Author: tubado

Ama Dablam interactive 360° panorama from Camp 3 – you won’t be disappointed

So here it is … the latest mountain panorama this time featuring Ama Dablam from around 6,300m at the site of Camp 3.

Have a look at the interactive high resolution Ama Dablam 360° vista.

You need to go to www.mpano.com/2015M1

A big thank you to Thomas Worbs from the Mountain Panoramas website for the stitching, and to Gerald Blondy from Bushman Panoramics for the Gobi panoramic head and tripod.

For more of my work there are some 360° panoramas on my website.

And don’t forget that you can follow the next Everest Expedition on FaceBook (EverestExpedition) and Twitter (@timmosedale) where we will be posting snippets of information and photos along the way.

via Blogger http://ift.tt/22XZKSz

Everest photos No2

Okey dokey, whilst I’m on a roll and have 5 mins to spare here’s the 2nd of my expedition photos that I’d like to think says more than the picture shows.
I know that on the face of it it looks like a bunch of people sitting in a tent with boxes of chocolates (and indeed I am suitably chuffed that I managed to get said boxes from the UK all the way out to Everest Base Camp without them being completely trashed).
This was the day after we had arrived at EBC and it was Easter Sunday and, well, like someone said to me last week, you can’t buy smiles like that.
This is a group of people who look to me like they are not only pleased to have received that little bit extra, but also they look like they are genuinely enjoying the environment and pleased to be there.
Enjoying a tiny bit of luxury at Everest Base Camp
I can categorically say that no one else at Everest Base Camp was enjoying Hello Kitty and Toy Story selection boxes.
I wonder what I’ll be taking along next year?

Everest photos explained.

I’ve been asked a few times about why certain photos are in the videos and uploads I have made or the slide shows that I give. So I thought I’d put pen to paper and explain why certain images from Everest 2011 mean so much to me.
Setting camp in a snow storm
The photo above is a classic example of one that could do with a justification. We’d been trekking in The Khumbu for around 2 weeks by now as part of my 3 week trekking itinerary. My thinking here is that there seems to be little point, if any, in trekking to Everest Base Camp in a mere 8 or 9 days to then sit around with a headache for 5 or 6 days. Our aim was to trek in, taking our time and crossing 3 passes which got progressively higher and to take in the ascent of Pokalde, a peak at around 19,000ft. That meant that we arrived at EBC having already slept higher and that when it came to our first rotation on the hill we were able to go straight through The Khumbu Icefall to Camp 1 and sleep there – thereby cutting down the number of journeys through the icefall. 
Whilst trekking not only was the aim to take time acclimatising but also for the team to get to know each other, to stay healthy by avoiding the pestilent hoards, to get accustomed to the fact that we were in for an 8 or 9 week period of being away and do some last minute sessions to discuss tactics for the expedition including the likes of radio procedures / oxygen protocols / HACE & HAPE / avoidance of frostbite etc etc.
I’d already been careful to cherry pick people who I thought had the right amount of experience, the right approach to expeditioning, be able to get the time off work, have the drive and ambition tempered with due caution and respect for the environment as well as having the right demeanour. All these characteristics together are really important – there’s little point being driven if it isn’t with due regard for the ever changing conditions. It’s all very well being experienced but if you aren’t going to get along with people then it’s going to be hard work for everyone. If you can get the time off work but haven’t got the ability to remain focused on the job at hand then, gradually, you will lose impetus.
And given that the job at hand was attempting Everest then remaining focused, being driven, respecting and adapting to the ever changing conditions, getting along with the rest of the team etc etc all count for quite a bit.
I’ve seen people in other groups who don’t converse in the mess tent! I’ve seen people from other teams eyeing each other up wondering if the other person is going to compromise their summit bid. I’ve seen people  on other expeditions alter their ascent profile and push ahead (or drop behind) just to avoid being with another member of the group whom they don’t trust or don’t get along with. It gets to be dog eat dog and completely undermines not only the enjoyment but also the safety of the entire group.
I obviously can’t force people to like each other – but you can usually get a good idea about how the group are going to interact and, generally, people opting for an expedition with the right credentials and mountaineering cv have probably got something about them.
So … back to my trusty team. We were 2 weeks in to the trip and were trekking from Dingboche to Dingogma before making our way to the Kongma La and our ascent of Pokalde. It started snowing and, whilst this could have been an issue with, say, a group of trekkers, or with a group of clients from a different expedition, it certainly wasn’t the case with my lot. It was like water (or snow) off a duck’s back.
Generally with, say, a trekking group, the clients would arrive at the next camp in varying states and all pile in to the mess tent. The cook crew would typically be busy getting a brew on and preparing the evening meal and the rest of the staff would busy themselves getting the camp ready. I and some of the Sherpas would typically be making sure that the porters were ok and we’d be helping get the tents up.
Not so my trusty group of potential Everest summiteers. Without my asking they naturally took it upon themselves to start looking out for the porters and lending gloves where necessary. Then once they arrived at camp the clients sent the porters and Sherpas in to the kitchen tent and started putting tents up. Basically they had all diagnosed that there were things that needed to be done and that they were better clothed and equipped to be stood around in the snow erecting tents.
This for me was a pivotal moment where my aim of getting the team bonding was being well and truly achieved. This then later led on to the group helping each other and going the extra mile on the mountain.
What often happens with other groups is that on arriving at, say, Camp 1 a client will sort their own gear out and then have a doze – to then be woken by the their tent partner arriving and trying to get in to the tent and sort their gear out. And then at some stage they may consider getting the stove on. This creates a certain amount of upheaval for both parties and is in no way an efficient approach to managing time. Or when one person has, say, a headache and is feeling a bit off then the other person is not likely to stay up for 45 minutes making a brew for them because the other person had done nothing a few days before.
With my lot we had none of that. The first person just took it upon themselves to sort out their own and their tent partners gear having already got the stove going. To that end there was then less upheaval when the second person arrived and, importantly, they had a brew already on the go and were maintaining their hydration. This then meant that the other person was probably going to be willing to get the cooker on in the morning for breakfast. Not that anyone started counting or keeping a tally … because that would be utterly divisive.
So there you have it – why this photo means so much to me and the message it portrays.
If you want to find out more about my Everest expeditions then click away.

