Visionary people have pretty inspiring goals, with some doing things like climbing to Earth’s highest summit – Mount Everest – resting at 8,848 meters above sea level. Since 1953, the year Sir Edmund and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay recorded history’s first ascent to the Everest summit, there are nearly 1,000 annual attempts at climbing to the summit, with an average of 500 people actually making it to the top.
While the idea of climbing the world’s highest mountain may be daunting, the only way to the summit is to keep putting one foot before the other, each step forward carrying with it many stories and emotions.
This year, we’re following the story of seasoned adventurer and mountaineer Ricky Munday as he attempts to reach the rooftop of the world after 10 years of venturing through some of the world’s harshest mountain ranges.
From the diary of Ricky Munday’s North Ridge Expedition…
Days 1-4 / April 7-10
Arriving in Kathmadu, Nepal where Munday met with the 10 other climbers he’ll be joining up Everest. Afterwards, the team embarked on a road trip taking them through Lhasa, Shigatse, Shelkar (New Tingri) where the acclimatization process began.
Day 5/ April 11
We just stopped at a high pass at 5,200m, the gateway to Chomolungma (Everest) National Reserve. That's higher than any point in Western Europe!
Day 7/ April 13
We've arrived at Everest basecamp and we're settling into our tents. Everest still hiding behind the clouds, but I hope she'll show her face soon. I was really looking forward to moving from travel mode to expedition mode. I don’t like the buildup to an event.
On our way to the southern basecamp, we passed through a little village that we may use as a rest stop after our final acclimatization rotations up and down the mountain. It’s better to rest below basecamp to fully recover in more oxygen-rich air before we make our final summit push.
We have six camps in total including basecamp: Basecamp (5,200m), Interim Camp (5,800m), Advanced Basecamp (6,400m), Camp 1 - North Col (7,000m), Camp 2 (7,500m) and Camp 3 - highest camp on Earth – (8,300m).
[At the basecamp], I felt relief to have arrived safely and wonder that I was here at all.
Day 8/ April 14
As I left the mess tent [after breakfast], I looked to my left and saw mighty Mount Everest in all her glory. I snapped a few quick shots then just admired her for a while. The highest mountain on the planet, just there in front of me, and over the next six weeks, I’ll be slowly climbing up her flank and praying that she lets me stand on her summit.
I later wandered over to the memorials of the climbers who lost their lives on Everest. I was there alone and it was very moving to read their dedications and to wonder about the conditions they encountered and how they had fought and paid the ultimate price. It was a somber, sobering, yet peaceful experience.
Day 9/ April 15
Today started with a sense of frustration as I couldn't connect to the mobile enterprise. My expectations had been raised on day one at BC as I had a strong and stable 3G connection. It's nice to start the day reading messages from loved ones, but maybe I had been spoiled so far.
However, a hearty breakfast lifted the spirits and we were given a 30-minute warning for a trek down the valley to Rongbuk Monastery, the highest in the world at over 5,000m.
I spent the afternoon watching Lord of the Flies, which made me wonder what condition our group would be in after 60 days. Will we be chasing each other with pointed sticks in our underpants?
After dinner, we were formally introduced to the Sherpas, and I'll be working hard to remember each of their names. They truly are the backbone of the expedition.
Day 10/ April 16
This morning, we were expecting a Puja ceremony before breakfast, but the Lama was delayed so we ate breakfast first. After breakfast, the Lama arrived and we huddled together in the biting wind as the Lama asked for blessing for our equipment and for safe passage on Everest. As I sat listening to his incantations, staring up at the awesome sight of Everest's north aspect, I felt a great sense of wonder and privilege.
We climbed about 200m above Everest basecamp to about 5,400m this afternoon to help with our acclimatization. Breathing is hard at some points but it’s good to get the legs moving and lungs working hard. Tomorrow, we'll walk part the way to interim camp and return to base.
Day 12/ April 18
I was asked today if I'd had a shower at basecamp. The answer is no - I have been cleaning myself with wet wipes, but luckily most of us are somewhat immune to each other's whiffs and aromas by now. I'll be breaking out a fresh pair of underpants for the first rotation. I plan to burn all my underwear and base layers when I get back to Kathmandu.
