Home Time!


Wonderbag working hard at Everest Base Camp!

Back at Base Camp, after 5 days of hiking down to Gokya, was a great feeling! Great to see Ongchu and the rest of the team, and in a weired way, back home to our base! However it was also back to the devastation and depression. Base Camp had virtually emptied and besides a few scattered Sherpa tents and what was left of other expeditions, not too many folks were left at base camp! Having returned alone, I again walked base camp, checked out the destruction caused by the avalanche. The litter of tents and equipment was spread out over base camp. So sad to see personal items and kit of those who had been worst affected lying everywhere.


Our tents at base camp                                                                                             The Khumbu Ice fall

That afternoon, a meeting was arranged for those expeditions still left at base camp. The head of the Ice Doctors had returned and an expedition team with influence, Russell Brice and his Hymex Team, were all in attendance. Another team, still able to continue, was the Indian Army Everest Expedition. A decision needed to be made as to whether Everest would be opened again, or closed for the season.

When Ongchu returned later that afternoon from the meeting, he signaled to me that a decision had been made and that Everest was now closed. Russell Brice and his team had made a call and were pulling out. The Ice Doctors were not keen to keep the icefall open for a handful of climbers. (Not forgetting that the icefall is not a once off task of securing ropes and ladders. It needed constant maintenance throughout the climbing season.) Individuals within the Indian Team were interested in continuing up Everest, but they were outvoted. The mountain was, within this meeting, now closed. All that remained was for the Nepalese Tourism Board to officially declare Everest closed for the season.

The next day, when Sean and the team returned, Sean was still looking on the bright side. So positive and optimistic, Sean wanted to hear the answer from the Nepalese Government before making a decision to pull out. And there was another reason for this. Walking off the mountain voluntary may well compromise the opportunity to get reimbursed with the climbing permit fee. Remaining behind until the mountain was declared closed by the Nepalese Government, would strengthen the possibility of having the permit cost reimbursed.


Next morning we got word that the Nepalese Tourism Board had declared the mountain officially closed. The Everest 2015 season was over! With the national death toll rising towards the 10 000 mark, and the fatalities on Everest now standing at 22, (18 at base camp, and 4 succumbing to injuries sustained), it was time to call it a day.

With a definite answer having been received, everyone jumped into action and the camp was slowly dismantled. Each of us got cracking and packed our personal belongings. The Sherpa and Porter team would slowly pack up the rest of our camp over the next week or so. It was so sad to see our “home” being dismantled. The team had no set foot on Everest, and it was over!


Packing up!

Next morning, the 6th May, we departed base camp. Anxious to get back to the comforts of the Hyatt Hotel, we set a blistering pace, with Namche Bazaar our destination. This was a 40km hike! As our altitude dropped and the air got thicker, we felt stronger! I, again, took my time and only got in that evening at 8.30pm, an 11 ½ hour hike! Hiking through the Himalayan Mountains at night, with hardly a light in sight was special. Amazingly enough, there were still porters out there, transporting goods up and down the mountains!


The SA Everest Team

Our next destination was Lukla, and we again tucked our ears in and made tracks for Lukla! 25km’s later and we entered the small village. Again Sean had gone ahead and on my arrival in Lukla, I could not find the teahouse where we were staying! Wandering the streets, I heard a loud knock on a window above me and there was Sean and the team, snug, and drinking beer shandy’s! Sean took a pic of me as I wearily looked for the entrance! A happy team now at our penultimate destination before home time!




With air tickets out of Lukla booked for the first flights out, we were up at 5am the next morning and at the airport by 6am. With our flights booked for 7am, there was still concern that it would be delayed by weather, as had been when we flew in. However, right on time, our Sita Airline plane landed! Now for the take-off……! All seated and strapped in, the pilot revved the plane up, released the brakes and we accelerated on down the runway. There was no aborting take offs here. Once committed, it was up and away! Turning left we climbed out of the Khumbu Valley, destination Kathmandu!

We landed in Kathmandu, at an airport full to capacity with foreign aircraft, all bringing in aid post the earthquake. Once through customs, we headed off to the Hyatt Hotel. On everyone’s minds was a long hot bath and a meal with a selection of food, including real meat and desert!

That afternoon, our Camp 1 Sherpa, Kimi, came by the Hyatt to visit us. He was on crutches and had broken his leg badly, just below the knee. He would be out of action for the next 10 months, and Everest Camp 1 and 2 were off the cards for some time to come!


The next 2 days were spent shopping and sorting out our kit for the flight home.

On Sunday 11th May, the Makalu Adventure Team picked us up from the airport and took us to the airport for our flight home. Although delayed by 2 hours, we finally boarded our Qatar flight to Doha. A 10 hour stop off in Doha, including a short 6 hour sleep in a transit hotel and then on a flight bound for Jhb!! We landed Monday afternoon with a warm welcome from my brother Donald, and family members of those climbers from Jhb. The press were there and a few interview were carried out with the climbing party. (I was surprised to discover a few days later that my interview had been broadcast on Radio 702!)

Later that day, Sean and I boarded a Mango flight for our home in Durban! Waiting for us was our respective families, happy to have us back home after 7 weeks away! I was stoked to be home, that familiar territory feeling of HOME!!


An epic adventure, one that none of us had vaguely anticipated! Although Everest had not been climbed that season, we had survived an earthquake and avalanche at Base Camp! We had a story for our grandkids one day!


Ending, may I take this opportunity to thank a few people.

  • Sean Wisedale, you are an incredible person, determined, strong and entertaining! Thanks mate. To the rest of the team,
  • Nico, Wilmien and Molly; you were a pleasure to be with! We really were a team and I was proud to be a part of it.
  • To my family, Belinda, Daniel and Jenna; thanks for your understanding and support on my quest to spend time at Everest. It was a goal of mine and you gave me your blessing to achieve it.
  • To the rest of my family; Donald who assisted me with the Edge business whilst I was away. My sister Alison, always there to support me and my family. My parents; sorry to have to put you through another epic adventure, but that’s me….!
  • And to all our friends who supported me and especially for the support you gave Belinda and the kids during the tough times when uncertainty around my safety was questioned. I really appreciated the support.
  • And lastly to the men and women who make climbing Everest possible; the Sherpa community of Nepal and the Khumbu Valley. The unsung heroes of Everest, you have my respect and I salute you!!





