Everest 2000 Expedition
29 March to 29 May 2000
March 29 to April 4 - Trekking to Everest Base Camp
The Adventure Consultants Everest Expedition 2000 is underway! Several months of organizing and planning culminated in Guy Cotter arriving in Nepal on March 15 with his family. They were met by Ang Tshering, the Expedition Sardar, and after several days of details, meetings, un-packing, re-packing, shopping and socializing they were able to depart for Lukla and begin the trek to Khumjung. By March 24 they had arrived in the village and the Cotter family were able to settle in to their lodge accommodation which will be their home for the coming weeks while Guy is away at Everest Base Camp. Guy continued onto Base Camp arriving on March 30 to meet up with Ang Dorje, Ang Tshering, Chuldim and Chongba who had already carried on ahead in order to set up the Adventure Consultants base camp.
Climber Andy Hebson arrived in Kathmandu on March 22 and promptly flew to Lukla to being his acclimatization. He has mainly been staying around the village of Kunde and catching up with his friends Jim Litch and Rachel Bishop at Kunde Hospital, after having been with them on the Adventure Consultants Cho Oyu Expedition in 1999. Guide David Hiddleston arrived in Kathmandu on March 27 and the rest of the group flew in on March 29. After a day of sightseeing and shopping in the wonderful markets of Kathmandu the group flew to Lukla on March 31. David commented from the Garuda Hotel in Thamel, Kathmandu on Thursday March 30 "...we've got a really fun bunch here, everyone's looking forward to getting on the trail, there's going to be a lot of hilarity - there has been already!"
After a night in Phukding, the group continued onto Jorsales at the entrance to the National Park, and then climbed the big hill to Namche Bazar on Sunday April 2. Guy had returned back down the valleys to meet them in Namche along with Andy Hebson. They went for an acclimatization trek on April 3 from Namche and then moved up to the village of Khumjung today, April 4 where they are all expected for dinner at Ang Tshering's Lodge!
Guy Cotter phoned in from Khumjung to report on the expedition's progress. He said "it's been a very light winter so far and there isn't much snow up high, in fact the lower peaks look out of condition but it should be OK higher up. Up at Base Camp there are very few other westerners in residence so far. Some will be arriving by now and the rest are on their way up. Our base camp is established and Ang Dorje has been up to Camp II carrying loads, only four teams have got to Camp II. The icefall is in good condition and has been organized by Arun Treks this year. There's been some early snowfalls but the weather has been great, perfect, for the past week or so. Andy's been running around the hills above Kunde and when I met up with Yuki he was looking strong, they're all due up here today and we'll have dinner together tonight."
The team intends to progress steadily towards base camp over the next few days and all going well they intend to walk to Deboche on April 5, spend a couple of days in Pheriche and then go to Lobuche on April 8. After an ascent of Kala Patar they plan to reach base camp by April 11.
Reports on the trek and expedition won't be daily, as all the Adventure Consultants communications equipment is set up at base camp, but check in from mid-April onwards for progress reports on the climbing. Guy commented that "every lodge is full of people with laptops on their knees!"
Guy Cotter made contact via satellite phone from Everest Base Camp this morning and reported, “Everything is going well and that the weather has been fantastic overall, clear every morning and even some afternoons”. He said that “Yuki and Andy are both going strong and in good spirits, the trekkers enjoyed sunset at Kalapatar last night and will now spend three nights at BC sharing in the atmosphere”. He noted that many expeditions were now in Base Camp and related the number of people appeared to be similar to that of the 1993 Spring season.
After a few days of rest combined with equipment preparation, the AC climbing team will begin their acclimatisation, traveling through the Khumbu icefall to Camp One and back.
Gathered for the Puja Ceremony - Photo Hamish Emmerson
April 13 - Update from Everest BC
Guy Cotter reports in from the Adventure Consultants Everest Base Camp...
"After a brief snow shower last night a clear dawn saw David, Andy and Yuki depart for the notorious Khumbu icefall for the first time, heralding the beginning of their Mt Everest ascent. After almost one month in the country acclimatizing and setting up the base camp the team is now coming to terms with the actual ascent which is the culmination of over a year of planning and preparation. Yukimitsu has been climbing Mt Fuji in Japan once a week in difficult winter conditions and Andy has been running and weight training regularly. For both this has been a concerted effort to keep in condition after having been on Cho Oyu (8201m) last October/November. Adventure Consultants were the only successful guiding operation on Cho Oyu in the Post Monsoon as all the other commercial teams had insufficient confidence to deal with the difficult snow conditions. AC guides Jim Litch and Dean Staples being snow safety experts assessed the conditions well and summited with the group whilst all the other teams arrived back into Kathmandu!
