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

camp 3

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 5am. 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 8am 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 Lhotse face, gaining about 250m altitude. Poor Lynette didn’t make it out of camp as she has an illness that was making her feel sick. As her tent buddy I am quite worried that this is contagious!

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 7am, 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 Himalaya laid itself out before me. I could see for miles, I breathed the air, I smelt the air. 7000m is a special kind of place- I realise how lucky I am to have spent time up there on Manaslu and now again on the great Sagarmatha.

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 Lhotse face after you’ve dropped your water bottle (yes, happened to me).

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

Dictated update from Camp 2

Message dictated via Sat-Phone from Camp 2:

'I have made it safely to camp 2. We are all very happy as we managed a quick ascent time between camp 1 and camp 2 of 2.5 hours.

Unfortunately the weather is closing in now, so we are unsure if camp 3 is achievable on this acclimatisation run. Rob (Casserley's) team are a stage ahead of us and made it to camp 3 but the following team had to turn back due to bad weather, so we'll see tomorrow if it is possible.

Whatever happens, tomorrow is going to be a tough day as we set out to tackle the Lhotse Face (a steep wall of hard packed ice), where you must be clipped into a fixed line at all times. This can be slightly problematic,with people coming down as well as going up. It is only a 1.64mile climb but can take anything between 3-6 hours.

Feeling in good condition to tackle tomorrow. Send my love to all back home!'

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Calm before the Storm (plus photos!)

Pretty apprehensive right now- as of tomorrow the team is leaving base camp and heading up onto the hill for five or maybe six days. This could be our last rotation up high before the summit push- so the pressure is on to get it right, i.e. stay fit, acclimatise well and stash gear ready for entering the death zone- you really don’t want to get to camp four and realise you’ve forgotten an inner glove.

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?’

‘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…

So catch up on the 1st or 2nd May, all my love to family and friends- I’ll be thinking of you all whilst I am up there.

Oh, Happy Birthday to Luke for the 24th April. I think you are allowed a Krispey Crème on this occasion!

Bonita x

Friday, 23 April 2010

First photos from Everest

Having trekked down to Gorak Shep, to see David off safely, I have managed to upload a few photos. There will be plenty more to come, I promise, but here are just a few that the computer would let me upload!

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Camp 1

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

Into the Icefall

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

Monday, 19 April 2010

Reminder of our own mortality

So plenty has happened since my last blog, since the acclimtisation trek up chukung ri we’ve finally reached base camp and have already been into the ice fall (yesterday), which I now maintain as the best day of my life…

Getting the harness on and fixing the crampons onto my boots, I couldn’t contain my excitement- being actually on the hill after nearly two years of dreaming about it was overwhelming. In truth, I have had many sleepless nights thinking about the ice fall- it is arguably the deadliest part of the south col route to Everest’s summit, and when I first saw the 600m of tumbling ice I had a few butterflies in my stomach.

It’s important to not ever let your guard down in this place of ice seracs, crevasses and frozen glacial pools, especially as the rising sun slowly melts this ice world into an even deadlier place- triggering perhaps a block of ice the size of a house to collapse, or for the weak edge of a crevasse to collapse under your foot.

However, actually being in the ice fall, following closely at kenton’s heels, I really felt in my element- I have a huge respect for the power of this place to take lives away in an instant, but in all honesty, I was having the time of my life. The ladders are great fun for a start! It felt great to be using the skills Rob Casserley and Henry had taught me on Manaslu- I realise now how much I have to thank them for as it has made the ice fall seem just that much less of a daunting place. We are heading back in tomorrow to tag camp 1, then head back down to BC for a late lunch.

So acclimatisation is going well- admittedly, keeping at Kenton’s heels right back to camp left me pretty exhausted and headachy- but he said he felt just as bad! Bit of trouble sleeping as I hate sleeping bags, but generally for living at 5,300m I couldn’t feel better- am very keen to sleep at camp 1 tomorrow night, but trust kenton’s judgment when he says we are in no rush.


A grave reminder of our own mortality has been two causalities whilst on route to base camp- one in fact, happened this morning.

Whilst in Lobouche we were having tea our lodgings when a distressed British man came in followed by his group- he had spent three days at basecamp but had suddenly come down with something and appeared to be in a critical condition.

Thankfully Kenton was on hand with his contacts and sat phone to arrange a helicopter. Meanwhile Dr Rick on our team assessed the guy and calmed him down somewhat.

Finally, oxygen arrived but no one knew how to set the mask up with the tank and regulate the flow properly- in comes me trying desperately to remember how to set the system up from Manaslu- thankfully I managed to wing it and the oxygen was soon flowing, I put the mask on the guys head and he calmed down for a while before projectile vomiting everywhere and was soon whisked away in a helicopter. I really hope he is OK, but he was lucky that Kenton and Rick were on hand to ensure his safety- so I am so thankful to be surrounded by such a competent and fantastic team.

