Friday, 3 December 2010
Thursday, 2 December 2010
whilst this weather isn't particuarly great on a day to day basis- for winter climbing in the Uk its a dream!
Myself and a few friends are planning our ice climbing trip to scotland this Christmas- we're heading up to Aviemore for what will hopefully be one of the best winters on record!
a quick round up of Kendal mountain festival- it really was a fantastic experience as a first timer. Listening to Alpinists such as herve barnasse and the Pua Brothers speak about their trips around the world, i wanted to pack my bags and head off to the Himalaya there and then. Leo Houlding's new film The Prophet, about his new route on El Cap was also very cool and well worth a watch.
The weather was beautiful and it almost seemed like a crime not to be out in the hills enjoying it. Rhys, Jon and I stayed in a lovely littkle farm cottage about 2 miles from the nearest village and woke up evey morning surrounded by the beautiful green fells and lots of sheep and chickens- and then went inside or talks and films all day!
the evenings were wound up with drinks in the Brewery arts centre where the entire festival seemed to congregate- it was an awesome weekend and if you have the chance to go next year- do!
the last two days of our trip was spent scrambling- we zipped up Jacks Rake and Sharp Edge. An attempt on some rock was made but embarassingly i got cold feet (literally) and called time on it with dark only a few hours away. We ended up at Kendal rock wall for some boulding once night as was our thirst to get some actual climbing done.
Jacks rake is a really cool scramble in the summer- grade 1 and requires a helmet. Its only 30 mins from the nearest car park and close to the top has some slabs which if you fancy can make quite a fun boulding session. the walk out is clearly marked on a well used path and for a few hours in the hills with great views its fantastic.
Sharp edge is slightly short lived and reminded me more of Crib Goch though perhaps not as scary. it was pretty icy and on the tops it was snowy. Again- stunning views of the lakes- views to easily compare with the Himalaya. something that kids or people new to scrambling would feel safe doing. I tried to go for a swim in the tarn at the bottom- it didn't last long.
I've since nipped up to sheffield and climbed at the Foundry which has a really good bouldering area and cool traverse wall which has been sculpted in places to be more like real rock.
Back down south i was the only climber at craggy island yesterday morning, and running today in the woods like id hoped seems a little fruitless. its a gym session then i guess.
Lastly- just finished reading Dave MacLeod's book '9 out of 10 climbers make the same mistakes'. if you rock climb READ IT! www.davemacleod.com it is well worth it, i am climbing much harder already- it will improve your climbing, so buy it!
Next blog will be after i come back from germany where i am dusting down some skis for the first time in years. Ski touring in Bavaria is apprently pretty famous and hopefully will live up to such a great reputation. see you then and merry christmas!
Tuesday, 9 November 2010
Possibly my favourite time of the year- simply love the colours and the sunsets which you simply don't get in any other season.
I've been making good use of my new phone to capture some of these stunning moments- i have no idea how to edit these images or perhaps make the most out of the tools on the camera, but the raw pictures seem to do a small amount of justice to what are some of the most glorious vistas i've ever seen- and all in the UK. Fantastic.
Thank you to everyone who came to see my recent talks at the ski show and the PPP forum- it's very odd because Everest almost feels like a dream that never actually happened, until i begin talking about it again and i am thrown right back onto its slopes and often when i'm going through my slides a memory hits me like a bold of lightening- i am so very lucky to be able to re-live such a once in a life time experience on a regular basis.
It was lovely to catch up with some old faces at the show and meet some new ones- come down next year and get in on the fun! www.metrosnow.co.uk
Lots of school talks coming up- starting with one in Rickmansworth tomorrow as part of the VocaLink Everest schools tour. Can't wait!
So it was my birthday last week and so i am now at the grand old age of 23. I feel like there is so much left to do in such a short space of time!! I can't believe i was 20 when the dream of Everest took over- it seems like yesterday. Thanks for the lovely flowers from Vocalink, a constant support from start to finish- i really can't thank them enough for everything they have done for me- thanks guys.
Now to see what 2011 brings- fingers crossed for an exciting and tough year!
Lots coming up as we move into winter now- i will be spending this weekend down in Dartmoor for training with my expedition team. We're leaving in February and it's training for the South Pole- i can't say anymore than that. The weekend will be spent tyre hauling, running and generally beasting ourselves and of course bonding in the pub in the evenings. Oh- and did i mention that everyone there is from a military background except me?!
Then its off to the Kendal Mountain Festival the weekend after with Rhys Jones- we're going to stay up a few extra days in the Lakes for some climbing and bouldering- weather permitting! www.mountainfest.co.uk for anyone who wants more info- its the 18th- 21st November and is the biggest annual festival of film and speakers in the UK- not to be missed!
i'll be sure to get lots of photos of both weekends.
Training has been going well and my climbing has improved loads since taking bouldering a bit more seriously- however i've since got an injury on my right elbow which i'l be getting acupuncture for on Thursday (thanks sean). There are loads of new routes at Craggy Island in Guildford- there's not a better time to start climbing now the days are so short- check out www.craggy-island.com and book onto a beginners course
I am now climbing 6a+ fairly consistently at craggy (grading is considered pretty stiff!) and top roping over hanging 5's, so getting there- slowly! Consistent 6b by New Year and i'll be happy.
Would love to get out on some real rock and climb though- people in Chamonix i hope you realise how lucky you are!
Running has also been shaken up a bit- on saturday i went with my trusted running partner, my auntie Belinda, down to swinley forest where we did hill sprints for the first time- the result? Fantastic! it was actually really nice to sprint in short bursts- i love a good sprint at the end of a run but you are always aware of keeping a strong pace until the end- with hill sprints you can go gun blazing thighs pumping for 15-20 seconds then jog back down the hill to recover. I loved it and so hill sprints will definitely become a (dare i say it) regular feature on my training schedule- and there are plenty of bigger hills in the forest to keep us on our toes.
So, whilst running for me is more than just excercise, i've been a devotee now for 6 years and as much as i love my long runs, i'm not sure how good they are in comparison to interval and sprint sessions. My knees are beginning to suffer a bit- it's going to be hard but i am determined to cut the long runs down and take on a faster pace- watch this space!
until next time...
Thursday, 17 June 2010
I'm sitting here in my room, trying to sort out kit and bits and pieces from the expedition- prayer flags, my scarf from llama geshe, the poster that Alli and Kritika made me after the summit- so many little trinkets which just seem too overwhelming to put in a box and be forgotten with.
Holding a little piece of rock that i took from just below the summit, i can't believe that this time a month ago i was standing on top of the world. I love this piece of rock- it looks so boring and non-descript, but it is from a place that so many hold dear to their hearts- people who might never even see Everest that appreciate the history and significance of our planets highest point.
People keep asking- 'what's it like to be back?', i will often say 'fantastic, amazing!, or i might tell the truth and say that it really, really hurts. For a long time i couldn't get to grips with why i was so despressed, i am back home with my loved ones, the pressure off my shoulders and the sun is shining- i should be over the moon, right?
I realised that simply- i had lost a part of me when i left that mountain. I can still remember the sherpas faces as i peered out of the chopper before it whisked us away. I can still remember the vivid sunrises- especially on summit day, when we looked down on the horizon and saw the orange sun suddenly burst into view and flood the valleys below with golden light. Mostly, i can remember the laughter and banter in the mess tent- we ate three meals a day together for 6 weeks. We had become like family.
