Thursday, 31 May 2012

Summit bid - 37 hours without sleep!

I'm sorry but as this covers almost two days it is quite long so grab yourself a cup of coffee or tea and a biscuit or two! 

Departure from Camp Three 24th May

We had agreed a set off time of 6.30am the previous evening and were given a new oxygen cylinder that we were told should last 7.5/8 hours at a two litre per minute flow rate. Unbeknown to us the sherpa's had set it at 1.5 per minute which with hind sight gave us a margin for being slow.

On getting out of my tent I was horrified to see this queue of people stretching as far as the eye could see up the fixed ropes! We were not the only ones planning a summit on the 25th May. The earlier photo that I posted under ' an accident waiting happen' would have been just as apt!

We joined the queue and, ever so slowly it seemed to me, we began to inch our way up the rest of the Lhotse face.

So our best laid plans seemed to be in turmoil.

Well it's fair to say that this season has been one of the most difficult in recent years as there have only been two very narrow ( ie two/three day) weather windows coupled with Russell Brice's decision to withdraw entirely from the mountain which probably added a delay to fixing the ropes to the summit.

Consequently on our planned summit attempt of the 25th there were probably over a hundred people attempting to reach the top.

As we ascended the fixed ropes on the Lhotse face, David, Warner and I tried to overtake some of the slower moving climbers by ascending the 'down' rope but after about an hour we had only gained about ten places and so resigned ourselves to a slow but steady plod up the face to where the route traverses horizontally to the left across the Yellow Band.

Part of the route across the Yellow Band is almost vertical and scrabling for grip on the smooth rock with crampons was at times very difficult.

Beyond this there is a snowy couloir where the route for the summit of Lhotse branches off. Thankfully this seemed to significantly reduce the numbers on the route.

By now it was mid-morning and the sun was already high in the sky and baking down upon us. There was nothing to do but to put up with it - I certainly wasn't going to loose my position on the ropes.

Next came the Geneva Spur, another rock band that needed to be negotiated. Once over the top of this it was with great relief that one could see the South Col but not the tents yet. It wasn't long though after a fairly level traverse over rock that the tents came into view.

The south col is a really desolate place and very wind swept. Warner and I arrived there after about six and a half hours which was pretty good considering the numbers on the route and the fact that you can only go as fast as the person in front you.

I was sharing a tent with both David, and Nick, who arrived about an hour after me.

Shortly after arriving David got the weather forecast from Adam at BC and it wasn't good! Previously the forecast had indicated sub 15 mph winds but now within the space of less than 24 hours the forecast indicated winds speeds around 20/25 mph with gusts of 35-45 mph around dawn just as we would summitting! The forecast also suggested that by the following day the winds would subside again. So it was a gamble either go for the 25th and hope the winds might not be as forecast but knowing that there were just within the bounds of possibility. Or wait another day (without adequate food) and hope the forecast didn't change significantly again.

After much deliberation and seeing what the other teams were doing David decided to stick with the original plan and a scheduled departure time of 8.00pm that evening .

Nick and I then spent the next three hours just solidly trying to boil as much water as possible to try and rehydrate. It wasn't untill at round five pm that we tried to get some sleep. Well I suspect it was nerves but Nick and I got none!

At around seven pm Nick and I started preparing for the final leg of this trip of lifetime. Filling our flasks, getting some snacks together etc. So it was at just before 8.00pm that we set foot outside of our tent only to see a long line of headtorches illuminate the night sky high above us. I met up with Winma my sherpa who was very kindly going to carry my additional oxygen cylinders for me (2 bottles weighing 4kg each).

I had already lightened my pack as much as possible by relying on Pasang and David to carrry the essentials ie medical kit etc.

By the time we left we had now been up for 13 hours.

The South Col is fairly flat and rocky but this soon changes to an icy face that quickly steepens to an average of 45/60 degrees and it literally remains at this angle or steeper all the way to the South Summit. In fact it was the steepness that came as a surprise to me. I knew there was approximately 900m of ascent but hadn't appreciated that the route literally takes the most direct route, there's no zig zagging to lessen the angle.

Winma and I soon settled into a rythym and occasionally he'd unclip me from the rope to over take slower moving people. Whilst I could get by I would be gasping for breath for minutes afterwards. It might be easy for him but for me it was a Herculean effort. After the first couple of hours he dropped back behind me and just let me keep my place on the queue.

We soon came to a rock band that needed to be climbed. This was the sequence: move one foot up trying to find some purchase for your crampons, take a couple of breathes, slide the jumar up, take a couple of breathes, try and find some grip for the other foot and take another couple of breathes. This sequence was to be repeated over snow and rock for the next ten hours!!!

David had said that it was roughly five hours to the Balcony, which is a shoulder where the route then follows the ridge line, and then a further five hours to the top.

My watch was buried beneath several layers and I'd made the conscious descion not to look at it as I felt it might be demoralising if I wasn't within or around the five hours to balcony.

I just kept relentlessly plodding on up, my target was purely to keep up with the person in front - nothing more, nothing less.

It wasn't too long before we came across a body. It was somebody who had sadly died earlier in the month. Soon there was another, this time still clipped into the rope, so we had to respectfully unclip from the rope and give them a bit of space. In all we had to pass four bodies on our way up and down.

It sounds dreadful but I didn't give them much thought except how sad, all I could concentrate on was breathing and climbing. There was no spare capacity within me at the time for how and why, or what if. Everest is a dangerous place and whilst it's very easy for me to say it: you should always have some reserve capacity to get down back the mountain unassisted.

I couldn't tell you when exactly but after the balcony Winma changed my first oxygen cylinder.

Every time I looked up all I could see was a line of head torches stretching ever upwards, false summit after false summit came and went. It was as of I was on a continuous conveyor belt, as soon as I thought I was making progress my hopes were dashed by the sight of another line of headtorches high above.

Still unaware of the time, I thought to myself and hoped that I'd see the signs of dawn spreading from the East but nothing came, just darkness and the stars.

The wind was picking up now and my hands were getting cold despite having some thick down mitts on and some liner gloves. So I opened some chemical hand warmers I had in a chest pocket in my down suit and popped them inside the mitts. Because of the reduced oxygen pressure they were really ineffectual and hardly warmed up at all.

Not only were my hands cold, I'd not eaten or drunk anything since leaving the tent which I estimated was over seven hours ago! In my rucksack I had a litre of water (no doubt frozen by now) and a litre of sweet tea in a thermos, whilst in an inside chest pocket I had 500 ml of water.

However I didn't want to stop and loose my place on the rope. I also worried that if I stopped would I ever start again? The plod, plod rythym would be broken. Somehow I knew I had to keep moving. So every now and then I had a quick drink of the water from my chest pocket whilst the person in front was stationary but it was soon gone. The next drink I had was half way down when I drank my litre of tea at around 9.00am

So severly dehydrated and with leaden feet I just continued to put one foot in front of the other and slide the jumar up. I was just a robot functioning without thought. There was certainly no pleasure in this climb in fact quite the opposite. I kept thinking: its got to get light soon, please please let me see a glimmer of light, all the time my hands were getting colder and colder.

Every so often when I felt I was weakening I had to remind my self why I wanted to climb the mountain. Must keep going , don't stop I kept telling myself. I didn't want to let myself or my family down, or indeed any of you.

Finally yet imperceptibly at first, there was a very dim glow over to the East. At last dawn, I thought to myself. I immediately thought I'd soon be warm and perhaps my hands would be ok. I also thought that the time must be around 3.30 am, so I'd been going for roughly eight and a half hours without a break.

Surely it couldn't be much further to the south summit, I thought. Buoyed on by the ever increasing light, each false summit still crushed my spirit yet finally I could see another ridge coming out of the gloom slightly to the left. This must be the north west ridge that leads to the summit I thought. Surely the South summit can't be much higher!

The wind was increasing now quite dramatically and the gusts were enough to blow you off your feet if you weren't careful. Then suddenly I was suffocating! I couldn't breath though my mask. Pulling the mask away from my face to break the seal I gasped for breath. After I had got over the initial shock I checked the reservoir and saw that the bag was still inflated so oxygen was still available. The only other potential item it could be was the exhilation valve freezing.  All I could do was to trying free the inner flap with my tongue!

I could have stopped and taken the mask off completely to try and solve the problem, however I thought it less hassle to carry on as I was. (In fact after I had summited and was descending the problem stopped as the wind was no longer blowing directly over the valve and causing rime ice to form).

