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  Mt. Everest 2005: Czech Hornbein Couloir: Last night was wild


 

Update: Wednesday May 11th: The night was wild. Many of us spent the night deciding to fall asleep or get up and hold the tents down. Breaks between the winds blowing are not longer then 20 seconds!!! This went on the whole night long. Sometimes the wind blew up to 100km/h and I am not exaggerating. In the morning we were all extremely tired, nobody slept and there is no way we will leave for the face today. Because of the wind, we postpone our plans for one day. (How many times we have already had to do that here...). Only the cooks were sleeping well tonight. They are sleeping in one Hannah Expedition tent and that one did not even move. The rest of the expedition sleeps in bigger tents, so they do not have to dress up in the lie down position and have at least some comfort in BC. Our bigger tents are supposed to be wind durable, but not as good as the small ones...so there is dilemma to trust them or not...

In the morning we immediately looked on the net www.everestnews.com. This web site shows the periodic update about other expeditions climbing Eve from the south and the north. The news we read was amazing and confirmed that there has not been a good weather window to summit this year so far. In the beginning of this season, the time we were in the Chinese BC, the wind was so strong that it ripped off the tents and we had previously told you about the tornado as well. Then we got to the BC and almost every day it snowed. Therefore in the more inclined parts the danger from avalanches was eminent. Then finally the snowing stopped and it was sunny but the wind started. So there has been no way to climb so far. This situation persists until now. We confirmed all of this by reading the logs on the "Everest news"
The first camp in the classic Everest route (south Nepalese side), which we know is used more as a supply camp, was ripped by an avalanche and on the web site you can see the pictures of it as well. The news is based on each expedition so it takes a while to make a complete picture out of it. The avalanche hit the camp - there was about 60 tents standing and it was only 5 which survived and there are hurt people as well. Then the site talked about 3rd camp, it is not clear if it is on the north or south side and it is also destroyed. From our experience it is C3 on the south side which is being built on the steep face of Lhotse, where there can be a strong wind and avalanches. We can only imagine what is going on in south saddle when the wind gets there. All in all it is nasty. We had the feeling the mountain doesn't want to let us in, but we still have all out tents and gear and everyone is OK. Now that is success in these conditions and we are still ready to begin the summit. The weather promises the first summit days on 13th to 15th of May. There is a great chance that on 15th there will be the first summit news of this season from the top of the Everest. This is a big opportunity for us, but our route is a bit more difficult and we need 2 - 3 days to build C1 and C2 and then 2 more days of good weather to continue up. Now this could mean (if the good weather lasts) we will also try to summit, but to be realistic it looks as though we will build our camps and we will retreat down one more time. Then we will hope that mountain will give us one more chance to summit.

Saturday, May 5th: Yahoo! We are going to work the mountain. We packed our stuff after breakfast. We packed food for refilling in elevation camps. Simon picked up a habit from Lhapka of eating cooked potatoes when bringing stuff to the elevation camps, so we packed cooked potatoes, "capati" (flat bread) and gas tanks and we move to the supply camp. It now takes us about 2 hours, to go through the moraine. We have to watch not to break our legs, and it is very tiresome since we are going back and forth on this moraine 6 or 7 times. We change our track shoes for skelet boots and crampons and we are off to the face. The snow fall has again covered our route, so we cannot see any steps from before and we have to watch for cracks again. On the top of it the sunshine rests on the face and it is hot like a boiling pot. So in the deep snow, we had to carefully push our cane into the snow to detect if it was safe to walk or if there was a crack in front of us - this combined with the incline and heat are killing conditions. We take turns even after 50 steps, because it is hard work to lead the route. But finally we see our tents. We cook and get ready for tomorrow.