Busy busy. Ama Dablam and Everest looming on the horizon

As ever we are now busy with the summer season at the B&B with guests a plenty coming and going as well as running various rock climbing and outdoor related courses, putting the finishing touches to the next Ama Dablam expedition (it’s full folks – but there’s availability for autumn 2013 if you are interested) and starting to put together the next expedition to Everest next Spring (with a new website to boot).

The Ama Dablam group are really well qualified by experience and, having met quite a few of the group now, I have very high hopes that we will not only have a safe, fun trip but that we will have plenty of summit successes as well. Obviously there’s a few things that are unknown at this stage but, in reality, the group is made up of people with some very impressive climbing and mountaineering resumes. It’s going to be good.

Talking of which I’m busily recruiting the next folk to make up the expedition to Everest next Spring. Thankfully there are no daft phone calls like the one I had last year from people who are not qualified by experience who want to just give it a go. Unbelievably there are people out there who give more thought and ask more questions about the make and model of car they are going to buy than about which side of Everest to climb and which operator to go with.

I’m in talks with people who have excellent mountaineering pedigrees as well as a whole host of other skills and activities that they are involved in – from pro cycling to skiing to the North and South Poles, from prolific climbing and expedition experience to the first female Macedonian (who breezed up Ama Dablam on my trip last autumn). It has the makings of another excellent group with a brilliant pedigree and another superb trip.

Meanwhile I was also lucky enough to receive 6 down suits which I reviewed for their suitability to be used in harsh ever changing conditions and I was somewhat surprised by some of the results. I personally use a Mountain Hardwear jacket and salopette combination which I had been lucky enough for free when I went to Everest in 2005. No two ways about it – it’s not because it was free that I am still using it but because it does the job.

So it was with great interest that I was able to compare and contrast the latest suits from Rab, Mountain Hardwear, The North Face, PHD, Marmot and Mountain Equipment. And to my utter amazement there is some gear out there that, if things go pear shaped, will not work and will potentially jeopardise peoples’ ability to operate when the going gets real tough with windy, icy, challenging conditions. Have a wee peek at the review to see what I thought.

Meanwhile I have been chatting with folks about our forthcoming trip and, in the process of trying to find some stats for one chap, I stumbled across this very informative page on Alan Arnette’s site. It’s long been known that The North side of Everest is the harder side (more technical, colder, higher camps respectively, higher mortality rate and much lower success rate) but it was good to see some facts and figures.

