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Posted on Thursday 31st May, 2012

I am sitting back at my desk in my room in Blackheath, Australia and it certainly feels surreal looking out at the gum trees of the beautiful Blue Mountains National Park again. Our sandstone cliff faces pale in comparison to the mountains that have surrounded me the last two months however they are familiar and ruggedly awesome nonetheless. Its taking some time to ‘come down’ from my adventure and I am gradually processing it as my body and brain are recovering from exhaustion.

As Dawa and I had our final debrief about our climbs back in Kathmandu, I became quite emotional to be at the end of our journey. It had sometimes been hard, a struggle and desperately exhausting towards the end but it had been an amazing adventure thats for sure. I think I even heard a bit of sadness in Dawas voice that it was over even though he had some days of very hard work behind him. So our trip into Lhotse felt very long but in reality it was only a week….

After three nights in Kathmandu and only one real rest day where I wasn’t organising anything, Dawa, Domhnall and I headed off to Lukla on the plane very early on the morning of the 16th. We then waited at the helipad for our chopper into Everest Base Camp. We were all happy to see the same pilot again that flew us out from Sama Goan and I was pretty excited to get the ride of my life on such an awesome and clear day! We all squished into the backseat as there were two pilots. We jammed our gear in along side boxes of produce for Base Camp and cartons of eggs! As the air is thin at Base 5300m, we had to stop at Periche so the pilot could shuttle us to Base one at a time and the co pilot also waited there. The pilot had to be on oxygen from above Periche so he didn’t pass out while flying up high. They also took out loads of spare fuel to make the heli lighter. It was an amazing flight into Base and we landed on the top of a helipad of ice and rock jutting up out of the glacier. He did a good job of actually fitting the machine on it as it was quite small. After about 30 minutes we were all shuttled there along with our gear and the helicopter flew off down the valley again. I couldn’t believe it. It was 8:30am in the morning and we were at Everest Base Camp already! So what to do now? Get a weather report from Michael Fagin, go find our camp and then head off to chat to my friend Willie Benegas about the ropes and conditions on the mountain. After some research I found out quite a few things. Damian, Willie’s twin brother, was planning to lead a team to fix the ropes to the summit of Lhotse on 18th and Domhnall had decided to go with them and try follow behind as he was attempting Lhotse without oxygen. There was no way I could make it up the mountain that fast so we decided to try for the 19th. The ropes to the summit of Everest were being fixed that night so all of the Everest climbers were waiting and this was the first weather window this season. Apparently it had been a horrendous season for weather so far with high winds and not enough snowfall to fix ropes. There was a problem on the Lhotse face with rockfall so Damien led a team to fix a new route to Camp 3 which avoided the danger. Only recently had they managed to fix to the South Col, Camp 4 of Everest. Lots of people were planning to summit Everest on the 18th and 19th so we would try Lhotse in the same window. This would mean leaving that night all the way to Camp 2 then the next day to Camp 3 to be able to have an attempt from Camp 3 to the summit on the 19th. Dawa was really keen to go up the mountain because he had only had three nights in Kathmandu to see his wife and new baby.  He flies to Austria on the 1st of June for four months, so wanted to get home to spend more time with his family, understandably.

The usual afternoon snow at Mountain Tribes Base Camp

Babu Sherpa from Mountain Tribes, who organises my logistics, had a team from Quebec at the Base Camp so we stayed a night at their camp. It was so flash in comparison to our Manaslu Base Camp and the kitchen staff had practically built a house out of stone. The dining tent even had carpet on the ground and a heater! Gabriel, the expedition leader was at the camp while his clients were up on the mountain heading towards summiting Everest on the 19th with their climbing Sherpa.   Dawa and I packed our bags to be ready to head up through the icefall early in the morning. He already sent our oxygen bottles up to Camp 2 with a porter a few days beforehand so that made our loads lighter. We were up at 2:15am and left Base at 3:30am. We wound our way up through the icefall and I was feeling good. I felt like I was going at a pretty good pace and I also thought the actual route of the icefall seemed a lot easier than the previous year. It was just the right temperature that my hands didn’t get too cold in my gloves so I suppose it was slightly warmer than the year before. This time I had a GoPro camera attached to my helmet so I could film going over the ladders that span the crevasses.

Its best to climb the icefall in the dark or in the shade as it is safer from avalanche danger from the slopes above it.

Eating my packed lunch at Camp 1 before heading to Camp 2

I arrived to Camp 1 6000m at the start of the Western Cwm after 5 hours. My best time through the icefall in 2011 was 4 1/2 hours so I didn’t think that was too bad. This is where everything changed for me though because it became very hot on the glacier in the sun with no wind, infact boiling! I stopped and ate my packed lunch that the kitchen staff had made me at Base and Dawa headed off ahead to Camp 2. He is faster and had a bigger backpack so there was no sense in him walking with me. Actually he doesn’t climb with me that often unless he has to because its safer. Mostly just on summit day, so a lot of the time I am on my own. I headed off up the Cwm and soon began to realise I had to take even more layers of clothing off. I just had my thermal tights and a long sleeve glacier shirt on and I was still overheating. I was exhausted and not having fun but finally made it to the start of the camp. Our camp was at the end of the camp however, another 200m higher at 6500m. I could hardly carry my pack anymore and thank god Dawa came down to get it for me. I stumbled into camp absolutely spent and could hardly talk at 2:30pm, eleven hours after leaving Base.

