Yesterday morning Sam and Alex were picked up by helicopter and brought down to Base Camp with Dan Mazur and the rest of the Summit Climb team. Right now they are in Lukla on their way to Kathmandu with Pat Mcknight and James Grieve.
Sorry about the silence yesterday but complete exhaustion overtook us here at ground control once we knew they were safe. It had been a long night for us all. They were up pre-dawn packing and waiting for the helicopter which couldn't get through the clouds and snow. At 2:30am UK time (7:15am in Nepal) I get an email from Pat's wife, Kathy saying that there wasn't enough visibility for the local Fishtail chopper. Could we find a larger one? Several anxious hours followed of ringing and emailing around the globe, but in the end @Global Rescue came true to their name, the weather gods smiled on us and in a small visibility window a heli was able to get through and bring all 17 of them and their gear down to Base Camp, 2 at a time. By about 1pm local time, they were messaging:
" We are in Basecamp. Got down just before the fog. Now searching for our stuff. Its a bomb site. Bits of gear over 100m away."
Dan's tweet paints a more sombre picture:
"Everest B C Return. Walk 30 min from helipad to BC: Nothing Left. 3 dead in neighbor camp. 5 dead on other side, 2 dead across. "
They knew nothing about what had happened in the rest of Nepal and are slowly coming to terms with not only the personal shock of everything they have been through, the death and destruction on Everest for the second year running but now:
"starting to hear about the devastation in the region. Hearts go out to everyone, Pleased we are no longer a distraction."
This morning they left Base Camp and hopefully they will be in Kathmandu within a few hours. I hope they can find that glass of wine!
Another roller coaster day for anxious family and friends. Woke up to Sam's tweet:
" There is a mass exodus from camps 1&2, never seen so many choppers"
The Nepalese government did a fantastic job of co-ordinating the rescue of over 150 climbers and sherpas from camps 1 and 2 this morning. However somehow or other that 150 did not include Sam or Alex! By 1pm the helicopters had stopped and since then Sam and the rest of Dan's team of climbers and sherpas (16 in total) have been penned in by fog, trying to organise helicopters for early tomorrow morning. The weather is closing in tomorrow afternoon so we hope they are right in their optimism that they will be picked up by the time we wake in the UK tomorrow morning. We think they only have 2 more days of food and supplies so there isn't much room for manoeuvre.
So back to Sam from tweets and texts:
"All Alex keeps talking about is her need for a glass of wine.. Some of us are more chilled out than others ...
Fingers crossed the weather holds ...
Love you, good night, will call when have news"
Now we need to get them out. This morning's blog from Sam was before the massive aftershock of 6.7 triggering more avalanches around Camp 1.
Tweet from Dan Mazur:
"Aftershock @ 1pm! Horrible here in camp 1. Avalanches on 3 sides. C1 a tiny island..."
We believe that around 100 climbers and sherpas are trapped between camps 1 and 2. They have enough food and supplies for a few days and some of the climbers are beginning to suffer from altitude sickness. All reports confirm that the icefall is now impassible so there is no way to climb down. More after shocks are being reported as I write (19:45pm UK)
"#Everest many climbers were sleeping or trying to, woke up by after shocks few minutes ago, more chaotic on high camps. #NepalQuake"
Sean Camp 1:
"My heart leaps every time the earth moves. I can't get used to it."
"It is so unstable now that rock fall and minor avalanches occur consistently. "
"The circumstances we face are dire. As I lie here writing this, the ground is moving beneath me."
We are sure that the Nepalese authorities are doing everything they can in an impossible situation but it is really is SO important that they are helicoptered out tomorrow before the weather worsens on Tuesday.
We want our "Brit Quake Bride ... and Groom"* home soon please!
* Thanks to the Sun on Sunday for a great headline
PS - We can't say thank you enough to all the family and friends who are rallying behind us and the Schneiders to support Sam & Alex
The earthquake hit about 30 minutes after we had crossed the icefall yesterday morning and found our tents . The ground started shaking violently but before we could react Dan was shouting "Get out of your fucking tents, grab your ice axes!". We staggered out to see an avalanche coming straight at us. A blast of wind knocked us down but we were able to get up and run to shelter behind some tents and anchor ourselves with our axes. The wind was so strong that Pat was knocked down and pivoted on his axe. We focused on keeping an air hole so we could breathe in the powder. Dan was fantastic, shouting directions at us, keeping us together and strong. Our tents were only lightly covered so we dug them out and moved them into the middle of the valley. There are about 30 of us here in Camp 1 and the same again in Camp 2.
