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


1 comment:

  1. Sounds as though you're really enjoying it, especially through the ice fall, i've only read books about it, but usually everyone's petified, go for it girl, really enjoy reading your blogs.