The Challenge 8000 Expedition - a climbers diary part 1
A Climbers Diary (Just in!), excerpts from Alans dairy.

Alan near Everest BC with Lhotse in the background

Sunday 30th March - Kathmandu

Met Pakistani friends who are on their way to climb Everest from Tibet. This is the first Pakistani attempt on Everest.

We all went to the Rum Doodle 40,000 and a Half Feet Bar and Restaurant for a meal, the bar is named after the book which is a satire on expedition books. There is a signature board with a roll of honour for those who have summited on the Big E. Ashok the owner got me to sign for posterity - apparently I can have free meals for life. I have to say that the food is good and the place is as clean as anywhere in Kathmandu.

Sunk a few Nepalese beers - drinkable but not as good as British Cask Ales.

Monday 31st March

The Pakistan Everest expedition hold a press conference in a hotel. I went along, their budget is 1,000,000 US Dollars !!!

Tuesday 1st April

No April fools day. Too busy organising and arranging logistics with Bikrum Pandey my Kathmandu agent and friend. Evening meal with Nazir ????, leader of the Pakistan expedition and Shev Khan, deputy leader.

Thursday 3rd April

Very severe thunder storms and lightning in afternoon with torrential rain. Power cut. Afterwards I can see fresh snow in the foothills from our hotel roof. Just as well I have not set off earlier in the season. People say it is a late winter this year.

Go to my equipment store and sort out gear for the climbs. I will be taking about 100 kgs of equipment not including food. Several items have to be checked for various camps. It is no good arriving at 7000 metres to find the wrong poles have been matched to the tent. At base camp I will have a large Terra Nova tent, on the mountain I will use a Terra Nova Gemini tent. The name suggests that it is designed for two people but it is only 6ft long by a couple wide so for me it is a perfect one-man tent. Living in one of these small tents is like living under a coffee table!

I start to pack my equipment into blue plastic barrels, about one metre high, also nylon 'mule' bags. Porters and Yaks will carry all this to Base Camp at 5300 metres. Sent digital stills from my Casio QV10A camera back to Bluedome for use in the web site using Bikrums e-mail facility.

Alan resting. As Pete Boardman once said "when there is nothing to do climbers are great at doing it"

Friday 4th April

Telephone interviews with BBC Radio Cleveland, Radio Newcastle and BBC TV North East. I have a two man film crew with me from Tyne Tees TV making a documentary and news magazine items - ironically Tyne Tees do not do a telephone interview - the BBC scoop Tyne Tees.
Very misty morning and last night was quite cold for Kathmandu - I was cold in bed. Steve Ilston our cameraman has very bad Diarrhoea, David the director is OK so far, so am I, but the 'Kathmandu quick step' is insidious and sometimes unavoidable.

Saturday 5th April

Lots of filming with the Tyne Tees crew. Press ups and excersises on the hotel roof - pack all equipment to leave tomorrow for Lukla. Hectic.

Sunday 6th April

Up at 4.30 to get to the airport for the flight to Lukla. Often second-hand russian helicopters are used but we were booked on the Royal Nepal Airlines flight. They fly Twin Otter 12 seaters, all our equipment could not fit on board so it will have to follow later.

This is one of the most exciting flights in the world, it takes you right up into the foothills of the Himalaya. Lukla is at 2860 metres altitude, which is high enough to hurt.

As we taxied along the runway I put my earplugs in. These small planes are extremely noisy. Unnecassarily there is a cabin attendant, all she can do is pass round a plate of boiled sweets and cotton wool for those without earplugs.

It is only a 30 minute flight to Lukla, on the left hand side the big himalayan mountains appear. I saw Shisha Pangma (8046 mtrs) in the far distance, the first 8000er I climbed in 1987 Guari Shanker and Menlugste, both 7000 metre peaks seem close. I made the first ascent of Menlugste West at 7013 metres in 1988 whilst on an expedition led by Chris Bonington, now Sir Chris.
It was actually called the 'Search for the Yeti' expedition. The area around Menlugste is a remote and rarely visited part of Tibet. We never found a Yeti, but for me the first ascent of a 7000 metre peak was ample reward.