David Hiddleston has just radioed in from the top of the icefall 5 hours after leaving BC. "We are the top of the icefall, the weather is good and we are going to head back down to base camp now" When asked about the condition of the climbing group he said 'Yuki is going very strong and racing across the ladders. Andy is doing well also but may have a bit of a cold, so not feeling 100%"
My response from the warmth of the BC communication tent! (with a strong cup of Venus coffee in hand) "Very good Dave, it sounds like you are all doing well. 5 hours to the top of the icefall on the first journey up is quite a good time so well done all of you, I'll have a brew on for you when you get down so give us a call when you get close to the bottom"
"Good one Guy (Dave responds) talk to you soon, out"
Other news, the trekking group of Jessica, Peter, Cameron & Charlie (Dan & Cherry departed from Khumjung earlier) left today for Pheriche having had three nights as guests of the expedition team. In the words of Peter Hay, "This has been a real eye opener for me seeing how it all operates and how much work goes into an Everest ascent. The staff here have been great and I'd certainly recommend that other people join your team for treks or climbs, the attention to quality is impressive!"
Well thanks Peter, you can come on our trips anytime!!
So there we have it, the climb has begun, more updates coming..."
April 15 - Life at Base Camp
Base camp appears like a small town, but no attempt at town planning! Looking down from above there are splashes of colour; blue, yellow and orange randomly grouped together. There is a pattern of sorts.
Each team has a large cook tent, many of them built from stone with tarpaulin stretched across for a roof. Close by is a dining tent. Some are large frame tents, some domes, some stone buildings like the kitchen. Associated with each are a myriad of small tents fighting for flat areas on the moraine amidst rocky piles and icy lakes. The tents from one group merge with the next. To wind a trail between these groups is a struggle of loose rock, melting ice and a disturbance of privacy.
The Adventure Consultants camp follows the same pattern. We have a large and ever busy kitchen. The work counter is built from stone yet resembles a busy restaurant. Five kerosene stoves sit amidst pots and pans, plate racks and stacks of herbs and spices. It's warm, so is a communal meeting area always busy with Sherpas drinking tea and exchanging news. Our three cooks sleep on the benches at night.
The dining tent sits next door, a bright yellow frame tent. Inside is a home from home. Flowers and tablecloths on the table, a stereo on the back wall and a limitless selection of drinks and snacks. Even vegemite for the Kiwis far from home! A globe hangs from the ceiling so we can at least plan the route to a warm Indonesian island...
Additionally there are two larger tents. The communication tent is a technological treat. With power from three solar panels we run a satellite phone, fax and computer with e mail. A high tech radio system links Base Camp with the four camps on the mountain. Daily contact with home is no problem. The other is the medical tent, ready but hopefully unnecessary.
The members sleep in orange Macpac Spectrum XPD tents creating a cozy haven of privacy.
Last and not least are the facilities. The toilet is a comfortable seat set on a large blue barrel. With so many teams all waste is carried down valley and disposed in an area where it will be returned to the soil. There is also a shower tent with a shower bag, a delight on a warm morning.
Many nationalities are represented here from Andalucia to Yugoslavia. Their flags fly from their camps and meetings between the various expedition leaders to determine strategies and cooperative work on the mountain represent a mini United Nations.
Warm mornings turn to snow showers by mid afternoon sending chilled expedition members to the shelter of their tents for an afternoon nap or a good book only to reconvene for the evening meal before the long chilly night.
Beginning about 4.00am kerosene stoves fire up to begin the process of breakfast for climbers and Sherpas heading up the mountain. By 5.00am there is the sound of boots on gravel as members of the many teams here head up
the Khumbu icefall before the heat of the day makes travel unpleasant.
It's a constant turn around as loads and climbers come and go from the mountain ferrying loads to the higher camps in preparation for the summit bid in some 4 weeks time.
