Dispatches - Everest 2002

May 17, 2002

Beginning in Kathmandu, Nepal, Adventure Consultants operated its eighth expedition to scale the highest mountain on the planet, Mount Everest, in the pre-monsoon season of 2002.

Adventure Consultants Everest Expedition 2002 Dispatches

Expedition Manager: Guy Cotter - New Zealand 

Expedition Guides:
Bill Crouse - Climbing Leader, USA
David Hiddleston - New Zealand

Expedition Doctors:
Dr Liesel Geertsema - South Africa
Dr Celeste Geertsema - New Zealand

Expedition Members:
John Taske – Australia
Andrew Maluish – Australia/Monaco
Haraldur Olafsson – Iceland
Ellen Miller – USA
Alan Arnette – USA
Tom Burch – USA
Robert Plotke – USA 

Expedition Base Camp Trek Members:
Kate Smith - New Zealand
George McDonald - Australia
John McDonald - Australia
Daniel McDonald – Australia

Research Assistants from Brown University, USA:
Arthur Prokosch
Mark Scott
Michelle Gregory

Expedition Sirdar: Ang Tshering Sherpa (Khumjung)
Climbing Sirdar: Ang Dorjee Sherpa (Pangboche)
Climbing Sherpas: Chhuldim (Khumjung)
Lhakpa Dorjee (Syare)
Pasang Tenzing (Phortse)
Phu Tashi (Pangboche)
Pemba Rinzin (Khunde)
Phura (Makalu)

Base Camp Cook: Chhongba
Sherpa Cook: Dawa Sherpa
Cook Boys: Nima and Kancha
Camp II Cook: Chhuldim (Khunde)
Camp II Cook Boy: Mingma Bater (Darjeeling) 

25 March 2002
The Expedition Manager, Guides, Sirdars and Sherpas are making final preparations in Nepal. In the next week, expedition members will meet in Kathmandu and commence their trek to Base Camp.

2 April 2002
A staged departure has seen all the members of the expedition leave Kathmandu, with Guy Cotter flying to Lukla on March 28 ahead of the main group in order to sort equipment at the Adventure Consultants store in Khumjung with Expedition Sirdar Ang Tshering Sherpa. The bulk of the expedition's freight (which will come close to 7,000kg this year!) was airlifted to Syangboche airstrip by helicopter on March 31 accompanied by several Sherpas. The climbers also flew by plane to Lukla on March 31 to commence their trek that day, overnighting in Monjo. The next day they continued their trek up to Namche Bazaar and are now having a rest day. Some have been visiting the villages of Khumjung and Kunde up above Namche as a day walk, where they have been invited into the homes of the expedition Sherpa staff and visited Kunde Hospital which has New Zealand staff in residence at present, Dr Carol and Ian Nicholson and their family.

8 April 2002
Guy Cotter arrived at BC on Sat 6 April along with John Taske and Andy Maluish who had been away trekking in the Gokyo region independently of the main group. They spent the weekend at BC getting gear sorted and helped the Sherpas finish the tent platforms. After spending their last night on the trek at a lodge in the village of Gorak Shep yesterday, the rest of the expedition members arrived at Base Camp today. Guy emailed to say that all were “happy to finally be there and they're amped to be heading up onto the hill. Wednesday should be our Puja day and we'll be moving up after that for a look. The route through the icefall has been finished and the first team got through yesterday.”

10 April 2002
The Adventure Consultants Puja ceremony was conducted today on a clear and sunny morning. A Buddhist monk from a neighbouring expedition conducted the ceremony with Sherpas and team members alike partaking with gusto! Then all members went into the icefall to learn how to cross the ladders which span the crevasses and techniques appropriate to using fixed ropes. Heavy snow in the evening led to a beautiful, starry and cold night.