The plane seems to leap over several mountain passes as we start to descend to Lukla, a huge rock wall appears on the left as the pilot powers along the Dudh Kosi valley ready to turn right and seemingly fly into the hillside. The dirt airstrip at Lukla is cut into a terrace at right angles to the main valley. As you touch down it feels more like a crash landing, more akin to landing on an aircraft carrier covered in rocks. Many helicopters followed us in, there were lots of trekkers arriving and waiting to leave.

The early morning was bright and sunny, the warmth melting a waxy inch of slippery mud on the surface of the permafrost, as I tried to walk to the lodge above the airstrip. Here I met the trekking crew, Sirdar Dawa Gyalzen, the leader, Ratan our cook and various helpers. Three of us would be walking in to Base Camp over the next ten days, myself, Steve our cameraman and David the director/cameraman/sound recordist.

Afternoon at Lukla.

The weather 'socked' in, light snowfall as we walked to Phakding for the first night. Phakding is alittle lower than Lukla at 2652 metres, this helps with acclimatisation after 'zapping' the body by flying directly to altitude. Phakding took 3 to 4 hours to reach due to the filming. I could have done it in a little over 2 hours solo. Crossed the old, rickety wire suspension bridge and camped near a lodge. Steve was not used to camping as was a little perturbed. The toilets really blew him, a hole in a wooden floor with a pile of leaves and pine needles to 'compost' it.

Our crew dug a private latrine and erected a red toilet tent nicknamed the 'Tardis', rather like a sentry box. Ate in the lodge with a wood burning stove to keep us warm.

Drank some 'Chang', a Nepalese home brewed beer made from fermented Millet. It is milky in colour and resembles dirty dishwater. It tastes 'sweaty' and tangy and sweetly sour. It is best mulled on a cold evening, I like it. You have to be careful in case unfiltered or unboiled water is added.
Clean water has been a big problem even in Kathmandu. All water has to be treated as 'infected', I filter and purify all my drinking water with a 'Pur' filter. To help the body to acclimatise it is necassary to drink a lot of fluids.

The Challenge 8000 Expedition - a climbers diary part 2

Namche with the morning clouds starting to form.

Monday 7th April

Namche, 3446 metres, this is the sherpa region capital, met Ang Phurba, a sherpa freind who was with me on Nanga Parbat in 1992. Stopped in Monzo at 2835 metres at the Blue Star Lodge, owned by Nga Temba a friend who was at Everest Base Camp leading a team of sherpas. His wife plyed me with Chang - rather a nice feeling. At Monzo we enter the Sagarmtha National Park, packed lunch with chapatis, fried spam, yak cheese, boiled eggs and chocolate.

This stage should be 3 to 4 hours, it is nearly 9 hours! we film every suspension bridge. The last slope up to Namche is nearly 700 metres and a slog for most people of 1 to 2 hours. Steve well knackered, David plodding on, one of the trek crew came to meet us with hot lemon. Long day, 3 times as long due to the filming.

Alan spinning the prayer wheels at the small monastery near Namche

Tuesday 8th April

Booked into a lodge for 3 nights. Namche has changed since I first came here 10 years ago. More lodges for the trekkers, tourists and mountaineers. Very basic accomodation, bare beds, earth closets, beer and coke available as is more Chang.

Namche is a magical setting especially as mist swirls up from the main Dudh Kosi below. It is built in a horseshoe shapped hollow in the hillside rather like a smooth welsh cwm. It reminds me of a lost world. There is some electricity in Namche for lighting powered by a small hydro-electric generator. Had a haircut, shave and head massage for the film, robbed - charged 8 times the local rate.

