We have attached some more photos from our summit push and would like to pass along a few more details of how the day transpired.
As we had been watching the weather forecasts very closely, we made a decision to go up to Camp 3 on the 21st of May. It ended up being a simply perfect day, with no wind and everyone moved well to a small, chopped out perch at 24,000 ft. on the Lhotse Face. We were treated to a beautiful sunset that evening, but after the rays of light waned, it became very cold. The next morning looked perfect so off we went to Camp 4 at 26,000ft., starting very early in the morning.
Along the way we climbed through the distinctive Yellow Band and the rocky Geneva Spur. These two sections are quite challenging at this altitude. About 80 other climbers moved up to high camp on the same schedule as us, however; it's a big mountain and people tend to get scattered quickly.
Once again, our team had a very good day to move up and we were tucked in to Camp 4 by around noon, providing us with some time to rest, rehydrate and recover. As we prepared for our evening summit bid, the wind kicked in quite strong. Over the next few hours we were on the fence as to whether we should wait until the 24th to go, as there were huge streamers of wind and blowing snow coming off the top and through the South Col. Bill and I were seriously worried about conditions... and then the about an hour before we had planned to leave for the summit, the wind just stopped. It was really remarkable and very lucky!
With better conditions at hand, we continued to prepare for our summit bid and departed The South Col at 8.30pm on the 22nd to head for the top. Yep, that's 8.30pm the day before! It made for a long hard, cold night of climbing across the South Col, up the Triangle Face towards the Balcony. During the night, each of us faced individual battles of staving off personal fears, freezing cold and the claustrophobic myopia of following the small circle of headlight beam in front of you.
It seems to take forever to climb up to the Balcony at close to 28,000ft. This is really our first good place to stop in the dark in order to change out our first oxygen bottle. We had a total of 11 Sherpas climbing with us, carrying extra oxygen which makes life up here safer, warmer and for most of us...even possible!
From the Balcony we started up the difficult rock climbing/scrambling towards the South Summit. This was the point when daylight began to taunt us with an agonizingly slow appearance, and then treated us to one of the most amazing sunrises of our lives as it spread across Tibet. At sunrise, we had been climbing for almost eight hours and those first rays of sun felt simply amazing!
Above the difficult climbing, we felt now were in a good position to continue to the summit, as winds were still light and everyone was moving really well. At the South Summit we again changed out our oxygen so we would have plenty for the climb over from the South Summit to the Main Summit of Everest. This next section is where the famous "Hillary Step" is located. This iconic feature is actually a very narrow, exposed ridge with quite interesting climbing at well over 28,500 ft. After negotiating the Hillary Step, we made a slow climbing traverse up and over to the main summit.
We were thrilled that our entire team of five climbers, two Mountain Trip guides and eleven Climbing Sherpas had all made it to the summit! That made for a very happy group of 18 of us in total, taking in the views from the top of our planet!
The winds were now beginning to blow at maybe 20 mph and it was fairly cold, but it was still more or less perfect weather on the summit. The weather was so good that we spent almost an hour taking pictures and enjoying the outstanding views all around us.
While we enjoyed our time on the top, we remained very conscious of the fact that we were really only halfway through our day, and so we began our long descent. As we reached the Balcony, quite a lot of clouds and wind moved in making for some challenging conditions. A climber from another team was having difficulties with possible Cerebral Edema and we loaned one of our Sherpas, Gombu, to assist him and his guide with their descent (their climb down to the South Col went well and he was evacuated from Camp 2).
All in all, it was quite a sporty descent and a rough night as the winds and snow continued until the next morning. We were very fortunate to have found that small window in which to summit. Not all teams were so lucky.
We are now in Base Camp, packing everything, as tomorrow there will not even be a camp here! Everything is getting loaded into barrels and then onto yaks for the three day descent back to Lukla where our equipment will be transferred to Kathmandu. We have scheduled two chartered helicopters for the flight out and are planning to leave tomorrow morning. It will be a bit of a shock to go from Base Camp directly to Kathmandu in one day! But I know that I can safely say that everyone is very much looking forward to being back in "civilization" and everything that entails! At least Kathmandu will provide us with a bit more of a transition back to our Western version of civilization and all its creature comforts.
We hope you enjoy the photos. We'll post more stories soon from our 2010 expedition.
And then there will be more stories from Everest 2011.....
Scott Woolums - reporting from Everest Base Camp