Saturday, 31 March 2012

Deboche to Dingboche

We've now turned off the main Everest route for a couple of days to help with our acclimatisation. Unfortunately though it means we've lost the mobile signal so I'm having to use the sat phone. The bandwidth is very limited so there won't be any photos. Sorry! Best news of the day is its been five hours since my last paracetamol and I'm feeling ok so hopefully over whatever the bug was. In fact speaking to others over breakfast who had been ill earlier, they reported feeling better. We've just had lunch and it's so cold Bruno and I are in our bedroom inside our sleeping bags with our hats on trying to keep warm as the snow settles outside. The room temperature is five degrees C ie about the temperature of your fridge! This morning at Pangboche we had a blessing from Lama Geshe. We will be having another one once we get to BC from a younger Lama. He is now in his seventies and unable to make the journey. So here is today's ' thought for the day ' brought to you from Lama Geshe at 4300m.

Give up all intentions to harm others from your heart
And do your best to benefit them all
If each and everyone feels the universal responsibility to do so,
We will all enjoy the feast of peace.
Following the blessing Llama Geshe kindly gave us all a card. Apparently everyone who has carried this card to the summit has returned safely. Needless to say we all intend to carry it!

Still not well

Feeling pretty rough again this am. Would rather be staying in my sleeping bag for the day. Never mind will keep taking the paracetamol. We are spending two nights in the next lodge so there may be an opportunity for a day of complete rest then. The trail above Pangboche will be new to me so looking forward to that.

Friday, 30 March 2012

First signs of sickness

This morning dawned cloudier than the previous ones with slightly more wind. Nevertheless we set off in short sleeves for the climb up to 3700m before the trail descends back down to river level and the 550m up to Tengboche. This part of the trail took around four hours at a very modest pace. 
Tengboche Monastery
Following a few photos outside the monastery we were unfortunately too early to look inside. Instead another coffee and cake stop beckoned.

A couple of the team have had upset stomachs and a mild fever. I felt fine until just after lunch when I felt very cold. It's taken two and a half hours to get warm and now five hours later I too have a fever. I'm fairly circumspect about this as thankfully my stomach is fine and I would rather get ill early on in the trip. Never mind I'll dose my self up with paracetamol and hopefully have a good nights sleep.

We've heard news that's at least third hand that the weather is poor up at BC and very cold. Sadly a Sherpa on another expedition has broken his arm moving a rock.

Indeed this afternoon we had our first snow flurry.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

A day around Namche

Aaah! I spoke too soon. Dinner last night was vegetarian! I can't help feeling the previous lodge must have read my blog. That's not to say it wasn't good as it was, even though it was an unusual combination - chips, spaghetti with a tomato sauce and cabbage. Secondly I woke at 1.30 am only to stay awake for a couple of hours. On the plus side the Internet speed was up to 3g! I understand from Henrietta that at least one other person apart from my parents are reading my blog! I've got a mention on Alan Arnette's Everest website for my description of Kathmandu. I've been asked to do the Jagged Globe blog today so normal service (irreverence) will resume tomorrow!

This morning we woke to another day of sunshine and an early breakfast at seven thirty.

The plan was to have a relatively gentle morning walk up another 300 m to the villages of Khunde and Khumjung just to the north of Namche.

The two villages are a far cry from the hub bub of Namche with very limited facilities consisting of a couple of lodges together with a bakery.

Wondering around these two villages you get a real sense of how hard life is for the local inhabitants who aren't involved in someway with the tourists. They eke a subsistence living off the semi fertile land. There's no mechanisation here as everything is done by hand with the help of a yak or two to do the ploughing. It's like stepping back in time three hundred years into a working museum.

The village of Khunde is where Sir Edmond Hilary set up a hospital and a school following his 1953 trip as a thank you for all of the help that the locals provided during that expedition. Both are still operating which is a tremendous legacy.

From Khumjung after a coffee and apple cake stop we continued to the Everest View hotel which has a terrace that enjoys panoramic views of Everest, Lhotse and Ama Dablam. Unfortunately for us the cloud had started to build during the late morning so our view of Lhotse was obscured.
Everest is on the left with the cloud blowing off it whilst on the right is Ama Dablam
Everyone commented on what a stunning mountain Ama Dablam is and how was it possible to climb it. So it was with some pride that the short tubby one (that's me!) was able to pipe up and say that I had climbed it two and half years ago. I can honestly say that it is a terrific mountain to summit. Have a look at the Jagged Globe website if your tempted.

