Hello from Pokhara
Hello All, it's Pat here. I'm not sure if there's any of you left out there still checking this blog, but I wanted to write a final entry to wrap up the expedition. I couldn't do it sooner 'cause I just haven't had the energy.
We arrived back in Kathmandu two days ago, although I'm actually writing this in Pokhara, a nice town on a lake a 30 minute flight to the west of Kathmandu. Although at only 800m alltitude and distinctly sub-tropical in climate, Pokhara has great views of mountains to the north including the Annapurnas and Machapuchre. I'm here for two nights just to relax before returning back to Kathmandu on Thursday 27th for a ceremony at Bouddhanath where we'll celebrate Buddha's birthday, give thanks for our safe expedition and light 1188 candles (11 x the auspicious numer 108); after that I'll get a flight back to Perth - I arrive s on Sunday afternoon at 3.30pm.
As I write a large thunderstorm has moved over Pokhara and it's pouring with rain - it's the first proper rain I've seen in months and I'm loving it. There's a gecko in the room eating all of the insects, and I'm lying on the bed in my underpants and the ceiling fan is cranking out a breeze to combat the humidity - ahh this warmth is bliss compared to the cold that we've endured over the past two months, and in particular on our summit bid a little over a week ago. This afternoon I went for a swim in the warm waters of the lake and it was GORGEOUS!
You'll see that I've posted a lot of photos - I'm using up all of the left-over satellite phone credit that I have!
It's beginning to sink in what we achieved, and I need no reminder when I look in the mirror - I lost 15 kilograms! I feel so skinny.
All the diehard Everest followers will know that there has been a swathe of summits over the past few days. Fortunately the jetsream winds which were hammering Everest when we left lifted, and the cyclone in the Bay of Bengal moved to the north-east and not the not the north, ensuring that Everest didn't get a big dump of snow and the season didn't close early, as was looking like the case for a day or two. I'm sure there were quite a few nervous trip leaders sitting in Camp 2 wondering whether they made the right decision to wait for the longer weather window in later May. I understand hundreds of people have summitted during the past window, including Simone who bagged his fourth summit - nice one my Italian friend. Amongst the summiters I also understand were the Sydney team - great news guys!
So all in all it sounds like a successful although crowded season.
We know what the crowds can be like, because we got a good taste of them on our summit day, which went like this.
Our Summit Day
We had been scheduled to leave the South Col at 8pm, but strong winds we're still blowing and we decided to wait until 9pm before making a final decision. We made a back-up plan that if the winds were still strong we would call it off, drop back down to Camp 2 and wait for four days for the next window,when just myself, Angkaji and Lakpa would return to the South Col for a second attempt. It was quite difficult considering this back-up plan, and for a while in my head I was resigned that we would have to take the second option - another week of waiting!
However, at around 8.30pm the wind very quickly disappeared, and it was calm, and we decided to go.
It seems like every other team at the South Col also made the same decision, because at 9pm there were a lot of people heading up from their tents.
We got into a nice rythym as we climbed up toward the Balcony in the darkness, although I did have some mask issues as the air intake kept on icing up, and at each rest break I'd have to take my mask off and de-ice the intake with a crampon point.
We arrived at the Balcony at around 4am, and then proceeded up the SE Ridge, a beautiful narrow arete, from where I witnessed the most beautiful sunrise I have ever seen. The sun was rising to the east behind Kangchenjuna, and heat lightening was siliently flashing over the plains of India, with the bulks of Makalu and Lhotse sitting below us. It really was a serenely beautiful moment, and I remember thinking that if only everybody could see this view, then perhaps they'd realise how beautiful the earth is and respect it and treat it with a little more care.
A little bit higher however my quiet wonderment turned to frustration as we approached the South Summit rocks - we found ourself in a line of at least fifty climbers, going nowhere fast. At the front of the line were a few climbers who were moving incredibly slowly, and who were struggling to climb up the rocky ridge. They didn't stand aside and cost us at least two hours. In the end Lakpa and I cut off some old fixed rope and tied in and climbed directly up the rock buttress to overtake the crowd. It took half an hour of strenuous climbing throughout which my heart-rate was absoultely maxed out - until this point I'd been cruising but this extra effort defiantely dipped into my energy reserves, which had consequences later on when I became very tired when decsending below the Balcony.
We finally got in front of the line and pulled onto the South Summit at around 9am. From there the traverse to the Hillary Step was pretty straightforward, although I was amazed at the size of the cornices hanging over the 3000m Kanshung Face - and the route went precariously close to the top of these cornices (in fact, on the way back down I put my leg through a fracture line over the Kanshung Face!). The Kanshung Face however had a huge plume of spindrift blowing up it so it hid the massive drop; I suspect the majority of climbers that day didn't realise just how close they were to the fracture lines of the cornices. The view looking back from the Hillary Step of climbers walking over these massive cornices will be one that I remember for a long time.
The Hillary Step didn't prove to be the problematic bottleneck which we thought it might be, although we did have to wait for a little while. I had my head-cam running and happened to capture an exhausted climber take a big fall as he descended the step - I watched him swing out over the void, and 2500m beneath him I could see Camp 2! He is very lucky his safety line held.
Above the Hillary Step the route was pretty straight-forward, but by this time my energy levels were pretty low. After another 30 minutes we finally could see the summit but again I found myself in a slow-moving line! I reckon it took 20 minutes to move the final 50m up to the summit thanks to an incredibly slow-moving team. Any emotion at reaching the summit was temporarily put on ice as I tried to contain my frustration.
Once on the summit I got very cold hands as there was a strong wind blowing up from Tibet, so after taking photos of sponsors flags I moved about 20m lower down out of the wind (and crowd of 20 other climbers) to warm up my hands, which I is where I called in the audio blog which you have probably listened to. That is the point where the emotion began to spill out, but not for too long as a white-out was descending on the summit and we knew we had to quickly get down, as our oxygen supplies were starting to run low.
The descent took almost as long as the climb up, as my fatigue set-in and I moved down through the white-out which had set in. The most difficult part was moving down from the Balcony to the South Summit, by which point my fatigue had increased to the point where I was falling asleep whilst abseiling - not an ideal situation. Thanks to Angkaji and Lakpa however I was able to stay awake long enough to get back to the South Col at 6pm, where I slept very well. All in all it was a 21 hour round trip, which is a hell of a long time to be on the move, especially if you're above 8000m!
Two days later, after an equalling exhausting descent of the Lhotse Face and the Icefall, we were back in BC, the place were our summit push began.
So there you have it. We set out to climb Mount Everest, and we did it in style. No death, no accidents, just a lot of hard work and a lot of laughs and good times in the process. Lots of new friendships made and existed ones cemented.
So thanks to everyone who was involved - for your efforts I love you. Thanks one more time to each and every one of you who took the time to read the blog, log on and write a message. Most of you seemed to really enjoy the honest and up-front way in which I wrote about the various goings on (both internally and externally to me), so it seems that I was successful in
doing what I set out to do with blog. As I'm no longer replying to individual messages, if you'd like to get in touch with me (especially for those followers who only know me through the blog and don't have my contact details), you can email me at email@example.com
This www.patrickhollingworth.com website will be maintained on an ongoing basis and in the short-term you can check back and see when I'll be putting on a public presentation about the climb in Perth (probably in June). I'll also update the gallery with photos from the expedition and also post up some video footage (once edited), so don't forget about the site entirely! Until then, thanks again for following and for your support.
Cheers, Pat Hollingworth.