Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Advanced Base Camp

This is one wild old place that’s for sure… Each morning you wake up and the air you have breathed throughout the night has frozen to the roof of your tent or your pillow. As the sun rises, the tent warms and the moisture slowly condenses to drip on your face… morning. I think I can speak for us all in saying that we sleep in pretty much all the thermals and warm clothing that will fit inside an arctic sleeping bag and liner. Woolly hats, gloves, down feather booties – nothing is exempt from a night time sleep, especially not your water flask filled with hot water to create the perfect water bottle.
This is of course presuming that you can sleep. Altitude is renowned for interrupting all forms of sleep – be it recurring nightmares, the need to pee every hour or the infamous cheyne-stoke breathing which will have you waking up, flailing your arms as if some-one is suffocating you.
But you do get roused each morning with a warm cup of sweet milky tea and a hot towel, so it can’t be all bad. And that kind of sums this place up. In essence it is miserable, but Russ and his team do all they can to make it bearable.
The views are stunning, Everest and the North Col to one side and a vast and awe inspiring glacier to the other. Advanced Base Camp (ABC) is now a small town with easily a couple of hundred climbers and sherpas all camped out in multi-coloured tents alongside the glacier.
It is high though and there is no denying that. If we thought Base camp was tough, ABC literally takes your breath away. We are all pretty well acclimatised now, but you still get exhausted getting into your sleeping bag or brushing your teeth – it’s often feels like a completely ridiculous state of affairs. Thankfully the headaches, lack of appetite, sleepless nights and endless peeing have just about subsided. But that can only mean one thing – we’re going up again.
We’ve taken our first hikes up to the North Col in the last few days, and finally you really feel as if you have stepped onto Mount Everest proper. It’s about a 45min hike up to crampon point where you rest for a while and put on your multi spiked walking devices. You then step up onto the aforementioned glacier and walk up to the face of the North Col. This is a breath taking walk on top of a vast open expanse of ice that gives you spectacular views of the surrounding peaks and valleys. It’s very surreal being up there, almost like being transported to some enormous movie set on a far and distant planet. But you can’t enjoy it for long as you must slog on – keeping to the path to avoid any unseen glacier crevasses, to finally reach the face of the North Col. The North Col is like reaching a brick wall made of ice, it just goes straight up. You clip in to the fixed ropes and haul yourself, puffing and wheezing up several hundred metres of solid ice and snow. If you thought the views were good on the glacier, then as you scale the ice face they just get better and better. Unfortunately, the climb is so demanding to reduce weight you don’t bring a camera to take any photos and even if you did have it, you are so physically spent the entire time you are on that rope – you would never take any. Apparently it gets easier the more you do it as you are more acclimatised to its 7000m (about 23,000ft?) height, but I kinda doubt it.
Feels good to have tagged it and come back down safely. Not all have been so lucky. The day we went up there, an Indian climber who had spent the night there woke up the next day, felt rough and started coming down. He’d just crossed the big scary ladder when he collapsed and went unconscious. Incredibly luckily for him, our superman doc Terry had just reached that point and ran up to our camp on the North Col, got the necessary drugs from his magic box, administered them and then with our guides Bill, Shaun and Woodie improvised a stretcher to get him down. This was quite a feat, but with the help of the Indian team and a load of sherpas they got him back to ABC safely last night before heading down on a yak to BC today. He appeared to be doing really well and escaped a very close call.
It really made us all appreciate just how lucky we are to be on Russ’ expedition and to have such expertise as Terry, Bill, Woodie and Shaun (all highly trained mountain rescue bods) on our side. But it was also a reminder of just how high we are and the respect we must give to this immense mountain. Many of the other expeditions here have no way near the kind of resources, experience and support that we do. Russ is the safest and most successful expedition leader on the mountain, so we are in safe hands in a beautiful, but potentially harmful place.
Some of you may have heard about Simon Wagen one of our cameraman. He was rather dramatically carried down to base camp (well he walked from Interim camp as he is about 7ft tall and too proud to be carried all the way). He had very bad stomach cramps and Terry didn’t want to take any chances, so sent him down. Turns out it was probably just trapped wind… but you can’t be too careful up here. He’s back now, so we have a full team up at ABC again, but again it proves what safe and cautious hands we are in.
Filming is going well up here, when we can summon the energy to pick up a camera, but the climbers are all feeling good and looking forward to spending a night up at the North Col in the next few days. Gerard our man from Cannes with only one kidney is apparently and quite incredibly on his way up to ABC. And the two swiss fellas that spent a few weeks acclimatising on some other Himalayan peaks are not far behind.
I apologise for not updating this sooner but our so called ‘toughbook’ died up at this altitude, so I’m sneaking into Russ’ comms tent to write this while he naps… We should be up at ABC for another week or so before heading back to the luxury of Base camp to await the weather…
I recommend checking out the Himex website (link on the right) and their news section as I think the climbers have been updating more often than me… Also google Mark’s, Max’s audi7summits, Bob’s outdoorinsights, Tim’s, Mogens gsk websight (sorry can’t be more specific) as they are all updating their news. There are also news updates on and, but both of these sites have petty vendettas against Russ and so have posted totally false info (as they do each year) about Russ’s clients being carried off the mountain – so beware false info.
I hope the length of this entry makes up for the lack of recent posts (and doesn’t bore you overly!).
Take care and don’t worry we are cold, but happy.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