On our return leg back to Namche we had an excellent panoramic view of it looking down from above. It's been built within a semi circular hanging valley which looks like a greek amphitheatre.
Looking down on Namche
Namche is full of lodges, cheap gear and souvenir shops, internet cafes and restaurants. It's a fascinating village and the hub of the Khumbu valley. It gets it's name from the weekly Saturday market with traders coming from as far as Tibet to sell there wares.
All of the team are coping really well with the altitude gain and are keen to get to see the monastery at Tengboche tomorrow.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Monjo to Namche Bazaar

I've realised I've not told you who else is on the expedition:

David Hamilton who is our leader
Adam Ward who is our base camp manager and chef. Yes that's right we've got a uk chef to oversee the menus and the cooking.

Team members:
Bruno Baschung from Switzerland
Philip Purdy
Nick Bailey
Cain O'Brolchain of Southern Ireland
Brett Hammond
Warner Rojas Chinchilla who is hoping to be the first person from Costa Rica to summit.

Our ages range from 32 to 52.

Yesterday whilst our walk initially dropped down from Lukla we regained the height on reaching Monjo at 2835m. 
You soon learn to give way to yaks!
I am pleased to say most of the team had their best nights sleep. I had a solid 8 hours which I have to admit I've not had for many weeks. I suspect it's a combination of getting over the jet lag as Nepal is four and a half hours ahead of the UK and just the relief of actually getting here.

Today we climbed the 750m up to Namche which I remember well from last time as being the first really continuous section of up hill walking. I just recall arriving in Namche exhausted and fighting for breath as the effects of the altitude kicked in. This time though I'm pleased to say I arrived feeling so much better - probably the good nights sleep. I say long may it continue.

Along the way we had our very first glimpse through the trees of Everest, Lhotse and Ama Dablam which were approximately 30 and 20 miles away.

We arrived at our lodge in time for lunch and this afternoon we dropped back down into the town centre to do a bit of shopping. A few of us also stopped to have an excellent coffee and cake at a bakery (I've got Ben B to thank for this as we visted the bakery on our Ama Dablam trip in 2009). It must be the best one in town as David H also dropped in.

A couple of guys including Cian and Pasang then decided to go to the Irish bar to play some pool! Hard to beleive but no matter where you are in the world you're never far from an Irish Bar. I've not heard the result yet.

The food has been good. Last night for dinner I had a plate of chips with two fried eggs and not a single vegetable in sight (Henrietta would have loved it), followed by an individual deep fried apple pie! The pie tasted a lot better than it looked. I don't believe the lodges have ovens as most of the food is prepared over paraffin stoves. So the Nepalese have something in common with that alternative national dish of Scotland - the deep fried Mars Bar!

Breakfast was porridge and an omelette on toast whilst lunch was soup followed by boiled potatoes and tinned tuna in tomato sauce with some extra hot spices.

I'm pleased to say the quality of the food is so much higher than that I experienced (endured) in Tibet whilst travelling to base camp on the north side.

We will be staying in Namche for two nights to aid our acclimatisation.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Lukla to Monjo

Having set our alarm for 4.00 am this morning to be ready for breakfast at 4.30am we woke to discover that there was a power cut. These apparently happen regularly in the early hours to try and save not only money but to service the ancient infrastructure.

Kathmandu airport is a hectic place at the best of times but it's just as manic at 6.00 in the morning as people fight for an early flight to Lukla.

Thankfully we were on about the fourth flight out. For those who haven't experienced the delights of landing at Lukla probably the best analogy I can make is that it's a bit like landing on an aircraft carrier except there is no arrester wire and instead of water there is a solid concrete wall if you don't brake in time. I'm sure the run way is shorter than that on the USS Nimitz! No wonder it's been ranked as the worlds most dangerous airport in a recent TV documentary. At least this time there was no wreckage swept off to the side but it is early in the season!
Let's hope that's not aviation fuel beneath our plane
A dusty and undulating trail hugs the steeply sided valley along which the Dudi Kosi flows. It criss crosses the river via metal suspension bridges where if you are sensible you always give way to the yaks. Along the way we've seen stunning flowering Magnolia trees and Rhododendron bushes. Local toddlers appear to play happily amongst the dirt and yak dung outside their single story wooden homes that are more a kin to a glorified shack than a house. They always have the widest of smiles when you say 'hello'.

The afternoon turned cloudy but at least the rain held. We've arrived at our lodge ahead of our main bags and are currently trying to keep warm. The wood burning stove, the only source of heat in the dining room and indeed the whole establishment, won't be lit for another hour and a half. We shouldn't complain as its only going to get colder - its just the extremes of temperature as soon as the sun disappears.

Waiting for the fire to be lit
Looking forward to a good nights sleep.

Don't forget to check out the interactive map page to see exactly where we are.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Arrival in Kathmandu

Thankfully the flights were uneventful. I even made it through Indian security without having to empty my rucksack even though it was full of electrical equipment. Delhi airport has been through an amazing transformation since I was last there two years ago. It's now very modern with an excellent duty free area. There's even a hotel within the transit area which I would have really appreciated back 2009 having climbed Ama Dablam. Unfortunately we missed our connecting flight on our return journey. Consequently we spent a really miserable 24 hours waiting for the following day's flight home. Trying to sleep upright in a chair made the previous three weeks camping seem luxurious!

