Monday, 22 November 2010

Reflections by Pete

Form and function, one of the huge joints that hold up T5; Refections in boots

The Christmas tree lights dance across the polished marble floor at Heathrow Terminal 5 as I wait for the BA1318 to Aberdeen.  Overhead massive trusses, forged joints and gigantic metal pins hold this massive structure in place but while this structure is fantastic, it is insignificant to the natural mountain architecture that we have been privileged to live amongst for the last 7 weeks.  Annapurna 3 will still be standing, the wind still ripping at its flanks when Terminal 5 is long gone, when we are all long gone.

I sit alone with my thoughts and the countless other travellers scuttling past, ready and eager to be dispatched in jet-powered metal tubes to the corners of the globe.  My team mates have scattered too, back to their own lives, their own homes, their own thoughts. 

So what did this trip mean to me?  We failed.  We failed to get up Annapurna 3 due to high winds that blew almost every day and shut down most expeditions in the Himalaya this season and cost the lives of two brave helicopter pilots who were trying to save two climbers of Anna Dablam*.  But we gave it a good shot had a wicked laugh, ate some lovely food courteously of Buddhi and all came back in one piece, friends. 

That to me is success enough.

Trying to forge a new route on one of the world's highest mountains is not easy, particularly when you choose a style with no fixed ropes, no Sherpas and no oxygen; it is a straight fight between the mountain and the climbers.  I am happy to loose this round; there will be many other skirmishes for sure in the future.

So big thanks to Samsung whose electronic gadgetry allowed us to take fantastic pictures to share will you all and to all the other companies who supported the trip – without their support expeditions like this do not happen.


*After the helicopter crashed, the Japanese climber phoned Japan to tell of the horrifying news.  He spent a lonely night on the mountain before being rescued by a second helicopter.  Pemba Sherpa (our Air Dynasty helicopter pilot) was flying in the area and quickly responded to the accident and flew close to the wreckage of the Fishtail helicopter and confirmed that there was no way the pilots could have survived.  Pemba could not assist in the rescue of the remaining Japanese climber because his chopper is not powerful enough, and is not set up for that kind of rescue.  High altitude helicopter rescues are very risky. 

Thursday, 18 November 2010

I know what you are getting for Christmas....

Pictures: Dave and his 'man-bag'; The Art Critics;  The Woof's latest fashion wear; colourful rugs.
We have spent the last couple of days rehabilitating to 'normal' life (what is 'normal' life – discuss) hanging out in Kathmandu.  Traffic, beer, people and fast internet don't seem so unusual.  Our bags are packed, air freight sorted, and whopping helicopter bills paid, which was pretty interesting. 
The helicopter money man arrived at our hotel, and immediately got his Visa machine out – this guy means business, but I got one on him by throwing down two stuffed envelopes of greenbacks.  "You want to pay cash?" "OK, no problem".  Five minutes of cheetah quick counting and they were out of there.  I like doing business in Nepal.
Today we went hunting for Christmas presents, and probably got ripped off, but hey it was good fun and Dave found the girl of his dreams at one shop. 
Tomorrow we fly home.
Thanks for all the folks who have emailed and texted, it means a lot to us.  We will be updating the blog in the future with continuing adventures of Team Samsung. 
Pete, Matt, Nick and Dave

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Back safe in Kathmandu

Pictures:  Nick and the ladies; Pete entertains the local kids; Nick is at the bottom of the kiddy scrum; The Team,   Back (L to R) Nick, Pemba, Dave, Pete, Front (L to R), Santosh, Buddhi, Matt.

After nearly six weeks of bad climbing weather, the weather gods smile and give us a small window of opportunity to escape from our home for the last 6 weeks...
A nervous Pemba pilot strolls round his aircraft as the early morning sun clears Annapurna 4 warming it's frozen body.  He hopes the battery is still warm enough to start the massive rotors; there will be only one shot then he will be calling out the RAC for a jump start.
A call on the phone confirms that Pokhara airport is open - for the moment - the fog of yesterday has evaporated, but the cumulous clouds are building.  We must hurry. 
I strap into the front seat and gaze in bewilderment at the dazzling array of dials as Pemba throws the switch draining the battery as the electric starter motor takes the load while the gas turbine catches.  After 30 seconds or so, the Jet A1 fuel is burning bright in the turbine with the exhaust temperature rising past the 600 centigrade mark – perhaps a bit hot for Buddhi's base camp baking. 
We fly close to the 'Ancient Mystics' and over the 'Lost World' of towers and crumbling minarets – this will be the last time I see this fantasy landscape as we quickly loose altitude and as we enter the Seti Kohla gorge, I feel like a small fly in a very large corridor. 
Trees!  Houses!  Oxygen! People! Six weeks of isolation has taken its toll on the senses – even the mundane is now interesting. 
I climb out of the taxi and am hit by a wave of heat – I am not sure my thermals, insulated jacket and trousers are quite necessary. 
Curious locals start to flock to see what is happening and soon I am mobbed by kids who are fascinated by the movie I shot out the window of the chopper 5 minutes ago.  Don't get too close, I haven't washed for nearly six weeks. 
Nick gets lots of attention from some girls as Matt steps out of the helicopter.  Dave chortles "you better make the most of it Nick, the handsome-one has arrived".  The girls do not react; Nick asks why - "he looks like a girl with his long blond hair" is their giggling reply.
We load up the helicopter with some of the gear and all four of us, the maximum load now greatly increased due to the low altitude as we speed to Pokhara airport only a few flight minutes away and onwards to Kathmandu, beer, traffic, international flights, wives, girlfriends, jobs, careers and crappy British weather.....

Sunday, 14 November 2010

We have some guests.

