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  Everest Expedition 2011: Swee Chiow's Summit Plan

17 May.
At last, the weather report is showing a possible summit window 19-21 May. The route fixing team now plans to put in the rope 19-20 May. Many teams are now planning to attempt the summit on 21 May, including our team.
Here is the summit schedule:

18 May - C1 (7066m)
19 May - C2 (7700m)
20 May - C3 (8300m)
21 May - summit & down to C2
22 May - back to ABC
Wish me luck.
Cheers.
Swee Chiow

15 May. Patience Running Thin.
The continuous bad weather has prevented the route fixing team from finishing their job from C3 (8300m) to the top. Since 7 May, they have been waiting for a good weather, so is everyone else. This year, there is no one clear weather window. In the morning, it can be sunny but by noon, it can be snowing or windy.

Two days ago, a meeting was called among the team leaders. It was decided that the leaders who have weather reports will meet daily to compare and discuss strategy.

The other critical factor is by end May, the monsoon will arrive in the Himalaya which brings loads of snow. That will be the end of the climbing season. The situation is made worse by the fact that climbers from the south side have summited since 5 May.

Some climbers have left because they have run out of time. The danger now is climbers might attempt the summit without the fixed rope which increases the risk of accidents.

Patience is running thin in every team. Frustration is building. But there is nothing else we can do but wait, wait for good weather.

Yesterday, instead of waiting, we climbed Lakpa Ri, a nice 7000m peak opposite ABC. The summit was extremely windy and cold. We started at 5.40am and got back to ABC at 2.20pm. A long but rewarding day.

Cheers.
Swee Chiow

10 May. Waiting Game.
We have been back at ABC for 3 days now. The weather is definitely warmer. The ice under our dining tent is melting and we have a little 'swimming pool' now! Sunrise is also earlier and my tent gets warmed up much earlier. These are signs of summer arriving in the Himalaya.

Every expedition is now waiting for the route-fixing team to complete their job from C3 to the summit. Without the rope in place, it would be too dangerous to attempt the summit.

Yesterday, our Sherpas went up for their final load carry with oxygen, food etc. Today, they will deposit stuff up to C3 at 8300m, the highest camp. Tomorrow, they will be back at ABC for a few days' rest. From then, when the rope to the summit is ready and the weather forecast says ok, we will launch our summit attempt.

Exciting days ahead. It won't be long now. Stay tuned...

Cheers.
Swee Chiow

1 May, Report.
Yesterday, we came down to ABC from spending 2 nights at C1 (7066m) as part of the acclimatization. It was freezing cold up there and we didn’t sleep well. We were all in our downsuit inside the sleeping bag. Meals were miserable freeze-dried stuff.

On the 2nd day at C1, we climbed up towards C2 (7700m). The weather was fine in the morning and the route offers a spectacular view of surrounding peaks. We could see Pumori and even Kala Pattar, a popular trekking destination in Nepal. Further west, the familiar Cho Oyu (8201m) greeted me. I climbed it in 1997 as part of training for Everest and have fond memory of that beautiful peak. Changtse (7500m) stands proudly immediately to the north and connecting Changtse to Everest is the North Col, where our C1 is located. By 2.30pm, thick and dark clouds rolled in from the west. I was about 100m below C2 on a rock buttress and alone. I decided this was high enough for acclimatization instead of trying to reach C2 in this less than ideal condition.

Back in ABC now, weather is certainly warmer than we first arrived almost 2 weeks ago. After just 2 nights up at C1, we certainly appreciate Dafuree’s cooking. A new addition to our dining tent – a CD player. It makes this place more homely with tibetan, chinese and western pop music playing in the air.

Our ABC campsite is a stones’ throw away from the large Malaysian team (8 climbers & support members). They invited us to their puja. Further up is the 1-climber Thai team, 7-climber French team, 10-climber UK team, 4-climber Spanish team, 10-climber Chinese team led by the Lhasa-based mountaineering company which is also responsible for route fixing. Our 3 Singaporean friends, Kenneth, Esther and Grant, are nearby too with another team. They just arrived at ABC a few days ago and are now spending 3 nights up at C1. I also met a Mongolian lady who is attempting to be the 1st woman from her country to climb Everest. As usual, base camp is always a colorful mini-UN.

