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Everest Summited!!

I stood on the top of the world, on the summit of Mt Everest (all 8850m of it) on the 26th of May at 0655H. As such I am the only Singaporean summiting this year and the only Singapore who has climbed Everest for charity ever.

It was a hard journey up and although Everest is getting more commercialized every year, I would totally disagree with anyone who says that getting to the top is getting much easier. We took 2 days to get down to base camp and I am totally exhausted right now. I will begin my descent to Lukla tomorrow and hope to be at KTM by the 30/31st. Then we shall commence our 3rd segment of our journey, assistance at the school at Gorkha.

More updates will follow once I recover more of my energy and there is better internet connection down valley.

Thanks all for your support. I definitely would not have been able to have done any of this without all your guys.

 
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Posted by on May 27, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Life in Base Camp and Final Push

The fixed lines have finally been laid to the summit and we have our 1st summiteers (the rope laying team Sherpas) for the season. It is not usually normal for fixed lines to be completed so late in the season, but I’m just glad that its finally done and teams can now proceeded to the summit. The hybrid team from IMG, along with many other teams, has positioned themselves strategically in C4 ready to push off for the summit during the narrow summit weather window on the 19th and 20th. Today, we had some of the 1st summits from the climbing clients of this year’s expedition. There are over 250 climbers (sherpas and clients) on the high camps on the mountain at the moment ready to opportunities on the weather window on the 19th and 20th. The IMG classic team (which includes me) is waiting it out at base camp for the 2nd weather window which opens on the 25th.

Everyone in base camp is anxious but trying to keep calm at the same time waiting for the start of our summit push. We’ve been staying healthy and taking the occasional treks to GorakShep and Pumori Camp1 to stay acclimatized. Since everything has been so intense till now and all my blog posts have been so nerve wrecking, I have decided to calm myself and my readers down a little before I leave for my summit push (which most likely will be on the 21st). Many may be wondering what happens in base camp when climbers are not climbing. Thus I have decided to dedicate this blog post to describe base camp and its surroundings and what happens during the many rest days when we’re not climbing on the mountain.

A typical rest day begins at 8am when the cooks bang pots and pans indicating that breakfast is ready. Then we have about 3h before lunch at noon. Usually if nothing is planned, the team takes it easy by enjoying the morning sun, reading a book and doing other personal administrative work like tidying up our tent, laundry, shower etc. There is only about 1-2h of strong sun where we can consider ourselves comfortably warm everyday and everyone maximizes on the opportunity. The clouds usually come in by the afternoon and the temperatures start plummeting. So, usually lunch is followed by a movie session in the coms tent using our laptops/ipads/iphones etc. Dinner is at 6pm and there usually isn’t much activity after the sun goes down. Everyone usually hurries to the warm comforts of their sleeping bag and calls it a night at about 7.30pm. On other days, there are short treks, oxygen clinics, food packing sessions, medical talks arranged for us.

Below are some photos that have been taken since my arrival in base camp. Enjoy!

Base Camp:

Our spaced out tents in base camp all across the moving and melting Khumbu glacier

Airing our sleeping bags and down jackets on top of our tents during the sunny mornings

Relaxing with a book and an ipod and enjoying the rare sunny warm moments in base camp

The luxurious comfortable toilets at base camp. The amazing thing is that its built on top of glacial rocks and ice.

Our kitchen where all the sumptuous meals are concocted. Our humble cooks hiding amongst the condiments

Our communication tent and our recharge station. Solar, battery and generator powered. The 2nd most important place after our kitchen tent.

Our ingenious system of getting heated water for daily use. The barrel on the top has to be manually filled daily. The barrel connects to a communal tap at the bottom via a pipe and the propane gas tank helps heat the down coming water. This is our communal shower, laundry, washing and shaving area.

The bane of staying in base camp for a long period is that you’ve to do laundry by hand and most of the time, the clothes freeze before they can dry in the sun. Me doing laundry after my once weekly shower.

Oxygen clinic

The oxygen clinic we had in the coms tent

Trying out how it would be like on summit day with full gear on.

Seeing how I’d look like on summit day

Treks out of base camp

Ice melting randomly leaving huge boulders like this in precarious positions. There was a campsite situated at the bottom of the slope and everyone prayed that the boulder wouldn’t slip before the end of their expedition.

Dr Luaan Freer and Dr Ashish, members of the main HRA team. Together with myself and Dr Gayathri in the HRA medical tent in base camp.