Finally I reached the South Summit after about eight hours and whilst the north summit only looked a few hundred metres away it was going to take me another two hours to negotiate the ridge and infamous Hilary Step.

By now some groups had already summited and were returning along the very narrow ridge. It's difficult to describe but I would have thought a cross between the narrow sections of the Cuillin Ridge and Aonach Eagach ridges would be fair.

By now I was really tired and first couple of attempts of traversing some of the rock was embarrassingly pathetic , I just could not seem to get any purchase with my crampons. Any delay just saw people coming towards you as people returned. I could almost hear people behind me tutting. I thought I must get a grip of the situation. The climbing wasn't technically difficult (although there was a 4000m drop!), I was just exhausted. I had to dig deeper to find whatever physical reserves I had left!

Next came the Hilary Step, probably a grade 'Diff' climb of 4 m with a very 'thrutchy' move at the top. You literally had to straddle the top of the rock with one leg either side of a triangular pillar whilst clipped into one rope. Very ungainly but the consequences of falling would have been catastrophic!

Finally came a couple of snow slopes with false summits. David was on his way down by now and gave me a great big hand shake. It was just what I needed to make the final push. At last the TOP!!!!

Was I euphoric? Not at all, just relieved that after ten hours and forty minutes I didn't have to climb any higher!! After I'd caught my breath I spoke to Phil who was on the summit and took a couple of photos. The next thing was that the battery on my camera died. Whilst I had a spare battery on me my hands were numb and would have been incapable of changing it so I only have a few!

I looked all around and took in the view - did it really register? Partially. Yes it was amazing to literally be the highest person on the earth at that particular time and to physically see the curvature of the earth. Yet I knew I was only half way through the climb - it wasn't really over until I was back at the South Col.

The descent once I'd negotiated the ridge to the South Col was fairly straight forward, if ever so tiring, and took about six hours mainly using the 'Sherpa wrap'. My hands eventually warmed up with no I'll effects.

I got back to the South Col around lunchtime on Friday. I'd caught David up and Nick wasn't far behind me by the time I reached the tent.

Despite being so exhausted we deliberately spent the afternoon melting snow to try and rehydrate. It wasn't until the sun set around six thirty pm that we eventually went to sleep.

We had been awake for over 37 hours.

Taking into account the climb up to Camp Three we have been climbing/walking continuously for the last eight days. It's taken up until this morning (31/5/2012) for me to be properly rehydrated as indicated by the colour of my urine. Whilst I felt have physically more tired previously, mentally I've never been more challenged. I think it helps to be stubborn!!

Five of us reached the summit that day.

The deceased: it costs roughly $25000 to recover a body to base camp. This may be covered by insurance (unlikely) or the families have to pay. Consequeny most of the bodies are left either on route or cut free.

Arrival back in Kathmandu: 9.5 weeks later!

Having decided to pay for a helicopter flight to make sure we got ourselves and (very importantantly for me) our bags back to Kathmandu today, it was with some relief that the weather dawned misty. There were roughly four or five fixed wing flights first thing this morning before the cloud cover became too thick by around 9.00 am.

Our helicopter eventually came in around 11.00 am and five of us got on board. By chance the cargo handler said 'the old man' should sit in front next to the pilot! What a cheek, anyway I wasn't going to argue.

The helicopter took off and flew within the valleys, much lower than any plane, only rising to enter a new valley. The ground beneath was a patchwork of cultivated terraces and remote hamlets and communities that only increased in size as we approached Kathmandu almost an hour later. At first there were no roads only footpaths and tracks for yaks.

The terraces looked just like contour lines on an ordnance survey map. I don't know what was being grown as the pilot was obviously the 'Stig's brother. He wore a hat, dark glasses and a buff so you couldn't see any of his face. What's more he didn't say a word all trip!!

During the latter part of the trip we encountered a severe rain storm that buffeted the small helicopter. Whilst I wasn't surprised that the wipers didn't work I was pleased the Stig had X-ray vision as I certainly couldn't see where we were going!

I was just pleased that I still had Lama Geshi's card and and scarf in my hand luggage (remember his insurance - apparently no one had died on Everest carrying his card). Although it did occur to me. 'I wonder who the underwriters are and who do you contact in the event of a claim!'. Thankfully we passed through the storm without mishap.

Once at the hotel I had the hottest bath I could stand and just wallowed for about half an hour - bliss. We were back to civilisation!

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Back to Lukla

We all set off from Namche Bazaar with sore heads this morning either from a lack of sleep last night or alcohol induced. Some had both!!! Everyone had enjoyed last nights party.

The walk back took around six hours and I remembered the final hill up to Lukla which is a real sting in the tail from when I climbed Ama Dablam in 2009.

It started to rain just as we entered Lukla and this was a precursor to negotiations which have just finished at 10.00pm.

Unfortunately there have been no fixed wing flights out of Lukla for the last three days and the forecast is for more poor weather until Sunday- the day of our flights home to the uk!

The fixed wing air craft need a much higher cloud base and horizontal visibility than helicopters. So we've been trying to find three helicopters to fly all of us and our kit out in the morning. Finally we think we've succeeded but we will find out in the morning as its impossible to get anything in writing or even something resembling a ticket out of the Nepalese here. We've just got to hope its not thick cloud or even the helicopters won't be flying. After ten weeks everyone is understandably very very keen to get back to civilisation! Yes it's going to be quite expensive but in the scheme of things not too bad.

I've almost finished the summit day post so hope to have that up by the close of play tomorrow.

As for the summit photo, yes it is me and whilst it's sunny what you can't see is the 30 mph winds and probable -40 to 50 wind chill - I wasn't going to be exposing anything!

Summit photo!

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Arrived in Namche Bazaar

This is just a very quick post to I've finally got my phone charged and have been able to send yesterday's post (it's posted below). Secondly I've finally got a reasonable internet connection!

I know a lot of you are understandably waiting to hear what summit day was like and I'm working on that (promise!) but first I thought it only polite to reply to the numerous comments and emails that I've had over the last four or five days, so please bear with me.

I think I've replied to all of them but if I missed anyone I am sorry!

Last night I had my best night's sleep for probably nine weeks, eight hours uninterrupted sleep. Bliss. So finally felt slightly more human than I have for the last four days!

Today's walk from Pangboche should have taken six hours but we cracked it off in four! Not quite as fast as those in the Everest marathon which took place today. It starts at Base Camp and ends here at Namche. The fastest runners do it in about three hours! Incredible considering the terrain and the heat.

Tonight there is apparently a big 'rave' style party which we are all going to. I'm sure my 'status quo' dancing will go down really well!!

Monday, 28 May 2012

Base Camp to Pangboche

After a very late night (early morning) I woke at just after five am to finish packing with out a headache.

It seemed odd to be leaving my temporary home of the last sixty days. Not that I'll really miss it - having to stoop every time you wanted to get in or out (even for a short guy like me), the ever changing landscape of the floor as the ice either moved or melted, melting ice dripping on your face in the morning. Yet despite all this it was a sanctuary, your own little area of personal space, and most consequently most welcoming.

The day dawned with blue sky and brilliant sunshine (unlike yesterday which for the first time in the whole trip was cloudy and misty which made for an ominous atmosphere whilst negotiating the ice fall).

Our main bags are going by yak to Lukla over the next three days whilst we will be walking with light rucksacks with some waterproofs and overnight gear.

The walk was uneventful but reasonably fast paced. We passed the Sherpa cemetery just south of Lobuche which was quite moving.

There were some love purple alpine like flowers just below 4500m which made me realise I'd not seen any flowers for the last eight weeks! (Note to self: perhaps flower arranging is the way forward).

The landscape was also just showing signs of a little bit of green in the valley floors, again a colour we'd not seen for eight weeks.

Also whilst descending below 4700/4500m three of the five of us (the rest had got up even earlier to try ang get to Namche Bazaar in one day), all commented how much easier it had suddenly become to breathe. I think this shows that even at BC you are only just surviving.

Stone walls defining field boundaries or yak pens all show that we are slowly but surely returning to civilisation.

Once at our lodge in Pangboche (c3900m) we all ordered yak steak and chips. Despite what seemed to be a good twenty minutes of pounding, the meat still came out rather tough but was nevertheless most enjoyable.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Back in Base Camp!

This morning was really hard work both physically and mentally.

