It only seems like yesterday that Matt was evacuated from Base Camp, but a lot has happened since then...but where to begin!
Well, Base Camp!
On the contrary to the sort of images you may conjure up whilst thinking about Base Camp life - sparse, desolate living, the actual setup is pretty luxurious for camping!!
We have an absolutely outstanding Sherpa team, who are always on hand with a smile to sort out any problems, there really is no problem too big for them! The food here, prepared again by the Sherpas, is awesome compared to what we have been used to at Aconcagua Base Camp, with plenty to go around. Not to mention the luxury barrels in each of the two mess tents which house the odd Mr Kipling slices and flapjack!! With regards to entertainment when we are in our down time, I cannot confirm the presence of two 32inch flat screen TVs and DVD players with over 60 DVD titles of choice, I can however confirm that Anchorman is not within the DVD selection and so the TVs may as well not exist.
The views from BC can only be described as stunning. Waking up each morning to a clear view of Mount Everest from my tent, not a cloud in the sky and no noise would give the Glen of Tranquility a run for its money...
Since being established at BC, I've visited the memorials of Mallory and Irvine, as well as the other memorials dedicated to climbers who have not returned from the mountain. A poignant reminder of what dangers this great mountain holds, not that I need it.
The main focus on everyones minds at the moment is acclimatisation, acclimatisation, acclimatisation!! With BC at 5200m, it's important that this becomes our sea-level as soon as possible...if our bodies cannot adapt to survive comfortably at this altitude, we stand little chance higher up the mountain. As part of our daily routine, a number of relatively low-level acclimatisation walks have been undertaken to push our exposure to higher altitude. Again sticking to the mantra of "climb high, sleep low". A tick in the box is gained from our team leaders once we have smashed the 6000m level.
With the 6000m height exposure now ticked off, it was time for the Puja, the traditional mountain blessing ceremony. This is essential before we could depart and step foot on the path towards Advanced Base Camp, all part of the local customs for the mountain.
The local monks came along to perform the ceremony for the whole Adventure Peaks team and Sherpas. In direct view of Everest itself, and with much chanting, bell ringing and incense burning by the monks, the huge prayer flags were raised around our tents. This was then followed by what can only be described as a massive food fight between the Sherpas and us, with much flour and rice to go around!! Lash then started with beers and shots being passed around by the Sherpas, all in the spirit of the ceremony I can assure you, especially at 10 in the morning! Every member of the climbing party was also given a ceremonial climbing necklace by the monks, which is not to be removed until after a successful summit.
With the blessings complete, we were now allowed to venture onto the mountain. On Sunday 18th April we finally left BC for ABC which sits rather uncomfortably at 6400m. The move was the biggest test to date, but thankfully the 15mile trek from BC to ABC was broken up with an Intermediate camp at 5700m. The two days treking up to ABC provided spectacular scenery of penedantes on a much grander scale to those seen on Aconcagua! What can only be described as staggering views as we drew closer to ABC we had our first close-up view of the summit, Second Step and the North Col. I felt privileged to witness these sights. But what made it even more special was that I was given the news that Matt would be re-joining me in just over a weeks time, the team would be re-united again!
ABC has been made to be as comfortable as possible for the highest camp in the world. Evidence of past expeditions though can still be seen, which is a great shame as the location and scenery are outstanding. My first two days at ABC can only be described as the worst Jagermeister-hangover I have ever experienced, I have however been very fortunate not to have experienced any signs of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) and have adapted quickly to the 40% oxygen environment that we are living in. Thankfully, after a walk up to the North Col head-wall, 6600m, I was back to my strong physical self.
ABC has shown the weather forces that Everest can unleash, with 50-60mph winds, which nearly blew our tent off the ground...whilst we were still in it!! The sometimes sleepless nights, due to altitude, have been made more comfortable by my temporary tent-buddy, Geordie (who will hopefully become the youngest Briton to complete the 7 Summits) who I am pleased to say is now an avid Inbetweeners fan.
On the 22nd April, we moved to the legendary North Col head-wall to attempt to ascend the biggest hurdle we would come across so far. It involved 4 hours of solid climbing, possibly the biggest physical and mental test I have ever experienced. At over 7000m I crossed crevasses on metal step ladders, scaled snow-covered cliff shelves and finally clawed my way to the top to set a new personal altitude record of 7050m, a height it is only possible to reach in the Himalayas. Summiting the North Col showed the final route which will take us to the top of the World.
Following the successful ascent of the North Col, and potentially the first Ginger to do it, we made a rapid retreat (we pretty much abseiled all the way down!!) to the relative comfort of ABC, before heading back down to BC the following morning. On my arrival at Base Camp, guess who I found in my tent grinning like a Cheshire Cat...
In May 2010 Matt Snook and Pete Sunnucks are climbing Mount Everest. Reaching the highest point on earth will fulfill personal lifetime dreams. But more importantly it provides a unique opportunity to raise awareness and funds for two charities they are deeply passionate about - Help for Heroes and the John Thornton Young Achievers Foundation.
This is our story...