Everest, Lhotse, south col, north col, Nuptse and the ice fall as seen from Pumori Camp1 during a trek up on one of our rest days

My NUS MIR friends who decided to pay me a visit on their way to climb Lobuche peak

Some medical friends i met along the way down to Pangboche. They were raising funds for a clinic in Cambodia through a pioneering and ingenious way. “Trek for Fund”

A Buddha statue located beautifully with Ama Dablam in the background just above Pangboche

This is going to be my last post before I set off for my summit push on Monday. Expected date of summit is either the 25th or the 26th depending on weather conditions closer to the date. Everyone who is left in base camp is feeling twitchy and can’t wait to get this expedition over with. It has been dragging on for too long for anyone’s good.

At this juncture, I would like to thank everyone who has been there through this epic 4 year journey of mine. What started as a ridiculous arbitrary dream in 2008 after climbing Mt Kilimanjaro is moments from being realized after 4 long arduous years. I would not have been able to come close to where I stand currently without all the people who have helped me in one way or another. Thank you all! Special mention to my family and Gayathri who have been so supportive of everything I’m doing despite all the risks and dangers in my journey that they had to endure more than me.

Regardless of the outcome of summiting or not, I’m grateful to god for having letting me experience so much at such a young age. Learning new things, seeing new places, meeting new people, experiencing new cultures. I’ve already been enriched far beyond my expectations. As I always believe, the journey is more important than the destination and indeed the journey has been beyond my wildest dreams so far. The destination – The Summit, will come has a bonus to me but I will put my full efforts into attaining this bonus after such a long struggle. Whatever god has planned, will be.

I’ll see you guys on the other side.

 
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Posted by on May 19, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Camp 3 Rotation Complete

I have been out of internet connection for quite some time. Our second and final rotation up to C3 has been complete and most of the IMG climbers had chosen to take their rest days before the summit rotation down in the villages of the lower Khumbu valley where the air is thicker and some traces of vegetation can be found. I have been resting in Pangboche for the last 4 days and have started proceeding to base camp once again.

I met up with Dr Gayathri when I was in Pangboche. She has completed her medical service in 2 villages and has proceeded to Pangboche to finish up with the last part of her 1.5 month stint in the valley. She started off working in Phortse village taking over the clinic where I was at. She then proceeded to Kunde hospital to assist Dr Kami (the resident doctor there) for a week and then returned to Phortse when Lhakpa Yanjee (the healthcare worker at Phortse) had arrived from KTM after her extended maternity leave. Dr Gayathri could finally then proceed to teach Lhakpa Yanjee the essential medical education that would make her more confident, and make the villagers more confident in her rendering medical services to the village. This was the initial plan that we had in the beginning to make the clinic more sustainable but the healthcare assistant wasn’t there for the longest time for us to execute our plan. I was elated to hear the news that we could finally execute what we initially set out to do. Dr Gayathri also went on to conduct mass health education classes on women’s and children’s health to the villagers which on top of being a socializing session for the women of the village, was also well received by them. She is now in the village of Pangboche assisting the health care post there and educating the health care worker similar to what she was doing in Phortse. I am more than happy that there is someone rendering these essential services to the villages when I am not able to be there personally executing our plans. There is no way that the bulk of the medical help to the villages could be rendered without the presence of Dr Gayathri whom I am most grateful and thankful of having in the team.

Our camp 3 rotation proved harder than I expected. The route had been changed due to heavy rock fall on the old route which injured about 8 climbers on the expedition due to the very dry season we were having. The new route had us veering right on the Lhotse face onto a snow ramp which zigzagged up and led us to a vertical ice face. IMG’s plan on our 2nd rotation was for us to sleep at C3 for a night before returning back to C2. On the day we left towards C3, the winds picked up to about 100km/h and we had to turn around just before the ice face halfway up to C3. Exhausted, we were instructed by the guides in base camp to try the route again the very next day. The weather was good the next day and this time we managed to reach lower C3. Even though we didn’t sleep there for the night, it was the highest elevation I had been to (7100m) and it was great acclimatization for our summit rotation.

The bad weather brought with it lots of snow which covered C2. With Lhotse in the sunset in the background.

