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Basecamp
This is situated at the head of the East Rongbuk Glacier and 21km from Everest. Still, the enormous 3km north face of Everest dominates the skyline. Unlike from the south where most views are of only part of the mountain, here, you can get to see an almost unbroken view of the mountain. Famous features such as the Great Couloir, the Hornbein Couloir etc are all here. Essentially, what you have is a series of ice/snow gullies crisscrossing the monstrously large north face. Head on, it looks vertical but actually lies at a more gentle angle of about 50 degrees although certain rock bands do make the north side very precipitous. Occasionally, a flock of choughs (crow-like birds) will sweep past Basecamp. They can fly up to 9,000m!

At 5,400m, BC is a cold, dusty and windy place. A cacophony of morning coughing is common as are subzero temps once the sun goes down. Basically, except for when the wind isn’t blowing, its’ like living in a fridge (or a freezer). As May approaches, it is getting warmer but not very much so.

Life here is a routine of meals, resting between, writing emails, tending to minor repairs and so on. We power our laptops and other electronics with solar cells. The extremes at which our Apples and Canon equipment function is amazing – way beyond the manufacturers’ specs.

Meals prepared by our excellent sherpa staffed kitchen means meals comprise a combination (depending on the day) rice/oat porridge, pratas, chappattis, dhalbhat (rice and lentil soup), canned meats, occasional fresh meat and veggies. We supplement this with some Singapore goodies like fermented chilli tofu, ikan bilis, ‘bak kwa’ and so on. Some people can lose a lot of weight when climbing Everest, so the key thing when at basecamp is to try to recuperate, recover from infections, eat well, rest and plan the next move up the mountain. Right now, everyone is on antibiotics except for me, with the most common compliant being upper respiratory tract infections. I can’t describe how hard it is to sleep , breathe and climb when you are bunged up with streaming head colds and with snot of every colour emanating from your mucous membranes.

Three major differences between this expedition and the 1st one in 1998 are:
1. We’re climbing a much harder route.
2. This is a much smaller, international team and thus avoids much of the big team problems, diversity of opinions, egos and so on.
3. We’re working closely with an American team so the dynamics of this expedition are different from 1998 where we had a fully independent team. The Americans, led my my old friend Eric Simonson are on a search to find more evidence relating to the famous 1924 climb which may have placed climbers on the summit. The discovery of an elusive camera from that climb might prove conclusively one way or another what really happened. We’re just here to climb the mountain instead!

A few of the sherpas at basecamp are some old friends from past expeditions so it’s nice to see Kami Rita and Man Bahadur once more. If all goes well, we will be climbing with them again to the summit.


 

Life Above Basecamp
Here’s where the work begins. To even come to grips with the mountain, you have to trek to advance basecamp, 21 km away. This very long trudge and it is largely above 6,000m in altitude. This is very hard work and covers rugged terrain throughout. We normally spend 2 days to cover this distance.

At Advance Basecamp (ABC) you get to see the North Col, a snowy saddle (Col is an old Welsh word for pass/saddle) at 7,000m. This saddle forms the ridge that drops perpendicularly northwards from Everest’s Northface. To get to the summit, most summit attempts will place 2 more camps above the North Col before the summit. This gets us within striking distance (that is within one long day) to the top camp.

Living here gets much harder because of the cold and lack of oxygen. Worse is the constant wind that sweeps across the Northface, hammering anything (read: camps/climbers onthe north ridge) with its full force. Temperature, including the wind chill factor can drop to -25 at the Col. Food cooked has to take into account the limited resources to melt snow into water and thus comprises of various energey drink mixes, Brands Essence of Chicken, freeze dried meats and staple carbohydrates.

Regards
Dave

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