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