Dispatch #7 Himalayan Guides 2003 Expedition Everest
Base Camp (BC) 2nd May 2003
Our preparations are complete
and we are waiting for a date for our summit bid. We have been up the Lhotse
Face to camp 3 in stormy conditions and have all returned safely to BC.
On 26th April, once again we
left BC for the climb through the icefall to Camp 2. We had our usual early
morning start to try to avoid the rigors of the midday sun on the Western Cwm.
Movement of the icefall had changed the route substantially. Our
acclimatisation and rest resulted in us being able to climb more quickly
through the icefall. We hit the top just before the sun came out. I had a real
struggle between camp 1 and camp 2 with the sun blazing down on me. Rob
arrived at camp 2 first, followed by Patrick and Vicky, and then myself. Kevin
was a little behind, and as he was negotiating the treacherous ground between
the top of the icefall and camp 1 he came across a climber who had fallen into
a crevasse, being rescued. Fortunately, the climber had been roped, but had
been unable to extricate himself without assistance. It looked to Kevin that
the climber had only one arm. Luckily, he appeared to be completely
uninjured after his removal from the crevasse.
27th April was a rest day,
preparing for the ascent of the Lhotse Face. The weather deteriorated
substantially as the day went on.
28th April, we awoke at 5am
to start our ascent, but it was obvious when we looked out of our tents at the
fierce wind driven snow that ascent would be impossible. We waited for a few
hours to see if things would improve, but instead they got worse, so
everything was called off for the day.
on 29th April, we awoke to
find a very slight improvement which we hoped would continue. We decided to
give it a go. After negotiating approximately a kilometer of undulating,
crevassed glacier, the Lhotse Face began with a 500ft pitch, varying from
steep to very steep! The rest was to continue in the same vein. Most sections
gave good purchase for crampons but some short sections were of slippery blue
ice which crampons scraped off and ice-axes bounced off. Rob and I arrived at
camp 3 about the same time, about 5 1/2 hours after leaving camp 2, followed
later by Patrick and Vicky, Kevin and Henry.
As we arrived at camp 3, we
were confronted by dozens of tents that had been shredded by the elements. Our
2 tents were on a ledge on the top of the camp area. One slip or wrong step
could result in a fatal plunge down the Lhotse Face, as happened to
unfortunate Korean climber in 1996. The weather conditions did not improve as
we had hoped, and we were forced to spend a very uncomfortable, sleepless
night huddled together, 3 in a tent. I was with Rob and Henry. Rob collected
snow and after great difficulty lighting our stove, Henry spent 3 hours
brewing snow melt to keep us warm and hydrated. In the next tent, Vicky was
feeling very cold, so Patrick rigged up some oxygen and a mask at 2L/min, and
this seemed to do the trick.
When 30th April dawned, we
were greeted by some tent rattling wind and some driven snow, which was
exactly what we didn't want. The Sherpas avoid this camp because of its
danger, and we didn't want to spend any more time there than was absolutely
necessary, but a descent in extreme weather, could be very risky. Slight
breaks in the weather began to occur and at about 9am, we made the decision to
descend. The cramped conditions in our tent meant that it took double our
usual time to get kitted out and moving. I had a particular problem putting my
crampons on outside in the driven snow, which resulted in my fingers in both
hands turning white (frostnip - the first stage of frostbite). Rob (a trainee
surgeon) and Kevin ( an A&E/ER Nurse) rallied round to help. Their efforts
resulted in feeling being restored to my fingers after about 10 minutes and
the heat pad that Kevin gave me, continued the good work. My fingers felt
relatively normal by the bottom of the face, and by the evening, all that was
left was a tingle in three fingers of each hand.
Our descent of the Lhotse
Face to camp 2 was without incident, except that a number of rope fixings near
the bottom of the face had pulled out, making abseiling a slightly more
heart-racing experience than normal!
We were all delighted to get
back to the safety of camp 2. When Henry arrived and removed his boots, he
discovered that his socks were bloodstained in the area of his big toes. The
steep descent had pushed his big toes to the front of his boots causing skin
damage. Rob tended to Henry's toes as best he could (he assures us that there
was no sucking involved!). Antiseptic and dressings were applied, but Henry
was due for a painful descent to BC the next day.
1st May dawned beautiful and
clear and our descent to BC straight forward. Once again, we noticed
substantial changes to the route as the result of glacier movement.
We are now in BC. All members
of the team (except Henry) will descend at least 1000m to a village in the
Khumbu to try to recover their strength in preparation for our summit attempt.
We don't really know anything about other teams' timetables.
As I have mentioned before,
our summit attempt will be influenced strongly by weather forecasts. However,
it will also depend on which days are the most auspicious according to the
local Lama calendar. Our Sherpas will be much happier mounting a summit
attempt on auspicious days.
We are all delighted to have
finished this stage of the expedition. We are also particularly pleased that
we have performed well, indicating that we are sufficiently fit to summit, if
we perform to the very extremes of our fitness.
Meantime, we all miss and
send our love and best wishes to our friends, relatives and loved ones.
The next dispatch will be
when we have more details of the date of our summit bid, probably in 7-10 days
Ian Mackay QC