Category: ‘BLOG’

The last few days on the expedition.

June 13, 2012 Posted by KowP

We all made our way to ABC and this time we had no Interim camp.  (The trekkers have all gone home so there is little need for it).  This means a larger than recommended jump in altitude from BC to ABC from 5,100m to 6,400m,  (the recommended maximum jump is not to sleep 300m higher than you slept the night before, however we are now acclimatised so this is doable although not so easy) AND a 17.2km walk uphill.

Frankly, this walk sucks!!  I was very glad this would be the last time I was going to do it.  Or so I thought, 7 hours and 15 mins later I arrived at Advanced Basecamp.  As it turned out I left too late and it was just on dark when I arrived.  I tried to save on weight so only had the minimal gear on me and I had to keep stopping every 500m or so, sit down and put my fingers in my underarms.  They were freezing!  I only had liner gloves on.  At 6,400m there is already half of the oxygen in the air, so not enough for your body to supply to your fingers.  As I said… This walk just sucks!

We spent the next 2 days in ABC, I spent most of my time just loitering around our campsite, reading books, and listening to music.  I had heard a rumour that “7 Summits Club” had some new technology internet that uses a satellite phone and was wireless so multiple users could be logged in at one time.  I went to investigate, it was true so I synced my emails and ended up staying there for most of the afternoon just chatting and eating all of their nice biscuits.  When I got back however, I was in trouble for not helping out.  Jamie had transferred the whole of the dining tent to his sorting room and had rations and high mountain food (freeze dried) all over the place ready to be taken up the hill.

The following day we were to head to theNorth Col(7,000m).  I always procrastinate in the mornings before this walk.  It’s not the climbing part, that was fun.  It’s the walk to crampon point.  It’s all rocks and you’re wearing the high mountain boots, which come up to your knees and are very stiff.  After around 1 hour, you arrive at Crampon Point.  From here, we don our harnesses and crampons and head up and over the almost level plateau to the beginning of the fixed ropes.

This was the third time I had been up the fixed ropes, by now they were very familiar. After around 2 hours I was at the ladder crossing a very deep crevasse with theNorth Colat the top of the ladder.

Luckily we were only staying here for 1 night then heading up the hill (or so I thought) because when the tent spot was cut out of the snow, it was on a badly sloping angle with sharp bits of ice sticking into us.  Usually I wouldn’t mind as I would just find the flattest spot to set up my thermarest.  But Jamie was in the tent this night with me.  In the morning, his legs were on top of mine, I was squashed towards one side of the tent avoiding his head.  (Opening your eyes in the morning to find another man’s hairy face 2 inches away from your nose is something I will always avoid!).  Jamie didn’t seem to mind… bugger him…he can cook breakfast this morning, I thought!

This morning was the decider.  Do we head up the hill ready to summit on the 20th, take a rest day here at North Col and summit on the 21st or pull back down the hill and wait for the second possible window?

Jamie got a text message on his sat phone from Duncan Chessle (an Aussie expedition leader who lives in Adelaide) our newly appointed weatherman  that said the 20th will be windy and not very suitable, the 21st is less windy and summiting is possible. Duncan recommended the 21st as we were in a small team.  However he also mentioned that a much bigger window with almost perfect conditions would start on the 26th through to the 30th.

Andrew Lock & 2 Spanish Climbers were there & were going for the summit without oxygen and after a long discussion they decided to pull back down the mountain and wait for the second window on the 26th.  All 3 of them said that too much could change and relying on a 1 day window would be dangerous without oxygen.

So what about me??… I was using oxygen and I could get up and back in a day. Jamie asked me what I wanted to do, I told him I was keen to shoot for the 21st, but was happy to leave the decision up to him.  He was the boss and also holds all the experience.  He told me to pull back off the mountain; we’ll come back for the 26th.

I should interject here… Jamie made this same call last year.  He had 5 clients, and made them all wait for the second window.  This second window didn’t come last year and all 5 of his clients missed out on a summit attempt, one got really bad frostbite from waiting around.

To tell the truth I wasn’t happy about his decision.  There is a window here for the 21st, it wasn’t perfect but at least it was possible.  Now I was being told that we are to wait for a better window, which may not come.  I had been waiting around for the last 7 weeks for a window & this one was doable.  I also told him that I wouldn’t argue with him, he had the experience, I was paying him for his experience and his decision would be final.

As these decisions were happening, we were watching 5 other teams, around 80 climbers and Sherpa’s heading up the hill.  One of these climbers was Nate a member of the 7 Summits team that we had met previously in the 7 Summits dining tent for dinner.  A Yank with a full beard, he hadn’t had a shave since he’d been on the mountain.  I said goodbye and good luck to Nate as he made his way out of theCol.

Around 30 mins later I was just sitting around the campsite with the Sherpa boys drinking tea, and I think they made me some instant noodles.  I saw Nate coming back down the hill, back into theColcoughing his ass off.  He had called it quits; his Everest dream (for the second time) had been shattered.  He had contracted a chest infection and was feeling very weak and fatigued.

As he walked past our camp on his way down to ABC, we had a chat to him, he was sick, couldn’t stop coughing, and felt so fatigued his legs kept giving way.  I told him that I would see him that evening in his dining tent.  I thought I’d just consol him as he must be feeling so crappy about not even making further than last time he was here.

The previous night was my 3rd night at 7,000m, theNorth Col.  It was also Jamie’s first night, so he was going to spend a few nights here for his own acclimatisation.  I was to head down.

As pre usual, I left camp late, but this time was downhill, so I arrived in ABC within around 1.5 hours.

I spent the whole afternoon with Nate, in the 7 Summits dining tent.  (From a previous dinner we had with them down in Basecamp I knew these guys ate better than us, they always had some fresh meat) I hung around til it was dinner time, and as is the Sherpa way, I was included in their preparations for dinner. Roast chicken and pasta.

As I said previously, Nate was sick, sick enough to pull himself off the hill.  In hind sight, hanging out with him for a whole afternoon in an enclosed tent was a really bad idea.  He did appreciate me hanging around telling stories and laughing, and I quite liked the entertainment myself.  The alternative for me would have been dining alone in my tent and maybe reading a book.

The following day I woke up crook, I couldn’t even get out of the tent.  I spent the whole day there reading first aid books and listening to the IPod.  I was sick as a dog. The following is a list of Symptoms I wrote myself so I could tell Jamie what was wrong with me when I got off the mountain.

Headache although not throbbing

Very very lethargic

No appetite though ate breakfast and dinner but only some of lunch

Intermittent bad cough

Breathing rate of 20 breaths per min

Tastebuds are very sensitive

Cold shivers although sitting in front of the gas heater with down jacket on.

I put myself on Diamox (The altitude drug), a full tablet twice a day, as well as taking antibiotics and pain killers.  These symptoms could be a respiratory infection or AMS (Acute mountain sickness) which I spent the day researching in Jim Duffs book “Wilderness first aid”.  He says it is common to see AMS symptoms upon descent from a higher altitude.  I was treating myself for both, just in case.

After I spent 2 days sitting around at ABC feeling horrible, at around 2pm, Jamie came back from theNorth Col.  Within 30 mins of him arriving in camp, I was on my way back down the 17.2kms back to Basecamp.