The bad weather had covered the remaining existing tents in C1

The 1st ice face on the Lhotse wall on the new route where we had to turn around on the 1st day of our acclimatisation up to C3

Most people think that climbing Everest is solely a physical venture. From 1st hand experience, I can say that being physically fit is only half the challenge. Most the time, what makes or breaks people is the psychological and emotional stress on the mountain. Staying away from the comforts of family, friends and the familiarity and warmth (both literal and metaphorical) of home surely takes a toll on every individual. The simplest of things can break you after a period of sustained stress. I was walking in the ice fall about to reach C1 during my 2nd rotation when I heard from the radio that a fellow climber from IMG was calling it quits after he experienced an small avalanche while he was walking in the ice fall just a few moments before I passed by the exact spot. Immediately I got emotional knowing a fellow climber who had gone through the same lengthy ordeal as me was suddenly pulling out due to the dangers involved when I was still choosing to carry on climbing. Listening to his story when I met him in C1 about the avalanche and how he didn’t want to compromise being with his girlfriend back at home, set me back even more. Finding the strong compulsion to carry on after hearing and experiencing these kinds of incidents is always difficult. You keep asking yourself why you’re putting yourself through this ordeal and risking it all when family back at home is worrying as much as you are on your safe return.

The puffed up down suit to protect me against the blistering cold. It added about 50kg to my appearance

At lower C3 with the fierce winds blowing on the summit of Everest in the background.

IMG and Himalayan Experience (Himax) are the biggest companies with the largest number of climbers climbing from the south side of Everest. Each has about 40 clients. It came as a great big shock to everyone at base camp when Russel Brice (who heads Himax) announced that his whole company was pulling out of the expedition this season. The reason remains unknown but many speculate that he had pulled out due to the bad weathers this season which left the ice fall in a very dangerous and precarious state. I wonder what reason he gave his clients and whether there would be many angry lawsuits awaiting him if climbers from other agencies summit this season.

To date there has been 4 deaths on the mountain. 1 sherpa who fell into the craves in the ice fall while crossing the ladder, 1 sherpa who died even before the expedition begun due to alcohol poisoning/AMS, 1 Indian who suffered a massive stroke and another Sherpa who suffered a stroke and fell into a crevasse from C1 to C2. There have been numerous others who have suffered injuries and have had to be evacuated. Other than the frequent avalanches that occur on the slopes surrounding base camp which wakes us up from our slumber, the helicopter noises from the frequent emergency evacuations are another source of disturbance everyday.

There have already been 5 people from IMG who have left the expedition to date. Some due to medical conditions (high altitude pulmonary edema, deep vein thrombosis which was diagnosed in KTM after evacuation) and some due to psychological issues. I’ll never forget something that one of my team mates who had experienced the massive avalanche off Nuptse from C1 to C2, said:

“I have been very lucky so far. I have got to see what I have read about in books for my whole life and that I feel, is already a gift. My ego wants me to reach the summit but I know I’ve got more to loose by doing so. I have respected my father a lot and know how it is like to grow up without one and I don’t want the same thing to happen to my 5 month old child. So for me, this is it.”

The multiple of blocks of ice and debris from the previous massive avalanche from the slopes of Nuptse that lay from C1 and C2

The fixed lines have only been fixed to the south col so far and the weather forbids any further fixing to the summit. The sherpas have been busy ferrying loads up to the south col and storing it there awaiting the right time for them to be transported further up the mountain. My expected summit day of the 15th of May has to be postponed to the 3rd week of May now, due to the current strong winds and bad weather. Hopefully the ropes get fixed soon during some of the good weather window pockets that pop by now and then and all the anxious climbers waiting patiently at base camp can have a go at the summit.

I will be reaching base camp today and resting there till the Everest weather window opens and the ropes get fixed. After which, I’ll have to cross my fingers and trust all the training that I’ve received through the years so far. It’ll be the summit push real soon.

 
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Posted by on May 14, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

1st Rotation to Camp 2 on Everest Complete

The full fury of the ice fall proved more than anyone in the team had expected. It is an ever changing space of moving glacial ice slowly but surely tumbling towards the ground. Formed between the steep faces of Lhotse, Lhotse Shar and Nuptse, the massive sheets of ice roll menacingly slowly down the Western Cwm. They move so slow that people might think the whole area is a static and safe place to trod on but they’re soon to realize how wrong they are when they take their 1st few steps into the ice fall. Accompanied with the benign slow drifting ice is the terrifying avalanches and collapse of giant seracs which make the whole landscape a dynamic, ever changing and extremely dangerous one.