11 April 2002
At 3.45am we descended on the breakfast tent and left for the icefall by 5am. Just now (10.25am) Tom Burch and Ellen Miller have begun the descent after a short rest at Camp 1. Bill, Allan and Haraldur are close behind and ready to descend back to BC also. Dave Hiddleston is above the Football Field (halfway up the icefall) with John and Rob. Guy and Andy descended from the top of the popcorn area and have just arrived back in BC. It's a very hot day now and all will be content to arrive back in BC for fluids and rest. Ang Dorjee Sherpa (our climbing Sirdar) has just called from Camp 2. He has just dropped loads there with three Sherpas. Four others have taken loads to C1 today also.

So, the expedition has started in earnest! Everyone is healthy now having kicked the colds picked up in the Khumbu on the walk in. The mountain seems a lot quieter this year. There are only 7 teams and it appears that almost all are experienced and there is a general feeling of mutual support. 

18 April 2002
Guy Cotter has reported in from BC: "All expedition members are going well. They have spent two nights at C2 and are back at BC for a few days’ rest here before going back to have a crack at C3. The weather has been outstanding. There have been about 20 possible summit days already and virtually no strong winds of note. There are a couple of teams ready to move further up the mountain, but so far no ropes are fixed on the Lhotse face. A meeting was held in BC yesterday where it was decided what order work would be done on the Lhotse face and by whom.

Our team still has several days’ work to establish C2 properly and we will be sending a Sherpa team onto the Lhotse face about the 23rd to fix ropes to the South Col. Conditions on the Lhotse face are good with enough snow remaining to make for a not-too-icy ascent to C3 and C4.

The Sherpas are resting in BC today. Ang Dorjee has been perfecting his card playing with the westerners. He's probably sick of taking money from all the Sherpas! Our Liaison officer arrived yesterday. Ian, Carol and Angus Nicholson from Kunde Hospital will arrive today to stay a night or two so it's sure to be a busy time".

24 April 2002
The expedition team departed BC for Camp 2 on Monday 22 April and experienced cold conditions with snow and wind along the way. The team members are all going well and commented that these types of conditions have enhanced their acclimatisation process in operating in this environment and they are feeling stronger for their summit bid.

The team climbed part of the way up the Lhotse face today and are spending their third night at Camp 2 tonight. Tomorrow is a rest day with a fourth night at Camp 2. The next day they will head up to Camp 3 for the night, and subject to conditions and how they are feeling, will then either come straight down to BC or spend a night at Camp 2 on the way back.

27 April 2002
Guy Cotter has just returned to BC, after accompanying expedition member Andrew Maluish down the valley to Namche. Andrew felt he had reached his personal limit and decided to leave the expedition. He has continued onto Lukla and then Kathmandu for his flight home. On the walk down valley, they were incredibly lucky to encounter a snow leopard on the trail between Sonassa and Namche, a very rare sighting indeed!

Guy Cotter: “We have just spoken with our guides at C2. They had a vicious windstorm yesterday which tried to obliterate C2. The team spent the entire day fortifying tents and having to collapse some just to stop them flying away. Bill estimated the winds were in excess of 180kph. Some teams were not so lucky and had their tents destroyed by the winds. The forecast we have been receiving suggested that the winds would only be 60-70 knots at 9,000m but the jet stream has obviously hit harder than anticipated. Today is fine (-25ºC at C2 at 8.30am) but the forecast tomorrow is for winds to increase again to 60-80 knots for the next few days. As a consequence, the AC team is heading down to BC. Twice they tried to move to C3 but the winds knocked them back. Had the weather been kinder and the team managed to get to C3 to stay they would have completed their acclimatization and be poised to make a summit attempt when the weather allowed, and when our excellent Sherpa team had positioned supplies at South Col, C4.

So far no-one has been to South Col and it appears that it will be at least another week before anyone manages to get established there. This would put the earliest summit attempt at around the end of the first week in May.

The wonderful weather we experienced earlier in the season seems to have been replaced by a series of jet stream winds which we hope like hell will not prevail too long! All members are well and going strongly".