He didn’t believe I had AMS, so it must be flu. My blood oxygen saturation was 75% too high for AMS (it would have been about 54%).

Recovering at ABC at 6,400m was almost impossible.  So there I was doing the 3.5 hour walk…only feeling bloody average it took me 7.5 hours, and I arrived at 10:30pm.  We (Dawa my climbing Sherpa and I) arrived so late, that the poor kitchen staff at BC had to get out of bed to cook us some noodles when we arrived.

Special thanks to Dawa for being so patient on our way down there.  I kept stopping every 500m for a sit down rest.  I was struggling, badly.

The next few days at BC were just standard days.  I could have showers, sleep in, was never cold, had my computer to watch movies, and could readily charge my phone and iPod.  BC is so comfortable compared to other camps!

Whilst down in BC, I had heard many stories of successful summits, the Chinese team had been successful, the Indians, the Albanians.  Everyone on the Seven Summits team bar Nate had all reached the summit.

If I had it my way, I wanted to stay in BC for another 2 nights and continue recovering from my flu.  On the morning of the 21st, a short radio conversation with Jamie at ABC explained that my chances on summiting were seriously running out.

As it was, on the 21st I had been down in BC for only 2 nights, including the one when I arrived at 10:30pm.  I was nowhere near feeling good, I still struggled in the morning to get out of bed and I was now coughing very regularly and feeling very weak.

Jamie said on the radio, it was now or never.  My mind, once again was made up for me!  “Never”, wasn’t an option.

Next morning, I had my very first coffee.  I had seen how much difference it made to Andrew and Jamie, how much energy it gave them.  They religiously had their plunged coffee beans every morning.  I just made instant coffee. I made it really strong, no sugar & no milk.  I wanted the kick, but didn’t want to get addicted to it.  It tasted horrible, there was no addiction starting here.  I did get the kick though, instead of feeling sick and lethargic, I felt normal, like I might actually make the 17.2km walk back up to ABC.

I packed my bags once again and headed off up the mountain.  This time I had negotiated with Dawa that if he carried my bags, I would be forever grateful, (and I would pay him).  He carried it for a bit then handed it to Karsang, who is a Tibetan. His village is local to the Everest Region and very connected on the mountain.  He is the Lama and does most of the camps Pujas (the prayer ceremony for climbers). Everyone knows him, including the Yak drivers.  30 mins later my bag was on the back of an empty Yak that was on its way back up to ABC to pick up gear from the successful Chinese team summit.

It took me 8 hours this time to reach ABC without a pack.  The whole way I was promising myself that this was the absolute last time I would make this walk, I now detested it!

Along the way there was a noticeable difference in temperature compared to the first time I did this walk, it was hot, the glacier had been melting and the easy section where you walk up and along the frozen river (which is flat) was now melted so now you had to walk along the river bank (not flat and very loose scree.)

Once at ABC Jamie asked me what my plans were for tomorrow.  I said “I’m going to the north Col… you?”  He was expecting me to want the rest day, and another rest day at the north col.  The truth of the matter is that in my state, these rest days would have been much appreciated but there just wasn’t time for them.  We now needed to get off the mountain.  Most camps had been packed up after they summited on the 18th, 19th and 20th.  Soon enough the Tibetan authorities would be on our backs to get out of their Basecamp!  (Even though we had visas till the 8th June)

The last time I came down from theNorth Col, I knew I was going to have to come back up in 6 days, so I had left all the heavy gear there.  I took the bare minimum down to ABC with me.  Aside from the expedition supplied tents, we basically need 3 sets of gear for this mountain, 3 sleeping bags, 3 beds etc.  Different sets of clothes:HighMountain, mid mountain, trekking, lounging around clothes, sleeping clothes etc.

The boys now all knew that I was sick; they were helping me out where they could to get me to theNorth Col.  At the bottom of the fixed ropes, they would go through my bag and distribute the heavy gear amongst themselves… Champions!

The following morning when I woke at the North Col (Yes, the tent floor had been fixed a little, but Jamie still slept on top of me, I think he may have planned it like that!) I was on my own.  The Sherpa boys were all off carrying loads, tents, food and supplies for the high mountain.  So there was no offering to help ol Tommo out to get to 7,800m.  I was now carrying all of my own gear.  What I did have to help me though, was oxygen!  I had previously asked Jamie if there was any spare, he said there was 2 spare bottles at theNorth Colin case any of us needed it after a rescue.  I asked if I could take one from theNorth Col, 7,000m instead of starting oxygen at the usual 7,800m.

Using oxygen at 7,000 is what most commercial teams have started doing.  The walk up the snow slope is really steep and monotonous; being on oxygen makes it way quicker.  You don’t feel like you’re going quicker, it doesn’t make it any easier, but you look at the clock and you’re smashing your last time to get the same distance.

Camp 2

At the top of the snow slope it became very windy, maybe 40-50kms winds.  Camp 2 runs from around 7,600m to 7,900m.  I keep saying 7,800m because our camp was towards the top of the camp area.  This made the following day to camp 3 shorter.

From the snow we are now on rocks, sharp, slippery very unforgiving rocks.  The fixed ropes were usually anchored in the cracks of the rocks with pitons, or cams, sometimes just tied around a pillar of rocks. Most of the previous year’s fixed ropes had been frayed by the combination of wind and snow blowing the ropes against the sharp rocks.

Note: some of this year’s ropes were frayed too; there was even one section around 7,900 where the whole pitch was gone.  I had to use a previous year’s rope to get up and down.

Camp 2 is steep.  Before any clients arrive here, the Sherpa’s have been and selected the best of the available tent sites out of the many that have been left from previous years.

All of them are rough & sloping.  Our tent site was not big enough for our tent, so around 1 foot of tent was just hanging off the edge of built up rocks.  This made sleeping next to Jamie very difficult.  This time he picked the flat spot, flat enough for only him to lie in.  All night, I was battling not to roll into him and his flat spot, or roll off the ledge to the unsupported side of the tent.

Above ABC we were eating “high mountain food” As soon as we got into camp, the Sherpa’s would go and source some ice/snow and bring it back for us to melt. This would take around 1 hour to melt 3 or 4 litres of ice to water.  From the melted ice, we would make either a tea, or juice.  We would use around 600ml of the hot water to cook freeze dried meals; Spaghetti, teriyaki chicken and rice, some sort of stroganoff etc.  We would split these meals in half.  Then we would eat either some sweet biscuits, Pringles, Mars bar, Snickers etc.  (You can even get freeze dried Ice Cream – and it tastes just like the real thing only not cold!)

The following day was to the ‘death zone’.  Some say the ‘death zone’ starts at 7,500m, some say 8,000m, and some say 8,400m (which is why the last camp is just under at 8,300m).  The definition of the death zone is the point of a mountain where there is not enough oxygen to support life.  No viruses, no bacteria, nothing lives in the death zone, especially human beings!  This is why we need supplemental oxygen up here.

At Camp 2, Jamie and I were chatting.  Then he started having a go at me.  He had followed behind me from theNorth Coland said I was rubbish at leading.  When I got to an anchor of a fixed rope, I wouldn’t leave enough room behind myself for him to stand, he also complained that sometimes when I was trudging up the hill, I took 6 steps up the hill and sometimes I took 16, why so uneven!  My pacifist side came out and I said, “These problems are only a conversation away, if you need more room behind, ask for it, and if you want me to take even steps… ask”

The truth is I didn’t like him being so close the whole way, when I needed to step over the rope, I had to check he wasn’t too close or I would have kicked him.