Navigating the Khumbu ice fall in pitch darkness. The cold of the night ensures that minimal displacement of ice occurs and safety is maximized

As we climbed deeper into the ice fall, the pace started picked up. The Sherpas who knew the dangers of the ice fall were more jittery and were hurrying us along the dangerous segments where huge seracs were outcropping from the main ice blocks overhanging our routes of travel. It was just a matter of time before these seracs collapse on the route but everyone sure prayed that the moment would not be when we were walking under them. After the ‘popcorn field’ was the ‘football field’ – a relatively flat section of ice where everyone would stop for a break. We were receiving news that part of the seracs on ‘Lho La’ peak had collapsed over the ice fall and had wiped out the fixed lines on a certain segment on the route spanning more than 50 vertical meters. We were to climb over the collapsed ice without any fixed lines onto relatively safe territory. Once a serac collapses, the surrounding area becomes unstable and is prone to further collapses. Everyone was rushing through the segment of unfixed lines. As we looked up, the half collapsed Lho La ice seracs seemed perched in extremely precarious positions ready to collapse once more. As my Sherpa mumbled Tibetan Buddhist prayers, he fixed my safety line onto his harness and together we rushed through the dangerous segment. Breathless as I could be after keeping up with Sherpa pace for just 5 mins, I was just glad the sercas didn’t go as we passed them. Click here to see the video of the avalanche ice debris in the ice fall we had to walk past as we were returning back to base camp. (http://youtu.be/oKrXr01f29c)

Climbers sprawled along the route up the ice fall like a trail of ants

Vertical ladder crossing in the ice fall

Up and down and through narrow segments we climbed and jummared ensuring that our safety line was always clipped in. Traffic sometimes becomes a concern when teams going up and down the ice fall encounter each other at narrow sections. Ladders were another concern. Horizontal, vertical, down sloping, multiple ones tied together, ladders with broken rungs, you name it, they were present in the ice fall. There was one ladder segment that I’ll never forget. My Sherpa kept mentioning that this was the area in which the ‘accident’ had happened. A Sherpa who carelessly had gone past this ladder without clipping in his safety line 2 days ago had fallen into the crevasse and had died instantly. His body had to be long roped on a helicopter and flown back to his village down the Khumbu valley. When I peered over to the other side of the crevasse on which the far end of the long ladder was resting on, I saw blood multiple blood stains on the ice and a backpack deep inside the crevasse. As I tried my best not get concerned with the fact that a person had actually died there, there was this still this deep sense of fear that arose as I was nimbly maneuvering the ladder. I was extra cautious and took my time to cross the ladder. I have this ‘Go-Pro’ helmet mount camera, kindly sponsored by my title sponsors Cerebos and BRAND’S(r) which I have been using while crossing the ice falls. Here is the video of this particular ladder crossing that I caught using the Go-Pro camera. (http://youtu.be/QwzFdngXXK8)

The cold was also something that I had underestimated. The temperatures are way below zero every night and everything freezes. Water bottles, contact lens solution, pee inside the pee bottle. Even water inside bottles placed inside our jackets while walking can freeze. My fingers had been constantly cold through the climb in the ice fall. I thought that frost bite would be a concern during summit day but never did I prepare myself for frostbite so early in the climb. I warmed my hands beside the stove the Sherpas were using to melt the ice immediately once I reached C1. EBC to C1 took me 5h. I was very worried on how I was going to go on further up the mountain when I was already experiencing problems down in the low camps.

Warming myself up with the team of personal Sherpas in the kitchen tent in C1

We stayed in C1 for 2 nights. We could see Lhotse, the Lhotse face and the whole stretch of the Western Cwm from our campsite. We took a short walk for about 1.5h towards C2 for acclimatization on the 2nd day we were at C1. From where we turned around, we could see the summit of Everest from the Western Cwm, this time from a totally different perspective that I had never seen before. Being already breathless from where I was, seeing the massive summit made me wonder how in the world I was ever going to get there in just 2 weeks time. The consolation was that there was going to be another acclimatization cycle and that supplemental oxygen would be available during the summit push.

Me and my Sherpa halfway into the Western Cwm with Everest in the background

The view of Lhotse, 4th highest mountain in the world, and the Western Cwm from our tent in C1

We then trekked over the Western Cwm towards C2 and spent 2 nights there. C1 to C2 took me 3.5h. C2 was massively sprawled with tents just like EBC. Our guide told us that some consider C2 as the advanced base camp of the south side. Seeing the Lhotse face up close was more intimidating than ever. 1.5 vertical kilometers of 60 deg blue hard ice stood between C2 and the south col (C4) and we knew that we had to scale that treacherous face on our next rotation. The rope Sherpa team started fixing the lines on the Lhotse face that same day and even for them, the route was slightly tough.