29 April 2002
Lots of snow this morning, about 20cm last night at BC and at C2. All are down at BC except Lhakpa Dorjee, Phu Tashi and Pemba Rinji who are at C2 with Chhuldim and Mingma. They have fixed rope to above the yellow band already.

So, the group rests. We had a sushi night last night with Japanese noodles and Miso soup. Went down a treat with all! I'll advise when the group move up. The weather forecast looks dodgy for a few days with more snow anticipated but we'll see what transpires. Guy Cotter.

1 May 2002
The Adventure Consultants climbers have left Base Camp for Camp 2 today, in fine weather. They intend to climb to Camp 3 tomorrow or the next day to sleep overnight at that height (7,200m).

4 May 2002
The AC crew were at C2 on Thursday and headed up to C3 yesterday. They should arrive back at BC on Sunday. After much contemplation, John Taske has decided to leave the expedition and is on his way down the valley to fly back to Kathmandu from Lukla and onwards to his home. Ang Dorjee and the AC Sherpas made it through to the South Col (Camp 4, 7950m) with their rope fixing on Thursday; the first Sherpas of all the expeditions to do so. Guy Cotter commented from BC: "This is a decisive moment for all the teams as fixed rope to the col means everybody can start moving supplies up and get ready for the summit bid. If the weather stays fine there should be teams making their attempts within the week."

6 May 2002
Guy Cotter reported in from BC today: "Hello there, the team are all down and feeling good. All made good time to C3 and no problems overnight for them so they, one and all, enjoyed pizza and beer on arrival back at BC. This of course was preceded by homemade veggie soup and chips and followed by banana cake topped with cream.

Today we expect Haraldur's father and friend to arrive for a visit as well as Celeste (AC Expedition doctor) and friends Mel and Pog. Should be a busy one here!

Many teams are planning to start summiting in a few days, with the Koreans sitting at C2 and intending to hit the top within 4 days or so. The Swiss group, featuring Tashi Tenzing (grandson of Tenzing Norgay and a summiteer with Adventure Consultants in 1997) and the son of Raymond Lambert, who along with Tenzing in 1952 had to turn back with the summit in sight, are intending to try for the summit somewhere around the 13th.

Our group is still a little behind the leading groups and expect the summit bid to be around the 15th or 16th, depending on how the weather treats us. Several other teams will be in sync with us at that time also.

We just heard from Ang Dorjee who is above C3. Already today he has been to South Col (C4 at 7,950m) having started with a double load from C2 (6,400m) this morning. He has deposited his load at the col already and will be back in C2 at about 11.30am. The rest of the Sherpa team with whom he left from C2 will only be arriving at South Col to drop their loads by the time Ang Dorjee is already back at C2. Talk about fast! He is then intending to arrive here at BC before 2pm today.

The Sherpas are doing a fantastic job and by today will have deposited all our loads for the summit attempt at the col. They will go down valley to visit families and probably confer with their local Lama to get a blessing before going for the summit attempt. We are lucky in our Sherpa team - all but two have gone to the summit before and between them they have 13 ascents of Mt Everest under their belts."

10 May 2002
After a week of resting in Base Camp in preparation for their summit attempt, the climbers are feeling fit and ready for the upcoming challenge. The Sherpas have returned to Base Camp from a few days off visiting their families and the week has passed by with warm, calm days in BC but high winds persisting about the South Col and over the summit of Everest. All indications are that the weather is going to improve next week so the Adventure Consultants group plan to leave Base Camp on Sunday 12 May for Camp 2 and they are then aiming for Thursday 16 May as their probable summit date. Check back regularly next week as we report on their progress, especially on summit day itself.

Report by Suze Kelly, Adventure Consultants       

11 May 2002
Guy Cotter reporting from Base Camp: " A small social get-together with the National Geographic crew was arranged last night with pizza being the highlight of the gastronomic fare. Tomorrow our team intends to once again ascend the icefall and move through to C2. After a rest day the team will move to C3 and then onto C4 for the summit bid. Of course, any plans in the mountains are bound to change so the final decision to go will be made from C2 with special consideration being given to the weather and the number of people who will be trying to make the ascent on the same day.