Either way, we both needed to get up to 8,300m, he followed me, I made room for him at anchors so there were no more complaints.  As for the uneven steps, the average for high altitude climbing is around 10 steps per minute (yes, this slow!) that’s 1 step every 6 seconds.  And it’s not like you can enjoy the view while you’re moving at a snail’s pace, you’re looking at where your next step is going.

There is one 100m snow slope between camp 2 and camp 3, all the rest is steep, sharp rocks.  I was slowing down this day; I didn’t feel very good at all, even on the oxygen. With slowing down, we had heaps of breaks.  Which means this was the first day we had taken time to enjoy the view.   We are so damn high I thought. Here at around 8,000m, there are only 13 other points on the planet that are higher than this. We could see all of the previous camps from there, even right down the Rhombuk glacier to Basecamp! 3 days of walking away, I thought!

Camp 3

We arrived at camp 3 at around 3pm; I was cooked by this stage so I sat outside the tent for around 30 mins, just soaking up the view.  I then migrated to just outside Dawas tent, where he was boiling water, he made me 3 hot juices as I had to replace sugars as well as hydrate.

Life at camp 3 is hard.  Take the oxygen mask off for anything more than 1 minute and you start to get cold fingers, your pulse goes up, your breathing rate goes up and you start to feel out of breath, almost like a little panic attack.

26th May 2012 – Summit Day!

I was pretty annoyed at Jamie; he had left me in the lurch earlier.  I had been asking him plenty of questions about what to expect being my first summit and his fifth.  I wanted to know more about:

Timing of oxygen, when to turn around?

The point of no return?

What his plans were?

Was he coming to the summit with me at all?

WasBalicoming to the summit with me?

Was it just Dawa and I?

What time to leave?

What time to get to bed?

How much water to drink?

How much water to take with me?

How much food?

I got very minimal answers to all of these questions like he was in some sort of mood and didn’t want to answer them.  I remember thinking to myself…. dude… not now, not tonight.

We were to leave Camp 3 at around midnight.  This would get us to the summit just after sunrise.  We spent the next few hours cooking, eating and generally resting.  At around 10pm, eventually it was time to go to sleep, not how I planned it in my head, but time got away from us. (I wanted to get as much sleep as possible, 6 hours would have been perfect!)  I lay awake in the tent, I was dozing, but half conscious because I heard the tent next to us getting ready and eventually leave.  I was also very uncomfortable with Jamie’s toes in my back.  It was not a good night sleep by any stretch.  At 12:30, Jamie woke me up…we were late!

We woke in a bit of a panic ‘cause we had missed the Midnight leaving time.

I slept in my inner boots, down jacket and had most things organised (head torch had new batteries etc).  When we woke, I had to put my heat source into my boots, pack my bags, and get the sponsorship bag sorted.  This all took time and we eventually left at 1am.

Jamie had said previously, that you spend the first few hours of the summit day walking up the hill towards the ‘Exit Cracks’.  Once on top of these you hit a ridge, you follow the ridge up the 1st, 2nd and 3rd step to the summit pyramid.  He explained that, I would need to make it to the 3rd step before I change to my second bottle of oxygen.  If I’m not at the 3rd step and it runs out then I would need to turn back as I won’t have enough oxygen to get myself back to camp.

Dawa and I made our way up the hill from camp.  It was dark, really dark & I remember thinking to myself, ‘where is the moon tonight?’ On every other night, I barely needed a torch, but tonight I couldn’t see anything.  Great start to my summit day, even Mother Nature was against us!  The truth is that Mother Nature was definitely on our side, it was a perfect start to a summit day, the temperature was round -15°C instead of a possible -30°C or -45°C, and there was absolutely no wind and no clouds above us (there was plenty in the valleys below).  When I looked up at the fixed rope, all I saw was the darkness of the rocks, which were silhouetted by a dark blue night sky.

Everything considered, I was feeling alright, I had a cough; I hadn’t slept much at all but when the adrenalin of a summit push kicked in… I felt OK.  I definitely wasn’t sure how high I would go today, but I thought I would just keep on trudging slowly up the hill and if I needed to, I would turn back, “no pressure” I thought to myself.

Phil from Altitude Junkies explained that on summit day, most people are able to get out of bed, and start walking, but if they are going to turn around, or not feeling 100% sure of themselves then they would turn around at the Exit Cracks.  These are basically steep cracks in the rocks that are big enough for a person to fit into.  You get into them and wedge yourself to the top of each of them.  There is still the fixed line to hold onto, so I didn’t really see a problem.  I at least wanted to get further than the point where most people turn around.

The time is now around 2:30am and… Oh No!.. Now I needed to poo!.  Lots of people have asked me how this happens at altitude.  Here goes: I’m wearing 7 layers of clothes from the base layer thermals, these progressively get thicker and end in a down suit.  Zips, buttons and flies, at the top of one of the exit cracks, I found a fairly flat spot, (this is rare), and wasn’t very big.  I was pretty much standing on small flat ledge, with a massive view and steep rock all around.  I thought I had better stay clipped in, just in case.  And Dawa waited. This whole process took around 20 mins. First I had to take my backpack off which holds my oxygen and is connected to the mask by a 1m cable.  So once the backpack is on the ground, the rest of the process has to be done crouched over the backpack so as to not stretch the oxygen tube.  Next is the harness, oh… there goes my life line, so much for being clipped into the fixed rope.  Next is the down suit, this doesn’t come completely off, just a long zip that runs down the side so you can pull it across.  Next is the Powerstretch suit, this has a rainbow zip at the rear so you can expose your bum, next thermals then underpants and squat!

After that little ordeal, we reached the top of the exit cracks and it was still dark.  We got to the ridge line and it started to get a little windy, I looked behind and saw that we had 2 headlights trailing us.  It turned out to be Jamie and his Sherpa Bali.


Jamie and Bali caught up with us.  We got to the top of the ridge before the sun came up so we stopped & had a rest on a rock.  I looked around in the direction of the sun.  It wasn’t just coming up in the East, the whole horizon was lighting up.  And I mean 320 degrees of it.  The only part we couldn’t see was the part where the summit lies.

The sunrise was the beginning of what was an absolutely perfect day, it was warm, warm enough to take outer gloves off for a minute without getting cold fingers, the sky was blue and there was very little wind, perfect climbing conditions! Jamies decision 9 days earlier to skip the summit day on the 21st and try for the 26th had paid off in abundance. I should never really have doubted his experience.

We continued along the ridge until we got to the first step.

Trying to communicate to Dawa was hard enough let alone trying to do it through an oxygen mask.  I was trying to tell him to turn my oxygen up for this part.  I was curious to see the difference in performance, and just wanted the climbing to become easier, if only for 10 mins while I climbed the 1st step.  He eventually understood, & it was turned up to 4l per min.  We sat for 2 minutes to eat an energy bar.

The first step is basically, a 15m high cluster of rocks, but cut into steps around hip height. Following the fixed line, you just look for all the crampon scratchings on the rocks to find the best place to scramble up.