Nobody seemed to have slept well, whether this was because we were over tired or the anticipation of going through the ice fall once more. Especially as Adele, who had summited Lhotse the same day as us, had already gone down to BC the previous day, and warned us of how unstable the ice had become and that parts had been re-routed. All kinds of thoughts sprang to mind - so you climb the highest mountain in the world and them get crushed in an avalanche! Needless to say we took it very gently through the ice fall (perhaps not the best tactic but our legs literally wouldn't carry us quickly). Although it took an hour and a half longer than usual it was with great relief that reached our tents in one piece - well almost!

Muggins here is going to have a scar to remember his ascent by!

We had reached the edge of the ice fall and the morraine on which Everest Base Camp is situated where we always take our crampons off as our camp is about a 15 minute walk away over the rocks. Normally I put my crampons under the lid of my rucksack but today it was too full. I couldn't put them on the outside as I had my sleeping bag dangling off the front of it. (Not very professional I know but my pack was overflowing). So I was tired and lazy and thought, oh well it's not far I'll carry them in my hand. Well of course the inevitable happened I slipped about 20 m from the HRA tent and put a nice puncture wound in the palm of my right hand! It's about a 1 cm wide so I suspect it's about a 1 cm deep.

Rachel one of the doctors patched me up within about three minutes of it happening which is probably momentarily faster than a NHS walk in centre! So apart from feeling a right charlie (no change there then) my hand is fine with no numbness or tingling and fully fuctional (the last parts really for my Dad).

The afternoon was spent showering and packing. It's strange but now all I want to do is be back home and see the family (obviously don't tell them that or I'll be fleeced for something or other or probably three!).

The odd thing is it is only now that the enormity of what we have achieved is sinking in. I suspect a lot is to do with that we are now safely off the mountain and previously we were just mentally and physically too exhausted to think about anything except moving down hill.

I'm hoping to do the Camp Three to Four and summit blog tomorrow evening - 37 hours without sleep.


We set off 6.00 am back across the glacier to the Bergschund that sits across the bottom of the Lhotse face. Whilst our pace didn't seem fast we didn't take any breaks arriving there in approximately two hours.

Next came the jumaring up the fixed ropes as they zig zigzagged their way across the face and finally to Camp Three. Amazingly I made it in five hours some three hours quicker than last time.

It was obvious that some people had be sleeping in our tent! It was just like Goldie locks and the three bears except that we ever found out who they were. I thought some of my food that I had left had gone but when Brett arrived he said that most of his food plus four pairs of handwarmers had been taken. Now nobody objects to someone using a tent in an emergency but they could easily have radioed us to say what has happened and to us to bring some more food up.

I put on my cannula to get some additional oxygen inside me to try and help me recover and to also give me an appetite (it failed!).

There was lots of jolly banter between the team members and tents probably buoyed by our good time. The ledge was so small the tents had been pitched very close together by neccesity.

The weather report still sounded good and I was certainly looking forward to stepping foot on what was to be new territory.

The afternoon was spent rehydrating and filling water bottles ready for the morning.


Today was a rest day and I'm kicking myself for leaving the battery on in the wireless router which means I haven't been able to send any emails for the last two days.
The day was spent just lounging around and listening to the weather forecast which was improving.

There was an air of nervous anticipation preparing for the next day.  

Friday, 25 May 2012

Standing on top of the world

Have just spoken to Ian, he is safely back at the South Col, having successfully summited Everest in the early hours, stepping foot on top of the world at 06.40am local time. He seems very well and in high spirits (by that I mean cracking poor jokes!), looking forward to some well earned rest. An absolutely incredible achievement and we could not be more proud of him! Congratulations.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

On their way.

The summit push on everest has begun for the Jagged globe team, have heard from Ian, he's feeling good, the wind speeds are much higher than predicted but he had an excellent climb up to the South Col and has been trying to get some rest this afternoon. The easiest place for updates on his progress will be the Spot2 tracker, although don't worry if signal is lost, as there is potential for this around the south summit. Also the Jagged Globe website will be updating throughout the evening with progress, follow this link:
We wish them all the best of luck, will try and update when we know more.

Camp 4

Arrived at the south col, extremely windy. Planning to summit this evening local time, feeling good, had a good nights sleep at Camp 3 last night however the Lhoste face is much steeper than I had anticipated. 

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Tweets instead of daily blog!

I'm sorry to say that I'm going to be leaving the electronics necessary to send the blog here at Camp Two.

I've removed any excess items from my pack and it just seems crazy to add another 750 grams back to it. That just shows you how fine I think the line between success and failure could be.

I am still talking my satellite phone so I intend to do a lot more 'tweeting' so you'll still be able to follow my progress. To be fair I'm not sure how much energy I'd have to write anything meaningful. Unfortunately it's very much a one way affair. I can tweet but I can't see any messages that have been sent.

You'll also hopefully be able to follow my progress on the interactive map page on the web site. I still plan on taking the Spot2 gps messenger with me. Unfortunately I forgot to switch it on this morning, so it's not fool proof.

I also know its only approved for use up to 4500m and whilst it's worked at higher altitudes here already I can't guarantee that it will continue to do so. Basically if its not working don't panic!

Sunday, 20 May 2012

A sad night on Everest

We went to sleep last night with heavy hearts. We had heard reports throughout the late afternoon and into the evening of potential tradgedies unfolding. Pasang told us that lights could still be seen at the south summit from the south col at 7.30 pm local time.
At breakfast David gave us the unconfirmed news that sadly there have been some fatalities.

No doubt the armchair coroners will be quick to summise as to why the deaths occurred but until their teams and climbing sherpas return to base camp this would be pure conjecture. For now our thoughts are with their families.

This is after all the day we were due to summit. The high winds arrived as predicted and whilst they drove some teams back there have been some summits today which is incredible.

The weather forcecast is still indicating a second window opening up on Friday the 25th.

This means we shall return to Camp Two early tomorrow morning, rest for a day, go to Camp Three on Wednesday and Camp Four on Thursday.

It snowed overnight here at base camp and every so often I'd be woken by the snow 'whooshing' off the fly sheet making a sound just like a cheap rocket racing into the sky on bonfire night.

Talking of flysheets. I understand from Pema, our Sirdar, that because the ultra violet light from the sun is so strong here at base camp that after their eight weeks of use the flysheets will have to be replaced.

Not a day for any humour, one of reflection.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Back to base camp.

To be honest not the title I would like to have chosen but the right one.

Returning to base camp for possibly less than 48 hours has split the team, having said that everyone in the end chose to come back down. I was happy to come back down as the food is so much better at BC and most importantly the air is thicker. You may recall me saying in an earlier post that the body only deteriorates above circa 5500m (Camp two is at 6350m). 

The reasoning for dropping back down was that our sherpa team wanted a rest at a lower altitude following the rescue of a colleague two days ago. There's a separate post on that below but let me just say that Pem is stable. We understand he suffered a broken left femur, left humerous and had to have an operation on his left hand. Everyone is very relieved that his injuries weren't any worse.

In addition the winds are now forecast to increase from this afternoon for the next two days which is contrary to what was predicted when we set off. This is one of the problems of choosing a day to summit. You have to rely on a forecast five days ahead. Just think how well the Met Office do it! Unfortunately you just can't sit it out on the South Col at 8000m, in the death zone, waiting for the right day.

Coupled with the huge numbers going for the current window David has wisely said we will wait.

I don't know if you were able to make out the line of people on yesterday's photo but there could easily have been 100 people all hanging off the same piece of 100 m rope. The danger is not the rope breaking but the anchors coming out which are likely to be either fixed with ice screws or snow stakes both of which are highly susceptible to solar radiation loosening them.

So it's time for a shower, rest and relaxation, and taking on board lots of food and as importantly fluid. I think the best way to describe my body composition at present is like 'streaky bacon' - very little meat but still plenty of fat!

The ice fall continues to surprise and I can only wonder whether the ice fall doctors are on holiday or there's been a Nepalese national holiday!! Two of the ladders are now verging on the dangerous: the crevasse which one of them spans is now only a couple of inches narrower than the ladder itself, whilst on the other the left hand end of the ladder actually no longer bridges the chasm. The ladder just gently rocks 45 degrees at this end! Not for the nervous.

We only saw one avalanche up to our right on the way down.

So now it's a case of watching the weather forecasts that come in around lunchtime on a daily basis. Being selfish, I hope we don't go back up until early Tuesday am giving us an extra day here.