I suppose it is like the nostalgia that anyone gets when they return from a great holiday and have to face reality. The odd thing is, i have never felt more content, more happy to just 'be' than before the summit. That kind of contentment is like being at 'one' i suppose, i have never felt that state of wholeness before and never since. It is wierd because at that point the pressure of not knowing was huge- on Everest you set yourself up for failure as the odds are against you, but there was something telling me to be still, to do what i had come to do- the rest is in Gods hands.
For anyone thinking about attempting an ascent themselves, i would say do it- but do it for the right reasons. it was such a shame to hear of some climbers calling it 'purgatory'. Others saying it was like a chain around their necks, that they HAD to summit before they could go on and do other things. Everest woke something up inside me- from the moment the thought came into my head that i could do it, it has never stopped inspiring me and giving me a reason to work harder, do better and strive to be the best.
It is not just a mountain- it is the country, the people, the climbing, the history- but most importantly, it is what you learn about yourself- about what you're made of. And it's not just Everest that can give you that- Manaslu for me had an equal effect.
People ask what have i learnt from my experience. A lot, and mostly about myself. Mostly- you learn what your flaws are, you learn your weaknesses and how you react to situations. Oddly, i didn't realise what my weaknesses were until i returned- i am terrible at emotion, terrible at communicating properly and lack empathy. For me, returning to normality was the most pressure i have ever been under- and my adjustment back to reality has upset a lot of people.
I have learnt that being outdoors, having a physical challenge, looking after oneself and having time to think is when i feel most alive. Being back home, i am really struggling to work out who i am- Everest has changed so much of my perspective.
I know that these words are simply that of a person grieving, and that in time i will be able to allow the joys of returning home to overwhelm the feeling of sadness and loss of knowing that a year and a halfs hard work and dreaming is now all over. Only look back if that's where you want to go- now is the time to look forward to the next challenge, to train harder and become a better person in pursuit of the next dream.
To all those out there who are fathers, or about to become fathers (Kenton!)- Happy Fathers day to you.
My Dad was for a long time the only person who supported and believed that i could climb Everest. When most of my friends and family were scared that i would die and didn't want me to go, he would say to me: 'it's YOUR dream Bonnie, i'll do as much as i can to help you'. And he did, without him i would never have been able to do what i have done. My dream was to call him from the summit- a lot of my motivation came from the idea that i would call my dad from the top of the world. Unfortunatly it wasn't meant to be. He recieved a text message from Kenton instead!
So Dads, support your kids in whatever they want to do- trust in their passion and do what you can to help them along the way. My dad is my biggest inspiration- the hardest working person i have ever known. I am one of 6 and i know that if each and every one of us wanted to climb Everest he would find a way to support us all. If i can be like him when i become a parent, then i will be happy.
So even if your kids don't show it- they admire you more than you can imagine. You're our taxis, our bank balance, our providers, but most of all- you are our heros.
Love you dad x
Saturday, 29 May 2010
England looks absolutely beautiful with fresh eyes- when i left it was still miserable winter and now: SUMMER!!
I am still missing Everest dearly. In Kathmandu i had my first meal alone for 6 weeks- eating soup at the yak and yeti buffet without the usual banter from the team was really depressing, i just wanted to be back with them in the mess tent, wearing my down jacket and munching on Bihm's fantastic fare.
Obviously, i have read all the comments on this blog and take them seriously- to those asking why i havent thanked my rescuers enough- i realise i didn't do them justice in my account of what happened- they saved my life without a doubt, and to have the courage to come out of your warm tent and go back into the freezing cold and dark to help someone is truly heroic. As i said in that blog- i owe kenton, the sherpas and the team that came up to help, my life.
Dr greg, who injected me with dexamethazone, covered me in silver blankets and gave me pain killers without a doubt deserves to be mentioned- his actions got me on my feet and walking back to camp 4.
Rick, my team mate, was with me from the beginning of the ordeal and helped me down from the south summit when i was in so much pain with my neck that i couldnt wear a back pack. And also Tom- who back at camp, boiled snow melt water to make me a tea and get everything ready for my arrival, got frost bite on his toe.
And of course- my sherpa Lakpa, who was by my side the entire time, who was out there on summit day for 28 hours with me.
Overall, i feel incredibly guilty that this ordeal happened. It just goes to show that one small mistake, one small slip, can have such huge concequences on a mountain like Everest. The ascent and beginning of the desent on summit day was absolutely text book- i was feeling strong, and throughout the expedition, had had no other problems and was a strong member on a strong team.
Would i have gotten down alive if i didnt have the team around me? Its very unlikely. I would have most likely suffered from exhaustion and the cold and died on the path, unable to move fast enough back to camp. it scares me to think that such a small injury rendered me so useless.
I am so lucky to have had not only support but GOOD support, from reading other accounts of people's summit days on Everest- their sherpas just didn't sound like the same calibre as ours. In my opinion we had the most professional sherpas on the mountain, they were fast and didn't mess around- they saw me taking a few steps foward and then falling over in the snow and so put me on my bum, tied my boots together and pulled me down as fast as they could. They were speaking to me the whole way down- they were true heroes.
Better mountaineers than me have died on big peaks like Everest, and i am sure that some of them need not of if they had had the support that i had that night. To have been on Kenton's expedition was even for those hours worth every penny. He doesn't wrap his members up in cottom wool, we all climbed at our own pace, carried the standard amount of kit and looked after ourselves at the camps. But when it mattered he was there and the logistical team behind him- Henry and Kami, they were all on the radios arranging the sherpas and acting as quickly as possible whilst also dealing with another life threatening situation at camp 2. Their cool under pressure is just incredible.
Because of the swift rescue, i was saved from severe frost bite and altitude sickness. A few hours rest and the next morning i walked down to camp 2 with everyone else. I remember Kenton's words 'not a single mistake, ok?'. I took his words on board- i stepped so carefully, concentrated so hard. Thankfully, the day after next we all arrived back at BC, i was in a huge amount of pain with my back, but we were safe and the ordeal was over- that was a huge relief.
So back home, on reflection of the entire expedition- whilst i can say it was the time of my life, and when i was asked yesterday in an interview if i preferred all the media pampering or being on everest- i replied dead pan: Everest. And i meant it- give me sunrise in the ice fall over a photo shoot any day. It is still marred by the fact that i caused such a dangerous situation for those sherpas and kenton's team that came up to help- from the bottom of my heart i have thanked them for helping me, but it will never be enough.
So again: Lakpa, Dorje, Kenton, Rick, Greg, Victor, Henry, Kami, Tom, Namgel and Lakpa. Thank you, thank you for saving me.
Friday, 21 May 2010
firstly- sorry for the lack of updates on the blog, from the 13th May (if i remember rightly?) we were heading to the summit from BC, and from there on its been none stop the hardest week of my life. I simply forgot that internet existed!
So... wow. At 10.30am on the 17th May 2010 i fell to my knees on top of the world and thanked God for allowing me to get there.
It was an amazing ascent- our team left at 9pm on the 16th and unfortunately were stuck behind a long, slow que. We made it to the balcony just before sunrise.
As i walked up the south east ridge towards to the south summit i glanced away from my plodding feet to my right and saw the most brilliant sunrise about to burst onto the horizon- the curvature of the earth was clear, and the Himalayas sunk away below us, some of the snow covered peaks just glinting in the dawn light- it was like being in space. I knew from that moment that i would make it.