April 16 - Team at Camp One
News from Guy Cotter and Dr Rachel Bishop at Everest BC
David, Yuki and Andy arose at 4.30 for breakfast after a snowy night slowly broke to expose the odd star and promise of a fine morning. Away at 5.00am they were headed for the icefall an camp 1(6000m). Our 5 climbing Sherpas lead by Ang Dorje Sherpa left at the same time to deposit loads of food, tentage and other at camp 1 to be utilized by the climbing team as they stay at the higher elevations to acclimatize themselves to the thinner atmosphere. The plan is to stay at C1 for 2 nights then move onto CII at 6500m for three nights. The Sherpa team will return to BC daily to be in position to carry another load up the mountain the following day.
6.30am. A radio call from David informs us here at BC that Andy is still feeling weak from a mild illness from two days previous and instead of thrashing himself has decided to stay at BC for another days rest and will join the group tomorrow. He arrives back 7.00am feeling fine but just not quite strong enough to today.
9.40am. David radios from Camp One (C1). He and Yuki are at the camp site and getting ready to rest for the next two night before moving to Camp Two (C2). All ok and feeling strong!
Yesterday a meeting was convened at Henry Todd's camp for discussions about rope fixing above C2. The group consisted mostly of the commercial operators and good headway was made in regard to responsibilities for rope fixing. Weather forecasting was discussed and it was concluded that Guy Cotter would be the information conduit for weather and to ensure the continued communication between the groups. Radio frequencies were shared to ensure communication in case of mishap and protocols were discussed to ensure friends and family receive first hand information. In previous years there has been some abhorrent behavior from individuals trying to feed the media with news of any disaster or calamity before this has been reported through the correct channels. Whilst it was recognized that we couldn't stop other teams on the mountain from making these reports we felt unanimously that we need not all act like parasites. The worst case of this here was when an individual recorded radio communications between a dying climber and his wife and then sold the tapes to a book writer.
April 17 – Movements of Team AC
Dave and Yuki are at C1 today, resting. Andy and Ang Dorjee left for C1. this morning and 4 Sherpa started out for C2 with loads, however a collapse in the icefall below C1 delayed the Sherpas for an hour or so while they found another way through. Many people turned back from the collapsed area, while our boys eventually found an alternative route and then stopped for milk tea with Dave and Yuki before carrying on.
Chhuldim has just called from C2 to say they have arrived at C2 to set up a tent and deposit loads before returning to BC. Weather is fine today after a beautiful full moon last night. Other teams are moving loads to C3 today and fixing of ropes through to South Col should commence over the next few days.
Andy came down to BC from C2 yesterday as he was having problems acclimatizing to the higher altitude of C2. Dr Rachel Bishop is assessing his condition and he is resting up at BC for the next few days. Dave and Yuki towards C3 today then C2 tonight and BC tomorrow.
April 22 – Team returned from base of Lhotse Face
Yuki and Dave back in BC 11.00 am from C2 after walking to the base of the Lhotse face (7000m) yesterday. They arrived back into C2 tired but feeling good. An early start this morning saw them at C1 in about 1hr and a couple of hours later safe and sound at BC. A collapse in the icefall delayed a lot of Sherpas going up this morning but was fixed by the time Dave and Yuki came down.
Both Dave and Yuki are fine although Yuki has a slight cold but a few days rest at BC will see them fortified for the next phase which takes them to C2 and after another rest day to C3 to sleep. Andy is still feeling rough and will need to descend to lower altitudes to recover from the effects of high altitude.
Base Camp is the usual bustle of activity with climbers regularly coming and going from the mountain whilst those of us in support in BC have an afternoon soccer match to keep us amused and out of breath!
April 29 – AC Team acclimatization trip to Camp 3
The lads left today for C2 and I've just heard they got in about 12.30pm.
Yuki is going quite well and they are both tired and thirsty and intend to spend the afternoon hydrating. After a rest day tomorrow they will travel to C3 (7400m) where they will spend the night to acclimatize to the thin air pressure at that height. After coming down to base camp for a few days rest they will be in a position to make a summit attempt somewhere in the first two weeks of May. BC doctor Rachel Bishop left for Kunde Hospital today whilst husband Dr Jim Litch is now in residence with the team here at BC. Adventure Consultants are the only expedition team to employ specialist high altitude doctors to ensure the well being of their team members.
