Six days in Namche … and still stuck!

We spent six days back down at the valley of Namche Bazaar (3,400m or c3km below base camp) – the largest village in the Khumbu and an important trading centre after we had decided against going back up for the small summit window our guide had suggested. So far we are still waiting for the chopper to get us back to b/c. Fog in the valley and at Lukla keeps us grounded for now. Fingers crossed.

Namche is not cheap and in fact is considered the most expensive village in Nepal (2-3x prices of Kathmandu). We enjoyed oxygen rich air, the food (mainly at Sherpa Barista coffee & Nirvana), beers & pool at the world’s highest Irish pub (some good dancing of Jon & Audrey from Canada) and a 24/7 opened place called Cafe Danphe. Fun times and a welcome change from by now boring base camp life. Other options are limited. I got a hair cut and my first ever beard trim, visited the sherpa museum and the (unimpressing) monastery. 



Much of our time we spent discussing our decision to pass on the small summit window and trying to source info on weather and the next possible window being essentially cut off from the usual expedition newsflow and with essentially no contact to base camp.

Its fair to say that we were all gutted. After HIMEX rope fixing efforts spectacularly imploded, The Ghurkas, I believe Madisson and also our team stepped up. Our concern was that this overstretches our teams ressources and that rope fixing and guide summits had now taking priority over client summits. I guess there remains a lot to discuss, but memories of our time here weren’t helped to say the least. 

First summits: Both our guides and two sherpa’s made the top of Everest early the 16th. Steve sumitted Lhotse. 

Waiting for the chopper: Today we were heading back to b/c with a chopper to get into position for our own summit push – hopefully sometime around the 23-25th May. Time is running out with summits historically happening between 17-23rd May. Maybe we have to hike back up …

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Climbing back down …

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.


Jon and I didn’t wait long and left for Panboche right after lunch. Idea was to get to Namche the day after. Blake, rory and scott were to follow by chopper the day after. 

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. 


At panboche bakery we waited out a bit of rain while enjoying a large piece of chocolate cake with a khumbu kölsch. Trekkers lunch!


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. 

Fun puja ceremony, but sad departure of Blake

The Puja ceremony is the traditional blessing a buddhist monch delivers to climbers and sherpa’s alike. The stone altar, which sherpa built from rubbles in the camp, had been fitted with gifts for the gods including coca cola, sherpa beer and all sorts of food (none of which would be wasted in the end). We also put some climbing gear down for blessing (me: summit socks, ice axe, helmet and mittn). At the end we all handed over R500ish in pur white scarfs (the money would then magically disappear) and received pur blessing. All good then.




It was the first day where we were ‘allowed’ alcohol on the hill. Beer, chang (local rice wine) and rum shots got us going though our group is certainly not the party animal type.

While we had our puja, it emerged that Blake’s ankle situation just didn’t get better. He decided to head home instead of risking his live on the hill with a pre-existing condition. Tough, but wise choice of one of the strongest climbers in our team. Bad news is that his insurance doesn’t provide cover for this. Good bye Blake and a swift recovery! 


After Blake left Jon, Rory and I headed over to celebrate another Puja with the indian army. Many were well pissed by the time we arrived, but it was fun. They have 14 climbers of which 10 will go without oxygen. Good luck. It won’t be easy, but then they are all some sort of special forces and well trained. 

Glacier wonderland: Scouting out the lower Khumbu icefall 

Watch the video below for some good Khumbu icefall footage from today! 

Link to youtube clip
The day most of us had been waiting for had finally arrived. We’d get our climbing gear ready and head for the Khumbu icefall. Hard to put words on this maze of ice towers shiny as diamonds and deadly as poison if you don’t watch out.


The route had been marked by the icefall doctors with bamboo sticks though Tim didn’t find the entrance initially. Scott at first and a sherpa Tim called from our camp then pointed us in the right direction.




From there it was initially all straight until we hit the first fixed ropes. Gets you pumping quite a bit when you maneuvre yourself up. So far without using jumars. The views of the glacier behind and above you are just stunning.

Altogether, we managed some 170m altiude gain from base camp or about 20% of the overall icefall we have to cross to reach camp 1 @ 6,000m.

The way down was easy and hot! We bumped into a Korean climber I had read about … he lost all his fingers to frostbiteon  his last Lhotse attempt. Now he is back to settle some bills with the mountain I guess. Respect to his attitude!


Tomorrow is puja day. So bhuddist prayers and local cheng (low vol locally brewerd moonshine / rice wine). Don’t expect too many mountain pics ;o) 

5,800m test hike; bye Mo & Zena

Having rested and waited out fairly stormy weather we decided to go for a climb today. Mo and Zena said goodbye and made their way towards Loboche and will probably climb up to Kala Patthar (5,500m) for some great views of Everest & co. Will miss you both! 

Our hike took us through base camp (25min to entrance from our site … more if you get lost) and then pretty much straight up the hill. The terrain featured loads of boulders and slippery underground. 

Pace wise, Steve (Australia), Jon and Rory took the lead. I was much slower and formed the challenger group by myself. Its just that every step takes effort and if you go to fast you burn. So take it slow. I arrived some 20min after the leaders – not too bad for a 400m altitude gain. We were now at 5,650m. Steve (photo) arrived 10min after me and Billy turned around half way still struggling to find his breath. Blake didn’t start at all and continues to nurse his ankle(s).


After a brief eat & drink rest in a thankfully sheltered place (winds were super strong sometimes throwing me off balance), I continued my way higher. Only the guides Tim and new arrival Scott (assistant guide) did the same while my fellow climbers returned to base camp.

The way higher led onto even more slippery terrain and so I tried to climb using the larger boulders. After less than an hour we got to 5,800m. Great views of Everest summit, Lhotse and the entire base camp neatly located next to the massive Khumbu glacier.


The way down was mixed. First, I did twist my ankle (still hurts, but not much swollen). Second, the traffic into base camp picked up massively with loads of trekkers around and slowing things down. Finding our camp wasn’t easy either as the sun had melted snow and ice to the extent that the whole scenery changed. Amazing! 

Afternoon and evening were quiet, as most of us were tired. Still waiting for better wifi.