Yesterday, I arrived home (flying from Kathmandu, via Abu Dhabi, to Amsterdam) where a large crowd of family and friends welcomed me at Schiphol airport !
Again, I’d like to thank everybody who sent messages via the satphone (I received more than 150 !), via the website (100+), by email (200+), or Facebook (I lost count….). You can hardly imagine how important all this support has been to keep me motivated, especially when Ulrich and Ciprian had left. THANKS !!!
After two days travelling through the Tibetan Highlands from EBC to Lhasa, I have arrived in Kathmandu today. So I’m no longer suffering from the Chinese restrictions on Facebook, Google, and even this webiste (the Chinese blocked my updating, so my oldest son took care of that whenever I sent information by whatsapp or satphone, but typing on a smartphone screen whilst driving a 4WD in the Tibetan highlands did not prove very effective…). Anyhow, I’m safely back in civilisation now with unlimited access to food which is not unimportant as there is quite a bit less of me than when I started since I lost about 12 kg of body weight.
Some of you asked for an account of the summit climb.
Basically, after the talk of the leader of the rope-fixing team with Namgya and Nurbu, we were pretty sure they would finish the final stretch on May 19th. Namgya had told Dawa and Pasang to go up with me on the 17th for a summit attempt at the 20th. However, talking around, I realised that about 120 climbers/sherpas woul go to North Col on the 17th, and only about 30 climbers/sherpas on the 18th. I did not understand why Dawa and Pasang were not too enthusiastic for the 18th until I realised they had been given ‘marching orders’ by Namgya. So, I called Namgya on the satphone and he fully agreed: “you’re on the mountain, it’s your choice”. In the end, this appeared to be a very good choice as not only was the weather better on the 21st but there were indeed far less people on the mountain as well.
We left the 18th for the North Col (7.1 km), which was a fairly straightforward climb as there was much more snow than before. I slept with Dawa in the tent we had previously set up, which was quite a challenge as the tent was stocked with supplies and other tents etc. Next morning (19 may) we climbed over the long snow slopes to Camp 2 (7.8 km). We progressed steadily, but unfortunately it started snowing and there was a very hard wind which made it very difficult to reach the tent as Camp 2 is scattered over quite a big area since there are very few flat places where you can put up a tent. Nevertheless, we arrived and after have cooked dinner went immediately to sleep to have a good rest for the climb to High Camp next day. I was slightly scared that the bad weather would persists, but fortunately the forecast held and the winds became much less and it stopped snowing.
Next morning we climbed, in good weather, and in very variable terrain, with rocks and ice, to High Camp (8.3 km), where we arrived around noon. High Camp is again scattered over a rather vast area because there are few places suitable for setting up a tent. It’s a ghastly place, full of remains ot tents blown apart by the strong winds, the frozen bodies of climbers who did not make it, empty gas cylinders etc., and human waste… We tried to sleep and eat until we left at 21:30 h for the summit. Pasang took the lead and we passed half a dozen teams that had left before us and then there seemed to be nobody in front of us…
Only when we stopped at ‘Champion Point’ I realised that we had already climbed the 1st Step, at 8550 m. The 2nd Step, at 8625 m, cannot be missed with its ladders, but was not too difficult either. The 3rd Step, at 8700 m, however, was quite a challenge. I actually broke out a big boulder of it as I rather use the rock itself than the rope to pull myself up and quite a big block become loose when I tried to pull myself up on it and Andrea later kicked it out when she stepped on it. In fact, the famous steps are probably not the most challenging part of the climb, I think it’s rather the many traverses on very small ledges, which most of the time are not flat but are under an angle of up to 45 degrees or more, over very deep voids of several hundred meters. They evoked deep respect for the Chinese rope-fixers: these guys are real heroes and superb climbers to fix the ropes in such places. Moreover, I developed strong doubts whether Mallory and Irvine have been able to climb this in 1924. With the gear and equipment they had available at the time it seems very unlikely they would have been able to climb these traverses unless there was an enormous amount of snow.
However, after the 3rd Step, it was rather easy to climb to the summit, where we arrived at 3:45 h (Nepali time). We set an excellent time (6 h and 15 min from Camp 3 to Summit) but arrived in the dark, well before sunrise.