Alan meets again the helicopter pilot responsible for his rescue from K2. Alan suffered a fall during his second attempt on K2, eventually returning to make it third time round.

Wednesday 9th April

Walked up above Namche to Syanboche airstrip (3720 metres). What a coincidence, a helicopter landed with some evacuees fro Everest BC. The pilot, Lt Lama recued me in April '95 when I fell from the path on the trek to Makalu. I had speared my leg. (Alan had speared his leg on a bamboo pole and was lucky to live, the wound just missing his artery).

Thursday 10th April

Namche to Tenboche 3867 metres, cloudy so poor views, some filming, stopped at Ang Phurbas 'tea shop' - his wife supplied strong Chang - set off after this a bit wobbly. Tenboche also known as Thyangboche took about 6 to 7 hours but is reachable in 4 hours without a film crew. Camped below the monastry. This was rebuilt after a fire destroyed the old one in 1989.

Friday 11th April

Steve is still not faring too well - already had 3 nights in Namche, trekkers usually have 2 nights. Decide to stay on another night here. Walk to Pangboche 3901 metres for acclimatisation and return to Tenboche - sleep in lodge. Before we leave a helicopter arrives, everyone thinks that Sir Edmund Hilary is on board, he wasn't. Great views of Ama Dablam.

Saturday 12th April

Tenboche to Periche 4252 metres, Steve is getting worse. Periche is a 'one horse' town, little more than a few shacks on a wind swept plain between 5000 metre mountains. Have a shave and wash, Jean Cristophe Lafaille arrives - surprise he is an acquantance from last year on G1 and G2, he is going to attempt Lhotse also.

Good breakfast, 2 fried eggs on a chapati, porridge, tinned pineapple, marmalade. Tea still tases like Yak urine.

David is not getting better but he soldiers on filming - he will go down tomorrow, leaving me with the mountain and cameras to film myself. Satellite phone still not arrived, used American friends sat phone to call Fiona (at 10$ per minute!), she is in the shower - 20$ gone waiting for her to get out. Great to talk to her - 1st time since leaving. Started filming to send out with David tomorrow.
I will make my first foray into the hills in one or two days - after David has left and I sort out my high mountain gear. I,m raring to go and get to grips with Lhotse.

Visit the Italian backed Pyramid research station near Lobuche, on to Gorak Shep. Long day because of filmimg. Cold and high we sleep in tents. Steve is bad.

Visiting the climbers memorial. Alan was keen to visit the climbers memorial, placed there to commemorate Benoit Chamoux and many other climbers lost in the Himalayas

Wednesday 16th April

David and myself trek to the Benoit Chamoux Chorten. Benoit was a friend who dissappeared on Kangchenjunga. I climbed three 8000 metre peaks with him - his Chorten, or memorial shrine is at 5300 metres on a ridge above Lobuche - you can see Everest, Makalu and the Pyramid, it is a fitting spot, still I hope my memorial is in Yorkshire, somewher in the North Yorkshire moors where it all began for me many years ago. Saw the Hale - Bopp Comet!

Thursday 17th April

David and me up Kala Pattar for views of Everest and South Col. Steve still ill in BC - super views down the Khumbu to Everest. Dinner - chips, asparagus (tinned), fried hot dogs (tinned), cheese and onion pasties - fried and coke and custard.

Photograph, or try to, the Hale - Bopp Comet. I want to get to Everest BC, it is taking too long!

Alan with his daughter Fiona's photograph.

Friday 18th April

Steve goes back to Namche, he is not coping with the altitude and excercise, he sounds like he has an upper respiritory tract infection. Pulmonary Oedema is a possibity.

David and I proceed to BC, crossing onto the Khumbu Glacier and walking over the moraine covered ice to BC - up and down over huge piles of moraine and around crevasses. BC at 5300 metres is a small town, I see Thapa an old friend and expedition cook with the Malasian Everest expedition. Thapa tells me there are 21 expeditions camped below the Khumbu ice fall. Met alot of old friends - British, American, Russian, French, Mexican.