Setting up camp 2 beneath the huge seracs on the western ridge of Everest

Standing at the Berschund at the foot of the Lhotse face. Ready to take it on during the next rotation up to C3

Part of the classic team having dinner in C2, an extremely cold but comfortable spot

I have started taking Aspirin since about 1 month ago. Strokes, deep vein thrombosis, central retinal vein obstruction are some blood disorders that are very common here in high altitude. Due to the over production of red blood cells (polycythemia) due to the oxygenless environment (hypoxia) and dehydration during exertion, there is more chance of blood stasis and clotting. The dangers occur when these clots dislodge from the blood vessels and travel to different parts of the body. Aspirin thins the blood and is usually taken by people with previous strokes and heart disease. Since these blood disorders are common here and many famous climbers and Sherpas have suffered stroke here, I’m not taking any chances and will be taking Aspirin at least till the end of the expedition. There seems to be one other benefit from taking the aspirin. Staying here at high altitude day after day, one looses track of time and which day of the week it is. There are days of the week printed on the back of the Aspirin packet (to indicate which tablet you should take on which day) and every morning when I pop the tablet from the packet, it keeps me in check of the day of the week.

The storage of precious oxygen bottles up in C2. Awaiting their transport up to the higher camps once they're established

Coming down from the ice fall, personally seemed to be more dangerous than ascending. They always say that most of the fatalities on the mountain occur during the descent. This is due to the sheer exhaustion and lack of concentration one experiences once they give it all they’ve got to reach the summit. One false step, or one moment of being lazy by not clipping in your safety line is all it takes to plunge into one of the deep crevasses in the ice fall. Even though I just reached C2 during an acclimatization climb, I was feeling extremely exhausted as I tried to keep up with my Sherpa who was rushing down the dangerous segments of the ice fall. My crampons did get caught with each other and I did trip during the descent but thank my lucky stars, I was clipped in and was saved by the safety lines. It sure woke me up during the early morning descent. The ice fall is a place where no climber or Sherpa feels comfortable traversing but it has to be done to reach the upper camps from the south side of Everest. Thus IMG is taking as much precautions and minimizing our travel to and from the ice fall.

Descending from C2 to C1. Halfway down the Western Cwm just as the sun hit Pumori in the background

Just as we reached base camp, there was a huge avalanche up between C1 and C2. One of the giant seracs hanging off Nuptse along the Western Cwm had broken off and slid down into the valley which sent a huge gust of wind and ice on the floor of the Western Cwm. One Sherpa from another team got swept into a crevasse and had broken a few of his ribs and vertebrae. He had to be heli-evacuated back to Kathmandu for treatment. A few camps in C1 were taken out during this avalanche as well. IMG’s C1 campsite was safe as with all the other climbers in the Western Cwm at the moment. Once again, we were lucky to not have been at the wrong place at the wrong time.

There will be 1 more rotation on the ice fall before the summit push and we are resting at base camp now. We are awaiting the high altitude jet stream winds to shift to the south of Everest before we embark on our 2nd rotation to C3. Tentatively, we’ll be moving off on Wednesday. Its nice to be back resting in the relatively warmer conditions in EBC with the good camp cooked food. Taking about warmth, food and familiarity, I miss home a lot and can’t wait to get back. I’m already making a list of food I want to eat when I get back.

 
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Posted by on April 29, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

1st Acclimatization Climb up Lobuche Peak (6000m+) and Icefall Dry Run Completed

There were 2 camps at Lobuche base camp. One was dominated by the green tents of Russle Brice’s team and on the other side of Awi Peak, was the yellow tents of IMG. We had to take the longer detour to the other side of Lobuche to reach our campsite. For the 1st time, I was trekking with my climbing team mates and gosh, they were super fast. We practically didn’t rest at all during our 4h fast march from EBC to Lobuche Base Camp. I thought my 1 month acclimatization stay at high altitude would be of some help but it turned out that these fellows were doing much better than me.

The IMG climbers were split up into 3 main groups – the hybrid team, the classic team and the Lhotse/ Lobuche climbers and EBC trekkers. I was part of the classic team -which meant that each climber would have 1 Sherpa attached to them throughout the climb and the whole classic team would be under the oversight of 2 western guides. There were 15 of us in the classic team. The hybrid team would also have 1 Sherpa attached to 1 climber but on top of that, there would be 1 western guide to oversee every 4 climbers.