Treking to Gokyo


With all casualties having been flown out, and the majority of the big expeditions having called it a day, we were now trying to decide on the best way forward. The mountain was temporary closed, and all we could do was wait it out. For how long? No one knew. Sitting around would do us no good. Fitness starts to fade, rumors are rife and constantly being on edge for another avalanche, was playing on our minds. We needed to get out!
Sean planned a trip. We would hike down the valley and up to a village called Gokyo. It was a 40km hike or so but apparently a beautiful area. From Gokyo! There were a number of options for a return trip to bc.
We packed our bags and got ourselves ready to leave. The Sherpa crew would remain behind, awaiting news on the mountain.
After departing bc, we went to Loboche where everyone climbed on to wifi! We had been out of coms fir so long, it was a communication Christmas! For a good 2 hours we all had our heads down, communicating with family and friends and updating blogs!

From Loboche, we finally pulled ourselves away from the wifi and trekked on down the valley. We were all in good spirits, chatting away and.reliving the past 4 days events. Each village we passed, we came to see the destruction the earthquake had caused. Particularly ad was Feroche, with many buildings damages, many had even collapsed!
With the air getting thicker with each meter we descended, our bodies felt better! Soon it was dark and on we trekked enjoying the scenery, the moment. At about 8pm, we entered the village of Pangboche and found a lodge. Bed time after a long days hike!

From Lower Pangboche we climbed up through a stunning area and shortly thereafter entered the village of Upper Pangboche. It was surrounded by Birch trees and was typically terraced. In the center of the village was a monastery. Unfortunately we needed to press on and we left Pangboche and started on a contour path. For hikers that suffered from vertigo, this path was a no no! It contoured the side of a hill / cliff, extremely exposed and a drop to the river below of 500meters! Scary, but worth the walk. Scenery like I have never seen before. After 2 hours or so, we came to the village of Portse, we slowly made our way down to the nearest tea house. On entering we heard the familiar chatter of Afrikaans. We had fellow South Africans in our company. After initiating conversation, they were out trekking the area as family. We were asked if we had come across a guy by the name of Nico Oosthuizen, a friend they part knew from home. Well, speak of the devil as Nico stepped forward!! For the next hour we chatted away on the past days events, good to be in company of fellow saffas!

Leaving Portse we made our way down to a river, crossing it, and then the pull commenced! We were now making our way up a valley in the direction of Gokyo, and it was all uphill! Fortunately we could revel in the scenery! We were in Trekkers paradise and savoured the moments, albeit huffing and puffing! We stopped off at tea houses and drank lemon ginger honey tea, snacked and chatted the afternoon away. That evening, with the mist and snow making an appearance, we checked in at the village of Mochemo There were quite a few people in the communal living room all because of wi-fi and Sky TV!! Having been at base camp during the avalanche, many wanted to know all about it. We also caught up on the Sky news broadcast. It was at this stage that we began to learn about my hit video clip! It had over 13000 hits on Facebook, was all over the news and even featured on CNN! Sean decided I was more popular than Elvis and began referring to me as Elvis!! Wow, it was kinda weird to know that 2 of my video clips had gone viral and that the SA team at Everest was making headlines throughout SA, and even the world! Crazy stuff!!
Next stop – Gokyo! This area is renowned for its lakes. Gokyo overlooks a huge lake, with a number of smaller ones around. On the way up, Sean and I walked together with the rest up front. In true Sean style he said to me, “hey, let’s take a dip!” Now we at 4600m, there is snow everywhere and cascading out of the mountain, is this river! Rarely one to say no, I stripped off and we both took the plunge! Well not a true plunge as it was shallow, but enough to get a pic in the water with snow all around us. exhilarating!

The lakes were stunning, although completely iced up. We even saw a duck in a small pond. Lost?
At Gokyo, we checked in spent the afternoon debating the way forward. To Sean’s point, the mountain was not closed. We had not had our camp wrecked and all logistics were in place to continue the expedition. Yes, we had experienced a life threatening avalanche. Yes, the team was rattled, and maybe heads were not in the right place, but the team was good to go. Life is about overcoming adversity and obstacles quoted Sean. It’s about the will to overcome, get up and continue. If the mountain was going to open, the SA team needed to be ready to give it a second chance! The other view was we had been given a second chance. We escaped possible death. The mountain had spared the SA team. Others were flocking off the mountain for various reasons. Maybe we should be counting our lucky stars and getting the hell off the hill! 2 views, both with merits!
The team got behind Sean’s call. We would continue until a final call had been made on the mountain.
Sean and the 3 climbers were going to traverse a pass just above Gokia, and head down to Namche for a day or 2 rest. I decided to head back down the valley, stopping when I felt lie it and leaving the 4 to bond as a team. The long walk, and pass, to Namche, was not top of my priority list just then!
Next morning, I headed off back down the valley alone, whilst the climbing 4 headed up towards Renjo Pass.
In summary, I spent the next 3 days totally alone, trekking through the most wonderful scenery! I was in no rush and frequently stopped at a river or path bend and ate snacks and drank Game. Being “patmalone” in the Himalayas, not a soul around was a wonderful experience! On the “vertigo” contour path I met 2 Sherpa youngsters. They were studying in Kathmandu and because of the earthquake and risk of disease, they decided to return to their home village for a month or so. We struck up conversation whilst walking and they invited me back to their village and home. Their father was a famous Sherpa and had summited Everest 9 times! I took up their offer and was invited in to their home in Upper Pangboche. What a wonderful experience. Their home, and that of most Sherpa families, consists of one huge room. Everything happens here. The kitchen, living area and sleeping quarters – all in this one room. Downstairs was the barn where the yaks lived. It was an old house, built by their grandfather when he was young. Their grandmother was still alive and at 93, was still active in the home!
I was then taken on a tour of the monastery. Sadly, the Lama and his team were in Kathmandu for the “death ceremony” obviously for all those who had succumbed to the earthquake. One on one I was taken to every room in the monastery and the various statues and Gods were explained to me. Apparently it was the oldest monastery in the Khumbu valley. In a locked box was a had and skull! When I enquired on it, I was told it was from the Yeti! Unfortunately in the 80’s or so, the original was stolen. This was a replica, made up by a foreign organisation to replace the one stolen!
With time running out, I needed to get going. Sonar, showed we the way out, taking me up to the place where the bodies of the dead were burned! Apparently horses are also burned in a similar fashion, the only other animal to do so!
Time to move! We said our goodbyes and I headed off, chaffed that I had experienced time with a Sherpa family.
Putting my head down, I made it all the au to Deboche, arriving at about 6pm. A long day and a climb of over 1km vertically.
Sadly, that evening after a Whatsapp chat to family back home, I handed my cell phone in for charging. An hour later, I tried to fire it up. The screen had gone, perhaps busted by the extreme cold for the past 4 weeks. My Whatsapp coms with home was over!
Tomorrow I would be back in base camp and hopefully able to get some news on the mountain!