Sunday May 8th: We know today is supposed to be windy, we know what direction the wind will blow, but we have no idea what it will do with our route on the mountain face. We planned an early wake up and everyone will work on the face. Attack group - Ivan, Simon and Pepino - will leave at 7 am with very light loads to get to the end of the fixed route ASAP and continue to fix it further to the spot we chose for C1 and further to C2. The second group will leave 1 hour later and will carry the whole C1 and if possible will bring up more fix ropes. But the plans remained unfulfilled. Boys got up at 6 am and were ready with crampons on at 7 am and just then the first avalanche comes down. It look from the distance as small and harmless, but when it goes over the edge of the starting of the route it looks as if there is a lot of snow falling down. At that moment our plans are frozen. We stay put and wait for what is next, perhaps this is the only avalanche as the sun came up and shined onto the face. But the mountain gives us a nice show. Wind picks up snow from the face and pushes it into our channel, there it adds to the snow which was already in the channel and there it goes. During the first hour, 8 avalanches went down as a super train (as we call them). We will not climb into this; it would be like digging our own graves.
In the end we decide to watch the face instead of retreating to the BC again. We stay the whole day in C0 and watch the behavior of the wind on the face. The wind takes its toll on our route. One after another, the avalanches pass over the part of the route and destroy the route and steps we had made that we had thought would hold. So we will be again on the pure ice on the top with the crampons again. Now that will be painful. Some avalanches go on the other side of the channel and our fixes. The mountain is giving us a hard time. Sometimes the avalanche goes over the edge of the place where we left our stuff. In the face we have jammed ice picks and some gear hangs on them. Our other stuff is placed about 2.5 m above the ground under the overhang so the snow should just slide over it. The avalanches are coming down the whole day. Sometimes they are not that big, but the interval is no longer than 30 minutes between them. Now these are not good conditions for climbing. In the afternoon, after the sun cools a bit we go to take a look at the beginning of the route. What happened to our stuff? It is wild; we do not see it. We grab shovels and based on rough distance estimations we shovel the snow looking for our things and gear. How deep in the snow can it can? In about an hour we get all our stuff out, but the thought of snow falling behind somebody's neck is making us uneasy. We re-attach our gear to the fixed rope and we return to the camp. We cook a dinner, prepare thermoses for the morning and we go to sleep.

Monday May 9th: We get up at 6 am and get ready for the mountain face, but the situation is repeating itself. The wind blows in a different direction, but it is pretty strong. The avalanches are not that frequent but they come down over our route. We are not stuntmen; we do not need to prove difficulty of this route by adding frostbite or an avalanche falling on us. We decided to return. It is a paradox that in C0 it is windless and the strongest wind is at 7000m. It is the first time on our way back the cracks are so visible - the trip is easy. Can we assume the weather is turning around? We changed our shoes in the supply camp and we are in BC by noon. It makes everyone calm that we are all OK, and we had to explain that the avalanches and wind forced us to return. We have soup for lunch and we do our laundry in order to have it dried by Wednesday when we plan to go back to the mountain face. We plan this based on the forecast we got from the internet. Wednesday we could go to C0 and Thursday to start to work the mountain face. This afternoon becomes a typical rest day. We write emails, read books, discuss the next plan, Kumar wants us to tell him what we want for dinner. He makes great meals and it would be great if he could decide what to cook by himself...We watch a movie in the evening, it is Jack Nickelson in "One flew over cuckoo's nest"

Tuesday May 10th: The whole afternoon we watch the weather forecast. It is supposed to be good weather, but will it be true? We look at two different forecasts and they differentiate in wind strength. It looks as though it will be a strong wind. We spend another typical rest day in BC. Our laundry is done so all we do is rest. Very strong winds get to the BC in the afternoon. We check the attachments of the tents before dinner and the wind is starting to show what it can do. It keeps bending the tents all the way to the ground and then it releases them. This repeats itself over and over. We go out every 10 min to make sure all the tents are still attached. Kumar is cooking a good dinner, but everyone is in a very bad mood, so we neither write email nor do we watch movies. All we talk about is how to attach or even hold the tents. Our experience from the Chinese BC is that the wind calms down for the night.

Dispatches

 

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