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!!!



Anonymous Anonymous said...


Great to get more news - next time you send a yak up to ABC, please send a message to ED that I miss him and can't wait to hear what's been going on up there.


5:42 pm  
Anonymous Sas said...

Hi. Could you let Barny know that Granny Diana is in hospital, and is not expected to last the night. She's comfortable and got the family with her, but I just wanted to let him know what was going on. Send him our love please! Thanks. Sas (his sister)

3:40 am  

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