Today the team will concentrate on final arrangements and preparations and at 5am tomorrow morning (12 May) the crew will depart Base Camp for the Khumbu icefall.

The grandson of Tenzing Norgay, Tashi Tenzing, left Base Camp this morning to make his bid for the summit as part of a crew intending to film and celebrate, the serious attempt made by Tenzing and Raymond Lambert in 1952. Lambert and Tenzing camped out without sleeping bags or tent at 8,600m and narrowly failed to reach the top. Tashi summited with Adventure Consultants in 1997 and this would be his second summit if successful. Good luck Tashi.

Quote of the day from a Sherpa regarding the Maoist problem: "The name is Maoist, the politics is Indian" (in reference to the Maoist problem in Nepal, unrest which is eschewed by the Chinese but sponsored and manned by Indians)".

12 May 2002
The AC team rose at 4am after a blustery night and headed off into the icefall at 5 o'clock to begin the climb to the summit. Before leaving, the team partook in the Sherpa tradition of throwing rice and walking through the billowing smoke of burning juniper at the chorten in our camp whilst Sherpa prayers were recited. For everyone this was a moment to reflect on the climb ahead and focus on the upcoming adventure.

Then the seven Gore-Tex-clad climbers began the ascent on this windy but clear day. Today they will reach Camp 2 and take a rest day tomorrow before moving to Camp 3 on the 14th, and all going well summit on the 16th. We wish them the best of good fortune!

Guy Cotter reporting from BC         

14 May 2002, 2.00pm Nepal time
Namaste. We've just heard from the group at C3. They report being in good spirits having taken a leisurely 5 hours from Camp 2 in cloudy, sometimes snowing, warm temperatures.

Now at C3 the weather has cleared and they can see the impressive panorama including Cho Oyu, Gyachang Kang and the summit of Pumori which is below them now. All the team are feeling strong and are looking forward to the rest before heading up tomorrow to South Col.

Ang Dorjee and Chhuldim Sherpa are now at South Col with the intention of fixing ropes above the col tomorrow with several Sherpas from other expeditions. Ours is one of a small group of expeditions here who are doing the majority of the rope fixing on the mountain. Disappointingly there are others who are more content to have the work done for them! Nonetheless, we are happy to see the work completed in preparation for our summit bid, only two days away now!

Bill Crouse (AC's lead guide) reports about 80 people going up the ropes today. Some will be climbing Sherpa dropping loads at the col and it appears that at a rough guess, 40 or so are westerners. Some of these climbers are heading to Lhotse so we believe that about 20-30 will be attempting Everest at the same time as our group. Not an unreasonable number.

So, at Base Camp we wait... we will send updates regularly now as we head towards summit time.  Report by Guy Cotter.

15 May 2002, 7.27am Nepal time
We’ve just had a call from Dave at C3. The team are just departing C3 for South Col in excellent weather. The team are all feeling strong having had a good rest last night and report good conditions.

Although several teams were supposed to head for the summit today, no-one has left South Col to make the attempt today. This is unfortunate in that it is such a perfect summit day and obviously those on the col made a call on the weather last night, it just happened to be the wrong one! The ramifications are that those waiting on the col will now join the other groups climbing tomorrow increasing the numbers trying to summit tomorrow.

1.30pm Nepal time
Just heard from Dave at 12.30pm. He's just arrived on the col with the others behind him. The weather is warm but it's now snowing lightly. Ang Dorjee and Chhuldim went up to the balcony to fix ropes last night and arrived back this morning. Whilst plans were made for Sherpas from several teams to help with the rope fixing, only a couple of other Sherpas were there to assist. Waist deep snow on the SE ridge made the going difficult but the work will very much benefit the efforts the climbers and Sherpas will be faced with tomorrow.