The first very obvious thing I noticed when I entered the Cwm surrounded by Everest, Lhotse and Nuptse, was how different it was in comparison to the year before. There was a lot more bare rock and blue ice around and way less snow. Below is a photo of Lhotse and the Lhotse face in 2011 when we were on the way up to the summit of Everest. It looks like a completely different mountain compared to the one in the above and below pictures. Of course this had me quite worried…..

The Lhotse face from Camp 2 last May 2011

When I finally crawled into my tent, the place I had been fantasising about for the past 6 hours, I lay down and had a cry. Wow I had only had one cry my whole Everest expedition (because I was upset about how heavy Dawa’s bag was) but this trip I had had a few! I cried when my oxygen ran out coming down the fixed lines on my Manaslu summit day. I cried when I was hypoglycaemic when I finally got back to the tent and now I was crying again! What am I a big cry baby?? Well all these scenes have a common theme and that is, I was absolutely exhausted. I couldn’t even stop crying.

Dawa got news that Damian was back at Camp 2 and hadn’t managed to fix the ropes on Lhotse as he instead got involved in a rescue. Earlier that morning there had been an avalanche at Camp 3 when a serac fell down which wiped out a bunch of tents. Fortunately  no one was killed but one Sherpa was very badly injured so Damien helped co-ordinate his rescue. It was very sad to hear this news but in a way I was relieved as it meant I could have a rest day the next day while Damian went up again to fix the summit ropes. I was so exhausted I called my Mum crying and she told me I would be ok after a day of rest and to eat as much as I could. Wise words from someone who has never climbed a mountain! However she is my Mum.

The next morning Dawa headed up to lower Camp 3 to grab a friends tent and move it to higher Camp 3 which is about 7300m for us. I also hired a porter to carry our bottles up for us but he left them at the lower camp 7000m so Dawa took a few to the higher one as well then came back down to Camp 2 again. I radioed Gabriel for a weather update and he seemed to think the 20th would be alright to go for the summit at that point the reports had not showed a significant increase in the wind.   So I got on with my rest day. I slept in and Nema the Camp 2 cook brought food to my tent. It was very warm in the tent and at one point I measured 42 degrees! I put my sleeping bag on the roof to try cool it down a little. I got out to do some filming and chatted with Damian as he headed off up to Camp 3 to start fixing that night. Lots of things were going on around me but I was too tired to be social. For example I heard Gerlinde Keltenbrunner (has climbed all 14 8000+m mountains without oxygen) and her partner arrive back at camp after successfully summiting Nuptse, alpine style. What a bummer I was too tired to get out of my tent to congratulate her! I took this photo of the Lhotse face of all the climbers heading up to summit Everest on the 19th which turned out to be a very controversial day with 4 deaths and many more injured because of congestion on the fixed ropes on the summit ridge. I was having a laugh at the time about the ‘conga line’ to Camp 4 and thinking how lucky I was that it wasn’t so busy the year before when I went up there.

The Lhotse face on the 18th of May 2012 with the line of hundreds of climbers heading up to the South Col

Dawa and I pared down our equipment once again before heading up to Camp 3. We decided to just take one sleeping bag to share, one jetboil stove and just my small happy snap camera and the GoPro. We had just enough food for two nights and the bare essentials, I even left my toothbrush behind to save on weight. We left Camp 2 at 6:30am on the 19th and headed up the glacier to the start of the Lhotse face to the new line of fixed ropes. I immediately noted how much blue ice there was back over at the place where the ropes normally start and was worried that this new way would be hard. I was already finding it hard work just heading up the glacier and I was having a ‘lead boots’ day. I hate these kind of days in the mountains. Sometimes gravity works against you and it feels like your boots are made of lead because it so hard to walk and climb in them. Obviously its just how much energy you have. Some days are ‘zero gravity’ days where you feel like its so easy and you are light and can go forever…..I love those days. They don’t happen that often!

The new route to Camp 3 which avoided the rockfall

The Lhotse face in 2011 and the normal route up to Camp 3

I couldn’t believe it I was going to cry again! I stopped near the base of the Lhotse face as tears started streaming down my face as I looked up at it. I was so tired and still had a long way to go to camp. Dawa caught up to me and asked what was wrong. I said I was already tired and was not even half way there. He decided to head up before me and grab an oxygen bottle from lower Camp 3 that he had left there, then come down and give it to me to help. I agreed this was a great idea and would just go at my own pace up the ropes in the meanwhile. So off he went and I was on my own again. I turned around and someone was speeding up the glacier with trekking crampons on. He caught up to me and stopped to leave his poles and put climbing crampons on. It was Chad Kellogg who was making an attempt to break the speed record on Everest without oxygen. I had met him briefly at Willies Base Camp. I had a whinge about how much I was suffering that day and also a laugh about it. He reminded me that was one of the reasons we were there and also the view of course! Yes its true I suppose I must love suffering or why else would I do it?! Luckily the view was gorgeous but I could hardly enjoy it in my current state. He also tried to tell me about climbing technique and pacing in line with breathing and heart rhythm which was awesome advice. However when I was that exhausted it was hard to focus on technique. Sometimes in the mountains you meet some truly amazing people and sometimes you meet some crazy big disgusting egos. This time I was really happy to meet a genuine nice guy and I was super inspired to see him smash up the ropes and head out of sight so fast. Then come back down again shortly afterwards after touching Camp 2 and give me some encouraging words on his way past. Super cool.