Meanwhile what a great Olympic week, eh? Fantastic efforts and results all round and great to see a successful operation of what is a very complex few weeks. And what a fantastic day yesterday with inspirational performances from the ladies at the Velodrome and Innis in the 800m (to name but a few). They just nailed it like it belonged to them. Superb.

Everest – did they do it?

From the title of this update you may well think I’m referring to the Mallory / Irvine 1924 expedition – but in actual fact this is to do with the most recent season. I have been contacted by a chap in Bangladesh asking about the validity of some summit video.

Dear Tim 
first of all takes my salute as you are a Everest Summiter it’s a great honor to write to you too.. 
i want to ask a favor by watching a video. recently few of Bangladeshi boys and girl climbed Everest and some people was very critically denying their victory. 
if u have some to spend on my request and watch this 29sec video 
https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10150948310291552  made by one of our woman and tell that its really the Summit of Everest? 
thanks for your time to read this email and it would be great if you give some of your time to watch this clip and give your opinion. 
ps- im asking because lots of people in our country and blog are trying to make their claim as fals by comparing the video above with your 360D video on you tube.. 
Best wishes to you , Have a nice day…

with regards
Rasal

***The Greatest Thing You Will Ever Learn, Is Just to love, and Be Loved in Return***
——————————- Proud to be a Bangladeshi—————————————- 

So I replied as follows:

Dear Rasal,

Many thanks for your e mail about your team mates and their ascent of Everest.

I’ve watched the clip a few times and I would be happy to say that it certainly looks to me like the summit of Everest. I know that it isn’t a long video, it is a little bit wobbly and taken at an angle but when you are that high it is sometimes difficult for people to be able to use their cameras with a steady hand especially if it is windy. Anyway, for me the key indicators are at 2 to 3 seconds there is a view looking to the North approach of the summit showing the top of the Kangchung face with the summit in the foreground, at 9 onwards seconds there is a good view of Makalu in the background (it is very distinctive), and then at 26 to 29 there is a shot across to Lhotse and across to Nuptse (again very distinctive looking terrain). It all certainly looks to me like the summit. The only thing I can’t vouch for, of course, is the identities of the people in the video.

I hope that this helps.

My congratulations to them.

Yours sincerely,

Tim Mosedale


Of course the next thing I get is another e mail from another chap who, I think from his tone, is disputing the fact:

Dear Tim,
I am from Bangladesh, recently we are going through a hot debate that whether the Nishat, the first official Everest conquer has really done the summit or not.
On the 26 second it is clearly visible that the LhoTse is much higher than the camera level. And only the lower part of Lhotse is visible there, not the top. Usually all summit vidio shows the LhoTse top as it is the closest and  the most  notable 8000er near Everest.
Those who reject Nishat’s climb, claim her video is taken from just above the south col, near the camp 4. 180′ view, not the 360’been taken. Because from near the south col when you take 360′ view it will clearly show that you are not on the summit.
Nishat’s  video link

So here’s my reply along with some screen grabs I’ve annotated:

Dear Mufti,

I have had a look again at the summit video and I have compared it with both of my summit videos. Obviously the quality of the claimed summit video is a little bit lacking in clarity but I think that I have managed to make enough comparisons with key features that are only visible from the summit (in particular looking in to Tibet at Lhakpa Ri and the evidence of prayer flags – which are not found anywhere else between the South Col and the summit). The features I have picked out are all recognisable from the summit and I have annotated them accordingly.

Also the fact that Lhotse does not appear in full stature may appear confusing. But if you go out with your own video camera and point it at an angle towards the ground and make a panorama then the resulting video may appear to show things that are lower than you disappear off the top of the screen. I have just tried it in my garden and a section of wall that I am taller than is out of frame giving the illusion that it is taller than me. Tilt the camera to an angle and the result is even more confusing.

I hope that this helps. I also hope that this puts the case to rest but if you have any further questions then please get back in touch.

Yours sincerely,

Tim Mosedale
(the screen grabs below show my two summit panorama videos on the left stopped at similar moments to the claimed video which is on the right. Click each one to see full size)



But my question is, what do YOU think? Have a look at the clip http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OdX8bKf4gBg and tell me what’s your opinion. You can compare with my 2005 video and my 2011 video

Makes me chuffed with the quality of my panoramas I must say. Looking to do bigger and better next year when I’ll be back with the makings of a very strong team indeed.