Then the wait began because it was snowing and we didn't know what was happening. Didn't sleep too well last night but this morning it is glorious sunshine and we can see for miles around. The views are incredible and we can see the summit clearly. No-one knows how bad the damage to the Icefall route down is yet, but we have heard that our part of Basecamp has been flattened. There is talk of possibly hiking up to Camp 2 but for the moment we are acclimatising and waiting.
Helicopters have been in to pick up the sick and injured. We're OK. We've got food and the sherpas are being amazing. We're OK.
Avalanches have shaken Everest after the earthquake this morning. There is conflicting news but Sam posted the following message at around 9am our time:
"We are ok, all the group. Shaken at camp 1 http://dlor.me/TZ2OLAR"
Since then various reports have come through. The following are from Dan Mazur, the Summit Climb group leader in Base Camp:
A Massive earthquake just hit Everest. Basecamp has been severely damaged. Our team is caught in camp 1. Please pray for everyone.
Aftershock! #Everest team is in camp 1, hanging on. #Icefall route destroyed.
We arrived up in Base Camp (5,335m) on Tuesday, 21st. Patrick, our old climbing partner from last year's expedition, caught up with us at Lobuche on Monday night and we were able to hike into Base Camp together. We then linked up with Dan and the rest of the Summit Climb group who seem really cool. Alex is the only girl this year. Some of the other teams have been here for almost a month but the bad weather has led to delays with laying some of the new ladders which has meant that the Icefall has only been open for a couple of days. Our forced strategy of a shorter trip has worked out Ok so far. Base Camp is more spread out than last year which gives the impression of being less crowded even though there are actually 39 teams rather than the 31 teams who wanted to climb in 2014. Thats about 360 climbers.
I'm phoning this through from Camp 1 on Pumori, a 7000m peak across the Khumbu valley from Nuptse. Alex, Pat, Sange, our awesome sherpa, and I hiked up here this morning. The views in the sunshine are amazing, with light winds blowing big plumes of snow off Everest. We're looking forward to a quiet afternoon and a rest day tomorrow, training in the Icefall and hanging round Base Camp. We're feeling good, pretty well acclimatised, eating and sleeping well in our new cosy sleeping bags, chilled after hours of cards and watching downloads on the Iplayer. Ready for a bit of climbing...
So the plan is that Friday morning we leave at dawn for the Western Cwm and 2 nights in Camp 1 (6000m), up to Camp 2 (6400m) for 3 nights and then on up for 1 night at Camp 3 on the Lhotse Face (7200m) before coming back to Base Camp for a week. So by the time you guys wake up, we should be crossing the Icefall!
(Photo courtesy of Alan Arnette. Check out his blog on alanarnette.com for more.)
Lets hope the weather holds and there isn't a bottleneck as many of the other teams will have the same idea. And every morning there are 200-300 sherpas ferrying tents, stoves and fuel up the mountain to establish the higher camps - the Ministry of Tourism still hasn't decided whether they will allow helicopters to ferry some of the loads to Camp 3 to reduce the burden and risk to the sherpas.
We're feeling good and excited to be going higher. Follow our progress: http://t.co/zNGl0k19Zs
Some photos from the trip up. Alex and Sange in front of the Sherpa Museum in Namche opened by Hillary; Alex in the pink; and a yak!
PS - Important Card Update: Alex has rallied at whist and we're now drawn. Sange has introduced Joker and rummy to the mix
PPS - We were interviewed by the Mail on line in Namche: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/afp/article-3042691/Nervous-return-Everest-year-deadly-avalanche.html
Writing now from the Everest Bakery in Namche on Thursday 16th*. We're stuffing our faces on baked goods, catching up with the world, while Alex negotiates job offers by email to Ghana.
We had a pretty uneventful start. Flights went super smooth, I managed to pass my big 70 litre backpack as hand luggage all the way. We met up with Sherpa Sange at the hotel in Kathmandu. A beast of a man, with a permanent smile on his face. One of the strongest Sherpas from last year. We had a last pizza at Fire and Ice restaurant and then flew to Lukla the next morning on the first flight (no hanging about at all + all the bags arrived in Lukla).
We spent one night at Phakting and made good time up the trail to Namche today. Tomorrow we head onwards to Pangboche and will carry out our Puja there. I wonder if the Lama will remember giving me his blessing last year.
We're at 3440m and our O2 saturation is pretty good so far, which is encouraging, and suggests that the tents have had some impact.