Sucking back on the gas again!

Dawa eventually came back down the ropes on the face just as I was hitting a wall. I was very grateful to see him with an oxygen bottle so he hooked me up and I almost instantly felt much better. So we climbed together up to lower Camp 2 then stopped and had something to eat before heading up the final 300m to our tent at high Camp 3. I thought I would never get there as we kept passing more and more tents and Dawa kept shaking his head and pointing up. Where did he put our tent? It must be in the last safe place before the traverse across the face??

Climbing towards our Camp 3 with some old broken tents to the side of me and the yellow band above on the left.

Finally near our tent, the Mountain Hardware one next to my pack in the picture, with climbers coming down from the South Col.

Finally we arrived to the tent at 3pm and I had been using oxygen since 6900m but it still took me 8 1/2 hours to get there from Camp 2. Thinking back to the year before it took me 9 hours but I wasn’t using the gas. I very tired but very happy there was no more up for the day. We settled in and made some hot water and food. We decided we needed to find out how the rope fixing went so I radioed Damian. He was still on his way down and he gave me a bunch of information that I wasn’t necessarily that happy to hear. Apparently not all the Sherpa had turned up to help or some had turned around so they didn’t have enough rope to fix all the way to the summit. They used old rope on some sections and there was a lot of loose rock. He told us we needed to take two ice tools each to climb with and to be careful of rockfall especially if anyone were above us. The climb goes up a steep 50-55 degree gully that is normally filled with ice and easy to make anchors in. This season due to the lack of precipitation a third of the gully was bare rock. There is a narrow bottleneck in the gully where rockfall would be very dangerous. Great. We had one tool between us and hadn’t even thought to bring a rope naively as we had trusted the ropes would be fixed to the summit. We couldn’t even belay each other through sections where there was no rope or old rope and I was so tired I couldn’t possibly be fast enough to climb ahead of other parties or dodge rockfall. I basically only had enough energy to try the summit with the fixed rope in place but not enough to climb alpine style, not that we had the equipment to do this anyway. Crap, bugger and bum. Well thats the friendly version of my thoughts to Damien’s news. We then radioed Gabriel for an updated weather report. He told us that the report had changed and the forecast was for higher wind than before. He wanted his team that had just summited Everest to come down from the South Col but couldn’t contact them. Infact he hadn’t been able to contact them most of the summit day. Dawa finally managed to talk to one of the Sherpas at the South Col and they were all too exhausted to move down until the next morning.

Dawa and I had extensive discussions about our predicament. What would my friends and family do if they knew I had that news and decided to go up anyway, then got hit by rockfall or even worse I actually fall? We didn’t have a rope. We had one ice tool. The rope wasn’t fixed all the way to the summit making coming down very difficult. Why were we even taking so long to decide what to do?! The answer was staring us in the face and we had to admit it. The safest decision was to turn around. Even after we decided I still kept asking Dawa if we were making the right decision. Summit fever is the biggest killer in the mountains and even though I knew I had made the right decision, I still had the illness. What would people think of me? Would I walk away disappointed in myself? No I would simply walk away, with Dawa, with my health and all my fingers and toes because the mountain will always be there.   We continued to listen to the radio flicking channels through all the groups coming down from the summit of Everest. Dawa was translating all the horrible news of climbers missing, snow blind, frostbite and also dead. It was horrendous listening to all the action live in our tent on the mountain. There were also lots of happy stories as guided groups radioed their Base Camps letting them know they were all safe at the South Col and had summited. I talked to Mike Roberts who had successfully guided his Adventure Consultants team to the summit and congratulated him. He told me I had made a good decision about Lhotse and that he saw a third of the route was rock as he walked passed it the day beforehand. I felt slightly better after talking to someone with so much experience about my decision.

We eventually settled down under my sleeping bag in our down suits. Dawa was not using oxygen but decided if he got cold in the night he would use a bottle. I had my mask on which annoyed the hell out of me as I couldn’t roll over and had to be careful of the hose to the bottle. The wind picked up and got worse during the night, hammering the tent and I couldn’t sleep well at all. Snow had been blasted through all the zips and covered the sleeping bag. As it got lighter in the tent I just lay there with my eyes open wishing I was somewhere else. Somewhere safe and warm and not so noisy. Dawa woke up and apparently had had a great sleep! This man is certainly made for the mountain. I don’t know how he does it! I had a puffy face, red eyes and a splitting headache. We slowly started to get ready to head down. We decided to leave when the sun hit the tent but neither of us had even opened the tent door and bothered to look outside! I braved the blast of snow and looked out to see the sky was covered in cloud. So I guessed there would be no sun hitting the tent. We packed all our things in the tent and I was ready to head down. Dawa decided to finish packing the actual tent up as I headed off first. I still had half a bottle of oxygen left so left it on to head down seeing as I may as well use it all up. I stopped a few meters from the tent to take some photos looking up to the summit of Lhotse firstly, then over to Everest to show what the weather was like. Taking my glove off to do this was a bad move as instantly my hand started to freeze. As soon as I took the photos I quickly put it back on again and stood there for 5 minutes warming it up before I could feel it again. That was close, what was I thinking?!