Hear from you soon,

Tim

Climbing and stuff

What a fabulous couple of weeks we’ve had. Great weather, lots of hill days and rock climbing courses, plenty of folk through the B&B, a few more clients for Ama Dablam 2012, some more enquiries for Ama 2013 and another 3 folk added to the mailing list for Everest 2014. Possibly another 8,000er in 2014 as well as some filming work coming up imminently. Busy busy.

Some more climbing coming up soon as well as supporting on Leg 3 of the Bob Graham Round on Saturday morning (4a.m.) carrying water (possibly as much as 7 litres!).

But before that it’s the 7th anniversary of our fantastic Everest ascent tomorrow – how time flies. Obviously Everest has been a hot topic just recently (as it is every year) and it is very very sad that the friends and relatives of the deceased have to endure the annual bickerings of the press over whether people should be allowed to go, how did they die, how can others walk past dead bodies etc etc – usually stirred up by people who have never ever been there. Yes it is absolutely tragic, and I’m not going to try and justify the rights and wrongs or try and propose a solution (there probably isn’t one) but, as ever, I advocate that climbers and mountaineers attempting Everest should be totally competent and independent in their own right before considering going on the hill.

As an ABSOLUTE minimum I suggest the following – I’d be interested to hear what people think and would gratefully receive any additional information and thoughts, as that can only be of benefit to anyone researching the mountain who may come across my pages. Even if they decide not to go with me, it would be nice to know that they have heeded some of my advice. I look forward to hearing from you.

In the meantime I hope that you enjoy this

Live on the telly

Well of all the years not to be on Everest, 2012 seems to have been the worst season for some time (since we were there in 2005 on The North side no less). A difficult season with challenging conditions which made for some pretty busy summit days as lots of groups got squeezed in to narrow weather windows.

As a result of some folk sadly perishing on Everest Al Jazeera Live asked me to comment on the situation on telly. Having expressed beforehand that I would be happy to comment, but not about the deceased, the first question that was posed to me was about … the people who had died. Anyway I tried to field that question in the best and most tactful way. Thankfully the guy didn’t press that issue and went towards asking what experience is required. You can see the interview here.

Coincidentally I had just updated my site with this very information about skill levels which is available for you to see on my Everest site.

As it happens I’m out this weekend with a chap who has asked exactly that question. He’s approaching the whole experience in a pragmatic and responsible way so that he will know what he needs to do between now and then to give him a better chance of not only summiting the mountain safely but also perhaps enjoying the experience as well. As I always point out to people if you are a liability to yourself then you are also a liability to everyone around you. Not only that but you have to ask yourself what you would do if, for some reason, your summit Climbing Sherpa became incapacitated or perhaps he had to go to the aid of another climber. I’m afraid that most people wouldn’t know what to do and they, in turn, pose a very real threat to the safety of those around them. Also the Climbing Sherpas can obviously help in many ways, but they can’t eat and drink for you, they can’t put one foot in front of the other for you, and they can’t have the mental determination that will keep you going.

Our approach to, in particular, summit day is a belt and braces approach. Where some companies quote a 1:1 ratio they don’t tell people that they and their Climbing Sherpa may be at different places on the mountain on summit day! So, yes, 1 to 1 ratio but hardly any use to the client. With our approach the Climbing Sherpas do lots of preparatory work earlier on in the expedition getting camps established, supplies up the hill and they have some rest days when possible. This is when we, as a group, are able to be moving lower down on the hill independently going to C1 and C2 (hardly the kind of terrain where a Sherpa is required on a 1:1 basis for everyone in the group). However from C2 to C3 and C3 to The South Col the ratio becomes 1:1. In particular on summit day, from The South Col, the client has a Climbing Sherpa by their side. He is constantly checking oxygen levels, the pace, the awareness of the client and encouraging them to eat and, in particular, drink where possible. They are relaying all the necessary information down to Base Camp about oxygen levels and progress so that the team can be monitored. The Climbing Sherpa is also carrying spare oxygen for their client and then there is more spare oxygen besides (as well as a spare mask and regulator amongst the group as well). Not only do they stay with their client all the way back to the South Col but they then escort them down to C2 and then down to BC as well. This isn’t hand holding. It isn’t being namby pandy – it is a conscientious approach to safely operating an expedition on Everest.

If you are interested in Everest then please don’t hesitate to get in touch and I can advise accordingly.

