The Challenge 8000
Expedition - a climbers diary part 1
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.
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.
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
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.
The Challenge 8000 Expedition - a climbers diary part 2
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.