Well, I write this from Advanced Base Camp after a somewhat easier trek up here then the one we did three weeks ago, which had us all rolling in on our chin straps, absolutely shattered.
This time the Doc, Rod and I breezed up to Intermediate Camp in four and a half hours and were amazed at how pleasant it was. We spent the night there and were in our tents tucked up at 7pm knowing that we had twelve hours to kill – remarkably I slept for nine of them!
We set off for ABC at 8am and slowly meandered our way all the way up the East Ronbuk glacier which just seems to go on for an eternity, with false crest giving way to its older bigger brother and so on. It is more a mental struggle of keeping frustration at bay, but then that really is the story here. Interestingly, much of the snow has melted and old paths have had to be diverted higher as the old ones are now lost in glacial ponds.
We arrived to find that Team 2 were still here! They had been waiting up here for four days now but it was great to see them and they all looked remarkably well. The reason that they had not been heading up was that we are still waiting for the Tibetan Mountain Association (TMA) to finish putting the fixed ropes up. At present the ropes are in to 8300m but due to the bad weather up high they have not been able to put the remaining 600m in. Needless to say, all the teams on the mountain are now congregating here waiting to take advantage of the weather window of the 18th/19th. This is not ideal. We are totally at the hands of the TMA are what we are now concerned about is that when they eventually head up to put the ropes in they will eat into the weather window.
Hempie, the Doc and I went to a meeting with the boss of the TMA, all the other team bosses and about 30 key Sherpas. This took place in a big dome tent and started off well with everyone agreeing that they would pool weather reports first thing in the morning with the TMA in the hope that we can get their climbers up at the first possible opportunity. This agreed, one of the Western group bosses started talking of his concern about O2 bottles being stolen off the mountain at the higher camps. He then started talking rather aggressively to the Sherpas in Nepali and then it all kicked off as they thought that he was pointing the finger at them. It got very heated and ended up with everyone leaving under a dark cloud.
Two hours later all the key Sherpas were in our mess tent trying to persuade Hempie to sign a ‘well drafted’ letter to the Nepalese Tourist Association saying that the complainant should not be allowed back on the mountain. Methinks there must be some past history here! Graham said that he had never seen anything like it in all his nine trips here. It was very surreal and at 6500m more so.
So, the saga continues. We so wanted to hop through here and head straight up to the North Col and then try and bang through to the summit, this now is not going to happen. We will be here for at least two or three days and then no doubt will race up the North Col and up to Camp 2 to try and keep ahead of everyone else who will be trying to do the same thing. Bloody hell this is very frustrating. The only bit of good news is that we have now set up our Camp 3 so when the starter pistol goes we have a clear run up - that is if we make our weather window.
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