April 27 – AC Team rested up and heading to Camp 3
After several days of rest, the AC team have departed BC at 5.00am this morning which seems to be the program for so many of the expeditions today as there are about 50 people in the icefall. The plan is to stay at C2 tonight and tomorrow night, then move up to C3 for the next night. The WX forecast predicts the jet stream winds to hit the mountain on the 29th, the same night Yuki and Dave expect to be there, so their arrival may be delayed!
Jim Litch arrived yesterday to replace Dr Rachel Bishop as our base camp doctor, Jim has been a guide for AC, summiting Cho Oyu and Shishapangma in 1999. Jim is also an Everest veteran from an ascent via the Nth Ridge and is recognized as one of the worlds leading high altitude doctors. We have a system in place so that in the event any AC expedition members experience any problems they will receive immediate attention, whereas most other expeditions are forced to enquire around camp to see if any available doctor will see patients. After all, our resources and infra structure are in place to ensure the best advantage for our team, and the well being of all! From Guy Cotter at Base Camp
May 7 - AC Expedition Team Update
Now six weeks into the Adventure Consultants Everest Expedition, Guy Cotter reports back on the last weeks' activities.
The last week...
Due to the intensity of climbing at these very high elevations Andy Hebson has reluctantly had to leave the expedition as result of a chest infection. Andy began suffering on the way to camp 2 so returned to Base Camp where he was consulted by specialist high altitude Doctor , Jim Litch, employed by Adventure Consultants, and it was decided that he should return to a lower altitude to allow his condition to improve. With no immediate sign of improvement, in the interests of Andy's health and well being, it was decided that he should not return to higher altitudes. Guy said "I have admired Andy's enthusiasm and commitment to achieving his goal, however, as disappointing as it is, this situation is a reality of high altitude climbing and health problems can effect any one at any given time."
Being the only commercially led expeditions to employ altitude specialist doctors Adventure Consultants is able to avoid more severe medical complications by recognizing and dealing with problems before they become potentially fatal. Members of other teams have come to be treated by Dr Litch through shear desperation once they realize their own expedition leaders have provided no medical support, a result these expedition operators wanting to secure clientele through offering attractive pricing instead of expeditions with the necessary support to offer their clients a reasonable degree of safety.
Expedition guide - Dave and expedition member Yuki, continued with their acclimatization through to Camp 3, and upon returning to Base Camp, Yuki spoke with Guy and expressed that he hadn't felt 100% on this trip. He felt he had achieved "his Everest" this time, and with Guy's understanding and support, Yuki has decided not to push for the summit on this expedition.
Guy, Dave and the Sherpa team have been proud of the attempts of both Andy and Yuki, and respect Andy and Yuki in their ability to recognize that unless everything is in your favor, it is not worth pushing into higher altitudes.
Guy commented that " It is Adventure Consultants objective to have the best possible infra structure and resources in place, and whilst we have two very genuine team members, decision making is a very big aspect of expedition climbing, and as hard as some decisions are to make, a responsible decision is a good decision". "Often climbers wanting to leave an expedition have had problems with their own egos coming to terms with what may be considered as failure, Andy's case was medical and Yuki had accomplished what he felt capable of without putting his life on the line to prove something to other people so I take my hat off to them"
The AC team and supporters congratulate both Andy and Yuki on their efforts and achievements.
May 8 - Guy Cotter reports from Base Camp
David Hiddleston of the AC team is at C2 prepared to make a go for the summit as soon as the weather clears which according to forecasts should be in the next two days. The Sherpa team is awaiting the word before they go to join Dave for the summit attempt so are resting up, playing cards and sunbathing!
Canadian Byron Smith has returned to BC after a thwarted summit attempt due to deep snow above South col. Also down at base again are Peter Habler and team as are the Korean Seven Summits team. Babu Chiri of Nepal has also descended after fixing 400m of rope on the triangular face above Sth Col.
Several teams have left BC for C2 in the hope of improving weather in the next few days. Contrary to some reports, there is little focus on trying to be the first expedition to the summit for the millennium by the climbers here. Most would rather see a group go first to place the fixed ropes and break the trail through the new snow. It's about this time that everybody wishes this was the 'Yak Route' (as often called by those who have never climbed Everest) so a good trail could be plowed!
Soccer has become a regular past time at BC
Whilst waiting for suitable weather and route conditions to allow travel to the upper mountain over recent times, climbers from all over the globe have congregated in the Khumbu icefall on the flanks of Mt Everest for the afternoon soccer match!