And if you are interested in Ama Dablam, by the way, you’d better hurry as there are only a couple of places left – the 2012 trip is virtually fully subscribed.

In the meantime I sent a clipping in to The News Quiz on Radio 4 which was read out by Jeremy Hardy – I hope that you enjoy it.

Am I being too hard on this chap who wants to climb Everest?

Dear xxxx,

Many thanks for your time earlier this week and I understand where you are coming from with your interest in going to Everest.
On a personal note, however, I am concerned about your lack of experience and, as a result of that, would feel uncomfortable about you being with my group. I know that you plan on going on a climbing course in January but I only recruit people who are already climbers and mountaineers, and have been for some time, and are therefore suitably well qualified by experience. It is only with years of experience that things become second nature.
I know that you feel that you may pick up all the skills very quickly but the mountain demands a lot of respect. If the conditions take a turn for the worse, or if your Climbing Sherpa were to become incapacitated, then you may find yourself on your own and need to be wholly reliant on your own ability to deal with steep terrain in a potentially very demanding and ever changing environment.

I can’t have a situation where more experienced climbers, or my Climbing Sherpas, have their lives, or their summit bid, jeopardised as a result of a very inexperienced member in the group.
It is an all inclusive trip and is already very competitively priced. There are a couple of operators out there who are similarly priced, or slightly cheaper, but generally they don’t provide as comprehensive a package. Anyway perhaps they will be open to negotiation – but I’m afraid that I am not.

Yours sincerely,

Tim Mosedale


So come on folks … am I being too harsh here? Any thoughts?

The worrying aspect is that ‘I’m good in the gym’ and ‘I can learn skills really quickly’ just doesn’t cut the mustard with me. I find it worrying that some people are completely naive and feel that they can watch a programme, or read a book, and then ‘give it a go.’ Everest is too big and too serious to just come along and ‘give it a go.’ It demands a huge amount of respect and it is this approach that will be the undoing of people every year. And unfortunately that then tarnishes the reputation of Everest and undermines the achievement of the climbers and mountaineers out there who do approach it with the right background and mountaineering pedigree.

‘It’s been my lifelong ambition for the last 5 years.’ Well unless you are only 5 years old then that isn’t a lifelong ambition. And why haven’t you done something about it in the last 5 years then (which, with a bit of hard work and plenty of time on the hill, would possiby be long enough to get yourself suitably well trained by the way).

I am all for people venturing in to the realms of ultra high altitude mountaineering – personally some of the most rewarding experiences that I have had have been on expeditions with like minded people. But start at the beginning and work your way up. I know that not everyone feels that they have the time, or money, to go on loads and loads of trips and work their way up through the ranks. But even so, don’t just dive in with Everest. UK hills, UK rock and UK (Scottish) winter all provide fantastic opportunities to further your skill level and be subjected to some ever changing and demanding conditions (as well as some fantastic memorable days out). If you can get to The Alps and maybe an expedition or two as well then this will be a bonus.

But don’t turn up to Everest to ‘give it a go’ and be surprised when it spanks your arse.

