Thursday, October 11

End of the road

Leaving base camp and back in Kathmandu

Wednesday, October 10

On the way to KTM

Extra Shots

Monday, October 8

Raymond E - Distillation of views

As we near the end of this chapter of the blog, ‘Mumsie’ would like to enter the following quote:
“The charm of mountain-climbing lies not in the climbing in success, nor in failure, but in the great range of emotions provoked through these physical experiences.” [FS Smythe]

As the Scrappy Scribe, I too would like to append some thoughts of the subject. Hoseman/Mark has used this quote from Mallory (which I heartily endorse) in the introduction to his blog site:
“What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end of life. We do not live to eat and make money. We eat and make money to be able to enjoy life. That is what life means and what life is for.”

Mallory is of course better known for his more famous other quote. When asked at a lecture why he climbed Everest, he replied, “Because it is there.”
In his book Four Against Everest, Woodrow Wilson Sayre says: “Many people have been tremendously impressed with this answer. I think it is a tribute to their vivid imaginations. For, as it stands, it really doesn’t say anything. It is too ambiguous.” Sayre then attempts to interpret what Mallory might have meant, by suggesting his answer to mean, “because it is a challenge.” But the question remains: why is it a challenge? Why does it challenge that particular breed of men called mountaineers, whereas the vast majority couldn’t care less?
At first Sayre was puzzled why the question couldn’t just be answered “I climb mountains because I like to” in the same way someone else would say, “I play tennis because I want to”. But then he felt the questioner was really asking why a mountaineer would choose to do so when faced with all the obvious and major negatives such as: “This mountain climbing business is dangerous. It costs money. It is hard exhausting work. You have to disrupt the family to do it, etc etc”.
Being a mountaineer himself, Sayre decided the following reasons suited him. First on his list (but not necessarily first in importance) Sayre rated Beauty. “If a person would cross the ocean just to look at the beauty of a cathedral, why would he not do as much or more to see these magnificent mountains?” Next, echoing Smythe, are the special Emotions which the high and wild peaks provoke. “I feel a special happiness to be alone in the high, silent places of the world tucked close under the sky. Such things are worth a little insecurity and sacrifice.” Paradoxically, mountains also provide both Companionship and Solitude. The deepest friendships spring from sharing failure as well as success, danger as well as safety. The friendships thus established are lasting and irreplaceable. As far as solitude is concerned, Sayre holds: “A man must refill the inner springs of his being in solitude and reflection – there is a deep inner need for this. Without this refilling, life becomes increasingly hurried, it becomes increasingly mechanical and it becomes increasingly insensitive. People are wonderful, but an infinite number of them are not.”
I might venture here to include the Body Physical. Who cannot fail to notice the satisfaction, even pride, as Hoseman describes how his subsequent efforts up and down the slopes at high altitude and in onerous conditions were completed in less time and with less effort – a real show of strength and fitness and rewarding acclimatisation.
Sayre concludes: “Contemplating all the values achieved by climbing mountains, I am tempted yet again to try the impossible and summarise it all in a single sentence. Men climb mountains because they are not satisfied to exist, they want to live – climbing the heights is one way.”
This largely accords with Eric Shipton who says:
“He is lucky who, in the full tide of life, has experienced a measure of the active environment that he most desires. In these days of upheaval and violent change, when the basic values of today are the vain and shattered dreams of tomorrow, there is much to be said for the philosophy which aims at living a full life while the opportunity offers. There are few treasures of more lasting worth than the experience of a way of life that is, in itself, wholly satisfying. Such, after all, are the only possessions of which no fate, no cosmic catastrophe can deprive us; nothing can alter the fact if for one moment in eternity we have really lived.”
So, in conclusion, I say “Go for it!” My only personal bone of contention is that I believe such experiences do not necessarily emanate ONLY from sources on such a grand and massive scale. We don’t always HAVE to find an Everest to experience adventure and life - one can still enjoy Sayre’s list of values as much at 1000m as at 8000m.

Sunday, October 7


Had an interesting phone call from Betty Davis, a leading and long standing member of the Mountain Club of South Africa, who saw Sisha Pangma, the only 8000 m peak wholly within Tibet, while on a trip to Everest Base Camp with Kate McCullum in 2003.
Betty said she had been most interested in that so many of her adventures had been replicated in Hoseman’s current adventure. She wished him well and a safe return.

