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Kathmandu, Fri, 13 Mar 1998, 17:54:30

The Journey Begins

Boudanath, Kathmandu

Justin Lean

Dear Folks,

The team left on Thursday morning for Nepal. Many of the members did not get much sleep the night before no so much due to anticipation but the need to check and double check the countless details and gear that must be packed. 1.4 tonnes were checked into SQ414. Here, we must again thank the Army for helping us with the logistics. For the past month, the Army provided storage space for the team’s gear thus saving some team members the nightmare of cluttering their homes with expedition gear.

The Army provided two large trucks to transport the mountain of gear to Changi Airport. Thanks to the drivers who had to come pick the gear up at an unearthly hour.

Arrival in Nepal :

The team touched down at Tribuvan International Airport with no problems. The ride

into Thamel the tourist district of Kathmandu was like entering a war zone. The day of our arrival coincides with the “Holi” Festival. It is a festival that welcomes Spring and symbolises a bacchanalian orgy. Roving bands of boys and men patrol the streets dousing people and vehicles with water ballons and fists full of brightly coloured powder. It’s like the whole city is engaged in a giant paint ball throwing game for the day. Anyone caught on the street gets slimed. The expedition quickly moved their gear into the Hotel Mandap to seek shelter. We were not armed with paint balls to retaliate — pity! It would have been fun. The rest of the day was spent re-packing gear into manageable porter and yak loads. Already we have received news that our Sherpas are at Everest Base Camp making preparations.


Phakding, Sat, 14 Mar 1998, 20:07:01, 2,615 metres

Mars Bars and chewing gum

Justin Lean

Dear Folks,

The Everest Team is finally underway. We took off from Tribuvan Domestic terminal in an old Russian helicopter which we think was requisitioned from the war in Afganistan. The bullet holes were plugged with melted Mars Bars and chewing gum.

Lukla stands at about 2,800m and used to be a grazing ground for cattle. Edmund Hillary helped build a runway there to facilitate bringing building materials into the area for development work. Now, Lukla is a flourishing village whose life revolves around the aircraft bringing tourists and supplies.

Flying to Lukla cuts down of walking to Everest Base Camp. On arrival the team met up with Expedition Leader David Lim who had gone ahead wih the media crew a few days earlier. We brought 800 kgs of supplies with us on the aircraft and had our porters and Sherpas helping to unload.

The team set out from Lukla after lunch following winding trails, passing tea houses along the way. Several rickety swing bridges had to be crossed. Something not to be done with the yaks at the same time. We are now currently camped in an empty field in the village of Phakding (2,615m).

The trek to Everest


Namche Bazaar 3,400m, Mon, March 17 1998

Rest and Relax

Justin Lean

The Everest Team reached Namche Bazaar today. This is the defacto Sherpa capital of the Khumbu. The team set off from Phakding at 0830hrs.

The walk up Namche involves crossing several swinging wire bridges and steep sustained climbs. This may well be the hardest day on our walk into Everest Base Camp due to the long uphill slogs. Everyone is quite tired. David has come down with fever and flu — a common occurrence with him when he first gets into the mountains. Better to get sick now than get sick later.

We currently have 17 porters. More will join us later when our remaining expedition gear is flown iinto Syangboche in a few days’ time.

The team stopped at Jorsale enroute to Namche Bazaar. Later in the afternoon we had our first glimpse of Everest. Even from 30km away, it looks huge. Besides the traditional plume of cloud billowing from its summit, we noticed that the mountain was very dry.


Tengboche Monastery, 3,900m, Wed, March 18 1998

Cookies ‘n’ Cream ice cream

Justin Lean

It is a cold Wednesday morning. Today the team sets out for Tengboche from Namche Bazaar. The weather continues to worsen much to our disappointment. Soon the snow will steadily transform from dry mud trails to white slippery passages.

This is the extremities which surrounds the Everest Base Camp. What was once a nice walk in pleasant sunny weather has now becomes a cold alpine world.

We arrive at the Tengboche Monastery (3,900m) in a white out. The lodge we are meant to stay, is 15 minutes downhill. The snow and ice has made the trail slippery. Our porters slip and slide with their heavy loads and I see at least one yak fall. I had to double back to the media crew who were trailing behind to warn them to watch their step. The visual of white snow mixed with black dirt reminds me of Cookies ‘n’ Cream ice-cream.

