Well it's been nearly 2 weeks since Tom updated his blog and I was starting to have withdrawal symptoms and just a touch of nervousness for his safety. It is now updated and covers his time at Base Camp, Interim Camp and Advanced Base Camp. I would imagine he is starting to get well acclimatised by now, following are the highlights.
Base Camp - 5175m. Tom and the team have had a 'Puja' ceremony. From what I can gather this is a Buddhist ceremony conducted in view of Chomulungma (Tibetan name for Everest) to make offerings to the great mountain and to bless those in the party who climb her as well as their equipment. In addition to food offerings signified by tossing rice and flour into the air and holy chanting by the lama, the ceremony also involved raising prayer flags with all the names of the climbers on one of the flags.
Tom's next update covers a hike to the closest village called Rhombuk (4800m). During this walk they called in on another camp headed by a colleague of Jamie's (Tom's expedition leader). It was here they have learned of the death of a Sherpa on the South side. The Sherpa had summited 10 times previously but fell ill, apparently to a twisted bowel.
Tom will be summiting from the North side which is the less travelled route. There are about 500 attempts from the South side this season whilst only 100 attempts from the North side. The South side is generally considered the less complicated route to take but both have their positives and negatives.
Next major step for Tom was progressing to Interim camp (5800m). Interim Camp sounds like a neccessary evil on the way to Advanced Base Camp at 6400m. Unfortunately, due to the large difference in altitude it is not feasible to go directly to ABC from Base Camp without an acclimitisation stop for a couple of days at Interim. The big problem at Interim Camp would appear to be the hygiene. The only source of water at Interim Camp comes from a frozen lake that is highly contaminated with Yak excrement and other waste. As a result sickness at Interim camp is common. Thankfully Tom's leader Jamie convinced their guides to take them to the next valley to make camp away from the contamination. The team remained at Interim for 2 nights without incident before pushing on to ABC.
After the 2 nights at Interim the team headed off on the 7.5Km trek to ABC. Jamie and one other were doing some filming so Tom pushed on ahead and arrived exhausted at ABC a couple of hours before Jamie. He descibes this trek as the most picturesque so far and included following and walking on a frozen river. The hike took Tom 4 hours and he was pushing hard which apprently aids acclimitisation. He then slept straight away for 2 hours which would give you an idea as to how much this must have taken out of him, quite amazing when you know how fit Tom is.
The team has stayed at ABC for 5 nights in temperatures down to minus 19.5 degrees and high winds. Most of their time is spent in the dining tent which has a gas heater. It also included walks to other nearby camps catching up with some of Jamie's mates from other expeditions. Day 4 at ABC saw them take a hike to a place called Crampon Point at 6550m. It is beyond here that crampons need to be affixed to boots in order to stay upright on the ice. From Crampon Point it is a further 500m to the base of the North Col where the fixed ropes start. Tom expresses in his blog the exhaustion getting to Crampon Point even though it is only another 500m in elevation which he puts down to lack of acclimitisation. With another vertical 2000+ metres to climb it makes you wonder how anyone can manage this feat.
The next move for the team is to climb to 7000m for 2 nights and hopefully also do a day trek to 7500m before slowly returning to base camp in about 7 days. This should take us to around the 9/10 May.
There has also been some further reported deaths on the South side. The reports indicate another sherpa has died having fallen down a crevasse and an Indian climber client has died after suffering a brain stroke. He was evacuated by helicopter however subsequently died in hospital. These reports certainly bring hime the dangers of attempting Everest and the importance of being well prepared. As always, you can read Tom's entire account of his trip on his blog - http://kowp.com.au/category/blog/
Feel free to let me know what you think, is climbing Everest worth the risk given the danger and also the environmental impact we must be having in this region? Perhaps we're simply meant to admire from afar? Stay tuned for the next update!