latest from martin at base camp

Dear All – second missive from Base Camp!

Sadly for the second year running I have failed to make it up to ABC!! After the puja, everyone started making their way up first via interim camp, at 19,000 feet (which is where I eventual bailed out last year) and then on to ABC at 21,000 ft.

I headed up with the second wave of crew and climbers, but felt dreadful, and figuring that I wouldn’t make it up to ABC decided to come back down to Base Camp and see what there was to do down here.

I take my hat off to the rest of the crew, who all made it up there and who all (with one exception, more anon) slotted into work pretty quickly. The one exception was Simon the cameraman, who came down with severe abdominal pains after a few days. At the time he was filming halfway up an ice cliff, so he had to be got down and back to ABC, where our medic decided to take no chances. He later said that had someone arrived in his emergency ward in that state, he would have called in a surgeon at once to advise on possible ruptured appendix etc.

Lacking such luxuries, he decided to get him stretchered down to Base Camp, where we set in motion the logistics to get him back to Kathmandu if need be. Not easy, as first of all there had been a landslide blocking the road between here and the Nepali border (which meant getting a jeep to come up from the border to meet our own vehicle – everyone would have to walk across the landslide from one vehicle to the other!) , then arrange a helicopter to fly him from the border to Kathmandu (thus avoiding the strike hit countryside of Nepal – I imagine you all have a better idea of what’s been going on there than we do, but from reports we heard of people travelling overland t and from Kathmandu, the chances of getting into trouble were high!!)

Anyhow, by the time Si got to Interim he was on his feet, and starting to loose of monumental quantities of wind. The party reached base camp well after dark, at which point Si was pretty much ready to turn round and head back up again, but Terry the doc made him stay put fo a couple of days, after which both headed back up the mountain – as Si said, it doesn’t pay to get sick a ABC, as the penalty is a 44 kilometer round trip down to base camp and back!

So he’s now back with the fold, and they are sending down amazing pictures – I love the fact that we are sitting at base camp surrounded by state of the art editing kit, and up at ABC we have the best high altitude camera team in the world filming on the best available kit, and to get their pictures down to us we rely on yaks and tibetan porters!! In fact we worked out today that if we want to get information up to ABC, it’s cheaper to hire a porter to take a letter up than it is to send an e-mail!!

Meanwhile the stuff we’re seeing is amazing – moist evenings we get three or four tapes back down, and we sit and watch them spellbound as they are loaded into the computers – last night we were watching the first foray from ABC up to the top of the North Col, at 23,000 feet – higher than anywhere outside Asia. Doug got some great shots from `crampon point’ – just short of the climb – showing the full extent of the height gain, and just how small the climbers look against the face, while the high altitude team were right in there filming climbers crossing crevasses on as many as three aluminium ladders lashed together. At the top, they could have been on the beach! Bright sunshine and everyone in shirtsleeves – it won’t always be like that.

Climbers and crew will be up there for about another week – they’ll go and stay a night at the North Col and come back to ABC, then go on up to camp 2 at 7500 meters for a night before then coming all the way back to Base Camp to wait for the famous summit weather window, which will be somewhere after mid May.

