Picture: Just some of the gear needed for the East Ridge attempt.
Base Camp, a random scattering of tents situated in a wide, brown-grass clearing is enveloped. The mist swirls around the jagged other world pinnacles and blows up the crumbling gullies situated below. The mist sneaks in and out and brushes its icy finger against the tent fabric. The cirque of mountains, A3, A4, Machhapuchhre, gleam and then disappear behind the cumulous. Sleet smatters. The stove purrs. Buddhi sings.
Sitting in BC, like the cloud, I drift in and out of contemplative thought, then, like a tube train arriving at Kingscross Station, a rumble, shakes the ground and brings me out of my reverie. A serac, a massive clot of woven compressed ice clinging to the side of the surrounding cliffs has crashed to the ground, a constant reminder that we are small, insignificant and fallible, but we are where we want to be, in amongst the mountains, mountains that are ancient and formidable and unconquerable.
Our trip has caught the imagination of the national press and being detached from what is written in the papers I have concerns. I hate hype and the trumped up terms that the media generally use when writing about mountaineering. Fortunately Ed Douglas is a mountaineer and a climber that I trust and he knows that men and women do not conquer mountains; he knows we do not scale sheer cliffs with superhuman spider-man strength; we do not tread without fear, without thought, without compassion. He knows that an expedition like this one is not a glorious account of conquering and gung ho, and walking past dying climbers while sucking on oxygen. This expedition is what really happens when climbers, that is people who live for the mountains and the environment, the space, the freedom, the adventure and the uncertainty, go to the hills. Sometimes with luck with good weather, conditions, and the fitness of the team, the climbers are successful in their endeavours, but many times they are not. Ed knows all of this and I believe his report that appeared in The Times was honest and true. I just hope that others who choose to write will show a similar amount of understanding.
Tonight, weather permitting, we hope to climb through the night to reach the previously climbed to high-point on the East ridge, before digging in and stocking a snow hole. The intention then is to sleep the night at 5900m and the following day climb along the ridge until beneath the steepening that is the 1000m technical cliff face. Hopefully, we will dig in once again beneath the face, spend the night, and then the following day we will climb half of the 1000m before reversing all the way to BC. We need to do this for acclimatisation, to prepare our bodies for the two and a half kilometre push for the summit, which is above 7000m. This will only happen if we are very lucky, and the weather and mountains are favourable and our bodies are playing the game. It is very much a question of many factors coming together of determination, skill, strength but most of all luck. It will never be a matter of conquering.