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Author Topic: Kathmandu 27 sept. Final update, why we cancelled and my feelings about it.  (Read 6403 times)

7summits

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OK, here is the last diary from Kathmandu, with what happened on Everest.
There are always many truths to every story, here's my side of it so to speak...

So What happened the last week?

Tuesday 14 September, ABC, 6400m - North Col, 7060m
Werner, would come a bit later, so Sander and I left for North Col. It started out cold and I decided to wear my The North Face Down suit (kinda like a wearable sleeping bag...). Sander had to stop to put on his warm gloves to prevent his fingers from freezing..
But soon everything warmed up and we were accompanied by Werner when we entered the glacier.

The first part of the fixed ropes were fixed over about 50 degrees old avalanche debris, after that it were mainly snow slopes. It felt great to be finally climbing Everest instead of just hiking over scree and rocks until ABC, and I shouted out to Werner and Sander: "Hey Guys, we are climbing Everest!"

I climbed ahead to find a flat spot for our scheduled radio call with Ruby at ABC, just below the first near vertical spot.

This is an 80 degree short section of about 10-12m up, so normally not too difficult, but as we were on this altitude (6750m) for the first time, I almost breathed the lungs out of my body when reaching the top of it...

After that section we crossed an avalanche area, slowly leading up to the last and longer steeper section. It started with 6 meters of vertical ice, slowly leveling off to a steady 40 degrees snow field. At the end of te snow field was a longer steeper secrtion, probably about 20m of 80 degree ice mixed with very soft snow. We used 2 jumars here (I used one jumar and one axe before) and it took all our force to lift us including heavy backpacks up the ropes.

When calling back in to ABC they said we haed been followed from below and that we shpould be very close to camp; and indeed, not  5 minutes later and 30 meters higher we stumbled onto our huge TNF Himalayan 47 tent, already pitched by the Sherpas, who were sitting in their tent.
I immediately started melting water on our gas stove, while Werner and Sander warmed up in their sleeping bag. It had taken 4.5 hours to climb up the fixed ropes, so about 100 vertical meters/hour, which is not bad for the first time.
Werner did not close his Platypus bag correctly and over a liter of water went over his sleeping bag, assuring him of an uncomfortable night, ass he had to sleep in his goretex clothing to keep warm...


Wednesday 15 September, NC. 7060m - ABC 6400m
After a reasonable night I had planned to do a carry from North Col: climb down, get more stuff I stashed at the bottom of the fixed ropes and climb back up again for a 2nd night. But the moment I started walking around the tent fort some pictures I knew this was not a good idea as I felt tired and decided to join Sander down, while Werner stayed up.
Down the ropes only took an hour and another hour later we were back in ABC. That day Werner wanted to climb up to Camp 2 at 7500m, but the Sherpas only managed to fix the rope until 7200m and he returned to NC for another night, while the Sherpas unexpectedly climbed down to ABC.

We talked to them that evening as we thought they had not done much so far. Normally they work for 2 days, then rest one day, but the last 3 weeks they had only fixed rope to 7200m and carried few loads, equalling about 4-5 days of work.
Boka Lama stated that he did not want to go to the summit as he said it was too dangerous up there. But they also said no-one had ever summited Everest, while at least a few dozen people have been known to have done so...


Thursday 16th September, back up to NC, 6400m- 7060m

Ruby & Sander left 10 minutes before me, but I caught up withing 15 minutes, Sander was not feeling well. So I passed them and continued towards the fixed ropes alone. Took only a bit over an hour to reach the bottom of the wall and I picked up the resdt of my cache: more food for a summit attempt, extra summit clothing, pictures and a dutch flag for the summit! I also took my new Canon 70-200 pro lens up together with other camera gear, will post great slides soon. The camera gear alone was already about 5-6 kilos...

It was even hotter than the first time, and when I still did not see Sander coming after a whiler I started climbing alone. My pack was even heavier than before but I got up to NC in about 2 hours and 45 minutes,  so much faster than the first time. The Sherpas overtook me while climbing, only Lakhpa went slower than I did.

Werner was glad to see me again, but dissappointed he had not been able to climb higher due to the lack of rope fixed.
We had a firm discussion with the Sherpas as I wanted to know how many extra rope we needed to get a chance for a safe summit day, but they kept on avaoiding answering straight questions and acted emotional. I will never force anyone to do something dangerous against their will, but would like some answers: do we get a fair chance; are the Sherpas doing their best? Why is there not enough rope? How much rope do we need? How can they tell it is extra dangerous up there if they have not been there? If the weather is as great as it is every day, the snow should have been settled by now? etc etc...