I find even coming down hill exhausting but I suspect that has a lot to do with my knees.

What I am finding hard to convey is just how difficult physically I'm finding this mountain to climb and also how it saps your morale. Every step up is difficult and has you panting for breath. We are basically now two weeks from home which is a lovely thought (if I can find a lock smith!) but we've still got this huge mountain to climb.

I am hopeful that with the right weather window (and based on how I feel compared to two years ago) I can make it. I'm certainly very grateful for all of the support you've kindly given me. Thank you.

Rescue from Camp Three

In line with my policy of delaying bad news by 48 hours the events below took place in the early hours of Thursday morning 17 May and I wrote the post that afternoon.

I was woken by David at 5.50am and told to get dressed and meet him in the comms tent. I could tell by his voice that there was a sense of urgency.

Once there,which didn't take long, he told me that unfortunately one of our Sherpas had been hit by a serac fall close to Camp Three. Because of my mountain rescue training he wanted me to man the radio and to co-ordinate radio traffic between the rescuers, our base camp and the HRA doctors (whose work ive already spoken about) also at BC.

I had heard an avalanche/rockfall earlier at about 5.00am from the Lhotse face but thought nothing of it.

The first call was made at 6.03am and the last to say that the casualty was on his way to Kathmandu at 12.47pm.

Initial reports from the sherpas spoke of two leg injuries, an arm and a head injury.

This is a shortened version.

David left with Adele (the Lhotse leader) at roughly 6.45am taking our extensive medical kit and also picking up some morphine and IV fluids on the way up to the bergschund.

Pasang had left Camp Two immediately on hearing the news and had taken a Sked (portable type of stretcher) up to the casualty.

Apparently the serac fall happened just 50 m from our Camp Three tents and has unfortunately wiped out an number of other teams tents. Thankfully as far as we currently know nobody was sleeping in them at the time.

The sherpa rescue team reached the bottom of the Lhotse face at about 8.45 am where the Sherpa was given some morphine.

Meanwhile we had been liasing with other teams to provide additional man power, Sherpas and medical resources. In the end everybody from our team contributed in some way.

Thankfully certain helicopters can fly to/from Camp Two so we were able to have one on standby at Lukla from around 7.30am. Unfortunately by the time we got the eta of the causality at Camp Two it had been called to another job.

There are no air ambulances here in Nepal and for the helicppter companies 'time is money'. We later learnt that it had gone off to pick up a trekker with non life threatening injuries.

So plan B swung into operation which was to clear a mess tent near the helipad to receive and hopefully stabilise the casualty until the helicopter could arrive. The casualty arrived in camp at 10.30 roughly five and a half hours after the incident.

With the help of a couple of JG team members we found a Dutch doctor and an Indian paramedic in camp who both kindly agreed to assist.

Time was not on our side with the weather as the typical afternoon cloud was beginning to bubble up.

Eventually he was evacuated at 12.24pm back to BC where the doctors assessed him. Whilst this was happening the pilot returned a second time to pick up another Sherpa who was also caught in the serac fall although he had slightly less serious injuries.

The last radio call was to say that the casualty was on his way to Katmandu.

As of now, Thursday lunchtime, we understand that our Sherpa's injuries are a broken left leg, broken left arm and some superficial head injuries. Our concern is of course for any internal injuries.

Our thanks go out to all those who helped in the rescue and we hope he makes a full and speedy recovery.

There is also a quick personal message to the Dartmoor Rescue Group Ashburton section: a really big thank you for all of those hours of training you all put for the benefit of others. Rob now I know what it feels to like in the control vehicle (yes I had a thermos)! To Richard & Tas thanks for the Casulty Care course. Whilst I wasn't hands on (hence much more chance of the casualty surviving) it was great to be able to make some informed suggestions as to the casualty's welfare.

Ps please can I be excused radio relay for a couple of evenings!

Friday, 18 May 2012

Is this an accident waiting to happen?

I apologise for the quality of the picture but I hope it gives you an idea of the number of people on the Lhotse face just above Camp Three.
David estimates that there are at least 150 people, clients and sherpa's on the face. It's the black snake down toward the bottom right hand side that then cuts diagonally up to the left towards the yellow band. I hope you are able to make it out.

Seeing that sight at 8.30 am makes me very pleased that we are still down here at Camp Two.

We are waiting for an updated weather forecast early this afternoon but at present it looks likely that we will be going back down to BC to wait for a second weather window that seems to be opening up around the 26th May. Increasingly strong winds are now forecast starting on the 19th putting a summit bid on the 20/21st out.

Yes it's disappointing but we must be guided by David's experience. There are also a number of other teams who are still sitting it out at BC waiting for the right window.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Now it's your turn, please.

We are all making final preparations and in particular I'm trying to leave as much as safely possible either at BC or at Camp Two.

I hope you've enjoyed the daily posts as much as I've enjoyed writing them. I still plan on carrying the sat phone and everything else up to Camp Four to enable me to continue with twitter and will continue the posts as frequently as possible (as long as I feel up to it!). 

Some of you have already very kindly made donations for my two chosen charities  via the fundraising  page on the website.

Nobody likes asking people for money however all I would ask is that if you have enjoyed reading the  blog  perhaps you might consider making a donation.

It really doesn't have to be very much. In fact if everybody  who has read the blog made a  £5 donation, that's the equivalent of less than two coffees at Starbuck's over the last  eight weeks,  we would reach my target!

For those who kindly supported my endeavours last time please do not feel that you need to again. 

So here's the link:

Thank you so much,


Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Another foray up to Camp Two - hopefully our last

We set off at one thirty am this morning back up through the ice fall. It felt warmer on the lower sections and amazingly we didn't hear any avalanches. I just climb steadily (slowly) ever upwards with just a small circle of light from my head torch roughly 18 inches in diameter lighting up the ground just ahead of my feet and showing me the heels of the person in front. Everything else is darkness.

The route is becoming familiar now as we begin to recognise different sections. What hasn't changed is the overall length.

Once past Camp One we are into the Western Cwm and it's now light. It's not long before the sun is scorching across the glacier and your body temperatures rises rapidly. You can see Camp Two in the distance and you face a dilemma: do you stop and take some layers off upsetting the rythym you've developed or do you struggle on thinking it can be no more than another 45 minutes. I chose the latter, arriving exhausted and dehydrated. Apart from porridge before setting off I'd only eaten one energy bar for the whole seven and a half hours. Why so little? A) it's extremely cold when you stop and B) you don't want to hang around on the icefall.

We've all spent the afternoon sleeping in our tents thankful that tomorrow is a rest day! How we will cope with three tough consequetive days only time will tell.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

We are off

So this is it the culmination of seven and a half weeks of preparation here in Nepal and countless hours in the gym, cycling and out on the hill before then.

We are planning to move up to Camp Two tomorrow at 1.00 am followed by a rest day. Subject to the weather holding we would then move up to Camp Three on Friday, Camp Four on the South Col on Saturday with a summit bid on Sunday. At least all you insomniacs could follow our progress over Saturday night! I should add though that this is subject to the weather and the rope fixing taking place on the 18th. Am I nervous? You bet, not just from the point of view the danger but also how will I perform above Camp Three. I really don't want a repeat performance of what happened on the North side two years ago. Yes the mountain will still be there next year but I won't be! Thankfully I've not got a bad cough and I should be Hepatitis E free. Hopefully I can just continue to put one foot in front of another. I'm still not thinking about summit day as a lot can happen weather wise over the next five days. So mentally I've broken it down into 8 hours to Camp Two, 7 or 8 hours to Camp Three, 7 hours to Camp Four then14-18 hours return trip to the summit and back. There that doesn't sound quite so bad does it!
We are all packing now, checking gear, replacing batteries and trying to reduce as much weight as possible. Somehow I don't think I'll be getting much sleep before we set off this evening!

Top tips

Once again we are waiting for the weather report to come in at around lunchtime.

There's a fairly brisk wind around base camp this morning making it a bit chilly despite the sunshine.
Following breakfast which consisted of fruit salad and yoghurt followed by sausages, omelette, beans and toast, I had a shower and did a little bit of washing.

Whilst we are waiting I thought I'd give you some tips if ever you chose to come on an expedition like this. So, in no particular order:

Pack at least a week before you leave. Do not do as I did and end up because of work and bits and pieces not packing until the day before leave. You will forget things (as I did) or bring the wrong things (as I did)!

