RSS

Monthly Archives: May 2012

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.

 
11 Comments

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.

 
5 Comments

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.

 
8 Comments

Posted by on May 14, 2012 in Uncategorized