The hardest part of the first step is the exposure.  The sun was just coming up so you could see way down into the valley.  Crampons don’t really stick to this kind of rock very easily either.

Once at the top, the traverse begins.  This (in my opinion) is the hardest part of the whole climb.  It’s a 1ft wide path of rock scratching that lies on a very steep angle with a loose fixed line to follow.  At some points I was on my bum with my feet in front & hands behind me to stay stable.

It was somewhere between the first and second step that I slipped.  This slip scared the absolute Bejesus out of me.  I had become a little blasé along the traverse, when one of my feet slipped my weight then landed on the second foot and it too slipped.

I backpedalled too many times before my crampons regained purchase on the rocks. This was a massive eye opener, if I had slipped down the rock and relied on the rope to stop me, I would have been a goner!  It was at this slip that I became scared.  It was all becoming very real, and very serious.

As you’re traversing, you take a blind left corner which brings you to a cave.  All of a sudden you’re confronted with your first body.  This is the famous “Green Boots” used by some expeditions as a waypoint, or checkpoint to radio into Basecamp to tell them where you are.

He is lying on his side with his hand over his face.  His head is in the cave and his boots are sticking out of the cave.  I believe he has been there since 1996, and has been mentioned on various television programmes.  He was a purist climber, who went up without oxygen or Sherpa support but unfortunately was too high to be rescued and ended in this cave.

Can I just put a reality spin on the story at this point?  This is around 8,600m, about 248 vertical metres below the top of the world.  The highest helicopter rescue has been to 6,600m.  This is around crampon point, which is 2 days down this hill.  Any rescue on Everest has only been possible from the top of the slow slope at 7,500m where you can be slid down the snow on a mattress or something.  So, above 7,500m, you’re on your own, it is all rock, so no sliding, it is too steep, so no carrying and at this extreme altitude you’re barely able to carry your 15kg backpack let alone a person.

So, definitely above camp 3, a rescue will consist of sharing bottled oxygen with you. (In most cases this is all that is needed) but if you break your leg, or arm, or worse, there is absolutely no chance of getting help up here.  If you are not able to move yourself down the mountain to 7,500m, you will stay where you stop.  This is how more than 100 people have died on Everest.  The bodies I am about to describe are a constant reminder to anyone up there of how seriously life threatening this place is.

Quite frankly, I was scared out of my wits!  I was taking every precaution with every step and double checking every anchor and my attachment to it and the rope.

Now you’re saying” but there is a rope”.  Let me explain the rope.  Along the ridgeline, the rope is attached at certain points but these points are horizontal from each other so there is a big sag in it.  If you were to slip in the middle of the rope, you would fall no less than 30m before the slack is taken up. (See above paragraph about breaking bones on falling 30m).

We use a device called a Jumar, which ascends the rope; it has a cam, which can’t go backwards.  So the closer you get to the next anchor point, the less you fall.  If you fall in the middle, the Jumar wouldn’t help you.

After seeing Green boots, I continued along the ridge line until I got to a famous place called Mushroom rock.  A 2m high rock formation in the shape of a mushroom and has a nice flat place behind it to rest.  I had some more energy bar and Dawa changed my oxygen tank for a new one.  So now I had a half bottle cached at mushroom rock, and was on a full bottle to get to the summit and back here to pick up the half.  (A wise idea to save on weight).

We were climbing the northern ridge. We had been climbing from the west looking down the Rhombuk glacier.  At mushroom rock, for the first time I looked to the other side of this ridge, to the East.  IntoTibet.  It was a sheer cliff… it dropped down for what seemed like the whole mountain.  All I could see was a cloud around 2kms below.  Literally straight down.  I thought to myself… Man… The exposure on this side is even worse!  But, with big exposures comes big views!

We started off again; I could see the infamous second step coming up.  Another group of 2 climbers were about 50m this side of it.  The ridge line now became pretty steep, we were following the rope, but the drop off was around 1.5kms down.

As you walk along a bit, you see another body, you pretty much step over his feet, as he lays on his back with his hands above his head and his head facing downhill.  He was still connected to the rope.  The rope that was fixed the year he died.  His face was in full visibility, it looked like a Mannequin face, but his lips and cheek bones had been ground of by years of snow being blown by the jet stream.

It was now I started to look around for other bodies.  These bodies are all in down suits which are typically coloured yellow or red. Both of these colours stand out like dogs balls amongst the stark brown and grey landscaped of Everest.

There was a body about 100m down, obviously slipped off the ridge line and landed on a flat spot on the cliff.

The Second step:

This is renowned for being the hardest part of the whole summit climb.  Personally I found the traverse along the ridge line to get to the second step harder.  In crampons, I didn’t like the slipping feeling (other years, there has been snow, so it has been a walk in the snow along the ridge).

The first part is tricky; you have to scramble up a rock around 5feet.  You’re on a fixed rope and there are plenty of other ropes from recent years to help you up. The hard part is dealing with the exposure; you basically cannot see the bottom. It just keeps on going.

It was here that we caught up with the other team.  Lim, fromMelbourne, he was stalled at the bottom of the rope ladder. I approached him noisily from behind shaking my gear so he would hear.  He turned and looked at me through blood shot eyes and told me to pass him.  I clipped onto the fixed line and shimmied up the ladder, being careful not to snag my crampon spikes in any of the 20 other ropes from previous years.  At the top is a little scramble to your feet and try not to look down.

It was up here that I saw the Sherpa who was guiding Lim he must have waited 30mins for him to come up.

The next section is the easiest part of the climb and a nice break from sloping rocks and exposure.  At around 200m in length with a very slight incline and 10m width it is basically a footpath to the 3rd step.  There are a lot of spent oxygen bottles scattered all over the place. Like Jamie said earlier, the 3rd step is basically your point of no return; you have to get to here on your first oxygen bottle.  So people in the past just ditch it and keep moving. (This is how the ‘clean up Everest campaign’ came about. Sherpa’s were paid around $70 per bottle if they were to bring them down.)

Towards the third step I saw the body of another climber, more recent.  He had been climbing with oxygen and without a Sherpa.  His oxygen had run out at a critical point as he was climbing the third step and rumour has it that he just turned blue and fell off the step.  He fell on one of the fixed rope anchors, so when I was jumaring up the rope, he was moving every time I pulled the rope.

This body was frozen (and therefore swollen) and had stubble on his chin.  He was lurched over in the foetal position on the anchor point.  I don’t know where his backpack or gloves had gone to, but someone had taken them.

The Third Step:

At this point Jamie was in front of me, with Bali leading the way. From where i was standing i thought Jamie was stuck around 3m up the step. He had straddled a big rock and it looked like he didn’t know how to get up.  Technically, this step is the same as the first step although a lot more exposed and steeper.  When I followed up, I could see where Jamie appeared to have got stuck, as it turned out, he was paused to let Bali go ahead of him so he could take a photo.

For me, the top of the third step was the most daunting part of the whole climb. There is a track (snow) around 12 inches wide a large rock on your right hand side and a 3,000m sheer rock wall on your left side (I thought, talk about “Rock and a hard place”). I was on all 4s going past here, with my safety line dragging behind me. Jamie was ahead of me and took a photo of me on all 4s.