Whilst you'll be given a kit list expect your clothes and kit to get trashed as they will be used that much more intensively. So budget for another £500 on to the cost of the trip (I'm softening Caroline up here!).

Bring or buy some soft perforated toilet roll for the trek in. None is supplied at the lodges. Don't do as I did and buy a years supply for the family from Lidl just because it was on special offer. It may look great all wrapped up but sadly it's got all the softness of 'Izal' toilet paper (for those old enough to remember it). However unlike 'Izal' it's not dual purpose ie you can't use it as tracing paper!!

Don't pack too many clothes, especially socks and underwear. Washing is really easy (please don't tell Caroline).

Certainly for EBC, make a washing line inside the tent, your clothes will dry that much faster at 35 degrees c in the morning than 3 or 4 degrees c outside. Also once the sun goes in any clothes outside will freeze within minutes.

I've never been a big fan of chemical hand warmers but certainly for the South side bring plenty as you have some very early morning starts.

Wear a 'buff' or face mask as soon as you start trekking. Hopefully it will delay the onset of the dreaded Khumbu cough.

Related to this is buy lots of Strepsils or cough sweets. Strepsils are cheaper in Ktm than back home.

Top washing tip for very dirty clothes ie after 7100m accident. Dampen garment, rub in washing powder then double bag and leave out in the sun for two days. Probably equivalent to a 40 degrees c wash and after rinsing voila perfectly clean clothes. To be fair to Lidl it's their washing powder, so my advice is shop sensibly! Ps their vanilla ice cream is excellent too - for eating not washing!

Buy a cheap fleece sleeping bag liner in Namche Bazaar. I bought a Patagonia one for roughly £6 which is great value and helps keep you that little bit warmer and your base camp bag that bit cleaner. Whilst it says Patagonia on the label it's obviously a fake and the half side zip has broken but for the money it was good value (better value than the Lidl toilet paper and a lot softer!).

My favourite tip for any expedition or indeed holiday is 'Sudocrem'. Basically I use it as the first line of defence on any external graze, spot, chaffing, sun burn etc. It's not just for nappy rash which is when it was probably last used on you!!!

After lunch came the news: we move up to Camp Two very early tomorrow morning!

I'll do a second post later.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Any news?

Phil & I were going to go down to Gorak Shep this morning but were told that there might be some news from David re our summit bid so decided to hold fire. There's a new weather report in around mid day so we might learn something after lunch.

Apparently there is a Chilean team who are going for the summit in the next few days without the fixed lines being in place. There are also a few teams who are hoping to literally follow the Sherpa fixing team to the summit (although as far as I know no date has yet been set for this).

So whilst we are waiting for an update a couple of people have asked me about the differences between the two routes, north and south and the two companies.

Firstly on my return I plan to do a side by side comparison of the two routes and also on both companies, Jagged Globe and Adventure Peaks. Obviously this will only reflect my own personal circumstances and observations.

For now though let me very briefly say that despite the dangers of the icefall I've enjoyed the South side route more. How much of this is due to me not being ill (touch wood) or because aesthetically I think it is a nicer route, I'm not sure.

As for the two companies, perhaps it's best summed up by pinching the M & S food slogan for Jagged Globe: 'simply better'. So whilst they may be that bit more expensive, in my experience, you do get what you pay for.

For instance just taking one example: our base camp tents here are larger and a better make (MSR as opposed to Quark). The whole of the ground sheet area has been lined with 5mm foam to keep the cold at bay. As opposed to a cheap foam mattress that offers very little in the way of insulation I've been sleeping on anluxurious brand new Exped insulated mattress that's about 12cm thick and very comfortable. This has then covered with a separate fleece blanket. Finally and it's often the smallest of things that make a big  impression (but that's enough about me!) we've each got a Black Diamond lantern for illuminating our tents at night which gives a much better light than our head torches. All of the above just make staying at BC that much more comfortable.

Back to the latest news. David has said there's s 50:50 chance of us going up to Camp two the day after tomorrow. It all depends on the weather forecast for the 20th. At present it could go either way. 
Phil approaching Gorak Shep
Phil and I decided to come down to Gorak Shep this afternoon and were surprised to pass so many trekking groups. We've taken the opportunity to catch up with some emails.

That's it for today. Cheers Ian

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Nepalese recycling

Last night we watched 'Catch me if you can' with Leonardo di Caprio which was entertaining. 

During the night there were the usual avalanches/rock falls. The only ones of real concern are those around or from the ice fall and you just hope that nobody has been caught in them.

No significant mountain news this morning except to say that David tried to get to Camp three this morning but was beaten back by the winds. He plans to come back to BC tomorrow. The four and five day weather forecasts aren't giving much confidence yet so we are still playing a waiting game.

I've taken the opportunity to do some more washing (well its more akin to warm rinsing with a bit of agitation but at least the clothes smell of washing powder afterwards!).

Now I'm pretty sure I've mentioned that all of our rubbish is taken off the mountain and carried back down the valley. Well a couple of days ago we saw Pema, our Sirdar, and a Sherpa don a pair of Marigold gloves each and they started to go through bags of rubbish. They separated it into plastic, cans and paper. There's hardly any glass here because of the weight.

The tin cans were then flattened with a very rudimentary sledge hammer to take up less space. According to Pema they will end up in India were they will be recycled back into tin.
On a different note everyone is showing signs of weight loss. Sadly in the most part it's muscle as the body doesn't metabolise fat well at altitude. So I've yet to develop an Adonis like body with a six pack! In fact I've been given the nickname of 'St Nicholas' on account of my beard and belly. Never mind I've been called a lot worse in my time!

Thankfully my beard will be long gone before Christmas so my normal Scrooge like personality will have returned by then (sorry Victoria and Henrietta!).

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Time to stretch those legs

After a couple of days lazing around base camp four of us decided we should go for an acclimatisation walk. So Phil, Brett, Cian and I set off to climb up to camp two on Pumori which we had previously all been to with David shortly after we arrived at BC.

On our way out of camp we could see the Himex team packing up some of their tents and numerous yaks being loaded in preparation for everything to be taken back down the valley to Lukla. Only time will tell whether the decision is the right one.

Whilst it was sunny, the wind was biting which meant we didn't hang around at camp two because of the wind chill. A large lenticular cloud hung over the top of Everest and a horizontal plume of snow could be seen stretching out from the summit indicating wind speeds in excess of 60 knots.

Whilst it was initally difficult to summon up sufficient motivation to go for the walk (I think base camp lassitude sets in very quickly) I'm really pleased I made the effort.

I went on a similar walk two years ago on the north side and performed very badly in relation to Andrew Robertson who was moving like a gazelle. Thankfully today I felt really good and got back to BC with that warm glow of having had a really good work out. I feel so much better than two years ago which is some ways is to be expected as I shouldn't have Hepatitis E this time!! I just hope I can stay well and feel this good when returning to Camps Two and Three.

The weather forecasts are still mixed and I've still no news on when a likely summit attempt will be.

The afternoon has turned cold and windy so I'm in my tent underneath my unzipped sleeping bag trying to keep warm whilst the snow pummels the side of the tent.

David, being the true professional that he is, left BC at 1.00am this morning to go back up to Camp Two. He then plans over the next couple of days to go to Camp Three and above to see exactly what the condition of the route is and importantly the fixing of it.

I've had a couple of requests for reviews of some of the kit that I've been using and whilst I'm very happy to do this I think it'll have to wait until my return. Then I can put a permanent page on my website listing the reviews as well as having access to weights and prices etc. They'll be many who won't know or be the slightest bit interested in the MSR Reactor stove and how it performs at altitude (very well as it happens).
So please bear with me on this one.

For me, the rest of the afternoon will be spent reading and dozing hopefully followed by a film after dinner. I can't believe we've been away from home for seven weeks. There's only three weeks left!

Tomorrow's post will be on recycling Nepalese style!

Friday, 11 May 2012

The Sun Returns

We woke this morning to a beautiful sunny day with sunshine streaming into my tent just after seven am.

I must have moved my sleeping mat yesterday as there was a rapid drip drip drip of melting condensation on to my left cheek this morning from a tent seam. More effective than any alarm clock and I suspect not far off 'waterboarding' ! It certainly woke me up with a start.

Yesterday I mentioned the creaking ice around my tent. Well yesterday afternoon I found out what it was a prelude to.