We managed to arrive at our night stop in one piece. We have survived yet another day.


Pheriche, 4,240m, Thur, March 19 1998

Puja, for a safe expedition

Justin Lean

The team sets out in a snow covered landscape and we make our way to Pheriche. Enroute we stop at Pangboche Monastery where a puja (holy ceremony) is made by our Buddhist Sherpas to the Goddess Chomolungma for a safe expedition. The walk up to Pheriche proved to be a breadthless experience for us due to the altitude. Pheriche is 4,240m. Our communications officer Johann is not taking the altitude and the cold very well.

Bruce Niven, oveshadowed by Thamserkku - Everest basecamp approach


Pheriche 4,240m, Fri, March 20 1998

Johann gets stuffed!!

Justin Lean

This is a rest day at Pheriche. This is a small village with basic amenities. A needed stop for the team to get used to the altitude and to wash up. And of course, a much needed respite from trail food and Mars bars. Johann is still having a headache so we put him into the Portable Altitude Chamber. The highest Johann has been is 4,101m on Mount Kinabalu. This is a new altitude for him hence some of the problems he is experiencing. He is feeling better after the treatment. A new man. . .


Lobuche 4,900m, Sun, March 22 1998

Just talking

Justin Lean

What are you guys feeling now about the long hikes?

The Everest Base Camp trek is a challenge within itself. It is not a question of fitness but the challenge of how well one’s body adjusts to the altitude. For most of us on the team who have come across this altitude before, we’re doing well. It’s a welcoming experience to be back breathing thin air. But I can appreciate the effort for first timers. Climbing uphill can be a real daunting task while your body struggles for oxygen in the rarefied air.

Temperatures have dropped as we proceed higher. It snowed whilst we were trekking to the village of Dingboche. The trails were exceptionally slippery with ice. One of our yaks slipped and fell though with no incident. It just picked itself up further down the slope and continued along. At Pheriche, it was -8 degrees C at night.

A typical trekking day is as follows :

0700hrs Breakfast

0730hrs Yaks and porters move out.

0800hrs Move out, trek along trails following uphill and downhill passing villages and spectacular scenery.

1200hrs Stop for lunch prepared by our mobile kitchen crew of tough Nepalese Cook boys and kitchen hands.

1500hrs Arrive at night stop. Have tea. Rest, go for short walks around village and acclimatise.

We spent a few days resting at some of the villages. Three days at Namche (3,465m) to await a helicopter bringing in its gear including 350kgs worth of communications equipment. One day at Pheriche (4,600m) for acclimatisation. The team is now at Lobuche (4,900m) where we are spending another day resting to get used to the altitude.

How’s working with the Nepalese and Sherpas?

We are currently accompanied by a train of porters who come from the surrounding villages, yaks and yak drivers. All are tasked to help carry the expedition’s supplies to Everest Base Camp. Some of the expedition’s Sherpas are already at Everest Base Camp (EBC) setting up tents and gear. We just received news from them that winds are strong at EBC. We lost one tent at EBC due to these winds. According to schedule, we will be one of the first expeditions at EBC this season. Other expeditions include Henry Todd’s commercial expedition, Wally Berg’s GPS research expedition and an Iranian expedition.

What do you feel, being away from home?

I think all of us are still enjoying the trek in. Right now we are trying to visualize what is to come wwhen we reach Base Camp. Home is not missed but the people back home are.

Technology meets Porters: Johann Annuar sending dispatches via our Applebook laptops. Our expedition were early adopters in the game of Intenet dispatches. As a result this website got up to 1 million hits a day

Gorak Shep 5,200m, Mon, March 23 1998

Getting nearer

Justin Lean

It snowed last night. The snow has covered everything in sugary slush and has brought the temperature down to 15 degrees Celsius. Johann, our communications officer, had to wake up at 0530hrs on an icy morning to set up the satellites for interviews.

The expedition set out from Lobuche (4,900m) at 0900hrs for Gorak Shep. The trail was covered in snow but the many trekkers using the route made the going easy. We gained altitude to about 5,200m. Most of the team reached the lodge at Gorak Shep at 1200hrs. Some members of the media crew stayed behind at Lobuche to further acclimatise.