Everest – it’s pretty big

Everest on the South (Nepal) side

Not even in my wildest dreams did I ever think that this is where it was all potentially leading.
I started out my outdoor career at a centre in Wensleydale and after 7 years I’d worked up to being Deputy to head of Centre and Senior Instructor. It was a great job at a small centre – I was out on session a lot but also responsible for staff training, the off duty, the group programmes, the fleet of vehicles, risk assessment etc. The boss wasn’t going to be moving on and eventually it was time to spread my wings.
When I first arrived in Keswick I had 8 part time jobs – anything to pay the bills. At about the same time I was offered some work in Nepal and I jumped at the chance. It had never previously occurred to me that it was a possibility but I knew that it was an offer I couldn’t refuse. This then led on to me working for KE Adventure Travel who are based in Keswick, where I’d settled after the Yorkshire Dales. I’d sent in my cv and resume and followed it up with a phone call a week later. In the midst of being told that they were ‘very busy’, ‘lots of leaders already’ and ‘Keswick is a long way to come for a chat’ I mentioned that we had the same postcode. ‘Oh I’ll get the kettle on then, see you in 5 minutes.’ I was there in 3.
It was great employment and I loved the culture and environment as much as the landscape and work. I’d lived in Cambodia for 6 months in a previous life and whilst I was there I’d had a quick whistle stop tour of Asia and been hooked. To be back in Asia and working in the mountains was just awesome.
I’d often been asked ‘as a mountaineering instructor you must want to do Everest,’ which I’d never quite understood. Now that I was working a lot in The Khumbu I was now getting ‘as an expedition leader you must want to do Everest.’ The answer was always an emphatic, and honestly from the heart, ‘no thanks.’ I’d then go on to explain that it’s very cold up there, potentially pretty dangerous, very expensive, loss of income whilst away, potential loss of digits and life etc etc. And anyway, without the experience I’d never get employed and I definitely didn’t want to go along as a client – not that I wanted to go anyway. Not for me thanks. No siree.
And I genuinely meant it too.
My previous life had been as a commissioned officer in The Royal Corps of Transport and so I had a bit of an understanding of different types of leadership, motivation, delegation, logistics etc. I’d also been on the Arctic Warfare Instructors course which was a pretty challenging 8 weeks in Norway (one of only a few military courses where you are officially on double rations). Out of 35 on the course only 5 of us passed. I saw grown men in tears during the 8 weeks because of the cold, because of the knarly desperate conditions we were in (with pretty flimsy gear at times) or from trying to ski wearing planks of wood carrying 80Kg and because, at the end of the course, we then had to ski in to a hole in the frozen fjord and get ourselves out. It was all fairly brutal stuff really. I hadn’t realised at the time, but it was another pivotal experience for me.
All this experience and training came in to play whenever I was on an expedition and I found it to be a remarkably fortuitous background – totally alien in many ways to being ‘a civvy,’ but leadership skills and an understanding of logistics are all so transferrable. As are the skills required to look after yourself, and still lead others, in the worst of conditions, even when you are at your lowest ebb.

Ama Dablam in the heart of The Khumbu
I’d been lucky enough to have a friend in Keswick ask me if I could put together an Ama Dablam trip and I jumped at the chance. It was a great trip – just a bunch of mates having a go at a very impressive mountain. No Climbing Sherpas or High Altitude Porters – just a cook crew, some porters to Base Camp and a Sirdar. We had a great laugh and it was then that I found out that I was also pretty good at altitude.
Having put in all the effort to run that trip, I decided to advertise and I’ve been going back every year ever since.
It’s amazing that people ask ‘don’t you get bored of climbing Ama Dablam every year?’ It’s the most amazing mountain in the heart of some pretty spectacular mountainous terrain where I get to see and work with Climbing Sherpas who have summited Cho Oyu, Shishapangma, Manaslu, and Everest (one chap 18 times) who are now family friends. I’ve been working with Kame, my Sirdar, for 9 years now and it’s a privilege to be with them every time. When I compare that with climbing Snowdon, The Ben or Mont Blanc a few times every season then I realise I have managed to manoeuvre myself in to a very privileged position. Sometimes you have to make your own luck I guess.
