Everest 2012 Expedition Dispatches
Dispatch #24 – May 23, 2012 – Base Camp
We are all now back at base camp and will spend tomorrow breaking down our compound. The plan is for us to travel to the border on the 25th and hopefully we will cross over into Nepal on the 26th and be in Kathmandu around lunchtime.
All of the team members and Sherpas are tired but that didn't stop us from enjoying our celebratory happy hour with champagne and sushi yesterday. Most of us called it an early night but one usual suspect stayed up late socializing with the Sherpas.
We have had a great expedition and quite a successful one. I think all the team and staff are looking forward to getting back to Kathmandu. We have a lot of repeat Altitude Junkies climbers on this expedition and for some of them, surviving the nightlife of Kathmandu will be harder than climbing the mountain itself.
Next year we will be returning to Tibet and the “Big E” and we hope to have a great expedition such as this one was. We thank you all for following our big adventure this spring.
The above photos show Phil bringing the customary champagne into the dining tent for our celebratory summit happy hour and one final view of the majestic “Big E” from base camp.
Dispatch #23 - May 21, 2012 - Advanced Base Camp
We apologize about the short dispatches over the past few days. This was due to the fact that we had limited communications with Kathmandu whilst we were at camp one, two and three respectively.
We put our trust in our professional weather forecast service from Seattle, Washington, USA and it proved yet again to be a perfect forecast. We have to thank Michael Fagin for his continued professionalism.
The team departed camp three on the evening of the 18th at roughly 11:30 pm Nepal time in warm and somewhat perfect conditions albeit from the occasional gust of wind to remind us of where we were. The team started to summit from 6:30 am onwards on the 19th and six of the seven members and five of the seven Sherpas made the summit.
Some of our team members will update their personal blogs when back at base camp and they will detail their own summit day.
We had a smooth summit day and this is due to the fact that we have an amazing team of professional climbing Sherpas who climb with us year in year out. Without these guys, none of us would have reached the summit and I feel honored to call these guys a part of my extended family.
The team members are enjoying a rest day here at ABC today and tomorrow we will head down to base camp for our official celebration.
The above photos show the morning alpenglow hitting the final summit pyramid and Grant "the Axe" on the summit.
May 20, 2012 - UPDATE
All climbers and Sherpas are safely down and resting at ABC. A dispatch will be put up within the next day.
Dispatch #22 - May 19, 2012 – Camp 3
We had the best weather day chosen by Michael Fagin and it was perfect including the predicted strong summit winds.
Grant with Pasang Nima, Mila with Pasang Ongcho, Mark D with Ang Gelu, Ian with Kami Neru, Mark H with Chhongba and myself all reached the summit this morning at different times. Unfortunately Margaret turned around after about 10 hours due to the nagging cough that has been hindering her performance recently. Margaret has already climbed Everest from the south side as well as Manaslu.
Tomorrow, we head to ABC and the hard working Sherpas will break down Camps 3, 2, and 1 and also head down.
Dispatch #21 - May 18, 2012 – Camp 3
The head of the Tibetan rope fixers, Samdo who is present at Camp3 with the Chinese team, has organized the several teams present with staggered departure times to try and avoid any bottlenecks on the respective steps. We are quite pleased with our slot as we had planned to leave at midnight anyway and we have the 11:30 PM slot.
The only person missing unfortunately is our Sirdar Dorjee. We know he would rather be here than monitoring the radio at Base Camp.
Dispatch #20 - May 18, 2012 – Camp 3
All the climbers and Sherpas, all 14 of us, are now at the highest campsite in the world at 8300 meters today. As we climbed, we watched the Tibetans fix the ropes to the summit.
We are going to try and coordinate staggering our departure time as there must be 50-60 climbers present although 70% are Sherpas or Tibetans.
Our weather forecast shows a slight increase in winds but as I sit here inside the tent at 8300 meters, there is no wind whatsoever. Hopefully tomorrow, if the weather holds, we are able to reach the summit.
Dispatch #19 - May 17, 2012 – Camp 2
The Sherpas travelled ahead of the rest of the team as they had to establish Camp 2 at 7800 meters. The winds have been too strong to leave an established camp in place, but our Sherpas placed a cache here last week.
Our team members used oxygen today from the 7300 meter mark, and they shall be resting and sleeping on it tonight.
