Saturday, 29 May 2010

a big thank you

So, back home finally- to my mum, my dad, all my family and to my own bed!

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.

Bonita

Friday, 21 May 2010

the end of the top-up at ATM Everest Expedition

HI all,

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.

Bonita x

18 months worth of hard work was worth it just for that moment of arriving back in base camp.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Record Broken: Bonita reaches the summit of Mt. Everest



BREAKIN NEWS

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

Message relayed by Sat Phone

Message from Everest, relayed by Satphone:

'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

Resting down in the valleys, and getting ready for the summit

sorry for lack of communication- i decided quite last minute to pack my pack and head down into the valleys for some proper rest whilst we wait for the weather window. You see, festering at BC is not much fun after er... one day!

*

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