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 Irish Everest Expedition 2008: The Boys are back in Town


The final leg of our great adventure is today. We are due to touch down at Dublin Airport tonight at 9.05 p.m. (Flight BD 133 from Heathrow.) It would be great to see you all there to thank you for your support over the past months - it meant so much to us.

Earlier: We have now trekked down to Namche Bazar and are feeling stronger with every foot dropped.

Today we will trek on to Lukla (about 4 hours) with the hope of getting a flight in the morning to Kathmandu where we'll rest by the pool in the Summit Hotel and buy some cheap/fake North Face gear for those at home (Shhh - it's real, honest).

On Friday we have a football match (with a rather varried assortment of players from Sherpas to international climbers) against the Nepalese Special Forces (thanks to our great Liaison Officer Major Rana), apparently the winning team gets a goat?!

Then very early on Sat morning we fly back to Dublin via Doha to hit the airport and reunite with loved ones at 21:30 to give them some North Face gear (seriously, shh). Graham

Earlier: Three Vancouver climbers reach summit of Mount Everest: For two, the ascent caps bid to climb the Seven Summits

May 25, 2008

Irish on Everest 2008 duo complete their year long journey

Irish climbers Graham Kinch (29) and Ian Taylor (29) today returned to Base Camp after 10 weeks climbing on Everest. Kinch was forced to turn around just above The Balcony at 8600m, finally giving in to a torn chest muscle that had plagued him for weeks. Taylor however went on to reach the summit (8850m) at 12:02am Irish time on Friday 23rd May. In doing so he has become the youngest Irish man and the first Kildareman to stand on the top of the world.

"We've been thinking and planning for this trip for over 2 years "said Kinch, "I'm disappointed I didn't get to the top but we always said if we got one of us to the top that would be a success. On summit night I knew I was running low on energy and whilst I might have had enough to get to the top I wouldn't have had enough to get back down. I think it's better to know your limits than to be shown them, and unfortunately in this year alone Everest has shown several people their limits."

The two braved the dark, high winds, and temperatures of -35 C on their summit push. A little over 8 grueling hours after leaving the
South Col, Taylor found himself on the summit, but not without incident. "as I rounded the South Summit (8820m), just before the Hillary Step, I saw Martin, a climbing buddy of ours in trouble" said Taylor, "I heard him shout 'It's Martin I'm blind,' his oxygen mask had frozen, leading to hypoxia and blindness. I grabbed his foot, preventing him from stepping off the knife-edge ridge, down the 8,000ft South West Face to certain death. This left me pretty shook up."

"It became very evident to us that this is not a place where man is meant to be or where you mess around", said Kinch, "when you pass bodies, see people with snow blindness and avoid frost bite you realize that someone is looking out for you".

The two set themselves the target of climbing four mountains on four continents in one year in aid of the Irish charity Fields of Life. They plan to raise €85,000, or €1 for every foot they climbed during the year. They began their year by climbing Mt. Blanc last June, followed by Kilimanjaro in September with a visit to the Kitandwe school project in Uganda that they are hoping to raise the funds for in partnership with Fields of Life. They then went on to climb Aconcagua in January and now Mt Everest. "We may have completed the climbing side of the project" said Taylor, "but we are only half way through our fundraising. We will spend most of the summer continuing to fundraise.

"When we visited the village last September we were struck by two things" said Kinch, "firstly how welcoming they were towards us, especially since we were strangers, and white ones at that, being the first white men to the village. Secondly we were struck by how content they were with what we would consider to be so little. That was when we decided we wanted to work with them, not only to build the school but also a well so that the children could enjoy running water."

"With less than 20 Irish people to have summitted Everest, and less than 2000 people in the world to have summitted via the South East Ridge" said Taylor, "I feel proud to have completed this challenge, but I know that I could only have done it with the support and prayers of my many friends and family. I am now excited about completing the second part of this challenge in raising the funds for the Kitandwe School Project and I know that I will continue to need the prayers and support of friends and family in doing this as well".