Just behind my tent over a small ridge of morraine (it really is only a metre or so) is a large depression (that's the land form not me!) which up until yesterday had a frozen lake in it. Well yesterday afternoon after what sounded like a large 'thud,' a bit like a tree trunk splitting, the frozen lake has gone! It's as though somebody has pulled the plug out of the bottom of the lake. The water has just vanished deep within the glacier.
I only wish I had a photo of it before to show you the comparison.
After this had happened you can imagine my concern when in the middle of the night (around 2.00am) I not only heard but also more alarmingly felt the ice cracking beneath my tent. You begin to imagine the worst - can a crevasse big enough to swallow up a whole tent really appear just like that? Then I thought about which belongings to save (sat phone first, not to keep going with the blogs you understand but because it's so expensive to replace and it's got a lot of credit on it!). Wait a minute what if my high altitude boots disappear from the front of the tent, I'll never get a chance to summit. It's amazing what rushes through your mind when it's dark. A quick scan with my head torch revealed I was still infact horizontal and everything was intact!

Thankfully after what must have been an hour I dropped back off to sleep. On surveying the tent this morning thankfully only the subsidence on one side has got worse. The cracks only a couple of inches wide!!

We had a very simple breakfast this morning but it was a great to have some variety. Slices of fresh, yes fresh, water melon followed by some freshly baked brioche and jam together with a couple of hard boiled eggs. Adam had worked wonders again.

After breakfast Phil and I sat outside the mess tent drinking coffee and 'chewing the fat'. Once again I can only marvel at the scenery. Yes you can take photographs but they never really capture say: the scale of the seracs, the jumble of ice, much like an upturned box of Lego, that is the ice fall, or the majesty of the peaks. Today really is a stunning day to be in the mountains.

It now looks as though we will be at BC for another week until the winds begin to drop.

David's keen for us not to go 'stir crazy' here at BC and has again suggested we drop down to a lower village for a change of scenery.

Trouble is Adam's food is good, we could pick up a bug from someone else down there, and it's going to cost us some money. All in all most seem happy to stay here and do a day walk every two or three days to hopefully stay in condition.

So not much in the way of humour today but please consider this. I think I've worked out why most of the West is stagnating or in recession and why China isn't.

Apparently, according to the stats, there are around 500 of you very kindly reading my blog daily. Now I suspect a good proportion are doing this in work time. This got me thinking. If everybody in work is just reading somebody's blog for five minutes a day, how many man hours or indeed days are lost every single day! Interestingly not a single person from China is reading my blog!!

Remember though recessions are always caused by somebody else so please continue to read my blog whenever you wish!

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Weather delays summit fix

We learnt this morning that the Sherpas who yesterday planned to do a load carry to Camp Four were only able to get to Camp Three because of the weather. Whilst the winds have been light there has been a lot of snow. They left their loads at Camp Three before returning to Camp Two.
Meanwhile the summit fixing team which includes our own Pasang will be returning to BC in the next couple of days until another suitable weather window appears. Yes it's frustrating but there's nothing we can do to change things.

For the first time since arriving at BC it's overcast this morning and snowing very gently. I've had to put my clothes washing plans on hold!

Since we returned a couple of days ago base camp has certainly been warmer during the day with many more small rockfalls off the morraines and much more creaking of the glacier around the tents. Night time temperatures have reached a balmy -10 degrees c! Whilst I've not had to repitch my tent yet it can't be long as my ground sheet has developed a severe case of subsidence on one side as the ice beneath has melted.

It still gets cold in the late afternoon so I have a strange ritual of getting onto my thermals and warm clothes for the evening at around 3.00pm whilst there is still some afternoon warmth.

One of the first things I do each morning is to use the sat phone to check for emails from the family. Unlike a normal email account it actually shows you how many kilobytes each message is and I've become quite adept at guessing the length of the message.

Well this morning I had a short one from Caroline which I assumed would be ' have a good day' , 'don't get too bored' etc.

Now those of you who have been kind enough to follow my blog from the start will know that I'm already on a 'yellow card'.

So I opened the email which was short and to the point: I've changed the locks.

Oh dear, perhaps the Porta Shower Christmas present wasn't such a good idea! Never mind I'm sure a new Dyson will go down better.

Today I'd like to tell you about the excellent work of the Himalayan Rescue Association (HRA) which was set up in 1973.

There are clinics in Pheriche and Manang as well as the one here at BC which was set up 10 years ago.

The clinic here at BC is manned 24/7 throughout the season ie April and May by three doctors.

This year it's the turn of Ashish Lohani, a doctor from Kathmandu who has a Phd in high alititude medicine; Rachel Anderson an A & E doctor from the UK; and Jenny Pond a rural GP also from the UK.  Lhakpa Norbu Sherpa is their base camp manager who has been here since 2003. I can quite understand that there is considerable demand from doctors to offer to work at BC however it is by invitation only. A prerequisite is that the doctors should have practiced in Nepal previously.
Jenny Pond and Ashish Lohani
In their first season the HRA saw 140 patients at BC whilst last year, their ninth, they saw 540. Since the third of April this year they have seen 395 patients todate. Ailments range from those that you might go to see your GP about ie an in growing toenail, the Khumbu cough to that of
an A and E department ie a heart attack or cerebral oedema.

They have their own MASH style (I'm showing my age now) hospital tent where they can carry out minor procedures or alternatively a helicopter evacuation to Kathmandu can be arranged at short notice.

Their work is funded by charging Western companies $100 per person (which Jagged Globe have kindly paid on our behalf). This enables a climber to go and see the doctors as many times as they like for a free consultation and they only have to pay for the medication prescribed.

The great benefit for the Sherpas and Nepalese camp staff is that they receive free consultations and medication at a substantially subsidised rate.

Some of the Western companies have their own Expedition doctors but they do make a kind donation to the work of the HRA.

Having tried to climb Everest from the North side I can honestly say what a really fantastic facility this is to have on site. A bonus is that they are really friendly too.

Thank you to Ashish for giving up some of his valuable time this morning for the interview.

This qoute was kindly passed onto me: 'You can tell the climbers are feeing a bit more secure. The blogs have a lighter feel to them and the emails I am receiving are encouraging. But Ian Ridley continues to set the mark, this time with a in-depth look at the Jagged Globe showers at base camp that would make the BBC envious.'. Surprisingly it wasn't written by my mother but by Alan Arnette!

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Shower time

If you've been looking at my Tweets you'll know that I've been down to Gorak Shep this morning along with Philip and Nick.

Hopefully I got around to answering most emails/tweets and Facebook.

We got back here to BC in one hour and seven minutes which I think is eight minutes faster than last time which is encouraging. Will we get it down to one hour?

I've been on three trips to the Himalaya and I'm pleased to say that JG have the best shower system I've come across.

They have a two compartent shower tent, one side for you to change in complete with canvas stool to sit on whilst you dry your feet and the other side is for showering complete with non slip matting - health and safety even extends to Nepal.

Ok so what do you use as a shower? Well this is the really clever yet oh so simple solution - a Hozelock Porta Shower. This is essentially what you would normally fill with insecticide and spray your roses with to get rid of black fly.

Here's a picture of Adam, our great Base Camp manager and chef (possibly the hardest working person here) demonstrating its use (obviously outside of the shower tent). 
Now ladies do you think he could be Mr May for an expedition calendar?

Back to the Porta Shower: this holds 7 litres of liquid, in our case hot water although I do wonder whether after a week of not washing something stronger might not be more appropriate. Say something just to take the top layer of skin off!

Like you insecticide sprayer you just pump it up and the small shower rose provides an excellent shower. Ok it's not a 'deluge' but it is surprisingly effective.

This got me thinking, firstly Caroline my wife always showers. We have a power shower which I'm convinced uses more water than a bath. Now as we are on a water meter one of these Porta Showers could be a great water saver (I'll even offer to pump it up as I know it's going to be a difficult sell!). Please don't tell her but I think it will be a great Christmas present.

So often in life one thing leads to another and every so often you have a eureka moment.

Well I had one last night. I've worked out how to cheaply and effectively solve the water shortage crisis in Eastern and Southern England. I appreciate that the UK has just had its wettest April on record but it may not be enough to stave off drought restrictions.

This morning I sent an email to the Prime Ministers Office from my management company:

Water And Natural Kinetic Energy Resources, outlying my plans.

I do a bit on wave energy too.

Every household in the affected areas should be issued with a Porta Shower at the taxpayers expense. I suggested a suitable photo opportunity might be Vince Cable in an Edwardian bathing costume and hat being showered outside the Houses of Parliament.

