Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Sean Wisedale - SA Mt Everest Expedition 2015

Just received notice from Nepal Ministry of Tourism that Everest climbers permits this season will be renewed. We are calling it a day. Expedition over this year...

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Sean Wisedale — Mt Everest — Post earthquake/avalanche decision

Trekking outward from Everest Base Camp five days ago, we looked to find some clarity and possibly clear the imagery from our minds of the devastating quake and avalanche on the 25th April. Simultaneously we needed to make some decisions on the future of our climb of Mt Everest. We had little chance of fleeing as there was too much to clear up and flights in and out of Kathmandu were limited. Before we left Base Camp many expeditions that had been completely wiped out by the avalanche made the decision to abandon their climb. Information (some unreliable) about other expeditions doing the same has been trickling in.

We spent three days after the avalanche assisting others and evacuating the wounded and assessing our own situation. There are a number of important things that we need to consider and be sensitive towards:
1) Can we assist those affected in Nepal who are in need and need our help.
2) Our own safety.
3) The status of our logistics camp, supplies and possibility of continuing with the climb.

We know that Kathmandu and the regions affected by the earthquake are remotely inaccessible from where we are now. We also saw on our trek through the valleys and over Renjo pass over the last five days that some of the villages like Dhole, Gokyo, Lundgren etc. are still accessible and functioning.

Trek over Renjo pass

We are in Namche Bazar at the moment where few structures have been destroyed and no one has been evacuated. There’s been little injury and loss of life in these areas. Yesterday however, we passed through Thame at about 5pm and there it is vastly different — most of the buildings are built on sand and the destruction is vast. There are families assisting one another with shelter and protection from the cold. Tents are pitched in the fields where these families are staying. Some reconstruction is taking place fortunately. It’s possible the locals must have knowledge of earthquakes in this seismically unstable mountain region . Many of the structures are built of precisely masoned stone, without cement. Where these structures have fallen down, the materials are being collected and put back in place.

Thame - damage

Thame - damage
Food, fuel and supplies in these areas do not seem to be a problem as most of the people living here are self-sufficient and are literally able to ‘live off the land’ so to speak. Medical supplies throughout the Khumbu valley also seem to be okay for now. Fortunately most of the injured have been evacuated to facilities in Kathmandu.

As I mentioned, we are in Namche Bazar and a little fatigued after our trek. Yesterday as we arrived, we had an enlightening and surprise encounter with the ‘Icefall doctors’. They are a team of hardened Nepalese Sherpas who are employed by the Nepalese government to open and maintain the route through the Khumbu Icefall on Mt Everest. This morning I had a coffee with them before they flew out by helicopter to Gorak Shep and then onto Base Camp. They are geared up and heading up to assess and re-open the route for any expedition wishing to continue climbing.

Of course there is no guarantee that may happen as the route may be too badly affected. But if it is opened, then the first obstacles to continue climbing may be overcome.

Then there’s the route to Camp 2 and beyond that we have to consider. Only time will tell.

We have a great team of Sherpas prepared to continue climbing.

Our camp, fuel and supplies are intact.

We are motivated to continue.

Time wise, we have a month on our hands.

Our decision is to head back up to base Camp the day after tomorrow and make another assessment of the situation when we get there.

All the best
Trek over Renjo pass - Everest in the background
Other links: 

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Sean Wisedale - Mt Everest 2015 - The Team

From left to right: Ongchhu Sherpa, Nico, Minki, Phurba Sherpa, Rob, Phursemba Sherpa, Molly, Sean

Nineteen years ago, Cathy O'Dowd became the first South African to climb Mt Everest.  I met her in Kathmandu shortly after her summit and I was incredibly inspired by what she had experienced and had to say in the interview I was recording. I was over there with Derek Watts and Carte Blanche.  We flew into Base Camp by helicopter and shot the interview on the Khumbu glacier at 5350m, very close to where we're camped right now.

