Monday, April 25, 2011

First Trip up the Icefall

So things are moving along. I had my first icefall experience the other day and it was scarey, fun, amazing, exhausting, beautiful and really hard work all at the same time! Dawa and i packed our bags to spend the night at camp 1 and we also planned to go to camp 2 before heading back to base camp. I only had the things i needed to stay the night and probably had around 12 kilos in my bag. Dawa however had a load with two oxygen bottles, food for camp 2 and our 2 jet boil stoves. Even with my fairly light pack moving up the icefall was hard. We left pretty late from camp as we knew we were going to stay at camp 1 we didnt want to get there too early so started walking at around 5:20am after a 4am wake up...blah! I hate early mornings even if it is to climb everest!! So cold and then when you walk if you wear too much you get hot, so you take off a layer and there is some wind and you freeze again. That is life in the mountains i guess! Anyhow i had never had any experience walking on the ladders with my crampons so i just learnt on the way. Dawa gave me a great lesson when we got to the first one which was a single ladder. There are ropes either side of the ladder and its easier if he stands at the other side and holds them tight. I clip a safety leash into one rope then hold onto both of them as i start to work across. The rung of the ladder goes inbetween the spikes on the crampon near the front. You have to be careful to get it in the right place otherwise you can over balance. So thats it apart from only looking at the ladder and not focusing on the gaping abyss under it or you freak out and get all wobbley. So the hardest part is when the abyss is very big and they have to join multiple ladders together..... Inbetween camp 1 and 2 there is a huge crevass with five ladders joined together to cross it. Luckily you can actually walk around this crevass but it takes alot longer. I decided to give it a go on the way back from camp 2 and dawa went first with my camera. As he was at the other side taking a photo, he wasnt holding the ropes tight for me. So i got out onto the first ladder and couldnt keep my balance....i screamed at dawa to stop with the photo and just grab the ropes tight for me! It took him a few seconds to put the camera away and grab them tight and meanwhile i was totally crapping myself. So i finished walking across the ladder which was very wobbley and the whole time i thought i was going to fall in. So i am never doing that again! I will just take the extra time to walk around it from now on as its way too scarey.
The five ladder crevass

So the icefall took me five and a half hours to get through to camp 1 which is ok for the first time. Dawa however on his own does it in three! He is a machine and that is carrying a load. Hopefully i will get faster as i get more acclimatised. The first half i was all excited and i thought it was really pretty walking through all the blocks of ice. I thought the ladders were fun and it was an adventure but the second half was just bloody hard work and i couldnt wait for it to be over as i was totally exhausted! You go up 800mt in altitude through all this and it is so winding god knows how far you actually walk. Lets just say it feels a really long way but from the camp it doesnt look so long.

The icefall and the Lhotse face in the background
So when we arrived at the camp it started to get really windy. We had all our mtn hardware tents at camp 2 as dawa had already carried them up so we had to use one from the company i use at basecamp. Sadly it was a nepalese made tent that was missing a pole and it was so hard to put up it took us an hour and a half to make the platform in the snow and figure out how the hell the tent worked. By that time we were both really tired. I even had to use sports tape to help hold the thing together. So obviously i was worried about spending the night in it with the strong wind outside. I got in and dawa went to get some ice to melt for hot water, drinks and dinner. The tent was flapping around so bad that we both had headaches from it. We ate dinner and tried to go to sleep. I had silicon earplugs so we both stuffed them in our ears. At 10pm i had the feeling the tent was falling apart.....because it was! The front pole had come loose, all the zips were open and the fly was just flapping about close to tearing apart. We spent some time getting all our carabiners and securing the fly to the anchors with those. Then dawa got out and went round the whole tent fixing it and piled snow on the back door to stop it from ripping open. Well after that we both just fell asleep because we woke up around 5am and neither of us could remember when the wind had stopped but most importantly it had! Thank god and the tent had survived against all odds. So we packed the things in our bags to take a load up to camp 2, had an extended breakfast again then headed off. We passed my friend Mike with IMG and he said that a bunch of their tents got destroyed in the night and they had an epic. So we were really lucky.

