Everest Summit 22/05/16: Part 1
Our group was split into 3 parties for the summit push from Camp 3 (8300m) on 21st May at 8pm, 9pm & 10pm. I was in the first group as slower not being on bottled oxygen. No doubt the other parties would catch us up nearer the summit.
Up to Camp 2 (7650m) I had felt strong not using oxygen and watched the rest of the team using the O's from Camp 1 (7050m) - but the push to Camp 3 without oxygen totally wiped me out! I had very little energy left slumped in our tent at 8300m after taking almost 8 hours to climb 650m.
Amazingly I had a great phone connection with home from Camp 3 and ended up breaking down when speaking to my wife and sons...how could I continue without oxygen?, never had I been so exhausted! Maria told me to start using oxygen (the summit was the goal) I told her I loved them all and would make a decision after some food and rest.
With less than 4 hours rest at Camp 3 - myself, Al Ball & Phurba Sherpa set off. I took the decision to go without oxygen as felt better but carried two full bottles weighing 8kg. After 15 minutes of ascending the first snow slope I asked Al if he could slow down as he set the pace. Another 10 minutes and I was still struggling - lungs, heart, muscles, everything was red lining. One step, 10 breathes, another step, 20 breathes, this was ridiculous but I stubbornly continued. My mind was numb as I slogged forwards in the night, this was not enjoyable, what was I doing?
After 2 hours we reached our first obstacle, a 15m vertical rock wall which required climbing a fixed rope, standard stuff but as I arrived still gasping I realised I couldn't feel my feet. It was like having lead weights attached to my ankles, I could see my crampons on the rock but couldn't feel them connect. I knew then that I was in trouble! My first thought was to descend to Camp 3 but then I remembered the oxygen in my rucksack- there was no debating, I called to Phurba and he helped me with my mask then turned the bottle to full flow (4lts/min). That was my lowest point ever 😢 sat below that rock wall sobbing into my mask, worried about frost bite but more that I had failed in my challenge. I was angry with myself that I did heeded the signs earlier in the day
Another 60 minutes and I was on the NE ridge under a beautiful full moon. I looked below and could see Al's and Phurba's head torch slowly lurching up in the darkness. I was faster now under the 2lt flow of oxygen and continued alone, forging the trail to be the first on the summit. Now I was enjoying myself and nothing was going to stop me now👍
Everest Summit 22/05/16: Part 2
Breathing through my mask was pleasant, I was moving well, at one with my climbing and now at 8500m. Why had I not used oxygen before? I climbed Cho Oyu (8201m) without it in 2013 and tonight I had managed over 200m higher without - at least I had to be happy with that?
It was now midnight and my only thought was to climb on. Shortly I met the 1st step - another 15m vertical rock wall. I started to climb... I pushed my jumar up the rope and put my weight on it to begin the climb- suddenly it slipped and I fell back, shit! As the jumar's teeth bit I hung there on the rope with crampons scrambling to land a flat rock ledge below. I noticed the rope was frozen so it collects ice within the teeth of the jumar preventing correct operation. I cleaned the device and the rope ahead before ascending. 'Looks like I'll be cleaning the ropes for everyone on the mountain tonight'
I got to the top of the 1st step without a hitch and turned right to a narrow ledge. I sat down, took on some water from my bottle and ate a very frozen Chia Charge bar stowed in my down suit. I looked back out across the NE ridge to see about 10 head torches making their way towards me - still a way off. I'd gone too fast and at this rate would be on the summit in the darkness which was pointless.
I took out my phone and 'wow' full coverage. I took a picture of the altitude on my watch (8555m) and posted an update on Face Book- highest post ever? Maybe?
I felt good so turned around and continued. Another snow slope rose in front and now with head torch on full beam I could see it led to a long right hand rocky traverse. I knew the notorious 2nd step wasn't far ahead. This is the 'crux' of the the summit push and hangs over Everest's 10,000ft north face. I thought of Maria and my boys back home and fear held me fast, I was thinking clearly under the flow of the oxygen - I was only 300m from the summit but the 2nd step was something I was not prepared to solo. I sat where I was and decided to wait for the next climbers, I had plenty of time and was in a good place sheltered from the wind that was starting to pick up.
Munching on Kendal mint cake I waited 40 minutes. Unbelievably it was climbers from my own group (Adventure Peaks) who arrived first, Andrew Whyte, Chris Harling & Phurba Sherpa (the elder). These guys set off at 10pm (2 hours after me) so were really setting good time 'this is the team to stick with' I said
After the guys had a short break we pressed on, myself leading the way. We soon reached the 2nd step but not after seeing an unknown dead climber lying on his front in a contorted position over a large rock at the edge the traverse. How many years had he been there? Who was he? I could not take my torch beam off of him until Andrew almost bumped into the back of me as he ended the traverse
We continued; I made my way over a series of ladders strung up with various ropes which made up the 2nd step, very hairy moments clambering over the large rock buttress. Although it was dark I could feel how exposed it was over Everest's north face. The oxygen mask certainly does not help your vision when climbing such things. After myself, Andrew made his way to the top, closely followed by Chris then Phurba. At the top of the step with swapped oxygen bottles and went on to 3lts/ min. This would last us to the summit and back to the same point
While changing over bottles we were amazed when a group of American climbers (Alpine Glo, we think) blasted past us! We couldn't believe how fast they were moving, no pause after the step? Wow, they must of been on 6lts/ min flow and quite possibly EPO😂
We pressed on, soon reaching the 3rd step - another vertical rock wall of around 20m, straightforward after the 2nd step. I'd pulled ahead again almost catching up with the Americans.