Me and my sherpa- Lakpa, waited patiently in line at the first rock step, and when i freaked out a bit at the vertical wall (one side going into tibet, the other into nepal), he stuck right behind me and helped me on my way. Soon we were on the south summit...
Here i met kenton- he had just broken his own record for summitting everest 8 times- i was so close, he hugged me and told me to be safe. He had broken trail for the rest of us so that our ascent wouldnt be in knee deep snow, after such an effort he had to get back down- we were not that far behind. This fired me up even more.
At the south summit the Hillary step revealed itself- i had seen it in so many photos- a towering 70ft wall of rock, with footpaths only a few inches wide. I wasnt filled with fear as i thought i would be- i thought it was the most beautiful thing i had ever seen- it was the gateway to the top of the world. i felt strong, and carried on moving.
Here, a climber passed me- i recognised his green eyes past his oxygen mask immediatly- it was Manuel. We had spent a few days together with his wife down in pangboche. He saw me too- he put his arms on my shoulders and with tears in his eyes said to me 'Beautiful Bonita, just beautiful'. He looked like the happiest man on earth. I had a lump in my throat- the emotion was high for everyone as we neared to roof of the world.
I cant remember much of the ascent of the Hilary step- apart from that it was over much quicker than i imagined, and i had not looked down once as the drops were so sheer and so unforgiving!
From here, the weather started to close in- a thick fog was coming over the ridge from the Tibetan side, and as i walked those last couple of hundred metres to the true summit, we were slowly engulfed in white.
In front of me i could see the rest of my team members- Tom and Rick. I saw them embrace on the summit and knew that i would be there in a few minutes, but it felt like forever. Every step was so slow.
Out of the mist came the prayer flags that are attached to the summit- bright colours of red, yellow and blue. I remembered suddenly being in the Tengboche monestary and having a vision of walking towards the prayer flags- they were caling me to me. Before i knew it they were at my feet. I looked up and there i was, surrounded my other climbers on top of the world. We had ran out of earth- no more up. We had done it.
There i saw my team mate, Rick, holding up a t-shirt for his sons that read 'live the dream boys'. I gently sobbed behind my oxygen mask- he and his wife, Ally, live for the three sons- to see him get that treasured t-shirt out on top of the world for them... well, it brings a tear to my eye to write it now.
I sat for a few moments in my own thoughts, i wondered it my friend Geordie, who is climbing on the North side, would be somewhere on the summit- we had bought union flags together in Windsor and i hoped that we would be able to get them out on the summit together. Alas, he is still waiting high up on the hill for his turn- i am sure he will make it. best of luck Geordie.
The winds blew and occassionaly i could see the huge mountains below us. It didnt matter that there was no view- what mattered was the people around me. I hugged my sherpa an embarrasing amount of times, and recognised other friends there who i had made along the way. We were all lost in our own thoughts- exhausted but elated, trying to let the reality of our situation sink in- we were the highest people on earth!
I finally came round to doing what i had come to do- present the three flags to the ceiling of the earth. These flags had been auctioned on Ebay for Global Angels on behalf of top-up at ATM. I realised that when i wrote them, they all had the word 'love' in them. I motivated myself on the way up by telling myself i was taking a lot of love to the top of the world. This lead me to have that Beatles song in my head 'love, love, love' all the way up- i think i need to finally buy an i-pod!
Suddenly, Lakpa was urging me to go- the weather was closing in- it was time. As i plodded away from the summit i took one last look at it- i knew i would never see it again. I felt so very lucky. So, so lucky.
The descent started smoothly, we got stuck behind some climbers literally sleeping on the path. People felt like they had done the job and now could rest- we were very aware that safety and relaxation only comes when you are back safetly at camp 4.
The HIlary step was busy- it was my turn to descend a short rock step.; I did the nornal- clipped in, took hold of the rope, and as best as i could- walked down the section of ice and rock. This is where my crampon must have slipped. The rope, which was anchored behind me, pulled me backwards and the next thing i knew i was face in some snow.
At the time i felt fine- i was still on the path! Not in Tibet somewhere without a visa! 20 minutes later though, my neck and shoulders had siezed up to such a point that i took one last step and a shooting pain went up my spine- it was so painful i yelped and Lakpa stopped. He saw i was crying- but this time with pain. It was then i realised something was wrong- i must have pulled a muscle in my neck, maybe whiplash. I didnt know what it was, but moving was excruciating. We were in trouble.
About an hour later and only a couple of hundred feet in distance made, Lakpa and I stood back on the south summit in a total white out. Here i radioed Kenton and told him the situation- i had done something to my neck, i had plenty of oxygen but was going far too slow. I didnt think i could make it wthout extra help.
Kenton got into action straight away. Thankfully he was back at C4 with the sherpas and organised a 'rescue' alongside Henry and Kami at base camp. As the sun set the first sherpa came to greet us with more oxygen.
Finally, about an hour below the balcony, another group of sherpas arrived, from here on i dont remember much- apart from the pain of being dragged across ice and rock as the attempted to get me back to camp 4 as quickly as possible. My neck was blinding with pain, but i remember having covnersations with the sherps and thinking i felt OK bar the neck- i knew if i just let them do the job we would all be home safe.
Before i knew it Kenton's headlight was glaring into my face, he had marched up the face again to ensure i was doing OK, and had bought others with him- including doctor from another team, just in case. After that i remember being at camp pretty quickly- hot tea being poured down my throat and down jackets and sleeping bags shoved onto me. Kenton and the team warmed me up- they were dreading to see my feet, thinking i might have frost damage. Thankfully all digits were in order, and i was passed out asleep from a 28 hour ascent of Everest as they sorted me into my spot in the tent.
After that- all is blank. Sleep overwhelmed me like nothing before. I was safe, we were all safe. The warmth of the tent was intoxicating. I must have snored so loudly. I owe Kenton, the sherpas and the rest of the team my life.
So, climbing Everest. Someone said to me 'well, it's only putting one step in front of another'.
yes... i suppose it is. But when that single step feels like lifting your leg out of a concrete swamp, when you fall asleep on your jumar every couple of seconds because you are so exhausted after 10 hours of climbing that you cant keep your eyes open properly... when that next step is marred with the sting of blisters, the cramp in your calf muscles, the heaving of oxygenless air in your lungs and the biting cold in the tips of your fingers- is it really that easy to put one foot in front of the other for hours and hours at a time?
Those 5 days of climbing and descending off of Everest were easily the hardest of my life. It was harder than i could have ever imagined- but i can honestly say that until my slip on the Hilary step, i took every step with gratitude- i was so lucky to be there, and felt prepared and resilient towards the emotional and physical pain. After the slip, i still did not resent the mountain or my situation- but i did crack and let the pain get to me.
Two Robs, who i value highly, have said to me at different points in my life very poignant things, which i will always remember.
The first- my step Dad, who would train me for athletics when i was 10, once said to me on at the end of an evening run when i was obviously about to give up: 'Bonnie, this is the point where you can be a good runner, or a very good runner'
I knew what he meant- i didn't want to give up, i wanted to be a very good runner. But that required more determination and more pain- was i willing to do the trade? I ran home as fast as i could.
Rob Casserley has a saying- 'there are fair weather summitteers and all weather summitteers'. Was i going to give up once the sun went in and the white out engulfed me? Was i only going to summit in blue skies? Again, i knew i was made of stronger stuff- i wanted to give Everest my best shot, even if that meant bad conditions.
