So I’ve been at base camp at Everest for the last four nights sleeping in a tent – something I’ve not done since Reading festival in 96, I generally thought I wasn’t the ‘camping type’. However, I’m now pretty used to sliding into the sleeping bag in the freezing cold and having to use a ‘pee bottle’ – seriously you don’t want to get up in the middle of the night here to leave the tent to do ‘your business’ – it is so very cold at night. Outdoor living at it’s best.
I’m glad to say all of the group made it to base camp without any major problems. Everyone has, at some point, suffered from pretty bad headaches, and Johnny the photographer was in a pretty bad way yesterday with a migraine, but glad to say seems fine today.
Everest is an amazing and very foreboding mountain that towers over the Himalayas and clearly ‘stands’ out from the rest of the many peaks. The journey into base camp is something you’ll never forget as you drive up, up and up over a stony and baron road until you reach the final pass, at this point the whole Himalayan range comes into view and you have your first glimpse of the mountain.. We were lucky that we reached this point on a clear day and had the most amazing view – have some great photographs. For the next 3 ½ hours you drive through the valley towards Everest, which is in constant view getting closer and closer until you reach the famous Rongbuk monastery at the foot of the Everest valley and the marks the entrance into Base Camp.
If you took Everest out of the equation base camp and the valley would perhaps be one of the bleakest places on the planet – dry, arid, rocky scree slopes surround the camp which is positioned on the snout of the Rongbuk glacier. Right by the camp there is a constant and stark reminder of just how dangerous a mountain that this is to climb with a hill full of memorials and tombstones to fallen mountaineers whose bodies lay on the mountain or have been chucked off the ridge onto the glacier at the foot of the mountain (this is the agreed way of dealing with dead bodies found on the mountain).
We’re staying with Himalayan Experience at base camp which is also populated by a couple of film crews. The Discovery team have a couple of people based in base camp filming the Everest: Beyond the Limits program for a second series which Rod will be featuring in. We will be able to watch, with the team at base camp, live via Sherpa cam (each climber has a Sherpa who is carrying a camera on his helmet) Rod and the rest of his teams, final push for the summit – should be awesome.
The other team are making a feature film recreating Mallory’s last, and controversial, attempt to summit the North ridge (where he perished – some people believe he made it others think they didn’t). So the whole team have found the original patterns for the clothing they used and have had them remade (look very authentic) and will be recreating climbing scenes as they make there way to the summit. The main thing they are trying to test is whether they could have possibly climbed the second step without use of ladders and rope. This is the last and most difficult part of the climb on the north ridge and one of the areas that has been most contested with Mallory – the last sighting of him was just at the foot of this second ridge – had they climbed and summated and died on the way back, or died after failing to make it up the second step? This is what the team is trying to prove. They’ve assembled a pretty strong team of climbers headed up by Conrad Anker (chap that found Mallory’s body in 99), Leo (professional rock climber and the guy that famously appeared on Top Gear and beat Jeremy Clarkson in a race to the top of a mountain before base jumping off) and Jimmy Chin (climbed the south side in the hard autumn season last year before skiing all the way down – balls of steel).
So during our time of base camp we’ve been on a few acclimatisation hikes to help get us used to living at this altitude and to help get our bodies ready for the trip to ABC which is another 1.2 K vertically up from here. The first one of these almost turned into our very own mini ‘Touching the Void’ as we took a wrong turn and had to slide down a pretty steep slope (must have slid flat on my back for about 30metres) before having to cross the Rongbuk glacier (crevasses, frozen lakes – beautiful but intimidating terrain). I’m not afraid to say it was probably one of the hardest things I’ve had to do – at the time I wished I was just on a ‘normal’ press trip doing laps at a trade show.
The journalists all left yesterday to start their journeys home leaving me and Johnny (the photographer), who are here for another 7 days, to oversee Rod’s summit and venture higher up the mountain to take some pictures of Rod on his way down. So today has been a day of rest for me and Johnny, doing very little and just conserving energy for the two days altitude walking we have to do to get to ABC (we stop for one night at intermediate camp which is about 12k away).
At time of writing Rod is now at the final camp, camp 4, which is over 8,000m up and in what is known as the ‘death’ zone, with the aim of summiting tomorrow morning (21st). So far he is fine, doing well and on track to summit. Whilst there is mobile reception at base camp, the only internet access is via satellite, so really expensive, thus my delay in updating. Next time you’ll hear from me I’ll probably be on my way downhill and back in Kathmandu getting ready for the journey home.
Thanks again to Jonny for publishing this on my behalf.