Summit!

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!

New Summit Plan

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.

Deception and frustration at ABC

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.

 

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Hidden Valley

IMG-20160508-WA0000Namgya 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.
IMG-20160508-WA0004After 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.

IMG-20160508-WA0001Hopefully 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.

 

Alone in EBC

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.

Changste La (north col, camp 1) 

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.

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The North Col as seen from ABC

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.

 

[Satphone update from last weekend: 1st of May]

ABC

It has been two days in ABC (6450 m) now. We are not completely setup due to extreme winds. Lhakpa Ri (7045 m) has no snow, only blue ice. As an alternative, Dawa and I will try to get Ulrich on the top of the North Cole (7090 m) tomorrow and sleep there a night. Ciprian doesn’t feel up to it.

[Text message update via the Satphone]

Up to Advanced Base Camp (ABC)

After a couple of days in EBC, we plan to move to ABC tomorrow (Monday 25/4). Last Thursday we performed the Puja ceremony together with the Indians (who are with Arun Trekking and we share quite a few things). The Indians started feasting the night before and went totally wild. After the ceremony (in which Kande, one of our Tibetan kitchen boys acted as lama) the obligatory pictures were taken. In our group picture from left to right: Ulrich, Namgya, Ciprian, Dawa, me, and Pasang.  Several Indians wanted to make a selfie with me, according to Ciprian I have a semi-hero status with them as thIMG-20160421-WA0000e super-fast-climbing Dutchman. At both sides of EBC there is a mountain of about 5800 m which are perfect to climb for acclimatisation. On Friday many teams climbed the one on the East side.  Ciprian had left early and Ulrich wanted to do something easier,  so I climbed alone.  Soon I lost not only my brand-new sun cap in the gusty wind but also the way…. I roughly knew where to go but ended on a rocky wall. It was only about 40 m high so I decided to climb it (not knowing that Namgya was watching from EBC and totally disapproved as too dangerous). The good news was that once I had cleared the wall, I also had passed the Russian, Swiss and Canadian team and was the first on the summit. One of the Canadians took a picture of me with Everest in the background.IMG-20160421-WA0001
Saturday both Ulrich and Ciprian felt still too exhausted to climb the other mountain on the West side. None of the other teams apparently planned something.  Dawa and Pasang, together with Sambe, one of our Tibetan kitchen boys,  had left to prepare ABC. Kande, our other kitchen boy, was busy. Namgya told me I could not go alone and that he would arrange a boy from Arun. So I climbed with Ladja, an extremely skinny Tibetan teenager who didn’t speak a word of English.  I tried to persuade him that it was not a good idea to cross the glacier river since it was some 50 cm deep at least.  So we went a bit down where the river split and Ladja simply walked on his gympies through both 30 cm deep streams. I managed to keep one foot dry in the first but that got soaked in the second. So I started climbing with boots full of icy water. Ladja rushed up the mountain at an incredible speed. We covered the first 400 m up in less than an hour (which is even in the Alps quite respectible) and I tried to convince Ladja to calm down a bit. Big smile and he rushed on. IMG-20160422-WA0006We reached the summit in less than 2 h and then rushed down, waded through the glacier river and were back in 3 h. Namgya had given me the radio so I could warn him before we would go down, so Dorjee could prepare us a late lunch. I didn’t bother to use it as we were back more than an hour before lunch… At least it gives me the confident feeling that I am pretty well acclimatised.  As said, we plan to climb to Intermediate Camp tomorrow and then on to ABC the day after  Hopefully the weather ameliorates a bit because there is a continuous strong wind with hefty gusts that has prevented Dawa and Pasang, who have reached ABC by now,  to put up any tents. Last night they have sheltered with the sherpas of another team. As of tomorrow there won’t be any easy communication anymore and I will be totally relying on the satphone.

Everest Base Camp (EBC) already

As you may remember I was not very pleased with the itinerary imposed upon us by the Chinese which included 3 nights in Lhasa and 2 nights in Tingri.  Yesterday during lunch in Xigatse I asked Jampa, the Tibetan guy that accompanied us on behalf of the Chinese Mountaineering Association,  whether we could not skip a night in Tingri. To my surprise he said that if we had our final check of the permits in Tingri we could drive straight on to EBC and skip Tingri all together – provided we would get up at 6 AM. I called Namgya whether they were ok if we arrived 2 days earlier and he was OK.
The route from Tingri to EBC was totally different from last year. It seems the Chinese have decided to Disney-fy EBC and have built a fantastic 2-lane highway to a fake EBC at 5000 m a couple of km before the real EBC where you can drink tea and buy souvenirs. Bus loads of tourists are dropped there. At the numerous checkpoints, there are lines for tourists and for other people (farmers, climbers) and giggling Japanese girls come and touch you to feel a ‘real climber’..  it’s unreal….
The good thing about the new highway is that is goes through Pang La with a magnificent view on the 8000+m giants and that it is faster. Hence we are now in EBC. On the picture you can see our camp with Namgya (orange jacket) at the right and Dawa (black) in the middle and in the clouds behind a glimpse of Everest.

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Up to Gyantse (~4180 m)

After two days in Lhasa we moved to Gyantse today. In Lhasa we did the obligatory sightseeing. Ciprian and I, together with Vincent (a French guy that forms a team with 4 Japanese), also tried to help our acclimatisation a bit by (illegally) climbing about the highest mountain near Lhasa (~3880 m). The taxi driver carefully let us out around the curve of the road so the police did not see us and we climbed 350+ m up. It took a bit longer than we expected but a young farmers couple gave us a ride back to the city on the back of their little electrical truck. This morning (17/4) we drove through the endless Tibetan highlands via the Tibetan mountain highway with passes over 5000 m. We saw the first mountains over 7000 m and arrived safely in Gyantse where Ulrich and I climbed the old, deserted fortress to its highest point (~4200m) which gave s splendid view over the valley.  Tomorrow we hope to drive on to Xigatse.

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