Friday 17th September, NC 7060- Camp 2 7550m

I waited for the Sherpas to see if they were really going to fix more ropes and headed after them at 11.00. The snow was soft and again it was warm again.
First yo have to climb down for about 50 meters and then it is a long climb up via about 4 hills of ascending size and steepness. I met the Sherpas when they came down, while I only had one hill to go, but that hill kept on going forever! Finally at about 1700, so 6 hours after leaving I rounded the last hill and saw the VE25 tent, while the snow started to fall around me and the wind picjed up.
I stumbled inside and breathed for about 10 minutes before I could do anything else. At least it was a new height record..
I organized my gear, unpacked my heavy bag and started melting water; it was good that lighter #3 did work in the end...
The radio contact was bad, but I talked using the sat phone with Werner, who had gone down, being tired after 3 nights at NC. I was actually hungry, (which is a good sign at this altitude) and ate a good Adventure food meal and some sweets. It got quite cold and I went for my sleeping bag soon, preparing for a restless night...

Saturday 18th September,  Camp 2 7550 - ABC 6400m

I had a reasonable good sleep, had walen up sometimes, but also slept for at least 8 hours. It was light, but still cold as the sun only hits this spot quite late.
The Sherpas should have come up again to fix the next stretch towards camp 3 at 7900m, but I could see no movement at the NC tent 500m below.
I did have a great view towards Pumori and the giant massif of Cho Oyu.

After a while I decided that the Sherpas were not going to come and I headed down. They were not in NC either and apparently had decended, not what we agreed.
2 hours later I came back in ABC were everybody was sitting. Lakpha came to me and said that the snow was too soft to go to Camp 3. The snow before camp 2 was quite soft indeed, I had to make new tracks, but nothing that could not have been overcome. And above camp 2 the snow was great, I had walked around camp that morning and the conditions were actually quite good...

The rest of the team was sitting in front of the dining tent and sat down next to them.
Werner started talking:
"I will say it right away: we have decided unanimously to cancel the expedition"
What???? I could not believe it and was stunned.
Everybody seemed to agree, especially Boris and Sander, who had phoned the day before to say they were lesaving the expedition due to physical problems were talking aggressively to me. They started talking about that a security code that was agreed before hand was broken and that security was not within agreed borders right now due to people sleeping alone in tents and the worries of the sherpas. I had not been there at that time when that code was discussed (climbing in Pakistan), but wasn't that code quite general? And did the 2nd part of that code not say that the rest of the team would support any remaining climber who would be fit enough to get to the summit? I clearly was that strong climber, but everybody seemed to back out. Even the Yaks to carry stuff down were already ordered while I was climbing down and the Sherpas had been told to get everything down the mountain the next morning.

I felt totally cheated and stabbed in the back. How can a team decision be made 'unanimously' when I, the strongest climber, was not even there?

It appeared that the Sherpas (lack of) motivation was one of the main reasons and their word for bad conditions was welcomed as a reason to call everything off. No matter what I said about the actual conditions up there, the decision was already made. Goodbuye teamwork, Goodbye very long and focused preparation, Goodbye money and savings, Goodbye dream. And this halfway the expedition, with almost 4 weeks to spare, feeling the best I had ever felt on a mountain, sleeping and eating without headaches on 7500m the night before while not even using extra oxygen.

Dinner did not taste and I felt utterly betrayed by my team mates. Slept badly and could still not understand why this had happened.


Sunday 19th September ABC

The Sherpas had left early to get everything down the mountain, including over 25 kilos I had just brought up the days before...
Sander, Boris and Ruby left for BC early, I wanted to wait to see everything would come down first. I talked to Werner who was the only other climbing member whop felt reasonably fit and asked him to exp[lain the decision to me. He could not and after a while admitted that it had been a wrong decision without any real logic behind it and actually felt sorry about it as well as the way it was made behind my back. He would talk to the Sherpas later to see if they maybe wanted to continue working for just him and me, on a smaller scale expedition.

Later that day the Sherpas came down again. The4y had been climbing to Camp 2  in only 4 hours from ABC, so apparently the snow and conditions were not that bad after all.. they had carried heavy loads leaving only the food up there.
We talked to them, but they had no intent of going back up so the expedition was really over.

Monday 20th September ABC, 6400m- BC, 5200m

Werner left in the morning, I first collected some of our paryer flags and had lunch before heading down at noon. The sole of my shoe let go only a few hundred meters out of camp and I had to tie it to be able to walk. Snow started falling and I felt bad. Bad about everything.
After about 3 hours I arrived at Interim camp where Werner was waiting. As he had no stove I convinced him to join me down to BC so he could get proper water and warm food. We arrived at about 18.30, having walked the last 30 minutes in the dark.