Meanwhile back at Base Camp we’re busy with wider aspects of the film. Steve is going through all the rushes and arranging them in such a way that when we start editing in June, all six editors will be able to fin d their way around all the material, and I have been going through all the `backstory’ stuff we filmed with the clients before they left home – locations as far afield as Lebanon, Denmark, LA, NZ and Aus – trying to work out ways in which we can seamlessly integrate those sequences into what we are filming here, and also going through the stuff we are filming now to see what’s missing, what needs more explanation and what we need to film on the summit push, so that we don’t get home and kick ourselves!

There is also filming to be done here – after everyone had gone to ABC we had a blizzard for 40 hours, which made for great pictures. It also at this point turned out that there we no heaters up at ABC, so Lacchu the base camp boss called in a load of yaks to take the heaters up, but the yak-men refused to budge in that weather, so he sent up Carsang and Dorje, two of the Tibetan sherpas attached to the expedition – great stuff of them heading out into the blizzard for a 22 k hike, climbing 4,000 feet!

At least the snow keeps the weather reasonably warm! On the colder nights, breath condenses and freezes on the roof of the tent, then falls like mini snowdrops when you roll over in the night! So its like sleeping in a snowstorm!

There have been new arrivals as well. Four day ago brought Gerard, a dapper 62 year old Frenchman from Cannes (obviously well-connected – he’s already offered to arrange a mayoral reception for us all in Cannes once the film is finished!). Like everyone else, he has an amazing story, even if his only kicked in three weeks ago. Until that time, he was relatively straightforward – retired four years ago after a lifetime working for IBM – decided to climb Everest, and set out to get trained and fit in time for this season. Then last month he took his family on a ski-ing holiday in Gstaad, and came down with rippling pains in his side. Once he got back to Cannes, he went for a scan – his docs expecting to find kidney stones. Instead they found a 5cm tumor on one kidney. He refused to give up on Everest despite a warning that the tumor could haemorrhage and kill him if he didn’t get to hospital within 5 hours (a bit of a longshot out here!!).

So he pulled out his chequebook and insisted they operate there and then, for good measure telling them to go in through the front rather than the back (as they usually would) so as not to make it hard for him to carry a rucksack.

He’s two weeks behind everyone else, but determined to catch up, so he’s off to ABC tomorrow, having finally been reunited with his luggage – that got stuck in Kathmandu courtesy of the political situation there, and finally arrived today with the last two climbers – a Gstaad property developer and his mate who have been trekking on the south side of Everest and arrived today to climb it from the north. They turned up in time for lunch and plonked a couple of huge Swiss hams on the table – part of a $4,000 excess baggage consignment that they have brought with them for a bit of home comfort.

Meanwhile Russ seems to be single-handedly keeping not just our expedition, but most of the others afloat – lending heaters to the Equadorians, generator time to the Korean tv crew camped alongside us (in a quid pro quo, when someone nicked the battery from our generator a few nights ago, they were able to come up with a replacement!!), computer charging to the two 18 year olds aiming to be the youngest Brits to summit, and spare oxygen to the expedition which started cycling from the Dead Sea three months ago – they’ve used up their entire emergency supply already!).

Also alongside us - a team of Indian border patrol officers – they strike up first thing in the morning with team yoga and breathing exercises. They also made use of the snow the other day to stamp out a fairly level pitch for a game of cricket – they brought ball, bat and stumps with them, and are now looking to take on a `rest of the world’ team once the climbing is over. However, they might be through sooner than the rest of us, as they are hell-bent on sumitting on the 10th May, despite the omens – this is the 10th anniversary of the 1996 disaster, which the Indian team leader himself was caught up in – he was 4th in line at the ladder on the 2nd step that day as the weather closed in – the three climbers ahead of him decided to press on, and were never seen again. He and the other three turned back, and all four are here again this year.

So that’s the view from here. The sun will probably have warmed the shower tent up to an acceptable level by now, so I might go and have my first decent wash since – well, best not go into that!! Out of one side of our shack I can see some pretty menacing clouds advancing from the north, out of the other the summit is shrouded in what looks from here like mist, but in reality is probably cloud being blown across the top at 100 kph!! Sometime in the next month that airflow will reduce enough for our (now 12) climbers to contemplate a summit bid, and for our 14 strong crew to follow them every inch of the way – either step for step or from the safety of the shack via microwave link ! - watch this space!!!