Today, unfortunately one of our own porters has gotten sick, Kenton thinks HACE. I woke up to find him semi-conscious on oxygen with one of our sherpas- Tindu, tending to him. Eventually he had to be carried off the hill by another porter on the back of a plastic chair after Kenton’s and Henry’s best efforts to secure him a helicopter from BC failed. He will go down to Periche for treatment and I’m not sure but may be able to get a chopper from there. I pray he is OK and can return to full health very soon.

It’s not all doom and gloom on the hill though, Mum! Base camp is great fun- we had the Puja the day before last, which is a religious ceremony conducted by a llama to bless safe travel on Sagarmatha. Beer and treats were handed around, climbers were introduced to one another and some even got personally blessed by the Llama, though I must admit I didn’t- I assume that my own beliefs will keep me strong whilst here.

Other things to do at base camp? Well, a shower today was much appreciated and needed! We’ve had a rather ferocious game of Monopoly (Tom will remember I am quite competitive at this), food is great and generally rest days are just that- rest, eat and acclimatise. Our bodies are still going through major physiological changes and they need time to adapt to living in such an inhospitable place.

By the end of next week I hope to be sleeping at camp 2, though this is entirely up to Kenton and the logistics set up on the hill. Everything has felt rightso far, I hope this feeling continues- I can’t wait to see camp 1 tomorrow and do some actual climbing!

For those reading this back in the UK, please keep supporting this expedition by topping up your ‘pay as you go’ phone at cash machines instead of shops! It’s much easier and faster, and you can top up any phone you like as long as you have the telephone number for it. 5p goes to Global Angels, please check my website for more details.

Finally- congrats to the person who won the last flag on the EBay auction- I haven’t heard what the messages are yet that I’ll be taking to the top- but I look forward to being responsible for such an amazing thing as to have your personal message on top of the world.

So keeping topping up at an atm, keep reading these blogs, and keep supporting Global Angels in whatever way you can.

All my love and thanks


Monday, 12 April 2010

what a day!

in the words of ant and loz rojas: what a daaay

14 mile round trip upto a big hill somewhere has left me, rick, mic and lewis exhausted. We climbed to an altitude of 5,365m, the boys then decided to head up a rather ghastly looking ridge, and i went up a nice gentle slope to another summit! At its highest, i reached 5,404m- which is higher than everest base camp- fantastic for morale and for acclimatisation.

Now back in Dingboche my hands have swollen up with oedema and we all have headaches from ascending so fast. The views from the saddle summit were incredible- ama dablam, makalu and island peak to name but a few. We sat on this ridge for ages basking in the sun and letting our bodies adapt to the altitude- an incredible day that i will never forget.

as we've spent an extra 'rest day' here, we're delayed into BC by one day, so two more days time- i hope.

love reading all your emails and messages, please keep them coming they make such a difference!

over and out until basecamp,

Bonita x

Saturday, 10 April 2010


So i reckon i am probably at one of the highest internet cafes in the world at 4,400m- though i am sure someone will be able to say otherwise!

The last few days have been great, and we are now having a rest day in Dengboche, before we cross tomorrow into the Khumbu valley and make a bee line for Everest basecamp.\

Feeling good in terms of altitude, can remember being at Manaslu BC at 4,800m last september and feeling a lot worse- so very positive reaction to altitude so far.

The team is fast and we are making lunch stops and night stops well ahead of schedule, meaning there's plenty of rest time which suits me perfectly- i find it difficult to bumble along without purpose- i have to go at a good pace and then be completely lazy all afternoon!

Fantastic walk upto a monestary the other day- was lucky enough to witness a ceremony with the monks- they chanted for over an hour in a temple with a huge buddha, we sat on the floor and watched with no shoes on. I shut my eyes and naturally my thoughts instantly drifted to the climb ahead. I pray for strength, and to make the right decisions.

Hygene is going down the pan pretty fast and toilets are foul, worried about getting sick though so far nothing to report, fingers crossed it stays that way.

Base camp in 3 days time, meeting loads of trekkers along the way and simply saying that i am heading to basecamp, when in the lodges at night i am happy to get into conversations with other trekkers, but its awkward mentioning that im attempting to climb the big E, i prefer just keeping my head down and reading micheal crichton.

Had the most wonderful experience last night of being given an i-pod to listen to music, re-discovered my love for Bob Dylan and realised how much i missed music! Shame to have to give it back, but battery power is so precious here there is no chance of idley listening to music for hours on end.

After that the yak dung stove broke and smoke filled the lodge, we had to 'evacuate' and ended up having supper in the kitchen, huddled around a small table in our down jackets with hot water bottles clutched to our chests. We watched as a nepalese woman cooked our food to perfection despite the stress she was under with her guests all watching. It was priceless getting to see the lodges from the otherside.