Avalanche at base camp!

DSC03419  Disaster at Base Camp!
With Island Peak under the belt, the team was well acclimatized and looking forward to their first rotation through the Khumbu Icefall.
We all relaxed at our camp, preparing kit, minds and body.
Saturday, 24th April and the whole team was gathered in the communal tent. It was just before 12midday.
All of a sudden, the ground gave a violent shake! We all sprang to our feet unsure as to what was happening, and dashed for the door. Then it began again and the earth under our feet shook violently again, this time for a good 15 to 20 seconds! Not having any idea as to what was happening, we all just stood our ground. Up above we could not see the mountains as they were covered by a blanket of cloud. Then the noise started as avalanches were activated on the surrounding mountains. Problem was we could not identify from where they were coming. Behind our tents, huge rock land slides started and boulders rolled down the embankment behind us. The noise was loud, too loud for a distant avalanche. Everyone was frightened not knowing quite what to expect next.
Then, from behind the camp,this huge avalanche came thundering down on base camp! This thundering, rolling plume of snow and ice must have been 80m high, I don’t know, and it was heading straight for us! The Sherpas took off, running for cover. For some reason, I had my camera rolling and caught Angchu shouting “oh my God” and running for the tent.
Sean, Minki, Nico and Molly ran back in to the communal tent. I had other ideas and ran! Where to, why? I have no idea but I ran. Perhaps for higher ground, or better protection, but I bolted. Of course I never got far, making it to the camp Stupa before being hit by the force of the avalanche. Right next to the Stupa was a tent and I get in behind it, lying flat on the ground, thinking this is it! I’m a gonner!! It was now dark all around and I was being blasted by the snow. Lying face down and battling to breathe, I tried to open the tent next to me. With rocks holding it down and the zip difficult to locate, I fumbled around until I managed to climb inside. There I lay flat again as the last of the avalanche finally subsided. Sitting up, I grabbed my cell and filmed a short clip of the experience I had just gone through. Pumped full of adrenalin, and a lot of relief, I said a few words whilst filming myself. Then I crawled out of the test and made my way back to our camp.

Sean was outside frantically calling for me. He thought I was lost! We all got together and went over what had just happened. Everyone was ok, that was the main thing! Smaller avalanches still rumbled on around us, but the camp had now settled in to an eary silence. At this stage we were unaware of the carnage that had unfolded towards the center of base camp.

I need to get out and see what the damage was. I made my way towards the nearest camp, International Mountain Guides, and then I started to see the human damage. People were being assisted by others. In the distance, I could see people being carried. It looked bad. At IMG, casualties we’re bring brought in. I asked someone if I could assist in anyway. “if you got a good stomach! assist in that tent. Otherwise the walking wounded are in those tents”.
Not being a doctor, and not keen to assist where I knew very little, I made my way to the other tents. It was crazy! Casualties were being brought in one after the other, mostly with head and body injuries from flying rocks and stones. With 3 doctors in attendance, I assisted where I could, applying bandages, and generally acting on instruction from one of the doctors.
The rest of the afternoon was spent assisting. I also went up towards the center of base camp and ferried the injured by make shift stretcher back to IMG for treatment. Unfortunately it was then that the first of many fatalities were pulled out and put into sleeping bags.
At the same time, base camp was emptying. Climbers and Sherpas were heading out, making their way down to one of the many villages in the valley. Who could blame them!
Later that evening, Sean and I, (Sean had also been out there rendering assistance where he could) returned to camp.
The day was done. We had survived an avalanche. The true extent of the damaged was still not evident at this stage. Worrying was the +120 or so climbers on the Western Cwm. How were they??


That night We all decided it best to sleep in the communal tent. All except Nico who retired to his tent. We all lay and chatted well in to the night, battling to sleep as avalanches continued to rumble down the mountain side. We were scared of after shocks activating more avalanches down on to base camp.

Next morning I was up early and made my way across to the IMG camp. The first of many helicopters were starting to arrive at base camp, ready to airlift the injured to safety. Throughout the day, the ferrying of injured continued. Again I did what I could to assist with the injured. Just off the the left of our camp, the fatalities were mounting under a taupalin. Not what anyone wanted to see.
With the cloud now lifting, the first helicopters managed to make their way up towards the Cwm and with relief, the evacuation of the climbers commenced. It took 2 days to get everyone off the Cwm, with not one injury! They had been very fortunate and although having felt the earthquake and being hit by the avalanche plume, they were all safe!
At lunch time, we were hit with another earth shudder, sending everyone in to a small panic! Fortunately no major avalanches were activated and everyone returned to what they were busy with.What was not known, until news filtered in from the outside, was that Kathmandu had been devastated by the quake and thousands were dead. The true extent of the damage and fatalities would only be known in weeks to come. At base camp, some 18 individuals had lost their lives!