I was just skyping with Dan, our group leader with Summit Climb. He's telling us to chill out and take our time as the weather high up sucks (wind, snow) and the Ice Doctors are still fixing the route.
The Battle of the Cards has begun. I won the first skirmish, much to Alex's frustration. We look forward to Patrick catching up to join in.
*(Ed. has been a little slow with the update)
We’re back and leave for Everest Round 2 in a week today
As some of you will recall, Alex & I attempted to climb Mt Everest from the Nepal side in Spring last year. It was not to be.
In late April 2014, we were ready to climb from Base Camp, through the Khumbu Icefall, to Camp 1 & above. We had secured 2 months off work, raided our piggy banks, trained hard, hiked to Base Camp & completed acclimatization hikes on other peaks by that point. At around 6am on the morning that we walked into Base Camp (a day or two before we were due to climb), a large piece of ice broke off a face high above the route. It came crashing down on top of a group of Sherpa, killing 16 of them. This became the worst mountaineering accident in history. Over the course of the next week, it became apparent that the Sherpa would not climb that season & all of the expeditions were called off. We returned home & to work. Disillusioned, but determined to give it another shot.
Some things have changed this year
We got engaged. I had originally planned on asking Alex to marry me somewhere high on Everest (if all the stars aligned, on the top!). This had involved a fair bit of planning. Our expedition leader, Dan, was in on the plan & helped me get a private audience with the Khumbu Lama (something similar to a Buddhist archbishop). I asked the Lama for his blessing, and after some negotiation, he agreed & blessed a white prayer flag which I was going to propose with. Another source of disappointment - but judging by Alex’s smile in the photo below, plan B went down OK in any case
We have both left our jobs & are in the process of moving to Africa. I left BCG in January and am now running an e-commerce company called Jumia in Ghana. I’ve been living in Accra since mid-January, and doing my best to prepare for the climb here (albeit at 30+ degrees). Alex has just left AB InBev and is moving out to join in June (& currently interviewing with a number of consumer goods companies out here)
Our training has broadly been the same as last year, with one exception. This year we have been following Patrick’s (our climbing mate & altitude specialist) altitude training program. We have been sleeping in a hypoxic tent for the last 3 months. Imagine a tent, which surrounds your mattress, with a tube that is connected to a generator. The generator reduces the pressure in the tent, giving you the physiological effects of being at altitude (up to 6000m). The aim is to arrive in Nepal already well acclimatized & ready to move up the hill faster. Given that we are in different locations (London & Accra), we had to get two of these contraptions. I’m pretty sure I have the only one in West Africa! (it conveniently doubles up as a mosquito net)
And finally, the route from Base Camp to Camp 1 has changed. We will take a more direct route this time around, closer to the middle of the Icefall in order to avoid avalanches. As a result, it’s likely to be longer than the old version & potentially harder (though few people have been up there yet this season, so hard to know).
But much remains the same
We will be re-joining Dan Mazur’s SummitClimb expedition & are planning on forming a sub-team with Patrick McKnight, our buddy from last year. We have been Skyping with Patrick on a regular basis over the past year & are both looking forward to hanging out with him again.
And we will be blogging along the way - to share the highs & lows with you.
Next step: Packing & getting to Kathmandu
I’m returning to London from Ghana on Thursday morning. In between our civil wedding, my sister’s 18th birthday party and catching up with friends & family, we have a LOT of packing to do.
We fly to Kathmandu on Monday and hope to fly out to Lukla to start the hike to Base Camp as soon as possible (weather permitting!). Patrick will be right behind us. We are starting a couple of days later in April than last year, but think this should be OK, given we are already pretty well acclimatized.
More news & updates from our 2015 Everest expedition to follow.
Thanks for reading!
Once again.. the authorities have thwarted us. It will take the Indonesians 2 weeks to process the permit - too long (we would rather return and tag on some diving & the Kokoda Trail another time)
Thanks to Paddy & Zac for hooking us up with a fixer in PNG!
In parallel, we have spent the last couple of days in Kathmandu meeting local expedition leaders to discuss options in Nepal. It's not looking good - there is a lot of snow (so Ama Dablam & Manaslu have high avalanche danger) and we are not mentally prepared for a seriously technical new challenge (Makalu). So we have made the painful call of cutting our losses & flying home
On the positive side, we have some great options for next year & a potential return to Everest in 2015.. watch this space
A BIG thank you from us for your support & following our little adventure!!