First up, thanks for all the generous donations since my last post especially from AH. It is really appreciated!
We finally departed for our first summit bid on 8th May early doors (3am). I left with Steve (also Lhotse bound and a machine on the hill). The everest bound guys had already left on the 6th. Our plan was to hike up to camp 2, rest 1 day, then progressively move up the hill to summit on the 11th morning. It was meant to be the early, early window. The team to fix ropes was on the hill and meant to get the job done between 6-8 may. So far the theory …
The climb up to camp 2 was the usual. Decent 5hours through the icefall and a very slow and cruel walk through the western cwm of 6hours. It remains my weak spot. But then there is always the rest day at camp 2 to recover. The mood was good. Other teams including the team in charge of fixing ropes to the summit (himex led by kiwi climbing legend russel brice and star climber kenton cool and david tate) were positioned at camp 3 ready to move to the south col and to the top. We listened to their radio chat and all looked set – we are going up.
Now to practice: The everest guys left 5.20am for camp 3 as planned. We were to follow a day after. By the time steve and I had our breakfast, the bad news broke that ropes in fact hadn’t been fixed. The official version was new snow (waist deep at the balcony on the way to everest summit) and resuming winds that caused unworkable conditions for the fixing team (risk of frostbite etc). However, there was an incident earlier that i think certainly played a part. A sherpa on lhotse apparently slipped on his way down though got saved by the anchors in place (some say he got injured, others not). Sherpa work on the hill stopped for two days. Probably as much responsible for the failure to get the job done. We heard stories of kenton cool and his (rich) private client offering a years salary to the fixing sherpa’s to make things happen. They didn’t. With all major teams on the hill leaving and conditions challenging, we also headed down. Bad luck.
We only made it to loboche after a tiring day and stayed there. We had a little pubcrawl on the way enjoying a cold beer in gorak shep and had a fun evening in ‘above the cloud’ lodge where we met two US trekkers and played monopoly deal before retiring to the room. I had downloaded a few movies. Jon introduced me to a skateboarder cult movie (lords of dogtown) and o shoed him Leon (he loved it).
Next day started very late. We had a long way ahead of us if we wanted to get to namche (some 20km). Before we left, we quickly dropped a message to the team asking for the status. The last thing we wanted was a ‘please come back to base camp’ type message while just descending the khumbu valley.
Right after loboche we passed by the graveyard of himalayan climbers, most famously scott fischer who tragigally died in the 1996 events alongside rob hall and many clients. Readers of ‘into thin air’ (jon krakauer) and ‘the climb’ (anatoly bukreev) will be aware of the story as the everest drama.
We got to panboche via dughla (quick pitstop) and pheriche (same) by 1.30pm. By then, we had confirmation that blake, rory and scott had already made it to namche (having coffee at the everest bakery). All looked clear …
The hike down was beautiful. Increasingly better air, bushes and trees, nicer villages (rather than saisonal outposts further up), rivers and gorges and sunny weather. Super enjoyable and one of the best days yet. No itinerary, just time by ourselves.
From there the path takes you to tengboche monastery. However, there was potentially news that might require a quicker than planned return to base camp. What a mess! In order to assess/decide we had to make it to namche tonight. We got there by 7.30pm after a much enjoyably walk into sunset.
Rory grabbed us as we walked past the sherpa barista restaurant/coffee shop. Discussions in full swing. In the end we decided to stay at Namche to rest for a few days back in civilisation, but that will be anothers days story.