---Finish

Earlier: Just to let you all know, we have arrived in the South Col. The main objective at the moment is rest, food and brewing tea - and of course reviewing the situation and finalising plans.

I guess it will be a little while before my next posting - interesting times ahead!!!

Earlier: We are now in Camp 3 on the Lhotse Face. We climbed through the early hours of this morning, and are now settling into the routine of cooking, resting and rehydrating.

We will spend the night on oxygen, and when we move up to the South Col, we will be using the TopOut system to ensure maximum flow and intake. This hopefully will speed our ascent to Camp 4, and help keep us warm against the fierce cold we would experience otherwise, just because of the extreme altitude alone.

The weather is looking reasonable for the next few days.

Earlier: Over the past week there have been a number of Irish people passing through our camp, notably Stuart and Padraig Halligan. They came in on a trekking group. Stuart enjoyed a birthday cake made by our Sherpas and then we brought them to the edge of the icefall and showed them the start of the route. Hopefully they enjoyed their time here in base camp.  

We had the Khumbu Ryder cup in the ice fall the other day - America v Ireland & UK. We won by one stroke and the History channel film crew filmed the event. I also have some footage so I will put it up on you tube at the end of the month.

My Eye is back to full strength and I thank God for that.

We would like to thank everyone who is supporting us in this challenge and if you have not donated to the school project I would like to encourage you to do so. We still have a long way to go in making sure the village has a well for drinking water. The school still needs Books, seats and walls. A lot of Euro's are still needed to make this challenge complete.

Going for the top - the plans

We had a summit briefing for two hours this morning where we coveraged oxygen flow rate plans, communications and base camp strategy. This very clinical overview of what lies ahead took a lot of the nervous energy out of the week ahead, which will hopefully stand to us.

We Leave this evening at 2am for the top. First we stop off at camp 2 (6,500m); the day after we have a rest day. Then we head for one night at camp 3 (7,150m) Early the following morning we head for camp 4 at (8,000m) and ten hours later on the evening of the 22nd May we leave for the top and aim to be on the summit at 8am the following morning (between 3am - 5am Irish time)  

All being well it should take two days to decend and we will be in touch then.

Ian.

Earlier: On Monday (19th) two young Irishmen – Graham Kinch (29) from Dunlaoghaire and Ian Taylor (29) from Leixlip – will launch their assault on the summit of Everest.

For the past 5 weeks or so they have been acclimatising on the mountain, undertaking a series of climbs progressively higher towards the summit. They have just returned this week from spending a night (on a thin ledge of ice) at Camp 3, situated at 7,150 m.

During that recent acclimatisation climb they encountered a blizzard and very cold conditions – resulting in some frost nip on fingers for both. Undaunted, they are reported to be really “up for the challenge”.

Their attempt to scale Everest is to raise funds to build a school in the Ugandan village of Kitandwe, in partnership with the Irish charity Fields of Life. 

Weather permitting and all going according to plan the pair hope to summit next Friday. 

Figure The climbers en route to Camp 3

Update: I'm writing this while the wind blows the dining tent about this afternoon.

- having just watched "Rendition"! We descended back to base camp from camp 2 yesterday afternoon. That, as you know, was our third acclimitisation climb and it went well. We've been relaxing here in base camp for the past 24 hours.

For the time being, we plan to take two more (or so) rest days here. Then we hope for a final acclimatization push all the way up to camp three on the Lhotse face. This season the view with binoculars suggests an icy climb up to camp 3 as there's less snow on the face than has been seen in years.

For now the skies remain clear, the winds continue to howl up high, and we're just relaxing! Thank you for 'dropping by' to check on our progress.

Earlier: Heading up to overnight at Camp 2

Earlier: Tomorrow is Sat 26th April, pretty much the 1/2 way mark.