Looking up at the surrounding slopes then, I was in awe of the natural wonders of the Himalayas. Who wouldn't be? I still am. Cathy's team led by Ian Woodall - the first South African team to climb Everest, fell apart in discourse before they reached Base Camp.  Back then I wouldn't have placed a rupee on the idea that one day I would be leading another South African expedition here. What can I say, I fell in love with mountaineering.

We arrived at Mt Everest Nepal side Base Camp a week ago.  I looked up at Mt Everest and realised we are facing the same challenges as Cathy did then. The great difference is that I have a team that I know and trust. And they trust me. We are not a big league commercial expedition. We are purely South African, climbing with our own countryfolk, sharing our culture, ideas, experience, jokes and languages. Which makes this lonely and remote wilderness so much fun to be in.

In our team and the fellow climbers I’ll be climbing with are:

Marlette Hegyi (Molly), and Wilmien van der Merwe (Minki).  Molly and Minki  are two more South African women who will be following Cathy O'Dowd’s footsteps in trying to step on the highest point on Earth. I have spent many months with them on slopes on other high altitude mountains, training and developing skills to climb this greatest mountain of all - Mt Everest.

Minki  is a mountain fairy.  She is the only one I know who looks forward to hauling a 25kg pack into her neighbourhood mountains every weekend.  She’s an exploration geologist who’s climbed four of the seven summits.

Molly is the Lara Croft of the hills.  Molly ‘skriks vir niks’ (fears nothing) and has been blessed with the soul of an angel.  She’s an outdoor enthusiast, off road bike rider, climbed Kili in her blue jeans and a few others – Denali, Mt Aconcagua and Mt Elbrus to boot.

Nico Oosthuizen – an original 16 cylinder power plant with a heavy clutch.  Once he gets going he’s impossible to stop.  Nico is an entrepreneur and father of triplets.  He’s climbed all over the world and skied to the South Pole.  His most recent achievement was shuddering the soap suds off his goose bump body while clutching his crotch when a Sherpani lodge owner opened his shower door to change the hot water supply.

Rob Bentley - Base Camp manager, seaman, lifeguard and outdoor enthusiast.  Most importantly he is a logistics expert. I met Rob in 2005 as he was about to set sail on a 4 year ocean cruise with his wife and kids.  Rob’s got Mother Nature credentials, and the experience to manage the radio comms and Base Camp logistics.  He’s got the toughest job of all because he remains at Base Camp for the entire duration of the climb.  He’s climbed Mt Kili twice so he’s also ok at altitude which is a major criterion in trying to find someone who can fill this pivotal position.

(In 2003, on the Discovery Mt Everest Expedition, I invited Patricia Glynn onto our team.  She was the on board reporter.  I set up an advanced communications system at Base Camp.  Patricia had been to 6000m on Mt Aconcagua which meant she, like Rob, could cope at altitude, which is a real test on big hills.  Patricia’s book ‘Off Peak’ is a humorous version about the challenges she faced).

And then there's my wife Katherine who is providing the back-up from home.  She has done a great job over the last two years of coordinating the admin and logistics of our amazing group of trekkers and obviously our climbing team. Katherine also coordinates our expedition and trekking company SWEAT. We climb the 7summits including Mt Kilimanjaro. I accompany and lead every tour to ensure the safety of our valued clients when they climb to high altitude.

Then, and most importantly we have the real mountain men, the Sherpas and the camp crew.

Ongchhu Sherpa - Head climbing Sherpa. Ongchhu is from Solukhumbu and is superhuman. His work ethic is unparralled.

Phurba Sherpa - high altitude climbing Sherpa.

Phursemba Sherpa - high altitude climbing Sherpa

Angkami Sherpa - Basecamp cook

Dawa Rinji Sherpa - Assistant cook

More links about the climb:
Sean Wisedale Main blog page
Rob's blog
Minki's blog
Molly's blog