I have come out of this experience, i believe, unchanged. It has simple compounded my beliefs already- work hard, believe in yourself, follow your dreams. There are no short cuts- expect set backs, expect it to be hard, if you want it bad enough- if you want to be a 'very good runner' or an 'Everest summitteer', you have to be honest with yourself and work your butt off.
But- never under estimate yourself. I really hope i have shown people this in some way.
The true feeling of jubilation came when i arrived back at Base camp with Kenton and Rick. Kenton had stayed with me all the way from camp 4- rarely leaving my side and ensuring i got through the ice fall safetly.
At camp we were met with cheering, pot banging, lots of hugs, beer, sweets and beautiful posters made by Ally and Kritika- i cried and cried! I was safe, we had all made it. The sun was shining, i had a cold drink in my hand- it was a beautiful day.
I'll blog again tomorrow- as i feel i might be boring people! thanks for all the messages- i am reading every single one.
18 months worth of hard work was worth it just for that moment of arriving back in base camp.
Monday, 17 May 2010
On the morning of Monday 17th May 2010 Bonita Norris reached the summit Mt. Everest. In doing so, she has become the proud new holder of a British record: Youngest British Female.
Full Blog to follow, once she is back down safely. Bonita has relayed this message:
"Thank you ALL for such incredible support back home, it really kept me going in the toughest of moments. Also a special thank you to those who contributed to the campaign by topping up their mobile phones at ATMs.
Thank you also to my sponsor, Mobile Phone Top-Up at ATM (VocaLink), who have helped make this dream come true."
Friday, 14 May 2010
'Summit day has been pushed back by one day to Monday 17th due to extremely high winds on the mountain. Feeling ready, fit and positive about the final push. Managed the climb from Base Camp to Camp 2 in a very respectable time of 6.5 hours, quite chuffed with myself for that! I promise to do a proper blog when I come back down from the mountain, when I might even be able to throw in a few photos for good measure. Love to all back home, missing you all lots, but I must admit I am having the time of my life out here! Fingers crossed for Monday!!!'
Saturday, 8 May 2010
After talking in my last blog about fantastic weather, i think i went to sleep that very night, and woke at 4 in the morning to find my tent roof inches from my nose- it was weighed down with 4 inches of snow, and i could still hear the storm outside.
Base camp unsizpped its tents to a winter wonderland like no other- in the shadow on Mount Everest, there we stood, puffy eyed in the snow, wearing our crocs and sandals and wondering where on earth the bloody lot came from. It was deadly quiet.
After breakfast people mulled around, and what do you instinctively do when surrounded by fresh, fluffy snow? Well, i started throwing it, and a huge snow ball fight ensued between us and the sherpas.
The fight was ferocious, military, and lasted well over an hour. BC is perfect for such a fight- huge boulders to hide behind and more ammunition than we could ever need. There were ambushes and targeted assaults (usually on me by 6 or more sherps)
Rob, who is good at everything, could through a snow ball for miles and was our main asset. I was more of a liability. But the true hero was sundip- another camps water porter. HIs job is to collect water from a glacial pool- he makes this trip 50 times a day. But his true talent lies in snow ball fighting- his aim was spectacular and we all suffered.
Suddenly, after pelting us for an age, he put his hands up and announced "okay. I tired now" and just like that, the fight was over. We were all exhausted- doing anything at 5000m is tiring. But as we all collapsed in the mess tent, talk became of the weather up high- we knew there and then that we wouldnt be going anywhere for a while.
So, a couple of days ago Rob, Fi and James announced they were heading down- the bad weather meant no one was going onto the hill. As usual- i was in my tent reading and doing my back no good on a wonky thermarest.
"OI, NORRIS", it was Rob coming to say goodbye. i poked my head out, blinking into the light- hair a mass of 'rats tails' as my mum calls it. Rob spun a story of comfy lodges with blankets and fires and lemon tea and good dahl baat. I was sold- i packed there and then, leaving Kenton to hold fort as the only Brit on the team.
We ended up leaving the next morning, James had to bail after spending the night regurgitating his supper. "Better out than in" in his own words. So one man down we set off for Pangboche at 3,950m- a bed, a shower and most importantly- thick air, awaited us.
We skipped down to pheriche, every step filling our lungs with more and more oxygen. It was a 5 hour walk to this point, and i was loving it- my legs were moving! they had spent days plomped on a chair or flat in my sleeping bag- i was wondering what use they were. But now- they were dodging rocks and yak poo, striding up hills and jogging back down the other side- not used to the oxygen i felt like a super charged human, especially now with the rugby player thighs.
At pheriche, Fi decided to stop and do the last leg to pangboche the next morning- so it was just me and Rob for the last part- walking up the side of a ferocious river at dusk. The two of us out of the original four made it to the lodge after dark, and were greeted like old friends by the Sherpas who run the place.
We settled down into the corner, and, warmed by the wood burner and covered in blankets, had the most fantastic Dahl Baat i have ever eaten. The night was finished with a movie and the luxury of a room each and huge quilts on the beds. Best nights sleep for a long time.
Since then, Fi has arrived and Rob has gone down to Namche to see an old friend.
Fi and I (the only two Brit chicks on Everest this year) have done nothing but rest, read and eat. Fi's Bhronchitis has gone, and i am aiming to put on a pound a day as everyone keeps saying how much weight i've lost. We are basically preparing and fuelling our bodies for the summit push- 6 of the hardest days of our lives, plus a 17 hour marathon on summit day- the longest of my life. It is so important to be healthy before we set off, and this is one of the best ways of doing it.
We leave tomorrow (9th) for the 15 mile walk back to basecamp, which on the way in took 3 days- but now we are acclimiatsed and fit, will do in one long push.
News up high is that Adrian and sherpas from Russel Brice's team fixed rope to the summit on the 5th. There were more sherpas on the summit on the 6th, and the first western climber- Lucille, summitted yesterday and is now safetly back at camp 2.
It was a cool moment standing with Everest Legend Victor Saunders, listening to the radio transmitions from way up high in the death zone as they battled towards the summit. All of a sudden- it felt real, this is finally happening.
Our team was aiming for the 8th- today. But weather forecasts left Kenton and Henry uneasy, and they made the best decision to hold off whilst its early. Still, it was crushing to see the summit in beautiful skies with no winds yesterday morning- we could have been there. Shoula Woulda Coulda.
Congratulations to Lucille- we met on the Lhoste face on the way to camp 3- she is a lovely lady (not sure where from) and i pray for her safe return to BC through the ice fall.
There has been some un-rest in Nepal. Kathmandu is almost a no go zone to tourists- there are no internal flights in the country. Thousands are on strike.
As a result, hardly any trekkers are coming up through the valleys, and up at BC, things are, thankfully, pretty cut off from the troubles.
However, the Maoists have started moving through the Khumbu- they have closed the schools- threatening to bomb the Hillary school if classes resume, and even turned up at BC one morning asking for money.
Yesterday, Maoists came to our lodge and demanded money- Nima had no choice- she handed over some Rupees and they left quietly.
We have no idea what is going on. We have heard of gun fire between the army and the maoists, but who knows what is true.
For now, we are safe up here in this remote part of the country- if Maoists do come to BC again, there are enough westerners with ice axes to make sure they dont cause any hassle.
