Well I know it's been a bit quiet of late but that's because I haven't had a signal for sending updates ... and that's because rather sneakily Adam and I have slipped, unnoticed, under the radar to the summit of Everest.
Basically as I wrote the last update we were making preparations for a couple of us to try for a summit bid. It's still quite early in the season and not everyone in the group was well enough rested to be attempting the 7 or 8 day round trip. Adam has been cruising at altitude and so it was decided that he and I should go for it.
We arrived at C2 in great time on the 8th May and chilled for the rest of the day playing cards and drinking. The 9th was a very welcome rest day where we went through the last minute issues of what gear, food and supplies we definitely needed and what we could perhaps do without. It was another day of cards and rehydrating as well as some time dedicated to mending Sir Edmund Hillary's summit goggles! That's right - Adam has managed to borrow the original goggles that Sir Ed Hillary wore on the first ascent of Everest when he summited with Sherpa Tenzing Norgay on the 29th May 1953 - making this year the 60th anniversary. Very fitting, therefore, that Adam has brought them back to the summit.
On the morning of the 10th we donned our down suits and big boots and made our way to C3 (7,100m) and set about drinking and snacking knowing full well we were probably not going to get much in the way of sleep. Partly through excitement, partly because it is so much colder up at C3 and partly because of the altitude induced sleep apnoea we'd be experiencing.
The 11th saw us up and brewing bright and early to enable us to get on to The Lhotse Face ahead of the crowds. Having said that it's been pretty quiet this last few days as a lot of the groups were unable to react so quickly to this weather window combined with the fact that a lot of their clients just weren't ready.
The journey to The South Col continued out of C3 up The Lhotse Face which is angled at around 50 degrees and it's a long way before the angle eases - not the best start to the day after a night of little sleep. The route then headed left across the face and up through a short steep section called The Yellow Band. After this there's a huge corrie to be negotiated before getting to The Geneva Spur - a short section of steep rock. After the GS it's an easy trail to The South Col where we got the stove on and rested (!) and ate and drank until it was time to set off in to the night.
Or at least that was the plan. In fact it was blowing an absolute hoolie and we sat out a raging storm with winds well in excess of 60mph which meant we didn't sleep a great deal! But at least we hadn't set off in the night because it would have been a very difficult task (and realistically it's plenty difficult enough already).
So after a day if resting, eating and drinking, we eventually donned our down suits, big boots and crampons, got hooked up to our oxygen supply and rather excitedly set off in to the night.
There are a few reasons for travelling by night and it's not just to catch a glimpse of the shadow of Everest being cast over the mountains below as the sun rises. Once at the summit you're less than half way there and it is much safer to be descending in the light of the day with the warmth of the sun.
At night as we travelled we managed to keep reasonably warm in our down suits despite the temp being around -30C because we were expending energy ascending the slopes to The Balcony (8,600m) and on to The South Summit (around 8,750m). There was a fairly constant wind and this created a windchill effect well in to the -40s.
Anyway we both made the summit with our respective Climbing Sherpas but there was no way we were staying there in these conditions. It was a great shame because as we were going towards the South Summit there was the most amazing sunrise with a fantastic 360 degree panorama. And of course because we were moving so slowly there was plenty of time to be taking it all in.
Anyway Adam summited about an hour ahead of me and very quickly started descending.
One of my aims (on top of summiting) was to make the first EVER live video link up from the summit. I'd had a few practice calls with a guy in Melbourne who was going to record the whole affair and distribute it accordingly.
However, although I managed to get a strong enough signal the ambient conditions didn't allow me to get all this done. Consequently the batteries I'd carried along with all the electronic equipment (all in around 5kg) didn't take too kindly to being woken up and after 5 minutes all decided to go back to sleep! In a way it's a great shame because this was going to be the first FaceTime call and Blog update etc from the summit. However in a way it's just as well that it all powered down otherwise my finger tips would be far far more affected by the cold than they actually are!
Presently they tingle quite a lot due to some (thankfully reversable) nerve damage but it's nothing you'd notice if I was wearing a glove (only joking, there's no visible damage). My ability to do fine delicate operations, like pluck my eyebrows, is slightly affected but other than that it feels a little bit like someone else's hand so there's always a silver lining - you just need to look for the positives in these situations.
Fingers crossed I'll be back up on Everest in a week to ten days with the rest of my group but I probably won't be bringing the 5kg of miscellaneous electronic items up here with me next time - it's taken a LOT of my energy and I need to be in tip top condition if I hope to be back for a second ascent in a season.
Sorry I haven't been able to post any pics with this update but I'll try and get some uploaded in a less challenging environment!
All in all we only met a few other climbers - 3 of whom turned around at the Hillary Step, 2 who turned around below the South Summit (one of whom had snow blindness because he forgot to put his goggles on when the sun came up), and another 2 who were dawdling their way back down below The Balcony. I'm not sure of the exact figures but it would appear there were 5 other summiteers along with their respective Climbing Sherpas so a quiet day ... except for the incessant noise of the wind!
Cheers and all that - Tim & Adam