ST. PETERSBURG EVEREST - 2003 JUBILEE EXPEDITION
EXPEDITION NEWS, PART 2:
April 19, Tom Masterson:
St. Petersburg English language Everest report continued
Tuesday, 8 April 2003:
Tingri to Everest base camp. Today we get an earlier start: breakfast is at 5:45 Nepali time or 8 a.m. Chinese time (Nepali time seems to have the sun nearly overhead at noon while Chinese time is set in Beijing and decreed to be the same for the entire of the country, and, yes, Tibet is in China). Tingri has spectacular views of Everest and Cho Oyu. We left Tingri shortly after 9 (Chinese, all future times will be referenced to Chinese times) passing ~ 20 jogging Chinese soldiers, in formation if not quite in step. The short road to Qomolanga (Chinese name for Everest, with various transliterations) heads south just a couple kilometers east of Tingri, but we take the long road which is 40 km further east. This Friendship Highway is paved for ~ 2 km either side of Tingri, while all the rest (that we have seen) is not much more than single-lane dirt. Our Chinese driver likes to drive as fast as he can make the new Toyota Landcruiser go as fast as he can and occasionally loses control on corners and soft spots.
Just before Shegar we take the 100 km Everest Base Camp Road to the south. The road has been worked on extensively and receives heavy traffic. Particularly impressive are the dozens of switchbacks leading from the Friendship Highway junction at 4000 m to a high pass at about 5100 m. The top of the pass reveals a stunning view of Makalu, Everest, and Cho Oyu.
Fabulous views (also of Shisha Pangma) continue as we wind our way back down, especially when the driver can be convinced to slow down a bit so that we are not overcome with dust from vehicles in front of us. With less than 10 km to go, we stop at the Rongbuk (also various spellings) Monastery. This austere setting has an incredible view of the north face of Everest. We are allowed into the stupa while the monks are chanting and these few moments of quiet meditation are wonderful indeed. Then we continue on to the end of the road on the tailings of the Rongbuk glacier to Everest Base Camp.
Base camp! We are reunited with warm clothes and equipment. The elevation is ~ 5200 m. Tents have already been set up and we work on making solar panels operational and even getting an electric light into each tent. Our Nepali cook, Xasta, fixes us our first non-Chinese meal since leaving Kathmandu. A short walk up the glacial moraine barely gives us an impression of the immensity of the place. Everest towers to the south soaring above 7500+ m peaks in between. When the sun sets to the west of the rim of the glacial valley, the temperature drops impressively, probably more than -15 C.
Wednesday, 9 April 2003:
Everest Base Camp The St. Petersburg group has brought a lot of technological equipment, including a satellite telephone, an electrical generator, solar panels, and two laptops computers (one for e-mail, one for digital photos). But the equipment brought in by other groups makes ours pale by comparison. The Chinese group (~140 people including 7 climbers) is planning a live TV transmission from the summit and will lay a fibre optics cable from base camp (BC) to advanced base camp (ABC), a distance of at least 15 km. The Global Extremes/Mount Everest/4Runners of Adventure/Outdoor Life Network group has a cast of hundreds and only 4 people attempting to climb (either none or at most one of whom has high altitude experience).
There are some beautiful red thrush-like birds on the moraine. The wind blows quite strongly up and down the moraine as well, and can be very cold. A hike up the east side of the glacial valley revealed some Tibetan inscriptions on the top of the ridge. The scree was very loose. After lunch we packed everything for the yaks cartage to ABC.
Thursday, 10 April, 2003:
BC to 1st intermediate Camp. The yak herders arrived about 1:30 p.m., and finally got loaded about 4:30 p.m. with the solar panels being hand carried instead of yak-backed. The yaks carry impressive loads of at least 60 kg, and they move smoothly and not slowly. Snow doesn't bother them and they will seek out such patches for a drink along the way.
We went up the main Rongbuk glacier for ~ 3 km before turning southeast up the East Rongbuk. The total time and distance today is short, less than 3 hours even for the yaks, with an elevation gain of about 300 m. We will take 3 days to gain the 1400 m to ABC.
The views of the yaks traveling up the Rongbuk with Everest in the background are very memorable. It feels nice to be moving and heading uphill this evening at about 5400 m. The Tibetan yak herders (both male and female + 1 dog) are friendly and it would be nice to be able to communicate better with them. We fall asleep to the beautiful sounds of yak bells.
Friday, 11 April, 2003:
1st to 2nd Intermediate camp. We move further up the E. Rongbuk glacier to about 5800 m. The scenery is gorgeous. Huge (30 m high) teeth of white ice start to appear out of the glacial moraine. It was delightful to hear the sounds of a yak man guiding his yaks down from above 6000 m while singing in a deep Tibetan baritone which reverberated off the steep walls of the glacial valley.
In the last hours before dusk, this intermediate camp became flooded with yaks and climbers. There are probably more than 200 yaks here - I was able to count 70 directly in front of our campsite.
Saturday, 12 April, 2003:
Intermediate camp to ABC. After a cold night, we left 2 tents at the intermediate camp (which is about half-way to ABC). It is a long but quite pretty walk to ABC beside the Rongbuk icefall. We went up to almost the end of the moraine, and then returned to nearly the beginning of ABC as all our gear got unloaded from the yaks there.
