This year’s Everest season appears to be running a little behind schedule. The route to the summit remains unfixed due to bad weather and climbers are still waiting for a decent weather window. Though it’s difficult to say what is “normal” for Everest, the first Sherpa summits are typically between about the 5-12 May, and the greatest number of summits for climbers usually occurs between 16-22 May. Some teams hoping for an early summit on the tails of the Sherpa attempting to fix the route over the past week have been disappointed and have had to return to Base Camp, where most climbers are resting, waiting for the route to be fixed and for the weather to improve.
In the meantime, Rifleman Rakesh from 1RGR has written a moving piece about how he felt during the devastating earthquake in 2015, and what it was like to return to Everest Base Camp this year. He also gives an account of the team’s first acclimatisation rotation on the mountain a couple of weeks ago. Rfn Rakesh is the youngest member of the team and his words give a great insight into the challenges of this expedition, both physical and mental.
Who on earth could imagine that our unfinished journey to summit the Mt. Everest by one of the serving members of British Army Gurkhas could begin once again, along with 729 other climbers, dreaming to stand up on the top of the world this year, writes Rifleman Rakesh.
It’s been already two years since we said goodbye to Mt. Everest after the disastrous earthquake, which triggered a massive avalanche, sweeping up the whole Everest Base Camp and taking several innocent life.
Fortunately, it was a new life for G200E team members as we all were safe regardless of minor injuries to the Base Camp Manager Maj Buddhi Bhandari and we thinned out saying, “mountain will be always there but life come for once”. I remembered that day, which was two days after the earthquake, when we were air-lifted from Camp 1 and welcomed by survivals at the Everest Base Camp.
But it didn’t last long when I saw the dead bodies wrapped up into tents, bloods splashing on the rocks, ruined tents, stuffs scattering all over the places and some known faces were missing who had walked alongside with us on our short journey from Lukla to Everest for a while and then just disappeared, leaving us behind. The beauty and soul of the Everest Base Camp was lost. Every step felt like walking into a dead valley. I was just capturing this moment into my eyes rather than into a camera. Still, there is lots to say, hundreds of stories and hopes were burdened into that avalanche on that day. Some words were unwritten and some tears were unseen, so I would like to forget it as my nightmare dream.
Everest Base Camp 2017:
Leaving all these memories behind, here we are, again, at Everest Base Camp in 2017 trying to reach at the summit of Mt. Everest after hunting down several Alpine Mountains in UK and France. On 14 April, we arrived at Base Camp after celebrating Nepalese New Year at Gorak Shep. This time, I could see everybody’s eyes full of hope.
Base Camp is our main home base throughout this expedition. I could see lots of other mountaineers came from all around the world, carrying their own motives to climb Mt. Everest. This is a platform to exchange news and emotions between the mountain and the world. Everyone seems to be handling the latest high-tech gear, but battery drains out so quickly. Almost every day, one can listen to the frequent avalanches coming down Nuptse, Lo la and Pumori. Many of us were also picking up Khumbu cough and cold flu.
For the first couple of days, we were busy on sorting out group kits and personal admin, which included counting the drums and our mountaineering stuff which was directly sent to Base Camp prior to our departure to Nepal, packing up high-altitude rations for our first ascent to Camp 1 and establishing the communications tent and reconstructing the harbour area. Our commanding group were busy on planning and preparation, looking for the clear weather window to start the acclimatisation phase.
In the meantime, we went into the Khumbu Icefall to do ladder training and fixed rope climbing, which was the perfect time to check our personal gear and equipment, and decide whether it needed further adjustments or not. We were so much determined to prepare us in a better position. We also hiked towards Pumori Base Camp (5,500m) for acclimatisation purpose in a group so that we won’t struggle in the Khumbu Icefall. We had a grand Puja Ceremony on 17 April, worshiping Mother Goddess Chumaluma (Everest), taking blessings for our successful ascent.
On 23 April, team 1 of 10 members stepped into the Khumbu Icefall for the first time around 3 o’clock in the morning. Unfortunately, they returned back to Base Camp because a ladder on the route was damaged.
