4 - EVEREST BASE CAMP
We finally managed to fix some
of our communication problems, hence the delay in posting our latest dispatch
from our Everest expedition.
During our trek up the valley
we were fortunate to be blessed by two buddist lamas. In Deboche we were
individually blessed by a 91 year old disciple of the Dalai Lama who has vowed
to remain in solitary confinment in a bricked up convent. The lady who has
lived alone in the building for 48 years blessed us through the confines of a
In Pangboche we were ushered
into the waiting room of the most senior Lama in the Khumbu, Lama Geshe. We
were individually blessed and given a small envelope containing a card, prayer
to maintain our safety on the mountain and blessed grains of rice.
Our planned rest day in
Dingboche coincided with snow and high winds. We all fully embraced the rest
day philosophy by reading, drinking and eating.
From Dingboche to EBC was
uneventful and we took advantage of some of the new lodges in the region.
All the group arrived at base
camp on schedule yesterday, April 9th in time for a wonderful lunch prepared
by our head cook Kumar. We spent the last nine days trekking through the
Khumbu valley using a cautious acclimitization schedule and all the group are
doing fine and are now enjoying the comforts of base camp.
Our 7 climbing Sherpas and 4
cooks are making sure that the group get rested before we tackle the ice fall
The ice fall doctors are
nearly finished fixing the route to camp one and they estimate will complete
the task tomorrow. Some groups have been at base camp for quite some time so
we will sit back and let the other groups head up the mountain first. Our
Sherpas plan to go and establish camp one on Sunday so we will make our first
carry and spend our first night on the mountain hopefully on Monday.
The weather on the trek has
mostly been fantastic and we hope that it continues in that direction and
allows us to move on the mountain unhindered over the next 6 weeks.
Phil Crampton and the
Everest from the South Side
Base Camp - 17,500 feet (5350
This is a
picture of the popular South Col Route up Mt. Everest. Base camp is located
at 17,500 feet. This is where climbers begin their true trip up the
mountain. This is also where support staff often remain to monitor the
expeditions and provide medical assistance when necessary. Many organizations
offer hiking trips which just go to base camp as the trip is not technically
challenging (though you must be very fit).
camp, climbers typically train and acclimate (permitting the body to adjust to
the decreased oxygen in the air) by traveling and bringing supplies back and
forth through the often treacherous Khumbu Icefall. This training and
recuperation continues throughout the climb, with the final summit push often
being the only time to climbers do not go back and forth between camps to
train, bring supplies, and recuperate for the next push.
is in constant motion. It contains enormous ice seracs, often larger than
houses, which dangle precariously over the climbers heads, threatening to fall
at any moment without warning, as the climbers cross endless crevasses and
listen to continuous ice creaking below. This often acts as a testing ground
to judge if less experienced climbers will be capable of continuing. The
Icefall is located between 17,500 and 19,500 feet.
Camp I -
Icefall, the climbers arrive at Camp I, which is located at 19,500 feet.
Depending on the type of expedition, Camp I will either be stocked by the
climbers as they ascend and descend the Icefall, or by Sherpas in advance.
between Camp I and Camp II is known as the Western Cwm. As the climbers reach
Camp II at 21,000 feet, they may be temporarily out of sight of their support
at Base camp. Nonetheless, modern communication devises permit the parties to
stay in contact.
Camp II -
climbers leave Camp II, they travel towards the Lhotse face (Lhotse is a
27,920 foot mountain bordering Everest). The Lhotse face is a steep, shiny
icy wall. Though not technically extremely difficult, one misstep or slip
could mean a climber's life. Indeed, many climbers have lost their lives
through such mishaps.
Camp III -
23,700 feet (7200 meters)
To reach Camp
III, climbers must negotiate the Lhotse Face. Climbing a sheer wall of ice
demands skill, strength and stamina. It is so steep and treacherous that many
Sherpas move directly from Camp II to Camp IV on the South Col, refusing to
stay on the Lhotse Face.
Camp IV -
26,300 feet (8000 meters)
As youíre leaving C4Öitís a
little bit of a down slope, with the uphill side to the left. There are
typically snow on the ledges to walk down on, interspersed with rock, along
with some fixed rope. The problem with the rope is that the anchors are bad,
and thereís not much holding the rope and a fall could be serious. Fortunately
itís not too steep, but there is a ton of exposure and people are usually
tired when walking down from camp. The rock is a little down sloping to the
right as well, and with crampons on, it can be bit tricky with any kind of
wind. Thereís a little short slope on reliable snow which leads to the top of
the Geneva Spur, and the wind pressure gradient across the spur can increase
there as youíre getting set up for the rappel. Wearing an oxygen mask here can
create some footing issues during the rappel, because itís impossible to see
over the mask and down to the feet. For that reason, some people choose to
leave Camp 4 without gas, as itís easier to keep moving down the Spur when
itís important to see all the small rock steps and where the old feet are
going. Navigating down through all of the spaghetti of fixed ropes is a bit of
a challenge, especially with mush for brains at that point. One lands on some
lower ledges which arenít so steep, where fixed ropes through here are solid.
At this point, itís just a matter of staying upright, and usually, the wind
has died significantly after dropping off the Spur. The route turns hard to
the left onto the snowfield that leads to the top of the Yellow Bands.
which is at 26,300 on the Lhotse face, is typically the climbers' first
overnight stay in the Death Zone. The Death Zone is above 26,000 feet.
Though there is nothing magical about that altitude, it is at this altitude
that most human bodies lose all ability to acclimate. Accordingly, the body
slowly begins to deteriorate and die - thus, the name "Death Zone." The
longer a climber stays at this altitude, the more likely illness (HACE - high
altitude cerebral edema - or HAPE - high altitude pulmonary edema) or death
will occur. Most climbers will use oxygen to climb and sleep at this altitude
and above. Generally, Sherpas refuse to sleep on the Lhotse face and will
travel to either Camp II or Camp IV.
Camp IV is
located at 26,300 feet. This is the final major camp for the summit push. It
is at this point that the climbers make their final preparations. It is also
a haven for worn-out climbers on their exhausting descent from summit attempts
(both successful and not). Sherpas or other climbers will often wait here
with supplies and hot tea for returning climbers.
From Camp IV,
climbers will push through the Balcony, at 27,500 feet, to the Hillary Step at
28,800 feet. The Hillary Step, an over 70 foot rock step, is named after Sir.
Edmond Hillary, who in 1953, along with Tenzing Norgay, became the first
people to summit Everest. The Hillary Step, which is climbed with fixed
ropes, often becomes a bottleneck as only one climber can climb at a time.
Though the Hillary Step would not be difficult at sea level for experienced
climbers, at Everest's altitude, it is considered the most technically
challenging aspect of the climb.
29,028 feet (8848 meters)
climbers ascend the Hillary Step, they slowly and laboriously proceed to the
summit at 29,028 feet. The summit sits at the top of the world. Though not
the closest place to the sun due to the earth's curve, it is the highest peak
on earth. Due to the decreased air pressure, the summit contains less than
one third the oxygen as at sea level. If dropped off on the summit directly
from sea level (impossible in reality), a person would die within minutes.
Typically, climbers achieving the great summit will take pictures, gain their
composure, briefly enjoy the view, then return to Camp IV as quickly as
possible. The risk of staying at the summit and the exhaustion from
achieving the summit is too great to permit climbers to fully enjoy the great
accomplishment at that moment.
readers of this page know, the return trip can be even more dangerous than the
climb to the summit.
Pictures from Enrique
Guallart-Furio web site http://ww2.encis.es/avent/
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