We elected a higher Camp 2, so tomorrow’s climb to Camp 3 is just less than 500 meters.
Dispatch #18 - May 16, 2012 – Camp 1
All members and Sherpas are at camp 1 the North Col and will head to Camp 2 tomorrow.
We camped next to the Tibet rope fixers, who are my old students from the Tibet Guide School in Lhasa. They now plan to fix the ropes on the 18th so we can hopefully summit on the 19th.
Dispatch #17 - May 15, 2012 - Advanced Base Camp
The entire team, westerners and Sherpas, made the big walk from base camp to advanced base camp today. The rope fixers are planning to finish the route to the summit on the 17th or the 18th so we hopefully make a summit attempt on the 19th.
Tomorrow we will plan to climb to the North Col again and the following day climb to camp two and camp three on the 17th and 18th respectively.
Unfortunately, our Sirdar Dorjee Sherpa sustained an injury to his leg last time he was at advanced base camp. Dorjee is manning our radio communications from base camp and Pemba Sherpa has stepped in to replace Dorjee for the summit push. It helps having two base camp cooks who have also reached the summit of Everest before to help out if needed.
Dispatch #16 – May 12, 2012 – Base Camp
Our Sherpas have now completed their second load carry to the high camp at 8,300-meters and have now all returned to base camp. All of our oxygen and equipment are now at the respective camps in anticipation of our summit push.
The team members are very relaxed and seem to be enjoying the downtime at base camp whilst we wait for the winds to abate to allow a safe summit window.
We are monitoring our daily weather forecasts from Michael Fagin closely and we seem to have a favorable weather window appearing in just over a weeks time. Obviously, the weather changes so we still have no definite plans until we have received more detailed forecasts.
We have to thank Alex and the rest of the Seven Summits Club for their hospitality on May 10th with their annual May party at base camp. There was plentiful amounts of food and drink and as usual, the Junkies enjoyed themselves in their own distinctive way.
The above photos show our awesome tired Sherpas in their own dining room upon returning to base camp after two successive carries to 8,300-meters and some of the Junkies enjoying the Seven Summits annual May party.
Dispatch #15 – May 9, 2012 – Base Camp
We are now relaxing at base camp waiting for the all important weather forecasts that will hopefully show a suitable weather window in the next week or so. Whilst we are down here at base camp our hard working Sherpas are based at advanced base camp and stocking the higher camps in anticipation of the summit push.
Our Sherpas have now got camp one and camp two fully stocked with oxygen and tents and tomorrow they plan to make a load carry to camp three at roughly 8,300-meters. Hopefully the Tibet Guides finish fixing the ropes to camp three today allowing our guys safe passage.
The expedition is totally dependent on the Sherpas and it would not be possible for us to reach the summit without these hard working guys getting everything ready for us. After two load carries of oxygen to camp three the Sherpas will all return to base camp and take a well deserved rest.
The above photos show lazy days at base camp with our head cook Da Pasang Sherpa preparing sushi rolls for happy hour in our clean kitchen and Grant blogging in the communication dome with Everest behind him in the round window.
Dispatch #14 - May 6, 2012 - Advanced Base Camp
Another camp one rotation was completed by our team members today in absolutely amazing conditions. No wind, no clouds and no crowds made this our best day yet climbing on the "Big E". We climbed to the col in the morning and returned to advanced base camp mid afternoon. We elected as a group not to sleep at the col on this second acclimatization rotation but decided the lower elevation of 6,400-meters would be more conducive for a better nights sleep.
Our trustworthy Sherpas made another carry to the North Col yesterday and all of our oxygen, tents, food and gas is now at the 7,075-meter level (thanks to Mark Horrell and his GPS). Tomorrow, the Sherpas will make a carry and deposit tents and oxygen at camp two camp at an elevation of 7,800 meters.
The team will decide over breakfast whether to spend another night at advanced base camp or drop lower to base camp with all the luxuries it offers us.
The above photos show the view of the North Col on the approach from the glacier and some of the Junkies relaxing at the North Col after their second camp one rotation.
Dispatch #13 - May 4, 2012 - Advanced Base Camp
Our team members all made the 17 km trek and a 1,200 meter elevation gain from base camp to advanced base camp in times of between five and eight hours depending on their own preferred pace.
