Monday, 25 May 2009

Summit update

I am sorry that this update has taken a little while to get through to you but what with the bad weather (little solar power) and everyone wanting time on the computer to send e-mails and reply to e-mails it has been a little difficult. Even now there is a queue of 5 or 6 people wanting to use it so I will have to keep this update slightly more brief than I would have otherwise liked.

Photo number:

1: Playing cricket at camp 2 (6,400m). If you remember earlier in the trip we had gone down to 5,000m to where 2 English teams had come to play the highest cricket match in the world. I don't think our game will count as we just had a knock around but it was great fun and it took our minds off the impending climb. It was fantastic to have a knock around with the Sherpas who really enjoyed it and relaxed a little before the next 4 days of hard work.

My trip from camp 2 to camp 3 was very difficult. I had a very churney stomach and felt very bloated. Half way up the Lhotse face I heard on the radio that Thomas, one of the Norwegians had to turn back due to a stomach upset - he found he had no energy at all. It was very worrying for all of us as a couple of people (including Chris Jones my tent mate) had only just recovered from a 36hr bug. At Camp 3 I had very bad wind problems and spent the whole day terrified that I had the bug and I would not be able to proceed to Camp 4 the following day. Everyone that had had the bug so far had not been able to climb for 36hrs!
When I woke at Camp 3 feeling good and less bloated the relief I felt was incredible. I had a poo into a poo bag (very difficult at -15C in a down suit on an ice cliff) and popped a couple of immodium. There was one other person who had had the same symptoms and again seemed much better this morning. I think we had both been very lucky and had only picked up a mild version of the bug going around.
Thomas tried again yesterday afternoon to get to camp 3 but failed half way. He then tried 36hrs later with the second group coming up behind us and failed again. It was very sad as he was one of the stronger members of the whole team. Likewise a member of the second team, Jim, was also struck down by the bug which led to him passing out just before the Lhotse face.

2: Picture from South Col camp 4 (7,950m). There are only 14 mountains higher than 8,000m so here where our last camp is we are sleeping higher than every mountain in the world arpart from the 14 that are in the Himalaya.

We started using Oxygen at camp 3 to help us sleep. We used a low flow rate of just 1/2 litre per minute but it enabled me to have a really good night's sleep. We left Camp 3 for Camp 4 on an oxygen flow rate of 2 litres per minute and for a few hundred metres it felt wonderful. After that it felt just as hard as without oxygen but I am sure we were moving much faster than we would have without it.

3: A couple of our tents at South Col with the large pile of oxygen bottles to the right. These, as well as tents, sleeping bags, roll mats and cooking equipment, had all been carried from BC to the South Col by the Sherpas over the previous days and weeks.

4: Edward on my tent at the South Col.

5: The sky finally getting light after around 4 hours of climbing. This picture was taken at the South Summit of Everest 8,700m

After arriving at the South Col we immediately set to work melting and boiling water to rehydrate ourselves. Chris Jones and I managed to eat a little salami and cheese as well as a tomato soup. We again slept on Oxygen at 1/2 litre per minute. We finally finished at 6:30pm and tried to get some sleep. I amazingly managed to sleep for 3hrs. We had to get up at 9:30pm to again start boiling water for our climb. We spent 2 hrs boiling water and getting ready and left at just after 11:30pm.

Our first objective was a place called the Balcony (8,450m) where we were to dump one of our oxygen bottles and continue on the other one we were carrying. We arrived after 3hrs still in the complete dark. There was very little light from the moon, although we did get some wonderful views of a thunderstorm over Nepal.

We then continued onto the South Summit.

6: Looking towards the Hilary Step from the South Summit. Taken at 04:33 in the morning.

7: Five minutes later, beginning to climb the Hilary Step.

8: On the final snow ridge to the summit.

9: Still on the final snow ridge to the summit but looking towards the sun rise.