The South African team had escaped major injury and we talked about it for days to come!

With base camp now a ghost town, Sean, Minki and I did a tour of the area. It was as if a plane had crashed. Debris everywhere! tents, kit, kitchen equipment, oxygen bottles and more. Scattered everywhere and smashed to pieces! So sad to see. Many expeditions had lost everything!

With the camp now 80% empty and all casualties airlifted to hospitals, the question on everyone’s lips was, “what now? Will the climbing season continue?”


Drama for the SA Team!


With the ice fall open again, teams began the process of supplying their camps at Camp 1 (just above the ice fall, and camp 2, in the Western Cwm. ( Cwm being a Welsh word for “Valley”) I was able to sit in our dining tent and watch the ant like figures as they made their way through the ice fall. That ice fall is big and must take climbers at least 6 – 7 hours to pass through before exiting on the Western Cwm.

However, we had some drama today! I woke up this morning at about 5.30am to the voices of Sherpa’s around us. By the tone, and the length of the discussions on the radio, it sounded serious. Certainly nor just a morning greeting!! I got up and met our liaison officer, Passang, outside. Each Everest expedition is assigned a Liaison Officer. This person is appointed by the Nepalese government and overseas the expeditions experience at Everest. Any issues are directed through him, and visa verse.


Passang on the radio to the helicopter

Passang was in contact with our Sherpa team high up on the Western Cwm. When I asked him what was going on. He told me that Ang Kami, our Camp 2 cook, had taken a fall and had a suspected broken leg! I went to the coms tent and turned on our primary radio to pick up on what was happening high up on the mountain. With Ang Kami Sherpa unable to move, we needed to get a helicopter in and get him casavaced out! Passang took control and arranged for the helicopter. In the meantime Ongchhu and the other 2 Sherpa’s were keeping Kami as comfortable and warm as possible. Ongchhu had managed to strap up his leg, using an ice axe and rope to stabilize his leg. However, at this stage we knew no details of the fall.

Sean and I then made our way towards the heli pad and met others involved in the rescue operation. At about 9am, the helicopter finally arrived and after a short stop off for details, took off in the direction of the ice fall and up to the Western Cwm.


Not 10 minutes later, he was back, with Kami in the back. I managed to get up to the chopper and shake Kami’s hand. He signaled to me a broken knee or leg. It was obviously difficult to get full details, but Kami needed a hospital, quickly. With that, they took off again and headed down the valley towards the nearest hospital, perhaps even Kathmandu.


Ang Kami in the back of the chopper. Note his right leg!

Feedback later received was that Kami had infact fractured his right leg just below the knee. He was taken to The Helping Hands Hospital in Kathmandu, where he was operated on. Reports to date say he is doing fine, but his climbing season is over!!

With Kami now out the expedition, we will await feedback as to who will be replacing Kami as camp 2 cook.

Blogs and Tawk2me

Besides my blog, the rest of the team have their own. Please go view theirs and get a different perspective from the climbers on what they have to report on from Everest. These are :

1. Sean Wisedale





2. Wilmien Van Der Merve



3. Marlette Hegyi





In addition to blog spots, you can receive live broadcasts from me at Mt Everest via an application called Tawk2me. Please SMS Robeverest (one word) to 41867 to receive these regular updates.



Deboche to Everest Base Camp


Deboche to Leboche

Brekkie of egg and French toast and we were on our way! This was going to be a leg which involved altitude! Deboche at 4400m and Leboche close to 5000m. Although already having climbed to 5100m, we were now on our way up!

After 3 hours of walking along a contour path, we came to a tea house. Problem was it was situate at the bottom of a cliff! Towering above it was a zig-zag path, taking trekkers to just below 5000m. We enjoyed a cup of tea, before embarking on the slog. Again I concentrated on my breathing and drank as much as I could. 1 ½ hours later we crawled over the summit ridge to be met my shrines, plenty of them! This was the spot where shrines were erected to those climbers lost on Everest. I spent the next 40 minutes just walking around, reading inscriptions and trying to identify the person. I was amazing, certainly not a sad and somber place strangely enough. The most visible one was that of Scott Fischer, who died whilst descending Everest on the 10th May 1996. He was the leader of a commercial expedition and succumbed after he, and other parties, were caught out in a storm on the descent. Many books have been written about this tragic season on Mt Everest, amongst then Jon Krakauer’s “Into thin air”.


On we plodder and arrived at our overnight stop that afternoon. With a bit of Wi-Fi, we were all able to make contact with home. Again dinner consisted of eggs and noodles! At this altitude and on the expedition, upset stomachs are a no-no! Go with the safe food and not the meats or salad type meals. The water up here is a problem, not very hygienic. We bought all our drinking water which was now at about R25 a liter! The higher one gets up the valleys, the more expensive things become. Not forgetting everything is carried in by porters and Sherpa’s!

Leboche to Base Camp

Sean had announced that we would now trek directly to Everest Base Camp. There was a planned night over in Gorak Shep, but as the trekkers needed to get back to Lukla to catch their flights back to Kathmandu, we wanted to spend some time with them at BC. It was a 10km trek, but again the altitude does not make it a pleasant trip! The climb was only about 350m or so, but it was a long day. We were now following the Khumbu Glacier, which started at the base of Everest and made its way down the valley. Under o it was mostly loose gravel and rocks. Vegetation was all but gone now. Just a few small shrub type bushes scattered about. I was surprised by the number of trekkers. Many were just going to BC to have a look about and then head on back to Gorak Shep.


After rounding a corner, we picked up Everest BC about 2km ahead of us. It was positioned in a U type bowl, surrounded on 3 sides by huge mountains! A few yellow and orange tents littered the beginning of the Khumbu Glacier. This was going to be my home for the next 6 weeks or so!!  A daunting prospect, but an exciting one!


