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Sunday morning around 9:30 h, I was fetched by Pemba Nuru in the hotel to go to Namgya’s place to see Wongmu with both their daughters, Tashi and Yangkeela. We chatted a bit and Wongmu showed me pictures of her home-town Lukla where the earthquake had far greater impact than in Kathmandu. In Kathmandu you could see an occasional house  being destroyed by the quake, but the overall picture was of a normally functioning city. However, many people sleep in tents (put up in gardens and the city parks) as they are afraid of new quakes and after-shocks.

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It seems that the villages surrounding Kathmandu and higher up the mountains  have been more severely hit by the disaster than Kathmandu itself, and – since most roads have been blocked by land-slides, broken bridges etc. – these villages are hard to reach to bring support.

We had lunch, cooked by Pemba who also takes care of his 9-month old niece, and after lP1080467unch I went back to the hotel to pack my stuff and leave for the airport. After a pretty un-eventful flight with Air India to Delhi and onwards with the KLM to Amsterdam, I arrived yesterday safely back home.

This morning I spoke with Namgya. EBC has completely be dismantled and all sherpa’s are now in Tingri. They expect to be transported by the CMA to Lhasa in the next few days and to fly from Lhasa back to Kathmandu this Sunday.

 

 

Evacuation…

In my previous post I have been too optimistic. The evacuation from EBC was apparently more complex than foreseen. We had to be ready at 6 AM last Thursday, but the Chinese army showed up only at 8:30… We moved about a kilometer and then had to wait for the liaison officer, Mr Lee. After three quarters of an hour it seemed all paperwork had been done and we left EBC direction Tingri, where we arrived well after  noon. ‘We’ is about three dozen climbers of various organisations that were in EBC. In Tingri the CMA (Chinese Mountaineering Association) took over and, actually, they did a marvellous job. 20150501_152633

Since the speed limit in Tibet is 60 km/h, we did not reach Lasha the first day, but only got as far as Shigatse. We stayed in the same lodges as on the way in, and actually I was quite happy with that since they have showers there and after more than two weeks without any shower, it felt really good to be under the rather sparse water. The next morning we would leave for Lhasa at 9 AM, but before everybody was there, it was well after 10 AM. We needed to go to the police station to sort some visa issues out. Not really to my surprise (Ciprian and I had been there….) these visa issues took more than three hours, so we returned to the lodge for lunch and actually left for Lhasa only at 14 h. Around 19 h we finally arrived at Lhasa. Again we stayed in the same lodge as on the way in.

The first flight to kathmandu was May 3rd, I was told and everyone had settled for that date. Later in the evening I learned that, by mistake, there was made an internet booking for May 2nd and that they would try to change it to my name. It should be done at the airport and if it failed they would take me back to the lodge.

Bo and I, together with two of the Indians, went to see the old city of Lhasa and then went to some little bar to drink some wine. We had a very good time downtown Lhasa. This morning we got up early and went for breakfast. At 8:30 h I thought I’d better inform when we would leave for the airport. It turned out that that would have been 8 AM…. The CMA, however, is very flexible and they took me in a 4WD to the airport. We coukd indeed change the ticker to my name and within an hour I had boarded China Airlines 407 for Kathmandu; we were about a dozen passengers in an Airbus 319…. That Kathmandu  airport is still not functioning properly showed as we had to circle 45 min over Kathmandy before we could land. I tried to reach several contacts of Namgya in Kathmandu, but could not reach anyone. Hence, I just got a taxi from the airport to the Woodland Hotel. Luckily that was still fully functioning and around 14 h I was in my room, with my stored luggage etc.

I had contacted KLM and they could provide a flight from New Delhi to Amsterdam, but not for Kathmandu-New Delhi. Fortunately, the hotel staff was very helpful and, assisted by the travel agency next door to the hotel, I managed to get a ticket on Air India for tomorrow. So the current plan  is that I’ll fly tomorrow afternoon to Delhi and then very late night with KL 872 to Amsterdam.