Saturday, October 6


While many local folk have followed the blog with interest, not many have put their reactions onto paper. This is an email received on 2 October:

Hi Ray,
Thank you for letting me share in Mark’s adventures. I find it absolutely fascinating following the paths of such intrepid,daring folk and I shall read the whole blog and find the places mentioned in my atlas and go on a daily trip in to the site to find out the latest news.
Good Luck to him in his quest to reach the summit this time and to return home safely and tell his tale.Love, Chippy


1004 THUR: Brief call to Mumsie (while I was out) to say: “Just got back after retrieving camp equipment. End of attempt. Weather too bad. Going back now.”

1005 FRI: “I am exhausted – after all that deep snow!” But, Gromit is FURIOUS! The position here is that everyone is coming down the mountain now. No one is summiting anywhere. Some groups have already left.
At the same time, although the weather has really been horrible, the experience has been fantastic. I Feel comfortable with myself – highest point reached was Camp 1 (6440m). Now, the yaks are arriving in three days time. We'll spend some time clearing the camp and then leave Base Camp day after tomorrow (SUN 7?)
The Jeep is booked and in three days time will go to Kathmandu. (MON 8?) which means I will have to spend one night in border town Xiang Mu.
Flight back is also booked and will depart Kathmandu on THUR 11. While in Kathmandu will add more pictures to blog.
From now on, Claire will determine where to go and how high to climb. Have heard Peru and Ecuador offer good climbing opportunities (!!!) – better day trips available.
Have put some stuff on blog in form of emails but they are in the wrong order. Please go into blog and put them in correct order. Go to Edit\Posting Options. Flattering to learn of Chippy’s email. Stick it on.

Friday, October 5

Day 28 - 4th October - Retreat - "that's all folks"

Well after the cramped cold windy night, the morning was not much better.
After a large amount of radio talk I made the decision to go down. The team
at camp 2.5 were not having much fun, but would still see if they could make
a summit attempt. I could not see any "window" so decided that after all
this time, I will call it a day.

I'll "muse"? more about this later and add some photos from the trip, but
for now will say that I'm back at ABC (after pulling all I could manage down
from the hill and through the Penitentes), safe and sound.

Quick Update - 5th October
Shisha is covered with cloud - all teams retreating

Day 27 - 3rd October - Summit Push

Weather still clear - no clouds
A fairly uncertain mindset last night - perhaps a little negative - unlike
the usual nervous tension I get - pacing around etc...
Fully motivated this morning, got latest weather report (no major changes)
and set of for Depot camp at 9:13. Amazing how one aclimatises - been here
for a while and now time to depot camp only 1h36mins (first trip up
Change into Millet high boots at depot, pack more gas, high sleeping bag,
some food (pasta left over from last night's dinner) thermarest (Major
Hume's) etc.
Penitentes trail fine, and by now am getting very familiar with all of its
nuances - not such a hurdle any more - 28mins compared to first trip of 1h
29mins - both with loads.

One Sherpa ahead of me on the trail - therefore able to "track" his trail.
Previous trail had been wind blown, so need to look out carefully so that
one does not pop knee deep of the trail. Lower levels across the glacier are
fairly calm, but as I ascend wind does pick up.

Couple of skiers clearing the mountain dragging their loads, have to dodge
their loads (rolling tents) as they break up and scatter over the mountain.
Am a little concerned crossing the crevasses (slots) as they have been
covered up by snow - one of those things that one puts out of ones mind as
rescue is either very slow or unlikely.

As approach the crest of the climb wind again very prevalent. Have two
layers of wool gloves so fingers warmer than Friday 28th attempt. Eventually
reach hard icy crusty surface marking the top. Some more big slots to
negotiate - fingers crossed! Radio to Jamie's camp 1 which is visible a bit
higher up - Anne responds with an invite for hot milk tea! No crawling this
time, but head down into the driving wind/snow. Very happy with time -
2h35mins from Penitentes (first time 4h53mins) - So much more efficient and
again shows how amazing ones body is in adapting to the requirements of the

After a great cuppa hot Tea with Anne & Janet (who have been at camp 1
waiting for the weather window - and wind to drop), grab my gear I stored
last time, and push further to my Camp 1. Have not had any reports about it
since the last storm, so little apprehensive about what I'll find - it's
pretty critical as has all the rest of my gear in it!
But good old Terra Nova, there she is hanging on, a little snowed in, but as
strong as a brick house. Scramble in, and great to be out of the wind, even
though now still a little noisy.