Looking up the Lhotse face to the summit of Lhotse May 20

Everest on the morning of May 20

I headed down the ropes slowly and safely to lower Camp 3. By the time I got down the clouds were starting to disappear and I was getting lower out of the wind. It was a relief to feel the sun again and start to warm up. I was very keen to get down to the glacier and finish going down the ropes as it was exhausting work with a heavy pack and I had to keep my mind on the job as its easy to make a mistake when you are tired and the consequence can be fatal.

Looking down the Western Cwm to Camp 2

Dawa descending the ropes from low Camp 3

Heading towards the last rappel down to the glacier

Finally we made it down off the Lhotse face and I was very happy to be on the relative safety of the Cwm. We headed back to Camp 2 where Nema cooked us lunch and we rested for an hour. At 1pm we repacked our things and left to go through the icefall for the last time.

At the base of the Lhotse face

Dawas heavy load from Camp 2

Dawa was carrying 4 full oxygen bottles which made his pack incredibly heavy. He decided to leave them at Camp 1 and return in the night to pick them up again. He stayed with me all the way through the icefall and we arrived back at Base together at 6pm exhausted (actually I was the only exhausted one, Dawa said he was a ‘little bit tired but not too bad’). He could have gone in front and arrived ages before me but I suppose he knew this was the last climbing we would do together so he took loads of photos and I took lots of GoPro footage. It was awesome.

Happy to be through the icefall and almost back at Base Camp

Back at base I found out through the grapevine that Domhnall had gone up with Damian that day he fixed the ropes to attempt the summit. He had turned around because a party in front of him was dropping rocks down. He was staying in Base to try again the next weather window of the 24th and 25th of May. I thought about staying too but I would not have Dawa as he was most definitely heading home to his family. I would also have to pay and organise more tents on the mountain. I could have climbed with another Sherpa but this meant more money that I didn’t have. I thought hard about whether I would feel any better having just two days of rest at Base and then trying again when perhaps another team would finish fixing the ropes. The answer was no. Even if I had the money to stay I wouldn’t recover enough energy at 5300m, in that amount of time, to be able to make a serious attempt again. I was disappointed but I was also happy to know we had done our best and if conditions had been different we would have had a better opportunity to make the summit.

The next day Dawa managed to get a flight out of Base in a helicopter as he has loads of friends in the mountains. I wasn’t able to afford a flight so I was prepared to do the three day hike with a porter. I started off down the valley around lunchtime. I didn’t even have the energy to walk around Base and say goodbye to anyone or wish my friends there that were still waiting to head up good luck. I walked by myself for five hours down to Periche and in a way enjoyed the view but was also not looking forward to the next two days as I knew there was some big uphills in the trail. I decided to call Babu and see if he could get me a good price on a flight out as he is always doing deals for me and is supportive of my lack of funds! It turned out he could work his magic and I can’t say how much or I may get in trouble but I got a significant discount. So I put the flight on my credit card and felt like a rockstar once again as the heli landed and Italian climber Simone Moro picked me up the next morning. It was a full flight as there were already three passengers in the back but I squished myself in and my luggage was dumped on top of me. It was perfect weather again as we flew down the valley and I had a massive grin on my face. We landed in Lukla and I only had to wait an hour for my flight to Kathmandu. Dawa waited for me at the airport as he flew a couple of planes before me. We laughed that we both managed to be in Kathmandu so fast!

So back to the Courtyard to see my beautiful friends Michelle and Pujan. Of course Michelle had given me the biggest and most lush room in the Hotel. I can’t thank them enough for being so kind to me and making my expedition even more enjoyable because I always had such a beautiful place to stay before and after my time in the mountains. I spent a few days in Kathmandu eating and sleeping before flying home to continue the trend here.

I want to thank all my financial sponsors for helping to make this amazing adventure possible. Thanks to Northcote Pottery, Marcellin Football Club, Moore Stephens, Asian Pacific Group and Art Series Hotels. I would like to give the biggest thank you in the world to Andrew and Jenni McMahon for their support and belief in me. I would also like to thank Back Country Cuisine, Sea to Summit, Wild Aid, Mont, Goal Zero and Villawood Indoor Climbing Gym for their support of my expedition. Lastly thanks to all my family, friends and work colleagues for their faith and support.

Of course the question everyone has been asking me is what next? Well before I can even think of what next I need to try pay off the debts of my last two years of expeditions. I have some thoughts in my mind but we will just have to wait and see….

Lhotse | No Comments

The most beautiful of summits.

Posted on Tuesday 15th May, 2012

Where to start!! Its been a whirlwind, roller-coaster ride since my last blog update. I have been very busy obviously and this is why there has been a long wait for this post…..but I hope for everyone it will be worth it! As my brain is not at its normal running capacity due to high altitude haze and general shock of being at 8163m one day then two days later sitting in the Hotel Courtyard with my beautiful friends Michelle and Pujan, I will show my latest exploits mostly through lots of photos.

