Summit bid salvaged from the storm

Everest Diary: Base Camp

ALL SMILES at Base Camp this afternoon. Nima Dorjee and Pemba Tsering returned from the mountain after a night huddled in a collapsed tent with all their fingers intact and a more optimistic prognosis of our team's chances of still mounting a summit bid.

They spent most of the day gathering smashed tents and other gear, scattered over hundreds of metres of broken rock and glacier in the Western Cwm when 100mph winds tore Camp 2 apart early on Monday. All our high-altitude clothing was in the small tents hit by the storm. Without those down jackets, salopettes and heavy-duty gloves we would be unable to withstand the bitter sub-zero temperatures higher up Everest.

We still do not know the full picture. But if, as it sounds from Nima and Pemba, nearly all our Himalayan Kingdoms Expeditions tents are still there, though broken, most of the gear should still be inside them. Unfortunately they were unable to find one of the tents used by two Sherpas and their gear and participation is vital to our effort. A summit bid will probably depend on how much equipment we can muster between us.

Nima and Pemba told their tale with typical Sherpa insouciance. Both are experienced climbing Sherpas, spending part of each year expeditioning and the rest with their families. Nima, 32, short and with his face nearly always split by a grin or laughter comes from the Arun valley area away to the east. Pemba, 42, is from Khari Khola to the south of the Khumbu.

Their hands had frozen as they struggled in the storm, disentangling broken tent poles and piling rocks on top of the collapsed tents to stop them taking off again. Back at Camp 2, they sheltered in our large, but broken, blue dome tent, thawing their hands out in warm salt water before eating and settling down for an uncomfortable night.

We have mulled over the latest weather forecast from the Met Office in Bracknell. It does not look good enough for a summit bid over the next week but should allow some of us to go up to Camp 2 and try and restore some order. All being well, four of us, including myself, will head up tomorrow and spend one night there.

Beyond that, it looks like another sojourn at Base Camp hoping for that elusive weather window. It is worth bearing in mind that the first ascensionists, Hillary and Tensing, did not reach the top until 29 May.

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