May 13 - Guy Cotter reports from Base Camp
Ang Dorjee Sherpa to attempt speed ascent record
Tomorrow afternoon (14 May) Ang Dorjee Sherpa from the Adventure Consultants Everest expedition will make an attempt to climb Mt Everest in record time in one push from Base Camp to the summit.
He is being supported by the Adventure Consultants team of Sherpas as well as Guide David Hiddleston who intends to summit at the same time as Ang Dorjee and record the event. The previous record for the ascent is by Marc Batard who has climbed the peak in 24 hours from Base Camp. Passang Kaji Sherpa claimed a record in 1999 of 20 hours and 24 minutes but used indistinct photographs, supposedly depicting Everests' summit, as proof of the ascent but the photos just showed a snowy background, where a very distinct antennae on the summit would have surely proved him to be at the high point. Naturally this ascent has been widely disputed although one must assume that a naive approach to positive proof may be the major factor in the dispute.
Ang Dorjee has not given an estimate on the time he expects to make between Base Camp and the summit, " There are too many things like snow conditions to slow me down" he says. He also claims that if he reaches South Col and doesn't feel good he will abandon the ascent. "Maybe I will do it, but if not feeling good, down."
Over the last few weeks a lot of snow has fallen at high altitudes which will slow down progress up high and although the weather is good right now Ang Dorjee is reluctant to place undue pressure on himself to meet a predetermined time. He understands that all he can do is his best. Already having summited Mt Everest 5 times, Ang Dorjee knows every step of the way to the top and until now he has been to the South Summit (only 100m short of the top) 13 times. With such a background Ang Dorjee realistically knows his limits and is not out to endanger his life or those around him supporting him on this world record attempt..
Of note this season is the fact that another Sherpa, Babu Chiri from Solu Kumbu, has claimed that he will break the speed record on Everest this year. A widely publicized campaign claims that he intends to climb the 3500m from base camp to summit in 16 hours. Babu has the unique distinction of having slept on the summit of Mt Everest for 21 hours in 1999 and now intends to increase his profile by doing a speed ascent. Sources who know both Ang Dorjee and Babu believe that Ang Dorjee's strength and experience define him as the superior climber of the two. However Ang Dorjee is not setting out to compete against Babu, rather this is a personal challenge he has set for himself.
Recognized as one of the strongest and fastest of the Sherpa climbers, Ang Dorjee also has a reputation as a sensible climber and an asset to any climbing team. Having reached Mt Everest's summit first in 1992 with the first guided expedition run by Adventure Consultants Ltd, Ang Dorjee has been instrumental as the Sirdar, or Sherpa leader, for AC ever since. Having attempted to save the life of beleaguered guide Rob Hall and his client Doug Hansen in 1996 during the well publicized tragedy on Mt Everest, Ang Dorjee has a maturity forged by both the tragic and the triumphant. A loyal and humble friend to his climbing companions, he revels in the lighter moments enjoying some tomfoolery and occasional frantic dancing sessions during base camp parties!
Ang Dorjee has known and been friend to present Adventure Consultants company owner Guy Cotter since they first climbed Everest in 1992. They went onto Everest again in '93 (when Cotter gave up his summit bid to assist an ailing climber down from high on the mountain) and again in 1995 when Cotter again became involved in what is believed to be the worlds highest rescue. French female climber Chantal Mauduit collapsed on the Sth Summit during an attempt to climb with out oxygen. Cotter put his oxygen onto Mauduit and dragged her down to the 'balcony' where fellow guide Ed Viesturs had the group waiting to assist her back to Sth Col. In 1996, in the wake of the Everest tragedy, Cotter and Ang Dorjee teamed up again to climb Ama Dablam and Adventure Consultants was reborn. The company has gone on to achieve ascents on many of the worlds highest peaks focusing on increasing safety margins with the group summiting Everest again in '97.
Reporting to the world via radio of their successful ascent at 6.50am on May 23, no-one could believe they had reached the summit so early in the day. Being back in South Col before many teams had even summited was a highlight for the whole team. This was proof that AC had moved on to display that not only had they managed to bring high altitude guiding to a new level, but that they could do so with over 60 people summiting that day. Later in the day climber Dave Carter came down with a severe throat infection which left him wiped out physically. A protracted descent with Ed Viesturs to CIII and severe respiratory problems was cause for concern for Carters life. He describes his experiences as follows;
"The main thing to say is that Adventure Consultants is the only group on the hill that is totally prepared for almost any situation. If it was not for AC I would have never made it off the hill. Because of a strong team and a real Doctor down at base camp I was able to survive respiratory failure.