We left Base on the 5th of May bound for Camp 1 (again!!) in gorgeous weather. Perhaps this time we would get more than one morning of fine weather in a row??  It was very hot on the glacier so consequently this time took 5 hours and 40 minutes. Once again the tents were buried.

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At around 8am we heard a woman screaming above our camp “help, help”. There weren’t many people at the camp that night. Just Dawa and I, Marc, Francis and Tendi, an Italian Sergio and the Canadians Lucille and Domhnall where up the hill in a snow cave. My first thought was that it collapsed on him. I was in my thermals and Dawa had more clothes on. It was a snow storm outside so I told him to run and help. He grabbed a shovel and sped off. Meanwhile Francis and Marc joined him. They found Domhnall unconscious so dragged him into a tent. Dawa ran back to me and said he had cerebral oedema. I knew this was not the case as he was extremely acclimated running up and down the mountain. So the next thought was the stove. I bet they got carbon monoxide poisoning. I grabbed my first aid kit and downsuit and headed to the tent. He was just starting to come to and everyone was freaking out including Lucille obviously who had dragged him half out the cave when she woke up after being passed out for hours. She had pumped a 4 X dose of dex in his arm already. So I got out my O2 sat and read that he had 82 per cent. So nope obviously not oedema. I questioned Lucille as to what they were doing before she passed out. Cooking! At the same time we had like a foot of snow dump down and partially block their vent. So there you go snow cavers beware!! He started coming back to life again and saying funny things. I gave them each half a tab of diamox to help breath the poison off in their sleep. We were going to give oxygen but Domhnall gave back to almost normal again pretty quickly. So Lucille slept in Marc and Francis’s tent and Domhnall slept in ours so we could keep an eye on them. I didn’t sleep much. I kept waking up to make sure he was breathing. Anyhow in the morning he was fine. Lucille was shaken up though understandably after having to rescue her friend.

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So we packed up to head up to Camp 2 as it was clear weather. There were no tracks so Dawa and Tendi went out ahead to forge the way. It was boot high snow to plod through at first.

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Tendi had a very light pack so he could break the trail. He had to find the fixed ropes under the snow. Even going behind these guys was still hard work as they weren’t really firm steps yet, still soft snow.

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Marc and Dawa as the weather started to turn bad around lunchtime.

So we were in a whiteout and the boys were getting tired. We were not yet near Camp 2 and who should appear Domhnall!! He had his pack on and snow shoes. He took over the lead and started breaking trail. Dude this guy is unstoppable!! So he forged the next few hundred meters. At the very end the Polish guys came up and Peter broke the last hundred meters to Camp 3. It took us 6 and a half hours to get there. Camp is probably a bit to descriptive as it was nothing just a snow slope. It had tents but we couldn’t see them!! Thank god Dawa just left the tents in their packets and put wands next to them. So we dug them up, made platforms and put them up. At 6300m this was bloody hard work!

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The Polish guys didn’t have quite the same luck however. Their tent was left up and totally destroyed under a couple of meters of snow. They made a snow cave and Domhnall slept in it too!!

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This is the view I woke up to in the tent! I didn’t even know where we were the afternoon beforehand as we had 10m visibility. Pretty awesome spot. We were exhausted so had a rest day. Dawa had to get a load he left half way down to Camp 1 and bring it up. The Polish guys and Domhnall went to make a way to Camp 3 and didn’t quite get there but almost. Which was a great help for the next day.

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Our North Face tent at Camp 2 with Marc and Francis next to us.

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Hanging out enjoying the view at Camp 2.

The next day Dawa took a load to Camp 3 and I just went with a light pack to acclimatise. It was a fun day but a long slog. It took 4 hours to get there then I turned straight around and went back down again. I didn’t have the best sleep the night before so I hoped this would help and it certainly did. When I got to Camp 2 there were lots more tents. Guy Cotter was there with his Australian client Anthony and his team of Adventure Consultants Sherpas.

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Some Germans made a high Camp 2 above our one.

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Looking out my tent at Camp 2 down the valley towards Base Camp which is on the edge of the glacier.

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The next day we put on our packs again and moved to Camp 3. This time I had music to take my mind off the hard slog.

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Due to the awesome weather, lots of other people had the same idea!

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Camp 3 6900m is perched on the side of the mountain under an ice cliff. Tony, another Aussie is hanging out or perhaps brushing teeth?

The next day I had a rest day as Dawa went off with the Adventure Consultants Sherpas to fix the ropes up to Camp 4. Dawa thought it would take 3 hours but ended up taking them all day as there was a lot of blue ice. When he got back to the tent he was very happy and had fun with the other Sherpas. He had fixed 300m of rope. Go Dawa!! We had already decided to go from Camp 3 that night from our weather report. Guy got a weather report and he also decided to leave that night as it was going to get windy the next night. So did Domhnall and Lucille and a bunch of others, Italians, Aussie Tony….ummm that was it.

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Just to prove to Stuart Clark from Wild Aid that this is my O2 sat at 6900m (thankyou for the pulse ox) and I can confirm I am alive. Dawa was in the 60s at this point but his was always lower than mine on the mountain, even though he was feeling better than me.

So we woke up in the night and fumbled around then managed to leave at 12am. AC were out in the front as the Sherpa still had fix 300m of ropes to Camp 4 which is at the start of the summit plateau. Up until then it is very steep with some little hard sections that have blue ice.

