It’s been a long night here at Advanced Base Camp (ABC). At 8pm we had our last scheduled radio contact with the team members, who announced their plan to start the final slog to the summit at 9pm.
The winds were flapping around our tents and we worried: were the three weather reports accurate? It was supposed to be calm! Ulp.
The funny thing about weather here is the jet “streaks” that move around the mountain. It can be windier at ABC than at the summit, depending on where they move. It also reminded us that the height of Everest is, in fact, the cruising altitude of most jets. Now that’s scary.
The team sounded happy and energised despite the odd gust, so off they went… into a blanket radio silence for hours. “Iceland, Iceland, Iceland… this is ABC… come in please. Please? PLEASE!” Nothing. Now we were worried.
Mingma, one of our camp managers and translator, stayed awake all night shouting the above in Nepalese into the radio; Graham and I took turns in English. Still nothing.
Five hours passed, as we tried to grab sleep in fits and starts, expecting to be woken by a radio call to tell us where they bloody hell our men were. Not a sausage. I’ve been telling myself (and everyone else) that “no news is good news” on an expedition like this. I wish I believed my own hype. Was our comms gear broken? Were they too tired to talk? Had their batteries faded in the extreme cold? Or were they all wiped out in what would be the biggest accident on Everest’s history?
Turns out to be none of these – they were simply out of our radio ‘line of sight’ behind a ridge that makes up most of the summit climb. Whew. They are still up there now as dawn breaks over Tibet. The weather remains good, it looks like it’s going to be a sunny day, but oh, I wish alcohol was allowed at ABC to calm our shattered nerves…
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