Monday, 22 October 2007

Back in the UK - final post for Cho Oyo

A little later than I had hoped but here are a final few comments.

A number of people did attempt to go back up the mountain the day we left for Base Camp but were beaten back by the weather again. This time they did not even make it to camp 1 before they had to return to ABC.

The climbing season on Cho Oyo has reputably been the worst for many years with only a handful of early climbers making the summit and most of these suffering in some way from frost bite. In normal years well over 100 people will make the summit.

Although I did not make the summit my main objective was to experience high altitude climbing in the Himalaya and to come back with all my fingers and toes. To that extent it was a success and allows me to better judge other possible climbs. I would however be lying if I did not say that I was a little disappointed to have had such bad weather that it was not possible to make an attempt on the summit.

First picture is of one of the docile Yaks that do most of the carrying up to ABC. The second is of safely back in Kathmandu having pizza and beer!

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Storm on the mountain

Well I am back from the mountain at ABC. We had a terrible storm and only got to camp 2 again but at this stage I am just glad to be back at ABC and in one piece with all my fingers and toes! Camp 2 lost a number of tents over night and camp 1 lost between 20 and 25% of all the tents including 4 of Russ's. Of the 4 tents that Russ lost one was the tent I was in the night before. As I have said we are now back at ABC and the decision has been made to try and rescue some of the equipment from the mountain before we pull out back to Base Camp and then Kathmandu. I will fill you in with the whole story once I am back but at the moment power is very low on the computers as there has been very little sun for the batteries and so we have been asked to keep things short and sweet.

Home sweet home

Morning after we got back showing all the snow that had fallen at ABC. It was much worse up on the mountain. Very glad to be back home at ABC!!!!!

Getting down safely

Back safely on the moraine, a picture of Neema carrying most of my equipment.

Changing back to normal boots

Changing from high altitude boots to normal boots for the decent down to ABC. The winds were gusting up to 100km/hr

Carnage at camp 1

Carnage at camp 1 on our way back down from Camp 2. The second picture shows in the foreground a few stakes in the ground which is all that is left of my tent from the previous night!

Me with my sherpa

Me and Sherpa (Neema) for summit day.

Departure morning...

A beautiful sunny morning on the day of our departure from ABC to camp 1.

Sunday, 23 September 2007

Camp 2

Camp 2 is at 7100m is certainly the highest I have ever been and certainly slept at! When I say slept I mean I went into my tent at 5:45pm and lay there listening to the wind and watching the snow blow in through every tiny hole and crack until 6:00am. I did not feel as if I slept at all and it was certainly one of the most uncomfortable nights I have ever had. Picture is of the zips of the inside of our tent at camp 2. The whole inside of the tent was covered in ice. Everytime the wind blew or we turned over in bed we were covered in ice. Not a very comfortable night.
It took 2hrs to boil water and pack up camp, something that would take 10 minutes down at sea level. We left from camp 2 just after 8:00am, got back to camp 1 at 10:30am and ABC just before 1:00pm. I think it is fair to say I was completly exhausted! All the teams with Russ have now completed their climatisation and to celebrate Russ threw a little party with red wine, beer and wiskey. A great way to relax and I certainly had a headache for a different reason in the morning!

We now have 2 rest days at ABC before we go for the final push to the summit which is currently scheduled for 25th Sep. We should reach the summit around 8 or 9am which is 3 or 4am UK time.

The Ice Cliff on the way to Camp 2

Jim, one of the other clients with Russ traversing the ice cliff.

Adrian, one of the guides with Russ just starting the steep section of the ice cliff.

Towards Camp 2 and the ice cliff

From Camp 1 we set off along the ridge, rising slowly and leaving the tents of Camp 1 behind.

It is a challenging climb with a huge ice cliff looming in front of us. It does not look much but at nearly 7000m it is very tough

Overnight at at Camp 1

Pictures taken from Camp 1 where we stayed the night of 17th. The first looking down into camp where all the other teams have their tents and the second looking up the hill to the summit. These were both taken at approx 6:30am.