I guess the past six days at base camp eating, drinking and relaxing has put these guys in good physical shape for the next few days and for our second acclimatization rotation to the North Col and higher.
We expect light precipitation over the next few afternoons and hopefully the amounts will not hinder our tentative climbing plans.
The above photos show some of the Junkies hanging in the the toasty warm advanced base camp kitchen whilst Pemba Sherpa takes care of their needs after arriving from the trek from base camp and the light afternoon snow dusting on our advanced base camp.
Dispatch #12 – May 3, 2012 – Base Camp
We have been held down at base camp for the past several days due to the ever present jet stream which has been hammering the mountain constantly.
Our weather forecast shows the jet stream moving away from the mountain for several days starting late this afternoon. With this in mind we plan to walk to advanced base camp tomorrow followed by a rest day at the 6,400 meter camp. The following day we plan to make our second rotation to the North Col and if the team feels strong enough we will continue to the 7,300-7,500 meter mark for an acclimatization tag before returning to advanced base camp and the lower elevation of 6,400 meter for a better nights sleep.
Our Sherpas have now resumed load carries on the mountain with another carry to the North Col today. All our of 80 oxygen bottles are now at the col and when the wind abates the Sherpas will deposit the neccessary bottles at the 7,800 meter and the 8,300 meter higher camps respectively.
Being stuck at base camp the past several days has it's advantages especially with Da Pasang Sherpa and Pemba Sherpa working their magic in our state of the art kitchen here at base camp. We are proud to have a very clean kitchen with full stainless steel worktops, two propane ovens and complete with stainless steel hand washing sinks. Our talented chefs have been keeping us well fed on steak sizzlers and roast chicken although this has meant that we have sometimes been having one or two extra glasses of red and white wine with dinner.
Our next dispatch will be from advanced base camp and hopefully it's not as windy at this camp as it was last time we were there.
The above photos show the ever constant jet stream plume on Everest as seen from base camp and our talented chefs Da Pasang and Pemba in our spacious base camp kitchen.
Dispatch #11 – April 28, 2012 – Base Camp
Yesterday we broke down the sleeping tents at advanced base camp to avoid any damage by the constant high winds that are predicted for another several days.
The complete team except for two advanced base camp cooks descended to base camp where Da Pasang Sherpa welcomed us with Tuborg beer. After a great dinner and several glasses of wine we all called it an early night.
We will spend the next several days eating, reading and relaxing and watching movies on our extra large screen courtesy of our projector in the recreation dome. When we receive a favorable weather forecast with lower wind speeds predicted we will head back up to advanced base camp and then hopefully spend a night at 7,050 meters and tag the 7,500 meter mark.
The above photos courtesy of Mark Dickson show the Junkies relaxing in typical Junkies style after arriving back at base camp with imported beer (from Kathmandu) and the Sherpas settling in our recreation dome for our movie nights on the large screen.
Dispatch #10 - April 26, 2012 - Advanced Base Camp
The winds were howling all last night at advanced base camp and in the morning we awoke to see some carnage in the way of destroyed tents from other expeditions. Fortunately for us our trustworthy Mountain Hardwear tents stood up to the conditions unscathed.
Our tentative plan was to go and tag the North Col today but the winds implied different. At breakfast we decided to make a run for the Col and if any of us got cold to turn around as it was only an acclimatization rotation.
The team did amazing in the windy conditions experienced from advanced base camp all the way to the top of the col. Ian, Grant and myself reached the North Col whereas Mila, Mark H, Mark D and Margaret showed their many years of collective mountaineering experience and turned around at various high points below the col due to the excessive cold winds.
The first rotation is now complete as the weather forecast predicts high winds for several days which will not allow us to get above the col. Tomorrow we will break down our sleeping tents at advanced base camp to avoid any damage in our absence and we will head down to base camp for a well deserved rest at the lower elevation.
The above photos show the ladder section followed by a serious steep climb just below the North Col and the view up the North Ridge from the North Col.
Dispatch #9 – April 25, 2012 – Advanced Base Camp
Today the expedition finally started to climb with the Sherpas making a carry to the North Col at 7,050 meters. First loads up were 28 oxygen bottles.
The team members are also acclimatizing well and tomorrow, if all goes well, will make their first rotation to the North Col to tag and then return to Advanced base Camp.