At the top there is a series of rocks that almost form a seat, with a view East towardTibetover that 3,000m cliff.  The clouds were hovering around 1km down from the edge.  Another body was here, but by far the most romantic body, it looked as though he was sitting enjoying the view until he dies, then he fell backwards and now lies in the snow.

Above him, the Summit Pyramid

I didn’t know much about the pyramid, but it looks like a snow slope & once you get to the top you traverse around to the right and come up the back side of the point.

I climbed up the snow slope and around the back was just rock.  This took a while to negotiate but by following all the previous scrapes on the rock I reached the top.  At the top was another snow slope, but on top of this snow slope there was nothing but blue sky.   The summit!

This summit push is around 20m higher than the rocks.  It is always very well known as one of the most famous false summits in the world!  I found new inspiration to climb at this point.  I must have been delirious in hind sight… it didn’t make sense… I was climbing on the North/Tibet side, yet there were no prayer flags.  Jamie andBaliwere about 15 mins in front of me but I couldn’t see them!  Either way, thinking it was the summit made me go fast!  I got to the top of this false summit and saw Jamie andBaliand the prayer flags… the real summit… around 80m away.  This was the real summit; there was now no doubt about it so another surge of energy hit me.  Dawa now couldn’t keep up.

I reached the summit with Dawa around 20m behind me.  Met with Jamie andBali, gave them both a big hug and just sat down….


It isn’t an air punching feeling like winning some sort of sport.  It is more a sense of pride, a quiet sense of achievement.  I think any excitement is dulled by the fact that you are totally cactus AND the looming thought of having to get back down haunts any exhilarating feeling you get.  “How the hell am I going to get down out of this place?”

Now on the top of the world, I got busy, I had flags to take photos of, little things to do for mates, plenty of photos to be taken, and just enjoy!

My Grandma passed away in 1998, her birthday was the 26th May.  I had been thinking about her the whole way from Camp 3. (I believe she caught me when I slipped before the second step!)  On the top I have a photo of me sitting in the snow with my arm out as if it is over her shoulder.  I know she was looking after me on the way up.

We stayed on the top of the world for around 40 mins.  We weren’t alone, around 12 climbers from the South side made it to the top at the same time as us.  We all celebrated as if we had known each other for years.  Hugging and congratulating, everyone was smiling.

It would have been really nice to be on the summit by myself even just for a minute.

But it was that time. Jamie said it was time to go, to get off this hill. I later realised he told us to all get off the hill so he could be alone up there to take his panorama.  He lugged a tripod and a hefty DSLR up the hill so he could take this panorama which apparently will be the first ever. – I better get a copy!

As we began our descent downhill we saw the other 2 climbers at the bottom of the false summit.

As far as technique goes for getting down this hill, I broke pretty much every rule in the book.  Most of the hard parts I was just using an arm wrap to abseil down the tricky parts.  This meant that I could face forwards, still slow myself down and use the rope above me to balance.  Most climbers on Everest use this method, or they use their safety, wrap an Italian hitch around the carabineer and abseil down the tricky parts.

On the way down I would crave the snow parts, these parts were so much easier to rest in.  I developed a technique of resting.  I would kneel down on my right leg and this would allow me to sit on the right food, which has a very rigid boot on as well as crampons that stick backwards away from ripping my down suit.  I would sit like this for a minute at a time, at pretty much every fixed anchor point.

Dawa was going first down the mountain, I was second andBaliwas behind me.  This was a good order because I was knackered and Dawa was slow, he was being really cautious.  He would set up a complete abseil with Descenders etc. down the tricky rocky bits while I was just arm wrapping.  This suited me because I would constantly catch up to him and have a couple of minute rest.

Going down the second step slowed me down a little.  Firstly I was waiting for Dawa; secondly, I was strapping my brain thinking how I could make this safer.  The exposure on this step is massive, I was knackered… how could I build in a failsafe???

I saw Dawa go down, he was the cautious one but he just grabbed onto a whole heap of previous years ropes until he got to the ladder, then used the ladder down.  I’ve got it! I’ll prussic down!  While I was waiting for Dawa, I took my prussic chord off and prepared it.  This was going to be a slow process,Baliwas behind me, I needed it all prepared.

A prussic is a length of 6mm rope tied into a loop; the loop is then tied onto the vertical rope with a prussic knot.  When the knot is loaded it grips, when you unload it you are able to slide it up and down the vertical rope).

On the 2nd step, there are about 20 previous years ropes, all thin 6mm ropes.  But someone has gone and put a nice fat 11mm rope amongst them.  I used this to prussic down.  I would take a few steps on the ladder, and then slide my prussic down.  Although slower, this method worked for me.

After the Second Step, I was on my hands and bum passing the same rock traverse I had slipped earlier that morning.  I had now been to the summit and back.  This, for me was still the worst part of the mountain.

Next was Mushroom Rock and a rest.  Still connected to the safety, I made my way around and behind mushroom rock, sat down, took my pack off and looked for something to eat.  I was wearing goggles all day, with little peripheral vision. I turned my actual head around to enjoy some more of the view, only to find that I was sitting with my back to the edge of that same 3km cliff.  I got a splurge of vertigo and shuffled my bum away from the cliff and back to the fixed ropes.

We all ate a muesli bar here, I drank the remainder of my water as Dawa checked my oxygen bottles.

We stayed here enjoying the view for another 10 mins; I asked everyone how they were feeling as if I didn’t know the answer.  This was the first time the Sherpa’s had admitting to being tired.  Usually they would always smile and say they’re feeling fine, strong, and good to go on.

We slowly moved off mushroom rock and it was more traversing towards the 1st step. We had resumed our order; Dawa, then me,Bali and Jamie.  Jamie stayed a while back as he was taking photos on his way down.

It was here that I really didn’t like Bali being behind me.  He was very capable on the ropes, but with him so close and behind me it dawned on me that if he slips and falls, I go with him!  We were both on the same rope.  I turned and tried to explain to him to back off a little.  It was useless; he was keen to get back down so I let him pass me.

Dawa took ages getting down the first step. He was analysing it for 5mins before he committed to a way down.  He was to abseil.  He attached himself and slowly descended.  I too was paused here.  It was really quick and easy to come up, with a Jumar that won’t let you fall.  But on the way down, simply hand wrapping was too dangerous.  If I fell and all my weight went on my arm wrap, I wouldn’t be able to hold myself.  I gave in and I too abseiled.  This was the only part of the mountain that I used my abseil device.

After the First Step, I was knackered, serious fatigue set in… I was really struggling.  I was having a break at every anchor point and every bit of snow I could find. I would do the same resting technique as explained earlier, resting on my boot.

Down through the exit cracks, there was some really dodgy descending going on, by all of us, Dawa included.  Sometimes we were just holding onto the rope and sliding it through our hands.  Being so tired seemed to numb any fear of heights.  The dangers were still real enough though.

The boys passed me here, my rests kept on getting longer, now I was descending down to a suitable place to lie down, resting for 5 minutes, enjoying the view, then moving again.

Finally at around 3:30pm, I arrived at camp. 8,300m. after the most epic day of my life.  Never before had I experienced a sunrise like that, risked my life every step, seen so many dead bodies, stood on top of the world, and been so damn knackered.

