7 summits by Microlight

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(UTC + 5:45)
2-1

News release: 22 May, Fog again


 

 

 

 

 
No, the weather hasn't changed. Fog again. Actually it did clear up briefly at about 7:30 and the helicopter arrived bearing plywood, plastic sewage pipes and some large rolls of something light which blew far away when it took off again.

Before it took off there was a lot of satellite phoning and radio calls to Everest Base camp from the crew to see what the weather was like up there - from here it looked marginal indeed, but they were scheduled to go there and pick up one, if not two climbing teams. To do this safely they decanted quite a lot of fuel into plastic jerry cans which were carried up to the Asian Airways hut at thetop of the field. Eventually it left to go half way to collect a team waiting at Lobuche, a bit more than half way. It returned very quickly with a very happy team of Greek climbers - I suppose their succesful ascent in this Olympic year will be a very big deal when they get home.

All their stuff was decanted onto the strip and it left again to go up to base camp, and returned a while later with some Americans. They all got out. While the Greeks and all their stuff was loaded back on, the fuel was carried back from the hut and poured back into the helicopter. The Russian flight engineer wasn't entirely happy about the quantity of water he drained off from the tanks but it left for Kathmandu anyway. As far as I know the Americans are staying in the Lodge here, though I haven't met any of them.

So if the helicopter can operate in these conditions right up to base camp, then why can't we? you ask. Well there's one simple reason, it can land in quite a few places, we have nowhere to go apart from here and Lukla, and we know all about how changable the conditions can be in both these places in these sort of conditions. There is the possibility of another strip at Mingbo, about half way between here and Everest, it was built by Hillary and closed in 1961. (See the history section) and there is also the possibility of being able to land on a dry lake near Gorak Shep where Simon Baker landed in 1986. This latter is short, and VERY high, it is questionable whether I would be able to fly out of it, certainly Simon didn't, his machine was dismantled and portered down to a short and very rough temporary strip they hac built near Pheriche. (see History section).

Saturday is market day in Namche Bazaar. With this miserable weather Barty and I have also more or less finished reading our library of books, so we went down there for Lunch and to find some new reading material. The market is a colourful business which occurs on a series of terraces at one end of town, the upper ones are Yak parking places, the lower ones are the market. People come from all around to gossip and buy supplies and by midday they are pretty much all heading home. Commercial porter / traders time their journeys from the roadhead at Jiri, about 10 days away, to get here by market day. Unladen, it takes them much less time to get back so they usually operate on a 2 week turnround. Of course the more they carry the more they have to sell so loads of 70 or 80 Kg are not uncommon. What fantastic hard work.

Beer is a bit of an issue in our camp. Especially in these conditions a beer or two in the evening is very important for Morale. At one time we did get one can a day but it ran out. A tin of beer costs 200 rupees at the Lodge up here which is rather extortionate considering they are 100 or less in the shops down in Namche. The other day four of us, including Barty and I each chipped in 500 Rupees to send someone down to buy a case of 24 but we ended up with rather a raw deal, I got one and Barty got two, the rest were snaffled by the film and camera people. Today we decided to buy a case of beer of our own in the market, but who to get to carry it up the hill? Even just a 10 Kg case of beer would kill either of us! We needed a porter, but who? We could easily just lose our beer and the porter fee by hiring just anyone. Just then we spotted our friends from the Government Yak farm, so we took their advice. The Yak farm is above us so they would be passing, and Yes, they would carry it up for us. After a bit of negotiating it turns out the standard price for a case of beer is 1500 rupees, our porter fee was 200, (extortionate, but the Yak farm people are very nice) so we would have a case up there for 1700 rupees, or about 70 per can. (£0.60) They will be available to Italian film and camera folk at 150 each.

We traded our books and then on our way back up we stopped in at the Namche Museum. This has an interesting full size 'traditional Sherpa house' and an excellent display of photos of traditional Sherpa events such as weddings and religious festivals and lots of photos and newspaper cuttings of recent Sherpa history, mostly great Climbing achievements from Tensing Norgay onwards.

There is onething they will have to change; in recent years there has been something of a competition between a number of elite Sherpa climbers to make the fastest ascent from base camp to the Summit. The record stood at around 20 hours for some years and then was smashed three or four years ago with a time of just over 10 hours. Our cooks up here told us yesterday at dinner that Nepal radio had just announced with great fanfare that it had just been broken again this week with the astonishing time of 8 hours 10 minutes. I know Sherpas are extraordinary people but this is positively superhuman, I don't know the actual physical distance it is from Base Camp to the Summit but it is more than 3 VERTICAL Kilometres....

You may realize this despatch is late. It was actually written today but for some reason our satellite comms have ceased working. We thought some sort of setting had been changed and I have been fiddling with things with no success - the status screen says 'network available' but you can't make an actual connection. Fortunately some more people arrived this evening down from base camp who have been making a 35mm film on Everest, they succesfully summited on the 17th. They have a R-BGAN setup just like us, and theirs does the same and won't work either. This strongly suggests there is something wrong with the satellite, or at least not with our side of things thank goodness. The Intelsat system is managed in France and they have a certain reputation for doing nothing at weekends so it seems unlikely we will be back online before monday at least. Of course this is very frustrating as we will now have to go down to Namche daily to get our weather reports.

It has been raining in fog all afternoon but cleared when it got dark. Could it be flyable tomorrow?

ICARO 2000 Hang Gliding World Champion
 
 
THE NORTH FACE clothing for extreme conditions
 
 
ALPHA emergency parachute
 
 
The FIAT group
 
 
Articole Studios - GRP mouldings
 
 
Neltec flexible heaters
 
 
AdventureWeather.com providing Meteorological information to the expedition
 
 
Mainair Sports; UK dealer for Warp Drive Propellors
 
 
Lyndhurst Touchdown Services.  Supplier of fuel system components to the expedition.
 
 
SKYDRIVE, the UK Distributor of ROTAX engines
 
 
MAINAIR SPORTS  manufacturers of fine microlight Aircraft
 
 
O-ZEE flight suits.  Suppliers of Bar-mitts to the expedition.
 
 
Industrial Pressure Testing Ltd; Suppliers of Oxygen cylinders to the expedition.
 
 
PEGASUS AVIATION manufacturers of fine microlight Aircraft
 
 
BAILEY AVIATION manufacturers of Paramotors and automotive sport acessories
 
 
PARAMINA; Suppliers of Oxygen equipment to the expedition
 
 
Gerbings heated clothing
 
 
Quatar airways
 
 
FLYCOM Intercom and Radio equipment
 
 
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24 May 2004
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