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  Ian and Andy Prentice Mount Everest 2004

Dispatch 3. 4/15/2004

Sorry it has been so long since we last wrote a dispatch. We have actually started to write about six dispatches over the last couple of weeks but then something always happens and we get interrupted.

A lot has happened since the last dispatch and probably the easiest way to tell you about is by chronological event rather than day by day.

Leaving the Khumbu valley: After spending a little over a week trekking around the Khumbu valley we decided to head back to Kathmandu two days before we had originally planned. Good job we did as the weather turned nasty and flights out of Lukla were cancelled for two days in a row creating a huge backlog. We couldn’t even get ourselves on to a flight for days. Not happy with this we managed to blag our way onto a helicopter that had been servicing the British forces Makalu expedition for an extra £30. It was an old Russian helicopter that technically we shouldn’t have been on. (The Nepalese Government doesn’t let westerners use these because generally the service history isn’t exactly glowing). However it was another new experience for us, and something we will look back on with fond memories.

Riots, strikes and bombs: We arrived back in Kathmandu airport to find the Maoists had called an unofficial strike. Therefore there were no taxis or transportation to the Hotel (about 30 minutes drive away). In the end we managed to convince a taxi driver to take us and two English schoolteachers also stranded at the airport to tourist area of Kathmandu for about 10 times the normal fee. With in 5 minutes we came face to face with angry mobs and burning roadblocks and people telling us to get out of the taxi. We were scared and the taxi driver that shouldn’t of been operating during the strike almost shit himself. After a lot of shouting and more and more people gathering round us we were forced out of the taxi. Lucky for us I had my mobile and called Marai (our Napal agent) and he came to meet us. He walked us back to the hotel via a stand off between the police and the rioters. ( we literally walked in between the two at a crossroads).

The riots and tension continued to rise over the next few days, with a number of bombs and flash points. During the day all of the shops and restaurants “closed” (most stayed open behind shutters or round the back door) however movements around the city were restricted.

Leaving Kathmandu: Due to the strikes we could not leave Kathmandu as planned. It was planned that we would travel this part of the trip with Dan Mazur’s main expedition. The 30km trip to the Tibet boarder was blocked by the Maoists with varying stories on when it would be open (between 3 and 21 days). We couldn’t wait this long so Dan arranged transportation via helicopter from Kathmandu to a village 4km short of the boarder. It took two days and a six heli loads to shift all expedition members. Eventually we crossed the boarder via friendship bridge.

The journey to Everest base camp: Once we cleared customs in Tibet we headed for Nyalam in a convoy of 4 x 4’s. At times during the journey I (Ian) was genuinely scared for my life. The roads twisted there way round the mountains coming very close to the edge on a number of times.

Nyalam was a complete dump. The people were strange and generally not friendly. Packs of wild dogs roam the streets and the dust storms were frequent.

Tingri – our next destination for two days was even worse. What we found really strange though, is the 6 outdoor pool tables. Especially as the town is smack bang in the middle of the Tibetan plateau and exposed to very fast winds and sand storms!! Great for outdoor pool… still, it didn’t prevent Andy and I from taking on Garth and his partner Sarah (both BA pilots) in a best of three, two-day pool challenge. We won.

Everest base camp: We arrived yesterday at base camp (approx attitude of 5200m). We are still with the main group at this point and will split from here on, possibly tomorrow.

The view from here is amazing – we are sitting right in the shadow of the north face of Everest. It’s actually quite intimidating, very steep and dark during most of the day.

Nearly all people are feeling the effects of the attitude. Some more than others. Personally (Ian) I felt really crap yesterday, I had a bad headache and felt sick. I managed to sleep most of the night and woke up this morning feeling much better.

We are planning to leave base camp tomorrow but we will see how we feel.

The main thing is now after three weeks of messing around we are here at the foot of Mount Everest chasing our dream. All that stands between the summit and us is the weather, illness, injury, logistics, personal hygiene, oh, and over two vertical miles and six weeks of rock and snow!!!

That’s all for now

With thanks to: Prentice Furniture, The Westons, Force Ten, Boiler care, Boreal, T & F Electronics, Comar Fluid and Power, Brookleigh Lanscapes, RAB, Wayfarer, M & M Clothing, J T Duncomb Builders, Hinckley Insurance, Industrial Manufacturing Services, Barry Hawkins Narrowboats, DMM, Esporta Warwickshire, Midland Sheet Metal


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