There were a couple of climbers from the South, but they did not stay long. It was rather windy and cold. Taking photo’s proved difficult (the lens froze and batteries don’t like the cold) and we moved down after about 20 minutes. At 4:15 h we were sufficiently far down to let Namgya know by radio we had made it. We then quickly moved down to High Camp, and subsequently all the way to ABC. Funny enough, we passed many teams that had summitted the day before on our way down. In addition, we had two rescue operations. The first was just above North Col. When we went down from Camp 2 to North Col, the weather deteriorated fast and when we were about at 7.5 km, there was a complete white out. Just before the point where the slope goes up again before Camp 1, an American fell and strained/twisted/broke his ankle so that he was unable to walk. There was chaos with half a dozen people trying to do something when we arrived. Dawa immediately took over the situation and got the guy to the camp at North Col. About two hours later, when we were descending the face of the North Col, one of the Indians fell in a crevasse. Although attached to the rope, he could not rescue himself since he had given all (!) his gear to his sherpa. Nurbu got him out with a Flaschenzug. All together this took quite some time, nevertheless we all arrived safely in ABC around 20:15 h.
The next day, Andrea, Nurbu and myself descended to EBC. Dawa and Pasang went back to collect material at North Col and followed a day later.
Back in EBC, we heard good and bad news. The good news being that Jaco Ottink (a colleague of my brother) had summited from the South side on May 13th (making him the 9th Dutch Seven Summitteer). The sad news that Eric Arnold, after summitting from the South side, had passed away in his sleep on the South Col. Eric and I started our Everest attempts both in 2012 from the South and we actually met in the Cwm in 2012 on our way to ABC there. It’s really sad he cannot enjoy his final success to climb the top of the world.
News has just reached the home front that Peter has made it to the summit this morning!
This is confirmed by Namgya Sherpa on his Facebook:
Hurry! Congratulations!Congratulations!! Congratulations!!! Fantastic news Grand Himalaya Treks Mt.Everest expedition team member Peter Boogaard from Netherlands reached the top of the world at 04: 15 Nepal time along with Pasang Sherpa & Dawa Finjhok Sherpa. Fantastic job everyone to making it under 7 hours from Camp 3. My cousin brother Nurbu Sherpa & his wife from Swiss were on the summit too. I wish all team members for safe descent.
I will keep posting up dates.
Post from Tibet/ China Everest Base Camp
They currently on their way down. Updates will follow later today/ tonight!
The Chinese seem to move. Yesterday, the leader of the rope fixing team, with some other apparently important people, visited our tent. Namgya and Nurbu discussed the weather forecasts with them and a low wind window is expected as of the 18th. The Chinese have gone to ABC yesterday.
Our current plan is as follows: today we climb to ABC, tomorrow (17/5) we make final preparations. The 18th we climb to North Col (7.1 km) and sleep there, next day we climb to Camp 2 (7.8 km) and sleep there. The 20th we climb to High Camp (8.3 km) take a rest and if the weather is OK will start a summit attempt late in the evening. If that all works out we would reach the top at sunrise the 21st. The Indian weather forecast have reported the first pre-monsoon cyclones in the indian Ocean. The monsoon is expected to start 21 May. It takes about 3 days before it hits Everest and once that happens, the season is over.
Dawa, Pasang and I are fully prepared: well acclimatised, Camps 1, 2 and 3 are set up, equipped and stocked. The skies are bright, no clouds, no wind but…. no fixed ropes beyond 8300 m. For whatever obscure reasons the CMA (Chinese Mountaineering Association), which is responsible for fixing the ropes doesn’t proceed. On the Nepalese side everything is ready and the first summit attempts are underway. There are all kind of rumours why the Chinese delay but basically nobody knows.
My best source of info is Kari, leader of the Swiss team. He’s climbing for the 16th season from Tibet (and has romantic liaison with the president of the CMA: she stayed 3 months in his chalet and apparently wants to marry him). Yesterday I climbed up to his tent to chat but he was not sure what is going on. However he thought that CMA might go up the 17th and the ropes might be fixed the 19th. In any case, it would take approximately another week so I decided to go down to EBC.
Again climbing down the 18 km of the Rongbuk glacier. It remains a spectacular glacier with seracs bigger than appartment buildings and ‘ice sharks’ of more than 25 m tall. However, I had hoped I would have to climb them down only once. It is obvious I’ll have to climb the Rongbuk up and down at least once more. Nevertheless, there is some positive news as well. A young couple, Andrea from Switzerland and Nurbu from Nepal, have joined. Nurbu is the former sirdar from Kari but has set up his own company two years ago. They have just climbed Cho Oyu and now proceed to Everest and get their services from Namgya. It implies that I have very nice company now again.
Namgya suggested that I would go for a day-hike with Kande. Kande is the last Tibetan boy left in our team He’s ~20 and from a local yak-herding tribe. He looks very traditional with long black braided hair and turquoise stones in his ears. He only speaks Tibetan so communication is a challenge. After breakfast we crossed EBC to the far west side, walked up the glacier and then passed through a small gorge full of prayer flags into a steep valley.