The sun was shining at camp, it was warm. I sat on the rocks outside our tent for around an hour.  I was constantly coughing now, I coughed up some lung. (It was red flesh and had veins through it – gross!)  I felt so exhausted, I couldn’t breathe properly due to coughing, but it was done.  I was back in the relative safety of camp 3 – 8,300m. (This is still higher than every mountain in the world bar 6!)

Mum was the first person I called. She was on her way home from work.  She had pulled over when she recognised the number of my sat phone.  The conversation went a little like this:

Me: Mum, I’m back! I have all my fingers and toes; I’m back in the relative safety of camp 3. (Then I’d put my mask back on and suck on some oxygen while I waited for her response.

Mum: And?

Me: Yeah, I summited.

Mum: Oh, you’re a Fn-Marvel! Congratulations, you’re a Fn-Marvel!

Me: Cheers.

Not really the response I was expecting, she rarely swears and never says the word “Marvel”, she was rushed and excited by my call. (later she admitted to planning what she wanted to say to me… none of it came out)  I understood, my family, my girlfriend and my close mates had all been on that mountain with me.  While I was going through hell, they too were going through their hells.  After the phone call to mum, I started to feel guilty.  I had put them through all these sleepless nights for my own selfish pledge to stand at the top of the world for a few minutes.  It made me think about how much people cared for me back home.  I started to miss home and started to think about the things I would do for people when I returned.

I then called my brother, who started yelling in the phone, he was ecstatic.  The best congratulations I have received so far!  “That’s awesome bro! Bloody proud of you! Oi fellas, my brother just climbedMount Everest!  He just summited and is back in camp!  My brother!”

I went to bed at camp 3. It was now that I first felt a sense of achievement.  Earlier in the day it was self preservation!  I went to bed at around 6pm and slept till around 8am till my oxygen ran out.

27th may

Woke up at Camp 3… 8,300m.

Still sucking on my oxygen!  Actually I ran out.  Before I went to sleep, Dawa came across to my tent and gave me a half full bottle for the night.  I used the remainder of the one I was on, down to about 2bar, and then I changed it over.  To the one Dawa gave me, this was at around 1am.

I was feeling really average so I kept it on just over 2l per min.

Woke up at sun up and I had just run out! I tried to radio toBali, no good… then I remembered I had 2 bar left on the other bottle, so I changed it over to that one and trickled it into myself.

When that ran out about 2 hours later, I opened my tent door and was able to make eye contact with Baliand motion to him that I was out of O2.  Dawa came across with a full bottle.  This was to last me to ABC.

I took some photos of my makeshift tent, during the night I needed to pee… (I had tried to take in as much liquid as I could when we returned to camp.  I knew I was severely dehydrated).   Getting up and out of the tent was not an option.  I was too knackered for that, so I just rolled over and opened the tent door and peed.  It was now that I realised that this tent floor was level for 3 foot (long enough for my torso) and then it had a 2 foot drop where my legs were.  But it was home for a night… In my state, I really didn’t mind.

I eventually packed my bags (very roughly) and got up.  Jamie had cooked some porridge but it had gone cold, he offered to heat it up.  I refused and just ate it, cycling food from oxygen.

I made my way out of camp with Dawa.  We took ages to get to Camp 2 7,900.  I was feeling pretty strong and Dawa was going slow which was nice.

Then about 1 hour into it, I was fading.  I started to take a break every pitch of fixed ropes again.

Got to the top of Camp 2… 7,900m. there was rubbish everywhere, it had been frozen into the mountain. The snow would melt on the rubbish, turn to water, and then overnight it would freeze again, locking it all into the mountain.  (Earlier I was wondering why it all didn’t blow off the mountain when the strong winds came).  Got down through the rocks of camp 2 eventually… this took ages. There were many sections down through these rocks where the mantle of the rope had been sheared off leaving only the 4 or 6 strands of the core for me to descend on.  (Back inAustralia, if a rope even has a nick in the mantle, it gets thrown out.  I have rarely even seen the core of a rope).

Next was the snow slope (A sigh of relief thinking If I made a mistake here… at least I could be rescued. – Self reassurance!  After being in the death zone for the last 4 days… It was comforting)

Ahhhh, this was supposed to be easy from here.  The snow slope is actually a very long way away from theNorth Col!  I took a rest for at least a min, sometimes 5 every pitch.

Towards the bottom my crampon came off.  (Don’t ask how) and I walked around 25m with it still stuck in the snow behind me.  Instead of trudging back up the hill to get it, I saw a figure coming down around 100m behind me.  “Bugger it” I thought… I’ll just wait for him to come down then motion for him to grab it for me.

As it turns out that figure was Lim.  The other Aussie on the summit push yesterday! He grabbed my crampon and brought it to me.  He then sat next to me as I put it on. We sat there chatting through our oxygen masks for around 20 mins, both complaining of never being so damn tired in all our lives.

Finally got to theNorth Col.

The other Sherpa’s Passang and Narwang were there. They were packing up the North Col to help out the summit Sherpa’sBaliand Dawa (very much appreciated by all of us).  As Andrew had already descended a day beforehand, he had left his food bags for us, I took some nuts and some cheese, about 500ml more of drink and then rested for around 30 mins.

They were ready to get going, so I made my way down the ladder, then slowly down the ropes, they all overtook me.

At the bottom of theCol, Narwang had been carrying my trekking poles, I wanted them to cross the plateau with and back to camp on the rocks.  Walking with them is so much more stable.  In my state I needed all the help I could get.  Narwang had raced off ahead (being fresh) and was half way across the plateau with Bali yelling at him to stick my poles in the ground where he was and continue back down to camp. Narwang didn’t understand. He dropped his bag where he was and came back with my poles.  We met at the fixed ropes. Balithought, oh well, good. “Now he can carry your pack” at least to where his is.  At his, he picked up both packs.  These guys are physically small but so strong!

At one stage across the plateau,Baliand I just crashed on the snow we laid there for 10 mins chatting and enjoying the view.

When we got to Crampon Point I was very glad to see Karsang, (one of our team, a Tibetan).  He had come up to meet us with hot orange mix and to take my bags back to camp.  What a champion!!

On the way back, very slowly, I met with Farang the Spanish guy who was attempting to climb without O2, he was waiting out to see me, met up with a long hug and shaking hands.  He congratulated me on being successful.  He explained that he was going back up tomorrow.  This would make him one of the last to summit for the season.

Back at ABC, I had a much needed wash.  It was almost dark and getting cold so I needed to find a place indoors.  No one was using the camp tonight except the Sherpa’s and I.  I pulled up the carpet and tarps in the dining tent and sat in a massive bowl of hot water, washed myself and sat in the dining tent in front of the gas heater in a pair of thermals and had some dinner.  Then I went to bed, sucking on the remainder of oxygen.  So knackered!

28th may

Woke up at ABC. Man… Totally wrecked and stiff.

Feeling so lazy in the morning… I didn’t even get up for breakfast, four of the boys came to try to get me.  I just said I was going to have cereal.

Eventually got up for an early lunch, had some curry chicken stuff on rice and ate in the kitchen tent with the boys. We all were very happy with the result of the expedition.  We were all in a good mood and looking forward to going home.  I had learned some swear words in Nepalese over the last 6 weeks.  They were all laughing at me for practising them.