Since there were so many climbers/trekkers coming along with IMG during this expedition, they split the groups into 3 and had them flown into Lukla at different times so that there would not be overcrowding at the lodges and so that the logistics could be planned smoothly. Thus I was with the 2nd group climbing Lobuche peak. My team had a Latvian couple, a German lady, a Norwegian guy and myself (Singaporean). The rest were Americans. So sometimes, conversations would get rather stale as the Americans would go on about jokes and conversation topics only Americans would understand.

High camp with the view of the beautiful Ama Dablam in the background

We reached Lobuche base camp (4800m) and stayed there for a night before heading up to high camp (5200m) the next day. It was an early rise for us that morning at 0245h to prepare to head off for the summit. We left camp at 4am sharp and were along the way up the mountain. The sun started rising at 5am and it started getting warmer and the vertical vastness of the mountain was finally revealed. Crampons were adorned at about 5.30am at crampon point and from there onwards it was jummaring up the fixed lines all the way up the steep slopes of Lobuche peak.

The team on the way to high camp from Lobuche base camp

It took me 5h to reach the summit. The fastest members in my team had gone up in less than 4h and were already on their way down even before I hit the summit. On the way up, I met this Swiss lady who was the only women to have climbed all the 14, 8000m peaks without supplemental oxygen. That was quite a memorable moment. I didn’t know who she was but there was this lady smiling and leisurely walking down the slopes of Lobuche without any safety lines and as she passed me, she told me to take smaller steps to save energy. Only later did my Sherpa tell me who she was. Inspirational indeed. On the way up, I also met Khoo Swee Chiow (from Aconcagua) and Jamling (my Sherpa from Ama Dablam) and their team of climbers who were attempting Lobuche peak. It was extremely heartwarming seeing familiar faces after being alone in a foreign country for sometime. We just stopped in our tracks and had a conversation at 5900m which was to the annoyance of other climbers who were trying to pass us.

Jummaring up the steep sections of Lobuche peak

The view on the summit was excellent. We could see nearly all the mountains of the Khumbu valley (except Cho Oyu which was being blocked by the true summit of Lobuche). Even though it was just an acclimatization climb, the view form the summit made everything worth while. We could see the jet stream blowing the ice and snow from the summit of Everest. Everest seemed super high and far from where we were. I was wondering how I would ever be able to stand on the top in a few weeks time. The anxiety of summiting Everest (at times like this) gets the better of me and the nervousness of how I’ll ever do it starts playing repeatedly in my head. Pushing away negative thoughts and taking one step at a time doing the best you can at each step is something I’ve learnt to do through this journey. The end might seem so immense and impossible, but if one was to take bite size pieces at the task ahead, everything may become possible.

Me and my sherpa at the summit of Lobuche with Everest in the background

My proud sponsors on the summit of Lobuche

In 2009 when the NUS MIR 8 team had our island peak and EBC expedition, for the 1st time, I saw the massive beautiful Khumbu ice fall standing right in front of me. There I was wondering when would be the next time I would have a chance to return to this majestic place and maybe even be fortunate enough to traverse across it.

The Khumbu Ice Falls which inspired me in 2009

I’m resting now at EBC and waiting for my rotation on up to Camp 1 and 2 on Everest itself. We will be heading out tomorrow climbing into the icefall and into the western cwm. Its exciting to just think about it. The hybrid team has already set off and is at Camp 2 at this moment. Its exciting but scary at the same time thinking about how we would be maneuvering across the ice fall. Each night when I’m sleeping in my tent, I’d be woken up by the sound of huge avalanches all around us in the ice fall and from the surrounding mountains. The best time of the day to navigate the ice fall would be at night as the temperature would be cold and there would be no sunlight to melt the ice. This maximizes our chances of making it through the icefall safely without any seracs breaking off or being caught in any avalanches

We just finished our dry run on the ice fall this morning. The ice fall proved more challenging than I thought it would be. Even though it looks relatively flat from afar, there are a lot of steep sections with fixed lines and jummaring involved. The ladders are a whole different story. We only walked into the ice fall for about 2hours (for practice) before turning back but we had to cross 4 ladders bridging huge crevasses by then. I heard that there were a total of 21 ladders till we reached camp 1. Walking on crampons over 2-3 light weight aluminum ladders with a few broken rungs tied together with flimsy ropes overlooking an endless crevasse was a harrowing experience. This was accentuated due to the fact that it was my 1st time on the ladders. Since I had arrived out of sync with the main team, I had been deprived of the crucial ladder practice in base camp. My Sherpa however, ensured my smooth passage across the ladders and took his best efforts to ensure my safety. Click here to view a video of my Sherpa teaching me about the ladder crossing during the dry run in the ice fall.