Entrance to Everest Base Camp                                                                                        Base Camp from a distance

BC is pretty much set up on the Khumbu Glacier. Expeditions find themselves a suitable location and then carve out platforms for their tents. The glacier is constantly moving down the valley and where one may position a tent at the beginning of the season, is not necessarily where it will be at the end of the season! As we dropped down on to the glacier, we came across a Chorten set up at the entrance to the camp. A Buddhist shrine to those staying a BC for the season. Our Sherpa guide, Tensing, took us to our camp. It had been set up a week prior to our arrival and most of the tents and equipment were waiting for us. A quick explanation on the camp. We had a kitchen tent, where everything was cooked. Our BC cook was a chap by the name of Kami. We then had a mess tent, where we ate our meals. Alongside that was our communal tent, or “Zen Tent”. Although not equipped, it was to be our communal tent for relaxing and chilling after a day’s hike. We had blow up bean bags, a TV, music center, DVD player and coffee table. At the far end was the coms. Here we positioned all our radio equipment, computers and a charging bay for all cell phones etc. A table where I was to spend some time! Outside, and positioned around the communal tent were individual tents, one for each of us. Our rooms for our stay at BC. Away from the camp was a shower tent and toilet tent. Now the toilet was “primitive”. Inside this small tent was “starting blocks” as we refer to them. Rocks positioned for the position! As everything is taken out the valley, the toilet bowl was a drum. Once full, and by this time frozen solid, it was yakked down the valley for disposal. Lastly there was a tent for the staff and Sherpa’s. This was our home!


Our Camp!

That evening we had a great meal, of meat! Meat was now labeled safe to eat at BC! As it was the last night for the trekkers to be with us, we all sat around and reminisced on the long trek in.

Next morning, as the trekkers prepared for departure, the Barns family had arranged their trek back to Lukla in style! Andrew had chartered a helicopter to take him, his wife Shannon and son Reece all the way back to Kathmandu!  The chopper arrived and they took off in style! The rest packed their bags and set off on the 3 – 4 day trek back to Lukla. Problem with a few of us, me included was the altitude. We were starting to feel the effects. I had begun to suffer from headaches the previous evening and the whole of the next day I suffered! I took tablets and just tried to take it easy. However they would not go away and into that night and the next morning, I was still suffering! From the outset, I knew this would be my Achilles heel on the trip. Twice whilst climbing Kilimanjaro, I had suffered badly from the effects of altitude. For some reason my body just would not adapt easily to altitude. Physiology, why are some effected and others not? I had taken every precaution. I had drunk and eaten regularly, I had breathed my way up every incline, adopting the “Wisedale Shuffle”. I walked extremely slow and avoided taking when on an incline. I had done everything by the book, but here I was in BC suffering the effects!! For 3 days I took tablets and drank what I could.


On the 9th April, we all sat about and chilled for the day. This was our first day with just the 5 of us. Sean took a walk to Gorak Shep whilst the climbers prepared climbing kit for Island Peak. With my altitude issues, I was not sure if Island Peak was going to be a happening thing for me!

We’ll see how I feel in 2 days’ time. Big new was that tomorrow, we would be having our Puja. This is a small Buddhist ceremony for each of the climbing expeditions and a blessing by the Lama on the teams for a safe passage on Everest!

Puja Day

Before a Sherpa will step foot on Everest, they need to be present and blessed by the Lama at the Puja. Each climbing expedition has their own Puja. A stone cairn is built and the Sherpa’s all prepare for the big day. A lot goes in to it with flags being prepared, food, candles and other merchandise for the big day. I even saw a few beers on the list a d a bottle of local rum! Once all is ready, we sat back and waited for the Lama to arrive. At about 2pm, having finished another Puja, the Lama arrived at our camp. He was not dressed in a traditional Buddhist monk outfit, because of the cold, but down jacket and pants! He had with him a cloth roll. The ceremony got stated and the Sherpa’s all gathered around and acted on command from the Lama. Water was sprinkled, rice was scattered and the chanting went on for a good 1½ or so. Our kits was brought out, sprinkled and blessed. They even rub a small amount of butter on a few climbing items.








Then the flags came out. At the center of the cairn, was a long metal pole. From this pole the flags were attached and then fanned out to various points around the camp. Some must have spread a good 30m or so. At the end of the ceremony, foods were brought out, many of which I had never seen or tasted before! To end off a cup of beer and taste of rum!! With the Puja now done, the Sherpa Team were ready to enter the ice fall!

It was now our time to head off to Island Peak


Island Peak – The Summit Attempt!



Island Peak – Second Attempt

Having now “rested” for a day in Dingboche, it was time to tackle Island Peak for the second time. Not before we went back to the French bakery for coffee and cake! Unfortunately the internet was still not working and again, no access to blog updates and work and family back home! We left Dingboche and headed off up the valley to Chukkung. Here, we clocked in for the night and had the best roast chicken, chips and veg I have had in a long time! At the tea house, we met a chap from New Zealand who had summited a day earlier and the view from the top was mist and cloud! Not a peak in sight! Summiting in cloud was not what we wanted and our call to abandon the climb a few days earlier, was the right one. That night, and the night before departure to Island Peak, a gale came through. Sean and I both woke up to the roof of the tea house trying to take off! I was convinced it was a gonner as the wind tore through the village! Sean said “our tents are gone!” How any tent could survive that wind, time would tell.


The faces of “Frosty Friday” before tackling Island!!

Next morning, with the wind gone and the weather now clearing, we prepared for departure to Island Peak. After a hearty breakfast consisting of an omlette, French toast and coffee, we then headed up towards Island Peak base camp. This was a 3 hour trek, or so. This time there was no stopping at base camp and we went right on by and began the climb up to High Camp at 5600m. 5 hours out of Chukkung we arrived at high camp and immediately got in to our tents, relieved to find them still there! The wind had spared us our tents!
That evening, Sean got the whole team together in out tent and we went through the drill for the next morning. We also went through the gear, checking and double checking all ropes, jumars, harnesses, etc. Failure of any equipment at altitude was not an option. With everything in order, we crept in to our sleeping bags. Temps were now down to -10 to -15 degrees!