The Chinese are very territorial about who goes where and threatened to stone anyone who tries to place a camp anywhere near a place that they have marked with a small ribbon. We spent over 2 hours trying to flatten some tent sites with dirt from the edge of the moraine. It was nice to listen to the yak herders singing while going uphill at 6000 m while still going as fast as most of us can walk.
Sunday, 13 April, 2003:
ABC to bottom of North Col. We walk up to and make a depot at the bottom of the North Col. The flat area for the last km below the Col is all ice, some of it blue glacial ice, the rest hard and crunchy snow-melt ice. About 200 m of fixed rope is put in to start the route up the Col.
Monday, 14 April, 2003:
Fixing ropes to the top of the North Col. We return to the base of the North Col, and fix ropes up to the top of the Col at ~7000m. Two of the St. Petersburg climbers did most of the work while the rest of us carried ropes, pickets, and ice screws. Steepest pitch is about 60 degrees for 30 m or so. We also moved the tent/gear depot to the top of the Col, but returned to ABC to sleep.
Tuesday, 15 April, 2003:
Back to BC. We walk the long trek (~15 km?) back to base camp.
Wed + Thurs, 16 & 17 April, 2003:
Friday, 18 April 2003:
2 climbers head back up to ABC in 2 stages.
Saturday, 19 April 2003:
Most the rest of team heads back up to ABC in 1 long day.
April 18, Andrey Ershov:
All is OK and after rest at BC our team continues the work on the route - our members plan to install Camp 2 on 7800 m. Today Oleg Nasedkin and Marina Ershova have gone to ABC, the other members will go up tomorrow. Tom is very tired after the ascent of the North Col and he will spend more days at BC for rest and recuperation. Our doctor Dmitry is very popular at BC and many locals come to him for treatment. We have received a lot of new expedition photos about the BC life and the ascent of the North Col - see them here: part 4 , part 5 and part 6 .
April 14, Marina Ershova:
Hello from ABC!
All is OK and today seven our members: Anatoly Moshnikov, Nikolay Totmyanin, Vladimir Gaidamak, Andrey Dulskiy, Vladimir Belous, Tom Masterson and Oleg Nasedkin have fixed about 700 m of the ropes, reached the North Col (about 7000 m) and pitched a tent of Camp 1 there . I have climbed up to 6600 and brought them a rope. Then we all have come down to ABC and tomorrow we will go to BC for rest.
Our team is the first who have started to work on the route. Maybe, the Chinese team will begin their climbing work tomorrow.
Right now climbing conditions are very nice - there is no much snow on the slopes and the weather is excellent.
More news I will send from BC.
April 13, Marina Ershova:
I am calling from ABC on the altitude about 6400 m. On April 10 we started our way to ABC with yaks, our cook and kitchen boy. The way to ABC is very long, the altitude is high enough and for the first time all this is hard enough. So we did not hurry and spent two nights on our way from BC to ABC. Our doctor Dmitry and the second kitchen boy stayed at BC.
Having come to ABC we have found here several tents of the other expeditions and many Chinese persons. They occupied all good enough places for tents and did not allow us to put our tents on the free places - they keep them for their huge expedition. So, we were forced to go to the beginning of the moraine and to make new tent grounds - this is a very hard thing on the high altitude. But we made new platforms for our tents and pitched our camp.
Today Oleg Nasedkin and me have stayed at ABC but the other six our members have gone to the slopes of the North Col and fixed several ropes - our climbing work has begun! I think we are the first who are working here. Our climbers want to work on the slopes of the North Col a couple of days more and tomorrow I will walk upwards too. Then we will come down to BC for rest.
It is amazing but our cook shows miracles of cooking and all our members are very glad. In addition, the weather is excellent. In general, beside us all is OK.
April 13, Andrey Ershov:
We have received a lot of expedition photos from Tibet. See expedition photos part 1 , part 2 and part 3 .
April 08, Marina Ershova:
Today at 9:00 we have started from Tingri and about 14:00 we have arrived at the Everest BC . On the way we have done a short stop at the very famous high-altitude Rongbuk Monastery. We have written our names on the paper sheets with prayers and local monks have done a church service for our expedition.
Base Camp is located a little upper on the valley near the glacier, on the altitude about 5200 m. Here are already about ten big and small expeditions. We have met some persons acquainted on our previous Himalayan expeditions. The Chinese expedition leaves a lasting impression - they have about 80 persons and more than 40 persons will work on the mountain. This reminds our Soviet period, when crowds of our climbers and tourists went up to the summits to install there busts of Lenin, Stalin and other leaders of the world proletariate :-)
The weather is excellent. There is no snow at BC, but the river is still frozen because even in daytime the temperature is around minus 5. Mt. Everest is black, there is not too much snow on its upper slopes. A strong enough wind blows and we are in down jackets and pants.
Our kitchen personnel - a cook and two kitchen boys - has met us very well: all tents were installed and for dinner we had a splendid steak with roasted potatoes! I do not know how long such things will continue, but soups, meat with potatoes, etc... all this is very typical for Russians and we would not like to change our cuisine.
For the first time on such altitude all members feel well enough. Of course, some of us have a headache but it is normal for the first days.
Tomorrow we will have acclimatization in the area of BC but yaks are already booked for the day after tomorrow. So we plan to go to ABC on April 10 - it may take two or three days.
In general, we are on the place, all is OK and real mountaineering will begin very soon!
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