For Nepal though, i hope this ends soon- they are peaceful people who do not deserve such unrest.
Thanks again for all the messages- i hope to get in touch when back at BC, though things might move pretty fast, in which case i will send updates from the sat phone.
People are talking about getting the summit 'over and done with'. I keep quiet- i am loving every minute of this expedition- what will be will be, i dont want to wish it away.
Over and out.Bonita x
Friday, 30 April 2010
Just a quick update- the top-up Everest campaign at ATM’s has raised £10,000 for Global Angels!
This is fantastic, the amount will be split between the two projects I am supporting through Global Angels- White Lodge centre in Chertsey, and the Child Voice International village in Uganda.
Thank you to everyone who topped up at a cash machine over March and April, as every time you did so, 5p went to Global Angels. Such an easy way to raise loads of money for charity!
Please continue to support this expedition by topping up your pay as you go phone at ATM’s across the country- and tell your friends to do so too!
I have also just finished writing the messages onto the Ebay flags this morning at base camp- not bad for 17,500ft!
It has been a great morning- the sun has been shining and BC is pretty quite as people rest ready for their summit bids. We are still waiting to hear on our weather window- so writing out the flags was a welcome respite from the endless waiting.
Finally, a picture of what my feet looked like after zipping down off the Lhotse face with Kenton. Hard core, I know.
The top up Everest expedition now simply waits with baited breath for the summit- with beautiful weather like this, we might not be waiting too long… fingers crossed.
Over and out. Bonita x
A long time since my last blog, the team have been up on the hill for the past 5 days and have now finished our acclimatisation, having been to 7100m, and await a weather window for the summit.
This is therefore a very nerve-racking time at BC, every time a weather report comes in we sit with baited breath to hear whether the summit of Everest continues to be battered by the jet stream, or if the monsoon has pushed the winds north enough for us to sneak to the top- currently, we are still waiting.
So, the past couple of days- our rotation on the hill started as usual, we left BC in the dead of night, climbing over rock and scree to get to crampon point at the bottom of the ice fall for around . The ice-fall ascent was quick- we are now better acclimatised and familiarised, and made the final section of the fall in just over 3 hours, overtaking a big team along the way.
Out of the blue- disaster very nearly struck. A bottle neck had occurred at one of the last ladders, I was one of many climbing down the ladder, and there were Sherpas and climbers trying to climb up. At the bottom of the ladder I could hear a lady: ‘please help’. She was tangled in the fixed ropes, and was asking everyone who passed to simply help sort her ropes out- no one stopped.
‘Bloody hell’ I thought, she’s getting really distressed and she’s a woman and I’m not that cold so I’ll stop. The lady was Spanish (?) and getting very panicky, climbers and Sherpas kept rushing past- we were on a very small ledge and I was trying to unclip her jumar and re-set her ropes whilst trying to calm her down and snap her back into reality. I wasn’t being particularly nice, but I did sympathise with her as I knew how it felt to be that scared.
Then- a huge BOOM, followed by a deafening crash, out of the corner of my eye as I was sorting her ropes I saw a massive block of ice under our little ledge collapse and fall into the depths of the glacier. The climbers and sherpas exploded into panic- the Spanish lady and me were frozen in horror as we watched the ice under our path just disappear- would the whole lot go? Would our ledge collapse?
Adrenaline then kicked into action and I realised that this woman would be even more of a danger to me and to everyone else if she panicked even more- we all had to get out of this area as fast as possible, it was not safe and could go any second. I made her my responsibility to get her across the ledge and onto the next section as fast as possible.
As I finally sorted out her jumar and we turned to jump off the ledge I was met with a climber trying desperately to get out of this section- his eyes said it all- he was terrified. He barged past without a thought to his or our safety- I suppose that’s what fear does to you. Sherpas followed with the same expression on their faces- they were all praying aloud as they rushed past us- the lady and I were forced to the side of the ledge as the fearful hoards rushed up the ladder. That was the first time I had ever seen such fear in any human.
Finally it was time to jump the ledge, ‘ok, we must move quickly- this is very dangerous- you jump and do not stop, carry on to the next ladder, ok?’ I shouted at the woman over her fearful sobbing. ‘Go!’ I nudged her forward and she got more hysterical: ‘my jumar- I cannot do it without my jumar’. I couldn’t believe it- this was not the time for jumars! ‘No! You must jump!’ I grabbed the rope, pulled all my weight on it and jumped across, scared that my foot would go through the now delicate ledge. ‘Like this!’ I said. Thankfully she followed, and we both moved a few feet away from the edge, clipped into an anchor and collapsed into an exhausted heap- adrenaline causing our hearts to still pump at a million miles an hour.
The whole episode was probably only a minute long- it had gone from calm to terror in a matter of seconds and I realised after that I had not stopped to help; I could have been jumping over the ledge as the ice collapsed underneath me. As stressful as it was, I was thankful to be focussing on getting this woman untangled- it allowed me to block out the chaos and danger around us as I simply tasked myself with sorting her ropes and trying to calm her down.
The lady let the one thing you don’t let happen to you on a mountain happen- she broke mentally. I have done the same on the descent off of Manaslu and caused a kafuffle, which Rob C and some others had to sort out- it was unnecessary and I still regret it to this day. The woman could have easily re-arranged her own ropes, but she had gone into a panic. I am aware that this could happen to me at any time- when you are exhausted and in a dangerous environment, it is so easy to crack. I think it is simply experience and conditioning that allows you to overcome it. I pray that my mental strength is enough.
After this short episode the rest of the climb to camp 1 was un-eventful. We slept most of the time at camp, before leaving the next morning at for camp 2.
The climb to camp 2 has been described to me as like ‘being in an oven’. The route, which snakes through the Western Cwm crosses a glacier and on either side is towered by huge ice walls. The sun reflects off of the ice from all angles, climbers have been known to burn the insides of their mouths and nostrils on this short climb.
Bearing this in mind, I was dripping in sun cream as I left camp. The climb was pretty easy- we were only ascending around 3-400m. I trotted along without crampons and soon made the edge of camp in just over 2 hours, and then got lost trying to find my way in. Finally saw Kenton and collapsed onto a rock outside the mess tent in 2hrs 30, which is good considering that KC predicted 3 hours at least. The boys (Rick and Tom) arrived shortly after- we were together at camp 2, life was great.
The next day was an ‘active rest day’. The aim was to tag the bottom of the great
We made the bottom of the face in good time- Kenton and I chilled on the ice as we waited for Rick and Tom to arrive, it was a great morning looking down the valley and looking up at the climb ahead.
That night at supper, Kenton announced that the weather reports were pretty confusing- they predicted low winds but lots of snow. He recommended down suits and high altitude boots. None of us were sure if we would make camp 3 the next day.
Rob’s team had attempted the climb to C3 but had failed because of the cold, they had had to re-attempt the next day and had persevered until they tagged the camp at 7,100m. It showed just how unforgiving the weather on the face could be. I was sure that we would also be given the same fate if the weather reports were true.
As the sun rose over my tent, my stomach churned with fear- I had never been to 7000m without oxygen, and certainly not in treacherous weather. But hang on- the sun on my tent, not a breath of wind? Kenton shouted up to us: ‘hey guys, re-think the down suits- weather looks good.’
Our team was off by , Lynette was to go back to BC because of her illness, and would attempt to reach camp 3 at a later date provided her health improved.
