8000 Meters Facts
Expedition 2011: Swee Chiow's Summit Plan
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
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.
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
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.
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...
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
We went to sleep anticipating for our first climb to Camp 1 tomorrow.
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.
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