I've done my research: a management consultant will charge at least 10% (Heather what would Pwc charge?) - ok then 15%. Now I checked on Amazon this morning and they retail for £25. I'm sure Hozelock would give the Government a better volume discount than the 9% which is what Amazon are offering, say nearer a third. Also I'm pretty sure Hozelock are a UK company and this could single handedly help to reverse the recession.

So say their are 45 million households in the UK, of these at least 50% are in the affected areas (sorry Scotland and Wales but these areas are fairly sparsely populated). So 22.5 million times say £15 per Porta Shower equals a contract worth £337.5 million. Add my management consultancy fee of £50.6 million and the whole water crisis is averted at a cost of circa £390 million.

This in terms of Government spending is a proverbial 'drop in the ocean ' if you'll excuse the pun. No need to build new canals, ship water by road from Scotland. This is the green solution!

Ok, so the last seven paragraphs have been a bit of fun. Even all the way over here I can hear you scream 'the sooner that boy gets back up the hill the better!!!'

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Return to Base Camp

We set off from Camp Two at 5.30am and walked down the Westen Cwm. It was a beautiful clear morning and we had the glacier to ourselves. In the distance the sun was rising over on Pumori whilst a cool wind drove against our backs having swept down the icy Lhotse face. It was one of those mornings to savour and well worth the discomfort of such an early start.

An hour earlier we had packed away and damp and ice rimmed sleeping bags, deflated our thermarests and tidied up our tents. All this just in case they get hit by an avalanche. Apparently it's easier to find your belongings if they are in stuff sacs.

We made it down to Camp One in about an hour and left our walking poles in the one tent we have remaining there and donned our helmets.

I was beginning to wonder were all the Sherpas where as by this stage we hadn't passed any which I thought odd. I needn't have fretted as within 45 minutes there was a steady stream of them slowly but surely making their way up through the ice fall.
Photo of a triple ladder spanning a deep crevasse (top). A subsequent avalanche changed the route. I was standing on a snow bridge when I took it (not for long though!).
We made it back to BC in a little over 3 hours and once again Adam had prepared a cooked breakfast for us.

David announced that we would be here for at least six days perhaps up to ten or twelve depending upon how the rope fixing and supply of Camp Four go. It also depends upon a suitable weather window. We do have the option of going down to one of the lower villages to enjoy some richer oxygenated air but I think most of us are going to stay here.

It's just below 5500m so our bodies shouldn't deteriorate and we are pretty well acclimatised to this height. Secondly Adam's food is much better than in the lodges.

We will make day trips to ensure we don't get 'bed sores' just lying around in BC.

Indeed after some much needed washing tomorrow I'm popping down to Gorak Shep to get some good Internet access and to perhaps add a couple of books to my Kindle.

David has said that we don't need to go back up to Camp Three before our summit bid as he would rather we all get as strong as possible ready for the 'toughest five days of your life!'.

Two or three days I know I can cope with. Five without adequate food and rehydration - well we will have to see.

So that leaves me with a bit of a quandary - how am I going to keep you interested in my endeavours when the next week or so is going to be spent here at BC? Suggestions please!

Personally I'm glad of the rest period as hopefully it'll allow me to get over my stomach bug.

Scary as it sounds the next time we venture up through the icefall we will hopefully be on our way to the summit!

Monday, 7 May 2012

Back to Camp Two

Sleeping on the oxygen went pretty well once I got used to the cannula. I had seven hours straight sleep and woke feeling ok if a little chilly but I also felt hungry. So next time I might go on the oxygen as soon as we arrive at the Camp to see if it helps with my appetite.

As I feeling slightly cold I put on my down suit and then had a rather fitful couple of hours sleep before we woke up at 5.00 am.

I won't describe the problems here of a 'follow through' at 7100m whilst wearing a down suit, let me just say 'not pleasent'. I was too mean to give them a 'Viking burial', so they are coming down to BC.

I've already told you about the struggle getting up each morning but I've not mentioned about the daily fight I have with my high altitude double boots. It's no exaggeration to say it takes at least six to eight minutes a foot to put each boot on.

Firstly the inner boot is rather like putting on a well fitting Wellington boot as you have to inch your foot in, first your toes, then waggle the tongue a bit, back to the heel - pull, then the tongue again, finally your foot is in but you're now exhausted because of the lack of oxygen! Take a breather for a minute.

Now this is the bit I find hardest getting the inner boot into the outer.

I open the boot fully and insert my toes and all of a sudden there we have it my foot stuck at approximately 45 degrees and it won't budge. There's a small flap/toggle of outer boot insulation that now needs to be pulled tight with all the strength you can muster in your arms whilst at the same time pushing with your leg. It's not just me, watching Brett do up his boots is the same. Whoever designed these boots did so at a factory at sea level!

Finally your inner boot slips in and it's time for another breather before doing up three two inch wide Velcro tabs that hold the inner boot firmly in place. 

We left at just after six and seemed to speed down the fixed lines only needing to abseil the very final section. Most of the time I used a 'Sherpa' wrap. This is were you wrap the fixed rope once around an arm (I use my left), and you face forward and walk down the slope ensuring that your crampons are firmly planted. You are also clipped in so in theory shouldn't fall too far, well no more than 50 m!!

We made it back by 8.30am for a welcome breakfast. A far cry from the eight hours up.

David then gave us a debrief: basically most of us weren't quick enough as the next two days to the South Col and the Summit Day are longer and we wouldn't make them on the supplied oxygen. More on this tomorrow.

Also everyone's crampon front pointing technique was poor except for one person's. Ok it's hard for me to say it but it was 'moi'! Well I thought I'd end on a high point.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Up to Camp Three - what a slog!

Mother nature smiled on us this morning as after yesterday afternoon's snow and the forecast of more this morning we were convinced we would be returning to BC.

We woke to a cloud free morning and after much discussion about clothing I decided to put on my down suit. Adele and Pasang had theirs on so I took my lead from them. I immediately felt much warmer but would pay the price of being far too warm once the sun hit the Lhotse face.

Our route up the glacier was initially the same as before but then it swung right beneath the the Lhotse face. After about fours hours we were directly underneath the start of the new route. No wonder the sherpas didn't like it. It started with 30 m of 80 degree ice!!!

The route zig zagged it's way up and we were just going slower and slower in the heat ( we'll that's what I like to blame - it wasn' t). We just found it impossibly hard with the lack of oxygen. One foot up and a short rest. If I tried to take five or six consequetive paces I'd slouch over knees for three of four minutes - probably longer. This wasn't a good advert for our suitability for a summit attempt!

To give you a idea about how keen we were to conserve energy I don't think anybody took any pictures on this section of the route!

It took us 8 hours to reach Camp Three, two hours longer than planned. Ok we could be generous and say the new route added an hour. As for the other hour, we just were not fit enough at the altitude.

Since we got here we have desperately being trying to rehydrate. Brett and I are trying to get three litres each down us before we go to sleep. We are also trying to eat abit of food although to be honest our appetites are severely depressed.

Tonight is the first night we will also be sleeping on oxygen. Not much just half a litre a minute.

I've got a slight headache so I'm going to take an Acetazolamide as well.

Perhaps that's why I feeling so exhausted my pulse is 65 but my SpO2 is 52. Respiratory rate 28, height 7150m. That should give the docs something to think about!! Good job we will be back on base camp in 42 hours.

It now 18.30pm and we've just finished boiling up some more water. A litre each for the night - mine's at the end of my sleeping bag along with some inner mitts so that they have some warmth in the morning. We've also filled a litre thermos so that we don't have to bother lighting a stove and melting snow in the morning.

Tonight I'll be sharing my sleeping bag with two pairs of outer gloves, a pair of inner gloves shoved down between my long johns and my underwear whilst across my chest are my thick wool socks which I hope wil be dry in the morning. It's now wonder I had difficulty finding a wife!!

I'm also wearing a balaclava and a hat. The balaclava will hopefully keep the cannula ( plastic tube delivering oxygen) attached to the bottom of nose.

Apologies if there are more spelling errors than usual I'm whacked!

Saturday, 5 May 2012

A change in the weather

We were meant to set off at 6.00 am this morning but it quickly became apparent that the weather had changed. Our mornings of blue sky's had given way to snow and very limited visibility ( very reminiscent of Scottish weather- actually that's not true - it would have been raining!).

For some reason I hadn't slept well and kept tossing and turning to try and get comfortable.