The climb to 3 was perfect- we were blessed with awesome weather. I had hardly slept the night before had been praying for a good day- it looked like it had paid off and according to Kenton we were making great time as we climbed up the ladders and onto the face itself.
The face is extremely icy this year. The foot holds hadn’t quite formed yet as we were one of the first teams making the ascent. This meant lots of delicate crampon action as we balanced on blue ice.
After 5hrs and 30mins exactly I made our stop at 3. Rick and Kenton had been waiting an hour by the time I arrived- they had had a great time and moved fast over the ropes, avoiding the que’s that unfortunately Tom and I had gotten stuck in. We were now above 7000m- under 2000m to the summit. From our stop we could see all the way down the valley- camp 2, camp 1, Pumori and the entire Western Cwm spread out below us. I couldn’t believe how high we were- and whilst tired from the climb, altitude was not as debilitating as we predicted.
From this point acclimatisation is finished- I wondered whether I would ever see this spot again- what if something happened on the descent? Would it all mean nothing if I never made it back here? All the sweat and pain and exhaustion to climb to this point, only to leave when the summit is seemingly so close. I didn’t want to leave this spot- this glorious place where the
The descent was fast- Rick and Tom had already gone and so Kenton and I went together. We were nearly running down the face at some point- its easier than walking when its that steep! At every anchor Kenton would attach our karabiners together and wrap a prussic around the fixed line- this meant that if we tripped, we should hold safe. This was proven at one point when Kenton let go of the prussik as I was charging down the face, we were both pulled to a halt and I fell flat on my back with a jolt. ‘Oops!’ from Kenton, we dusted ourselves down and carried on.
The descent back to BC yesterday was just as fast- 3hrs 40mins from camp 2. Rick and I wearily trudged through the bloody pinnacles back to base camp, and finally we were allowed to take off our packs, sit down on a rock, and drink a cold cup of grape tang in the sun- ‘safety’ was what I was most thankful for.
That night a few of us stayed up until midnight playing cards, laughing hysterically at Tom’s bad jokes and not even mentioning the climb ahead. We needed the chill out time, the last few days had had us all constantly on edge- the weather, the going into unknown territories and for Tom and Rick- new altitudes.
Today I am slowly getting my kit together for the summit push. A bowl of hot water and a cup was much appreciated for a shower. Undressing in the shower tent I realised how my body has changed- my thighs have huge muscles- like a rugby player (!), my hands are tanned dark but my arms are ghostly white, I have lost a bit of weight, but definitely have enough fat for the summit!
Finally, thanks for all the messages- Ant and Loz- i’ll dominate to the best of my ability, you boys keep dominating that work load- Loz, that 10,000 word essay? Give it a rest and try the
To Luke- thanks for your email, I would love to answer all your questions personally, but hopefully the blog answers them! I look forward to the champagne you are talking about!
To White Lodge, thanks for your email- I am glad this blog is of interest. I cant wait to visit when I get back, all my love xx
To Tom again- my gorgeous boyfriend- happy anniversary. I’ll admit I forgot whilst up at camp 2, but was thinking of you nonetheless. Miss you xx
To my 6 brothers and sisters- your big sister misses you loads. I get teary eyed just thinking about you. I wonder if Emily is saying my name yet (if not- Maggie and Dad, get on the case!). To my brothers- keep playing hard at football, ice hockey, tennis, rugby and cricket! I will try and bring you each back a piece of Everest rock. I love you all more than anything x
To all the random messages of support on this blog and on my website- thank you.
Will update again when we know when our summit window is.
God speed. Bonita x
Monday, 26 April 2010
Saturday, 24 April 2010
So we aim to be back down where the air is thick (base camp) on the 1st or 2nd May, this depends on whether we decide to sleep at camp 3. Sleeping at 3 isn’t necessary this time, but is an option that we are open to depending on how the team feels.
Yesterday we trekked down to Gorak Shep with David, who has unfortunately hung up his climbing boots this time due to not sleeping properly at altitude. Kenton and I are now the only Brits on the team. I am really sad to see David go as he always knew how to drum up everyone’s spirit and quite logically convince you that the summit was within your reach. Now that is gone, something is definitely missing at base camp.
We all left Gorak Shep in our own time- I spent quite a while in the internet café down there (facebook!), then made the trek back to BC alone. It felt good to go at my own pace- I went as fast as possible, as if the faster I went the easier it became to get over losing David from the team.
Within an hour I was back at the trekkers shrine to Everest base camp- it’s a plateau amongst the scree that looks down on BC. It marks the entrance for climbers, and gives the best views for trekkers. Apparently there is an un-written rule that trekkers are not supposed to pass this point, due to spreading coughs and colds that if caught, could potentially ruin a climber’s summit bid.
I almost fell foul of this rule yesterday as I walked straight past the shrine and headed down the track towards camp. I was instantly stopped by a trekking guide, our conversation went something like:
‘Where are you going?’
‘Base camp is for climbers only’
‘Yeah, I know’
‘Trekkers not allowed’
‘Yes, I know’
I carried on walking, and he shouted over: ‘So what are you doing?’ I stopped briefly to say ‘going home!’ before turning and sliding out of sight down the scree towards base camp.
Last night we had a movie night- School of Rock. It was great though computer died before we saw the end- bloody life on an expedition! Tonight hopefully we will have enough luck and battery power to find out whether Jack Black wins his rock tournament, though somehow I think I already know the answer…
Friday, 23 April 2010
Thursday, 22 April 2010
Back at base camp with a cup of hot cocoa- what can I say? Life is great! Its mid afternoon here and everything and everyone is moving at a very slow pace- people are lounging around listening to the BBC world service, gentle humming and singing sounds from the cooks tent, I am taking some respite from the sun to write you all an update of camp 1, at just above 6000m.
The team left yesterday morning in darkness, at about 4.30am, and trudged silently through BC to crampon point at the edge of the ice fall- Tom and Rick set a pretty good pace, I was having what is called a ‘bad day’ and couldn’t keep up. KC was staying close by, which I was thankful for. Well- a ‘bad day’ I was slower by 10 minutes to our first stopping point at the beginning of the ladders, and soon after caught Tom in the distance, and eventually Rick at the top of the icefall- so us three generally move at a similar pace, which is great.
The top of the ice fall is pretty dodgy- we all had to master Kenton’s jammy move up and around the deadly ladder, to find then that the route goes into a massive bowl- so more climbing down ladders and losing height (for some reason people jumaring DOWN ladders? This confused me and also made me cold as I had to wait).
In general, I am now much more scared of the ice fall than what I was before- Rob C says that a good climber is always looking up, and not at his feet- this has now made me super sensitive to even the smallest ice block and unfortunately on the ascent to camp 1 the lines got particularly busy as our team caught up with other teams who had left earlier. I found myself stuck behind a few climbers who liked to stop often- and often in dangerous places. Its times like these where I have to stop myself panicking and getting stressed, and move past safely. There will always be faster and slower people than yourself, we just have to constantly be aware of one another and make the ice fall as safe as possible for everyone.
The top of the icefall is marked by three vertical ladders tied together by rope and hung over an ice cliff. Again, people were jumaring up the ladder- perhaps this is best practice, I don’t know. My personal approach is to clip in a karabiner and climb the ladders as efficiently as possible- i.e. exactly as I would at home, I was over the top in under a minute whilst the two blokes in front of me took a good five each, balancing their crampons on the rungs as they tried to hold on AND push their jumars up. Which is safer? I’ll let you all decide.