Sunday, April 16, 2006


Pictures to base camp

Friday, April 14, 2006

Heading up the hill

The first push up to Advanced Base Camp starts tomorrow. We’ll be up there a wee while acclimatising, so having just got used to the meagre luxuries of base camp, we start again. Every day is a hangover day, even though you haven’t touched a drop. Sometimes it just feels like you should drink so that you have an excuse to feel so bad. After a few days your body reacts to it all and you feel ok again, but the higher you go, the lower your level of normality and the more you put up with. Gotta love this mountaineering game.
Evenings like tonight make it worth while though - there’s a full moon and Everest, the North face and most of base camp are lit up in a truly mesmerising fashion.
In theory we should have a sat connection at advanced base camp to carry on updating this blog, but nothing is certain on this mountain – least of all technology.
Sybilla and Steve will be down here in the hut editing away, while the rest of us do battle with ABC – 6400m (21,000ft) and beyond. Once all the summiters have tagged at least camp 2 or 3 they’ll be acclimatized enough and we’ll come back down to await the perfect weather window to head to the top. It’s a crazy ambition these climbers have, but the draw of the mountain is strong and you have to respect their determination and drive. Everest looms over you wherever you are at base camp – it’s an awesome sight. Even when it is hidden by cloud, you kinda know it is there. We’re still a long way off here at BC, but over the next few days we’ll be setting foot on the mountain proper. Its two days walk to advanced base camp and from there you hit crampon point as you head up to the North Col. At 7000m (22,965ft) the North Col offers a clear view of the summit ridge, pretty much all the way to the highest point on earth.
Doesn’t bear thinking about just now. In fact I should go to bed.
Thanks again to all for checking this out.
Have a lovely Easter…?!
Love to all,

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Sybilla's letter home

Day Five at Base Camp!!!!. Will tell you about that in a bit but must say that we’ve had a fabulous journey – into Kathmandu then through Tibet, starting in Lhasa, stopping en route in towns that became more and more remote (and more and more untouched Tibetan!) The landscape just got better and better the closer to the Himalayas we came. Our last stop was a tiny place called Zegar where we trekked up to the Zong – an ancient monastery complex (methinks – must read up on it in the LP) built on the side of a mountain. It was bombarded by the Chinese during the Cultural Revolution so all that remains now are the ruins cascading down the mountain. It was a really tricky walk for a city kid like me (very steep with sheer drop – not good for vertigo). Also, the altitude there was around 4,300 metres and I was really out of breath when I got to the top (understatement of the year). However when I reached the top there I had my first glimpse of Everest – the peak of which was visible above the mountains in the foreground. It was a bit weird seeing the top of it and thinking, we’ll be camping near the bottom of it soon! It seemed so far away and imposing….but here we are!!

The drive from Zegar to Base Camp was beautiful – up and over the Panglar Pass where you see Everest towering above the other mountains in the Himalayan range. We were really lucky – it was beautiful and clear and the view was stunning. We then descended through valleys carved between ruddy mountains, past tiny Tibetan villages and frozen rivers. We stopped at the Rongbuk monastery which is the gateway to BC. Just along from here the road opens up to a large rocky expanse – BC itself. I can’t quite work out how large it is – maybe 3 miles square? Anyhow to be honest,my heart sank when I looked around and thought ‘this is home for the next two months’. After all the rampant beauty it seemed so unappealing. However, it does have quite a monumental view – look above the glacier which it’s parked at the bottom of and there it rises up - the north face of Everest – which is quite something (second understatement of the year). I guess it’s a bit like seeing the Statue of Liberty for the first time – a really famous image, but you’re standing right before it. Of course Everest has the advantage of being made by nature and truly uncompromising, compelling, and magnificent.

Life at Base Camp:
It’s quite something. Our camp is set up and managed brilliantly by the Himex crew and their fantastic team of sherpas. The film crew is separated from the climbers by the Expedition Tents - a kitchen tent, supplies, medical tent and Russ’s tent (the Expedition Leader). Crew and climbers are in rows of tents on either side of the Expedition tents. We’ve each got a comfy 2-man dome to ourselves which is great. We bought rugs en route which really make a difference and make the tent feel really homely (my god it needs it in a place like this – will explain more in a mo).