Unfortunately it snowed gently but nevertheless it looked very nice.
We had to cross the icy glacier river at least twenty times hopping over snowy, frozen rocks in the fast running water (needless to say that Kande thought my initial hesitation to cross the river highly amusing). We hiked up the valley until a point where it split. In the mean time the snowing had become quite heavy with strong gusts of wind, which made us decide to turn around.
On the way down, Kande pointed at a fat bird, looking a bit like a dove, that you see rather frequently between 5300 and 6300 m. As an illustration of our communication: Kande points at the bird; I point first at the bird then at my mouth, asking “eat ??”; Kande, grin from ear to ear, points at the bird: “eat!! good!!”. Going down the weather cleared up with nice sun shine. However this didn’t last long and we are in heavy snow fall now.
Hopefully this is the front announcing some nice weather ahead since the current plan is that Kande and I climb to IC tomorrow, sleep there, and climb to ABC the day after. In ABC I hope to climb with either Dawa or Pasang to North Col the next day, sleep there and progress to Camp 2 (7700 m) for final preparation. We then return to ABC and – if the Chinese have fixed the final ropes- and the winds are low, we hope to push for the summit around May 15th.
The situation has dramatically changed since May 1st. As planned, Ulrich would go home and descended via IC to EBC accompanied by Sembe and Ladja. Soon after they had left, Dawa reported that Dorjee felt ill. It was decided that they would descend as well. In retrospect a good decision as he was diagnosed with an acute appendicitis and is currently recovering from an appendectomy in hospital. This left Pasang, Kande, Ciprian and me in ABC with a weather forecast of snow showers.
Next morning what I had seen coming for some time happened: Ciprian quit. I think he lacked intrinsic motivation from the start and could not cope anymore. He descended with Kande who carried his luggage. That left me with Pasang in ABC with poor weather. I talked to Namgya and I decided to come down to EBC as well not only for WiFi and warm water to wash but also to recuperate. Although I had slept at North Col (7090 m) and this is well below the ‘death zone’ which starts at ~ 7500 m (i.e. the altitude at which due to the lack of oxygen human life cannot be sustained for more than 4-5 days and where you lose 1.5 – 2 kg body weight per day) I had started losing weight at an alarming rate. Since I could descend the 18 km and net 1200 m altitude of the Rongbuk glacier in a day, I could just meet Ulrich before he left. Amrit, the cook of Arun Trek (owned by Namgya’s uncle), cooked us a festive dinner. I know Amrit from previous expeditions and upon arrival he literally poked my ribs, shook his head and now cooks me three times a day a meal large enough to feed an orphanage (and Namgya and Amrit will sit in front of me making sure I eat it).
The day after Ulrich and Ciprian had left, Namgya dismissed Sembe and Ladja, not knowing Kande would fall ill the day after. Since Dawa has gone up to ABC to join Pasang, I am now alone with Namgya in EBC. Before he went up, I’ve had some discussions with Dawa. Normally, a rather strict separation between Sherpa’s and clients (e.g. with respect to eating, sleeping) is maintained. I asked him whether it would not be wiser if we would sleep in a single tent in Camps 1, 2 and 3. Not only would it be much warmer with 3 in a tent (although pretty cramped) but it would also save a lot of effort as bringing an additional tent to camp 2 (~7700 m) and camp 3 (~8250 m) is not a small enterprise. Dawa fully agreed and smilingly suggested I should then eat Dal Bhat (the traditional rice with lentils Sherpa’s eat) as well. The Chinese have fixed ropes until camp 3. As soon as they start fixing ropes beyond camp 3, I hope to be back in ABC for the final preparations before the summit push.
As planned Pasang and I went up north col yesterday. Dawa and Ulrich would follow later as even with oxygen Ulrich was expected to be slower. We made steady progress despite traffic jams at the steep parts. Two slow Flemish ladies above us were moaning totally unaware that I could understand them, until one of them dropped her axe straight to my face.
Pasang caught it with an amazing reflex. The ladies graciously offered to let us go first and in 5 h we were at 7060 m. Ulrich had given up so we needed only one tent. Good news as I felt pretty exhausted.
We went to sleep at 18:00 and got up at 6:00 totally frozen. We solidified the tent and went down at 8:25 . Unfortunately, when changing my self-belay at some icy ledge, the solid looking blue ice I had put my left crampon on broke away. I turned around my axis and slammed my face to the ice, apart from some cuts and bruises I’ve got two left eye brows. We reached ABC in two hours. Tomorrow Ulrich goes home and I take a resting day. By the way: thanks for all the messages on Thuraya (the satphone), you have no idea how important these are to me.