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  Mt. Everest 2004: Irish Expedition Update


Dispatch - May 10: We are now down in Dingboche (4358m) resting our weary bodies and eating plentifully to replenish our lost weight before returning to Base Camp on the 13th May.

Dingboche is a small village that is used as a summer pasture by the Sherpas. It has a number of tea houses that open in the trekking season. We are staying in Snow Lion Lodge, run by Nima Yangy and Ang Chhiri Sherpa. It's basic, clean and comfortable and an ideal retreat away from the hustle and bustle of Base Camp life.

The past two weeks have been very demanding on us, both mentally and physically as we pushed our bodies to their limit.

As a team, we are holding up well and our confidence is high. We are moving very well on the mountain and having slept at Camp 3 without difficulty, I believe we stand a very good chance of making the summit together. Our next ascent from Base Camp will be our 11th time through the mighty, crumbling, Khumbu icefall, hopefully it will be also mark our successful summit bid.

Our biggest concern now is the weather and in particular the winds on Everest. This preoccupies our daily thoughts, as we watch the plumes off the summit. The forecast is for high winds for the next week as the jet stream rips over Everest.

Adrian and Sheila have decided to await our return at Base Camp and will be monitoring the forecast on a daily basis. We hope a trend will have established itself by the time we return.

10th May Summit Push Preparations: Climbers Preparations

All the climbers are off the mountain. Clare and Pat have descended to Dingboche. Pemba has gone to Namche. Several of the Sherpa climbers have gone to Loboche, two have stayed in Base Camp Wyeth. Rinji, our cook, and Adrian also stayed. The climbers intend, weather permitting to begin their summit push on the 15th


Members of the team
Standing: Pemba Gyalji, Nang Chemmi, Lambabu (Climbers)
Dawa (Base Camp Manager)
Kneeling: Lahkpa, Jangbu, (C limbers), Da Rinji (Cook),
Tensing (Camp 2 Cook)

It is important for the climbers to have a rest for a few days. Some are happy to rest at Base Camp Wyeth, others feel it is important to go lower. Either way, rest and plenty of good food is paramount and so the climbers' preparations for the summit push are under way.





Base Camp Wyeth Preparations

Today in Base Camp Wyeth, Rinji makes sure that the generator is working properly. He gives a full workover and ensures that all points and contacts are clean and in good working order. He checks the replacement fuses and spark plugs. He also checks the fuel supplies. Adrian does a full check on the batteries and connections. The base radio set is also checked out. It is charging ok and all channels are transmitting and receiving. All hand held sets and their batteries are also tested. Every aspect of the communication system is checked. If anything is wrong we have just 3 days to fix the problem ourselves as replacements are not an option out here at this stage.


Mess tent, Food Store and Kitchen

By lunch time we have identified the problems. Three chargers are not working to full potential and have to be fixed.

Yesterday, Sheila and Dawe went to Loboche to organise additional supplies of food and fuel.


High Altitude Equipment and Food Preparation: Camp 1, Camp 2 Lowe Alpine and Camp 3 Spórt Corrán Tuathail are all established. Loads have been left at the South Col High Camp Wyeth. All that is required is to pack food and fluid for the Summit Push. The food supplies consist of chocolate, energy bars, noodles, pasta, rice, tinned fish and meat. These will be used by Camp 2 Lowe Alpine. From Camp 3 Spórt Corrán Tuathail climbers will eat from a full range of Wayfarer easy prepare dinner and desserts. At all levels fluid will got from melting ice into water and making soup, tea and other drinks. All levels of the expedition are ready or almost ready for the summit push. Everyone is acutely aware of their own role. There exists an awareness of our individual and collective responsibilities to ensure a safe and successful conclusion to the Irish Wyeth Everest Expedition 2004.

Sheila's Base Camp Tales 8th May: Just in case you thought that life at Base Camp was all about frozen toes and misery I'm glad to say it's not. At least, not all the time! In the midst of all the moving ice and rubble there's actually quite a lively social scene here. Last Thursday I was invited to participate in the 1st Annual International women's Khumbu Golf Tournament! There were eight of us ladies taking part in total, representing over half the female population at Base Camp!