We’ve spent the past few days setting up our systems. We’ve got a fantastic shed which the sherpas built. It’s going to be my daytime home along with Steve, our editor. It houses the edit suite, camera gear and office gear. Steve and I will be beavering away here; I’ll be logging the rushes whilst Steve rough cuts the material. I’ll also be on comms to Advanced Base Camp when the clients and film crew head up there (next weekend) and also on comms to the UK production office to keep them posted on events here. I’ll be writing the production diary so that when we get properly into post production back in the UK, we’ll have a reference point of what happened when (days merge here!).

The daily routine is great. We get woken up at 7am by sherpas with hot flannels – enough to freshen up your face. Another two sherpas come round with hot tea (those who know me well know that I never drink tea in the UK but the hot, milky, sugary tea they serve here is delicious and reminds me of the tea Mum gave to me when I was little). I must admit, getting up is really hard. The tent is absolutely freezing – my water bottles have been frozen along with the wet wipes, and climbing out of the sleeping bag and getting undressed from my down layers which I’ve been wearing inside my sleeping bag and into my daytime layers is really grim!

At 8am a cooked breakfast is served, follwed by a two course lunch at noon and then a three course dinner at 6pm. The food here is amazing – Lachu is the chief sherpa in charge of the kitchen and he’s a genius in there. One of the symptoms of altitude sickness is loss of appetite – you can forget that as far as I’m concerned! The Wilson appetite has proved once again that it is invincible, and I’ve in fact put on about 4 kgs since the beginning of the trip! Speaking of AS, we’re at at 5,200 metres and it was about 2 hours after we arrived that I started to get headaches. They were really bad on Day 1, especially overnight, then they cleared after breakfast on Day Two but came back intermittently during the day, usually when I’d been active. Just sitting down, rehydrating and resting made them clear. Most people were taking painkillers but I decided not to because I was determined to see how long it would take for my body to naturally acclimatise and the head to clear. Well it’s been a daily progression to normality, and today I’ve had no headache at all – so I’m really chuffed. We’ve been on two acclimatisation treks – one up on the glacier to a beautiful turquoise lake – with Everest as the backdrop, and then this afternoon up along a frozen river. It was treacherous (again especially for me and my appalling balance) but it was great all the same.

This morning we had the Puja ceremony – where monks from the Rongbuk monastery held a service to bless the climbing expedition and to pay respect to the mountain. Climbers brought their ice axes and crampons – all to be blessed. There was lots of chanting, yak butter and smoke, also a bottle of whiskey going round and nibbles. At the end all of the Tibetans and sherpas linked arms and danced, all rather rowdy but fun!

Up here the weather conditions are pretty extreme. When the sun is out during the day it’s very hot – you can’t lie down in your tent because it’s roasting. The minute the sun’s gone down it’s freezing. We huddle together in the mess tent to keep warm, and it’s really hard to leave and trudge back to your tent. Also the wind gets up during the afternoon and it’s fierce. The dust is appalling – you have to clean your tent zips with a toothbrush in order to keep them working. Dust is a huge problem, it gets in your clothes, skin, absolutely everything. I plan to shower in a day or two, but I know I’ll be filthy again very quickly! One thing I haven’t mentioned are the bathroom facilities! Well it’s set up excellently. There’s an ablutions tent with a shower room on one side (when it comes to the time you ask the sherpas for hot water and they’ll fill a pump contraption for you). On the other side of the tent divide is the toilet – a blue barrel with a toilet seat lashed to the top. You breeze in, flip the lid, don’t look down, do your business and then flip the lid back and exit as soon as possible! The blue barrel is for number two’s only – we don’t want it filling up with pee. The contents will be carried down the valley when it’s full.

Our camp is sandwiched on one side by Koreans and Indians on the other. They’ve really hardly given us any room. Apparently Himex is so renowned to be the best expedition company they all want to get close. Unfortunately the stone-walled latrine (for peeing) which was built for us is right in the view of the Korean camp – fine for the guys but impossible to use with any privacy for us girls. So the sherpas dug another latrine with the stone wall facing in and it’s absolutely great. One can squat there in peace knowing nobody can see!

