We’ve just had a great 4 night foray on the hill and everyone is in fine spirits.
The Khumbu Icefall is on pretty good condition this year. Other than the recce we had on the 22nd Apr this was the first time the team had been all the way through it and, thanks to the 3 week trekking and acclimatisation schedule, everyone made it through to Camp 1 in great time, even though they were carrying reasonable loads.
We arrived between 9 and 10, having departed at 5a.m. and chilled for the rest of the day. When I say ‘chilled’ I mean rested in our tents with the doors open trying to get any breeze there may be and with sleeping bags over the tops of the tents to try and create some shade. It’s absolutely baking at C1 … until the sun goes down.
The next day saw most of us go for a mooch along the trail towards C2 to gain a little height and then back to C1 again. Thankfully the second day at C1 was a little cooler with a smidgen of a breeze so was a little more tolerable.
As we were setting off to C2 on the 3rd morning a tent next to ours went up in flames. I went over to assist as much as I could and doused the burning gas canister in snow. Thankfully no one was hurt but the three occupants (one of whom was still inside the tent (and still in her sleeping bag!)) were clearly very shaken by the episode. A very close call.
Anyway we then mozzied on to Camp 2 which is situated at around 6,400m and the journey was over and done with in around an hour and a half to two hours. It’s a gradual incline with a few ladders to cross but in the great scheme of things it’s an easy(ish) day – as long as you start early or you get frazzled as the temperature quickly goes from -20 to +30 when the sun comes up.
At Camp 2 we have a cook crew, a kitchen tent and a dining tent. So most of the rest of the day was spent playing cards and chilling.
Everyone had a great night and them we had an early start to go for a walk towards The Lhotse Face. Again everyone was in fine fettle and we quickly gained altitude and stopped for a rest at 6,700m. We could see the Climbing Sherpas fixing ropes on the face but didn’t venture up as we’d only get in the way.
We were quickly back down to C2 where lunch followed by an all afternoon cardathon took us through to dinner time.
Another headache free night for everyone, an early breakfast and we hit the trail. The trick about coming down to EBC is not to start in The Khumbu Icefall to early or we’ll be in the way of the Sherpas who are coming up from Base Camp, but equally not to be too late or it just gets too hot. So we descended to C1 by about 08.15 and then after we collected a few bits and bobs we’d left there we started down in to TKI and had the first third of it pretty much to ourselves.
Having said that I did see two clients being short roped up towards C1 by heavily loaded Climbing Sherpas. Surely, if you can’t make it to C1 without being dragged there, you shouldn’t be on the mountain? Perhaps this would account for the helicopter we’ve just seen fly in to The Western Cwm?
Later on we came across quite a big group making very, very slow progress upwards at around 9. They were clearly suffering as by now it was boiling hot and they should have started earlier. Not quite sure who’d made the decision to start late but it was clear that they had compromised themselves. Ideally you want to be arriving C1 between 9 and 10 and clearly this group weren’t going to be there until well after 12 (and some even as late as 2 or 3 by the looks of it).
All in all the passage through TKI is good going bit there is one area in particular where it’s definitely not a good idea to stop and take a picnic. Most of the ladders are well placed and stable – with a couple of exceptions.
One section of the climb consists of a ladder leaning against a wall at about 50 degrees to the left on top of which two further ladders have been tied that kink back towards the vertical. It feels most precarious and off balance but at least it’s sturdy.
Another couple of ladder sections are more of the horizontal type crossings and over some quite deep crevasses. One in particular consists of two ladders tied together on a 20 to 30 degree incline but the ladders aren’t quite sitting level so there’s a 15 degree tilt to cope with as well. And to top it all … it’s a little bit springy and moves around a little. Most disconcerting going up on the way to C1 but even worse coming down it on the return to Base Camp.
So we dropped down this morning from C2 & we’re now back at Base Camp for a rest. Not sure when the next rotation is going to be but it will be soon enough for sure.
