Everest Update 5 of 10: Nuptse Attempt

In 7. Everest, Asia, Project 7in4by Steve

Everest Day 16, 30-Apr-2018: Back Up to Camp 2

This morning Jon, Tim and I set off from EBC a bit after 04:00. We headed back through the Khumbu Icefall and back up to Camp 2. With a few collapses and more movement in the Icefall the route isn’t as clean as it was when we first went through almost two weeks ago but still in pretty good condition.

The weather was overcast all day with frequent snow showers which was actually nice. One of the biggest challenges climbing up to Camp 2 is the heat in the Western Cwm once the sun hits, which can be oppressive. Today being overcast it was warm but not ridiculously hot.

Not knowing how long we’ll be up here for Jon and I brought up enough food to feed a small army. It meant very heavy packs which weighed us down. We also took the opportunity to do a lot of filming on the way up plus with more people now doing their rotations there were more delays along the route. All up it meant a slow trip from EBC to Camp 2, about 6.5hrs in total. In the past I have done it in under 4hrs so 6.5hrs was a bit of a long drag, but we made it.

Chatting with other teams it sounds like rope fixing is progressing slowly, almost to the South Cole, but could be delayed with bad weather forecasteed in the coming days. Tomorrow we’ll just sit at Camp 2 and see how things progress.

Everest Day 17, 01-May-2018: Camp 2 to Nuptse High Camp

I’ll keep this short and do a more detailed report when I get back down.

This morning I woke up around 08:30 expecting to have a quiet relaxing day in Camp 2. We spent the morning playing cards and doing a whole lot of nothing. Then at 15:00 we found out via radio that the other small team we were planning to attempt Nuptse with had already left and were on their way round to High Camp. A bit of miscommunication but basically meant we had to pack and get moving asap.

We made it to Nuptse High Camp around 19:00, cut a couple of tent platforms in the snow, pitched two tents and piled in. We are now brewing up and about to start on dinner. We’ll then rest up for a few hours and set off at 02:00 for a summit attempt. It will be Tim, Adam, Jon, myself and a couple of Sherpas heading up together with a few guys from Adventure Consultants.

Nuptse is a very tough peak. It hasn’t been summited for about 5 years and has only seen about 20 summits in total. To get up would be a massive achievement but I’m not losing focus of the main goal. We’ll see how we go.

Everest Day 18, 02-May-2018: Nuptse Summit Attempt

Today a small group of us attempted Nuptse, a steep, technical and rarely climbed peak. It was organised by Guy Cotter (Adventure Consultants) as he was going up with one client. Myself, Jon Gupta, Tim Mosedale and Adam Booth along with a couple of Sherpas from our team had the opportunity to tag along.

Having to race from Everest Camp 2 across to Nuptse high camp last night to catch up with Guy and his team was not a great start. They had tried to notify us via radio that they were going a day earlier than planned but we didn’t get the message until late in the day. Anyway, we managed a few hours rest and were up and going by 02:00. And just for the record, oxygen bottles do not make for comfortable pillows.

The climbing was steep, unrelentingly steep. To make it even harder the face was covered in loose, soft snow. Half the time you could kick semi steps into the snow and half the time you’d kick straight through the loose powder and just scratch on the sheer ice and rock underneath. Even aided with fixed ropes, which Guy’s Sherpa team were helping put in, it was painfully slow going.

On the plus side, the weather in general was excellent and the views, as Tim put it, “were to die for”. Although being up above 7500m clinging to the side of a steep slippery face, I would have chosen different words. But I will agree with Tim, the views over the Western Cwm to Everest and Tibet beyond were exceptional.

We reached high on the ridge, up around 7650m, when a couple of Sherpas from Guy’s team who were out in front fixing rope, decided to call it quits. A tough but wise decision. We were close, very close. The summit was less than 200 vertical metres away, but the route ahead looked very avalanche prone. Plus we were fatigued and the day was getting on. So reluctantly, with the summit in sight, we all turned back.

The decision to turn back on Nuptse when less than 200m from the summit was a tough one but we still had the descent to focus on. Given how steep it was, and relatively slippery underfoot, I abseiled most of it. Long abseils down the face, re-clipping around each anchor and continuing.

It was about 14:00 but the time we got back to Nuptse high camp. We’d been on the go for 12hrs, had barely slept the night before and hadn’t had a proper meal for well over a day. We were all exhausted but none of us wanted to stay there a second night. It was more of a shelter to rest for a few hours on the way up as opposed to an actual camp. So after a brief break, we stripped camp, packed our bags and set off for Everest Camp 2.

In the 24hrs since we’d come up, the wind had completely obliterated our trail. It was so demoralising having to break trail again on the way back through soft snow. We finally got back to Camp 2 at 17:30. We were beyond tired. The usual chirpy British banter between Tim, Jon and Adam had reduced to zero. Evidence of just how tired we were. We had a light dinner and crashed in our tents.

It was disappointing not to summit Nuptse but was a great day out all the same. The climbing was awesome, views exceptional, and it was a privilege to be able to share it with a great bunch of guys.

And now I’ll answer a question you may be asking – why am I climbing Nuptse?

Well, what we were trying to do was “The Triple Crown”. The Triple Crown being Everest, Lhotse and Nuptse, the three peaks on the Everest massif, in a single season. It is a very difficult mountaineering challenge, which to my knowledge has only ever been done once before. It really would have been the cherry on the top after the past 4 months. Anyway, it was not to be.

Now time to switch focus back to Everest and stopping the clock on the 7 Summits.

Everest Day 19, 03-May-2018: Camp 2 Back to Basecamp

Last night up at Camp 2 I slept 11hrs straight. Camp 2 is at about 6400m and up there I normally have quite broken sleep in the thin, cold air. But last night I passed out at 19:30 and didn’t wake until 06:30. Maybe it’s my acclimatisation improving or maybe it’s just how exhausted I was after yesterday’s efforts on Nuptse, either way it was a great night’s sleep.

After yesterday none of us felt like an overly early start, but we were keen to get back down to the relative luxuries of Basecamp. Breakfast was chapati, fried egg and masala tea then we packed up and got going. I left most of my gear behind to use on our Everest summit attempt so had a nice light pack to come down with.

I paced Jon back down and we made the decent from Camp 2 back through the Icefall to Basecamp in under 2hrs.

First port of call was a shower. The makeshift shower at Basecamp would rank up there with one of the worst I’ve had but felt so good under the circumstances.

Spam was then served up for lunch. Now I wouldn’t normally touch the stuff at home but sliced, fried spam with a side of potatoes tastes so good up here. It’s all relative I guess.

After a bit of fun on Nuptse the past two days, we’re all set for an Everest attempt but weather isn’t playing ball. The rope fixing team has been doing an awesome job and have already fixed to the South Cole but with high winds forecast for the next week may be sitting and waiting for a while.

“Go with the decision that will make for a great story”.