Our 'golf course' was a small patch of unstable ice on the Khumbu Glacier just at the foot of the Khumbu Icefall. In place the traditional 'hole' we had a large basket. Admittedly, not your average golf course. The most challenging part of the game was trying to avoid falling through the thin, creaking ice. Unfortunately, few of us managed to walk away with dry feet! The event did seem to cause a stir at Base Camp and we noticed a number of spectators standing bemusedly outside their tents taking in the unusual scene.

You see! It's not all about climbing mountains up here!

Yesterday afternoon I was invited to the Swiss camp to join them for some hot apple and cinnamon tea. I left their camp with oodles of delicious Swiss chocolate to bring back to our team. Pat, Clare and Pemba had just returned to Base Camp from Camp 3 and were entertaining some members of the Greek team outside in the glorious sunshine. We were also joined by a Hollywood actor whose claim to fame was a one line part in the movie 'George of the Jungle'! Meanwhile, Dawa was serving up one of his specialities, potato pancakes, chips and fried eggs.

Just when I thought life couldn't get any harder at Base Camp Dawa surprised us all with a scrumptious fondue for dinner with succulent pieces of Yak steak, sausage, boiled potatoes and vegetables with just
a hint of chilli. This was followed by some deliciously rich chocolate cake and green tea. After dinner we all gathered in the warm and cosy dining tent, Pat, Clare, Adrian, Pemba, Dawa, Rinji, Jangbu, Nima and myself and Pat kept us entertained into the early hours with stories and songs.

Not a frozen toe in sight!

Hurling to Reach New Heights

The game of hurling is perhaps the fastest and most skilful field games anywhere in the world. The game has its roots in our ancient Gaelic world. The game was played long before the coming of Christianity. The earliest written record of the game is contained in the Brehon Laws of the fifth century. The first great hurler was Setanta whose legendary adventures are known to most Irish children. In recent history there have been many hurling greats whose star quality is well known throughout all the counties of Ireland.

In May 2003, Gerry Mc Donnell from Co. Limerick brought a Hurling Stick to the South Col of Mount Everest - a height of 26,000 feet or 7925metres. This stick belonged to the Drive For Life Group and Gerry had planned to perform the Puc Fada from the top of the world. Gerry stood on top of the world last May, and his Puc Fada albeit form the South Col and not the summit was the highest ever known.

In March this year, Adrian Rahill from Ennis was given a Hurling Stick by a fellow Clareman. The Stick and three Sliothars made the long journey from Ireland to Nepal. It caused much curiosity from its journey from Kathmandu to Lukla by plane. This symbol was carried through the valleys and up over the hills of the Sulu Khumbu and it attracted much attention. Adrian showed some the basic skills to keen students. Pasang Rinji Sherpa proved to be a natural and was able to fire small stones 50-60 meters. Rinji plans to start Hurling in Kathmandu and extra sticks are winging their way from Ireland.

Eventually Pasang Rinji Sherpa took over the carrying duties of this stick and it safely arrived at our base camp. It stayed in Base Camp Wyeth for a while and then it was onto Everest, carried by Lhakpa Onchu Sherpa.


Lhakpa transporting the hurley up the mountain

It is now resting at Camp 3 Spórt Corrán Tuathail and is well placed for the summit push sometime in the middle of May.

The Clareman who had given the stick to Adrian, thought it a good idea to perform the Puc Fada from the top of Everest. At a height of 29,035 feet or 8,850meters - this would undoubtedly be the highest Puc ever. This feat is being attempted by Pat Falvey, who intends to drive a sliothar into the thin air that surrounds the top of the world. Pat, a native of Cork, feels that this Puc Fada is for everyone who is passionate about hurling, be they Rebels, Cats or Bannermen.