Everest's southwest face, as seen from Kala Pattar


From Gorak Shep, Kala Patar looks like an easy walk away. We can see the South West Face of Nuptse (7,861m) which looks extremely wicked with its sharp ridges and ice bulges that threaten to avalanche anytime. It level of difficulty and the fact that it is just below 8,000m, explain why few expeditions are attempted.

The arrowhead cone summit of Mount Pumori (7,165m) towers above Gorak Shep. In fact Gorak Shep is considered the base camp for those attempting Pumori. The tip of Everest can be seen from here. It looks far away, but we know that with each step we are getting nearer.


Kala Pattar 5,545m, Tue, March 24 1998

Caught underdressed

Justin Lean

Members of the Everest Team made an acclimtisation climb from Gorak Shep up to Kala Patar. Years ago, The Straits Times made a report on Singaporeans having “conquered Kala Patar”. Everest now beckons. It is heartening that our mountaineering goals have come this far.

It was not an easy climb. Winds up to 100 km/h buffetted the hill. Having underestimated the weather, expedition members were caught underdressed. Robert Goh reached the top first and immediately began his descent. I met him on the way down and noticed his face covered with a thin layer of ice.

I was clad in only one layer of thermals but put on my down jacket upon reaching the top. The top of Kala Patar is the best place to view the Everest Massif. Most of us were overwhelmed by the sight of our goal. Due to the high winds, we did not hang around the summit for long. But we did try to get a QTVR picture before going down.

Rozani made his own way up to Kala Patar in the afternoon. He was gone for awhile and we worried that he may have mistaken the 7200m summit of Pumori for his objective. Much to our relief he returned just before dinner with a big smile on his face.

Click the link below to enjoy a 180-degree view of Everest, Nuptse and the Khumbu – use your mouse to drag the image left or right



Everest Base Camp 5,400m, Wed, March 25 1998

Down clothing

Justin Lean

The team made its way to Everest Base Camp (5,500m). The altitude had an effect on some, contributing to exhaustion and nausea. It was encouraging to see some of the stronger members taking well to the thin air. EBC was bitterly cold -15 degC. in the evening.

Everyone brought out their down clothing. Our enormous orange golf ball mess tent was set up with some interesting confusion with our 12 Nepali Sherpas all eager to help.

Our communications officer Johann Annuar was some what daunted at managing the 350kg of gear that is to be part of our communications tent but everybody pitched in to help.


Everest Base Camp 5,400m, Thur, March 26 1998

Meeting our Sherpas and Robert’s crown fell off

Justin Lean

The team was formally introduced to our 12 climbing Sherpas today. Sherpas are Nepalese climbers who are incredibly strong due to their living at high altitude. Their profession as guides and climbers on expeditions is well known. On our expedition, our Sherpas are co-climbers. They will be given an equal chance to reach the summit though many have already done so. We have worked with some of these magnificent chaps on previous expeditions. Man Bahadur Tamang is climbing Sirdar (leader) of the Sherps. He has summitted Everest twice without oxygen. (see pic).

Much of the day was spent organising gear that would be used higher up – Oxygen, stoves and food.

Robert’s crown fell out. We suspect that this is due to the cold. Our doctor Shani, has to do a temporary operation with the kit given to us by the National Dental Clinic. It was -6 deg C in the tent this morning.


Khumbu Icefall 5,500m, Fri, March 27 1998

Living in a meat locker

Justin Lean

The team took a short foray into the lower reaches of the Khumbu Icefall today. This provided good opportunity for some to get used to ice climbing in their new altitude boots. David describes the ice as “solid blue ice with a six-inch coating of unconsolidated snow”.

Everest Base Camp (EBC) is situated on the Khumbu glacier itself. Hence, the tents are pitched on ice and rubble. It is rather cold and miserable now with temperatures dropping below -15 deg C. As veteran mountaineer David Breashears said,”It’s like living in a meat locker.”

All members are doing fine. It is Justin’s turn to suffer from gastro-intestinal problems. Frequent visits to the Base Camp toilet has made him a veteran in night bombing operations.