Everest Diary: Summit here we come - weather permitting

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The Independent Online
Today's Everest Diary comes from Sundeep Dhillon - one of Stephen Goodwin's climbing companions - at Base Camp as the Himalayan Kingdom Expedition prepares for its summit attempt

15 May, Summit Fever

WELL, it finally looks like the elusive weather window may be arriving. The forecast predicts a weak ridge of high pressure over the area, with the jetstream at its weakest so far. This is predicted to last until 21 May when a trough is expected to pass through. Based on this assumption, and depending upon today's forecast, this is the provisional plan.

16 May, Camp 1

Jim, Lily, Josie and myself will set off at 0500 for the four-hour journey to Camp 1 at the top of the Icefall (6,000m). The others will go directly to Camp 2 (Advanced Base Camp - ABC) at the end of the Western Cwm (6,400m) to join Dave Walsh, Rob Owen, and Steve who climbed up on Thursday.

17 May, Camp 2 (ABC)

The four of us from Camp 1 will move up to ABC, possibly taking tents with us. In the meantime the others will have a rest day there, while the three Sherpas go to Camp 3 and dig it out in preparation for us.

18 May, Camp 3

The nine Western climbers will move up the Lhotse Face to Camp 3 at 7,200m, taking up to six hours with three Sherpas in support. We will use oxygen while we sleep.

19 May, Camp 4

After an early start, we will set off for Camp 4 on the South Col at an altitude of 8,000m. We will be using oxygen, and will attempt to complete the six-to-eight hour journey by noon so that we have time to rest before commencing our summit bid the same evening. We will spend the rest of the day resting, drinking fluids, and attempting to eat. The temptation to stay awake and visit the east side of the col for a look down the awesome Kangshung Face into Tibet, will be great, as will the view at sunset.

20 May, Summit Day?

We will aim to leave the South Col between 10pm and midnight. We will each have three, three-litre bottles of oxygen. Using head torches, we will cross the col and climb a 500m gully to gain the crest of the South- East Ridge at 8,400m. Hopefully the sun will have risen by now, warming up our stiff, cold bodies.

The ridge leads to the South Summit (8,763m) steepening towards the top, and the true summit will be visible. Although it looks close, there is a narrow ridge in between, and halfway along this is the notorious Hillary Step, a steep 30ft groove. An easy final ridge leads to the summit (8,848m), marked with survey poles and prayer flags. We hope to arrive no later than 11am.

From the summit I will be able to look along the North-East Ridge to the high point I reached in 1996, just below the First Step, and if the weather is good, I will be able to see into the Tibetan plains and east across the magnificent peaks of the Himalaya to Kanchenjunga, my first Himalayan mountain, which I visited in 1990.

After the obligatory summit photographs, we will begin the descent to the col. Remembering that descent is often the most dangerous part of the climb, we will depart the summit by noon, in order that we can be safely back in our tents before darkness falls at around 6.30pm.

21 May, ABC

We will be keen to make another early start and get out of the "Death Zone". Although the weather is predicted to deteriorate, we should manage comfortably to descend to ABC.

22 May, Base Camp

There is still one more journey to make through the Icefall before we reach the safety of Base Camp.

This plan is entirely dependent on the weather and our own personal ability. None of the members of the team have been to the summit before, although some have been very high on the mountain. The nature of climbing Everest is such that there are only enough resources for a single summit attempt. If the weather is bad, we may be detained at ABC for a number of days.

The earliest anyone can expect to hear from us is 22 May, but do not get concerned if there is no contact for some days after this.