Team EVEREST 2019: Leesa - 32 Days at Base Camp (EBC)...Published Monday, 20th May 2019
The team have now arrived at Camp 2 (6400m) so I can relax a bit knowing they are now safe in their little tents. I always knew this was going to be the hardest part....
I was an emotional wreck waving them off at 2am.
They were excited to be finally on their way for the summit bid. I was excited for them too, but also anxious and nervous, praying that they will have the outcome they have all worked so hard for.... I was like a tearful Mum waving her baby boy off on his first day at school!
But I knew it was going to be like this. I have been through enough projects with 65 Degrees North to know the rollercoaster of emotions that comes with each expedition.. the agony of waiting for news, the pressure of being the one to deliver that news, the utter elation of seeing the guys achieve their goals!
However, even though I am sitting here alone in my tent waiting for that news, I am not alone. I have an incredible support team of family, friends, Patrons and even the Team Psychologist that I can call upon. We have also made friends with a couple of Expedition Doctors here who have medically treated and advised us on a few occasions, including on the trek in when, at just below 5000m, I suffered with altitude sickness and genuinely thought I couldn't continue, so I know they are just a lung-busting 20 minute walk away on the other side of Base Camp!
The heat has been intense this morning, it's undoubtedly been even hotter for the guys with the sun reflecting off the snow, and I am incredibly grateful to Big & Tall Eyewear and Julbo Eyewear for providing a whole range of glasses to the team to ensure we do not damage our eyes. I have never been one for wearing sunglasses but Jayne at Big & Tall Eyewear @AtlanticOpticalUKLtd kindly educated me about snow-blindness and the damage harmful UV rays can do to the eyes, especially at this altitude, so I have made a massive effort to wear them at all times.
There is a cold breeze blowing and overhead I can hear the strong winds roaring like a steam train, it's unlikely there will be any summit attempts for the next couple of days...
The team will keep a close eye on the forecast and only move to Camp 4 when they are sure the winds will allow them to push on. They are carrying the BGAN 510, a small portable WIFI system, which Inmarsat have provided, so will be able to stay up to date with the very latest forecasts as they come in. Here at Base Camp, I have the BGAN 710, a larger, more powerful system, which allows me to keep in touch with the guys. It means they can also send me images and information which I can use for posts on social media. The BGAN 710 also has a phone connected, providing a clear line without time delay, which has been instrumental for conducting morale-boosting phone calls, and various interviews for radio and print.
In some ways it seems unreal that I have been living in a little yellow tent at Base Camp for 32 days! I have never been a huge fan of camping... the longest I have ever spent in a tent before this was 7 days on Mt Kilimanjaro in 2016. Whenever I go camping with my sisters at home in Wales, it's 2 days max.... then I need to go home for a hot shower and to sleep in my comfy bed! I don't enjoy being cold either, and there have been nights where I have crawled into my frozen sleeping bag wondering if I am going to survive!!
But I wouldn't change a thing... this has been the most incredible experience with the most incredible group of guys who inspire and motivate me to get on with life no matter how tough it sometimes gets!
I hardly did any research before coming out here... I am one of those people who like to experience things first hand. I like to just turn up and enjoy the moment, the people, the culture, with no expectations, so a few things have surprised me along the way!
The 10 day trek in to EBC was really tough at times, but magical too. We experienced every kind of weather along the way but were well prepared thanks to the crew at Up and Under who work tirelessly behind the scenes of every expedition!
We stayed in Tea Houses, each one completely different to the next. Most were a complete culture shock.... but isn't that what we came for!?
Since arriving at EBC I have been surprised by how much wildlife lives up here!
For some reason I didn't think anything lived above 5000m but every morning I wake at 6am to the sweet sound of birds singing! There are small sparrow-like birds and ravens. The guys have also told me they have seen birds up at Camp 3 (7300m)... what are they doing up there!?
We regularly see Yaks and mules carrying supplies, or people, to Base Camp but I have also seen the occasional butterfly, bee and fly. There are no flowers or plants up here other than some brown moss clinging to a few rocks on the way in to base camp.
I've also been surprised by how many avalanches we have seen on the surrounding mountains, how much Base Camp changes day to day due to the weather, how rapidly the weather can change from extreme hot to extreme cold in a matter of minutes (temperatures can range between 25°C and -10°C), and how 2 foot of snow can fall overnight only for it to all melt by the next afternoon!
The glacier is rapidly melting too and we constantly hear the disconcerting cracks and booms below us during the night. Deep holes suddenly open up around and under our tents, and there is now a river flowing through base camp which used to be solid ice.
Even though I have been here over a month, and the 10 day trek in gave me plenty of time to acclimatise, I still find myself getting out of breath at times. Sometimes just before going to sleep I find myself struggling to breathe, usually after fighting with the zip of my sleeping bag, it's not a nice feeling!
I've trekked to Gorak Shep (5164m / 16942 ft) and back only twice since arriving, the rest of the time I have just taken short walks around Base Camp. I still get breathless if I go too fast, to the point where my lungs are screaming for oxygen and I start stumbling over rocks because my legs are heavy! It makes me appreciate what the guys are putting themselves through even more, and I admire their determination.
Our Sherpas have been the most amazing, friendly and happy people I have ever met. They work non-stop and cannot do enough for us. We have enjoyed getting to know them, learning about their lives and traditions, and their knowledge of this magnificent mountain is invaluable. Our chefs, Gyanu and Asman, somehow produce the most delicious meals 3 times a day, baking fresh breads and cakes, which at high altitude is a challenge in itself!
Typically our day starts with a bowl of muesli and fresh yoghurt, followed by a cooked breakfast - tomatoes on toast for me, and egg, bacon and beans on toast for the guys! Lunch is something like a cheese, tomato and onion roll with fresh salad and chips followed by fresh fruit. Dinner always starts with hot soup and poppadum or fresh popcorn, followed by fresh pizza, or pasta with salad, or the traditional Nepalese lentil curry Dal Bhat, followed by cake or fresh fruit salad.... I have never eaten so much food!!
Base Camp is getting quieter now as the climbers head for the summit....According to the Tourism Department, a record 378 climbing permits were granted by the Nepalese government this year. As the majority of Everest climbers require the help of a Nepali Guide or Sherpa, there will be close to 750 people treading the same path to the top of the mountain over the next few days.
Some alpine climbers, and smaller teams, took a chance on the recent small weather-window, closely following behind the elite Sherpa team who fixed the ropes to the summit. The risk paid off for around 100 climbers and their Sherpas.
So all that's left now is the waiting and the hoping...
Whatever happens the team have already achieved what they set out to achieve.
They have pushed the limits and proved, that despite physical or mental injury, you can overcome anything if you try hard enough.
Being part of these expeditions is an absolute privilege for me. I get to see the huge amount of support for the team; from the incredible Sponsors who help fund the projects, and give their time and expert advice freely to make it a success, right through to the incredible messages of support on social media and donations to our JustGiving Page.
I have seen first-hand the difference our projects make to our wounded, injured and sick servicemen and women and I know that 'Rehabilitation through Adventure' works!
Everyone can take inspiration from these projects. Set yourself a goal and make it happen!
It doesn't need to be the World's highest mountain..... your Everest might be the park at the end of your street! Then once you've made it there set yourself another goal. Incredible things can happen when you take chances and open yourself to opportunities.
Life is short.... Go live it!