Rest day in Base camp – 12 January 2012

snow covered base camp sWhen we woke up today the temperature was minus 5 degrees so Jay and I stayed in our warm sleeping bags as long as possible. Once the sun was out, things warmed up nicely. The camp and surrounding mountains was still covered in a layer of snow.

Our tent was in a shambles, so we reorganized everything and started to prepare our packs for tomorrow.

None of us had had a wash in 6 days, so we headed over to the other side of camp for a very satisfying hot shower. They provide a bag of warm water, which is hoisted up and has a tube attached. So today we will all smell respectable again. This will be our last wash for the next 8 days and we will remain in the same clothing to avoid carrying unnecessary weight.

communication tent sWhile we are at the higher camps, Nick will try sms a message each day to his wife (hopefully this news could be relayed to Lynne to be posted on the blog or posted directly). But he will be saving the battery for a message from the summit. Therefore, the news will be very scant until we get back down to base camp on the other side of the mountain. Sibu also has a Satellite phone, but for some reason it doesn´t seem to be working.

Good news is that Nick is feeling much better today, so I see no reason why the whole team can´t head up to Camp 1 tomorrow. Please keep your fingers crossed for good weather for the next 8 days.

Moving Kit to Camp 1 - 11 Jan 2012

arriving at camp 1

scree s Today we set off at 9am to carry about 10 kg of kit up to Camp 1. Nick decided to stay behind, as he had a stomach bug. He is taking medication, so hopefully he will be back in action tomorrow.

The climb to Camp 1 follows a steep ravine. There is a lot of loose broken rocks and loose screed, so probably long ago it was covered by a glacier. The loose screed made the climb quite tricky, as you can easily slide all the way down into an icy river. What made it worse was that we were carrying heavy packs and were not very steady while wearing the heavy ice boots for the first time. Even Jayson commented that it was quite dangerous in places. The guide said we must leave a following distance of at least 2m between climbers and shout ROCK to warn the others below if the rocks begin to slide. So it is probably just as well that Lynne was not there, as she may have freaked out seeing what her two boys are up to (ha ha). This is probably the most difficult section of the route, which we will need to repeat on Friday when we leave base camp to start the summit attempt.

The screed slope made progress quite slow and after one hour we were only 135m above base camp with another 615m to go. Eventually, as we got higher, all the ponds were frozen and for amusement we would throw rocks to see if we could break the surface of the ice. There was strange ice formations called Penitents, which looked like ice needles. It felt as if we had stepped into another world. It is views like this that make the trip worthwhile.

We eventually arrived at Camp 1 after five and a half hours of climbing. We were very excited and congratulated each other and took a group photo. Phil had done quite a lot of video shots, so his battery was completely dead. The view of the open ice fields above Camp 1 was another amazing sight and we could see other teams making progress towards Camp 2.

The elevation of Camp 1 is about 4 950 m, so we were now higher than any peak in the Alps including Mont Blanc. You can feel the strain on your breathing at this altitude, and it is necessary to take short breaks to get your breath back. Bob (66 years) was always very quick to have a snooze in the longer breaks, which worked well for him, as he made excellent progress all day.

We quickly cached all the kit and placed rocks on top, then started back down to base camp. As we were leaving, we passed Phokwane and two of the guides still on their way up.  Going down the screed slope was even more nerve racking than going up and we went very cautiously in places. I had a bit of a scare when I tripped on my own shoelace, but luckily didn´t fall. It was getting colder rapidly, so we kept a quick pace and managed to get down in two and a half hours. By this time I had a throbbing headache from the rapid descent. As we approached base camp, it started to snow and soon the whole of base camp was transformed into a white layer. This was the first time that Jayson had been in snow, so he stayed outside playing in the snow and throwing snow balls at our tent. I just don´t know where he finds the energy?

I was exhausted when we got back and crashed on my bed in the tent. I was ravenous and started eating everything in sight. This is not too surprising as I had burnt a whopping 23,000kJ energy in 8 hours, equivalent to about 40 energy bars. I was also shivering and cold, and climbed deeper into my sleeping bag. Eventually Jayson came up with the solution and told me to put on my down jacket…clever lad!!

In the mess tent, everyone was in high spirits due to the snow. We also had another reason to celebrate as it was Phokwane´s 35th birthday today and the kitchen staff even made a delicious birthday cake for her.
steep scree s
penitents s
penitents1 s
camp2 trail behind s
campo 1 s
leaving base camp1 s
leaving base camp2 s


Rest Day at Base Camp – 10 Jan 2012

ray jay henk johan frank rod mike near base camp
Today some of us had started mild headaches, including myself. I had not slept well, and we were still working out the concept of the pee bottle. The idea is to use a bottle in the tent instead of getting out of a warm sleeping bag, kitting up, putting on boots to take a trip to the toilet. We all shared stories and joked about it in the morning. Sibu says that the best idea is to take an old 5 liter plastic container, then there is not risk of accidental overflowing.

ray and jay-first view of acon s medical checkup at base camp s

In the morning we were asked to go for a medical checkup to ensure that we are adequately acclimatized before climbing higher. We all lined up like school children outside the medical office. The test involved measuring blood pressure, oxygen saturation levels and listening to the lungs. The test was repeated after walking across the camp to a large rock on the other side. Most of us showed a reduction in oxygen levels after this light exercise but, strangely, Jayson´s levels actually went up. Everyone in the group was declared fit to continue.

base camp mess tent
Lunch today was soup followed by a type of pizza slice which I ate 3 huge slices until my belly couldn´t take it any more. This was very satisfying and will go a long way for energy levels tomorrow as we carry loads up to Camp 1, which is about 700 m higher. For most of us we will be wearing our ice boots for the first time. We will not need to use crampons tomorrow. This morning Sibo was measuring out our food kits and gas bottles that we must carry with us. We will start climbing at 9am tomorrow morning and should return to base camp late in the afternoon after we have stashed the supplies at Camp 1. Hopefully we will get more views of the mountain tomorrow.

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