The only thing to add is that, as you may have heard elsewhere, there has been a hoo haa on the hill (not involving our group or Sherpas) and there’s a lot of rumours and accusations being banded around and some associated negative press. For our part we are very well informed about what happened as one of our group knows one of the guys involved very well. However, despite that we are issuing a ‘no comment’ press release – it’s not for us to quote or comment or to get misrepresented. Sorry and all that but the politics are complicated enough without us issuing a comment and by inference appear to be taking sides. Suffice to say it is a sad situation that appears to have blown out of all proportion. A mountain out of a molehill appropriately springs to mind.
I’ll keep you posted. Tim & Co
So we’ve been at Base Camp since the 20th and we are well and truly settled in. The first day involved us getting our hands on our freight from the UK and KTM and generally sorting ourselves out. Needless to say there was plenty of washing water and shower activity as well.
The next day we were supposed to be up at 5 for an early breakfast followed by a foray in to the Khumbu Icefall. However, it snowed most of the night and the visibility was pure white out conditions. I had a quick chat with the Climbing Sherpas and we decided it was prudent for me to stay put with the group.
The Climbing Sherps headed out and I woke people to tell them not to get up!
I was up and in the kitchen at 7 and the Climbing Sherpas came back having made it 2/3rds of the way in The Icefall – apparently in some quite challenging conditions so I was glad we’d stayed put (we later heard about waist deep snow being ploughed through between C2 and C1).
We were up for the usual 8 o’clock to get breakfast and it was still claggy but by now the wind & snow had stopped. Half an hour later and the vis cleared and we were eagerly scrabbling to get ready and go for a recce in The Icefall.
The start of the Icefall is only 5 minutes away from our camp and we were soon donning crampons and harnesses and taking our first steps on the lower slopes of the mountain. The initial 40 minutes or so of the route are relatively straight forward and unroped (glad we weren’t in there in the early morning white out) and then when we hit the ropes I ran a tech session to acquaint everyone with safe travel techniques.
Another hour or so and we were encountering our first ladders. The first few are for climbing up and then a few horizontal ones are in place to aid progress over the increasing number of crevasses we were encountering.
If folk are together then they can assist each other by pulling the ropes tight to create a kind of bannister for the ladder crosser to use for balance. Once across the first person then pulls the ropes for the second person and so on and so forth.
What to do, however, when you get to a ladder and you are on your own? Well you clip in, as usual, pick up the ropes and lean forwards thereby taking up the slack from behind and creating your own tension. This position means that you’re leaning forwards and looking down and into the vast yawning chasm that you are about to cross. It’s all very well saying to yourself ‘don’t look down’ but you have to to see where to put your feet. Needless to say it takes a bit of getting used to.
So in and out took around 4 hours and we were soon back having a late lunch followed by my usual array of snacks and goodies that I provide including pâté, crackers, cashews, liquorice allsorts, fruit pastilles, pistachios, olives and gherkins.
Unfortunately we were then unable to manage much of tea on account of being thoroughly stuffed, so we settled down to a couple of series of Green Wing – thoroughly recommended by the way – and retired to bed.
As generally happens when staying at Base Camp nights become better and sleep easier and it’s great that there isn’t a sign of a headache or any adverse reactions to altitude amongst the group.
That, however, is possibly all about to change as we ready ourselves for our first foray to Camp 1 (and hopefully on to Camp 2) tomorrow. All being well we’ll have 3 or 4 nights on the hill before returning to Base Camp for a few days’ rest.
Hopefully the luck we were all bestowed with at yesterday’s Base Camp puja will see us well and the snow will have settled down. There have been the inevitable avalanches pouring down the usual faces and gullies following on from the snow fall we’ve had but the icefall is, by all accounts, in good condition beyond where we recce’d to the other day. Next time we’re there we’ll be carrying a reasonable load so it will make for fairly slow progress me thinks.
I’ll keep you posted when we get back down.
Cheers – Tim & Co
We’ve arrived at Gorak Shep in fine fettle. There’s a lot of people on the trail and it suddenly feels quite busy (and impersonal).
The fact that we are all well, acclimatised and having a super great time completely justifies the leisurely 3 week trekking schedule.
The past few days have seen us sleeping higher than Everest Base Camp, we made a mass ascent of Pokalde (5,800m), crossed the Kongma La and descended to Lobuche.
