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Saint Petersburg:



5 May, 2003 Tom Masterson:

Boredom in base camp (but the weather has a field day). Here in base camp, the winds were blowing 50-80 km/hr, with significantly higher gusts. Sand and dust screamed down the moraine. Most folks were trying to put enough rocks around their tents that they would stay there for the night and not
get totally shredded. One British tent got blown a kilometer or so downstream and was rescued by one of their cooks, who chased it all the way.
Several Chinese tents had problems and we helped rescue one of them. One American tent started down moraine spewing contents along the way with climbers in hot (if chilled) pursuit. Fine silt and sand had no problem going straight through the walls.
Two more of our members went 50 km out along the Everest Base Camp road to enjoy a bit of lower elevation and some fresher food. People returning from the intermediate camp said that the wind and snow were intense there. People coming down from the North Col and higher say that many tents have not survived the storm at that altitude. Around the middle of the night, the winds quieted for half an hour, and then picked up as intensely as before but with a finer sound hitting the tent - yes - we were now in the middle of a blizzard. That did afford a chance to shovel the dust out of the tent. The snow stopped about 9 a.m. but soon returned as an intense blowing sandstorm.
We re-anchored many tents as they again filled up with dust. The Indian group returned from ABC where their kitchen and mess tents have been blown away. They tell us that ours are still o.k., even though they are only separated by a few feet (and supported by the same agency). Our chief is very worried about what might be happening to all of our equipment and the
consequences for the entire expedition. Tomorrow one of the agency staff responsible for tents and food will go up to check out our ABC status. We will not be able to ascertain status on higher camps until Thursday or Friday as the storm is expected to intensify for the next 3 days.
We are able to make reasonably accurate summit wind speed estimates by measuring the time it takes a cloud starting at the summit to traverse the 2 km summit ridge line. Today, after things opened up a bit, the speed was about 150 km/hr! In base camp, cooks try to make food edible but somehow
everything has the flavouring of sand or silt.
Many climbers visit other base camps. The St. Petersburg camp seems to be known for its hospitality if not for its cooking. Last evening, with 2 of our 9 absent, we had 14 in the tent. The sharing of BC resources is common and appreciated (especially battery chargers). Our power generator is one of the few that has functioned reliably amongst all the smaller expeditions.
But the face of base camp has changed immensely over the past few years. The mess-tent is humming with ultra-sophisticated equipment. Our chief, Tolya, is an excellent photographer, has a very fancy digital camera, and is always
sorting through and editing his photos as well as documenting the expedition in Russian. Another climber is trying to keep a powerbook operational and send out e-mail through an Iridium system (which seems to work much better for voice than for digital). Someone else is transmitting photos and web videos through a Bgan/Inmarsat system as well as editing the web videos on site. And almost everyone has sent and received e-mail. All this has enabled our expedition leader, Andrey Ershov, to keep the Everest web site
( quite up-to-date. Most of the computer systems seem to be at their limit of operational capabilities. A great deal of time has been spent getting and keeping them operational and none have gone above base camp. The British Navy group found that none of
their Panasonic hard drives would work at this (5100 m) elevation and had to specially order in hard drives that would work here. All-in-all, base camp today is quite a contrast to a few years ago when we were quite happy for gas lanterns, candles, and radio-telephone communication within the group. This FM radio-telephone has not gone away.
It is used extensively when line-of-sight communication is possible and usually limited to 1 W broadcasting power, and done at pre-arranged times during the day to keep batteries from expiring too soon. It is also still usually more reliable and much cheaper than a satellite phone link. However, when line-of-sight is not available, even those with five times as much
power cannot establish communication.
What else has been going on in this 2.5 m x 3 m tent today? Dr. Dima was operating on someone from another camp even though under the effects of wind and altitude all day himself. And, of course, the world's social, economic and political problems were being solved by fiat, manifesto, and "I told you
so". And the wind blows, and blows, and blows.

4 May, 2003 Marina Ershova:

Today I have descended from the North Col with Oleg Nasedkin. It is impossible strong wind there! A part of the tents was destroyed of flown away! Now we are at BC and all is OK. Maybe tomorrow we will go to the nearest village for rest.

          on the way to the North Col                    workdays on the North Col

            Nikolay Totmyanin and American TV     our neighbours like our doctor

All pictures by Anatoly Moshnikov.