The sherpas are really amazing. They work so hard, getting up in the early hours to melt snow for our morning tea and breakfast (one of the reasons why it would be entirely selfish to expect to wash with water more than once a week – and even then I know I’ll feel guilty when I ask for some! The climbing team and film crew are great characters too. However, as it’s approaching dinner time I’ll stop now and send this so you get some of the picture, even if not as much as I’d like to paint for you.

Love to you all – and apologies once again for having to do a round-robbin, but keep those emails coming as they’re a delight to read.

Loads of love and big hugs to you all (selfish because I’d like your hugs to warm me up!),

Sybs XXX

Monday, April 10, 2006

Martin's update

Dear All – first missive from Base Camp! The communications has been a bit dodgy thus far! For some reason, my mobile worked in Kathmandu and Lhasa, but hasn’t since, which is a bit of a bugger, as there is actually mobile coverage at Base Camp this year – we’re going to get Dick to bring us a load of china mobile SIM cards so we can call from our very own tents, but until then it’s e-mails and sat phone

We had a great drive in through tibet – the roads have improved amazingly since last year, and I’m glad to say I have been feeling better at this altitude than I did last year as well – in Shegar, the thing to do is climb to the top of a 300 meter hillfort – last year I didn’t even get out of the hotel, this year I got pretty much to the top till vertigo on a scree slope made me head back down! We also had an amazing time in a place called Shigatse – 2nd largest town in tibet – walking through the alleys of a huge monastery to a hall with a 26 meter high gilded Buddha statue, which was pretty impressive.

Now we’re at base camp, everyone is trying to adjust – For all of us, I think there was a tendency at first to want to hit the ground running, but a few people have been going down with colds etc, so we are trying to slow down a bit – did a good acclimatisation hike yesterday – about an hour and a half up the side of the glacier, then up onto it, and back down on the other side, passing a gorgeous moraine lake that feeds us with fresh water!

Today’s been pretty amazing – a tibetan guy who lost his legs to frostbite in the same year as Mark Inglis (our double amputee) came to have some legs fitted.

Basically, he lost his herding yaks across a high pass between tibet and Nepal, when he fell into a crevasse and was left for dead by his mate. The story’s a bit like touching the void, in that he managed to rescue himself, but lost both legs, and for 18 years has been hobbling about on the stumps that remained. 18 months ago, he heard Mark was climbing Cho Oyo, and went to find him as he came down, trying to swap Mark’s legs for a crate of beer. Mark told him he couldn’t do that, but would bring some with him this time, which he has done.

They fitted the legs this morning, at lunchtime he was walking along makeshift parallel bars, and by this afternoon he was walking using a couple of ski poles – Mark in tears, him beaming a huge toothy grin!!

Plans are for everyone to head up to ABC at the weekend, and before that we have a big puja ceremony tomorrow morning (when the lamas from the Rongbuk monastery come up to bless the expedition etc.), and on Wednesday the first of our big yak trains heads up to ABC, which should be an amazing sight – some 80- yaks all getting loaded up with gear and packed off.

Sadly, having come through tibet sharing with one of the high altitude cameramen, and not having a hint of complaint from him about snoring, I lasted just one night at base camp before someone (or maybe several people!!) complained to Russ, and my tent has now been shifted away from everyone else’s – I tried pleading for him to let me try the magic anti-snoring potion for a night, but no good!! So I am now wedged between our studio (which is an amazing hut built and wired up by Russ in next to no time) and our mess tent, which is where there will eventually be movie nights, so I’ll either have to watch the movies, or put up with the noise!

The team loses a member tomorrow - Lisa’s meant to be heading home by doing the amazing overland route from here to Kathmandu, tho there is an element of doubt over that, as Kathmandu sounds pretty dodgy at the moment! We’ve got World Service in the studio, and heard last night that two people had been shot dead for breaking curfews. She might have to go back to Lhasa, then fly home by just going through Kathmandu airport and not going into town – or she might have to fly by a different route to avoid Nepal altogether, which would piss her off as she bought loads of stuff there on the way out and left it at the hotel to pick up on the way home.

So Easter is nearly upon us!! I’ve got my eggs stashed away in the tent, and I guess I’ll have to take them with me on the trek to ABC!

Meanwhile the mess tent, which I’ve had to myself for the last hour, is filling up! So I’m going to have a cup of tea with everyone then go and sort out the zip of my tent! It’s blowing like crazy, and there’s tons of dust in the air, so our tent zips are getting clagged up, and if they cease to work, we’ll basically be sleeping outside – which would be no good!!