There is a lot of Yak dung around!

The boiled water and Tea still taste like Yak urine, there are alot of 'toilets' to try and keep the mess contained, it is difficult to keep clean here - no sewage or clean water supply.

It is a little like the middle ages except for some expeditions satellite systems, communication dishes, generators for power and the living quarters are large dome tents.

It is great so many people from different countries can live together here, numbers are not a problem, if I want to go and find a quite spot there are plenty around. You do not come to Everest or Lohtse for a remote mountain experience. Everest is Everest and people want to climb it. Just as Ben Nevis, Snowden and Mont Blanc attract thousands of people.

On Makalu there will be less and on Kangchenjunga even less. There are a few teams for Lohtse, Russian and Italians, I will not be alone all the time but I will be climbing alone.

David will be leaving BC in two days time back to the TV studios of Tyne Tees TV in Newcastle - on - Tyne. The numbers of people at BC do not detract, it is fun here at BC. I go to alot of remote arteas where there is no one.

Picking up E-mail using his Psion palmtop computer loaned to the expedition by Widget Software. From his expression it looks as though he finally got the e-mail from the inland revenue!

Saturday 19th April

More filming at BC, it really is an amazing place, a large village. Had Tea and Bic's with Nga Temba, the Sirdar of the big Malasian expedition. David is still ill but carrying on filming. Light snow in the afternoon.

Sunday 20th April

One Malasian is evacuated by helicopter, he has an ulcer, Nga Temba assists. Met Valerie Pershien, the Russian climber who was on Nanag Parbat in 97.

Diary ends here, we are expecting new from BC any day.

The Challenge 8000 Expedition - a climbers diary part 3

21st April
Base Camp 5300 metres. David Thomasson leaves. He's not too well, but coping - filming etc.
I'm on my own. Get to know Mal Duff's team, some on Everest (most) and some on Lhotse.
Mal seems preoccupied. Known Mal for 20 years yet never spent much time with him. Hope to go on the hill with him to acclimatise. Mal is on Everest. Must get high now to acclimatise. Get Lhotse knocked off and move on to Makalu.

Base Camp. Pack for Camp 1 and Camp 2. Mal has set up tents at about 5900 metres and 6500 metres so I can use them for acclimatisation. Will go with Mal tomorrow and then to camp 2 on the 24th. Up late sorting gear. Cold. Flurries of snow. Mal decides not to go tomorrow because of snow fall or feels unwell. he will go from Base Camp to camp 2 on the 24th. I will see him at camp 1 on the way.

23rd April
Up at 5.00. very thin cover of snow. Leave late. 7.45 after a breakfast of porridge and tea. Heavy rucksack - sleeping bag, down suit, food, water, head torch, 2 cameras and film, video camera and batteries etc.
Up the Khumbu icefall, very spectacular but dangerous, tottering cliffs and blocks of ice. arrive at camp 1 about 11.00 - getting hot in the sun, melt snow for a brew and some rest. Will go to camp 2 tomorrow.
12.00 midday radio call - poleaxed, can't believe it. Mal died at Base Camp last night. Shall Igo down. Too hot and dangerous now. here's me worried about being killed in the icefall and Mal dies in his sleep at Base Camp. I do not feel like going on at the moment, I will get over it. Expect climbers to die on the mountain but not in BC.

24th April
Feel rough, not a good night. Upset over Mal. Very cold -17 in the night. Helicopter to BC takes Mals body down to Kathmandu. What can I do if I go down, Mal would want me to climb on. Wake/Party in Base Camp, I do not want to go to it. Drinking with people I do not know well - many did not know Mal well. don't fancy a 'booze up'. I hope there will be a remeberance in Scotland for him I can go to.
Move up to camp 2 slowly - feel better with excersice. Fell the altitude at camp 2 6500 metres. bodily malaise, not exactly a headache - just feel rough because of the altitude.