Picture: The Base Camp helipad with guest.

I lie awake, my breath adding to the hoar frost on the inside of the tent.  It is quiet outside apart from the distant roar of the wind tearing at the summit ridge of Annapurna 3, the very thing that had denied us an honest attempt at climbing this massive hulk of crumbling rock, snow and ice. 

The stars twinkle, no cloud; our magic carpet may yet arrive.  I wake the boys, it is 5am, and we promised to be ready for first light.  We hurry around creasing frozen tents into reluctant bags – why do they not make tent bags bigger?

The sat phone twinkles, it is Captain Pemba, he and the magic carpet are grounded due to fog at Pokhara airport, meanwhile we bathe in glorious sunshine looking down on a foggy blanket.  And as if to mock our attempts to climb these lofty peaks, the summit ridges of Annapurna 3 and Annapurna 4 eject volumes plumes of icy debris 2 km into the sky in an extraordinary display of raw energy.  Go away, you are not welcome they say.

We give up on going home today as the clouds roll over base camp snubbing out the warmth from the sun.  We fire up the stove for a coffee, and begin to pitch our damp tents, then all of a sudden, creeping like a lion in the long grass, there in a sky a helicopter!  How Pemba managed to find his way through the clouds I do not know, but he is here, and we are going home. 

He lands, "two people and one bag" comes the payload order from the pilot.  I struggle a big bag into the cabin, and shout across the makeshift helipad for another warm body.  The boys are reluctant; perhaps they can see the fog consuming the visibility.  I buckle up tight as a breathless Dave climbs in beside me. 

We take off into the gloom, hoping Pemba can see more than I can.  He can't.  I worry.  This is going to be one hell of a ride!  We circle, and land again at base camp as a puff of cloud totally surrounds us.  We idle on the helipad as Pemba jumps outside to examine the situation.  Not good.  After about 30 minutes he surrenders to the clouds and shuts the engine down as the shriek of the gas turbine drains away.

The lifeless, cold helicopter begins to freeze, ice forming on the blades – now I am sure that is not a good thing, but Pemba seems relaxed as we wrap the battery in a duvet jacket to keep it warm overnight. I don't think it is possible to jump start a helicopter by pushing it down a hill.

So we have two visitors for the night, a Europcopter B2 helicopter lurking in the mist, and it's Master Pemba who un-acclimatised is already suffering from lack of oxygen, but he has a bottle of the good stuff which he is going to snort through the night.

Hopefully the morning will bring good weather and that we can defrost our magic carpet to safely get us out of here, but nothing is that simple in these big mountains.....

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Time to go home

Well that's us just about packed up ready for Pemba to arrive tomorrow morning in his helicopter to take us and our gear back to Kathmandu – the only snag is the weather which is not so good for flying.  In the past few days, the cloud has quickly built up and by mid morning, base camp has been shrouded in cloud with freezing rain - hardly the kind of weather for happy flying.

We remain hopeful that there will be a weather window tomorrow, but we shall need to see....


Thursday, 11 November 2010

Calling for Pick up. (hopefully)

Pictures: 1, Nick, fully loaded on the way down, after 2 grim nights in the snow cave at 6000m. 2, Pete, down climbing after reaching high point, before being beaten back by the gale force winds. 3, Nick and Pete, heading up to Matt at the beley, battling cold hands and feet in the -20 tempertures.


A few days back on the East Ridge we were beaten back by high winds, since then we have spent time in BC, resting and trying to come up with a plan.

After expert forecasts, which predicted a slight lull before the return of the jet-stream, we are not going to get the chance for a second summit attempt. The winds are far too high, and after almost being blown from the ridge and getting frostbite on the last attempt, it really makes no since to wait and go back up. After all our efforts it's gutting to bail from here with "nothing in the bank" summit wise, but with these expeditions this is not what it's all about.

 Blue skies have been luring climbers into the mountains elsewhere only to be beaten back by high winds. Epics have been happening across the range. We have heard of a few teams getting into trouble and having to be rescued, one of which, on Ama Dablam, has resulted in the loss of a pilot and his winch man. Their helicopter was flipped by high winds on the return journey to rescue the second member of a team after the first was lifted to safety. The outcome of the second climber is still unknown to us.

We are now waiting for our helicopter to come pick us up, early morning on the 14th, keep fingers crossed for us to get out as the weather is somewhat mixed and we are running low on food. But don't worry, we have already made a call that we will eat Dave before anyone else if things get desperate, there is still far more meat on him than any of us, even after his Base Camp diet.


High Altitude Baking

For those of you interested in knowing a little more about the magic that goes on inside Buddhi's Cook tent, thought I would reveal the secrets of the High Altitude Baking Oven and have also included some mouth watering screen grabs (from my NX10) from when I was filming Buddhi and Santosh making a scrumptious cake.

Step 1. Find yourself a big flat bottomed pot with a well fitting lid.

Step 2. Hunt around for 3 equally sized stones and place them in the bottom of the large pot.

Step 3. Find a smaller flat bottomed pot / dish with a lid that you want to use for cake mixture/ bread dough balls or some other tasty meal etc.

Step 4. Once the mixture/ dish you want to bake are in the smaller pot, put both pot lids in place and seat the whole arrangement onto a low heat for about 45 min to 1 hour (depending on what you are baking).

Buddhi is cooking on a gas stove but the same arrangement can be placed on a small bead of coals etc. In simple terms, the stones create an air gap to prevent the ingredience from burning. The reason for the well fitting lids is so that the hot air circulating around the smaller pot/ dish does not escape.

I can smell the vanilla essence from the cake wofting through the campsite as we speak J

Happy Baking.