In the mean time I’ve had contact with Namgya: he managed to get our mountaineering equipment from ABC to EBC. Furthermore, the CMA has organised that all sherpa’s can fly from Lhasa to Kathmandu in the next week as long as the road to Nepal is blocked (I’ve been told there are 17 land slides on the road, in addition to some destroyed bridges).

While typing this post, I was called by Wongmu, Namgya’s wife, who invited me to have dalmat at her home tomorrow before I leave for the airport. It seems that despite all trouble over the past few days, everything turns out quite well, and I expect to be back in Amsterdam May 4th.

It’s over (…. almost)

This afternoon in the umptieth meeting with the Chinese Mountaineering Association it became definitive: all permits for all mountains in Tibet for 2015 have been revoked. The permits will be valid though for the next three years.

So no more climbing this season. The omnipresent Chinese Army wants all climbers out asap and some pressure is exerted on us to leave. Hence, the current plan is that I leave EBC tomorrow at 6 am when the army will move me (and half a dozen Indians) some 700 km to Lhasa.  Apparently there are still two flights per week to Kathmandu. Hopefully I’ll be able to catch a flight in a couple of days. On these flights there is a very limited luggagr capacity so my bulk-luggage (which is still in ABC) will be transported by yaks/sherpa/4w-drive as soon as the roads to Nepal are open agsin (which may be weeks). Once in Kathmandu, I hope to collect the luggage I left there and change my flights with KLM to Amsterdam.  At this point in time it is totally unclear how long this entire process will take.

Safely back in EBC

After the big eartquake last saturday at noon some after shocks occurred at 3pm. Early evening, several teams got so afraid that they decided to leave ABC. In my view a stupid idea as climbing down at night seemed more dangerous. Namgya agreed and we stayed. The next day we climbed up to the North Col to further acclimatise and watch for ourselves what it looked like. Actually, apart from some small avalanches it looked ok – although very challenging. We stayed another night and got back today to EBC. A very long (~20 km, 2000 m down and 1000 m up) trip that took me 6 hr.  The routes were pretty safe although you could see the effects of the quake. This afternoon there was a meeting with the Chinese authorities, sherpas, and expeditions. A very tumultuous meeting with conflicting views. It seems that China wants to close the mountain which would imply the season is over and everyone could go home; they would consider extending the permits to next year. However,  nobody can go home since all roads are blocked and all local airports are closed. Everybody agreed that the sherpas would have priority but that would be in vain without any means of transport. Tomorrow there will be a follow-up meeting. However, even if it’s over it might take quite some time to get materials back from ABC and then out of EBC to the civilised world.

Quick update

A quick update from the Netherlands, given the circumstances in the Himalayas.

We have had a very brief phone call with Peter on the mountain, via the Satphone. He and Namgya are still camping on the mountain and definitely felt the heavy earthquake, but they are both OK. Since it is night at the mountain they are going to bed right now. More updates will hopefully follow soon.

Acclimatisation

Tomorrow we make the move to Intermediary Camp (IC) where we plan to stay one night before we push to Advanced Base Camp (ABC) at 6450 m where we will stay for several days and from which we will try to climb to the north col (7060 m) .and build Camp 2 (C2) at 7650 m. Once succeeded we’ll come down again to EBC probably around May 5th.