Everything went smoothly during the dry run this morning. None the less, the Khumbu ice fall is the most dangerous part of climbing Everest and the most number of deaths (both from the north and south side) occur in the Khumbu ice fall. Our team will take the as much precaution and I will be as careful as possible. May god look upon and protect all those who traverse past the ice falls.

 
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Posted by on April 21, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

A Quick Update from EBC

I’m updating this entry from the small village of Gorak Shep which is a 3 h walk away from Everest Base Camp. Decided to head down here to do some emailing since there is no connectivity in base camp.

Shuwei left EBC the day he arrived and should be on his way back to Singapore by now. Gayathri parted with me in Gorak Shep to Phortse to take over the clinic. She will be resting in Pheriche and should be reaching Phortse by tomorrow night.

01 Raffles, Myself and Shuwei on the summit of KalaPatar (5545m) with Everest in the background

The IMG classic team conducted our Pooja yesterday. The prayers were made to the mountain spirits for our safe travel on the mountain and return back home. The personal sherpas were introduced to the clients. My Sherpa is Dawa Phinjo Sherpa who is a young 2x Everest, 1x Kangenjunga and 1x Dhaulgiri summiteer.

The whole classic Everest climbing team at base camp with the Pooja in the background

Myself and my personal sherpa, Dawa Phingjo Sherpa at base camp

We had our fixed line and crampon practice on the Khumbu ice fall yesterday and we shall be leaving to Lobuche base camp tomorrow for our acclimatization climb. We should be back in EBC next week and should start our cycle on Everest itself sometime during the 3rd week of April.

Practising some technical skills at the Khumbu ice fall

Will update again once I’m back from Lobuche peak.

 
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Posted by on April 14, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Trek to Everest Base Camp

I’m finally managing to update everyone from the village of Gorek Shep which is just 2.5h from Everest Base Camp. It’s amazing that there is mobile phone reception here at 5180m above sea level when there was none all the way from Phortse. We managed to catch a glimpse of Everest finally before the clouds started moving in during our walk from Lobuche to Gorek Shep this morning. The temperature is below 0 deg C in the day now even though the sun is shining bright. My hands are really cold as I’m typing this post on my laptop. The further we trekked up the valley and the higher we get en route to base camp, the more expensive everything got. As I said, everything here, from food to equipment to building materials has to be carried manually up the hills. Thus prices of food and drinks are more expensive than that in Singapore. Even a litre of hot water costs about 5 SGD. Battery charging costs about 6 SGD per hour. Hot showers are available but at about 15 SGD per 20litres of hot water and a simple meal would cost close to 10 SGD. There are just so many trekkers, porters, Sherpa and yaks ferrying loads to and from Everest base camp. From a distance, the animal and human traffic looks like ants walking on a trail carrying their precious supplements towards their nest. It has been difficult getting lodges to stay at especially at the higher villages. The whole village of Gorek Shep was full or pre booked when we arrived that we’ve to settle for a lodge with a dorm room system with no blankets. I’m glad that I’ll finally be reaching base camp tmr and can eat, drink and sleep in comfort without worrying about the price.

The 3 of us with a big Mani stone in the background on the way to Phakding from Lukla

Yesterday marked 1 month since my arrival in Nepal. Time has flown by so fast and I’m about to embark on phase 2 of my Himalayan adventure – the Everest expedition proper. I picked up Dr Gayathri and Dr Shuwei from Lukla airport after a 2 day walk down from Phortse about a week ago. Then we began our slow ascent up the Khumbu valley with Everest Base Camp as the destination in mind. Since it was Shuwei’s 1st experience at altitude, we decided to play it cautiously and ascend slowly, having frequent stops and trying not to ascend more than 300m a day.