10: Finally on the summit after 6hrs and 5 mins of climbing from the South Col. Note the shadow of Everest on the clouds in the background. The Top of the World - Fantastic!

11: Dad and me.

12: Kim, Harvey, Safia and me.

13: Harvey and me.

14: Safia and me.

As my father never met my children, I felt that there would be no better or closer place to introduce them to each other.

15: Everest's shadow on the clouds.

16 and 17: Pictures of me on top of Everest next to the prayer flags and little Bhudda.

18: Picture taken on my way back down from the Balcony looking down onto the South Col and our camp.

I expected to find summit day a day from hell which is what you read in most books, but due to the all the aclimatisation and training climbs that Russ made us do, the quality of the food and camps, plus the fact that I probably had more adrenalin pumping through me than I have ever had, I really enjoyed the whole day. I was lucky to have Phuba leading me up and on many occasions we unclipped from the fixed ropes to get past people, this kept us moving fast and warm and I think had a great deal to do with my enjoyment of the day. While it is not something I would want to do again, it will be a warm and fantastic memory of a great day's climbing with wonderful people. A day I will certainly never forget.

Thank you to Russ and all of his team for such wonderful support in every respect, this summit would not have been possible without all of them!

Thank you all also for all the supporting comments I have received during this trip. They have brightened the long, cold days spent at base camp and inspired me to achieve my best.

Look forward to seeing you all very soon.

Love Chris

Friday, 22 May 2009

On top of the world!

After a fairly tense day yesterday knowing that 9/10 of the Himex team summited but no details of who, I received a call from Chris this morning from Base Camp reporting that he had reached the summit.

Those of you who know Chris well will not be surprised to learn that he was the first of his team to make it to the top and he did it in a remarkable 6 hours 5 minutes, when the more ‘normal’ time is around 9 hours. A superhuman effort!

He was looking forward to a shower and a good meal and intends to sink a few beers in the white pod this evening.

Love to you all from a very proud Dovell household.


Wednesday, 20 May 2009

The final push to the summit is on..

Another update from Adrian Ballinger by satelite phone (May 20th).

Our team of 10 climbers, 3 guides, 1 Discovery Channel cameraman and 11 sherpas are now getting a few hours of rest before their summit attempt.
The members took between 4+1/2 and 6 hours to climb from Camp 3 to Camp 4 at the South Col, experiencing some delays on ropes as they waited for descending climbers who had summited yesterday, but no significant problems.
The present plan is to leave Camp 4 at 11:30pm tonight (that’s 18:45 UK time) for their push to the summit. Although the last two days have seen a significant number of people summiting, there are still plenty of others who — like our team — plan to make their bid tonight. Adrian has seen the team from Asian trekking, Henry Todd’s team, and teams from Asia and Russia. His best guess is about 65 people, plus the 25 from our team. It’s going to be a busy time on the ropes. To increase our margin of safety, each of our climbers will have 3 bottles of oxygen. That’s enough for 24 hours, so if a log-jam occurs somewhere they can wait it out without difficulty.
The weather is perfect, not too cold and no wind. Our thoughts are with them, hoping for a fast ascent and a safe and easy descent back to Camp 4. As well as the primary Discovery Channel camera, 4 of our team are wearing helmet cams, so there should be plenty of footage when they get back down! We will report as soon as we can.
Adrian Ballinger by Sat Phone.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

At Camp 3

A report from Adrian Ballinger - one of the Himex guides by satelite phone
Our adventurers are just settling down to sleep at Camp 3. 10 of our 11 climbers made it successfully to this 23,600ft altitude, taking between 4 and 7 hours to climb up from Camp 2. One of the team had stomach problems and is delaying, hoping to catch up with the rest shortly.
Tonight they start sucking on their supplementary oxygen, which will help their bodies keep warm and will give them more of a chance to get some restful sleep. At 5:30am May 20th local time — that’s about 4:45pm PST our May 19th — they will be up, starting on the next leg of the climb up to Camp 4 at the Col. They hope to arrive there around lunch time, giving themselves another opportunity for rest before a midnight start for the summit on May 21st.
Other news we have from Everest tells us that the weather today has been superb and over a hundred climbers attempted to summit today. This volume of climbers led to bottlenecks on some of the ropes, and some of the climbers are later coming back down from the summit than they intended. We hope this all turns out safely and we will continue to monitor their progress. Hopefully today and tomorrow will see most of the summit attempts by other teams, and our group will find the route less obstructed on the 21st.
More news just as soon as we get it!