Was a little concerned that the wind has so strong on the way up - ABC was
calm. Although not a completely debilitating, the wind does undermine one
both physically and mentally. Now it's a matter of hearing the next
forecast, brewing up some water and eating (something I don't do - yes Oje
got your message, and therefore will try!)

After a little organizing, as although the Terra Nova is a good size I have
a fair amount in it, I got a big surprise! I was getting snow from outside
and saw a climber approaching my tent. The trail from Jamie's camp to Camp 2
goes right past, but is was much too late to be going there. It was Lena,
who had a week ago stashed some gear in my tent. As it was late and she was
already really cold (her other warmer gear was in another tent) I said she
had better get in and stay. I had already been refused twice some shelter.
Anyway it was a really squashed, windy and cold night - this other than the
much better European food she pulled out of her bag - lovely meats and

The weather report was not looking good as the winds were looking as though
they would be increasing. Its amazing how one chases these weather windows,
and although we were trying, it was avoiding us. My views of sitting again
at camp 1 and waiting were not that favourable. I would wait until the
mornings forecast

Day 26 - 2nd October - Summit Plan

So considering that I have now been up the hill a few times, have
established Camp I at 6,400m and we have a small favourable weather window,
I have decided to go back up for a summit push. The weather in the region
has certainly not been ideal and the chances of success are small. But
because of all the time and effort invested it's worth an attempt.
For my unsupported attempt I do need to have a clear (calm) weather window.
Secondly I need to have a trail before me. Its one thing carrying all ones
own gear when there is a firm trail, but this become impossible in knee deep
conditions. Shisha has plenty of this around and only a very thin trail in
some places (where previous climbers have been).
So the plan is as follows:

Date Jamie's team Mark
Tuesday 2nd Camp 1.6 ABC
Wednesday 3rd Camp 2.5/3 Camp 1
Thursday 4th Summit Camp 2
Friday 5th Retreat Camp 2.5/3
Saturday 6th Summit

Camp 1.6 is early on in a valley - reason is that the first time there, one
has climbed +/- 400m up a steep slope and going further up the valley seems
an arduous task.

Camp 2.5 is just below an "interesting" slope up to camp 3. It can get
loaded with snow and may avalanche - Three clients and 2 Sherpa's set this
camp up as a pre summit camp, implying a long hard summit push. Camp 3 is on
a col (and visible from ABC) and in current conditions will be unbearably

Day 25 - Weather chat - 1st October

Well there has been an awful amount of discussion regarding the weather.
Weather reports come in via email and the internet - unfortunately they do
not always agree. Jamie uses forecasts from West Coast Weather in Washington
USA and I must say these are very comprehensive. Two areas are focused on -
Precipitation (snow) and Wind. Both of these factors are critical to our
success. Imagine trying to predict these for the future for different
heights (6000m, 6500m etc etc)

Here is an example of the type of information we receive:

A weak upper level low is dropping down from the north and will bring an
increase in winds and some more clouds over the next several days. However,
this is not a big storm. The next weather issue is one of the forecast
models wants to bring in some precipitation of up to 1 inch (2.54 cm) on
Saturday and or Sunday and we will need to monitor this.

The monsoon continues to retreat.

Jet Stream.
The jet stream is close K2 region over the next 7 days with just some minor
daily changes. It basically meanders back and forth near the K 2 region with
winds increasing at times to 140 knots (259 km) at the 39,000 foot level
(11,818 meters) near K2.

Precipitation and Clouds.
With a generally southerly flow still clouds moving in and out of the
region. Many of the models have clouds toping out at about 20,000 (6060
meters) but not sure about that. Also most models have no precipitation over
the next 7 days except one puts moderate precipitation for both Saturday and
Amounts for precipitation in water equivalent at 20,000 (6060 meters) there
will less precipitation as one moves towards the summit

Thursday to Friday
Up to .30 inches (up to 0.76 cm) each day. Although current satellite is
showing some clouds moving in so that number for Thursday might be low
Clouds moving in and out of the region.

Saturday to Sunday
Up to .30 inches (up to 0.76 cm) each day. However one model puts up to 1
inch (2.54 cm) for one of the days.
Clouds moving in and out of the region.

Monday to Wednesday
Up to .30 inches (up to 0.76 cm) each day.
Just a few clouds moving in and out of the region.

