PROJECT 321: TIM’S DIARY 14-21.05.19
A change of plan sets the scene for a potential ‘summitfest’ in the slow-motion world of ultra-high altitude.
14:25 Not the result I hoped for but we are down & safe which is the main thing.
18:04 Well, a variety of factors played out against us today on Nuptse. Despite breaking trail & fixing a bunch of rope yesterday (in pretty challenging conditions) the trail had all but disappeared and the ropes were buried under fresh snow. The difficult became even more challenging. The route, as we were already aware, is unrelentingly steep and doesn’t give an inch. But on tired legs and having spent a bunch of time at in excess of 6,400m and above we were no match. The guys were fantastic and were dead against turning back but at 4p.m. and with unknown terrain ahead I called it a day. I’d just led an amazing diagonal traverse but we were desperately slow, low on water, low on energy and had yet to descend. The route finding ahead was into the unknown and I didn’t want to create a situation where we felt we had to keep on going just because that’s what we’d been doing. I fretted for a while torn between success and failure … but if success is a safe descent then I guess we’ve managed a modicum of that.
I was struggling with the whole ‘Social Media’ and ‘what will my gear sponsors think’? But then if we did summit but it turned in to an epic descent and one of us dropped a torch / got injured / dropped a glove then obviously everyone would be saying “why did they feel that they ought to go on?” So as far as I’m concerned, given where we were at the time we were there in the condition we were in with the prevailing weather… It was a sound mountaineering decision. Unlike starting out in the first place!
So there you go folks … we tried and we gave it our best. If I was to change any one element … there would be 4 of us not 3. The task was Herculean and was made all the more difficult by the repetitive nature of all the load carrying, trail breaking, rope fixing and delivering supplies ever higher up the hill. No one said it was going to be easy!
My heartfelt thanks to the guys I was with. Despite my attempts to assure them, I feel certain that they feel that they are to blame in some way. Not in the slightest. Like I said it was just an enormous task that probably needed more manpower thrown at it.
And now I need a shower!
17:32 Here’s a great party trick for you to try the next time you’ve got a spare couple of hours in a remote wilderness environment.
First load yourself up with just over 20kg (if it’s good enough for your Climbing Sherpas it’s good enough for you). Then duck the trail breaking in favour of carrying the extra coils of rope (you’ve done your fair share of trail breaking already …). As a group flounder through the fresh snow amazed that not once have you followed the same trail twice.
Because it’s tough going and it’s a bit hot and you’ve just spent a bunch of days continually climbing and fixing ropes above 7,000m you’re all a little bit tired so you have to keep stopping.
Now here’s the neat bit … on the third stop instead of standing around for a minute actually take off your rucksack and sit on it. Pass a drink around and chew on a couple of sweets (it’s all you’ve got left from the 2 days’ worth of food you took on your 4 day foray) and do the following:
Sit back a little for around 7 seconds.
Tilt to your right for around 10 seconds and then do a sort of double roll forwards (to ease that sore back).
Next do the same on the left.
Lastly return to the middle and do three slow rolls forward.
That’s it! You’re all done.
Continue your journey back down to Camp 2 and Hey Presto! when you turn on your mobile phone and it syncs with your Tracker device, you’ll get a bunch of notifications to say that the SOS function has been activated, that they are trying to get in touch with you, that they are asking what the issue is and, lastly, because you haven’t replied, they have assumed the worst and are activating a helicopter rescue for you.
Shit the bed! I can’t afford that. I’m not injured, there’s no issue and I’m awfully sorry to have been an inconvenience but it must have been the equivalent of butt dialling a smartphone. Please don’t come and get me and I do hope that there’s no automated bill for misuse of the emergency function. And, no, Sir, this does not happen all the time, sounds highly unlikely that your sitting on your jam packed rucksack could have initiated the SOS feature and please don’t fiddle with it in future.
20:02 Despite a few hard days and having only just dropped down from Nuptse C3 to C2 (and the SOS alert saga … see other post) I decided to wait a while and continue down to EBC for a decent rest for a few days (and that much needed shower first thing tomorrow). It also meant that I’d avoid the crowds and queues if I decided to descend tomorrow morning.
I saw no one on the trail. Utterly amazing.