Cheers.
Swee Chiow

21 April. First Foray onto North Col.
We took a walk towards the North Col. Our campsite is one of lowest on the moraine. We walked past campsites of many other expeditions including a Malaysian, Thai, British and Chinese team. Further up at 6500m, there is a China Mobile mini-transmission station installed in 2007. I guess it was for the Beijing Olympic and it does not seem to be operating now. I was told there is cell signal at ABC but so far, no luck.

Another 30 minutes walk brings us to the Crampon Point. We put on our crampons and started walking on the glacier towards the bottom of the North Col. Arkhom was with me and we reached the start of the fixed rope at 6660m. It was still windy and cloudy but I was eager to go up. Arkhom was equally in high spirit. After a short rest and drink, we put on our harness and clipped into the rope. The rope was new and the snow was firm. I was just happy to be here climbing up the North Col, inching closer to my dream, the summit of Everest by the historical and classical north side.

The plan today was not to reach C1 but to explore the route from ABC towards North Col. I caught up with a South African climber at 6820m and decided this was a good place to turn back.

As I slipped into the icy cold sleeping bag for the night, I felt contended with today's progress.

Cheers.
Swee Chiow

22 April. Frozen ABC.
Last night, the gusts were so strong that 3 empty tents got blown away. A rock hit Pemba, our Sirdar, while he was sleeping. He lost some blood. My tent is just next to his. Luckily, his wound was dressed up in the morning by Dr Arkhom and he is ok. The wind has not stopped since we arrived here 4 days ago.

Everything is frozen - water left inside a water parka, tooth paste, wet wipes & sunblock. I have to place them in hot water for a good 10 minutes to defrost. In the dining tent & kitchen, almost everything suffers the same fate - peanut butter, carrot, cabbage, chocolate. Hopefully, our spirit is not frozen. But the electronics work perfectly in subzero condition - Canon 5D Mark II, G12, Seagate Goflex 500GB, HP EliteBook and Iridium satellite phone.

Just after breakfast, Arkhom was requested to attend to another case. It was a Sherpa from another expedition. He was suffering from moderate HAPE. He had to descend if his condition did not improve.

It was a busy morning. At 11am, we had our puja, the Tibetan Buddhist prayer ceremony. Pemba arranged for one of his climbing Sherpa friends who is also a Lama to conduct the affair. The Lama chanted prayers from a Tibetan prayer script while the Sherpas kept the juniper burning. The team members sat behind the Lama listening. Then, the Sherpas unfurled the colorful prayer flags and strung them across the campsite from the pole at the altar to rocks. The prayer flags are the most beautiful feature of any Himalayan expedition base camp. They flutter peacefully in the wind.

In the evening, the wind stopped and it started snowing lightly. It's a miracle. The prayers in the puja had worked.

Another miracle took place - the Sherpas brought out the gas heater and after what seemed like endless hours of fiddling with it, it finally worked. We have external warmth! The condition in our dining tent is improving everyday.

We went to sleep anticipating for our first climb to Camp 1 tomorrow.

Cheers.
Swee Chiow

Earlier:

The past one month has been hectic – coordinating with Beijing on paperwork for Everest permit, coordinating with Kathmandu agent on logistics and equipment, preparing my own equipment, helping team members with their equipment, liasing with sponsors, preparing for the media launch tomorrow, finding the time to train and last but not least, finding the time to spend with my kids. When I step onto the plane in 2 days’ time, I can finally put all these preparations behind and look forward to the fascinating journey ahead. This has been my life for the past 15 years. But I keep forgetting how much work it takes to launch a major expedition. So it’s good to have short memory. Welcome to the start of another exciting adventure. I hope to share and interactive with you more as we progress. I can’t wait to see the awesome north face of Everest and experience the mystical shangri-la of Tibet.Stay tuned…Cheers.

Swee Chiow

 

 

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