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Everest 2003: Himalayan Guides 2003 Everest Expedition
Featuring reports from Ian Mackay

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 time...

Ian Mackay QC 



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