Adventure Consultants is truly a professional organization. They are the best deal when it comes to survival and leadership in the mountains, one of the few organizations that can actually lead at high altitudes. Party Hard, David Carter "
Ang Dorjee has been considering a personal attempt at a speed ascent of Mt Everest for a few years now, and the planning and conditions for this have finally come together. Adventure Consultants is honored to be in the position whereby westerners are supporting a Sherpa ascent rather than Sherpas supporting western climbers.
Following is a time line of the summit attempt:
Note - All times reported are Nepal time = GMT + 5 hours 45 minutes
14 May 4.00pm Base Camp : Ang Dorjee departs BC, and rockets up through the icefall, an amazing sight!
5.24pm, Ang Dorjee reaches Camp I : Earlier in the day, Dave and the Sherpas had reached the South Col at 1.30pm, and spent the afternoon re-hydrating.
6.34pm Ang Dorjee arrives at Camp II: He departs at 6.45pm after three cups of juice and tea.
9.21pm Ang Dorjee arrives at CIII: Quote of the year - "Not much tired"
10.23pm Ang Dorjee arrives at Yellowband.
Dave radioed in from South Col at 10.30pm, they (Dave and Mingma) were preparing to leave in 15-20 mins. Two teams had already left ahead, one team - 1 hour prior and one 1/2 an hour prior, good news.
Ang Dorjee arrives at South Col around 12.00pm
Ang Dorjee departs South Col with Passang, at about 12.30am 15 May 2000. Chuldim stays on South Col. In fact there is a Chuldim in each camp! - Camp II Chuldim, South Col Chuldim, and Ang Dorjee's real name is Chuldim!
Chongba Sherpa has been down in Gorak Shep for the night to relay messages from South Col and Camp II, is returning to BC this morning.
15th May, 7.25am: Chuldim at South Col reports that he has heard from the group, that all 4 are together and just below the South Summit. From the South Summit they may be 2 hours to the summit. Ang Dorjee is still on track to take 3 hours off the speed ascent record. The weather is perfect, there is one thermal cloud down by Cholaste at 18,000ft, otherwise blue skies and no wind at all at Base Camp!
8.05am: Ang Dorjee radios and advises that they are 15 minutes from the South Summit still.
9.10am: Dave called from the South summit - he'd been there all of 5 seconds! They were still South Col side, in knee deep snow. There were just two other Sherpas ahead of them from Mountain Madness who have been fixing rope, on the South summit were Dave, Ang Dorjee & Passang, Mingma was still behind but coming up. They are needing lots of rope and hope others coming up have more rope. About 15 people behind them. Chris Bostock and Peter Habeler have pulled out not reaching the Balcony this morning and they are now below Camp IV, Nazir Sabir who is on the Mountain Madness permit is still climbing but not near. Dave states "Mind blowing view, not much filming yet as the camera was frozen but now is OK. Ang Dorjee on O2 since South Col".
9.35am: Dave called again. Situation is that there is just Dave, Ang Dorjee, Passang, and one other Sherpa from Mountain Madness, so only 4 prepared to do anything and about 10 other people sitting around. They only have 50 meters of rope. So are turning back, as there is "snow on ice from thereon" but not enough manpower to go on. "It's the time factor from here to the top that is the issue without enough resources and help from other teams".
9.41am: Dave calls to say "yeah, trip's over, it would take us 3 hours from here to the summit". Guy responds " OK good decision, you're already on the 2nd highest summit in the world, we've seen this before..... this would be pushing the envelope". Dr. Jim comments "it's not the first time this has happened to a team" and Guy adds "the situation is what it is, best to come back another day."
All talk more with Dave and he reports that they had got to the balcony at 3.30am, it's such a beautiful day, but now they are out front as a small team with no one else to help, and there just isn't enough resources to continue safely.
Jim adds after Dave has signed off "Having seen Dave operate as Expedition Leader on Shishapangma last year, he'll push the limit right up to the line but he won't step over it, and the outcome was we got along a tricky ridge to the real summit of Shisha, so it's good to see his decision making in action again, he knows what he's doing ''.