For the next seven days, I'll be saying goodbye to 3G and mains power and will rely on satcom and solar power to stay in touch and provide updates.
Almost two weeks after leaving home, it feels great to finally be moving up onto the mountain.
Day 13/ April 19
We left Basecamp after breakfast with the expectation of a 5-hour, 10km hike to interim camp at 5,800m. We tried to pack as light as possible and had packed most of our heavy equipment on yaks.
The trail was mostly undulating glacial moraine with various ups and downs. There were several sections where we had to wait for yaks to pass either way – with no human porters permitted on the north side, yak transport is the only option to move gear higher, unless you want to carry it yourself! At one point, the path dropped onto the frozen river, which we followed with trepidation for several hundred yards.
At Interim Camp, the tea did have an odd, earthy flavor but nevertheless we consumed it with relish. By now, we were individually treating all the water we consumed since all local water sources were tainted by yak poo.
Day 14/ April 20
Everything is well, [we] arrived yesterday at Interim Camp based at 5780 m, higher than any other mountain in Europe, and will spend today resting and acclimatizing. Tomorrow, [we] move to Advanced Basecamp (6400 m).
Day 15/ April 21
[Friends communicating Munday’s updates due to scarce communication channels]
Ricky and the team reached the Advanced Basecamp (6,385m) today. It seemed to have been quite a hard journey, but Ricky and his friend George Kashouh walked alongside and made it to ABC. The messages sent to him were really well received and he was so grateful to everyone for sending them.
Day 16/ April 22
I woke after a reasonable sleep to the sound of an express train rushing past my tent – it turned out to be the powerful katabatic winds, which hardly stopped blowing for the next four days. With my head touching one end of the tent and my feet inside my sleeping bag touching the other end, I knew I was in for a physical buffeting even inside my tent while at ABC.
I didn’t have a headache, but I felt very lethargic in the low-oxygen environment. It was very much a day to rest and allow our bodies and minds to adjust to the surroundings and prepare for the challenge to come. It was a challenging day mentally as I was tent-bound for much of the day, except for the three dedicated meal times.
When the clouds did clear, I finally appreciated the majesty of our position – we could see Everest’s north face towering over us, and the route up via the North Col. It was exhilarating and daunting all at once.
Day 18/ April 24
That night, I lay awake in my tent as the strongest winds of the expedition so far battered the tent. I wasn’t even sure we would be attempting the North Col because of the winds, but as I staggered bleary-eyed out of the tent I saw that everyone was carrying gear to the mess tent – the North Col was on!
Day 20/ April 26
Tomorrow, we head back up the mountain for our second acclimatization rotation – with the aim of sleeping on the North Col without oxygen.
Day 27/ May 3
It was a day of eating, resting and packing kit for the move to North Col (7,010 m) tomorrow morning. If I reach the North Col, it will be the highest I've ever been, and the highest I've ever slept.
Day 28/ May 4
We were told to be ready at 10 AM for breakfast, but the cook didn't get the memo and the breakfast gong sounded at 9 AM, which lead to lots of expletives being issued from tents around camp as people hurriedly packed and rushed to breakfast. I was very nervous and quiet at breakfast. Although I'd turned round for the right reasons during the first rotation, I still had something of a mental block and wasn't sure if I had what it takes to reach the North Col. So many things could go wrong - would I ever be able to reach a higher point than the summit of Aconcagua without oxygen?
The pace today seemed much better and I wasn't struggling to catch my breath. Was it really a better pace or was I now acclimatized? We finally reached our previous high point of 6,895m and stopped for food and drink. I could feel like today might be my day.
Earlier, the clouds cleared briefly and we could see the north ridge route in great detail - it was humbling. I can tell you that there will be a few private and quiet tears shed in my sleeping bag tonight.
Tomorrow morning, we'll descend back to ABC. I now have a growing sense of confidence that I can do this, I just need to hang in there and keep believing.
We’re all waiting with anticipation to see how the expedition will go for Ricky and his team. Fingers crossed as the whole team pushes for the highest summit on Earth.
Make sure you follow Ricky Munday on Facebook for more updates.
*Photo credit: courtesy of Ricky Munday*