Everest 2001 – All the other expeditions had long gone and I had been up to the North Col trying to help our Sherpas bring down gear from the high camps that was abandoned and left by some of the huge other Commercial expeditions. The rest of the Team were at Base Camp at 17500 feet – 6 – hours walk away, I was on my own with the 6 Sherpas and cook. Many expeditions clean up but a few are cowboys and add a storm or an accident and all some people want to do is leave. There was no one else on the mountain, it was empty, the final storm of the season had done its worst and all the other expeditions had left. Yet was a wonderful feeling being up in the incredible place with only a few Sherpas all friends, the peace and solitude was back. What a privilege that I was left alone with the Sherpas at the end of the expedition at Advance Base Camp on the Tibetan side of Everest. This is still very high at 21300 feet as high as many peaks we humans claim to climb. I was waiting for the Yaks to take our kit down and leave the mountain, we had been away for 4 months, it was the end of the trip and our dreams. We had stayed on when others had left and had tried to get some more members to the summit but in the end the weather made that impossible. A huge storm had buried the ropes at the high camp and they made the correct decision to come down from 8000 metres. I was so glad to see them still alive a bit battered but we had a successful trip. Two had summited from our group Dan and Rusty and we were all were alive and well. When they all left after a day’s rest for Base Camp I was left alone with the Sherpas to tidy up, we had 3 days. Once the storm cleared the place was a real mess, left by other expeditions. Some of my team mates had tried to come back up and help but could not make it the weather and the mountain had taken its toll, they returned to Base Camp. I was alone in this great place with my pals the Sherpas. The solitude was amazing, gone were the crowds just a few tents and the huge wall of ice that is the North Col.
The Sherpas and I spent 2 days tidying up and took 50 bags of rubbish of this wonderful peak. It cost us additional money to get the rubbish brought down to Base camp by the Yak men but it was worth it We paided for this ourselves, even though we were short of cash. There is no way you can burn rubbish due to various environmental and religious views so all has to be brought down. It is terrible how people treat this mountain, but I feel we did our bit and left this wonderful place a bit cleaner. What would Mallory and Irvin say of what has happened to this great peak.
This was a great trip we got two to the summit and most got to the high camp and no one was hurt. We had a problem high up but brought down our own sick team mate. Yet as is Everest there were several fatalities high on the mountain during our stay and yet we made some great friends of all nationalities. We also met many half -wits chasing the dream that is Everest. It was only due to the efforts of the some of the leading climbers and the Sherpas ours lead by Mingma, incredible people and great friends who looked after us all that many got off that mountain alive. They are brave, strong and loyal and such wonderful human beings. I was very close to them as Base Camp Manager and they looked after me especially on my trip to the North Col at the expedition end and on my travels to the North Face and West Ridge. The days spent alone walking into the West Ridge this huge place away from the madding crowds. I met only two crazy climbers waiting below the huge North Face to try the route Alpine Style. There were amazed when I popped up alone at their camp, it was long but incredible trip into that remote place. At the end I sat with Mingma at Advanced Base Camp, we discussed the Mess left by climbers and how anyone can leave such a place in such a state. He was very upset and so was I – Mingma is a world class mountaineer in his own right was one of the finest human beings I have ever met.
They had assisted other expeditions on several rescues on the mountain that season, we were so lucky to have such people with us. The Sherpas had done well dragging huge amounts of kit left from other trips of the mountain; they had been up to the top camps and brought all the gear left down by many who all that mattered was a summit. This would be recycled and well worth the risk they took would bring them some extra cash, much needed. The empty oxygen bottles would be worth a lot on their own. I was offered my cut but declined, they had worked so hard for us and they would not even let me drag some down the fixed ropes from the North Col. Yet I did and was overtaken by our 16 year old cook Tiger, laughing broadly at my efforts. We had a grand meal that night and I was made a fuss of for my efforts and left them with my last bottle of whisky, singing and laughing for them it was another day.
This is the photo of our Sirdar Mingma and the boys on our last day at ABC, great people and good friends. I left next day our camp was packed away and the Yaks were nearly ready to go. I had little kit as I had given most of my kit away yet still had a big 6 hour day to get back to Base Camp. The weather was changing it snowed heavily and I was struggling heading into the bitter wind and weather, I had to keep moving due to my lack of kit. What a feeling being alone in such a place no one about just a Scottish wind battering me and yet I was at the height of Denali I was moving well. My last views of the North Col and the North East Ridge were incredible and the lonely wander down back to civilization at Base Camp was a hard day. The rest were ready to leave next day all knackered after nearly 4 months away. It was a special time with special people, we all came back friends and intact, with huge memories.
I will never forget the Solitude of the North Face and the West Ridge alone most of the time and, the huge walls of ice, the avalanches, the glaciers, the wind and these great people who make it all possible. Many see these great mountains as a “gymnasium for their egos” and get badly burnt. To me it was a special place to get away from the crowds how blessed was I to see this place and its incredible wildness. You never conquer these mountain’s they tolerate you and to be with such a group of true friends and great Sherpas was an honour I will always remember.
Today snippets: In the big mountains take things slowly, watch the locals and learn from them.
Take nothing but photos – leave nothing but footprints.