25th April
Feel rough still decide to descend. 2 to 2 and a half hour to Base Camp. Meet Sovo in icefall. not seen him since 1990 Italian expedition on Lhotse. Everest Scientific doing test on the South Col.
Lunch at BC, fried egg, bread, fried spam, hot dogs and Dahl Bat. Dinner of Yak meat momos.

Wonder if Alan was dreaming of fish and chips on his Birthday?

26th April
Birthday, didn't mention it. Wash and shave - bucket full of water for a tent bath. Wash clothes and watch them 'freeze' in the sun rather than dry.
Dinner of Spam (fried), baked beans, boiled potatoes, rice and tinned fruit.

27th April
Warm night. Season changing - definitly becoming warmer in BC. Late season? - snow late in April.
Feel nauseous and weak. There is a lot of sickness and diarrhoea going round. The cooks are not getting enough clean water here. It tastes of Yak urine. All the expeditions waste is draining into the ponds (frozen) around BC - our cooks are not going high enough for the water. Don't eat. Drink re-hydrating fluid - local make is called 'Jeevan Jal'.
Lie in tent expecting to vomit.

28th April
Fine morning again. Feel weak but on the mend.
Telephone Fiona at 6.30 am in the UK. decide to go up on the 30th. Warmer - ice is melting.

29th April
Breakfast. Porridge, tomato omelette, toast.
Fine morning, feel OK, wash and shave.
Lunch. Tinned fish - pilchards, baked beans, petti-pois, bread and fried potatoes.
Phone Kathmandu to organise for Makalu and Kangch. See Nga Temba and Thepa.
Dinner with american expedition. Tequila Sunrises with Tang orange powder. Bed late - 22.00 hours (very light snowfall).

30th April
Up 5.00, Tea and Filter coffee.
Later going up tp C2.
Icefall collapses. Have to wait until tomorrow when fixed ropes and ladders over crevasses are repaired.
Wash and shave. Warmer day - get too much sun.

1st May
General election day in UK.
Leave late to C1 at 7.30 am. Not feeling 100%, decide to take course of CIPRO.
Rest all afternoon at C1 5900 metres.

2nd May

3rd May
Video in Western Cwm. Read in Camp 2, the Crow Road by Iain Banks.

4th May
Walk a little higher up the Western Cwm towards Lhotse - very poor food here in C2. Two big avalanches, one on Nuptse, one off the west rib of Everest.
South West face of Everest looks very impressive.

5th May
Camp 2, 6500 metres. Wind roaring like an express train around Everest and down the South West face. Spindrift pouring in 'waterfalls' down Lhotse face.
Breakfast on porridge and sherpa tea, milky, sweet with instant caffee added. getting thin and weak - crap food here.

6th May
Weather calmer. Malasian expedition sherpa falls from camp 3 to camp 2 - killed.
Breakfast on pancakes O.K. Lunch of instant noodles uggh!. Getting debilitataed hanging out here.

7th May
Snow in night - light dusting. Leave camp 2 for camp 3 at 8.15. Hot at first then light snowstorm. Heavy rucksack - hard going in fresh snow. Trail breaking and fixed ropes snowed up.
Alone in tent at C3, 7400 metres. Fil a big poly bag with snow to melt for water and 'hole up ' in the tent. Drink loads, need fluids to counteract the effects of altitude. Tea, instant coffee and Tang.
Eat Kraft Dairylea cheese triangles, oatcakes and peppermints and Wayfarer food. Boil up a Wayfarer beef stew and dumplings.
Very cold night -21, only me at 7400 metres.

8th May
Fitfull night, awake a lot because of the altitude. Brew up at 6.30 - Black tea, Tang and coffee again. Eat warm museli.
Sherpas on Everest arrive at other tents. Go down to C2, still Ive been high.

9th May
Windy. Forecast very windy for five more days. Descend to BC.
Mal Duff memorial at BC - he is being buried in Scotland - some got well drunk.