Our plans are still open and we will decide what to do next tomorrow evening over dinner. If all goes well with our first foray onto the mountain we may plan to move up to camp one in a few days and then try and tag the 7,500 meter mark before descending back to advanced base camp.
As always on Everest, our plans are weather dependent.
The above photos show the Sherpas enjoying an early breakfast and then loading up oxygen bottles to carry to the North Col.
Dispatch #8 - April 24, 2012 - Advanced Base Camp
Our second rest day at Advanced Base Camp continues to see the camp battered by high winds due to the close proximity of the jet stream. Our weather forecast shows a drop in winds in a few days so we hope to take advantage of this and sneak up the North Col for an acclimatization rotation.
There is not much to do here apart from sleep, eat, read and repeat. Today we reviewed the oxygen equipment to pass time and we will do this again before we use it on the summit push. We have two types of masks again this year on Everest, one specially designed for the Sherpas and the other for the team members. The Sherpa mask is designed with a reservoir for a maximum flow rate of 2 liters per minute whereas the team members masks can allocate a 4 liters per minute flow rate if needed.
Oxygen use is very important on Everest and we allocate 6-7 four-liter bottles for each climber and each Sherpa is allocated 4-5 four-liter bottles depending on their respective preference. All of our Sherpas use oxygen for load carries above the North Col at 7,050 meters and we encourage our team members to use oxygen when they feel the need above the North Col on the summit push.
Advanced Base Camp is now totally established with full communications and all that is needed is for us to get some low winds to allow the Sherpas to start to stock the respective camps. The team members will follow their personal acclimatization schedules and I can say that I think we will all be looking forward to heading to base camp in a week or so time to enjoy Da Pasang's steak sizzlers, wine and beer.
According to one of my former students at the Tibet Mountaineering Guide School the fixed ropes have now been placed to the 7,900 meter mark which is the site of high camp two.
The above photos show our dining dome with the North Col behind and Grant and Phil modeling the two different oxygen masks. Our team members mask is modeled by Grant (in disguise) and our Sherpas mask is modeled by Phil.
Dispatch #7 – April 23, 2012 – Advanced Base Camp
We are now enjoying our first rest day at Advanced Base Camp at 6,400 meters. The team members all slept for various durations last night and as we spend more time here our sleep patterns should improve.
The plan is to take three to four rest days here and then we will venture up the North Col. The weather forecast still predicts very strong winds for several more days so we are all content to relax and avoid the cold winds that we are experiencing here at Advanced Base Camp.
Pemba Ngtar Sherpa has been taking care of us in the kitchen with plenty of fried eggs and toast as well as both fresh pressed coffee and espresso for breakfast this morning. Our double walled Mountain Hardwear dining dome is a welcome shelter form the constant winds that are battering us.
All of our team are very pleased that they have their own individual Mountain Hardwear Trango 3.1 tent here at ABC, the same as they do at Base Camp. We feel that the first few nights at ABC are essential for a good rest so therefore we do not want the climbers to keep each other awake with their different sleep patterns.
The above photos show the team in the dining dome all jacked up on fresh coffee and Pemba making his ABC kitchen as productive as possible for the upcoming weeks ahead.
Dispatch #6 - April 22, 2012 - Advanced Base Camp
We have all arrived at Advanced Base Camp with the exception of Da Pasang Sherpa who will manage the radio communications at Base Camp.
There will be no guest dispatch writer today as all the team are quite tired and sleeping. Our BGANs are working at ABC so I thought I would post letting everyone know how well the team is doing and that they are all in good health.
There was a potential cyclone that was threatening to form in the Bay of Bengal on the 25th/26th and this would have played havoc with our North Col and 7,500 meter tag rotations but it seems as if it will miss us now.
With us making a sudden jump in altitude from Intermediate Base Camp at 5,800 meters to Advanced Base Camp at 6,400 meters we will all take it easy for the next few days to allow our bodies to adjust. When everyone feels good we will head to the North Col.
The above photos shows the view of the summit from ABC with it's constant wind plume and the Junkies Advanced Base Camp.
