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Gavin Bate Everest 2002 Expedition

APRIL 15 2002 Advance Base Camp, Everest.

Looking out of the mess tent door, the north east ridge of Everest cuts the sky in two in one direction; the North ridge divides it in the other. Black and fissured with myriad gullies and ice-filled cracks, the north side of the largest mountain on earth is almost too large for the mind to comprehend. What is even more awesome is that just on the other side of the North ridge is the rest of the north face, the mighty Kangshung Face.

Tucked beneath it all, miniscule and puny, we climbers move like ants around the edge of the glacier, making what little homes we can out of this bleak landscape. But humans have become adept at creating comfort out of hardship, especially in these days; as I write Will is unwinding rolls of Wet Wipe for his daily body wash, not a pretty sight and one which his fiancée Rebecca in Australia will no doubt be nodding her head in understanding.

Lunch today was fried salami (crisped to a blackened coin), sardines in tomato sauce, Tibetan bread and a frozen apple. Gallons of Nepali tea, sweet and milky, is consumed to keep up our rehydration schedule. Also important is rest and recuperation.

Will and I rose groggily at 10am this morning for corn flakes, eggs on toast and more tea (oh yes, my months of planning included such luxuries) after which there was some fairly intensive relaxing, followed by exhausting reading and some deeply physical sitting down and doing nothing. Will went to the toilet once which I found tiring just to watch.

But serious events are looming.

Our first big push has been to 21,450', known as ABC, and it has been no easy task. Not from a technical point of view but simply slogging up glacier after glacier at altitude and trying to ensure our bodies acclimatize. Deep inside our bone marrow, workers are busily churning out extra red blood cells rich with oxygen to compensate for the lack of it up here in the air.

Gradually, but with increasing efficiency, our insides are getting used to being here. And now we're going up again! Climbing Everest is all about getting your rate of ascent right and allowing those little bone marrow workers enough time give our muscles enough oxygen and strength to go up. So Will and I rest, and eat and drink. But we're also mindful of the size of this big hill outside and the dangers that accompany any expedition to attempt it's distant peak. So we check gear, test crampons, try on boots, make cows tails (a highly technical term for a bit of rope coming off our harness with a jumar attached to the end with which we attach ourselves to any fixed ropes we or any other folk may put in) and talk tactics.

How much gear to take when, what to take, whether to put a tent up at 7000 meters etc etc. If you imagine putting in four camps above us and the sheer physical exercise in doing it, then our tactics are all-important! Pooey to those armchair critics who say it's all easy with Sherpas and ropes and Piccadilly Circus on the top - come and sit here and learn something!

We've had loads of good luck messages, I mean loads. It's so wonderful. A school in Oregon is following our progress - hello ! and many friends and associates have been effusive with their support. It means a lot, thank you, we appreciate every word and thought. Some people have asked us to bring back rocks from the summit, and I am currently negotiating with Will on just how many kilos he can realistically carry. Watch this space! I want to thank Graham Robey of Energy Development Co-operative for his solar equipment. It is quite brilliant and just think of this - no more batteries, ever. Lightweight, effective and relatively cheap, Will and I are convinced of it's practicality and environmental efficiency. No really, it is true.

Thanks also to Chris Tiso. One of my best friends and personal sponsor to me and for the kit we are now using up here. Chris, you're a star, thank you so much. Best dressed, best equipped, no question. Ever since Graham Tiso was supplying the Bonington trips in the 70's, Chris has maintained that same standard of absolute quality. And no better manufacturers to use up here than Berghaus and Rab.

I am Mr. Berghaus at the moment - only my undergarments are from some back street Kathmandu vendor! Everything else is top quality Berghaus clothing. When it comes to summiting we'll be into some serious Rab down gear, more of that later. Will has a personal message for the Ardclinis clan, a complete mystery to anyone except those in the know - you wouldn't get away with grass skirts up here Mal!

So it's goodbye from us - goodbye, and I'm just off for a visit to the toilet with a view.

Love Gav and Will


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