Summited May 31st 2021
A 2 month expedition with highs, lows and many other strange emotions in between! I came to learn more about myself than any other moment in my life and with that also came the fire inside that drives me to want to complete my mission of climbing all 14 8000ers. Its hard to write about an expedition that lasted so long and contained so many incredible moments but I will try my best to describe to you some of the best bits! This is where I wish I got my camera out a little more..
It all started on the 6th of April. Arriving at Lukla, ready to experience the wonders of the Himalayas, and it was certainly beautiful. The temples, tea houses and views are beyond what I could describe through words. Scents of pine trees, vibrant colours on ancient monasteries and the sound of bells ringing on the yaks. We arrived to basecamp on the 13th, a city of tents of every colour and size, eerily silent. Covid seemed to be present in everyone's minds, as nobody was around, it felt empty and isolated. We took all the precautions possible, masks, social distancing and keeping to our own basecamp.
After a few days of ice fall training and hikes to neighbouring hills we were ready for our first rotation which began on the night of the 1st of May. Going through the Khumbu Icefall was something other worldly, its a matrix of ice towers and crevasses that drain you out. It requires immense mental strength to get through. Our mission was to reach camp 3 (7300m) after 4 days. Camp 2 to camp 3 was one of my favourite days in the expedition. It was my first time above 7000m and it felt so amazing. We reached camp 3 and stayed for a few hours, accompanied by the singer/songwriter Mike Posner (had a little boogie with him).
This is when things began to slow down a little. We decided collectively to go down to Namche Bazaar, the main village on the BC trek, usually a bustling place, but now mostly shut down which was a shame. We stayed there for 8 days, much longer than anticipated, due to bad weather postponing our heli flight but we eventually made it back to basecamp, ready to go up for our summit push. But we would soon come to realise it would take a lot of waiting around before any sign of good weather arrived. Lets just say waiting is one of my weaknesses...
There were a few points where we were packed and ready to leave only to find out the weather had changed once again and the best days were looking to be the 28/29th of May. The risk was, the Khumbu icefall was set to close on the 30th and after this there was no second chance if the weather was to change. We were all extremely anxious that our dreams of climbing Everest could very quickly be shattered.
It was the night of the 24th when we finally got the all clear to go for our summit push.
No nerves, just pure excitement as I made my rounds around the Puja, almost suffocating from the smoke, and left to begin what would be my biggest achievement to date.
The drama began at camp 2. Mountain politics, all fun and games... The first problem we faced was the weather - a cyclone that came in and left a huge snow dump of around 40cm of snow. We proceeded to ask all Sherpas from other teams to join with us a trailblaze the way up to camp 3, a job that needed huge manpower. But this turned out to be more complicated than we anticipated and with a combination of teams quitting and others choosing to recover dead bodies instead, we were left with no help. Our team of Sherpas are absolutely incredible, the best of the best, and so thankfully it was possible for them to do all the work themselves. I cannot thank them enough for their work on this expedition, they are honestly so amazing and don't get near enough recognition for what they do. The next issue was that the government were warning the teams to come down and cancel the expedition, Nimsdai sorted that one out. Next problem was the ice fall closing down ( removing all the ladders and ropes) on the 30th. It was now the 28th at this point so it was unlikely we would get down in time. We eventually convinced them to stay open until the 3rd of June, a miracle really. None of this would've been possible without Nimsdai.
Camp 3 to camp 4 was my first experience on oxygen, it felt more like a burden to begin with but after a few hours you get used to the feeling. It was a long day, in fact I found it harder than the summit day. Getting to the top of the lhotse face felt like a huge relief and somehow felt like the point at which I knew I was going to make it.
Summit day. We didn't really sleep upon reaching camp 4, the timings were slightly miscommunicated and so what was meant to be a 9pm start ended up being 12pm but at least we were ready early! I ate my dinner, a vegetable hotpot dehydrated meal which actually went down a treat, tried to go to the toilet, didn't happen.. and got ready to stand on top of the world. I knew it would be around 6 hours to reach the summit, 6 hours of one foot in front of the other. After about 10 minutes from leaving camp I had to wee. It was a bloody disaster, I couldn't unzip my down suit and the harness just wasn't helping. My Sherpa, Gelje, had to help me out, poor guy!
We reached the balcony and changed our oxygen bottles, its funny when you change your oxygen you get super cold but as soon as its back on again your body warms up instantly. It was so close now, only a few hours and I would be on the summit, I remember thinking that and smiling behind my mask, Gelje looked at me and could see in my eyes the optimism and excitement and we rocked on.
We reached the summit at around 6:30am. The wind had really picked up and was around 45km/h but it was clear and the views were just spectacular. Funnily enough I didn't really cry on the summit, I was so stressed out about getting my summit photo and taking a tik tok video for my Sherpa that I had no time to really take in what was happening. This was the only thing I regretted, I really wish I just took a moment to look around and absorb the feeling of standing on top of the world.
Unfortunately due to the snowfall there was a large avalanche risk on Lhotse and trailblazing would have been both to dangerous and too difficult so we decided to call off the summit push. But it will be there next year!