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Climbing/crawling towards the moon.

We caught up to where the Sherpa had to fix the ropes. Gradually everyone else did too. Dawa was up the front looking down so this was everyone that was heading to the summit that day. It was 4am and we had to wait over an hour. Most people had oxygen, those that didn’t suffered very bad as they were not moving and the cold crept in. Sadly some of them had to turn around because of this but that it is just the way it goes. The Sherpa did an awesome job in difficult blue ice conditions and were safe so its sad for the climbers but there was nothing that could be done about it.

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Guy Cotter and his client Anthony waiting on the ropes as the sun comes up…..and what a day!!

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So eventually the sun comes out and we make it up to Camp 4 and I am happy that its not so steep anymore….however little do I know just how far away the summit truly is!

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Ok everyone follow me I know exactly where I am going!

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Climbers walking past ‘Camp 4’ 7400m which looks like an awesome spot to camp….not!! Blue ice and broken tents with heaps of wind, no thanks.

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Not far now….just 8 more hours to go! I am on the right, the summit on the left of the photo.

So sometimes it was freezing cold and windy….others turned around, one guy started to get frozen hands. Then sometimes it was hot and I was overheating in my suit and had to open all the zips and take my mitts off.

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I thought we were never going to get there but finally the summit was in sight. I couldn’t believe it. Also it was very warm, a big change from my Everest summit day, with blue skies.

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At 2:30pm on May the 11th Dawa Tenzing Sherpa and I reached the summit of Mount Manaslu 8163m and I was very, very happy. Without the support of Andrew and Jenni McMahon from Northcote Pottery my expedition would never have been possible. Thank you so much for believing in me, you guys are awesome.

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Beautiful blue skies above 8000m, such a special day with such special people. A huge thank you to Guy Cotter and the Adventure Consultants Sherpas.

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Just near the summit there is an amazing corniced ridge and I had to be very careful climbing down it…..I hate down climbing!


That day Guy, Anthony, their Sherpas, Domhnall, one Italian guy Volta (I think was his name) and Dawa and I made it to the top. The Italian, Domhnall and Dawa managed to do it without oxygen. Domhnall made it look easy but he is a machine. The Italian had an epic getting back down as he was so destroyed but he made it back eventually. Dawa is obviously a machine also. There is no way I would have made 14 and a half hours to the summit from 6900m without the gas. We had such a short weather window we had to take advantage of it without moving to Camp 4. I am happy with myself as it was a really hard day and I feel I made it slightly safer using oxygen and I still have all my digits most importantly!!

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Dawa Tenzing Sherpa you are a living legend. Thanks to all your hard work I made it safely to the top of the world and to the top of Manaslu. You are a friend and the hardest worker I know. You rock!!

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Just to confirm yes I am glad we didn’t stay at Camp 4!

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Exhausting and pant filling abseiling and down climbing back to Camp 3 as the sun goes down and the wind picks up. My oxygen runs out and things get hard….I might have even had a little cry…. hahaha

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However Dawa sticks with the fumbling exhausted climber and makes sure she gets back alive. We are just a little tired after a 20 and a half hour summit day. I might have even had another little hypo glycaemic cry back in the tent as I only had one Shotz gel all day.  Super Sherpa made me water and dinner….all the other climbers slowly trickled back to camp (apart from Domhnall who had been there for ages already!) in a snow and wind storm which shook the tent all night while I was passed out in a very, very deep slumber.

The next day we slowly packed up and we were very tired. Dawa took down the tent and had a massive bag. He wouldn’t let me carry a very heavy pack, thank god! We moved down the mountain and packed each camp along the way. Dawa left a lot of things at Camp 1 for Tendi to collect the next day. He still had to drag another bag behind him in the snow…

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We finally made it back to Base and I packed all my things again. I quickly said goodbye to Marc and Francis, gave our Chef Gilu a tip then Ang Dawa carried my bags, Dawa and I headed off into a snow storm down to Sama Goan. As we descended we left the cloud behind and it was an amazing night. We arrived at 9:30pm to a proper bed with a doona!! I passed out again then woke up early to get ready for our helicopter ride. Domhnall ran down from Base after almost sleeping in to join us on the flight as he is also off to Lhotse to climb it solo without oxygen. His contribution to the flight means Dawa and I can now fly in to Everest Base Camp. Its like a dream as the helicopter arrives and we hop in with all our gear bound for Kathmandu. It was the most amazing 45 minute ride I have ever had.

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Dawa and honorary Sherpa Domhnall in the back and the ‘princess’ in front seat!! hahaha

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Dawa just a little bit happy to be flying and not walking for 5 days!!

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And bam we were in Kathmandu again 7000 meters lower and very hot!! Just a bit in shock about everything but pretty pleased with ourselves nonetheless.

I am back in the Courtyard and it has been awesome to see Michelle and Pujan and recover for a few days. Pujan made me the best Australian steak I have had in my life last night and they got me a gorgeous summit cake, a big room, hot shower and the best bed ever.

