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 legsoneverest.com, Max’s audi7summits, Bob’s outdoorinsights, Tim’s highwaytoeverest.com, Mogens gsk websight (sorry can’t be more specific) as they are all updating their news. There are also news updates on everestnews.com and mounteverest.net, 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.
Barny

7 Comments:

Anonymous Charlie Peanut Rabbit Boy(Aged 14mths) said...

Dear Godfather Ed,

I do hope you are getting on alright at altitude - I have been checking your progress whilst on my Moon Rocket missions.
Must seem like a million miles from the flat tranquility of Lincolnshire.
Cant wait to take you to the Bull where my favourite game is trying to eat the pool cue ball.
Lots of love
Charlie Peanut Rabbit Xx

7:52 pm  
Blogger Big Vern said...

Barny,
Great to get an update from you, and to know your in such competent, safe hands. Looking forward to the stories over a few in The Hare.
Cheersnow, J.

10:14 pm  
Anonymous martin hughes - games said...

Great to get an update. really appreciated. i am a mate of Jake's and am hungry for news as its quite worrying back home ! but of course we understand its extremely diffcult to find the time and energy to update the site. Just want to let you know its read and appreciated!
Cheers martin H-G

2:33 am  
Anonymous Jen, Nick + Bump said...

Dear Grandad Colin....

So Mum has told you the exciting news! Hope it wasn't too much of a shock. There is so much work to do in the next 7 months you should make the most of the peace and quiet of Everest. However tired you are now is nothing to how you will feel over xmas when your new family member takes over your house (and life)!!
Hope you're doing ok out there, the three of us are thinking of you..
love Jen, Nick and bump x x x

10:30 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hello eddybed
you've got my green jumper and i'd like it back. could you possibly send it on the next yak/eagle etc. grandma is 88 today and i had an hour on the spoon with her. apparently she was the one who wanted to live in africa not grandad but he just went along with her. she asked about you and i said you were up everest. not sure she realy believed me. small silence at the other end of the line and she started talking about the squirrel in her garden. ive just been on hol. v good tan. hope you're managing to get one too. i imagine it gets quite warm when the sun's out...
love you xxWeezer

1:02 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey there far away Revill
Glad to hear you're alive and definitely very high in the world. Can't quite believe you're up Everest, i'm in Washington and inbetween us is our former home, Bristol. Man - i love the internet for bringing people closer.
Anyhoo - stay safe my friend, just wanted to say hi - and am thinking of you. Love to everyone. Tejx

2:15 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Guys you are making the office seem OH SO DULL! Good luck with it all, take great care love from Fiona and the Caught in the Marmite team. xx

8:18 pm  

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