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Getting closer...

Well by the time this hits the Blog there is a good chance I will be on my way to the summit. Our plan is to climb from Base Camp to Camp 2 (5,300m to 6,400m) in one go and rest there for a day. We will then climb up the Lhotse Face to Camp 3 (7,300m). This is as high as we have been on our training climbs and is where we will potentially start using oxygen for the first time. The following day we will climbing to the South col (Camp 4 7,900m - just below the death zone at 8,000m). This will be more of a rest than a sleep as we will set off from here for the summit 8,850m anywhere from late evening to midnight.
After (hopefully!) reaching the summit, we will, after a few minutes, head back down to Camp 4 and, if we are strong enough, on down to Camp 2 where it is much safer. The summit day will probably be somewhere between 14 and 18 hours and it is said we will use between 14,000 and 18,000 calories! Looks like I might loose some more weight!

The team has been split into two and I will go with the first team. The team will consist of 11 clients, 12 Sherpas and 3 Western guides. We have each been assigned a Sherpa who will assist us on summit day. I have been very honoured to have been asigned Phuba, Russ's most experienced Sherpa, who now has 16 summits to his name and has already summited Everest this year when he fixed the ropes two weeks ago. Our western guides have 6 summits between them.

Just one photo this time of Phuba and me in Base Camp. I hope the next blog will contain photos of the summit!

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Waiting for the weather to clear...

Since the last posting it has continued to be very quiet here in Base Camp. Russ was right about the weather and the few teams that did try for the summit all had to turn back at the South Col (camp 4 at 7,900m) or earlier due to high winds. We learnt this morning that there has been some slight damage to tents at some of the camps but nothing that can not be replaced fairly easliy. Our Sherpas who were given a few days off by Russ are back this afternoon and the final load carrying up to the various camps will be completed over the next 48hrs.

The one good thing about the bad weather (light snow and cloud) for the last 3 days is that the additional moisture in the atmosphere seems to have helped my cough and so I am now raring to go!

The Himex team which started at 28 clients is now down to 22 (5 withdrawls and David Tait summitting). Some of the other larger teams here have lost similar percentages or more. Hopefully everyone that is now left has a realistic chance of summiting.

I have to say that, personally, I can feel the pressure mounting and am very keen to get going. A few more days and we should be off......fingers crossed.

Photo1: Base Camp under full moon.

Photo2: Russ with Lachu and Tashi his two main staff around camp. Lachu is in charge of Base Camp and has been on 26 expeditions with Russ. Tashi is Lachu's No.2. Both are great and can never do enough to help.

Photo3: Weather has now cleared but you can clearly see the very strong winds on top of the ridge leading to Nupste.

Replies to some of the comments left......thanks for all of them.

Paul and Linh: Congratulations on your news, how fantastic. WELL DONE. Hope I might see you if you are over in the summer and if not maybe later in the year in Dallas. Keep the comments coming there are great.

Alain: Arms and legs seem to be fading away to nothing, it is amazing how quickly the body seems to eat itself up here! Pity it leaves the beer gut in place!

Mum: Thanks for comments. Feeling better now and as ready as I can be to get to the top. Being with Russ should give you some comfort, he is a strong leader and has the total and absolute support and commitment of his Sherpa and Guide teams. He is a class act.

MarkO and Sarah: I am slowly getting through the tunes, particularly the green chill-out i-pod. Will try and take the red one to the summit and take a picture although I have been warned that they can crash above 7,000m.