The highest airstrip in the world. Syangboche (3720m)

A visit to Phortse was mandatory since Gayathri would be spending most of her time after sending me off at EBC running the clinic which was set up. We spent 2 nights there. I introduced Shuwei and Gayathri to the villagers, her home stay hosts and her translators. We visited the clinic and unpacked and stock took all the medical resupplies that they had brought from Singapore and Kathmandu. That took a whole day’s work. Another 80kg of medications and equipment was added to the pre existing medical supplies. We also visited some villagers to pass them some special equipment and medications that we not available in the region. We hoped that our small gestures made at least a small difference in their lives.

A visit to Kunde hospital with Dr Kami

It had snowed in Phortse the previous night and it made carrying the medication resupply bag to the clinic extremely difficult

The gentleman with stroke who had requested for a larger object to grip so that his fingers would not be clenched up so tightly. A request to Gayathri in Singapore and she brought over some tennis balls.

The previous ball the man was using compared to the tennis ball that we had brought for him

Repacking the resupplies in Phortse clinic

Kami Sherpa's home visit in Pangboche where every family member eventually became a patient

After 8 days, we’re finally at the last village before hitting base camp. The cold and the altitude have taken a toll on the 2 and they’ve agreed that the trek has definitely been tougher than they had expected. These are their thoughts.

Gayathri:

“What were mere words 4 yrs ago have manifested itself into the actually journey that I’m embarking on today. I have dreamt of trekking to EBC ever since a kid but accompanying a special someone is indeed an added bonus. Sitting at the foot of Everest, I can’t imagine Kumaran is going to climb the icy, steep peak that I can barely see. I underestimated the journey from Lukla to Everest base camp. I can’t believe Kumaran said ‘No prob. I will walk from Phortse to Lukla to pick you up’ when we were planning our trip in Singapore. He made it sound like he was walking from orchard rd to little India to pick us up. After sending Kumaran off, I will be taking over the clinic at Phortse. The altitude does take a toll on oneself. I am amazed at Kumaran’s stamina throughout. As the villagers of Phortse put it, he is not just ‘Kumaran’. He is Kumar Sherpa. He has been mistaken for our guide numerous times along our trek so far. In my eyes, he has conquered more than just summiting the peak of Everest.”

Shuwei:

“I decided that I wanted to accompany my friend, Kumaran whom we fondly know as ‘Maran’ since our secondary school days, just about two months ago; ‘we’ being  the circle of scouting friends from 01 Raffles Scout Group. I know Maran since we were Sec 1s, as fellow scouts through 01 and he will forever be a close friend and confidant from this closely knitted community that I have always appreciated till this day. Today, less than a day away from the ultimate aim of travelling to Everest Base Camp to send my scouting friend off on his remarkable journey of conquering the world’s highest peak, I reflect on the reason why I have chosen to embark on this road with him. Life is about options and opportunities. By selecting an option, we forego other opportunities that could have been taken. Being my first exposure to high altitudes, the past eight days of trekking have been a humbling experience for me. Every day’s trek is a challenge to the unaccustomed. Yet I believe in the value of this journey, albeit a short one compared to the much longer road that Maran is embarking on. This is about sending my batchmate off, someone with whom I have had the chance to work as a team for the many years we were in scouting together, someone who is bringing the Scout Group’s flag up to the peak, someone who has in his way, sought to make a difference in the lives of many others. In comparison, this gesture of mine may not be much but I hope that together, we can send a positive message to all our junior scouts in 01 – that the friendships we cultivate as 01 scouts will always stay strong, that 01 scouts will always be there for one another and that the spirit of 01 and the values inculcated in us through 01 Raffles Scout Group will always bring us through the adversities we face in our lives. No amount of words can describe the spirit of 01 that have held batches of scouts together. Similarly, no amount of words can describe the pride we have in one of our fellow scouts efforts in taking on this challenge. On a final note, I wish him success in his climb.”

Since I don’t know if there will be proper mobile connection up at EBC, I’ll promote another one of my causes in this post. After the 2nd phase of my Himalayan adventure – the Everest Expedition, I will begin the 3rd phase of my adventure in Nepal – helping out the school in the village of Gorkha. BRAND’S® has kindly agreed to sponsor up to $10k towards the school depending on the number of likes on their facebook page. Do your part to contribute towards the school in Gorkha by liking the page. Simply click on the image below (which will transport you to the BRAND’S® facebook fan page) and then click ‘like’. Each and every one of your ‘likes’ will go towards establishing a better education for the children in Gorkha.

I will write again from base camp shortly (if there is reception there)….

 
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Posted by on April 9, 2012 in Uncategorized

 
 
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