Leaving ABC

As scheduled, I went to camp 1 on 17th to spent the night before going up to camp 2 on 18th. Pictures taken while on a walk from ABC camp to Poo Na La pass (not sure of spelling) This is where last year the chinese shot at some people they expected of people smuggling. We were not shot at nor did not see any soldiers although were told plenty were around.

Monday, 17 September 2007

Morning on the mountains

07:00 ABC. The Sherpas come round to all tents with a hot cup of sherpa tea. There is nearly always a dusting of snow first thing (outside and somehow inside the tent as well!) Typical temperatures have apparently been very mild at -4 to -10C at night.

09:00 Sunrise over Cho Oyo this morning.
I had my best night's sleep last night. I woke at 3:30am with a slight headache rather than one that felt as if it was going to split my head apart and it was gone but 4:45am. I was almost crying with joy that I might finally be past the worst of it.
The outline schedule for next week is currently
Monday 17th: Up to Camp 1 with final stuff (most of it now in tents up there). Spend night. (6400m)
Tuesday 18th: Camp 1 to Camp 2 with some equipment. Spend night at camp 2. (7100m)
Wednesday 19th: Camp 2 back to ABC for rest
Thur 20th and Fri 21st: Rest Days

Chocolate cake, whisky, wine and chips!

Spoke to Kim and the children today. When Russ found out it was our 11th wedding anniversary he got the sherpas to make a chocolate cake. We all had red wine with our meal and a shot of whisky over the cake and everyone toasted us on our 11 years of marrage. First alcohol on 10 days. Very nice and a bit of fun and a lot of what Russ does is to try and keep spirits up and everyone focused on the hard work ahead of us.
Food has been very good at camp. Yak burgers, steak, lots of soups, eggs, lots of spam, various home made breads and tinned fruits. Most of this would not fill me with excitement back in London but up here it is very very good. We also had chips the other day!

Testing the equipment

With the boss (Russ) - just testing that the oxygen masks works.

Chris and Shaun at Camp 1 for the first time on 14th September. This was the first time up and I carried and left my big boots, crampons and ice axe. Further equipment will be carried up by Sherpas and myself over the next week. It took 3:45 to get up from 5700m to 6400m and 2:05 to get down. We spent a total of 1:15 up at Camp 1. The next time up we go up we will be spending the night.

Puja ceremony

The Puja ceremony is carried out by the Sherpas before they go very high on the mountain. It consists of a lot of chanting, incense and then drinking and dancing. No-one works on Puja day.
It can not be under estimated the amount of work the Sherpas do for us. The loads they carry up the hill in preparation of the summit push is incredible. All the tents, sleeping bags, roll matts, stoves, oxygen, etc., etc. The speed they go up the mountain is incredible but the speed they come down is truely amazing, often runnning pushing and joking with each other while us and other westeners stagger with fatigue!

It's as easy as ABC..

We are at Advance Base Camp now and the group seems to be in good spirits. Here we aclimatise further and during the days climb up to Camp 1 to deposit some of our serious mountain kit, then back to ABC for the night. The pictures are of the team at ABC and then a view of the valley after ABC but before the climb up to Camp 1.
Hygene is a very important part of camp living. We are told to wash our hands every time we enter the dinning tent and as many other times during the day as is possible. There are a few cases of upset stomachs so far but nothing too bad.

Thursday, 13 September 2007

Arrival at ABC

I have not been so good since my arrival at ABC, although I have been sleeping better than most i.e. 2hrs at a time but for a least 3 or 4 times during the 12 hr nights. Bedtime is 8pm and the Sherpas bring you tea at 7am when there is always snow on the outside of the tent and ice or condensation on the inside of the tent, which certainly wakes you up. Nights have been tough with really bad headaches. I have been on Dimox, neurofen and paracetamol all at the same time and it does not seem to be having much effect. The doctor seems happy with my progress but did not allow me to go for a walk with the rest of the team today. It is now the 3rd consecutive rest day for me. One girl on a treck to ABC was carried down to BC today as she was too unwell to walk and one of the Norwiegen girls has returned to BC to try improve her condition. I hope this will not be necessary for me.