The moment I came over the final lip of the icefall, the sun burst into view and its warmth flooded me as I took my first look at Lhotse and the Western Cwm- incredible. I am so lucky to witness such a sight. Tom and Rick were taking packs off ready for a rest, and I happily joined them- though really struggling to eat and drink, so I took loads of photo and video instead.
The final walk to camp 1 is awesome compared to the stress of the ice fall- a few more ladders were crossed in no time, and the gentle walk up the cwm in the morning sun was glorious- we stopped many times just to take the scenery in, photograph each other looking hard core on the ladders, and enjoy the climb for what it was.
The first tents came into view soon after, which in our minds represented hot tea and warm sleeping bags- we soon stopped mucking about and marched single file into camp, arriving in good time at around 10am. All in all, a 5 hour ascent from crampon point was a great time for the three of us- Kenton was happy, we were happy- we were at camp one on Everest- I had to pinch myself again.
So, tent life- I was by default given the job of setting up mine and Lynette’s tent as I arrived before here. It’s a matter of: boots, crampons and harness in the back porch, thermarest and sleeping bag straight out on the tent floor, and the stove straight on in the front porch. Luxuries of changing into dry socks can wait- the top priority is to collect a bag full of snow (not yellow) and melt it into drinking water, no matter how repulsed you feel by anything passing your lips- hydration is key to acclimatisation, to having energy for the climb, and to surviving up high.
Lynette arrived soon after and so the cycle started again of helping her take her boots off, arranging her sleeping mats and getting her a hot drink asap. This is simple tent etiquette- if you are there first, make the arrival for your tent buddy as efficient as possible so you can close down the hatches and both recover from the day’s exertion.
As we brewed snow water and sorted out food, the sunny weather outside disintegrated in a matter of minutes. A grey cloud settled itself over C1, snow began to fall and the winds picked up dramatically. This annoyed me intensely as I hadn’t had time to (ahem) visit the outside toilet! I do not recommend squatting at 6000m in a snow storm to do your business- it’s very cold!
The storm lasted all night- katabatic winds pummelled the tent and at one point I thought we would be blown away with the force of the wind- it was like 50 men were punching and shoving the tent from every direction. I had also insisted on leaving the tent doors slightly open (for more oxygen circulation), meaning that we both woke up to snow drift rushing into our warm slumber, making everything wet and icy. Sorry Lynette.
As the sun rose, the winds did not abate- Lynette began boiling water at 6am and more than once a freak gust knocked over the stove, spilling our precious water everywhere. We could just about hear each other over the roar, and getting ready and packed to head back down to BC took nearly two hours- trying to stuff a sleeping bag into a little stuff sack at 6000m took me about 15 minutes, with many breaks to catch my breath!
I told myself that for breakfast I would have a cup of tea and 4 custard cream biscuits- I managed 3, my appetite evidently dwindling as we head higher into the atmosphere. Yes, this really is your daughter, mum- the one you usually nickname the gannet!
The descent back to BC was soon underway- uneventful until I chickened out on two ladders strung together across a crevasse above the ice fall- I had to stop and climb back onto the snow twice, absolutely terrified as the ladder was swaying so much. The third time I told myself to ‘man-up’ and have faith in myself- all went smoothly and I cursed myself for making such a fuss!
As I descended the ladders into the top section of the ice fall, Tom caught up and we climbed together into the first gnarly section. I was in front as we climbed down a ladder and were met with an explosion of blue ice blocks in our path- only yesterday had Tom sat under this huge pinnacle of blue ice and commented on whether it was sturdy. Today, it was a car crash of ice blocks which had completely buried the fixed line and now forced us to gingerly climb over its shattered remnants- the pinnacle must have collapsed in the night, but we didn’t want to hang around in case something else decided to fall.
I was cursing all the way along this jumble of ice, trying to locate the rope and forge a route through the mess- we didn’t stop to catch our breath until we were safely clipped into some undamaged line- nothing more was said, we carried on moving as fast as possible until we reached the football field for a rest- Kenton caught us up and simply said to Tom: ‘you are one lucky bugger!’
The ice fall was oddly empty- Kenton and Tom went off together from our rest stop, and I passed maybe 3 sherpas and no climbers for the rest of the way down- it was like having this world of ice all to myself. Lovely, I thought, as I took a break at a ‘safe’ section. As I swigged from my water bottle I heard a deep rumbling and then a boom far to my left, then the sound of ice and snow rushing into the depths of the glacier. From that point onwards I didn’t waste a second- I ran and jumped where I could, only clipping in when absolutely necessary- my heart raced for over an hour as I rushed past blocks of ice and over ladders to the relative safety of the pinnacles- I did not want to hear that sound any closer than I had- it shook me to the core.
Finally back at BC, I realised that the altitude gain to camp 1 didn’t affect me much- apart from the loss of appetite I had no headache and resting pulse and breathing rates are all good. Camp 2 is a couple of hundred meters higher and we hope to head up in a few days time- so I hope that my acclimatisation continues to go as well as it has gone so far.
So prob not much to report for the next few days as we rest at BC- at least, that’s the way it should be!
Off for another hot chocolate now- as I said hydration is very important!
Tuesday, 20 April 2010
There has been plenty of relaxation at base camp- lots of debating and tea drinking, washing of smelly socks and fighting for the right to toilet paper in the girls loo!
But we haven’t been sitting around all the time- yesterday Kenton took Rick, Tom and I into the icefall- the aim was to tag the top lip of this jumbling mass of ice and head back down before the sun hit us, meaning that we wouldn’t quite reach camp 1, but would certainly benefit from the altitude and familiarisation with the route itself.
The night before I’ll admit I had a bad feeling about the plan- heading into the icefall in the dead of night, when temperatures are extremely low and the darkness makes for slow progress, I was nervous as anything and couldn’t sleep.
Before I knew it Kenton was calling for me to get out of bed and after a hurried breakfast we emerged into the darkness with our harnesses and big boots to head for the ice fall- the sherpas had lit juniper to wish us safe passage, the eerie golden flames and smoke cast across base camp as we slowly trudged to crampon point, and tried not to wake other dozing climbers by tripping over their tent strings- easier said than done!
We entered the ice fall just before 5am, our crampons crunching on the frozen snow that had settled the night before. I followed Kenton’s foot steps closely, my head torch not really up to the job (mum, don’t worry I have a spare one). First of all we must cross what is known as the ‘pinnacles’, I would take a guess at 10 stretching ice ridges jutting out of the ground, which one must climb across in order to reach the first of the ladders. Passage is usually marked by another climbers footsteps, or at this time in the morning when snow has covered tracks, there are little red flags that mark a safe crossing.
After an hour and fifteen minutes we reached the first ladder, and our first resting point. A good time to make, especially at dawn. The four of us gulped down some water and KC explained that we could mark the time we had before the sun hit us by keeping an eye on Pumori- a mountain that sits behind base camp. As we watched and drank our water we saw the very tip of the peak turn a blazing orange- the sun would slowly move down the mountain, across the glacier and then up the icefall. We had about 4 hours until the sun would hit us on the descent- meaning blazing hot temperatures, risk of snow blindness and of course- the weakening of the ice from the intense heat.