3.20pm Nepal time
I just spoke to Bill at South Col. All are resting, eating, drinking and generally getting prepared for the big night ahead. It appears there are about 50 people at the col ready to make the attempt tonight so numbers are not quite as bad as we had thought.

The plan is for one team to go ahead with Sherpas to fix ropes with the other teams following up later. The Adventure Consultants team will depart about 10pm or 10.30pm. We will be following them from Base Camp and sending regular updates with progress.

Weather is fine and warm with some intermittent snow flurries which are dying out. Over the last couple of hoursthe weather has improved after the afternoon thermals have begun to dissipate. That's it for now, Guy Cotter

7pm Nepal time
The Adventure Consultants team sits on South Col in clear weather about to head off to make the ascent. Several other teams also await their departure and we anticipate about 50 people leaving the col to make the first ascent of the mountain for the year. Climbers on the north side of Everest are also planning to leave tonight so there may well be teams from both sides at the top together.

10.15pm Nepal time
The AC team has radioed into BC (who in turn have phoned us in New Zealand) that they have departed just now for their summit bid, along with many climbers from other teams. Guy described the weather as “perfect - the best night we've had in quite a few days”.

The 11 climbers going for the summit in the AC team are:
Bill Crouse (USA), David Hiddleston (New Zealand), Ellen Miller (USA), Alan Arnette (USA), Tom Burch (USA), Haraldur Olafsson (Iceland), Robert Plotke (USA), Ang Dorjee Sherpa (Nepal), Lhakpa Dorje Sherpa (Nepal), Pasang Tenzing (Nepal), Phu Tashi Sherpa (Nepal).

16 May 2002, 7am Nepal time
Dave has just been in contact via radio with Guy at Everest BC, they are just below the South Summit (8,750m). The climb has been going well, perhaps a little slowly as they have been doing a lot of rope fixing, but the weather has been good. Alan Arnette turned around not long after starting and is now back at the South Col, Phurba Sherpa came up from the South Col to meet him. Alan got down very quickly so Phurba had hardly got going before they met up. Tom Burch and Rob Plotke have also turned around during the early morning hours and they arrived back at the South Col about 3.30am accompanied by Phu Tashi. Haraldur, Ellen, Bill and Dave are carrying on, all feeling strong, with Sherpas Ang Dorjee, Lhakpa Dorje and Pasang. Report by Suze Kelly.

7.45am Nepal time
Everest BC, email report from Guy Cotter: Just spoke to Ang Dorjee and Dave Hiddleston at South Summit. They have arrived along with Bill, Ellen and Haraldur and Sherpas Ang Pasang and Lhakpa Dorje.

The team left the South Col at 10.15pm in clear and cold conditions. During the night Alan, Rob and Tom turned around and returned to the South Col. They put in their best effort but made the decision to turn around based on how they were feeling. Whilst we are disappointed for them that they did not summit after all the work they put in we respect their decision to turn around whilst they had some in reserve and did not wait until they were too spent to descend.

Whilst the weather could not be better, the snow conditions found on the SE ridge above the Balcony consisted of deep snow. This part of the climb took some time to make a trail and fix ropes. However, the efforts of Ang Dorjee, Chhuldim and 4 Sherpas from other teams yesterday made the summit attempt possible today. They left at 5am yesterday morning to make a trail in the deep snow and fix ropes on the route above South Col to the Balcony region. Ang Dorjee reported waist deep snow. It is again a credit to these Sherpas that they can work so hard at extremely high altitudes several days in a row. Ang Dorjee is heading towards his 8th Everest summit!