The North side of Everest – a very serious place to be
In 2001 I heard about a bunch of mates who were off to have a go at Everest in a few years’ time. The approach was the old style of expeditioning – just a bunch of mates on the hill. I was sort of tempted because, although I knew I’d never have a go at Everest, I also knew that if I did have a go it would be in that style. However I already had another commitment – my own group on Island Peak and the 2 overlapped by at least fortnight.
I was back from Ama Dablam (again) at the beginning of December 2004 and I was chatting to Matt Sharman about the forthcoming Everest expedition and he said he was arriving in Kathmandu on the 19thApril. My 3-years-in-the-planning-private-Island-Peak-group were departing KTM on the 18th April! I realised that, whilst the two trips overlapped by a few weeks, that in actual fact it was a possibility after all and this was one of those once in a lifetime opportunities. I made some hasty phone calls – one in particular to a chap called Baz Roberts.
I’d just been on his Wilderness Medical Training course (very highly recommended by the way) and he’d shown us all some Everest video and photos from his trip with Russell Bryce on the North side that Spring (2004). He had wanted to go on the hill from the age of 9 or so, and everything had been leading up to that experience. He’s a very methodical guy and even though I didn’t really know him at the time I rang and asked him a bunch of questions. He advised that I ask my friends about our relationship with Russell Bryce (Tom Richardson and Ian Wade both knew him), how much oxygen we had (enough), our Base Camp support (Mick had a friend who was a doctor (another +ve) who had researched the 1996 disaster and written a paper on high altitude meteorology (perfect)), what comms did we have (Ross was ex forces and had some friends who were lending us a VHF set) etc etc.
The guys had been planning this for 3 or 4 years and absolutely everything was in place. Not only were we the smallest, cheapest trip on the mountain but also the most experienced. Ian Wade, perhaps the most prolific of the lot, had summited over 65 6,000m peaks as well as Cho Oyu and Gasherbrum II – both without oxygen. Tom Richardson had done more than most people will ever do in their lifetime. Ross, Dan, Mick and Matt were all full time, or certainly far more than part time, expedition leaders and Stuart Holmes … well very bright light under very large bushel springs to mind.
I was to be in the company of some of the nicest (and most experienced) guys I could ever hope to be with and my wife knew most of them too. So whilst Ali (and I) found out on Boxing Day 2004 that ‘it’s turned blue!’ and I was going to be a daddy, she still gave me her blessing to go on the trip. I signed up at the end of December and was going away in March. I started eating pies and doughnuts and, despite working every day in Scotland that winter, managed to put on 2½ stone. It’s the hardest training I have ever done.
These guys had invited along (only) 4 Climbing Sherpas who were their friends – 2 of whom I already knew having worked with them previously. So it wasn’t climber and guide or employer / employee – it was a bunch of guys (and their Sherpa friends) on a BIG mountain. It was a low key, low budget, but highly professional effort and, considering not a crossed word was said for the whole trip, was a roaring success. I went along just thinking that I’d see how it went. I had no aspirations for the summit (having only been to 6,856m previously) and just approached each day as a new day and a new challenge.
After a while it was obvious that we were all having a great, fun time and that we were all so much at home in the harsh environment that is the North side of Everest and I honestly thought that we would have 6 or 7 (if not all 8) out of the 8 westerners on the summit. As it happens things conspired against a few of the guys towards the end of the trip and before you know it there were only 3 of us on the top. But all 4 Climbing Sherpas also summited which was superb. Phendan had been on the top before but the others Sherpas hadn’t. They had all worked so hard and Zambu, for example, had carried loads to the top camp 11 times. 