Wind forecast.
Thursday to Friday
Summit Average 24 to 34 knots (44 km to 63 km) Winds from the west to
23,000 (6969 meters) Average 20 to 30 knots (27 to 56 km) from west to
19,000 (5757 meters) 10 to 20 knots (18.5 km to 37 km) Winds from west to
the southwest
** If the moderate precipitation occurs then we can expect stronger average
wind of up to 42 knots (78 km)

Summit Temperature
-20 C (-4 F)

This forecast is based on computer generated weather data generated from
government agencies that West Coast Weather, LLC. dab Washington Online
Weather deems reliable. However, the weather can change quickly and
unforeseeably, and there are many factors which you should consider in
deciding whether to proceed with an outing, including the visible weather at
the trailhead, the strength and experience of the party, snow and avalanche
conditions, route conditions, etc. You are the final decision maker whether
to proceed. West Coast Weather, LLC dba Washington Online Weather cannot be
held liable for loss or injury arising from your decision to proceed, and
expressly disclaims all liability related thereto.

For further information please contact West Coast Weather, LLC, Redmond,
Washington USA

Finally thanks to the guys at West Coast Weather, LLC for the great
information supplied during this expedition

Monday, October 1


It is our considered but humble opinion that conditions are now perfect for the weather trap - whereby the weather opens sufficiently to entice frustrated, impatient and eager climbers up the mountain only to close again making descent difficult if not dangerous. We believe such a limited window should only be used to retrieve gear and equipment from the higher caches. Jamie has demonstrated great sagacity and perspicacity in his summing up the current situation (See his website report of 30 September). His caution should not only be heeded but deserves to be quoted in full here:


30 Sept - Mark coming down
The weather improved but if a team of Sherpas couldn't make Camp 2 then Mark wasn't going to try, so he is returning to ABC.

30 Sept - Decisions
After breakfast we had a healthy discussion about our possibilities. This season has been rather abnormal, the average precipitation for the month was reached before the month was even half over, I am guessing that we have had easily double, perhaps triple the normal amount of snow. Officially the monsoon usually leaves the region around the middle of September, even if some occasional moisture remains. This year, a tropical storm (not quite a full cyclone) rolled over in late September and, while it didn't hit us directly, it really brought real dumps of snow all the same, loading the mountain, so that climbing conditions are still terrible.

The future could be better but our weather forecasts from Michael Fagin are not particularly positive for the next week or so. While the weather should improve and the wind should drop a bit for a couple of days - and there should be less snow - there is still no summit window; the snow is too deep to get high. Then the winds will return and seem set to stay, strong winds but luckily not the jet stream. The shame of it is that the winds still haven't loosened the snow high on the mountain, see the photo below.

What should we do? We could trek around the region, there really are some beautiful spots (see the lakes that Clive, Walter, Hans and myself explored last year), or we could try to climb a smaller mountain close by. However, regardless of the chances of success most people want to focus on Shisha Pangma. So there really is only one way to work out how realistic that is, and that is to rub your nose in it, or push a trail up it.

Our plan is to do an acclimatization run up to Camp 1 and then see if conditions will improve, see if that elusive summit window will appear. Most of the team have headed up to Depot Camp to sleep the night there and tomorrow, with assistance from the Sherpas, will plug a trail (or perhaps find an existing one) up to Camp 1 and spend one, or perhaps two, nights up there. We can assess conditions from there.

The team sleeping at Depot Camp tonight is Eric, Jan, Anne, Tristan, Joe C, Joe F, Martin and Ursula. Tomorrow they will move to Camp 1, and Clive, Francis, Janet and Gordon will move up direct from ABC to Camp 1. Alan and perhaps myself will remain at ABC.

Other mountains
How are others faring on our semi-neighbour Cho Oyu, a mountain surprisingly similar to Shisha Pangma? So far as we know only the Singapore Women's team made it up - just before the storm hit (well done Jane!) and then got spanked on the way down. All the other teams are still waiting (or have bailed) and I am guessing it will take some daring trail breaking to open up the route. Perhaps it will take a little more time, and a hard push - just like ‘our’ mountain.

We also have friends on the south side of Shisha Pangma… I don't like their chances unless all this snow has avalanched as it fell and, regardless, the wind will still be horrible.

Ultimately I feel it will be a waiting game, or a game of dare. However very few teams have enough time just to wait and wait.