Yesterday and today were used for further acclimatisation. Today my heart rate dropped below 60 bpm at a blood pO2 of 85+% which is not too bad. Yesterday,  the Indian team set out at 10:30 h to climb a nearby peak. Nima and I left at noon to climb the same peak and overtook the first Indianns half an hour later.  We reached the summit at 5740 m as firsts and I was back at EBC 14:45 h. Today we climbed a peak at the opposite side of the valley. Apart from Bo, Michael a young Chinese guide, climbed with Namgya and myself. We climbed the 600 m to the summit in less than 2 h despite the cold and extremely hard wind and rushed down in 50 min which is very acceptable at this altitude and we fedl acclimatised well enough for the move to IC and ABC.20150422_132640

Intermediate Camp (5800 m)

Yesterday we made the first climb from EBC to Intermediate Camp (IC). We, that is, apart from Ciprian and Namgya, also Bo. Bo makes use of our support system up to Advanced Base Camp (ABC). He is from Danmark and used to be in the Danish selection. He’s 58 and took early retirement 3 years ago and is now only climbing.  His current project is climbing the 14 mountains over 8000 m without oxygen.  We set out at 9 and were doing fine although Ciprian could not keep pace with Bo and myself. It was decided that Namgya would take him down whilst Bo and I continued to Intermediate Camp. We reached the camp in 4 h 15 min which is excellent as the standard time is 5-7 h and 4-5 h for well acclimatised climbers. On our way down (2 h 30 min while standard time is 4-5 h and 3-4 h for well acclimatised climbers) we overtook Ciprian and Namgya. Ciprian seemed to have cardiac problems and was very worried. After some rest and dinner, the doctor of the Indan team examined him. He agreed, with the Romanian doctor Ciprian already consulted, that he should take no risk but nevertheless with until this morning. Ciprian got up early and tried to climb some nearby hills but got serious chest congestion. He then decided to go home and left an hour ago for Tingri. So ftom now on, I’m alone and officially the smallest expedition on the mountain. Luckily,  Bo will keep me company still the next few days up till ABC.20150419_1207029

Rongbuk Glacier

After a rather cold night (-12ºC inside the tent) we got a glorious day with very bright skies. Ciprian and I went to explore the Rongbuk Glacier up to about 5400 m just before Yak Camp, which seems now more commonly referred to as Japanese Camp. We got a brilliant view on Everest and the flanking peaks. However we had to rush back for the puja ceremony. The ceremony turned into a jolly party with (too) much beer and whiskey for some of the sherpas. After lunch the day turned, due to the unusual warm weather, into a lazy Sunday afternoon.

Everest Base Camp (EBC)

This morning (Thursday) we left for EBC, at Tingri20150416_183310 the roads end and I know now the real use of a 4WD… The 75 kn to EBC took about 3 h. We had a spectacular view on Cho Oyu (8200+m) which rose majestically at the horizon. At EBC, I was warm-heartily welcomed by Landuk,  who was also the EBC chef in 2012 and he remembered my preference for coffee and fries…  Since Namgya was early we have a fantastic site. At the end of the day the skies opened up and we could see our goal at some 16 km distance….

Today (Friday) Ciprian and I climbed with Nima   the other climbing sherpa, a nearby mountain to acclimatise. We did very well as we passed all groups that had left before us and reached 5775 m as firsts. The winds are terribly strong. Last night it froze some 10 degrees inside our tent but today is much colder and this afternoon we had fresh snow.

Tingri

We are very close to Everest base camp now. Hopefully we will reach it tomorrow.  Today we went from Shigatse all the way to Tingri, only some 250 km but it took us more than 8 h. First we were stuck in a colonne of the Chinese army, some 50 trucks that drove slowly but would not let you pass. Then we got into the higher parts with high passes which don’t allow a very high speed. At the highest pass (5200 m) Ciprian and I decided to climb to the top of the mountain aligning the pass (~5380 m) to acclimatise which went quite smoothly. After that we had only to drove down. We got to a military check point which we believed to be the last before Tingri but in the next village there was another police check point. We had been speeding according to the officer since we arrived there 29 min too early. We had to wait these 29 min before we could go on.A little later we arrived in Tingri, we could see Cho Oyu on the way. We stay in the best lodge in town: the Ha Hoo hotel. The bed looks like half a dozen people have slept under the same sheets, there are no showers nor warm water. I wished I was already in base camp…20150415_17382520150415_174529