Having packed our gear, after breakfast it was time to unpack it and try and get warm again. It's surprising how quickly you get cold just sitting around.

Unpacking a soggy down sleeping bag and trying to inflate a frozen thermarest isn't much fun. It took me almost 3 hours to get warm and I still had cold toes. The tent unfortunately resembles a swamp at present as the frozen condensation melts. This has been made worse by the snow fall so that the inner and outer flysheet have touched allowing a direct path for the melting snow to enter the tent.

To make matters worse if the sun doesn't come out this afternoon we won't get anything dry. There begins the slippery slope of our bags becoming damper and damper and less effective as the down looses its insulation.

We plan to go up to Camp Three weather permitting so we are a day behind schedule. However with yesterday's news that's not a problem.

It's hoped that the snow might consolidate things. There's also a period of a few days of light winds that might help with the fixing of the ropes. After that stronger winds are set to return.

Apparently Russell Brice's team is still in BC but he has called off all climbing on the mountain.

Some Sherpa teams have been carrying things up to Camp Two today.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Lots of uncertainty

David joined us for breakfast having left at BC at 2.00am and romping up here in 7 hours.

Apparently there was a big meeting in BC yesterday afternoon amongst the leading teams.

Now please take everything that follows as third hand because that is what it is.

As you know the Lhotse face has a lot of rock fall on it this year (much more than in the previous four or five years). A new route has been put up to the right of the funnel and our Sherpas are up at camp three right now putting up our tents.

The problem lies in now setting the route up to the South Col where there is apparently still more stone fall than usual. The forecast is for some snow during the next three or four afternoons which may help consolidate the rock and stone fall, binding it to the ice below.

The problem is for every trip we take up the mountain the sherpas take five or six. Consequently they are at much greater risk than us. They are also not keen on this new route to the right as it is longer and harder - not something you want when carrying a heavy pack. Also the Shepas never sleep at Camp Three believing it to be bad luck and upsetting the spirits of the Gods. Consequently they go up and down each day to Camp Two or travel on to Camp Four at the South Col (which is not set up yet).

A helicopter pilot has apparently given his flying time for free to allow for photographs to be taken and studied of the upper slopes which is fantastic.

Russell Brice (who runs the Himex team) has apparently said that he will no longer be climbing on the mountain. Whether this is an immediate withdrawl or not I don't know.

The other leading teams are of the opinion that this is perhaps rather hasty given that it it still very early May.

As I've said everything above is third hand.

As of now we are pressing ahead with our Camp three rotation tomorrow morning and then a further night here at Camp Two. We will then return to BC to see what the latest news and weather forecasts are.

Right now though any summit bid wii be late May and perhaps, I must warn you not at all.

Needless to say we are all taking this news in but are confident that whatever David and Pasang decide for us it will be the right decision.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Mask Demonstration

We've been eating extremely well over the last 24 hours. For lunch yesterday we had double burger with bacon, smoked applewood cheese and chips. Whilst for dinner we had lamb shank with cheesey mash potatoe and vegetables. I think Adam was doing his best to feed us up before our scheduled departure.

He's got a couple of well earned days off now. 

For the first time this afternoon I heard some bird song just outside my tent which I hope may be an omen for some warmer and perhaps better weather!

Ted Atkins of Top Out oxygen masks called by this afternoon to give us another demonstration and for us to get used to fitting the regulators to the oxygen cylinders. As you can imagine the cylinders need to be handled with caution and it's best not to have any naked flames around! This year's mask has been updated and now has the oxygen reservoir bottle actually attached directly to it (you may just make it out to the left of Ted's face). This makes for a much more compact unit as two years ago the reservoir hung off the mask a bit like an elephants trunk where it was vulnerable to damage. Indeed it was a damaged reservoir that unfortunately put paid to Josh Lewsey's summit bid that same trip. 

Ted also said that it is a great route that we were doing and that we should take time to enjoy it! Don't just watch the person in front's feet. Sounds like good advice.
Ted Atkins demonstrating the TopOut Mask
We are now all packing our packs and getting ready for an early start tomorrow.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Camp two postponed again

If you have read my earlier post regarding the condition of the Lhotse face you'll know it's not good (if you haven't I suggest you read that first and then return to this post).

The current position is that the main Teams have decided that the current route is too dangerous. Apparently one Sherpa has 10 stitches in his head after a rock completely smashed his helmet and a Russian has a broken arm.

A team of Western guides are going to recee the face and try and find a safer alternative to the right of the normal route tomorrow. It is currently thought that the existing position of Camp Three is as safe/unsafe as previous years depending upon your perspective.

Once found, ropes will need to be fixed again which will take another day or so. The upshot is that we will spend another day here in BC. To be fair it's much more comfortable down here.

I think everyone will appreciate that this has got to be the right way forward. What is slightly alarming is that apparently some of the smaller teams are still continuing to use the current route.

Actually now might be a good time to explain the organising of the fixed ropes.

In the past it used to be a very adhoc arrangement between the larger teams who would agree amongst themselves which part of the mountain they would fix. The smaller teams would basically just catch a ride and not make any contribution.

When Russell Brice moved over from the North side (he operates one of the largest and most comprehensive expeditions on Everest - and most expensive) he got all of the teams together. Basically every team at BC has to use a Nepalese tourist registered trekking company. They each pay Russell a pro rata amount dependent upon team size for 10,000m of new 10mm static rope, I don't know how many new ice screws and stakes but it will be in the hundreds if not thousands that are purchased, I understand, new each year from the USA.

Russell then calls a meeting of all the teams to organise the logistics of getting all of this kit up to Camp Two (the ropes come in 200m lengths - for those who know how much a 50m rope weighs imagine having to carry four of them) as well as the allocation of Sherpas to fix the routes. This way all teams make a fair contribution.

We all hope that a suitable safe route is found and that there are no more injuries. Another day or so here at BC is a very small price for us to pay.

On a unrelated point the Lhotse team returned from Camp Two this morning and said how cold and windy it had been. They had also seen a helicopter practising a landing and take off which is great testament to the skill of the pilot at 6400m. Reassuring if ever a medical evacuation is needed.

Potential Delays

We all had our 'half term reports' yesterday afternoon and I'm pleased to report that David thinks that if we keep going as we are, stay healthy and get the right weather break all of us should summit which is excellent news.

So our afternoon elation was then tempered by the news, after dinner, that there are potential delays ahead.

Whilst it's the high winds higher up that have delayed our departure by a day. The winds are due to abate on Friday which is when we plan to go to Camp Three and sleep overnight. The problem is the winds have prevented the Sherpas from erecting the tents up there. The current plan is that they'll do that on the Friday as well (they'll be much quicker than us).

There is however a larger problem that needs to be sorted out in the next few days.

The Lhotse face is particularly icy this year and there are a lot of stones and rocks either on or just underneath the surface. Consequently there is an increased risk of rock and stone fall and hence injury.

The position of the current fixed rope up to Camp Three is close to a natural funnel (think inverted) making the lower section apparently quite dangerous.

The big six teams (of which JG are one) and their Sherpas are currently discussing the best way forward. Options include moving the fixed ropes 100m to the right but this would then be over substantially steeper terrain (several vertical sections). The Sherpas are not keen on this as it makes the route much harder for them and their load carrying. Another option is to stop all climbing above Camp Two for a day whilst a group of Sherpas go up the existing route but spaced out horizontally to dislodge the stones and rocks.

Unlike crossing the Grand Couloir on the way up to the Goutier Hut on Mont Blanc you only have to dodge any rockfall for 45-60 seconds as you travel across the couloir. Here we are going to be underneath potential stonefall for 3-5 hours!

Neither option is perfect but these delays, even of a couple of days, mean that a summit bid of mid May has slipped away and we are now probably looking at 20-25 May. Frustrating for us as this will inevitably lead to more people attempting the summit on any given day and potential delays on bottlenecks such as the Hilary Step.

As David said 'it's a complicated mountain'.

What with the unstable icefall, the 2012 season looks like it has the potential to be memorable for all the wrong reasons.

Needless to say the team are rather subdued today and I can't even think of anything humorous to end on.

Next post hopefully from Camp Two tommorrow.

Actually I've just thought of something to brighten up the day for all you male readers!

My favourite Albert Einstein quote:

Some men spend a lifetime in an attempt to comprehend the complexities of women. Others preoccupy themselves with simpler tasks such as understanding the theory of relativity.