We had another big and emotional discussion that night; the rest of the team admitted that the way the decision had been made was not right and apologized to me, but they were still standing behind the decision itself, saying that it was not secure to climb at this time.
I slept angry and emotional. How can they just cancel everything I worked for in many ways the past few years?
How can their truth and motivation differ so much from mine?


The next few days we organized everything, preparing to go down. No fun days although the initial tension had eased a lot.

We had some more problems with cars not appearing, being grossly overcharged for extra Yaks (partly solved by calling the Chinese Tibethan Mountaineering Asscn) and making a list of everything that was stolen by locals and yakdrivers (including one oxygen bottle, one backpack, one solar panel and my TNF Baltoro Down jacket).

The ride to Nepal was smooth and quickly, although at the busy Zhangmu/Kodari border post (The Friendship Bridge) another solar panel box dissappeared. We changed into a larhe and very old bus, doubly serving as cargo truck: completely filled with our gear and drums..

Yesterday we talked to Tendy from Iceland trekking who will refund our extra Yak costs. He was very imp[ressed we had gotten it down from $2600 to $950, saying it was an importamt source of extra (illegal) income for the Chinese Liaison officers normally and that no-one had ever lowered it.

Tendy also told that the reluctance and low moral of the Sherpas was very likely just financial: they used security as a way to secure extra bonuses for climbing, negotiating so to speak... So their game and 'mutiny' was the main reason the team had decided to stop, trusting the experience of teh Sherpas, one of them who had summited 4 times before.


This morning we talked to Elizabeth Hawley, the woman who checks on all expeditions and publishes their stories in the Alpine Journal. Amazing woman and fun to talk to.
When explaining the story and when talking afterwards I could tell that  no-one was so sure anymore about the decision that had been made so 'unanimously' high up that mountain. Sometimes altitude does funny things with people's minds, I have seen that many times before.


I will surely get back to Everest, probably the only one of our team wanting to do that as I was the most motivated to begin with.
New dream, find new money, but most of all get a new team. Climbing Everest is a team sport, it is almost impossible to make it alone. But you need a team that is 200% focused and mentally and physically among the strongest. The Dutch Chomolungma team was not that needed team.


This is my side of the grand total we call truth. Learn from it like I have done and join me for Everest in the near future.
Thanks for your support, kind emails and calls.
Most thanks for Marian who supports me like no other and made me the strongest climber on Everest this season.

Thanks and keep climbing,

Harry
« Last Edit: Aug 22 2007, 22:59 by 7summits »
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"He who climbs upon the highest mountains laughs at all tragedies, real or imaginary." -- Friedrich Nietzsche

MoT

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Ah damn Harry that's terrible... Don't know what to say really - except that Everest will be still there waiting for you. Just out of interest what experience level had the other climbers in the group - seems like a pretty hasty looking decision was made. (Of course I wasn't there so I'm only trying to make sense of it all - hope I'm not flamed for such a question)  :_[
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Ron

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Guess its late and of littel importance...but my feelings were right about that group.
And my desicion not to go with thm too.

Harry I kow you are capable of doing it.....and i knew you would be the strogest.

You will get that shot to the summit
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Corsair

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I feel sad about what happened and it's always a shame when the plan falls through in one way or the other.

I will try not to sound too patronizing, arrogant or "besserwisserish", but I just don't understand the group-mentality of some projects in modern-day mountaineering.

It seems like more and more people are putting a huge hope to the sherpas and their capacity to set everything up for the team. If that part of the plan falls through, voices are very often raised about calling off the whole project.

"Up there", I would not like to feel dependant on anyone but trusted team mates. The last category of people I would like to be dependant on are persons (in this case sherpas) who have personal economical interests in calling off the project with any means possible. In this case claiming conditions are too rough, other times "because the mountain gods are angry" or other sorts of bs. Going on strike, demanding more money etc. is very common and the fact is; they really have a good grip on the situation. What can you do if they refuse?
Chuck them some more cash, or they just pack their stuff and set off for home.

I was in a situation once in Nepal, when a sherpa refused to help a climber with AMS down, unless he was paid another $500. In this case the sherpa in question was paid to do tasks like the one mentioned. It was a crystal clear day on Mera peak, so nothing could be blamed on "extreme danger" etc. He just saw another opportunity to get some easy cash and he took it. Regardless of the danger the climber was in.

Ok, that example is on the extrem side, but the bottom line is:
Isn't mountaineering all about being able to take care of oneself, without being dependant on cut throats and back stabbers who only cares about profit?

Personally, I just don't get the point in attempting something as serious as for ex. Mt Everest, if one of the main defeat-factors are not-to-be-trusted persons in your surroundings.

That's my point of view and I know it's controversial in some camps.
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