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with the Chinese Mountaineering Association it became definitive: all permits for all mountains in Tibet for 2015 have been revoked.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

Gyantse and Xigaze

20150413_111406Yesterday we left Lhasa for Gyantse. Only 265 km but still taking us more than 7 h due to the many high passes we had to cross (between 4700 and 5100 m), the partially bad roads and the numerous police controls. The road is a tourist attraction due to its stunning sights.20150413_150829

At Kambala pass I gave in and hugged a Tibetan Mastiff dog whilst holding a goat kid.

In Gyantse we got into a dubious hotel and visited another Monastery (Pekor Chode, built in 1418) with a famous stupa. Since the stupa was over 4000 m we considered that climbing it would help acclimatise. This morning we moved further through the Tibetan heights 20150414_100135 to Xigaze, second largest city of Tibet. In Xigaze we needed to fetch our climbing permits at the regional police office. We had to wait for almost three hours since some form was missing (note: we got at least a dozen offial forms already, so the odds that something is filled out incorrectly gets higher by the day…) but finally I got a permit which allows one accompanying person i.e. Ciprian).20150414_122951

After late lunch in a nice local restaurant where I called Namgya by local (!) call. 20150414_142604He told me that he expected to reach base camp tomorrow. The rest of the afternoon Ciprian and I spent walking up the hills on the prayer-drum lined path from the monastery to the castle. We are staying in probably the best hotel so far that features a huge concrete model of Everest.20150414_142527

 

Lhasa

We spent two days in Lhasa mainly sightseeing. Yesterday we visited the Potala palace, the residence of the Dalai Lama, which oldest parts date back to the 7th 20150411_092759century. The enormous palace has about 2000 rooms, many chapels, zillions of Buddha statues and the tombs of most Dalai Lamas since the fifth (who is enshrined in 3772 kg of gold). Later in the afternoon we’ve strolled throug downtown Lhasa and during dinner we were surprised and entertained with the rehearsals of an authentic Tibetan musical ensemble.

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Today we visited the largest monastery of Tibet that once hosted 10000 monks (now only 300). Ciprian and myself, having seen enough Buddhas for our lifetime upset our Tibetan guide by climbing up to the highest painting on the cliffs (~4000 m high) and getting down at the other side of the valley which took us about one and a half hour. In the afternoon we spent time in the national museum and 3 (!) hours buying Chinese SIM cards but hopefully I’ll now be able to update this site the coming period when we will travel to base camp.

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