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  Mt. Everest 2005: Gavin Bate: Almost to the top


File photo Everest on a better day ©EverestNews.com

Update: At 4AM on the 30th May Gavin reached the top area of the mountain [unclear how high].

Following from our last report Gavin had a change of mind. Everything was set for the summit bid when the sky changed and the wind started to pick up, a sure sign of worsening conditions especially considering the atrocious weather experienced this season. Gavin had decided to do an about turn and head back to Base Camp to sit it out and hopefully attempt her after the weather had passed. At that altitude you can't just sit in your tent, as he was in the 'Death Zone' an area on Everest where your body - due to altitude, is simply dying. Your body shuts down one organ at a time in some sort of defensive measure to combat the conditions and prolong life. If Gavin had stayed where he was this deterioration would have meant the end of any possible summit attempt as your body takes so long to recover.

As a deflated Gavin prepared to make his descent he noticed a slight change in the winds and decided to wait and see how things would unfold. That night the clouds cleared and the winds dropped and it was all back on again.

He left camp 2 that afternoon and managed an astonishing climb straight to camp 4 bypassing camp three entirely. On the way you must climb up the Lhotse face to access the South Col. This climb alone is not easy at sea level never mind at 24'000 feet. It involves climbing a 3'700 ft ice face on crampons all at 40 / 50-degrees with some occasional 80-degree sections meaning the climber must pull and step up the face, kicking in steps, while embedding the front points of the crampons into the hard blue ice. Gavin managed the section fine however he did drop his glasses down the face never to be seen again. This for Gavin was a desperate event as his eyesight is not great and up there you have to purposely watch, adjust and judge every foot placement due to the chances of an unsecured footing leading to a potential disaster.

On reaching camp 4 he then sheltered in the porch of a Chinese tent and tried to get some snow melted to get the much-needed water for his tea. At these altitudes the body also dehydrates rapidly. One step for us at sea level takes an age up there and the panting and breathlessness mixed with the altitude, evaporates and dehydrates the body. After a couple of hours rest Gavin then headed up in the dead of night aiming for the summit.

At 4AM on the 30th May Gavin reached the top section of the mountain. He was weak but happy. As feared by Gavin in earlier updates the slim opportunity of a summit had whipped all the teams into a frenzy. The crowds were huge and at this altitude this can lead to big problems. Certain sections of the climb can become bottlenecked and the last thing you can do is just stand there and wait, with cold, altitude and exposure being very real risks. The estimated wait for the summit was 3 hours so Gavin decided to head back down. He'd done it! Been to the top area and achieved what he had set out to do!

Most nerve racking for the teams listening and watching from base camp and home is the descent, this being when most of the accidents happen. When people are exhausted they tend to drop their guard. With the lack of oxygen lethargy sets in and a simple wrong footing can lead to an awful slip, fall or worse. Gavin decided to try and out run the crowds and get back down as far as possible and made it all the way back to camp 2. An amazing feat - in one day he had climbed from Camp 2 to the summit and back, all without oxygen!

He has spoken of complete exhaustion, of stumbling around outside his tent trying to figure out how the zip opens - simple tasks at these heights can become the most confusing. Gavin managed to get into the tent and collapsed for some well-deserved rest.

We believe that Gavin is now heading back to Base for some well-deserved R & R. He reports of being completely shattered with bad sun and wind burn - he's even sun burnt his tongue from all the panting! After a day at his base then it's straight back down for the ceremonies, way of the beaten track in the Himalayas, for the Hydro electric project and the Monastery which the charity that Gavin's climb is supporting - Moving Mountains has been building. He is really appreciative of all the support especially for Moving Mountains - "none of the work that we do is possible without the continual support and help from everyone at home, it makes a huge difference to so many children and families in the developing world".

A few have asked what Gavin's plans are now - well most people need a few months to recover physically from the severe altitudes of Everest but Gavin has other plans! Not being one to sit in one place for long Gavin flies back on the 8th June, he then has one day in Belfast (to get new glasses) before flying to Moscow to meet up with a team climbing Elbrus - Europe’s highest mountain. He then flies directly to Kilimanjaro for the June expedition and then the Africamps in Kenya and other Kili expeditions in July and the Moving Mountains expedition in August. By the end of August he will at last get a couple of weeks at home before travelling back to Nepal for two treks to Base Camp followed by a fantastic (and warm!) trip to Borneo in October! November allows him a month to relax before heading to South America with polar adventurer and good friend Steve Pinfield for a double whammy expedition on South America's two highest mountains Ojos del Salado and Aconcagua. Then in March he travels to the Sahara for a desert trek to witness the Solar Eclipse of the Sun. There are still some places on the above expeditions if anyone has itchy feet! Next year he has another big sized expedition to climb Broad Peak in the Karakorum, Pakistan - where there will also be a trekking team coming with him into this very remote area. I'm sure though by the time Gavin gets back he'll have a whole new list to add to the above!

Gavin ran out of phone time yesterday but hopefully we'll be hearing more from him in the next couple of days and I'm sure he'll let us know how he's getting on. By the time he gets some sleep, good food and drops down to the oxygen rich airs he'll be feeling grand again!

Best Regards, Chris

Please give to his good cause: DONATE NOW!

Dispatches

 

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