Tamsin: Another couple of days yet. By the way all the guides, Mark Whetu, Woody and Dean either know you or have heard of you. Apparently Tim used to work for Mark and he stole you from him!!!! Dean - I think you had your first Himalyan trip with years ago. Mark has now summited Everest twice I think and the other two 5 times each!

Catherine and Phil: Great to hear from you both. Thanks for the comments. Pls send love back to parents.

Peter and Nikki: Thanks for the comments, Montrachet sounds very good. what I would give for a nice glass of wine now!

Mark Seaton: Great to hear from you. Last time I was in the Himalya you guided the North Face of the Eiger. Anything as exciting this time?

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Fresh salmon at 5,400m

The last few days here have been fairly dull as the weather up high is not very good and therefore we have been forced to wait in BC for things to change (particularly the wind). Today we were issued with our oxygen regulators and masks and Russ exlained how they worked and how to use them. Unfortunately the weather forecasts look poor for another week or so and so we might have to wait quite a long time before we get to use them.

One very special thing that happened today - we had fresh Salmon for lunch!!!!!! David Tait, one of the climbers who summited for the 3rd time with the Sherpas putting in the fixed rope on Wednesday, chartered a helicopter from a little further down the valley to take him back to Kathmandu. Russ arranged for the helicopter to bring in some fresh Salmon. How amazing fresh Salmon at 5400m!

I attach 2 photos. the first shows Phuba, Russ's Sidar (most senior Sherpa), in the foreground and David Tait. Phuba has now climbed Everest 15 times and helped put in the fixed ropes to the top last Wednesday. David went with the fixing team and summitted with them. The cooks made a fantastic carrot cake to celebrate that evening!

The second photo is a couple of hours later when we were in the white pod celebrating. Russ and some of the senior Sherpas doing a traditional Sherpa dance.

Some messages back to you:

Nancy: Have passed on your best wishes
Mum and John: thanks for your continuing comments and support, please keep them coming.
Huw: Good to hear from you. I am looking forward to a couple of beers very soon after I get back!
Pete & Nikki: Thanks for comment. Doing well and the Bear is watching my back. C U when I return.

Khumba ice falls claims a life

In the last update I said how pleased I was with my trip up the mountain and also how relieved I was to get through the Ice Fall in one piece. The pictures that I attached to that blog of the avalanche were taken just inside the ice fall but thankfully I was far enough away for it not to affect me. Half an hour earlier and it might have been a different story. Unfortunately, around 10:00am yesterday the same part of the Serac collapsed again, this time about twice as big. We immeadiately got on the radios to our collegues who were coming down from camp 2 and were pleased to learn that they were all out of the ice fall and walking back through BC. Due to the size of the fall they did get covered in a thin layer of ice but nothing else. Within minutes however it became clear that others were not so lucky. Obviously the exact events of those few seconds are unclear but the result was a guide and a client had been swept into a crevasse, the client on top of the guide. both were rescued after about an hour. The client was shaken but essentially OK, the guide was unconscious when extracted but recovered and was able to walk by the time they got him to BC. The terrible news was that a Sherpa was also swept into a crevasse and only his rucksack and one boot has been found. It is very sad that Everest has already claimed its first victim and the real climbing has barely began. Russ held a collection today for his family and has taken the money up to the camp where he worked - i hope other camps have done the same! It makes the money that i have raised through sponsorship seem very worthwhile now and I am gratefull to all those who gave so generously.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