DSC03358 Checking climbing gear before departing high camp

At 2am, I heard Molly calling my name. Time to get up and get going! Now a normal morning at home in my queen size bed, is a mission to get up. Try going it at – plenty degrees, in a tent, ice everywhere….. Not easy! Corn flakes with hot milk and a cuppa coffee was motivation to get us going. Geared up, we were ready to go. At about 3am, we departed high camp, headlights on and a 4 hour climb to crampon point. It was tough going under foot, through snow, ice and rock and it was all straight up! I got in to the “Wisedale Shuffle” and concentrated on my breathing the whole time.
We arrived at crampon point just a day was breaking. Here we strapped our crampons to our boots, took out our ice axes, and put on our harnesses. We then got roped together, a distance between us of about 6 meters. We were roped up as follows: Nico, Ongchu Sherpa, and I together, and Sean, Minky and Molly together. It was now into the snow fields and crevasses. The next 2 to 3 hours was spend crossing ladders, avoiding huge crevasses, and following a snow path to the base of the summit. It was slow going, as we had to jumar our way up sections too steep and dangerous to climb unsupported.







Crossing a ladder on the way through the glacier on Island Peak


As day broke, and just across a saddle of snow, we could see what awaited us – the climb to the summit ridge! I must be honest, I did not expect the near vertical ascent. Ok, 65 degrees or so, but frikkin steep! It was all fixed line for about 250 – 300m. We clipped on to the fixed line with our safety line and then attached the jumar. With one hand I jumared and the other I used my ice axe to support myself. It was a long slow process and every 30m or so, we had to unclip and reclip to a new line and continue the process to the top

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Huge crevasse on the way down


Summit ridge!!


On top of Island Peak – Me on the right!

There must have been a stream of 14 or so climbers slowly inching their way to the summit ridge. It got really steep towards the top and one false move and it was a long way down! After an hour and a half or so on the fixed line, I reached the summit ridge, a path not much wider than ½ meter which lead to the summit. Not one for heights, the near vertical drop off either side did nothing for my vertigo! Sean was already on the summit and as I approached, he filmed my last few steps. My verbal reaction: “This is my Everest!!”
We spend 20 minutes on the summit as Sean took pictures and we celebrated all 5 of us on the summit of Island Peak. 6200m and the highest I had been to. Although tired, I had no headache or any sign of altitude issues. I was stoked! Stoked enough to want to climb higher peaks? Not so sure about that!


Inching our way around crevasse

The descent was slow and careful. Reaching the top is only half way and the descent can be very tricky. We had to abseil down the face, again changing ropes as we descended. Across the snow fields and then down the rocky slopes to High Camp. We got in at about 12pm, 9 hours of climbing. However it was not over. After a short break, it was a further 4 hours down to Chukkung. I was tired after a 13 hour trek at 5000m to 6200m! Into Chukkung Resort and chicken and chips, and a cold beer to celebrate our success on Island Peak.
Let’s not forget the real reason for climbing Island Peak. This was all part of the acclimatization process for the 4 climbers. They were now acclimatized for 6200m. Next was on to Everest and through the ice fall to Camp 2 at 6600m.




Molly’s moms fruit cake and dry wors!                                            Celebratory beer after Island Peak!

Back to Everest Base Camp
After an early breakfast, of the same, we started the long walk all the way back to Everest base camp. From Chukkung, it was an hour ½ down to Dingboche. Then on to Deboche, a further 3 hours. On to Gorak Chep, a 3 ½ hour hike and finally to base camp, 2 ½ hours later! A round trip of about 30km and 10 hours later we were back “home!!” Interesting to compare the first time we trekked in to base camp, and this time, over the same distance. It took us 2 days from Dingboche to base camp the first time. This time we did the same distance, plus an additional 7 km, all in one day! Our acclimatization program was working, and we are getting fitter!
News from Base Camp? So, what was happening at Everest whilst we were away? Firstly, the ice fall had been closed for 3 days after a few minor collapses of small seracs. Not safe, the ice doctors suspended work. Our team of Sherpa’s was fortunate enough to get through before the closure and had stashed supplier at camp 2. This included food, a tent for cooking and oxygen bottles. They were then off Everest before it was closed. Further to this there were a lot more expeditions now at base camp and it was filling up.
With the whole team now back at the “comfort” of our base camp, we settled in to a few days rest before the team entered the ice fall for their first tour.


Back at Base Camp and a bit of washing!

Everest base camp to Island Peak


Molly and Minky – Chukhang

Base camp to Chukhang via Kongma La Pass
Part of the teams acclimatization process was to climb Island Peak. Situated to the south east of Everest and close to 6200m, it would be an ideal opportunity to climb high without having to contend with the Khumbu ice fall on everest. The less time spent going through the ice fall, the better! Let’s not forget, 14 Sherpas lost their lives last year in the ice fall, calling an early end to the season!
We packed just what was needed and together with 2 Sherpas, we departed Everest base camp.
Molly and I were keen to spend a night in Loboche and catch up on a bit of wifi! Nico had left the day before and Sean and Wilmien we’re going to leave the next day. We would all meet in Loboche and head up over the Kongma Pass.
We did not dilly dally! As we descended, the air got thicker and we got quicker! The only hold up on route was the many Trekkers and yaks making their way up to base camp. It was busy, too busy! But then this is the season I suppose. We even came across road kill. A yak had succumbed to altitude sickness and died in the track. Ok, maybe old age or overloading. No weigh bridges here. I could see the plan was to get it off the path, and butcher it at a later stage. Right now it was causing a traffic jam!
Loboche was pumping! The place was full of Trekkers and we battled to find accomodation. Eventually Molly found us a room and gratefully we settled in for the night.
Next morning, as planned, the team congregated outside the tea house and looked up towards Kongma Pass. We were at 4900m, the pass at 5400m, a vertical climb of 500m! Haibo!