There was an afternoon fog further down the Western Cwm so I knew the temperatures would be dropping nicely. I loitered until around 5p.m. and sure enough as soon as I set foot on snow it was crisp and it was deep and it was even (‘hmmmm …. pizza’ in a Homer Simpson voice).
I checked my radio worked and bade farewell to the guys at C2. I raced on down towards C1 but then got delayed for 20 mins or so taking photos (hopefully some decent footage for a Mountainpanoramas 360°x180° I’ll be able to share in coming weeks). The views were spectacular.
Then on down in to the Khumbu Icefall where everything was nicely refrozen.
It was amazing to not meet anyone at all on the journey. It’s almost as if there’s something going on that I’m not aware of …
06:17 So …. if you haven’t heard already we didn’t summit Nuptse. We got tantalisingly close but, at 4p.m., and with well over 3 hours to go, I realised that we were either going to be descending in the light or descending in the dark and both scenarios involved not summiting.
In actual fact, the crux was probably that we weren’t a big enough team. Myself plus 3 would have made such a HUGE difference. But as it was there was just the 3 of us.
If we were ‘merely’ jugging ropes then it would have been a simple enough situation which involved headtorches.
But we were fixing as we were going and, when you’re not entirely sure where the route goes, the headtorch option for going onwards becomes a very tricky justification. Coming down with a light is entirely different to continuing onwards.
Anyway the long and short of what I’m saying is that I decided to turn us back before we actually were forced to turn back. I decided that the pressure of continuing just because we were getting closer wasn’t the right avenue.
If I haven’t summited the first of the PROJECT 321 peaks surely that calls in to question the entire venture? Alas, time is now against us and I couldn’t quite make the first Everest window (which is happening today!) So that pushes everything back by a few days which, in turn, jeopardises the second Everest (N side) ascent.
So, potentially, I’m looking at Everest / Lhotse and that’s it (that’s it he says as if it’s a walk in the park … which it isn’t).
My worry is that if I opt for Everest / Lhotse and I then go North and it’s too late / the weather doesn’t play ball / the season is over, then I feel the venture hasn’t achieved that much in the great scheme of things.
So, weather dependent, I’m probably looking at Plan C which is Everest / Lhotse followed by, you guessed it, finishing off on Nuptse. At least then there’s the potential of achieving ‘The Triple’ (as well as 3 panorama opportunities). And as I keep reminding folk only 20 people have actually summited Nuptse …
So there you have it. A changing itinerary in a dynamic situation. I hope you feel that it’s a good choice.
11:46 Just finalising the plans for the next rotation which is hopefully going to be a MEGATASTIC SUMMITFEST.
Fingers crossed I’ll be finishing the Nuptse project followed swiftly by ascents of Everest and Lhotse. I say swiftly … but at ultra high altitude everything goes in to slow motion.
I’ll have the tracker with me and will endeavour not to activate the SOS function (see previous post). Feel free to keep popping by to see where I am and how it’s all progressing.
The other thing I’ll have with me is the photo equipment for the 360°x180° mountain panoramas I’ll be endeavouring to capture.
Last year I climbed the small knoll overlooking The South Col. At 8,029m it’s a reasonably high hillock and I’m still not sure if it was a ‘first’ ascent or not. Possibly, possibly not.
Here’s the highest high quality sphere which was created with the footage. It’s pretty relevant right now because there’s going to be folk staying at The South Col on and off for the next week or so: https://www.mountainpanoramas.com/___p/___p.html?panoid=2018_M1&labels=1&fbclid=IwAR3IE2YCNdZz4E8TSqllSUMUphI8E7gAgCiHgs_CHs0RdkfA_uLLPtw_O78
08:59 Chilling out at C2 for the afty. Moving to Nuptse C3 tomorrow. We’ll be breaking trail yet again as the route has disappeared. An intense few days ahead.
09:50 At Nuptse C3 with legendary Dorje Gyalgen. We’ll be starting out around 3a.m. to get to the current high point to fix in the daytime. Fingers crossed.
23:48 Myself & Dorje setting off shortly. Glorious night. Let’s see how it goes.
15:54 Alas there was new snow that covered the ropes and trail (again). Slow progress & energy sapping climbing proved too much for us. Tim&Dorje 0 – Nuptse 1.