Hurling is part of our culture and tradition. The 18th century has been referred to as the Golden Age of hurling, but declining fortunes were halted by the foundation of the GAA in Thurles in 1884. Hurling and other Gaelic games were organized on a parish based local level. Hurling has played an important role in our Irish society and continues to do so. Explaining the history of the Game and some of its rules to Nepalese and Sherpa helps us to share some of our culture with the wonderful people who live among the highest mountains in the world. They can appreciate the passion that Hurling commands. They too celebrate culture and tradition and understand the need of some Irish people to attempt the highest Puc Fada ever. All those involved in our expedition, Sherpa and Irish, are proud to have the Hurl and the Sliothar as part of the equipment. There is a belief that they signify a very strong Community Spirit and Local Pride, here in Base Camp Wyeth - just like at home when the first round of the County Championships and Provincial Championships are starting.

A day at Base Camp Wyeth

My day begins at 4.45am. All computers, satellite and radio equipment must be removed from their insulating and left stand in atmosphere for 2 hours before use.

Between 5.00am and 6.45am I usually go for a stroll, more of a hobble, around our camp. It is bright, but the sun has yet to appear over the highest mountains in the world. The colours are amazing. Sometimes the silence is shattered by a crack, heralding the start of the avalanches for the day. Our camp is well placed and there is never any danger. It is very cold. The air is well below freezing and the ground, well it is a glacier.


5.00am and I am off to work

My normal early morning attire is as follows:
• Top and bottom base layer
• Top and bottom fleece layer
• 3 pairs of socks
• Insulated Asolo Alpine boots
• Fleece buff
• Balaclava
• Gloves
• Mitts

This is topped of with the ever reliable Buffalo suit - salopettes, shirt
and jacket. Even then it is a bit chilly. I visit our place for prayers and offerings. This allows me time to think about the wonder of this place and how lucky I am to be here.


Lapsu, a place for prayer, meditation and offerings

By 6.30 I am back in our Mess / Communications tent and within 15 minutes all communications systems are ready to activate for daily checks. This takes about 15-20 minutes. Between 7.00am and 7.10 the communications systems are fully operational. And I am having my first of many cups of Sherpa tea.


Cables and ropes in Mess Tent

It is at this stage that the latest weather forecasts form several sources are downloaded. This may take up to an hour. By 8.00am it is time to have all pooled information in a format that allows for easy analysis. This must be ready in a radio friendly format for 9.00am., the agreed time for the those on the mountain to contact Base Camp Wyeth. Analysis of the weather is made quicker by the fact that we have conversion chart on Microsoft Excel spreadsheets. This allows me to enter metres per second and get knots per hour, miles per hour and kilometres per hour. Temperature conversions from Centigrade to Fahrenheit are also done on this worksheet. Windchill can also be factored in.


Pemba and Adrian - weather analysis

By 9.30 I am on to breakfast proper. This can be noodles or toast or fried egg with beans and loads of delicious Sherpa tea or Coffee - fully caffeinated - made with hot milk. Yes life is good. It maybe of interest to some you, caffeine is a respiratory stimulant. This can help with the problems associated with altitude. However it is a diuretic and it is important to consume loads of water based drinks.

The rest of the day is spent monitoring the various power sources to ensure that we have sufficient cover when needed. Tea and food take up several hours of the day. Sitting and chatting with the others here is a large part of the day.


Chatting with the Greeks

We entertain many visitors, these may be trekkers just calling in for tea or people from other expeditions who like us have some down time and are calling to chat. There is a great spirit of co-operation and friendship between the support teams of various expeditions. Where possible we try to sort out each others problems particularly when it comes to IT and Satellite Communications.

I constantly monitor the weather forecasts. Any changes are noted and made ready for radio broadcast for 6.00pm. After talking to the climbers, it is time for dinner. If not tired I will stay up and watch DVD with others. However I am usually tired and try to get to the sleeping bag by 8.30pm - 9.00pm.

At present the climbers are all off the mountain and I can enjoy the prospect of a good lie on until 8.00am. They are down the valley resting in Dingboche and are expected back on the 13th, then back to the early starts.

To somewhat borrow a phrase from last years bill boards - at 29,035 feet, it could to be hell for leather!

Dispatches

Pat Falvey, veteran expedition leader, Everest climber, author and motivational speaker.

To book Pat Falvey on his 'AGAINST THE SKY' LECTURE TOUR. e-mail us at

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