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Everest North Special Wrap-up: The climbing has begun!
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Sep 12, 2004 12: 18 EST

Here's another weeks wrap-up from the lonely Mount Everest expedition. Harry Kikstra reports on a 2 man Russian/Ukrainian who will climb the same route, the Chinese clean-up outfit that has arrived - and Mark - who is going home:

Sunday 5th september ABC-fixed ropes 6400-6640m

Werner, Marc, Ruby & Sander are going down today and will try to reach BC in one go. Mark & I are going to do a carry to the start of the fixed ropes and stay one more night in ABC. While the rest takes off, we sort out some gear to take up: a few days of food, a spare sleeping bag, thermos, a set of pots, a stove and a few cans of EPI-gas to cook on.

All in all our bags are quite heavy and we take it slow. The route continues up the moraine between Changtse mountain and the Rongbuk glacier for quite a while longer than expected.

It's hard to imagine many hundreds of climbers have slept here only a few months ago!

There is no clear trail, the glacier movements since last spring have wiped out all camping spots as well as the trail. It's hard to imagine many hundreds of climbers have slept here only a few months ago! Only the huge piles of trash are a sad reminder of busier days...

We pass more Puja places and endless strings of prayer flags and find our way across scree fields, moraine ridges and boulders. The track ends abrubtly at a rock face about 200m vertically above ABC. Here we climb the last 20 meters of available scree up too the glacier on the left. Stepping up the glacier we have to be careful as the first part is nothing more than a suspended sheet of icy snow with 2 feet of air separating it from the scree and rock below. Not lethal, but enough to hurt your knee and shins badly..

We are the only ones on the glacier

After 200m the snow gets harder and we get on the real glacier. It's a great sight: in front of us the steep wall towards North Col, Everest's NE face to the left and Changtse to the right. We are the only ones on the glacier, quite a difference with the traffic jams in spring.

The glacier is quite flat, we do not ascend more than 60m and cross only a few deeper but narrow crevasses before reaching the start of the fixed ropesat 6640m, a new altitude record for Mark! We are both tired and decide to deposit our extra gear and food here so we can pick it up when we go to the Col.

It's less than 1.5 hours back to ABC but we both feel exhausted from both the altitude and the hike. It will be hard work getting te stuff to North Col...

Song of the day: 'Just the 2 of Us', Dr Evil and MiniMe ;-)

Monday 6th september, ABC-BC, 6400-5200m

Today Mark & I are descending to BC as well. It takes about 3.5 hours to get back to Interim Camp (IC), where we spend almost an hour resting. The air is already thicker here and the next section from IC (5800m) to BC at 5200m takes only about 3 hours more. But just before camp we have tto crosss the river which has swollen in the afternoon rains. 5 minutes before camp, it takes us 45 minutes to cross it without getting everything wet..

Boris is back

It's the first time we see Boris again; he looks a lot fitter fortunately and is looking forward to going up. He has hiked up the scree hills next to BC to about 5900m until the bad weather forced him down. He slept in IC, meaning to continue to ABC, when the 4 from ABC came down, so he joined them down.

They had trouble finding the way across the glacial river and had to find their last part back to BC in the dark. Werner stayed in IC and also missed the way across the next day; he waded across, but thanks to the advice of a crow he met (!?!) all went well...

Tuesday 7th September, rest day in BC, 5200m

Today we evaluated the first weeks and had some firm discussions to clear the air where needed. Also the bad equipment (solar panels, batteries) was discussed and we called Tendy from Iceland trekking to arrange things in a hurry, as eating by candle light might sound romantic, it gets old soon with 7 people and 1 candle...

We also met our 2 new neighbours, we are no longer alone on the mountain! A 2 man Russian/Ukrainian team has set up camp next to us, they will climb the same route.

Wednesday 8th September, rest day in BC 5200m

Nothing much happening today, we visited the tents on the other side of the hill (the 'trekker' side) where there are a couple of large white tents run by Tibethan women, who sell drinks and fossils...There is also a 'postoffice' but it is never open and the prices and possibilities change every day. If you receive a card from us, count yourself lucky!

Finally there is the infamous Hotel California where you can also spend the night and have more drinks, but it did not appeal much to us and was smaller and dirtier than expected. Back to the candlelight dinner and preparations for the way back up!

As there is only one tent with 3 matresses in IC we will go up in shifts: first tomorrow Marc will go up with Boris and sleep in IC, continuing to ABC the next day. Werner, Ruby and Sander will follow the same schedule, one day later, Mark & I will leave the same day as them, but will try to get to ABC in one day.

Thursday 9th september, rest day in BC 5200m

Boris & Marc leave early on their way to IC, the rest relaxes some more, reading, writing and having some cola in the 'Sherpa Hotel' as the white tent is named.

A large group of Chinese arrive in BC, they will go up the next few days to clean the route up till ABC, which is needed indeed. It is amazing how much trash last spring's expeditions have left behind..