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Molly and the team coming up Kongma La Pass

We set off across the Khumbu glacier. It can be best pictured as a world war 1 battlefield, amplified 10 times! Craters of rocks and ice, desolate, cold and dangerous! This glacier was slowly making its way down the valley, churning up rock and stone on its way. Every so often we came across a ice rink! A frozen lake with rocky vertical sides. Good to look at but not a good idea to go in to! After an hour and a half, we exited the glacier and arrived at the foot of the pass, and it was intimidating! High up above all I could see was ice, snow and a misty covered mountain. The ascent began. I took us a good 3 hours to reach the top, climbing through some tricky snow and ice banks. The going was slow but at about 2pm we summited the pass and began our descent towards Chhukhung.
Again the going was tough through thick snow and then down in to the rocky valley. 6.30pm and we arrived at our overnight accommodation, relieved and tired!



The next morning we woke up to a white out! It has snowed heavily during the night and it was white everywhere! And not just a sprinkling, but a 50cm covering that would keep kids happy for a few days! Again we got ourselves together and after a warm breakfast headed off towards Island Peak base camp. Oh, not before a pic of the team outside in the snow, Sean with no shoes, and in his licra cycling pants!

Island Peak
The walk to Island Peak base camp was not too difficult. Cold, but a gentle climb up following a frozen river. The Sherpa team has set up camp for us and we slept the night at the base camp.


Island Peak Base Camp
Next morning was the climb to high camp. This was not a long way, but a vertical climb of some 500m. Slowly we edged our way up. The higher we climbed the greater the view and all around us were high snow covered mountains and below river glaciers. A truelly stunning view! It was hard going and occasionally we passed climbers descending. Many had not summited, a few had. This was going to be a tough climb!


Minky, on the way to High Camp

We reached high camp at 5600m and with great relief sat down to a cup of lemon tea and a view to die for! Nico has been suffering from a bad cough, commonly referred to as the Khumbu Cough. Not well, he headed off to his tent to relax. The afternoon was spend eating and chatting and watching a few climbers descending down past our tent.
That hight I was cold! With at least 5 layers of clothing, my -10 sleeping bag and Wilmiens down jacket as back up, I did my best to get a few hours sleep! It snowed durning the night and I tossed and turned trying to get comfortable. With so many layers of clothing, and in my sleeping bag, it got quite claustrophobic! Not a comfortable night! Every once in a while I could hear avalanches rumbling away in the distance. Again, quite intimidating!
We woke up at 2am, set to commence our climb to the summit. However the weather had closed in and it did not look good. 3am, up again and a weather update. Sean made a call to postpone the summit attempt until the weather cleared. Back to bed.
Sunrise and a bleak outlook. Sean made a satalite call to Kath in S.A. to get a weather update. With 3 days of snow predicted, we decided to leave the camp established and head down to Dingboche for 2 days. We would return when the weather cleared, now predicted for a summit attempt on Sunday.
Departing high camp, we tucked in our ears and made the 12km or so descent to Dingboche in record time!


Descending after weather gets bad at high camp

Rest days at Dingboche
Although “rustic” with facilities that would not impress most, for us it was a well deserved break from snow and tents!
Top of the “to do” list was wifi and access to work and family. That evening I spent 2 hours getting updated from Elaine and the team at Edge Logistics, and catching up with family and friends on Whatsapp! What a luxury!
The whole of Saturday was spent chilling! Lemon and ginger tea with a dash of honey. Work on our blogs and warm showers. Outside, we watched a Sherpa family working their fields. The whole family was involved with dad ploughing the field with a wooden plough and 2 yaks. Behind him came his family, dropping in potatoes. Mom then stomped the potatoes in. Not an easy task, but everyone looked happy and each had their role. Wilmien, Molly and I chatted through the cultural differences. We were poles apart culturally. This was a hard life, up in the mountains, subsistence with no holidays to the coast!



Namche to Deboche


3rd April – Namche Bazaar to Deboche

Leaving at around 8am, and from an altitude of 3440m, we headed off towards our next overnight stop, Deboche. Deboche is at 3820m. We had not gone 2km, and as we rounded a corner, there was Everest in full view! We were all extremely excited to get our first view of the hill. (As mountaineers refer to it!) We also had spectacular views of the Lhotse face and Ama Dablam.








On we trekked, passing a few remote villages, but again the scenery was spectacular. Lunch at a tea house next to a river and then a huge haul up to the Tengboche Monastery. It was not easy and I spend my time concentrating on my breathing in order to get as much oxygen in to the system. The first effects of the altitude would begin to take effect and I needed to ensure that I was not nailed. This meant drinking a lot, eating when you can, and walking very slowly. Breathing is particularly important.


After a 2 hour haul to the top, we came out at Tengboche Monastery. It is one of the most important monasteries in Nepal and situated on a ridge overlooking the valley we had come up, and the village of Deboche. It also had a great view of Everest. We spend some time looking around the Monastery after which we headed down the hill to our overnight stop in Deboche. Just as we headed off, it started to snow lightly.


At the tea house, we checked in and had our compulsory cup of tea! Next up was the Himalayan Boulle Championships. Sean, Andrew, Reece and I played boulle for an hour or so. We were all in hysterics, including the Sherpa’s and porters. A great way to end the day. Dinner and entertainment put on by Sean and Nico. Stories of their mountaineering exploits on mountains all over the world! .Then early to bed!

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4th April – Deboche to Dingboche

We left Deboche and followed the contour path through the Rhododendron forest, stunning trees which made us feel as if we were in Avatar! A huge river made its way down over boulders of rapids and waterfalls. We crossed the river by suspension bridge quite a few times. Spectacular scenery and the camera was working overtime!