Tomorrow morning Dawa, Domhnall and I fly to Everest Base Camp via Lukla. First a plane then a back flight on a heli. Its been crazy there with very bad weather. I don’t even think they have fixed ropes to Camp 4 Everest yet as there has been no snow on the Lhotse face. Some expeditions have pulled the pin. Dawa goes to Austria on the 1st of June and has to be in Kathmandu on the 28th of May. So we have 12 days…I will pay him a flight on the 28th if I have to… so  we can have a good crack at Lhotse. We will do our best whilst being safe with the time we have so wish us luck! I wont be taking my laptop. Just my Ipad so I will update on Facebook only if you want to know how it is going.

Thank you everyone so much for the support and by donating to my charity through this website you would make me very happy. I want to give back to this country in a way that makes a genuine difference and education is it.

Manaslu | 6 Comments


Posted on Friday 4th May, 2012

Ok believe it or not we are back in Base again and I am absolutely frustrated. Yesterday I had a big cry and its not because its hard, I am weak, sick or not acclimatised. Its the weather. It is driving us crazy and it is making it impossible to make plans. Once again we were in a snow storm at Camp 1 and our weather report said that today would be worse. However we awoke in Base to totally clear skies so now I am crying again!! Its the 4th of May and we haven’t even got to Camp 2 yet. No one here out of the perhaps 80 climbers has managed to get beyond Camp 2 let alone to Camp 3 because of the continuous snow storms and of course the very deep and avalanche prone snow.

Manaslu Base Camp 4800m

We left to Camp 1 on the 2nd and it was a beautiful day. I felt like it was very hard work and my boots were made of lead. Even so I did it in the same time as last time, 4 hours and 40 minutes. When we arrived tents were buried and some tents were destroyed. Other people had dug down 1 and a half meters to get their tent out so there were lots of huge holes everywhere.

Dawa and Tendi dug out our tent that we had all our stuff in. Marc and Francis slept in it and we used a tent from Dawas friend that was empty. It took hours to dig the tent out. We had a good dinner and a good sleep. In the morning we were slow to get moving as there was still no way to Camp 2. I had a report that the weather was going to be bad the next day so we wanted to try take everything to Camp 2 before the storm came. Dawa had a 35 kilo bag and mine was very heavy too but nowhere near as much as Dawa.

All packed up and ready to head up to Camp 2

Just as we were about to leave Guy and all his clients and Sherpas came down. He told me that we were in for 2 days of bad weather. His weather report has normally been better than mine so I had to believe him. Also he has paying clients so he needs to get it right. We got about 200m from the tent and we stopped to talk. Dawa could hardly walk under his massive load. We were heading into a storm again. So we decided to turn back. It started to snow. We changed our loads around and Dawa decided to just carry half up and leave it to make it easier for us to move up later. I went for a hike up to 6000m with him and turned around. At this point it was dumping down. Back at Camp 1 I went to see Marc and Francis. They had got 30 minutes from the tent and turned around again due to the bad weather. Francis decided to go back to Base while he could so Marc made the same decision. Dawa got back and we talked about staying in the storm or going back to Base to wait it out. We decided on Base Camp, packed our things and hiked down once again in a blizzard and white out. I was frozen and wet. It took me hours to warm up in my sleeping bag and I didn’t get out of my tent for dinner. I was very sad. We have one chance left to climb this thing then we run out of time.

Dawa and Tendi thawing out in the kitchen tent at Base

This morning I awoke to a perfect day. All the weather reports were wrong. I am so upset and frustrated. We could have moved to Camp 2 but instead we are in Base again. So I am going to have a much needed hot bucket shower and wash some clothes. If its good weather still at 4am tomorrow we are heading up again and all the way to Camp 2 this time to make up for the time we have lost. This is our last try to make the summit. We need some good weather and more than one day in four to make it up and back safely. I need two nights in Camp 2 to acclimatise then we will move to 3, then 4 and then go for it. However due to a million other factors, not just weather, this ideal plan may not work but we can only try.  We will do our best without taking massive risks and climbing in a storm which is very dangerous. So wish us luck and thanks for following my trip!

Manaslu | 4 Comments

Snow, snow and more snow!!

Posted on Friday 4th May, 2012

Its the 1st of May and I am back at Base Camp. As per my itinerary I would be on the summit today or maybe in the next couple of days….however there has just been too much snow and lots of bad weather.

Since my last post I hiked up to Camp 1 again to take a load to be ready for our summit push. Unfortunately we then had some bad weather so we had to wait at Base to move up. On the 29th we had some good weather in the morning so we decided to go but no one else went up so Dawa went ahead plugging steps. Then the clouds came in and it was a total white out. I was very worried that we were heading into a storm so I wanted to turn around but Dawa was too far ahead. I blew my whistle so he would stop. When I caught up to him he was very determined to keep going even though I didn’t want to. I had a bad feeling about it. We couldn’t see any wands but he said he knew where he was going. Amazingly his internal GPS got us there after 5 and a half hours. I was very tired but we still weren’t at our tent. We were just below the steep face to Camp 1 proper. I left all my goretex at Camp 1 and my heavy duty gloves as every time I had been there it had been hot and I didn’t need them. My hands were frozen in my thin gloves. There was one tent there that was half buried in the snow and empty so we got in. We sat out of the weather for awhile and realised we had no sleeping mats so decided to try go higher to our tent. There was just too much snow and it was up to our chests. The ropes were buried so after 30 minutes and only getting about 30 meters from the tent we retreated. Then we decided to go back to base camp. It was 5:30pm and we only had an hour and a half of light. Our tracks were already buried and the blizzard was getting worse and we could only see 5 meters ahead. This is when I just said no it was too dangerous we could get lost, fall in a crevasse in the dark etc.