10th May
Cold morning - sunny - very windy high on Lhotse. 2 tents flattened at C2.

11th May
Heard that five have been killed on the North side of Everest. Manage to get radio contact to North side.
Forecast still bad for next five days, clear skies - extremely windy. 5 day forecast is available every two days from Bracknell in the UK, seems accurate so far!
I am behind for Makalu now, I hoped to get a helicopter on 10th May. This year the season started late - there was snow in mid - April. now the jet stream is hammering the peaks. I should still get to Makalu if there is a good spell of  calm weather and the jet stream abates - if the monsoon hold off!

12th May
Fine and sunny at BC. 75 knot winds on the tops. Lunch at the Americans camp. It's hell here waiting and waiting.

13th May
Clear skies - sunny in BC. Roaring winds up high, really frustrating. Get another forecast from Bracknell - high winds for the next 5 days.
This is hell. Sunny and often warm in BC, clear weather but winds too high to climb in.

14th May
Hang around BC, video a bit. Find bones in icefall, probably climbers killed in the early 80's.
Generally frustrated, clear weather - high winds on the hill.
May go up to C2 on 16th anyway. New forecast tomorrow.

15th May
5 day forecast - still jet stream winds too high, 19th May lowest with predicted speeds of 30 knots at 29,000 feet, expected to increase in speed again on 20th and 21st. No mention of the monsoon.
People at BC really frustrated.
I may go up on the 16th and try for the 19th. 16th to C2, 17th rest, 18th to C3 and then 19th Lhotse summit????
May go 17th, got a sore throat and not feeling 100%. Explore Khumbu glacier in the morning, find lots of 'rubbish' - old bits of rope, ladders and othe detritus washed down from the Khumbu icefall.

16th May
Feel a bit better. Very high winds this morning over Everest and Lhotse. High Cirrus ripping over the tops - jet stream even stronger 100 mph winds.
Really dire now. another forecast today for the next 5 day period and wind speeds are predicted to be even stronger.

At C2 6500 metres, the cooking tent has been flattened and possibly another tent has been blown away down the Western Cwm. Malasian Everest and other expeditions had tents destroyed or blown away.
The winds just get worse above 6000 metres, here in BC is OK'ish. The monsoon is predicted not to move yet but a tropical cyclone in the Bay of Bengal is forecast to move towards Burma. If it moves towards Nepal that will be it.
Heavy dumps of snow and probaly the end of any chance to summit this season before the monsoon.
Yesterday 2 sherpas dug out C3 at 7400 metres and came down with a couple of climbers gear who have left - packed in their attempts on Lhotse and Everest. The 2 sherpas also brought down my ice tools by mistake. I will have to carry them back up again! I have enough to carry with the video equipment.

I may trek out of BC for a few days down the valley and rest (Joke - I've dossed about enough here at BC). Still I could rest better at lower altitude and get in a couple of 5000 metre peaks.
I wonder how my two mates are faring on Makalu - another crew are waiting at Kanch'.
Just my luck that this year is a bad season, other years I could have summited Lhotse by 10th May latest. This year I'll be lucky to summit by the 25th.
The Khumbu glacier under my tent continues to move (surprise, surprise!). Loud reports and cracks in the night and early morning. I am piling more rocks around the tent to shade the ice, slowing me down from ending up on aplinth of ice. It is a losing battle. Many at BC have moved their tents to new sites. I have been a week back down at BC. Mostly horizontal and little excercise. It isn't easy to keep mind and body together, listen to BBC World Service at times.

Read, but I am getting bored with that. I've read the best books, write a bit, 'hang out 'as the americans call it.
The food is not too good, althouth there are potatoes. I had a cup of Nepalese beer last night - San Miguel, brewed under license in Kathmandu.
A cup of filter coffee this morning but we're out of that now. I shall have to visit the Italian team, Agostino their leader is an old friend from Manaslu in '89.