I have a lovely red tent which will be my home for the next few weeks. As you can see, I have been woring hard on perfecting the crazy paving patio ouside of the tent.

Safe arrival at base camp

After 36hrs in a truck on some of the worst roads I have ever seen we arrived at Base Camp (BC) 5,000m. It was good to finally arrive and apart from being very tired I felt very well. It was also very good to meet with the rest of the team who had been there for 2 days after travelling slowly over 7 days from Kathmandu.

The following day I was allowed to join the rest of the team for a small walk up behind BC to practice using various pieces of equipment. We climbed 180m and it took nearly an hour. In Chamonix I was able to do 600m in an hour! Russell said that the team were leaving for ABC camp the following day and that it would probably be better for me to stay down at BC for a couple of days but he would reserve judgement until after the doctor had given me the once over. Doctor gave me the once over and said that my blood pressure was as if I were at sea level which was exceptional. My oxygen saturation level was 82% which was also very very good for 5,000m (although with anything under 90% in the UK you would be sent to hosital straight away), and my resting heart rate was 80 which again was very acceptable. They therefore gave me the option of starting the journey with the rest of the team to Advance Base Camp (ABC) which I obviously took as I wanted to continue to bond with the rest of the team wih which I will be climbing with over the next month.

We set off in a truck from BC to interim BC camp (approx 1hr and 400m rise). From here on it will all be by foot. We walked for 4 1/2hrs rising a total of 500m and falling by 200m i.e. it was a lot of up and down. As I arrived in ABC, I was beginning to get a headache but other than that I had a good appetite. It was from here that we gor out first good view of the splendour of the mountain that we are going to get to know very well over the next few weeks.

The journey to Base Camp II

We then transferred to a larger lorry. The water had gone down by a foot or so and after a 3/4 hrs delay and after seeing 4 other lorries make the high speed dash across the torrent, we gave it a go. The picture taken from the cabin of the lorry where seven of us were crushed in. I don't scare easily but this might be the scariest thing I have ever done!

The journey to Base Camp

For those who have been logging in the hope of seeing some news for me - apologies that it has taken so long for me to get something to you. The communications that we all take for granted evapourated soon after leaving the major metroplois of Kathmandu.

Russell and I knew before we set off that there had been problems with the access road from Kathmandu to Cho Oyo base camp. The road in fact had been washed away in parts by heavy flooding and rainfall and repairs were underway allowing us only to travel during the nightime hours when the workmen were resting. We were prepared for the worst and it certainly lived up to expectations.

On the way from Kathmandu, a swollen river had come across the road and no traffic could cross from either side. On the far side of the river, the previous night, a rock had fallen from the steep sided valley and killed the driver of a lorry and injured another man. A rescue attempt was underway when we arrived and they had backed up two lorries as far as they dared to try to breach the river and transport the injured from the far side of the river. They had made a makeshift bridge with some planks of wood bridging the gap from the back of one lorry to the back of the other and on a couple of occasions the force of the river was so great that it seemed that the lorries would be washed away. Despite the instablility of this arrangement, they then proceeded to walk the injured man accross from the far side so that he could be taken to hospital. The body of the deceased was ceremoniously burned by the river in front of us all.

Thursday, 30 August 2007

Count down to Cho Oyo

I finished my training with a 5 hour walk yesterday which included over 1000m of vertical. I feel as fit as I have ever done but whether this will be enough only time will tell. 3 days before I leave, time for some good food and quality time with the family.

Climbing with Harvey

Today I went up to Brevent with Harvey and Mark Seaton. This was Harvey's first multi-pitched climb and we completed a 2 and 3 pitched climb before the weather turned. Harvey had a great time.