Dawa and I eating dinner with our home made spoons.

So we got back in the tent. Thank god we had some gas canisters and there was a stove there. There was also a spare tent so we lay it down on the floor to sleep on. We had no spoons but luckily we had some fried rice so heated it up and made spoons from the foil it was wrapped in. Then we had a very shitty night as the snow just got heavier and heavier. At 3 pm the tent was completely buried so Dawa got on his Goretex and started shovelling. It took an hour to clear the snow which was up to his chest. At 7am we radioed Base and they had also had lots of snow. We decided to pack up and head down as there was no point staying there until the weather improved. All the ropes above Camp 1 were buried and the avalanche danger was high. The skies were cloudy but we had better visibility so we wanted to get back to Base before the storm came in again.

Dawa up to his cajunas in fresh snow.

We packed our things and headed out in waist deep snow with no tracks but atleast we could see the wands just sticking up above the snow that showed the way. Dawa went first and soon got very tired so we kept swapping. I have slightly longer legs so it was a bit easier for me to be infront. I didn’t stop as I was worried about the avalanche danger from above and it was exhausting work. We finally got to a point where we were out of danger and breathed a sigh of relief. At one point I was stuck in a trough with the snow up to my chest and was working very hard to get through. It took us 3 hours to get back. About half an hour from Base we saw two people coming up! They must be crazy we thought! However we had a track to Camp which was great. It was a Canadian guy and Sherpa heading to Camp 1 into the storm. I warned him how bad it was but he kept going. Then a group of Italians were coming up. Talk about determination! As we were getting to camp it started snowing and didn’t stop until the middle of night so god knows how they went.

So the ropes to Camp 2 are still buried. We are going up again tomorrow and so are lots of people so hopefully the weather will improve and we can all force our way through the snow up the mountain. The only way anyone will get to the summit is if we all work together and there are plenty of groups here so I have confidence if the weather improves we will be able to do it. Its been pretty crazy though and most people have never experienced this amount of snow on the mountain…or any other mountain! Even with skis it would be very hard as the snow is too deep and the way isn’t steep enough so you just get bogged in it.

So this is where I spend a lot of my time in my North Face Base Camp tent! I was very happy to sleep on my fat mattress last night and Marc lent me his Ipad so I watched Hugo then fell asleep at 10pm and woke up at 7am in the same position!!

So off we go again tomorrow for another try and hopefully my next update will be after our summit attempt. Thanks everyone so much for the support and I am thinking in all my friends and missing everyone very much!

Manaslu | No Comments

Expedition update..

Posted on Tuesday 1st May, 2012

So its Wednesday the 25th of April, the day and date seem pretty irrelevant to me however. I have just spend the last two days acclimatising by heading up the mountain. The first day I hiked up to the lower Camp 1 at 5600m where Adventure Consultants have their tents. I took up some of our high camp food. I left at 6:30am just as the sun hit the camp and had beautiful weather.

This is my tent and the sun starting to hit the mountain before I was ready to start hiking.

I was feeling pretty good and got there 4 hours later. There is a lot of snow so I followed the steps but its still quite hard work. There is an extra slope and rocky section above the lower camp that leads up to the higher camp… where I saw Dawa heading. I didn’t have my harness and didn’t want to risk going up there without it so I hung out with Guy Cotter and his client Anthony who is from Airly Beach. Guy was nice enough to give me some hot water and Anthony lent me his spoon so I had one of my delicious Backcountry Cuisine meals for lunch. I hung out and waited for Marc and Francis to come up. They were about 2 hours behind me. Then for Dawa to come down. We all headed back to Base and it took about an hour and 15 minutes to get back again. I felt really good and didn’t suffer from the altitude so I decided to head up again the next day with Dawa to the high Camp 1 and take a few more things up.

As per every day so far it snowed around 2 pm and didn’t stop until into the night. Dawa and I left at around 6:40am and this time it only took me 3 hrs and 25 min to get to the same stop. I kept up with the Sherpas and even though they had big loads I never can normally do that! We put on our harnesses and headed up the extra 150m to the high camp. Their is a team from Germany with skis and I am super jealous of them considering the snow conditions. They left at the same time as me and got to camp 1 at the same time on their skis. However most annoyingly they only took 10 minutes to get back to Base when it started snowing as we took just over an hour. We got back at 1pm and I was starving so had two lunches in a row! Then last night I watched Mission Impossible 2 (the one set in Sydney) on Francis’s computer in our dining tent and Gylu cooked us pizza which was an awesome highlight!

Yesterday afternoon Dawa went down to Sama Goan to call Lakpa as she is due any day now to have a baby! He went to have a shower and stay the night. Get out of the snow for a bit I imagine. Today is a rest day so I managed to wash some clothes, have a bucket shower, wash my hair and check the net. All very exciting! There is still no way to Camp 2 as the snow has been too deep. So the Sherpa that are fixing the ropes are waiting for the sun to consolidate it and are trying again tomorrow to get there.

Manaslu | 2 Comments


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