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Saint Petersburg:



19 April, 2003 Tom Masterson:

St. Petersburg English language Everest report continued Tuesday, 8 April 2003:

Tingri to Everest base camp. Today we get an earlier start: breakfast is at 5:45 Nepali time or 8 a.m. Chinese time (Nepali time seems to have the sun nearly overhead at noon while Chinese time is set in Beijing and decreed to be the same for the entire of the country, and, yes, Tibet is in China). Tingri has spectacular views of Everest and Cho Oyu. We left Tingri shortly after 9 (Chinese, all future times will be referenced to Chinese times) passing ~ 20 jogging Chinese soldiers, in formation if not quite in step. The short road to Qomolanga (Chinese name for Everest, with various
transliterations) heads south just a couple kilometers east of Tingri, but we take the long road which is 40 km further east. This Friendship Highway is paved for ~ 2 km either side of Tingri, while all the rest (that we have seen) is not much more than single-lane dirt. Our Chinese driver likes to drive as fast as he can make the new Toyota Landcruiser go as fast as he can and occasionally loses control on corners and soft spots.

Just before Shegar we take the 100 km Everest Base Camp Road to the south. The road has been worked on extensively and receives heavy traffic. Particularly impressive are the dozens of switchbacks leading from the
Friendship Highway junction at 4000 m to a high pass at about 5100 m. The top of the pass reveals a stunning view of Makalu, Everest, and Cho Oyu. Fabulous views (also of Shisha Pangma) continue as we wind our way back down, especially when the driver can be convinced to slow down a bit so that we are not overcome with dust from vehicles in front of us. With less than10 km to go, we stop at the Rongbuk (also various spellings) Monastery. This austere setting has an incredible view of the north face of Everest. We are allowed into the stupa while the monks are chanting and these few moments of quiet meditation are wonderful indeed. Then we continue on to the end of the road on the tailings of the Rongbuk glacier to Everest Base Camp.

Base camp! We are reunited with warm clothes and equipment. The elevation is ~ 5200 m. Tents have already been set up and we work on making solar panels operational and even getting an electric light into each tent. Our Nepali cook, Xasta, fixes us our first non-Chinese meal since leaving Kathmandu. A short walk up the glacial moraine barely gives us an impression of the immensity of the place. Everest towers to the south soaring above 7500+ m peaks in between. When the sun sets to the west of the rim of the glacial valley, the temperature drops impressively, probably more than -15 C.
Wednesday, 9 April 2003:
Everest Base Camp The St. Petersburg group has brought a lot of technological equipment, including a satellite telephone, an electrical generator, solar panels, and two laptops computers (one for e-mail, one for digital photos). But the equipment brought in by other groups makes ours pale by comparison. The Chinese group (~140 people including 7 climbers) is planning a live TV transmission from the summit and will lay a fibre optics cable from base camp (BC) to advanced base camp (ABC), a distance of at least 15 km. The Global Extremes/Mount Everest/4Runners of Adventure/Outdoor Life Network group has a cast of hundreds and only 4 people attempting to climb (either none or at most one of whom has high altitude experience).

There are some beautiful red thrush-like birds on the moraine. The wind blows quite strongly up and down the moraine as well, and can be very cold. A hike up the east side of the glacial valley revealed some Tibetan inscriptions on the top of the ridge. The scree was very loose. After lunch we packed everything for the yaks cartage to ABC.
Thursday, 10 April, 2003:
BC to 1st intermediate Camp. The yak herders arrived about 1:30 p.m., and finally got loaded about 4:30 p.m. with the solar panels being hand carried instead of yak-backed. The yaks carry impressive loads of at least 60 kg, and they move smoothly and not slowly. Snow doesn't bother them and they will seek out such patches for a drink along the way.

We went up the main Rongbuk glacier for ~ 3 km before turning southeast up the East Rongbuk. The total time and distance today is short, less than 3 hours even for the yaks, with an elevation gain of about 300 m. We will take
3 days to gain the 1400 m to ABC. The views of the yaks traveling up the Rongbuk with Everest in the background are very memorable. It feels nice to be moving and heading uphill this evening at about 5400 m. The Tibetan yak herders (both male and female + 1 dog) are friendly and it would be nice to be able to communicate better with them. We fall asleep to the beautiful sounds of yak bells.
Friday, 11 April, 2003:
1st to 2nd Intermediate camp. We move further up the E. Rongbuk glacier to about 5800 m. The scenery is gorgeous. Huge (30 m high) teeth of white ice start to appear out of the glacial moraine. It was delightful to hear the sounds of a yak man guiding his yaks down from above 6000 m while singing in a deep Tibetan baritone which reverberated off the steep walls of the glacial valley.

In the last hours before dusk, this intermediate camp became flooded with yaks and climbers. There are probably more than 200 yaks here - I was able to count 70 directly in front of our campsite.

Saturday, 12 April, 2003:
Intermediate camp to ABC. After a cold night, we left 2 tents at the intermediate camp (which is about half-way to ABC). It is a long but quite pretty walk to ABC beside the Rongbuk icefall. We went up to almost the end of the moraine, and then returned to nearly the beginning of ABC as all our gear got unloaded from the yaks there. The Chinese are very territorial about who goes where and threatened to stone anyone who tries to place a camp anywhere near a place that they have marked with a small ribbon. We spent over 2 hours trying to flatten some tent sites with dirt from the edge of the moraine. It was nice to listen to the yak herders singing while going uphill at 6000 m while still going as fast as most of us can walk.
Sunday, 13 April, 2003:
ABC to bottom of North Col. We walk up to and make a depot at the bottom of the North Col. The flat area for the last km below the Col is all ice, some of it blue glacial ice, the rest hard and crunchy snow-melt ice. About 200 m of fixed rope is put in to start the route up the Col.
Monday, 14 April, 2003:
Fixing ropes to the top of the North Col. We return to the base of the North Col, and fix ropes up to the top of the Col at ~7000m. Two of the St. Petersburg climbers did most of the work while the rest of us carried ropes, pickets, and ice screws. Steepest pitch is about 60 degrees for 30 m or so. We also moved the tent/gear depot to the top of the Col, but returned to ABC to sleep.

Tuesday, 15 April, 2003:
Back to BC. We walk the long trek (~15 km?) back to base camp.
Wed + Thurs, 16 & 17 April, 2003:
Base Camp.
Friday, 18 April 2003:
2 climbers head back up to ABC in 2 stages.
Saturday, 19 April 2003:
Most the rest of team heads back up to ABC in 1 long day.