Firstly, our Chef, Sat Bains, suffered from Pulmonary Oedema and had to medically evacuated to Kathmandu - given what was to follow he has had the most adventure. However, to mark his leaving the team we held a full dress rehearsal of the dinner at Base Camp.
The following day we moved the team up to intermediate camp – a 10.5 km slog up the narrow paths, ascending 750 meters closer to our objective. Intermediate camp is a chaotic place where the climbers share the rare amount of flat land on the glacier with the yaks. The fruity smell is tolerable but the yaks crashing around between tents is a hazard that is as unexpected as it is dangerous.
The following day, Saturday, we began our move up to Advanced Base Camp in two groups – a faster team of 4 and the remaining 5 picking up some photographs on route. As such we had two different but similar experiences of what followed.
The route up the East Rongbuk Glacier follows the medial moraine with the spectacular Penitentes (Ice towers) left and right. The path is tough and, though undulating, it is a steady upward hike to the goal of Advanced Base Camp at 6,400 meters. This route is always at least 600 meters from the valley walls. At midday we felt the earthquake which initially felt like the glacier moving but as rock falls and avalanches started on either side it was clear it was a quake. This was followed by the ice towers cracking – all caught on camera by our cameraman Jon.
The noise of avalanche and rock fall passed and we headed on upwards.
On arrival at Advanced Base Camp we all set about making our camp, recovering from our climb and adapting to the new height and cold.
It was only at 18.30 hrs, when we gathered for dinner, that we heard the scale of the disaster on the south side of Everest and in Kathmandu. We were also informed that all the Chinese had pulled out of ABC at 18.00 hrs which, given that only 1 hour of daylight remained, caused speculation about potential aftershocks.
With limited communications from a single satellite phone we sent messages out to our loved ones to say we were safe. We helped our Sherpa team contact their families and were happy to hear that their families were safe although living in the open.
After an unsettled night we continued with the Puja ceremony as planned on the 26th. This is a moving ceremony for safe passage on the mountain and, with the north wall and Everest’s peak as our backdrop, one of life’s special memories.
We were in our mess tent about to have lunch when the second earth quake came through. Again, we were lucky as the positioning of ABC below a large cliff which has no snow build up or scree.
At the team meeting we discussed the situation and agreed that in light of the disaster it would be inappropriate to continue with our dinner party but focus on the other part of our mission to raise funds for the charity Community Action Nepal. Once agreed we settled down to enjoy our last few hours at 6,400 meters below the summit of Everest.
The move down to base camp is a tough 22 Km following a path down the glacier but then below large scree slopes and rock towers. This made the journey tougher as it required awareness of where one might seek safety if another aftershock occurred.
We got in to our base camp around 17.00 hrs on Monday. Other teams who had been at Base Camp the entire time updated us on the rock falls around the camp, the fact that no injuries had been sustained and the wider news of the unfolding humanitarian disaster in Kathmandu and Nepal.
We are now waiting in Base Camp for further news as our equipment is still all up the mountain. We will shortly be joined by our summit team who spent an additional night at Advanced Base Camp. A high ranking Chinese official is due to arrive late afternoon and explain what the official authorities have decided to for this climbing season.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Nepal and fellow climbers who are still stuck on the south side of Everest.
Blog by: Adam Mason