Today (Fri) is a rest day and a chance to wash clothes and bodies as well as eat lots and watch a movie or two, we'll also have another quiz night tonight (each person comes up with 10 Q's for rest of team - good craic). This afternoon after a visit to the B.C. bakery (for some proper coffee and apple pie) we hung up a big Irish flag on the side of the mess tent and already two sets of Irish trekkers visited us. I also met a guy I used to work with in VF a couple of days ago here as a trekker and me and Ian met Prakesh who was our Everest B.C trek guide in 2006 the other day (he knew we were due back, he was here with another group so it was great fun to meet him).

On Tuesday (22nd) we went up to Camp 1 as you knew (shaved 2 hours off our previous time), had an overnight there, then trekked up to Camp 2 (only 3 hours) then back to Camp 1 for lunch (lovely trek back through the Western Cwm), another overnight there and back to B.C. on Thursday morning (shaved 1hr 15 mins off our previous descent).

We have another rest day tomorrow (Sat) and then on Sunday (27th.) we'll go back up to camp 1, overnight, then up to camp 2, overnight, trek to the base of the Lhotse face at 6,700m. We will return to camp 2 for the night and then all the way back to B.C. We will let you all know when the final six day stint will be at camp2 - 6,400m and up to camp 3 at 7,400m will be. After that we're not really sure but we might have one more trip up and back before our final summit push.

All the best - Graham & Ian

Earlier: At camp one: We are established in camp 1 at 6,100m. We aim to spend the night here tonight, before a very early morning descent tomorrow back down to base camp. Hope to give a fuller report later.

Earlier: This week two young Irishmen – Graham Kinch (29, from Dunlaoghaire) and Ian Taylor (29, from Leixlip) – have reached base camp on Mt. Everest (at 5,300 m.). This now will be their home for the next 6 weeks or so as they bid to reach ‘the top of the world’ by the south face. 

This is the first Irish Everest attempt in aid of charity and if either of them summit they will be the youngest Irish males to do so. Their chosen Irish charity is Fields of Life which is engaged in community development, mainly in East Africa.  

Chinese plans to bring the Olympic touch to Everest have closed the north (Tibetan) side to climbers and until recently it looked like the south side would also be closed. But Kinch and Taylor have obtained their official climbing permit from the Nepalese authorities so their two and a half years of training and preparation won’t now be thwarted by events on the other side of the peak.

Background: A small Irish team made up of Graham Kinch (a 29 year old telecoms strategist) and Ian Taylor (a 29 year old leisure centre assistant general manager), will attempt Everest via the South East ridge in the spring of 2008. If either Kinch or Taylor are successful they will become the youngest Irish male to summit.

In preparation for their Everest Expedition, Kinch and Taylor are climbing 3 other mountains on 3 continents between June 2007 and their April 4th departure for Kathmandu. They have already completed Mt Blanc and Kilimanjaro and shall head off to Argentina on December 27th to attempt Aconcagua via the Polish glacier. The year long project is in aid of the Kitandwe school project. A school they have chosen to build in their sponsored village in Uganda in partnership with the Irish charity Fields of Life.

Due to the small size of the Everest team they have far greater flexibility in their approach. They will be deviating from convention by using Gorak Shep (the original Hillary 1953 base camp) as their base camp and will carry out their acclimatisation on neighbouring peaks such as Pokalde, Island Peak and Lobuje.

Everest from the South Side in Nepal

sbrr2.jpg (46375 bytes)

Full size picture

Base Camp - 17,500 feet (5350 meters)

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). 

From base 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. 

The Icefall 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 - 5900 meters

After the 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.

The area 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 - 6500 meters

As the 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 you’re leaving C4…it’s 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 there’s not much holding the rope and a fall could be serious. Fortunately it’s 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. There’s 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 you’re getting set up for the rappel. Wearing an oxygen mask here can create some footing issues during the rappel, because it’s impossible to see over the mask and down to the feet. For that reason, some people choose to leave Camp 4 without gas, as it’s easier to keep moving down the Spur when it’s 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 aren’t so steep, where fixed ropes through here are solid. At this point, it’s 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.

Camp IV, 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.

Summit - 29,028 feet (8848 meters)

Once the 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.  

As most 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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