Then the climb commenced and we left the forests behind us and entered into a scrub type landscape, high up overlooking the river. Lunch was had at an isolated tea house perched high up above the river. Below us were stone farm houses, which looked as if they were built in the Middle Ages.

From there it was a 2 hour hike down to Dingboche, following a ridge which was very exposed and at times, scary! The village of Dingboche consists of a few tea houses and a few tents. Nothing else. Why people stay here, I have no idea! All it caters for is passing trekkers.  The plan was to spend 2 days here, with an acclimatization day.


5th April – Easter Sunday!

Next morning, we were geared up and ready. Just behind the village is a hill. The plan was for us to climb up to 5100m and then returning to Dingboche. “Climb high, sleep low” as the saying goes. All whilst our bodies build up more red blood cells to get that oxygen around the body quicker! I must admit, I was a bit nervous with regards to how I would acclimatize. I had done Mt Kilimanjaro twice and both times suffered from the effects of altitude!! There are a few ways to combat the effects. Drink a lot, eat regularly and breathe efficiently. We set off and I got in to a good rhythm with Sean setting a slow regular pace. It was a steep climb, not easy, but after some 3 hours or so, we reached the top. 5100meters! And I was in great shape. Certainly a confidence booster for the days to come. Island Peak sits at 6100m, a further 1km vertically still to climb! The view was unreal! The glaciers below and mountain peaks surrounded us. Very special! After a few photos and a chat, we turned for home. Must have taken us less than an hour to get down.

With temps now hovering around 0, we got warmly dressed and headed off to…. Wait for it… the French Bakery! A cuppa coffee and a slice of cake. Outside we could see more expeditions and trekkers making their way in to Deboche.


The trek to Base Camp begins!




It’s the 1st April and we are now in Namche Bazaar, altitude 3500m. No joke!! But let’s go back a bit..


The 30th March and we were up at 5.15am, and downstairs to meet Mohan. With all our kit now piled into the taxis, we headed off to Kathmandu airport. It took us a while to get though security at check-in, as our bags way over limit… again!


In the departure lounge, we now had to wait it out. With the weather in Lukla unpredictable, flight departures were dependent on the weather conditions for landing. 4 hours later, we were told that there were no flights in to Lukla for the day. This did not come as a surprise, as this often happens. The weather changes hourly in the Himalayas!

We returned to the Eco Lodge and checked in for another night.

Next morning 530am, we were up again, and the same procedure! This time we were receiving regular updates on the weather from Pierre Joker in South Africa. Unfortunately, it did not look good, and we prepared ourselves for another long wait. In departures, and after 2 hours, our flight was called! Time to board! We all grabbed our kit and boarded a bus for the plane. At the plane we were told to wait in the bus until we were called.

30 minutes later, we returned to the departure lounge. Lukla had clouded over. No flights yet.. Another wait.


An hour later, we were called and the same thing! Off to the plane. This time we got out the bus and climbed aboard. We were now going to take off! Or were we….? Another call, and it was off the plane and back to departures!!

Another call, and the flight was back on!! 4th time lucky!! We climbed aboard and the plane taxied away. This time there was no turning back!

Now Lukla airport is known as one of the top 3 most dangerous landing strips in the world. Some say THE most dangerous! The flight took us about 40 minutes, and the pilot had to swerve quite a bit to avoid the clouds. The approach was radical, as we dropped in to a valley and turned right on to the approach! There is no change for a go around at Lukla, and once committed, we were landing! The runway is about 120m long and as the wheels touched down, the pilot hit the brakes! Unreal and what an experience! A short taxi and were outside the airport, safe and sound!


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In Lukla, we had a lunch, whilst Sean recruited porters to carry the bags. The weather was closing in and soon we were on the trail to Phakding. Now I have done quite a bit of hiking, but this day’s hike was the best I had ever done. The mountains, the people, the Buddhist shrines, the yaks. I all added up to a fascinating day out. Well, it tuned in to a day night out as we only arrived in Phakding after dark! We checked in to a tea house, and after a fine dinner of eggs and chips, I was off to bed!





Phakding to Namche Bazaar

Up early, we hit the trail to Namche. Now if I though the previous day was great, it got even better! Huge clean rivers flowing down over rapids and waterfalls, suspension bridges up to 150 meters high, pine forests and tea houses. We passed through many small villages each with tea houses. Pray wheels and huge rock facings completely carved with prayer inscriptions were seen all along the trail. This stretch had it all.


It also had a 2 ½ hour climb up to Namche and by the time we got in, our bodies had felt it! The path zig-zagged its way from the river up to Namche a climb of some 600 vertical meters. We got to Namche early in the afternoon and checked in to our guest house. Tea and later dinner was served as we all sat around the fire place and caught up on the days walk in. For me, a memorable one of note and a message goes out to all reading – You should try this. It’s stunning!!

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On the 2nd April, it was acclimatization day. Above Namche, and about 400 vertical meters is a tea house with a view sight of Everest and other large mountains in the area. At 7am were all set up. The idea behind this hike, not only to see the view, but to acclimatize. “Climb high, sleep low”. It was a 2 hour trek to the top, not far, but steep. After a slow slog, with each of us concentrating on our breathing, we arrived at the tea house. Unfortunately the clouds had moved in and Everest was nowhere to been seen. However we could identify a number of other peaks in the area, amongst them Ama Dablam. We all sat down to a cuppa tea or hot chocolate, before heading back down.



Later that day we went down to a local bakery for coffee. It was Sean’s birthday and a little celebration was in order. Coffee and cake went down well, and then Bobby brought out Sean’s gift. As Sean had a pair of lime green trainers that could blind most, Bobby presented Sean with green gloves, lime green gaiters and a green beanie!! A great afternoon was had by all!

As Namche was really our last opportunity to buy any supplies we needed, most went out and got what they needed. Back at the tea house, and after dinner, Sean briefed us all on the next days trek to Tengboche. We had all had an enjoyable 2 days at Namche Bazaar and I was now time to move on. Bed Time!!!