10.05am: Dave's radio message to Guy "Mingma has arrived with more rope and more O2, we're going on. We'll go slowly over the next hour and see where we get to, it's near the limit but still within the safety margins I think. Mingma is going down". Everyone talked over O2 supplies and there is sufficient for all, turnaround times in relation to amounts of oxygen left, all still good so pressing on. In one hours time they will have been out from Sth Col for 12 hours, so will reassess how all are functioning then. Jim Litch and Guy both talked thoroughly with Dave and all agreed on a course of action for the next hour.
10.15am: A Heli evac is happening at Base Camp, timed for 10.30am directed by Jim, for a British BC staffer who has a possible thrombosis clot in the leg, not life threatening but he's going down. First helicopter to land at BC this season, on the specially prepared heli-pad.
10.17am: Dave radios to say they're fixing the line across the ridge to the Hillary Step. " Ang Dorjee and I have had a chat and we're going to try to pull it off, we'll just take it slowly and see what happens".
10.22am: Radio report by Dave to say that Mingma is heading down, but Passang and AD now have his oxygen. Guy comments that he's sorry to hear about that but the Sherpas are usually OK when descending below the South Summit without using oxygen. Guy suggests that they make progress towards the base
of the Hillary Step and then talk again with he and Jim.
10.25am: Jim radios to Dave to keep in mind about his hydration levels, as it's really important after spending so long above 8,000 metres.
11.45am: Dave decides to turn around and go down with the boys just beyond the South Summit due to conditions and late hour. All talk on the radio to him. He is disappointed but happy about his decision based on safety, as are the Sherpas.
By mid-afternoon each of the climbers has returned to the South Col, and settle in for a well deserved sleep. Ang Dorje continues down to Camp II where most of his overnight equipment is. All are expected back down in Base Camp on May 16th .
15th May - ATTEMPT AT MOUNT EVEREST SPEED ASCENT
Nepalese climber - Ang Dorjee Sherpa, 32, from the New Zealand based Adventure Consultants Everest 2000 Expedition has attempted a new world record for the fastest ascent of Mount Everest (8848m), but has been turned back at a height less than 100 meters from the top at 11.00am Nepal time today. After climbing from Base Camp at 5,300 meters to the South Summit in 17 hours, he was unable to continue because of deep snow slowing his progress, making the record ascent unachievable.
He was supported by the Adventure Consultants team of Sherpas and New Zealand Mountain Guide - David Hiddleston (31) from Wanaka, making his first attempt on Mt Everest.
No one has yet summited Mt Everest this season and together the AC climbers worked to force the route between the South Summit and the Hillary Step on the South East Ridge route between 9.00 - 11.00am this morning. Adventure Consultants Director - Guy Cotter, who has been coordinating the expedition from Everest Base Camp, said "They recognized that with the conditions along the summit ridge, it would take them too long to make the summit and return within accepted safety margins, hence their decision to turn and head down the mountain".
Ang Dorjee left Mt Everest Base Camp at 4.00pm on May 14 and he arrived at the South Col (7950m) Camp 4 at midnight. The Adventure Consultants group left from Camp 4 at 10.45pm on May 14 with two other groups having left before them. Ang Dorjee caught up with the AC group at the area called The Balcony. They arrived all together at the South Summit at 9.10am on May 15 ahead of the other teams and found that no-one else was prepared to assist with fixing the route any further. After a further two hours effort on their own they turned around and expect to arrive back at the South Col Camp 4 at 3.00pm Nepal time today.
Recognized as one of the strongest and fastest of the Sherpa climbers, Ang Dorjee has already summited Mt Everest five times, and has been to the South Summit (only 100m short of the top) 14 times including today's attempt. Now the expedition will pack up and leave the mountain, content that they have made a good attempt and have cleared the way for others to now go on and summit, since more of the route is now fixed in place.
Guy commented that "Success in the mountains isn't always assured and their decision to turn around is an indication of the maturity of David and Ang Dorjee as mountaineers. Being able to give up an ascent of the world's highest mountain in favour of safe operating practice is to be commended." He added "Too often mountaineers who push the safety envelope too far survive only through sheer luck and are considered heroes where they are actually accidents that didn't quite happen."
Adventure Consultants has been honored to be in the position whereby westerners have supported a Sherpa ascent rather than Sherpas supporting western climbers as has been the norm up until now.
Issued by Guy Cotter, Everest Base Camp, Nepal. Monday 15th May 2000