We awoke to a snowy trail and cloudy skies but the trek here was super easy – especially compared to the hoards of trekkers who are having difficulty along the trail. They all seem to be having a great time, and I hope that they’re enjoying the highlight of their trip, but I am sooo glad that my group are in much better shape both physically and mentally.
We’re just having some lunch at Gorak Shep, the last ‘village’ on the trail, and then we’ll be mooching the last hour and a half to EBC where we’ll be settling in to ‘home’ for the next 3 to 5 weeks.
We’re destined for a complete rest day tomorrow where we’ll be unpacking all the freight and baggage that we’ve been separated from since departing KTM. I imagine the shower tent will receive some use as well as bowls of hot water for doing some laundry. On the 22nd we’ll go and have a look see in the lower stretches of The Khumbu Icefall where I’ll acquaint the group with how to negotiate the ropes and ladders. After that we are having a Base Camp puja (blessing) on the 23rd and then we’re aiming to be sleeping at Camp 1 (and Camp 2) on the 24th onwards for 3 or 4 nights.
So this is the end of the (easy) fun trekking phase and the start of the transition to the more serious (but fun) expedition phase.
I’ll keep you posted. Cheers – Tim & Co
Just a quick update … we arrived Dingboche (4,400m) yesterday and are now having a nice day resting, washing, showering and generally chilling. Watched Monty Python & The Holy Grail last night which is being requoted and re enacted today with much hilarity.
Tomorrow we’re off to a beautiful camp site above Bibre and after that we’ll be gaining height up to the Kongma La (around 5,300m) – the campsite with the best views in The Khumbu. We’ll be there for two nights before dropping down and making our way to arrive EBC on the 20th.
Comms may be limited until EBC bit if I get a chance I’ll fire another update across.
Out for now – Tim & Co
Today we dropped down from Gokyo to Phortse – a rarely visited village on the ‘other’ side of the Gokyo valley. It’s reasonably inaccessible unless you make the effort – and we made the effort and have been dutifully rewarded. We saw only 4 other trekkers all day and this is the start of the high season!
The route drops down towards Machermo passing the 2nd and the 1st lakes which are in a stupendously brilliant setting. Just before the hike up towards the village of Machermo we hung a left and crossed a make shift bridge to be on the eastern side of the valley.
I haven’t been along this trail for about 14 or 15 years and I had forgotten what a brilliant trail it is. It is much narrower than the more oft trodden trails in The Khumbu and Gokyo valleys and has precipitous drop offs for a lot of the way. It is quite an undulating path and follows around ridges and in to valleys quite a bit, so is generally furhter than you think, but generally the vistas that you are rewarded with are spectacular.
So we have dropped around 900m and are spending the night here before following the trail around to Pangboche – again a rarely trodden path by the multitude of trekkers (and thankfully so).
It’s only a couple of hours to Pangboche so we’ll be having a chance to catch up on some washing and laundry before mooching up to Dingboche.
Well it’s very nice to be in The Khumbu after the hectic arrival and transition through Kathmandu. Despite the fact that the baggage allowance for the Lukla flight is only 10kg Iswari managed to do a fantastic job and we arrived in Lukla with all our bags and barrels for the next 3 weeks. The main Everest gear will be shipped directly to EBC at a later date and will be there for our arrival.
We trekked to Monjo and stayed with my friend Pasang Dawa. The beauty of being based on the 1st night at Monjo (instead of Phak Ding) is that it makes the next day to Namche so much shorter and indeed we were there for 11a.m. Coffee and doughnuts were gratefully received and after lunch we grabbed another coffee before heading to Kyanjuma to stay with Tashi and Lakpa.
Today we trekked up to The Mong La (just short of 4,000m) via the hidden staircase and had a leisurely lunch before heading back down to Tashi’s again.
Tomorrow we’re off to Thame and the day after that we are going to be meeting up with Ilina, our final teammember for the expedition.
So far so good and everyone is enjoying the trekking and each others company. There’s been a bit of snow around so we’ll have to see if the high passes are open but we’ll just take it a day at a time.