More later, but in the meantime, check out, which Barny should be updating soon with words and pictures!


Everest Basecamp 5200m, 17,060ft

We have comms. Finally. Been a struggle getting the sat phones and relevant handsets, computers, software etc up and running, but it looks like we are there now. So apologies for the delay in any update, but things should be better from now until we head up to Advanced Base Camp – probably around the 16th?
Amazingly the Chinese, in their comprehensively efficient manner have put a mobile booster at the Rongbok monastery (about 20km away), so Everest basecamp now has very intermittent but lifesaving mobile signal! Texts seem to work for some networks but calls are a step too far. Come back in a couple of years and they’ll be a restaurant, hotel and internet cafe…
Martin has written an email to friends which I’ll post as it gives you a basic update on the last week through Tibet to basecamp, as well as being an alternative voice to mine.
I’ll write a bit more tomorrow and hopefully get some pics up as well.
In brief basecamp is cold, dusty and windy, but we all kinda love it…
Thanks again for checking this out and posting your comments.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Kathmandu pics

Apologies, have to keep these picture file sizes really small

Smog city

Kathmandu is just one of those places. Loud, dusty, fragrant and full of life. We played at being tourists yesterday and went on a sightseeing mission while waiting for some equipment and the rest of the climbers to arrive. It was pretty impressive and a great way to relax after the mayhem of the last few weeks. By the evening all of our climbers were gathered and Russell sat us down to go over some basics and introduce the new arrivals. Terry O’Conner our doctor flew here straight from a 30hr shift in the Intensive Care Unit back home in Oregon – only for the airline to lose his luggage poor guy. And Brett Merrell our fireman from LA arrived after a few days relaxing in Hong Kong and Bangkok with his partner. He also introduced us to Tim - I can’t remember his surname off hand, but he’s a hulk of a guy and apparently he walked up to Russ a couple of days ago and asked if he could join the expedition! Russ has known him a while but he’d discounted him from this year’s trip as Tim couldn’t get the US$40,000 needed to sign up. Sponsorship came through at the last minute, so we now have a Harley Davidson mechanic from Hollywood with us...
Together with Wayne ‘Cowboy’ Alexander, the custom motorbike mechanic from NZ who designed and built Mark Inglis’ prosthetic Everest legs (see, we are not far off an episode of Discovery’s American Chopper. We also have Bob Killup from Australia with us now, so the only climbers missing are two Swiss gents that are arriving a few weeks late as they are climbing another small peak as part of their acclimatisation and Gerard from Cannes in France. Gerard went for a medical just before setting off and they detected early signs of cancer in his kidney, so they whipped his kidney out and sewed him back up. The doctors have now given him the all clear and apparently he will join us in a couple of weeks…! You can’t make this stuff up.
We also have Rosemary - an English vet, another couple from the Netherlands and Irene joining us briefly further down the line as North Col trekkers. At some point I’ll do a who’s who on the camera and guiding teams, as there are some amazing characters with incredible backgrounds, but there’s loads of us, so that can wait.
As for today, there’s a different atmosphere. From the relaxed comfort of yesterday, there’s a frenetic purpose to everyone’s movements today. Last minute shopping for gear and supplies, and vast blue barrels being rolled around as we all attempt to take the minimum with us to Lhasa, packing the rest in barrels to be driven directly to base camp.
We filmed some simple cognitive tests on the roof of the hotel with a few of the climbers, so that when we repeat them at altitude, the effects of low oxygen levels on the brain will be evident for all to see. Things like asking if John is taller than Bill, who is the shortest person…? Simple stuff, but apparently mind boggling when your brain is fuddled, we’ll see.
Anyway, I’d better fly if I’m going to try and work out how to post some pics. Once we are at base-camp (if not before) I’ll also try and get the rest of the team to start writing their bit so you can get a different take on the expedition from all involved.
But we probably won’t have internet access from now til then as the sat phones are all packed away, and once we arrive it’ll take us at least a few days to set everything up (and stop feeling like death), so there won’t be an update to this blog for a while.
You of course can reply with comments, and I’ve changed the settings so that you don’t have to register to add anything.
Til then thanks for checking this out and take care, Barny