After lunch, I needed to pack.  This happened slowly, I was so lazy, and nothing got folded or sorted out.  Everything was just stuffed into my 2 duffels ready to be taken back to BC on the back of the Yaks.  Another Tibetan and I left for BC at around 2pm.  We arrived just on dark. Just in time for dinner.

The feeling I had when I was walking across Basecamp towards my tent was awesome, I had walked so far in the last 8 days and this was going to be my last steps!

I had some dinner in the cooks’ tent, filled my water bottles up and went to bed.

I stayed in BC for the next 2 nights, before leaving forKathmandu, a 2 day drive across the border.  It was my days relaxing in BC that were a nice come down (mind the pun) from the previous 8 weeks.  I didn’t have to go on any acclimatisation walks.  I could sleep in, shower and watch movies on my laptop. It was nice.

It was now fairly warm in BC so few clothes were needed. It was here that I had realised how much weight I had lost.  I lost 12kgs since I had left Australia.  I now weighted 72kgs.  Before I leftAustraliaI had spend 3 month bulking up, trying to put on fat and muscle.  I had read that on the summit push alone I would be burning 15,000 calories on that day.  It didn’t matter what I ate, I could only absorb 3,500 calories in a day.  So on that summit push, I was dying at a rate of 11,500 calories in that day.

The most common question I have been asked since summiting is “Since you have stood on top of the world, What is next? What could possible compare.??”

The answer is, nothing will ever compare, I now want to climb the remainder of the 7 summits. This is a goal for me to achieve before I’m 50 though. The motivation for this is so I keep fit for the next 20 years (where I can see some of my peers slipping). It will also take me to every continent on the planet. The next will probably be Denali in Alaska in 2014. Anyone reading this is welcome to come…

In the meantime I want to do a little adventure I’m going to call Urban Survival. I proposed to head into Sydney City and live there for 2 weeks. Without money, no phone, no spare clothes and no contact with anyone I previously know. I want to live like the homeless do for 2 weeks. I think this will give me an insight few have seen and in the future I will concentrate my efforts helping these people where I think will best benefit them after the 2 weeks experiencing it.


-   Can I just put a special thanks out there to my family.  My girlfriend, Chux (you know who you are) for keeping people up to date via social media and all my sponsors.  It was my own selfish pledge for me to stand on top of the world and it wouldn’t have happened without the generosity and time you all put in.      Thanks again!

To end this story, i want to say a very special thanks to Jamie and the sherpa boys. The preparation that they put in for months before the expedition started is very much appreciated. I am merely a client, and way out of my league on this mountain. This was Jamies 5th summit, his experience shows. To the sherpas, especially my summit climbing partner Dawa and the Sirdar Bali – Thankyou Dawa did a great job looking after me. Whilst bali is a beast at altitude he certainly went above and beyond to make sure i was comfortable and safe.

To Jamie, although we were in one of the toughest environments on the planet, we butted heads a few times when the stress was high, but i would certainly recommend your expeditions to anyone interested. (i’m a repeat customer too!) Your knowledge and expertise on altitude and Everest is second to none, i even learned a thing or 2 from you! Thanks again and congrats on your 5th summit! Bloody machine!




Copyright Tom Kowpak 2012


See photos here!

Sorry for the delay….

June 12, 2012 Posted by KowP

I arrived back at Sydney last week, it has been mayhem since i got back.

The blog is on its way. It is in the final stages of editing.

Be prepared though.. its around 9000 words.

I completed a whole Masters at uni and never wrote an essay this long!

I will post it as soon as it comes back.

Ok, so whats happening now??

May 14, 2012 Posted by KowP

Ive been sitting in basecamp waiting for a summit window to become available for the last 4 days.

From here it takes 6 days to get to the summit and back down to a safe level (7800 – camp 2)

So weather forecasting becomes difficult this far out…

We just came back from a big meeting in another camp, where a whole heap of team leaders came to discuss this weather, and a possible summit window. They are getting forecasts from 6 sources and trying to come up with an answer.

The weather at the moment is pretty crap, strong wind, and a 125km hour jet stream on the summit.. No chance for summiting today or tomorrow.

Another problem is that the fixed ropes are not fixed to the summit yet, they are only at 8300m. But our Sherpas have shown us a photo of all the rope fixing gear being cached at 8300m.

We know there is a descent window on the 17th 18th and 19th. However the ropes aren’t fixed yet, so we believe the fixers will use the 17th to get up there and the 18th to finish fixing.

These rope fixers are a mix of Tibetian and Chinese. The 2 largest teams on the north side are the Chinese and the Indians. We believe the Chinese will be following the fixers up to the summit and the Indians won’t be too far behind them. That will be around 75 clients finished with. But they will take up the 18th for anyone else to summit that day.

Which leaves the 19th

This day is good, but still will have a lot of traffic on the high mountain. AND.. the 20th the wind appears to be picking up to around 50kms per hour.. which is not entirely impossible.. but will be very hard to climb in. (if this comes a day early, the 19th is difficult as well.)

The general census at the table was that this year, is a very small summit window. Should we wait for a potential later one??

What if one doesn’t come?

Update: There is a possible second summit day on the 25th. Will update as the forecasts come in.

North Col and up.

May 14, 2012 Posted by KowP

Woke up and did the standard.. The sun comes up early on the col, around 5am. So I just wait till the rays of sun actually hit my tent, then I start moving. (until then I just pull my beanie over my eyes so I can have the extra 2 hours sleep.

Then I got woken by the sherpas giving me a mug of boiling water, and another mug of boiling water, musily, granola and honey.

Baliand Passang were to be taking a load of oxygen and tents to 7800 today, I was to follow them up to the top of the ice slope.

It took us around 1 hour to get ready, down suit, crampons, ice axe, harness, 500ml of water and camera. Then we click into the fixe line that runs right past our tent and I started walking up through the Col. Which goes for around 150m, littered in tents.

I saw Andrew who was going down today, yesterday carried his load to 7800m and I saw a few other guys I had met along the way.

As I got to the end of the col. The whole north face of Everest opens up and is in clear view. You can see all the major land marks from here. The snow slope, the first and second step, mushroom rock and most importantly, the summit!

The walk up the snow slope is pretty bland, it is just that. Following a fixed line up what is exactly like a ski slope. The steeper parts have steps where the sherpas went up the night before.

So the actual walk is bland but the view is absolutely special. You can see to the right down to ABC, through the East Rombuk Glacier and the Rombuk Glacier to the left. In front the north face.

As I wasn’t carrying any loads, not even my backpack, I overtook a few people on this slope and some people even turned back after a bit. (the idea of going up here for now is just to push the acclimatisation a little and get some exercise)

I got to around 7450 up this slope when the boys were on their ways back to camp. I turned around with them and descended down the fixed lines.





Up to the North Col

May 14, 2012 Posted by KowP

I had one rest day after my sickness then it was back to business. The boys had to climb to the north col to carry a load of oxygen, so I thought I’d come with.

My bag was heavy, I had everything in it for the high mountain. So I left before them.

They caught me at crampon point.

We moved through the ice on fixed ropes and got to the north col in around 4 hours.

Russle Bryce says to his clients if they cant make it up to the col within 5 hours on their second go, they wont make the summit… This was my first time up there.

The way up there is full of crevasses, when you look down some of them, they are 60m deep, and you cant see the bottom.

