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Gavin Bate Everest 2002 Expedition

APRIL 20 2002 Advance Base Camp, Everest.

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Nights don't come more windy and noisy than the one we had before our second carry to the north col. Will reported the tent virtually turning inside out on him, so that at one point one of the poles was jabbing him in the face.

Far in the distance we could hear the steady mammoth roar of the wind blowing over the summit, like hearing the boom of the surf without actually seeing the sea; then above that an insidious hiss, a sort of high pitched whine of the wind gathering itself over the north ridge which came rolling down the valley at terrific speed so that lying in your tent, you find yourself tensing up for the impact. When it did, there was a frenzy of wind, flapping tents, ropes snapping taut and boulders being broken loose on the slopes around us. Our toilet tent was the first to go, flimsy guy lines snapped free and the whole structure carried clear and thrown to the ground.

Our mess tent, sturdily held with numerous ropes tied to 30 kilo rocks, held firm thankfully. But Will and I slept little. Our second carry to the north col began with deep concern. Neither of us felt up for it, faces drawn and puffy from the lack of sleep; Will murmured something about a rather necessary toilet visit, only to find no toilet tent. There was a panicky search for large rocks. it took ages to get a rhythm; getting your stride and breathing right at high altitude over loose moraine and then wind-swept glacier is not easy. It takes practice and for much of the first hour or so I sounded like a gut-shot buffalo.

We donned crampons at the beginning of the ice and trekked onto the glacier. Crevasses need to be negotiated, although they are not wide this early on in the season, and we plodded on. At intervals the two of us leant on our poles, aware that our legs felt like two pieces of cooked spaghetti. it was going to be a hard day! At the base of the headwall we put on our harnesses and started climbing. We were the only westerners on the face carrying gear. Sherpas doing carries for commercial expeditions waltzed past us with smiles and lots of chat. They seemed impressed by our determination to go up. In fact, amazingly, we knocked a full forty minutes off our time from the first time we went to the north col.

Our little tent we had put up was still there, despite the storm, and we flaked out inside. Now, with this carry, our little cache at 23,000' was looking good. Two more carries and we will have camp 1 stocked with everything we need to tackle the rest of the mountain. After a few minutes of nauseating self-congratulation, we literally streaked down the headwall. In a little over 20 minutes of lung-bursting rappelling and 'wrapping' (basically run forward down the slope with one arm wrapped round the rope), we were at the bottom and soon back in ABC Camp where Tirta our cook had knocked up a fancy potato soup with prawn cocktail crackers.

Today is a rest day and tomorrow another big carry to the north col. Oh joy. Interestingly most of the other groups have left ABC and gone back to Base Camp, 23kms down the valley, to get a bit of thick air. They have left their sherpas to set the mountain so most of the time we meet them on the mountain. The joy of not having a Sherpa means we must stay and put in our camps ourselves. A couple of other groups are doing the same - the Russians in particular are simply wonderful and have already spent three nights on the north col (a strategy Will and I disagree with) and actually put in 400 meters of rope to the second camp.

When we met them on the headwall coming down yesterday, they looked as if they had spent some time naked in the epicentre of the storm. Deep new lines were etched on their faces, their teeth and gums bled and there was that lumbering gait of the extremely exhausted about them. We hugged and shook hands and wished them luck. Moments like that on a mountain like Everest are not to be forgotten, I am sure there will be more, and far more dramatic.

Then we met the Mexicans - new additions to ABC with much fanfare and raising of huge flags (soon to be whipped away by the indifferent wind) - who were on their first push to north col.

Will and I felt they hadn't spent enough time at ABC before going up, and boy did they look it! You know that look on someone's face when they are so drunk that they lose control over their features and become sort of wax-like? Our jolly "Allo Mechicanos! Como star ?" was met with all the reaction of one of Madame Tussauds effigies.

Oops. "Only thirty five minutes to go!" we chorussed together, smiling encouragement. An hour later we looked back and they had hardly moved. Oops. Guess we won't be invited to the tequila party.

Bizarrely we met a couple of folks who were booked to go just to the north col with Russel Brice's crew. They looked completely shagged, on their first foray out of ABC. Good acclimatisation though. Will and I stopped to say hello. "Did you know that Roy Keane is out of football for about nine months?" one gentleman said. "Erm, no, matter of fact we didn't". "And that Beckham didn't play in the latest qualifying match?".

Much shaking of heads and deep frowns from Will and I. "No, hadn't a clue mate". "Well, England got through anyway". Nods, smiles. We moved on. Ah, the priorities of Life. So now we are just relaxing in our Berghaus ABC gear (little ad) and I am trying to nurse a sun burnt tongue. Yes, you heard it. You tend to gasp and pant with your mouth open and with the reflection off the snow, my tongue got burnt. No hot chili pickle for me today, although Will was popping neat chillies over lunch which has rendered the toilet tent completely out of bounds for the rest of the afternoon.

We were in our respective tents reading, resting etc when the most abrasive of American accents cut through the now still air of ABC. "Goddamn!" yelled the voice with complete indignation, "I said GODDAMN ! I was told when I booked this trip that ahh would have the sun south west of mah tent!" Whaaaat? This has been a source of much amusement to Will and I all day. Ah well, small things please small minds.

THANKS FOR ALL YOUR INTEREST SO FAR! I UNDERSTAND THAT THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE ARE ON THE MAILING LIST AND WE JUST WANT TO SAY...( alright, enough of the dramatics caps ) it is really appreciated. We read all the messages, every one. Sorry we can't reply to them all.

Greetings to you all,

Gav and Will


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