On arrival at Kathmandu airport we were met by Pasang who is our lead climbing sherpa and UIAGM qualified guide.

Driving through the streets of Kathmandu is one of those experiences you never forget. They say driving around the Arc de Triomphe in Paris is dangerous well who ever said that has not been to Kathmandu. Whilst our Highway Code probably extends to 200 plus pages here there must only be one which says 'when wishing to change lane or direction sound horn and proceed!'. Another quirk is whist all motorcyclists must wear crash helmets their passengers don't. How mad is that.

On arriving at the hotel we were immediately invited to a blessing which after the journey I was more than happy to accept! I suspect the hotel owners are just glad to see their guests arrive in one piece.

Needless to say the evening was spent around the bar and over dinner.

This morning we had a thorough briefing from David our leader about various aspects of the trip as well as a talk from Ted Atkins, an ex RAF engineer, who has developed the TopOut oxygen masks that we will be using. More about these in a later post.

This will be David's seventh Everest trip whilst Pasang has been to the summit eight times so we are in good hands.

For lunch we went into Thamel, which is the tourist quarter, to a steak house. Five of the team had a 1kg fillet steak each! Cian (pronounced Keean) and I wisely decided to share one. If you're wondering about the cost approximately £9 each. No doubt in a few weeks time we'll be dreaming about such things.

Tomorrow we are up at 4.00am in order to get to the airport early for an early flight to Lukla.

Well if you've read this far well done even I think it's time for a break!


I'm writing this at 23.36 UK time onboard the flight. The flight attendants have just turned up the temperature to zombie mode to give themselves a quiet night as most people are now asleep. I think it's nervous anticipation that's keeping me awake.

Well it's been a roller coaster of a week trying to finish jobs off and also packing but here I am enroute to Kathmandu. 

Highlight of the day was having a lovely send off at Paddington station from my family. Caroline came up with me, Victoria came from up Bristol and Henrietta made it all the way from her hall of residence near King's Cross.

Needless to say the goodbyes were rather tearful but now it's all about looking forward with a positive attitude.
Nice picture of the Heathrow Express!
Managed to sweet talk the check in- lady to half my excess baggage cost -amazingly she hadn't heard the 'I'm off to climb Everest you know' line before.

Please can I take this opportunity to thank everybody for their good wishes and support. I'm sorry that I can't thank you all personally.

A number of people have asked how I feel and I have to say 'nervous'. Only because having been here once before I know the enormity of what lies ahead. Never mind I shall take each day as it comes.

Check out the interactive map page as I'll start using the Spot2 messenger tomorrow.

Bye from 32000 ft - begs the question why climb Everest when I'm already higher than it!

Thursday, 22 March 2012

The effects of age and gender on success on Mount Everest

Here's a link to a paper that was written in 2007 so it's  a little out of date.  I suspect that the statics still hold true though. Bits of it are rather heavy going though unless you have a science/medical background.

Basically - overall success rate for clients on commercial expeditions is about 30% (higher on the South side than North). There is no difference for men v women.

Success rates declined DRAMATICALLY from age 40, despite numbers of "older" clients increasing over recent years. 

So at 49 the odds are against me. Having read it again I wonder why I've packed!

Never mind I like a challenge.


Why go back?

A few people have asked why go back? 

Lying in a hospital bed after returning from Everest two years ago I vowed never to return to the mountain again as I felt so ill. 48 hours after being admitted blood tests revealed that I had managed to pick up Hepatitis E at some stage during the trip. I suspect it came from a bottle of water that had been refilled. A silly mistake on my behalf.

The seeds of a second attempt were planted last November following a reunion with some members of that trip  when they came down to Devon for a weekend which involved too much port!

The following week I tentatively mentioned the possibility of returning in 2012 to Caroline, my wife, and to my relief she wasn't that surprised. With an air of inevitability she kindly gave her consent.

I was keen to go before the arthritis in my left knee got any worse as I have been advised that I need some reconstructive surgery on it.

So by mid December I had decided to give it another go leaving just four months to try and get fit. For those that are interested I have outlined my training regime on a separate page.


Thursday, 1 March 2012

The countdown continues.

I've just got back from North Wales as part of my training. Lugging a 24kg pack up and down Snowdon isn't much fun but I know from past experience it is going to be even harder on the mountain. After a foggy and damp start we climbed above the clouds for a really dramatic view over Crib Goch, The Glyders and the Carneddau beyond.
The spot communicator appears to have worked well at logging the route, so I'll definitely take it with me. 

Now back home and ploughing my way through my list of jobs to do before I leave (which seems to be increasing!).