Towards the top, there is a steep ice flute (almost like a chimney) it has up and down fixed ropes due to its steepness. I got to the top of here and my hands starting getting cold. I took my gloves off and had a rest with my hands in my armpits. I even put my glovesBaliand Passang to warm them up. (their hands never get cold!)

The last part of the ice climbing is 2 ladders that have been joined at the middle with ropes, this crosses a 2m wide crevasse.

The ladder part is real easy, but when you get off the ladder, it is butted up against an almost vertical wall, so getting off the ladder with a pack on is hard. Some makeshift stairs all the way up to the col after this. By now I was pretty knackered and heard the col goes for about 180m. I asked which tents are ours.. ours were the first ones.. like 10m away.. I was cheering.. ahh the small things!

I arrived in the tent and literally collapsed in a heap, I was cooked. The boys melted some snow and gave me some soup.Bali… the machine! then gets out with the shovel and starts shovelling snow to make a tent spot.

Back up to ABC

May 14, 2012 Posted by KowP

Back to ABC the second cycle of acclimatisation. The trekking group finally came to basecamp. I met them for about 1 hour, we had lunch then I was back up the hill, towards Interim. This time it was just myself and 2 of the Sherpa team; Bali and Passang. I should now introduce them. Bali is the Sirdar (boss Sherpa) he is around 37 years old, and at sea level looks a little overweight. Seeing how he performs at altitude definitely doesn’t matter for these guys if you’re overweight or now. This guy is a machine. Carrying monster loads at very high altitude. I’m very glad to have him on my side. In the non expedition season (which is around 3 months of the year) Bali has a farm where his wife and 2 children live. Located in a village approximately 5 hours out of Kathmandu. Passang is a little older than Bali, he has been battling a throat infection the whole expedition. This does slow him down a little although he is always right behind bali when it comes to carrying loads. I was carrying a fair load to Interim and then to ABC.. baring in mind I am only carrying my personal stuff. It is the sherpas who carry their own personal stuff as well as any common gear like tents and gas cookers etc. When we got to Interim I was cactus, I just crashed on the kitchen tent floor and the boys cooked me dinner. There was another guy here also, from another expedition. He is a cook for Seven summit club. But had no members in this night, so he helped set up the tent, in return for some dinner and socialising. The following day we headed up to ABC. I was feeling better this day so left early, and this time the sherpas didn’t catch me. I still arrived around 4 hours later though and was once again cactus. ABC is much more established than interim, I have my own tent here, there is a permanent cook staff that waits for us to arrive. Dawa. This day he made me the best noodle soup I’ve had to date! I was spose to stay at ABC 2 nights then up to the north col for 2 nights. As it turned out I got sick with some sort of bacteria in my stomach. I had a double dose of antibiotics first up then followed with single dose for 2 days and I was fixed. But his set me back 2 days. (Lucky it was over with quickly and I didn’t deteriorate too much. (Bacteria like this can end an expedition if you’re not diligent.)

Heading out

May 2, 2012 Posted by KowP

My apologies if the editing of the previous posts are not flawless. The internet here is real crap and i havent even been able to re-read them.

In about 10 mins i’m about to head back up the mountain.

Hoping to sleep at 7000m for 2 nights. maybe push on to 7500 with the sherpas who are dropping oxygen up there for a day trip. Then i’ll be back down to BC within 7-9 days.




Everest News

May 2, 2012 Posted by KowP

Most of this news is second or seventh hand, there is probably more accurate info on the web.

Just to clarify now, I am attempting a summit from the north side. Through Tibet.
The south side has around 450 clients and 450 sherpas trying to summit.
The north side has around 110 clients and 100 sherpas trying to summit.
Therefore the north being preferable when it comes to traffic on the high mountain.

There is not much news to report from the north side other than the wind is very strong from ABC up. Adventure peaks lost their toilet tent 2 days ago in the wind. Luckily no-one was in there.
Andrew came back from the north col today and he said the wind over the icey plateau was so strong he had to drop to his knees a few times so not to fall over.

The south side however has news. 3 reported dead so far.
The first was a Sherpa who had some sort of intestinal twist, apparently he was an alcoholic too.
The second was a Sherpa who fell down a crevasse.
The third was an Indian client who suffered a brain stroke going through the khumbu, he was evacuated by helicopter although later died in hospital.
On the 26th the south side had a massive avalanche that rolled from the Everest west ridge to the Nupse face and ended up in the crevasses below.
No one was killed in this avalanche although a cook was taken down a crevasse and later rescued and evacuated to Kathmandu.

ABC 6400m

May 2, 2012 Posted by KowP

Cold and windy but has some stunning views of everest and the 400m ice climb up to the north col.


We stayed here for 5 nights with the hope to stay a night or 2 at theNorth Col.

The first day was a rest day, and rest we did, nothing was done, just reading books, conversations and eating.

The second day we went around visiting a few camps that Jamie knows. Phil for one who has always got a story to tell.


ABC nights are cold, we usually stay in the dining tent (which has a gas heater) after dinner til about 8pm, then go to bed, by this time, it is on average -17 degrees C. Makes it hard to get your gear off and into your sleeping bag. It doesn’t really get much colder than this during the night, maybe -19.5 although these temps are taken inside my tent. If I was out in the wind, it would be deadly.


The 3rd night at ABC, after resisting onAconcagua, and every other day this expedition so far, I finally converted my red 1l drink bottle to a pee bottle.

This makes it so much easier to pee at night, just kneel in my sleeping bag, do the business, screw it up, and leave it on the tent floor somewhere…. No heat lost at all.

Sure beats the alternative of going out in this cold in my underwear coming back and taking 30 mins to get comfortable again.


The 4th day of ABC we went for a walk up the hill to approximately 6550m to a place called Crampon Point. Which is a place marked out by expedition barrels (brought up by sherpas that hold everyones crampons (although we’re carrying ours ourselves). From here on it is ice, and you need crampons on your boots to stay upright.

From Crampon Point there is around a 500m walk to the base of the north col, and the fixed ropes start.

I was really struggling to walk to Crampon Point. All I can blame is lack of acclimatisation at this level and the high altitude. Unfortunately there was no one else around to compare myself to apart from Jamie, who at altitude seems to grow a second pair of lungs and isn’t effected like everyone else. (Sucks to be me around him, but also good to have him around if I get into trouble later on).


Interim – ABC

May 2, 2012 Posted by KowP

After the second night at Interim 5800m we left for ABC 6400m after breakfast.

This walk has been the most stunning of the whole expedition so far.

Jamie and Andrew were doing some filming so I left them to it.

It is a fairly gradual incline of 600m over 7.5 vertical kms.

I followed the ridgeline towards Everest then it takes an unexpected detour to the east and down a hill and we literally follow and a walk on a frozen river. The view through here is like something from a cartoon. Very blue and just stunning.

The walking now is starting to get hard. At around 6000m, there is half the pressure in the air as at sea level so you have to breathe twice as hard to get the same output out of your body.

I arrived at ABC, absolutely exahausted in around 4 hours. In hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have pushed it so hard, but pushing hard aids acclimatisation.

When I arrived the I just crashed on the kitchen floor, the boys we feeding me hot lemon cordial they call lemon tea.. I didn’t mind, it was exactly what I needed to get to my tent, then slept for around 2 hours till Jamie and Andrew arrived.