11th May: Although infinitely more spectacular, the view from my tent corresponds perfectly with the graphs and figures I saw on Kari’s Apple Mac an hour ago;
A vast plume of cloud and ice particles are screeching from the summit of Everest and enormous waves of cumulus pummel its base. The promised high winds and snowfall have arrived. It’s either by luck or cunning planning that our small team have finished their last rotation and are safely down in basecamp, as we have been saying all the time we have been here, “we wouldn’t want to be up there in that”!
15th May: This season has been one of incredibly varied weather and trying to plan acclimatization rotations where our movement hasn’t been too restricted by wind or icy temperatures was tricky at times but we still managed to spend 10 nights at ABC (6,400 meters) and one night on the north col at 7,100 meters. All without mishap and unusually without a single altitude related problem. It was though very very cold and the wind made her presence known.
To say that the team is ready for a summit push right now is an understatement! But the mountain calls the shots and hence I have been a regular visitor to Kari’s tent; he simply has the funkiest weather forecast which since we have been friends for a while, he is happy to share with us. And this in itself is an indication of the differences between north and south. Not only do the teams happily intermingle and meet at the highest bar in the world for regular catchups over a beer (hosted by the Russian team) but the team leaders have regular get-togethers to discuss climbing strategy and weather.
Most tellingly perhaps of the unique bonds forming between teams is that their time away from the mountain is also spent together. Whilst we are waiting for the weather gods to make up their mind about giving us a summit opportunity, Kam has gone fishing with the Russian barmaid and several Italians and the rest of the team have dropped down to New Tingri wherein the modern hotels they will find the Dutch and American teams and several cases of beer, no doubt.
This leaves me to plan the summit push in peace. And I really value this time.
Above me, Mother Nature shows who rules the roost and my job is to find a crack in her armour and a way to breach her defenses. Hence Kari’s graphs and figures.
We can see two windows, one small and one bigger one. Both are not ideal but we need to make do with what we get.
The first window is now. It was only for 2 days where the conditions have been good enough for my Sherpa team and the Tibetan rope fixing team to safely get some work done. They have done a grand job and the fixed line is now at 8,500m and our camp 3 (8,300m) has been established and is well stocked with over 100 bottles of O2.
Yesterday saw the first summit of the season (on the south). Aang Phurba Sherpa. Congratulations buddy, to you and the whole team. I hear your nickname is “spider of the mountian”!
Tomorrow another low-pressure system arrives bringing more snow and more high wind which co-insides with my team reuniting at basecamp. They will hopefully be refreshed and rested for the final push to the top, and sitting here looking at Kari’s stats it will not be long after they come back that the fun and games begin.
Of course, it pays to have a broad strategy allowing my work, the Sherpa’s work and the teams’ individual requirements to dovetail together.
Here is what I am thinking:
Very loosely dated between the 22- 28 May on the hope that the winds blow themselves out.
1. BC (5,100m) to ABC (6,400m).
2. Rest day.
3. ABC to North Col (7,100m).
4. North Col to C2 (7,700m) Starts O2 this morning. @3 liters p/min. Sleep on O2 @2 liters p/min.
5. C2 to C3 (8,300m) @3 liters p/min. Once arrived: rehydrate and sleep as much as possible.
6. Summit attempt. Allocated 3 cylinders of O2 per person @4 liters p/min. ** Additional cache of spare O2 at 2nd step.
After summit (inshallah) Descend as low as possible (ABC ideal)
7. Descend ABC – BC
So this is our proposed future for now. No doubt the gods will be throwing a spanner here and there but at least in my mind, it pays to have a plan of sorts…
Please keep us in your thoughts and keep your fingers crossed for our successful attempt in the coming week or so.. Big thanks to all of you!