The trip to and from Camp 3

I have completed the acclimatisation part of my climb and now have to wait for the right weather forecast before we can go for the summit. I also need at least 4 or 5 days rest after my recent trip to camp 3. Last Wednesday we left Everest BC at 2:30am. We walked in almost complete silence through Base Camp to Crampon Point where we attached our crampons and set off into the infamous Ice fall at just after 3am. It was pitch black and you could only see the area immediately in front lit by the narrow beam of the head torch. The sun was rising as we progressed through the Ice Fall, and we could see for the first time the real dangers all around us - from the towering pillars of ice that could come crashing down at any moment to the yawning crevasses hundreds of metres deep. Looking further up we could also see the huge hanging seracs above us that regularly come crashing down onto the Ice Fall. Thankfully because of our acclimatisation on Lobuche we all moved fairly quickly and by 7am were through it to camp 1. After a cup of tea most decided to remain at Camp 1 but a few, including me, decided to push onto Camp 2. The biggest problem believe it or not in the Western Cym is the intense heat which can reach 40C during the day and drain what strength you have left from you very quickly. I reached Camp 2 after another 3hrs and thankfully due to a very slight breeze the temperature never became overwhelming. I was very pleased to know that I now had 2 whole days at Camp 2 to relax before we tackled the famous Lhotse face at the end of the Western Cym, a climb of nearly 1,000m to Camp 3 at 7,350m.

Camp 3 was, as expected, miserable. You just feel awful, not wanting to do anything. Literally, getting up from a lying position to a sitting position to put another layer on or take a drink can sometimes take 30minutes to summon up the strength or willpower to do it. You just want to stay still and do nothing - I now understand why some people on summit day just sit down and give up! Anyway, we spent most of the time melting ice to drink or cook with. Each bowl of water take ages to melt and when it does it takes another age to boil and then it only boils at significantly below 100C so everything (even soup) takes ages to cook. After almost 6hrs of melting ice and trying to force some drink and food down me, I tried to sleep. This is where the real horror of extreme altitude gets me with little sleep and what sleep I did get coming in only 10min chunks and with weird repeating dreams. You just lie there waiting and praying for the cold dawn. Temperatures fell to -20C when we were there and we woke to winds of 40km/hr. Humans are not meant to be at this altitude for very long!

Returning to Camp 2 was a great relief and from there the following day down to Base Camp was even better. The air at base camp and the ease at which I can move around is amazing compared to just a few weeks ago when I arrived. I have picked up a bit of a cough but apart from that I feel strong and hopefully after a few days rest I get the opportunity to go for the summit!

Pictures 1 & 2 The infamous Ice fall
Picture 3 - Camp 1
Picture 4 - Edward in my tent at camp 2 6500m
Picture 5 - The Lhotse face going from around 6700m to 8000m. Bigger than it looks in the photos!
Picture 6 - picture of the summit of Everest from camp 3. Geneva spur can be seen on the right hand side followed by the South Col which is around 8000m and where camp 4 is.
Picture 7 - Edward at camp 3 with a harness and his own carabena.
Picture 8 - Me holding Edward at camp 3 in front of Everest.
Picture 9 - Edward on top of my tent at sunrise at camp 3.
Picture 10 - Me crossing one of the many crevasses
Picture 11 - Picture of 2 of the many ladders across the cravasses in the Ice Fall
Picture 12 - Picture of me in the Ice Fall. The block of ice in the top left hand of the photo will fall soon - thankfully not while I was there.
Picture 13 - A new ladder has been put in place as you can see the old one hanging below has been smashed by a serac fall.
Picture 14 - I have just got through the Ice fall and was having a drink when a serac fell causing an ice averlanche that covered the Ice Fall. My friends who were behind me got covered in a little ice but no-one was hurt.....just a little shaken!

Hope you enjoy the pictures and please keep the comments coming.

PS: Today some of our Sherpas and Sherpas from another team fixed ropes to the summit. It is the first time ropes have been fixed this early for 10yrs and so I hope it bodes well for an early season. Also David Tate, (has submitted twice before with Russ) went with the Sherpa team and summited today at about 12:30 after setting off at 3:00am. He is still on his way down as I write this blog.

Lobouche top camp

Photo of Lobuche top camp from Everest BC using a telescope on my camera. Shows how exposed the camp was.