Next day, on the cold and damp morning, team 1 headed out around similar time frame but it was same story again. Luckily, team 1 and team 2 ventured nervously into the icefall on 25 April at midnight and around 3 o’clock in the morning respectively. I was with team 2.
As soon as we crossed the crampon point, it felt like entering into horror chamber of Icefall because any time a crevasse might open under us. Either an ice pinnacle could fall over or the entire area could collapse. Simply, it’s not a place for relaxation, so we tried to get out of there as quickly as we could. We were so much concentrated on the safety that we were always clipped into the rope, but unclip as well when avalanche triggered up. The route was different from the last time as there were fewer ladders to see. As taught by the instructor, I was always trying to be aware of surroundings and focused, fitting crampon into two rails of the ladder all the time and balancing my body posture, leaning forward or rare depending up the ladder position. In addition to this, it was a bit easier when a climbing buddy stretched the rope from behind or from the front though. It was boiling hot as the sun came up, forcing us to skin our clothing layers.
After seven hours of exhausting climb, we managed to get up to Camp 1. It could have been quicker if we hadn’t faced traffic jam at ladder points. When we got to the Camp 1, we were welcomed by team 1 with warmed water. After having quick chit-chat, I went into my tent as my legs were looking for decent rest. It was boiling hot inside the tent during the day. Apparently, after sunset, it was -27 degrees of freezing cold throughout the night. Team 1 planned to spend one night in Camp 1 then push up to Camp 2. On the other hand, team 2 would stay a night longer in Camp 1 for the better acclimatisation. It was my first night at this altitude, so it was very hard to sleep at night as sometimes I got short of breath, keeping me awake at night.
On the early morning, I joined with team 1 and headed out towards camp 2. The weather was chilling cold and horrendous as we went up, pushing us side to side. It was my first time to walk over the Western Cwm. It was so much windy and it was breath taking too.
It took us 3 hours to get to Camp 2. It was so much refreshing when the kitchen staffs welcomed us with hot juice and we quickly thinned out into our tents and stayed over a night. Then following day, we went up to base of the Lhotse Face at 6,700 metres for the acclimatisation. We spent an hour there and returned to Camp 2. In the meantime the team 1 was coming up to Camp 2.
On 28 April, we pushed up to Camp 3 around 8 o’clock in the morning. After 5 hours of ascent, we managed to get there. It wasn’t an easy ascent, even though we were using Jumar and crampons. At 7,100m, the route was pretty much with blue ice and at vertical 60 degrees, so we needed to hit hard with the crampons to get a good grip. It felt great when I found out that we were the first clients to get there this season. It was my first time being there and I got a close glimpse of Mt. Everest.
It was simply stunning view and an amazing feeling being at 7,100m altitude. After spending half an hour, we came down from the Camp 3. On 29 April, we returned back to Base Camp via Camp 1 and the Khumbu Icefall, whereas team 2 climbed up to Camp 3 on that day. Now, I feel that we are halfway through, getting our success.
At the Base Camp, we were embraced by our Sherpa Sirdar and chef at the bottom of the Icefall with glass of juice and warm words ‘Filili’ (meaning walking quickly), followed by nice masala tea and fruits by some of our members too. Now, it was time for decent rest until the summit route is fixed by Sherpa and there is a right weather window for the final push to the summit. The success on the mountain isn’t just about climbing. It relies on following up a strict routine i.e. feeding properly, hydrating adequately and resting enough every day.
Lastly, I would like to express my gratitude towards our deputy leader Major Andrew Todd and expedition leader Major Dick Gale whose exceptional efforts from raising funds to all the essential mountaineering training arrangements which has brought us this far.
To that end, I cannot thank you enough for those supports around the globe, which has made prominent contributions in order to bring us here at the frontline of our vocation.
May life’s brightest joys illuminate our path, and may each day’s journey bring us closer to our dream to summit the Mt. Everest this year.
Jai Brigade of Gurkhas
To watch the latest film footage from the team’s first rotation on the mountain, click here.