There are many people up on South Summit and the weather is perfectly fine with no wind and all the members are feeling fine with plenty of oxygen reserves for the rest of the day. Just now some climbers and Sherpas have begun making the trail along the summit ridge towards the Hillary Step, a steep rock section along the precipitous summit ridge. From the top of the step it is about 30 minutes to the summit itself. We anticipate they will reach the top at about 10am. We'll update again soon!!! Guy Cotter

8.30am Nepal time
Everest BC, update by phone: “The team have just left from the South Summit and are heading towards the Hillary Step, which has already had fixed ropes put in place. The weather is still calm and clear. Alan, Rob and Tom are preparing to leave from South Col with Phu Tashi in about one hour to descend to Camp 2.”

9.30am Nepal time
Everest BC, update by phone: the summit is in sight. Dave has radioed BC to say that the team is now at the Hillary Step making them on target for a summit around 10am (Nepal time). All members are going well under ideal weather conditions. Whilst there are a reasonable number of climbers attempting the summit today, there appears to be a good flow and level of coordination between the teams. Standing by for the call from On Top of the World!  Guy Cotter

9.40am: SUMMIT BID SUCCESSFUL
Ellen Miller has reached the summit of Everest with Ang Dorjee Sherpa. Ellen is the first North American woman to summit Everest from the north side (2001) and the south side. Congratulations Ellen on your achievement!

This marks Ang Dorjee’ s 8th successful Everest summit... an outstanding effort and a job well done!

Dave, Bill, Haraldur, Lhakpa Dorje and Pasang are at the top of the Hillary Step and are expected to summit in 20 minutes.

10.20am Nepal time
Dave, Bill, Haraldur, Lhakpa Dorje and Pasang have reached the summit of Mount Everest and have joined Ellen and Ang Dorjee. Dave said that the ascent has gone well and the weather conditions are still good. For Haraldur, this summit success makes him the 3rd person in the world to achieve the Grand Slam! He has now climbed all of the Seven Summits and has journeyed on foot to both the North and South Poles. A notable accomplishment and admirable effort. Dave is the 15th New Zealander to summit Everest (23 ascents by New Zealanders overall), and this is Bill and Pasang's second Everest summit. Our congratulations go out to all! We will update the progress of the entire team on their descent to South Col, and lower camps. Reported by Guy Cotter via satellite phone from Everest BC.

4.30pm Nepal time
The latest report from Base Camp advises the following status of the Adventure Consultants expedition teams' progress off the mountain. The summit team have arrived back at Camp 4. Alan and Phurba are staying at Camp 3 overnight. Tom and Rob are moving to Camp 2. All members will take a well-deserved rest and may all be able to descend to Base Camp by tomorrow night.

17 May 2002, 9.40am Nepal time
All team members are coming down to Base Camp today and are expected to arrive tonight. Bill, Dave, Ellen and Haraldur left from the col at 9am and are already at Camp 3. Rob and Tom have left from Camp 2 to descend to Base Camp and Alan is already at Camp 2 after descending with Phurba. Alan is going to wait for Dave and Bill & Co. to arrive and will then descend with them.

Today Bill reported 50-60 knots on the col, although it's calm and warm in Base Camp. No-one is going up to the summit from this side. The weather forecast looks not-so-good so maybe yesterday was THE day!

The Ministry of Tourism reported 54 people on top from 8 teams yesterday, a record day. Russell Brice reported about 12-14 from the North side and 30 were expected to go today from that side. Bill and Dave reported that they were all feeling quite dehydrated since it was warm for an Everest summit day.

The Adventure Consultants Expedition Base Camp crew are planning a big party this evening and then people will start leaving Base Camp from tomorrow. The yaks and equipment loads will not leave from Base Camp until May 22, as it takes a few days to clean all the camps from the mountain and get everything packed.

In New Zealand, the media have celebrated the Adventure Consultants climbers’ ascent of Mt Everest in various papers, on the radio and on TV. An article in the Southland Times erroneously stated that Pasang Tenzing was the grandson of Tenzing Norgay Sherpa! They have been corrected on this so as not to confuse with Tashi Tenzing's successful ascent of Everest yesterday.

All photos reproduced courtesy of Alan Arnette

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