Dispatch #5 – April 20, 2012 – Base Camp
Welcome to this, the second guest post of this year's Junkies' Everest dispatches. Expedition leader Phil Crampton had his hair cut before arriving in Kathmandu, and this appears to have deprived him of literary inspiration, so team members are taking it in turns to copy his pithy, amusing writing style until Phil's hair grows back again and normal service can be resumed.
46 yaks turned up at Base camp this morning to transport 1840kg of equipment up to Advanced Base Camp (ABC). Seven of our Sherpas went with them and the rest of us will be following tomorrow. After a week of rest at Base Camp we're all pumped up for this our first foray up the mountain.
Although ABC is at 6400m, but for the altitude it's an easy trek to get there up the 'Magic Highway', a strip of moraine running up the middle of the East Rongbuk Glacier which enables yaks to be taken up. We aim to spend a week or so at ABC, spend a night on the North Col at 7050m, and climb as high as 7500m to acclimatize. It's been beautiful weather most of the time here at Base Camp, but Everest's summit plume has been ever-present, sometimes dropping as low as the North Col, indicating high winds. We're expecting it to be cold and windy, and all our plans are weather-dependent.
Yesterday we were honored by a visit from superstar Aussie climber and member of the 8000 Club Andrew Lock, and multiple Everest summiteer Jamie McGuinness. Phil is convinced the reason for these visits is due to his popularity among top climbers, but after our watery puja of two days ago, which saw diminutive Kiwi climber Grant 'Axe' Rawlinson drink a glass of beer while standing on his head, I believe the Junkies' camp may have earned itself a reputation of being the best stocked with alcohol, especially as Jamie arrived just in time for Happy Hour.
Communications have been sketchy and unreliable this year. We hope to be able to send the next dispatch from ABC, but don't be surprised if you hear nothing until we return to Base Camp in a week's time.
Now the team is splitting up among camps we managed to get a photo this morning of all our climbing and kitchen team, which is included with today's dispatch.
From a sunny but windy Base Camp (5160m)
The above photo courtesy of Mark Horrell shows the complete Junkies Everest 2012 team. Back row left to right: Gelje, Tashi Chusung, Da Pasang Sherpa, Pasang Ongcho Sherpa, Pasang Nima Sherpa, Pemba Ngtar Sherpa, Ang Gelu Sherpa, Dorjee Sherpa, Chhedar Sherpa, Kami Neru Sherpa, Chhongba Nurbu Sherpa, Ngima Neru Sherpa, Tenzing, Tashi. Front row left to right: Phil Crampton, Luidmila Mikhanovskaia, Margaret Watroba, Ian Cartwright, Grant Rawlinson, Mark Dickson, Mark Horrell.
Dispatch #4 – April 19, 2012 – Base Camp
Our Altitude Junkies Base Camp is now fully operational with everything – except for the BGANs – functioning as it should. All the team members are feeling healthy and energetic, taking short strolls to the local 'sights', like the George Mallory Memorial, and visiting other teams' base camps, of which there are fifteen on the North Side this year.
The weather at base camp has been rather changeable: Sunday the 15th was grey, cold and windy, while Monday was a true treat for base camp dwellers with sun shining all day long, and the icy wind taking a welcome break; Tuesday was again windy but pleasant otherwise. To help us keep our spirits high, regardless of the weather conditions, we have gone through some seven litres of wine and quite a few beers. We have also been putting our generator, iPods and iPads to good use by watching movies on the big screen after dinner in the Recreation Dome. Last night's 'An Idiot Abroad', for instance, proved to be a hit with both our climbers and the Sherpas.
By far the most exciting event of the past couple of days was the puja held for the Junkies' Everest expedition on Wednesday. Three lamas from Rongbuk Monastery arrived at Base Camp early in the morning – by motorbike. One of the communal tents had been converted into a mini-gompa by our Sherpas, with ice axes and crampons sharing the large offering table with tormas, (ritual cakes) khatas (scarves) and a burning butter lamp. The prayer ceremony lasted about two hours and culminated with the whole team and the lamas gathering around the stone puja, decorated with prayer flags, and throwing tsampa flour into cold air (but mostly at each other, really). After the monks left, the celebration proper started... Involving quite a bit of drinking and competitions in flexibility, it certainly helped the Junkies loosen up – in body and mind: splits, headstands, ice-climbing imitations, poetry recitations, dancing and, yes, drinking, kept us laughing until dinner.
