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Everest 2003: Ellis Stewart "LIVING THE DREAM 2003"

From Dreams to Reality

EverestNews.com- Dispatch Two 2/21/03

I have had a very productive few weeks since my last despatch to Everest news. As you can imagine in preparing for a trip of this nature, the majority of my waking hours are spent training, and trying to get my body into a good condition to cope with the rigours of the North Side of the Mountain. However as we all know, it is as much Luck and Weather as in a climber’s physical condition.

 A whole manner of circumstances have to come together on Everest. You need to be healthy and fit and fully acclimatised. The camps need to be in place, and fully stocked. Equipment needs to be fully working and doubly checked. Oxygen sets functioning. Oxygen cached where it should be. And you need to be in the right place at the right time, when that window of opportunity in the weather presents itself. If you are down on the Col or at ABC when that window comes, then it is game over. All the hard years of physical toil, the experiences learnt and gained on previous climbs. It all comes to nothing if you are not ready when the Mountain decides it is ready.

Everything has to come together and be in harmony at the right time. It is the nature of high altitude climbing. Nothing is certain on these giants. The summit is by no means a certainty. However it is a joyous half way point in the climb, and providing you have enough energy in reserve then you should be able to rappel down the steps and back to the shelter of Camp III for the longest and most deserving rest you are ever likely to experience in your life time.

I have just finished watching a very personal account of climbing on this side of Everest. Stuart Peacock, a Brit who scaled the peak last spring as part of the British Climbing Company Adventure Peaks Everest 2002 Expedition, carried a camcorder all the way to the summit. From the streets of Kathmandu, travelling across Tibet up to North Col and onto the summit itself. The film is a fascinating account of his dream of climbing the mountain. It features rare and high quality footage of the North Col and North Ridge, and for the first time ever the route along the North East Ridge. Including spectacular views of the First, Second & Third Steps.

For any lover of Everest, and everything concerning Everest. This is the nearest that you will ever get to seeing what is involved in climbing the route. Stuart sells the film on either video or DVD format and I strongly urge any one who is serious about climbing this mountain by this route to get a copy. If you contact EverestNews.com direct they should be able to put you in touch with Stuart. [only in PAL right now, buy maybe soon!]

Stuart also lectures on his climb in an evenings entertainment entitled “Everest- Walking in the footsteps of legends”. Before I depart for Nepal in a few weeks time I am hoping to organise this lecture in my home town. This will increase the awareness of my own climb of the route within my local community.

In other news I have been in contact with a Professor of Chemistry at Cheshire high school in Connecticut this week. He is interested in me helping out with experiments whilst on the mountain. Studying the effects of gases at altitude. I am only too keen to help with this as I am deeply fascinated by the scientific research on altitude, and also in part by the gas levels as the air becomes thinner and thinner. I will let you know more on this as I get more information.

I will finish this latest despatch with a couple of pages from my journal to Aconcagua in 2001. I reached the summit via a variant of the Polish Glacier route with Guy Cotter (Summit of Everest 94, 97, etc) & Arnold Witzig (Summit of Everest 2002). I hope you enjoy reading this account of lat page of my journal, the final climb through the night to the summit of the western skies. It began with near disaster and ended in sheer elation. Enjoy.

Monday 12th February 2001

We turned in last night at about 6.30pm, with the intention of leaving at 3.00 am, should the winds die down.  I didn't sleep a wink at all, I was too nervous and the sound of the wind made sure that sleep was impossible.  I started to doze on and off when I became suddenly aware of something!  Outside there was no noise at all.  I sat bolt upright and looked at my watch, the time was 2.48 am. This was it we were on!

The winds had blown themselves out.  As I looked outside our tent all I could see was the night sky and a billion stars twinkling brightly like never before.  The miracle had happened my prayers had been answered.  We brewed up and replenished ourselves with some much-needed fluids before the final climb to the summit.  It took the three of us well over an hour to get ready into our high altitude gear.  One thing that I did become aware of was how cold it had become, my fingers were starting to freeze, and so I wasted no time in putting on several pairs of gloves.

We all left camp two at 3.30 in the pitch black and freezing night temperature.  Upon checking my thermometer I was alarmed to see that the reading was -30°c.  We were climbing in frostbite conditions, so it was important to keep moving and keep blood flowing to the extremities.  This was without doubt the coldest I had ever been in my whole life.  I followed the beam of my head torch, which gave off a pathetic amount of light.  In fact, I gave up after an hour and turned the torch off, allowing my eyes time to adjust to the darkness.

We began climbing the glacier, higher and higher we went, I used my ice axe for support over the steeper sections of snow and ice, and was very grateful to have it with me.  Before very long I didn't feel too good at all; I felt exhausted; I felt like I was going to wretch at any second, but most worrying, was the fact that I was dropping behind Guy and Arnold at an alarming rate.

Highest Toilet Stop

I knew that I needed to stop and empty my bowels, yet my head was telling me to keep going.  The thought of having to remove layers and warm clothing, and undo my sallopettes and then expose my bare bottom to the freezing nighttime temperature was not very appealing at all.  I was worried that I might freeze something very dear to me, you can survive without the odd finger or toe, but I couldn't live without my John Thomas, no way.

Anyway the urgency of the matter got greater and I had no choice but to find the most convenient looking bit of ground, and strip and squat, holding on to my ice axe, which I planted firmly into the ice.  I was extremely relieved to relieve myself of some excess baggage, and the minute I began climbing up again I noticed I was moving with much more conviction, and I felt much stronger than I had done since leaving the tent over an hour ago.

Brief Optimism

My feet quickly froze into two blocks of ice, and I resigned myself to the fact that I may very well catch frostbite.  I caught up to Guy and Arnold and discovered that they too were having a hard time with the cold temperature.  A shooting star whizzed by overhead and I allowed myself a wisp of optimism to creep in.  Upon checking my altimeter, we were now at 6,300 metres and still moving strong for the top.  We climbed up through 3 snowfields, using my axe for support. It reminded me of ascending up through a mini icefall, very invigorating it was.

When we came out over the other side of the snowfields, the sun was beginning to rise, away to the east.  We made our way on up heading for the ridge on the skyline, the icy darkness was beginning to become lighter and more of the route could now be seen.

Sunrise >>> (Part two of dispatch)

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