Another 2 hours of climbing over rock and ice and I was on the top of the world just as the sun was rising, 4:50am Nepal Time. The Americans were descending the summit ridge as I arrived - they had had there 10 minutes of glory. Now it was my turn and I stood there alone, the highest person in the world for a full 10 minutes!😜 I took out my phone once again and called home... a clear connection made and I spoke to my wife Maria and Mum who was visiting for my son Reuben's 7th birthday (today!). They could hear my excitement of being on top of the world and I got choked up all over again. My hands got really cold once the call was over and struggled to get my big mitts back on
Soon a sole climber approached from the south side to great me. Another 10 minutes and Andrew Whyte, Chris Harling and Phurba joined me on the top.
It was at least -35degrees on the summit and most of our camera's failed to operate. We got what we could but knew we had to start our descent. I'd taken my hands out of my gloves a few too many times and they felt wooden on the descent
10 minutes of descending and we met with Andy Taylor and Lhakpa Sherpa, I was elated, they were only 20 minutes from the summit. That's 4 summits out of the 6 AP team members. Unfortunately Al Ball and Andrew Smith had turned back below the 1st step. We wished Andy and Lhakpa good luck! 'See you back at Camp 3'
Part 3 to follow...the descent
Everest Summit 22/05/16: Part 3
As we rounded the top of the 3rd step I counted 4 more dead bodies at various locations. We'd not seen these on the way up in the dark but now they were only meters from our route. A sign to us all that we were still not out of danger, a slip, trip or minor fall by any of us could be fatal- there is no rescue team on Everest.
Below the 3rd step we collected oxygen bottles left on the way up. I pushed on alone, abseiling down the 2nd step taking a pretty cool GoPro video which will be posted later. Once past the step the rest was straight forward.
I arrived at Camp 3 at 08:15, tired, dehydrated but relieved. Al & Andrew Smith had made it safely back to Camp 3 at 2am and we're now ready to descend...they would eventually make it all the way to ABC the same day! an amazing effort 😵
I wanted to crawl in the tent and sleep but Phurba (younger) said no I must descent to Camp 1! After 30 minutes rest I continued to descent with a heavy rucksack of oxygen bottles, uneaten food, sleeping bag, ect
It was very hot but I eventually arrived at Camp 2 midday. So exhausted, still dehydrated, I could not go any further. I fell asleep inside a very hot tent. I was awaken by Chris, Andrew Whyte & Andy Taylor a few hours later just arriving from Camp 3 and looking like I felt. The wanted to keep descending but heavy snow started to fall so decided to stay with me at Camp 2 for the night.
Not the greatest sleep at Camp 2 but in the morning I was rested enough to continue my descent. I was first to leave Camp, making Camp 1 in 45 minutes. After a short stop to clear belongings from the North Col I descended to ABC. The rest of the guys rocked up about an hour later. All of us were dehydrated having crossed the glacier in serious heat and took the rest of the day of drinking fluids to feel right again. But we had done it, descended safely from the summit of Mount Everest 😃👍
The next day our team trekked the 13 miles out from ABC to BC and here we are still...hopefully equipment will arrived via yak today and we will be traveling back to Lhasa tomorrow to pick up connecting flights to the UK
After 8 weeks we're all very tired and have lost weight, and just want to go home.
The Everest climbing season is now over, the monsoon winds are here. The Sherpa teams was lucky enough to go back up the mountain and clear the camps...those guys are amazing and nobody could climb the mountain without them.
Sadly 7 climbers lost their lives on Everest this year, showing still how dangerous this game we play of higher altitude mountaineering is.
For me, Summiting Everest still has not sunk in and don't think it will until I get home. On reflection I know I made the right choice to take oxygen when I did - unfortunately I have some nerve damage to toes and fingers , but they should heal within the month...It could have been a lot worse!
In April 2016, I set out to climb to the summit of Mt. Everest (8848 meters) without the use of supplementary Oxygen to raise money for local disadvantaged and disabled children in Cumbria and SW Scotland.
1% of climbers attempt Everest without Oxygen and even less are successful - along with my vegan diet this makes my challenge one of a kind.
I'm no stranger to High Attitude climbing, having summited many peaks throughout the world. Most recent was in 2013 where I successfully summited Cho Oyu (8201m) without Oxygen. I guess that is where my O2 free Everest idea was first borne and when I returned home from Cho Oyu took up Fell and Ultra distance running to build up strength and endurance.
I will be climbing via the North Col in Tibet and will take somewhere between 8 - 10 weeks. I leave UK April 2016 and plan to return June - summit window will take place around Mid-May.
As I mentioned, I am supporting local charity, CFM Radio's Cash for Kids who help sick, disabled and underprivileged children right across Cumbria and SW Scotland. My target reflects the height of Mt. Everest in meters and is only fitting for this challenge!
Follow my facebook page for upgrades leading up to and the expedition itself;
or on twitter @mickoneverest2016
Thanks for your support,
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