Everest summit 30th May 2005
On the North side the top camp is at 8,300m (so 99m higher than the summit of Cho Oyu) so this is an amazing feat and we couldn’t have done it without them. Thankfully it has opened a door for all of them and they are regularly employed on Everest (or Cho Oyu / Manaslu) and have managed to break away from the trekking peak trips that they so often did.
I knew that if I had the chance that I’d love to go back. But I also knew that I wouldn’t go back on the North side. It’s a particularly serious summit day and if a client got in to difficulty then you may as well get out your rosary beads. Also it’s the Climbing Sherpas who generally get involved with rescues and I didn’t want to have the onus of endangering their lives, let alone those of any clients, even more so now that I knew them all so well.
A few Ama Dablam trips and a Cho Oyu trip later and an opportunity arose. I was asked to lead a group to Everest Base Camp for a chap who would then stay on Everest. I mentioned that I may know of a few people who would also like to have a go at Everest. ‘You’ve got the job.’ I cherry picked from my database and e mailed 23 people who I thought had not only the aspiration and experience but also the right approach and temperament as well as the ability to afford it and get time off work. 12 were interested. That soon dropped to 7 or 8 and then the credit crunch happened. We were down to 3 so we delayed a year and eventually, in April 2011, myself, a friend of mine who was to be our Base Camp doctor and 5 hopefuls started trekking.
Rather than racing up to EBC, sitting there for a fortnight with headaches wondering how we would ever climb Everest feeling like this down here, we trekked for 3 weeks elsewhere. It was a great acclimatisation schedule but it also allowed everyone to forget about work etc and to relax and enjoy the experience without having the overbearing nature of ‘Everest’ dauntingly in view. Whilst we would never get away from the fact that this was definitely an organised trip I wanted to try and recreate the style of expedition I’d been on in 2005. To that end I was very conscious of the fun factor and for everyone enjoy each other’s company.
There was not a headache in sight for the whole trip and we arrived at Base Camp as a team, a unified dynamic group, rather than a bunch of clients. We were enjoying ourselves, and the environment, and the rapport was noticeable. I’ve seen other trips where the clients are so tense (and intense) that it is just no fun at all. Indeed you can see people calculating and trying to out manoeuvre each other in a dog eat dog slow race for the prized summit. They certainly don’t lift a finger for each other as they definitely don’t want to risk their own chances.
My team went the extra mile for each other. When we were on the hill, whoever arrived first at a camp got a brew on and then, after admiring the view and getting their breath back, started sorting the tent, roll mats, sleeping bags etc for themselves and their tent partner. The sort of thing that comes naturally to experienced mountaineers who realise that synergy is so important. You don’t count the cost or take turns – it just happens.
In the mighty Khumbu Icefall
When we first entered The Khumbu Icefall it was quite an emotional experience. Suddenly we were in the steps of the great pioneers. We’d all read the books and it was all so historical and evocative. Everyone upped the ante and changed from fun trekking mode to fun expedition mode and it was noticeable that everyone just sharpened their senses.
Looking up The Western Cwm with The Lhotse Face in the centre and The Geneva Spur the obvious rocky outcrop just left of centre leading diagonally off to the left and on up to The South Col.
A few forays up and down the hill through the icefall and up The Western Cwm and we were ready for our summit bid. In the old days folk used to camp higher and higher on the assumption that they were acclimatising. Nowadays we realise that round about 6,500m is the threshold and beyond there a) you don’t acclimatise and b) you just deteriorate.
The weather was all over the place for a few days and indeed we arrived and slept at Camp 3 (7,100m) on the way to the summit only to have to come back down to C2. It wasn’t bad enough for long enough to warrant going to Base Camp so we stayed at C2 for 5 nights. Then back to C3 and on up to The South Col. Again the wind spiked and we stayed at The South Col for 24 hours and then set off in to the night. Exciting stuff. The downside, however, was that not only had some other teams sat it out as well but others had then arrived the following day for their summit bid – so there were twice as many people as we’d have hoped.
It turned out to be a fantastic moonlit night, but at times a painfully slow journey. There was a queue pretty much most of the way up to The Balcony. My feet got pretty cold and were getting colder due to inactivity. I pondered this for the interminable minutes standing still and couldn’t work out why. I had the same boots as 2005 when it had been colder and windier. I had smartwool liners and mountain socks, the same as last time. I had some foot warm up sachets and I’d checked thast they were working. Yes, we were going slowly, but why were my feet this cold? Ponder, ponder.
The only reason I could come up with was that the liner socks were my wife’s and were too tight for me and were constricting circulation, albeit ever so slightly. So on arriving at The Balcony, when everyone else was changing cylinders or taking on fluids and food, I whipped my boots off, took off my mountain socks and removed my liners. They froze the instant I’d removed the inner boot and it was paramount that I get my big socks back on and my feet in to my boots before they froze as well.
I’d been rehydrating along the way whilst waiting for folk to move so there was no other reason for me to stop. Within a couple of minutes I’d managed to sort my feet out and was on the move. I over took about 30 to 40 people who were still loitering and being tended to by their Climbing Sherpas. The rest of my group had sensibly moved straight through, as we had agreed previously in the event of any queues, as they could change cylinders later.
Looking back down to The Balcony and some of the people we’d managed to zip past.
I soon caught up with Jen and Susan who were going fine. We fragmented slightly around the South Summit, as I’d encouraged everyone to go at their own pace. Yes we were a strong, dynamic, closely bonded group – but not on summit day. You go for it with your Sherpa and don’t wait for the others – don’t jeopardise yourself. Maybe we’ll meet on the summit, maybe not. Giles had managed to get ahead of the crowds and summited at just after 5 in the morning and Partha summited at around 7.30. I’d seen them both as they were descending and they seemed to be suitably chuffed. Smiles and handshakes, a brief chat and then onwards. Ever so slowly. Onwards and upwards.
I summited around 9.15. Jen and Susan and their Climbing Sherpas arrived whilst I was still on the summit – which is hardly surprising as I spent an hour and a half up there. It was a great day to be on the top again. Not too cold and no wind. The view was as spectacular as I remembered albeit spoilt slightly by the cloud that meant only the very highest peaks were visible. In 2005 my camera only had the facility to do 30 seconds of video but I managed to fit in a 360 panorama and we only stayed for maybe 15 minutes. This time I had unlimited video capacity and managed to get a slower more comprehensive video. I get a lot of comments from folk on YouTube about how good it is which is a great compliment.
It was a fantastic culmination to a great expedition. Without a doubt it the best and most exciting work I have done. I enjoyed it so much that I’m going back again next year! Watch this space.
On the summit of Everest.