So, we started on the ladders, which offer passage over gaping crevasses. Crampons sliding on the metal frames, each of us tightly gripped the ropes to balance ourselves and negotiate spiked feet on the rungs. Some decide that speed is the way to do it- i.e. if you launch yourself across and trip you will have enough momentum to get to the other side (!), the other is to scare yourself to death moving extremely slowly and realising how far down you will go if you fall. My approach is the Sherpa style- grip the ropes, extend your arms straight behind your back and put all your weight on your arms, leaning forward as far as possible- it seems to work, but I still worry that one false move will land me ‘in America’, as is the Sherpas belief.
For many hours we seemed to be the only team in the icefall, head torches were put away as a morning glow turned the sky a hazy blue- Pumori was becoming ever more orange as the sun rose threateningly. In fact, I was almost praying for that intense heat to hit us- I was so cold. My hands and nose were especially frozen, the only thing to do was to keep moving and fling our arms around like crazed chickens as we moved up over seracs and around ice boulders.
As the team evened out, we found ourselves increasingly alone- I was in the middle between Rick and Tom, and would occasionally see their heads bobbing above and below me- we were only about 5 minutes apart. I was no longer afraid of the ice fall- it seemed in the dawn hours to be sleeping, there were no sudden cracks and no rushes of water under the ice- it felt like we were passing a sleeping giant, trying not to wake him from his slumber.
As I climbed higher, the terrain became more dangerous and prayer flags marked the most deadly sections. I almost wished the flags weren’t there to mark the potential death traps, my ignorance would keep me much calmer. Nonetheless the Sherpas superstitions paid off, as I soon emerged from the ‘popcorn’ area (as it is called) into the ‘football fields’, which are welcome respite of open plains of ice, with little overhead but the stars.
Kenton and Rick were there taking a rest and a drink- I opened my mouth to try and say hello, but the cold had numbed my face so all that came out was slurring gibberish. KC gave me a hug to try and warm me up- we were all freezing cold, and couldn’t help but laugh at how one another looked. Some photos were taken of us standing there freezing our bums off- I haven’t seen them yet but I imagine we are a sorry looking sight!
I moved on first, determined to make the top lip of the ice fall, which is marked by prayer flags. Kenton soon overtook and I made sure that I always had him in my sight- the terrain once more became a twisting world of ladders and over hanging ice- we estimated an hour to the lip, but made it in about 45. I watched as Kenton tested the final ladder that would take us to the top of the icefall- it nearly fell on him! So instead the jammy dodger did a few nifty moves up the side, bypassing the metal death trap, and was soon standing on top of the fall. I came up shortly after, took one look at the ladder and Kenton’s short cut and decided to call it a day. Finally it was time to turn back and head for a late lunch and the safety of base camp.
The descent was a whole different matter- I passed Rick and Tom on the way down and told them about the ladder, they wanted to continue to the bottom of the lip like I did before turning back, so I went down alone.
By this point, Sherpas from various teams were moving up and down the fall carrying great loads for the high camps, the sun still hadn’t hit the upper section where I was descending but everything was warming up quickly- the ice fall was waking up and it was time to get down as fast and as safely as possible.
Descending is pretty straight forward, you may or may not choose to ‘clip in’ with a karabiner- if you do you are technically safe from falling as the rope will hold you, however- you are not safe from something falling on you if you are clipped into a rope and cant run away fast enough! Its common sense- our team doesn’t use jumars or ice axes in this section, some teams I found did, and this slowed theirs and our progress significantly. The ice fall is not somewhere you want to be faffing around- our teams approach is to use a karabiner where we see fit- on ladders and heavily crevassed sections, and hold the ropes with our hands where it was safer. We therefore move faster and get out of the icefall before the rays of the sun truly start to disintegrate the ice.
On the descent I was stopped by a chap coming up the rope, we exchanged pleasantries like everyone does as they pass on the route. ‘What’s your name?’ he demanded, I told him and he said ‘finally! I’ve been asking all sorts their names looking for a Bonita’. Turns out he is a Royal Holloway graduate and now a guide on the hill- it seems that there is something in the water at Holloway, any other grads been to Everest?
Quite suddenly and without warning, the sun hit me as I was traversing around a block of ice on a fixed line, immediately I knew I had to stop and get on sunglasses, sun cream, a hat and have a drink- the effects of the heat are so quick that if you don’t react straight away you will almost certainly regret it. I told Kenton I would lend him my sun cream, but didn’t have the patience to wait until I caught up with him at the start of the ladders (only 10 minutes away!). I found him lying in the sun with his arms over his face waiting for me to arrive- we descended as fast as would allow after that- the pinnacles once more threatening to break even the most mentally strong climber with its never ending ridges.
After an hour of so, I finally emerged from the icefall and back to base camp, KC and I had a chat with Rob Casserley who was about to head in, before trudging almost deliriously over the scree of base camp back to our site, about a 15 minute walk away.
We were pretty tired and happy to lap up the sun for an hour or so waiting for Rick and Tom to arrive- sitting in the sun letting the tiredness wash over us, neither bothered to think about sun cream- this morning we both have badly burnt ankles from taking our socks off and drying our feet in that midday sun- lesson learnt, I suppose…
Now, today is a rest day- I am intending to sort my kit for our trip to camp 1 tomorrow, which the whole team will join us on, and also sew up my sleeping bag which is spewing down everywhere (again…).
Sadly, our trekkers Lewis and Mick left the day before last- I was really upset to see them go, they were great fun and I spent most of the walk in with them- so it feels as if something is missing at base camp. There is talk that we will do Ama Dablam together next winter- hopefully they were serious! Mick left a letter that was read out at supper, thanks to both of you boys- we wish you could’ve stayed until June!
Base camp has all of a sudden (in my eyes) become a little more ferocious- yesterday there was the biggest avalanche I have ever seen- it sounded like thunder, but we realised there was no way that thunder was that loud and continuous. The team rushed out the mess tent to see a massive cloud of snow and ice rushing down a face opposite camp- over half a mile away. The same happened this morning, though albeit looked tame in comparison to yesterdays. We are safe here up high on the glacier, but at night when I hear rumbles in the distance, I still wonder which one will sweep over us as we lie in our tents. Another one at night is the cracking of the glacier underneath us- it sounds like gun shots going off as the ice splits and fractures due to the rapid drop in temperature. It’s something that now doesn’t even faze me, but I remember those first few nights at Manaslu BC hearing the same noises, and realise how despondent I have become.
Finally, I have been given the messages to go on the flags which I will be taking with me to the summit- of course, I will not disclose what will be written, but to those who’s messages I will be carrying- I can’t think of a better or more motivating reason to get to the top of the world and fly those flags from the top.
On a lasting note- thank you for all your messages and emails, I can’t reply to them as our internet costs $10 per MB- so I spent over $100 checking emails the other day! To everyone, I am reading them and taking them on board- especially Tom Weston Jones whose wise words I will end on:
‘Go on Bon, smash a new arsehole into Everest and come back safe’.
To Nanny, Dad and family- it was great to talk to you all at Sunday breakfast yesterday from the sat phone- I miss you all dearly and have not lost that much weight I promise!
Mum, miss you so much, and thank you for your messages- but why write an entire email telling me all about internet fraud then only one line to say how everyone is getting on?! Typical mum thing to do! And cost me about $10 to read….
Tom, missing you loads- thank you for all your messages please keep them coming, can’t wait to see you in June.
Off for now, thanks for reading- I’ll be doing an update about camp 1 in the next couple of days. Bonita x