It took us two and a half hours to get to camp 2 from camp 1 which isnt so bad. Camp 1 is at 6100mt and camp 2 is at 6500mt...well our camp is anyway because it is one of the highest. It is not so much up as it is along. It is a really long way along the western cwm and so flat that we didnt bother wearing crampons. It seems like you just dont get closer and there are lots of sherpa carrying loads back and forth. The worst part is you can see the camp from ages away but you cant focus on it or its just depressing as it never seems to get any nearer. I just look up every half an hour so i actually have made a bit of progress! Next time i am listening to my ipod to take my mind off it. For the first hour before the sun hit i was freezing, with primaloft pants, my down jacket and heaps of layers on. I couldnt feel my feet either as they were frozen. However as the sun hit it became hotter and hotter until i just had tights and a light jacket left on and i was still sweating! From the western cwm you can see lhotse, nuptse and the lhotse face to camp 3 on everest. I was very surprised to look up at everest and see that it is mostly rocks and not much snow from this side. It actually looked like a bigger version of what aconcagua looks like from the horcones base camp. There is ice up the lhotse face however and it looks really steep! Willie said that they have to make over one hundred v thread anchors in it to put up the fixed ropes! What a job! The sherpas from the larger expeditions do this and i will be extremely grateful to just clip into these lines and jug up them!! Infact everyone will be i am sure.

We left our loads where dawa already had the tents. Then we hiked a little higher to see dawas neighbour from Thame who was working in the alpine ascents kitchen tent. He stored our sleeping bags in his tent as it would be better for them incase it snowed while we were away. We had a quick cup of tea then headed back down to camp 1. Wow so easy going down! I practically ran most of the way. I saw my friend mike again walking up with his group to stay at camp 2. When we got back after probably only half an hour, we had to pack the tent up and leave it there. Glad to never use that crap tent again! Epic fail nepalese tent....well it did actually survive the night... I met some more folk including a guy called gavin from newcastle australia who was guiding three people from the Uk and they gave us some hot juice before we headed back down the icefall again.
Dawa descending the icefall

By this time i was so tired. Dawa kept saying that i had to move faster through certain sections of the icefall but it wasnt possible for me! It was lunchtime now and really hot so dawa just wanted to get to where it is not so dangerous around half way down. I didnt see much of him at the top which meant i did some of the ladders on my own, getting a bit more professional now! One of the crevasses had got bigger since the day before and they had to add another ladder to it. I was amazed looking around to see that the icefall had actually changed in one day and alot of seracs had fallen over to the side of the track. Pretty scarey really. The sherpa dont like the icefall and whenever i ask them what they think is the the worst thing about their job they all say going through the icefall and i can certainly see why.

As we got closer to camp we could relax more and it took around three hours from camp 1 to make it back down to base. By this time i was so hungry for lunch and totally exhausted. I definately had an awesome sleep that night!

So that was the first mission for me up the mountain and it was hard work but amazing at the same time. Everything that mounatineering is i guess. One minute it is absolutely horrible and you wonder why the hell you are there, then the next it is all beautiful views and the achievement of arriving at camp. What a sport! As i have always said, the greater the challenge, the higher the reward. At the same time though it sure can be alot of suffering!

So just back at base now and we have had some bad weather the last few days. Alot of snow and today it is very windy. Dawa wanted to take loads to camp 2 for us the last two nights but hasnt managed to get out of the camp. So i just hang and watch movies. There are three other brazilians at camp now and one is called Cid Ferrari. He is a client and is on the seven summits journey and this will be six. After everest he justs needs to climb carstenez and koscuisko as no one can decide which is the proper summit... Anyhow he is a really cool guy and gave me chocolate for easter yesterday. He also has loads of movies to watch on his laptop and we watched this horrible series last night that gave me nightmares so i am just going to watch fun movies from now on!!
Lots of snow back at base camp

So apparently they have now fixed the lhotse face to camp 3 so dawa and i will go up again in the next couple of days. This time i will go all the way to camp 2 and then have a rest day. Then we will move to camp 3 which is 7300mt. Hopefully by then the lines to the south col will be fixed. I want to just go up there and spend around an hour hanging around before coming all the way back down again to base. It will be super windy still as the wind doesnt die down until early may but it will help me acclimatise to try without the supplementary oxygen. At this stage i dont know if i can do it and i wont really know until the day i guess. It will just depend on how i feel at the time, how cold it is, alot of things. We are going to have it there anyhow just incase i need it. Dawa will use it and he is going to use it when we sleep at the south col too. I have no doubt he could do it without as he is so strong but it is more important that he is strong for me on summit day so its safer for him to use it.

Ok well back in Gorek Shep to use the net again. I just had a big steak, chips and vegetable meal to get the power to walk back to base camp! I have to say that all this time above 5000mt is starting to get tiring even when i dont do anything. I will write again after the next trip up the mounatin. Thanks for the support and to all my friends and family....I miss you guys soooo much!!!


  1. Your writing puts us right there with you - tense and gripping stuff. Prayers and blessings for the rest of your journey. Lois xxxx

  2. Hi Allie,Gripping stuff.I'm feeling it with you! Hang in there! Lots of love.Dad.

  3. Well done Allie...what an amazing journey..wishing you well from Katoomba!

  4. Wow, have just heard you made it, that's fantastic, well done.