File photo Everest on a better day ©EverestNews.com
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
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