This Thursday the team will spend packing loads to be carried by yaks to Advance Base Camp tomorrow, resting and enjoying the windless day.
All for now from the Junkies. We'll continue to keep you updated on our news!
The above photos courtesy of Mark Horrell show the puja ceremony with “Big Boss” Dorjee Sherpa taking a shot or three of rum. The puja alter was brought inside one of our storage tents due to the excessive winds base camp was receiving.
Just to add to Mila's dispatch that yesterday's puja was a mega puja indeed and to be honest the craziest one I have been part of. All of the team members and Sherpas acted as if they have known each other for years and I am proud to be associated with such a great team of climbers and Sherpas.
Dispatch #3 – April 17, 2012 – Base Camp
We made great progress on the 10th crossing the border even though we had over 250 porters carrying out 7,000 kg of food, fuel and gear. We made it to Nyalam for the first two evenings as planned and then spent two evenings at Tingri for cautious acclimatization.
Having arrived at base camp on the 14th we spent the day making our camp comfortable and even though it was very windy we managed to erect all our kitchen tents as well as our dining and movie dome and our separate ladies and gents shower/toilet tents.
The only missing ingredient of our base camp is the fact that our bgan satellite system does not seem to work but we have 3G coverage during the day. We are told that the bgan is guaranteed to work at advanced base camp so this will enable us to receive our all important weather forecasts from Michael Fagin. Our team members are able to blog through their 3G connection on their phones but I must be the only person at base camp with a cellphone without 3G capabilities.
We plan to have our Puja on the 18th and soon after the Sherpa will head to and establish our advanced base camp. Our team members will spend several more days at base camp allowing us to make a smooth transition to interim and advanced base camp respectively.
The above photos, courtesy of Mark Horrell and Mark Dickson, show Ian and Grant in the all important acclimatization process at Nyalam and our base camp with the majestic Everest behind.
Dispatch #2 – April 9, 2012 – Kathmandu
Our team members are now all in Kathmandu and relaxing, some after trekking and others after international flights. Today we obtained our Tibet Group Visa and tomorrow we shall be heading for the Tibetan border and will hopefully enter without any problems.
Kathmandu is experiencing a bandha (strike) today which leaves the residents struggling to go anywhere as most vehicles are forced off the streets. After the late announcement of the strike yesterday our Sherpas traveled to the border town of Kodari in the evening with all the gear to avoid being stuck in Kathmandu today. There are several checkpoints along the way and our ten Sherpas had to unload and load the truck three times for inspection by the authorities.
If all goes to plan we should probably arrive at Base Camp on the 15th or 16th and once we have settled we will report on any interesting events on the drive to base camp.
Dispatch #1 – March 30, 2011 – Kathmandu
Our annual Everest expedition is once again about to commence with the Sherpas and I busy packing gear in our Kathmandu office. We are pleased to have our usual Sherpa crew assisting the expedition under the directorship or our Sirdar, Dorjee Sherpa.
Dorjee Sherpa (Sirdar)
Pasang Ongcho Sherpa
Kami Neru Sherpa
Pasang Nima Sherpa
Ngima Neru Sherpa
Chhongba Nurbu Sherpa
Ang Gelu Sherpa
Our Nepal kitchen staff consist of the following cooks and these guys will be assisted by several Tibetan cooks (names to be confirmed).
Da Pasang Sherpa
Pemba Ngtar Sherpa
Some team members are already in Nepal enjoying the various trekking circuits on offer before we drive to Tibet, whereas others will start to arrive in early April. All of the team except for one have climbed with the Altitude Junkies previously on several 8,000-meter expeditions and they are an experienced bunch of climbers to say the least with numerous ascents all over the world. They prefer to climb on a professional organized expedition rather than a regimented guided one, that's the reason why they are climbing with the Junkies once again.
Phil Crampton (UK/USA)
Ian Cartwright (UK)
Mark Dickson (UK)
Mark Horrell (UK)
Liudmila Mikhanovskaia (RUS)
Grant Rawlinson (NZ)
Margaret Watroba (AUS)
With this Everest expedition included our team have fifty-one expeditions to 8,000-meter peaks between them and I am very honored to manage an expedition for such a group of experienced climbers.
The above photos show the two most important factors of an Everest expedition, our Sherpas and our oxygen supply.
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