The terain is more like what i expected from the walk in- long walks through valleys with mountains towering around us- i spotted Pumori yesterday and Ama Dablam still shadows over us- perhaps later will take a hike up onto the ridge above dengboche and try and catch Makalu at sunset. it really is an amazing place- this morning we had breakfast in the dusty yard of the lodge, surrounded by some of the most famous mountains on earth. Just incredible.

I am really itching to get to BC now and take on the hill, on the flip side, i would love another week down here acclimiatising- this is the most important part of acclimatisation and heading to 5,300m in 3 days seems quite fast though there is no reason to do otherwise as we are all feeling fit and ready. it always seems on these expeditions that it is a race against time- will we be ready? will we be acclimatised? what if the weather window comes early?

Every night i fall asleep with a million questions running through my head- at the moment i am worrying about fluids on summit day- the fear of water bottles freezing is already keeping me awake. Things like that i suppose every climber is going through, we can prepare but we will only know what the outcome will be when we are in the situation.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

namche bazar

Hi all, checking in from a pretty large town in the Khumbu called Namche- its a little wierd having internet cafes and sky up in the Himalayas- but hey ho, i am lucky i have trekked into Manaslu and seen what rural Nepal is more liken to.

The scenery itself is beautiful- mind blowing, its a shame as after a while you get used to such incredible views of the big peaks in the distance, but seeing Everest for the first tme today was something special- its huge, black and looks a million miles away. We aim to be on the top in the next 6/7 weeks.

Been trekking for two days now- and we're currently at an altitude of 3,460m. Already seen a guy been taken down on a donkey suffering from altitiude sickness- ascend too fast here and it could be a death sentence.

The group has been fab, everyone has so many stories, we tend to get into the tea houses quite early, and with no distractions in last nights tea house- like tv or music, we spent hours chatting, writing journals, playing board games and eating! Bed at 8, slept like a baby.

Tomorrow is a rest day, this is themost important part of our acclimatisation- up to 5000m, so physiologically our bodies are going through huge changes right now to produce more red blood cells to compensate for the lack of oxygen.

I am feeling fine and my resting heart rate is still the same as sea level, exerting oneself suddenly has more of an effect, but generally we have no complaints, no illnesses and no injuries- touch wood!

After tomorrow we will head up higher- i think to dengboche (not sure!!), i am really itching to get to BC but its also nice to relax before the pressure of living and climbing in such a dangerous place begins.

So far, Manaslu is a far more beautiful and back to basics trek- and i would recommend it, but i speak so soon- the next week i am sure, will be full of more wonders and sights which we are very lucky to witness.

Love to all the family, Tom and friends. Keep bidding on this flag- it would be great to get some donations to Global Angels whilst i am away.

Touch base in a few days

Bonita x

namche bazarr

Sunday, 4 April 2010


Well, i never thought i'd say this- but i feel right at home in Kathmandu. Coming back after 6 months was great- the same mad city of blurry neon lights, mopeds and hoards of people bustling through the streets.

Kenton was there to greet me at the airport, and we shot off in one of those tiny taxis to the summit hotel, where the team is staying until tomorrow (Tuesday 6th).

The team- well, what can i say. Couldn't be more happy. Some very interesting characters from all different backgrounds- i don't think we'll ever be short of a story whilst huddled around the gas stoves in the high camps!

The most important thing is that there is mutual respect for all, i was worried they may be a few egos- but in all honesty i cant find fault with a single person on the team- this will be an asset on the hill so it is really important we keep on bonding whilst things are easy. But i for one, feel lucky to be with such a great bunch of people.

Unfortunately though, two of our team have been up in the night after a dodgey lasagne- which i also ate for supper last night. Thankfully mine was quite obviously frozen in the middle so i knew not to touch it- think the boys were less lucky. Still, i went to bed hungry and dug out the haribo i'd saved for summit day and munched through 4 mini packs of it whilst writing my journal- not the best diet for an everest expedition!

We are about to head out into Tamil, an area of Kathmandu were tourists generally overwhelm, and buy some last minute bits- toilet paper, snacks, lighters. Kathmandu is a crazy place with some beautiful weather- i'm sad we only have a day here, but knowing what's ahead eases the nostalgia i feel for this place already

thanks for checking in- much appreciated. The final flag auction is now up on ebay:

please be spontaneous and get involved- bids are very modest, its great that the british public have this opportunity which is traditionally saved for corporate sponsors. All proceeds go to global angels- so the more lively the bidding, the more money we can raise for children at the white lodge centre in Chertsey, and the CVI village in Uganda- check earlier blogs for more info on these Global Angels projects.

I cannot wait to bring news about our journey through the Himalayas- please keep checking in as i head to to the top of the world. B x