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  Mt. Everest 2005: Czech Hornbein Couloir: Getting caught up


Update: Thursday May 12th: We are moving under the face again. There is no need to hurry; our goal is to get to the C0. Pepino was thinking we could go on the face today and do some work (get our stuff from under the snow, bring up more fix ropes and pull more fixes from under the snow), but the weather decided otherwise. On our way to C0 we have to think of tactics of what to do next. To be honest, if you are crossing a glacier moraine 7 km long back and forth, you must start to eventually hate it. So you try to find a way to make it shorter at least in your mind. Everyone deals with this on they own, some walk very fast, others listen to music and do not pay attention to their surroundings, and the rest take it slow step after step. In any case we all get to C0 in about 2 to 2.5 hours.

The route on the glacier is not that bad. It blows more wind than snow, therefore we can see the cracks and we do not need to use sticks to discover them in front of us. Since there is good visibility it is quiet easy to jump over the cracks. The worst part of the trip to the C0 is the last part of this route, when we get very hot on the glacier and our bodies are overheating. Just as we arrive to C0 the weather changes into wind and light snow. There will be no work on the face today, we just check up on our gear supply that we left at the beginning of the face. Last thing today is to have dinner and go to sleep.

Friday May13th: We get up before 6 am, cook breakfast and the usual trio -Ivan, Pepino, Simon- who will fix the route leave for the face. Second trio will follow an hour later because the start on the face, when pulling up back packs takes each group at least one hour. Boys are on the face already, climbing the fixed route. They will pick up more ropes on their way - we have about 500m of ropes ready to be brought up and fixed on the face. The second group is carrying the whole elevation camp (food, sleeping items, cooking tools), and more ropes to be used for fixing the route tomorrow. But it does not go as planned. Around noon the second group catches up with the first group.

The snow from the last couple of days covered our fixes with half of meter of snow and blowing wind compressed the snow. The result is that we cannot find the last 3 fixes nor can we find the ropes lining them. What is also bad that on the last fixes we left a supply of ropes which we need to continue to fix the route. If we do not find them, we can not continue. We did not reach even the same elevation as last time. Pepino, running on the snow field, was trying to estimate where the fixes could be and called us from above that he saw a bigger crack with our fixes in. That could be the place we decide to use for the camp. Ivan traverses over the whole channel to the left and in short order he digs an entrance to the cave out of the snow. If we make it bigger it will be possible to sleep in it. Super. Finally we have at least some place to take cover on the face.

While looking for the fixes, snow was falling from the hillside on our heads and sometimes even stones. Some of them are big, so we just squat and wait to see which direction they bounce. Pepino is uncovering more of the fix holders and Lucka, Sona and Ivan are making the inside of the cave bigger. The boys will sleep here tonight and they will fix the route the entire way to the break. That is a place where the face is not that steep and the fixes will not be needed. The group carrying gear goes back to sleep in C0.

Saturday May 14th: We wake up as we are used to at 6am and cook some breakfast. It is windy outside and it is also snowing. In C0 we lie in the tents cooking and here and there we peek out. Nothing is happening on the face so far. Boys in C1 have to de-frost themselves outside of the cave first. Now that is not the problem really. It is the wind again, which picks up the snow and sends small and large avalanches over the boys. They try to go out to work on the face, but it is impossible so they return to the cave. We wait for about 2 hours and then we decide over the radio that they will repel down on ropes. The mountain let us work only one day. That is the end!!! The moods in C0 are rebellious. What if we would try to climb the "classis route" at least, since we cannot move forward here. Sona and Lucka are deciding to pack their stuff and move to ABC camp under the classic route and wait for a wave of good weather and try to summit as all the others. Peter is joining them, so when these three leave for BC they have very heavy back packs. Whatever we brought here in the last 5-6 days, we are taking down on this run. There are more tents in our BC. We are no longer alone here. A new mini expedition arrived. It is Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner, Ralf Dujmovits a Hirotaka Takeuchi, who a week ago summited Shishapangma and now they moved under Everest. They plan to climb the same route as we do. We tell our cooks new plans. Half of the expedition after taking one day rest will move on Monday to the ABC under classic route. The second (or the first) half of the expedition will persist on with our original plan.

Sunday May 15th: Kumar knows that we need a lot of water after we get back from the mountain. Everyone wants to wash and do our laundry. After we sweat, the clothing is full of salt and it doesn't retain worm that well. They have to bring the water from who knows where, which takes our cooks about half a day. So the hygiene process goes like this: we wash ourselves and then in the same water we try to wash the clothing. This way we save some water and if you multiply by 6 it definitely makes difference. We manage to be done by noon and use our big tent to dry the laundry. It is visible that it is the middle of May and it is warmer weather. Drying the laundry takes one day compare to 2 days before. Sona and Lucka are packing food, cooking tools and study the route. It will be about 6 days of a serous trek. It will take 2 days to get to the ABC and 4 days (C1 to C3) and then summit. Whoever endures this and gets good weather has chance to summit. We will see. Now they are not completely sure they really want this. But the weather is changing and they will not leave tomorrow, they will have one more day for decision making. Waiting, waiting and waiting again. Weather-wise, it is forecast that there will not be a summit day before May 20th. The weather forecast gives a possible opportunity after the 20th, but it is never 100%. We have a visitor. The reporter from the mini expedition stopped by today. His interview with us, more or less, reminds us of more like a cross examination than anything else.

[Editorial Note: We believe they are saying Sona and Lucka are headed over to Chinese Base camp to attempt Everest via the North face, North east ridge standard route.]

Monday May16th: Another forced rest day. Saturday's weather forecast, which we have confirmed on Sunday, is hinting there will be snow on Tuesday and Wednesday and the rest of the week and beginning of the next week promises sunny days without wind and snow. Those could be the expected summit days. It is exactly 30 years today, when the first woman summit Everest. During our interview for Czech TV Nova, we were asked if we were going to celebrate it...How can we celebrate anything if we have only a couple of things on our minds - is the weather going to be good, and is the mountain going to give us a try or not? From former experiences we know that even though the forecast promised clear weather, it can snow the entire 14 days and expedition is over. In that case, we wouldn't even get one try for the summit and off we would go home. We hope this will not be the case. It is visible on all of us the tension and the waiting leaves its mark. We cannot sleep, cannot listen to music, and cannot read. The tension is growing. I think we are in a good physical state, we have enough energy. But our psychological state is deteriorating from all this waiting.

Tuesday May 17th: We get the weather forecast again and it has not changed much this time. We plan, discuss, make decisions...how many times have we done that already? Tomorrow we are leaving for the mountain face, this time it is the last attempt. Either or....We have planned about 6 different variations of work on the face and sleeping in elevation camps. Sona and Lucka decided not to go to the Classic route, but stay with the boys and try to fight through on "our" route. So they will carry all that stuff they took with them back to the face. Now that can be considered as training as well...We spend the afternoon socially. The members of the other expedition already rested from the redeployment from Shishapangma and they came for a visit. We drank tea together and the guests got home made "slivovic" ( distilled alcohol made of plums) as a welcome. We were talking about former expeditions and common friends. (Everybody knows Josef Rybicka) and we talk about plans for our route. In the afternoon we are getting ready for the trip and then we somehow pass the rest of the afternoon. Boys play cards, somebody writes emails or reads and others walk around BC. We spend some time observing our Zoo. In BC we have 3 pairs of snow chickens, and a whole family (parents and one young) of mountain roe. They have become used to us and they are coming close to the kitchen tents to eat goodies we leave for them. The chickens are so cocky that they come inside the tents if left opened....


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