Marc is having a hard time getting to ABC, he finds it harder than the first time up, but Boris is feeling quite allright. The rest is going to bed early, as tomorrow will be a hard day.

Friday 10th september, BC -ABC, 5200- 6400m

Long day! I wake Mark at 5.15 and we have some breakfast at 5.30 and leave camp at 6 sharp, a long day ahead. According to our GPS's it's 16km as the crow flies, which will mean 22-25km in real life... Add 1200m of total ascent and leaving at 6 is quite a necessity!

The rest will leave a few hours later as they only go to IC.

We go quite fast the first 3 hours, but suddenly Mark seems to lose his strength. After our break at 9, I walk the remaining distance to IC in one hour. But it takes Mark almost 2 hours to get to IC and he is totally exhausted. He smokes a lot and therefore he has trouble getting enough oxygen in but he is also incredibly strong and normally one of the fastest of the group, so something else must be going on. He has been quiet the last few days and has written enormous amounts in his diaries.

'I can't do this Harry.'

He is clearly not doing well and we rest for another hour. He says he wants to go on and we continue our way, first 50meters down, cross a small glacial river and then up a moraine on the other side. Mark is already totally worn out even after our rest and has to lean on his sticks or sit down every 50 meters or so.

I lead in a slow pace and slowly we continue our way along the moraine towards Changtse mountain.
After another hour Mark wants to stop.
'I can't do this Harry.'
'We can walk slowly, Mark, no problem, it doesn't matter if we arrive late or in the dark, we know the way.'
'No, I am to tired, I am going back to IC and will see tomorrow'.
As Mark does not carry a sleeping bag this time, I give him my down jacket, so he can use it together with his own for a makeshift sleepingbag. There will be 3 others in the 4 person tent and the matresses are big, so he will be allright tonight.

We say goodbye and continue our ways through the heavy snow. Within a few minutes he is out of sight and I turn towards Changtse mountain.

Mixed emotions

On mountains like Everest emotions that might have been simmering for years out of reach might surface without warning. I always tell everybody who asks about the how of summiting that the mental part is the major one. In that regard Everest is brutal.

I take out my Ipod and search for the melancholy section. Volume at 9 and run towards ABC. On the way I encounter the cleaning expedition, about a dozen yaks, fully loaded with trash from ABC. Great work, thanks guys.

The music speeds me up, only in between songs I can hear my own heart pounding and my heavy breathing and within 2.5 hours I am in ABC, where Marc S and Boris have arrived an hour before.

Werner calls from IC as scheduled, they have arrived and Mark has returned there safely as well.

Later the Sherpas and cook arrive in ABC as well, as well as 3 yaks with goodies: Tendy has arranged a new big solar panel & a gas heater (the Kerosene heater was terrible, to much fumes, no heat)! Great and quick work from Iceland Trekking, now we will be able to cherge our electronics without generator and have light all night, all solar powered.

Our ABC cook makes a nice big bowl of fries and we all go to sleep, each with mixed emotions..

Songs of today:
- Jewel: Foolish games
- Abel: Onderweg (yep, the melancholy section)

Saturday 11-9 ABC, 6400

I wake up with a slight headache and my pulse-ox is quite low, so no trip to North Col today as planned yesterday. Boris and Marc are also still tired from yesterday's trip and so we spend the day reading, writing this tripreport and listening to all kinds of music.

The new solar panel works great,no more polution from the generator, the cells and the inverter work great eventhoug it is snowing most of the day. Hopefully we can check our weather reports tonight again to see if this weather is going to improve as promised.

At the scheduled 1300 call Werner has bad news: 'Mark T has gone down. His expedition is over... He might go home or wait in BC for us, but he is tired and does not want to climb anymore.' Werner, Ruby and Sander arrive at 15.00, after 7 hours of hard work through more snow and are quite tired. They confirm that Mark is too tired too go on and that he is down in BC by now. I will let Mark tell his own story later.

Tomorrow Sander and I will try to go to North Col to deposit our sleeping gear and food,if we feel ok, we will try to sleep there. Boris and Marc plan to carry some stuff to the fixed ropes,if they feel well, they might go up a bit as well; Werner will rest one day and will try to sleep at NC and camp 2 the following days.

The hiking of Everest is over now, the climbing has begun!

Song of the day:
- Billy Holiday: Stormy Weather

A Dutch expedition attempts Everest from the north side this Fall. Everest north autumn expeditions are rare. The team, with logistics provided by Universal Summit, will be on mountain to October 15th.

Universal Summit’s ‘Dutch Chomolungma Expedition 2004’ is a non-profit expedition of low cost. After going for Chogolisa (7665m) in Pakistan this July, 7Summits.com's Harry Kikstra joined the team.
Expedition members: Werner de Jong (leader), Mark Thijssen, Marc Streefkerk, Boris Krielen, Harry Kikstra, Sander Arens, and Ruby Arens-Halfschepel (Base Camp Manager.)

Image Postcard from the team, courtesy the expedition.

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