Rupert Jones-Warner: The Expedition

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Rupert’s route

THIS 70-DAY EXPEDITION WILL BE AN IMMENSE PHYSICAL AND MENTAL CHALLENGE UNLIKE ANYTHING RUPERT HAS EVER FACED BEFORE. IT WILL BE A COMBINATION OF CALCUALTED RISKS, EXERTION AND ENDEAVOUR THAT SHOULD ULTIMATELY RESULT IN RUPERT BEING THE FIRST BRITON AND YOUNGEST INDIVIDUAL TO EVER COMPLETE A DOUBLE SUMMIT OF MOUNT EVEREST FROM TWO SIDES, CONSECUTIVELY. 

Words by Rupert Jones-Warner

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1. BASE CAMP

Base Camp is reached by flying from Kathmandu, Nepal to Lukla. From Lukla, I will trek for approximately 10 days through the Solu Khumbu valley to Everest Base Camp, travelling through villages and staying in local tea houses. This is the route that the successful 1953 team which included Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay took when they set out on their expedition.

Base Camp sits on the Khumbu Glacier at an altitude of 17,500 ft.

2. KHUMBU ICEFALL

The Khumbu Icefall is an incredibly dangerous river of ice which is a half mile of constantly shifting glacier, punctuated by deep crevasses and overhanging immensities of ice that can be be as large as 10-story buildings. The constant changing terrain and moving blocks of the icefall, along with the crevasses, make it one of the most dangerous parts of the climb. Much of this part will involve traversing ladders suspended across potentially fatal crevasses. Climbers typically leave base camp at 3am so that they can climb through the icefall before sunrise, when the sun hits the icefall it begins to melt the ice increasing the danger of falling ice. 

3. WESTERN CWM

Once I have safely crossed the Khumbu Icefall, I will travel through the Western Cwm where Camp 2 is situated. The Glacier in the Western Cwm is formed from the snow and ice that over time flows from the Everest, Lhotse, and Nuptse faces and compacts in the valley. The climb from Camp 1 and Camp 2 is a relatively straight forward climb, with two factors making it difficult – altitude and heat, with temperatures reaching up to 35C.

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4. LHOTSE FACE

After Camp 2, I will tackle the Lhotse Face. Any climber bound for Camp 3, must climb this 3,700ft wall of glacial blue ice. This mountain face rises at 40 and 50 degree angles with the occasional 80 degree bulge. Camp 3 is located at 24,500ft, halfway up the Lhotse Face. Camp 3 is the least comfortable of the camps on Everest because it sits on this very steep slope of ice. Climbers are confined to their tents for the majority of their time at Camp 3 because it is too dangerous to get out of the tent and move around without being roped up. If a climber were to slip and fall while walking around at Camp 3, they could start to slide down the Lhotse Face, which would be a 2,000ft drop down to the Western Cwm.

5. GENEVA SPUR

After Camp 3, I will cross the Yellow Band and Geneva Spur rock faces. Climbing these involves steep ascents up sheer rock faces covered in ice. I will now be at an altitude of approximately 25,000ft with far less oxygen and wearing metal crampons that slide on the rock, making it a formidable and dangerous journey to Camp 4.

AND REPEAT 

I won’t just have to do all of this once. In order to be fully prepared and acclimatised prior to the final ascent to the summit, I will need to repeat each of these stages a number of times.

6. SOUTH SUMMIT

The climb from Camp 4 will take me up towards the south Summit. This is where Everest is cruelly deceptive and I will see what appears to be the summit I have been striving to reach. Unfortunately, it will just be the South Summit ahead of me with a further hours climbing beyond that befire I reach Everest’s true summit.

7. HILLARY STEP

After reaching the South Summit, I will finally look towards the summit of Everest across the Cornice Traverse and Hillary Step. This portion of the climb is extremely exposed with a drop of over 6,000ft down to Camp 2 on one side, and a drop of several thousand feet into Tibet on the other side.  The Hillary Step is a rock pitch that is 20-30ft tall. For a rock climber at sea level the Hillary Step would be relatively easy to climb but at 28,740ft, wearing a back pack weighing 20kg, a puffy down suit, and a pair of crampons on your feet climbing the Hillary Step is yet another daunting challenge.

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8. SUMMIT!

Having climbed the Hillary Step, the final part of the ascent awaits. I will climb up to the summit of Mount Everest to look out across the world. However, I will not have long to enjoy the view as most people only spend a few minutes at the actual summit because of the lack of oxygen.

9. DESCENT TO BASE CAMP

Having made my first summit, I will then descend using the same route that I took on the climb up. The descent is often considered the most dangerous part of the climb and is where 80% of the accidents happen due to exhaustion and depleting oxygen levels.

10. LIFT OFF! 

Once arriving back at the Nepalese Base Camp, I will have to quickly pack my kit and prepare for the second ascent. The aim is to spend as little time at BC as possible as the main goal now is to get to the Tibetan side of the mountain as soon as possible. This time will be for packing my kit, eating as much as possible and jumping straight on to the helicopter that will take me to the Tibetan border.

SUMMIT 2 – VIA THE NORTH EAST RIDGE

11. BASE CAMP TO ADVANCED BASE CAMP

Having now arrived at the Tibetan Base Camp, the aim now is to get up the mountain as soon as possible to be in with a chance of a second summit. It is about 12 miles of rugged hiking on boulders, ice and snow. The route follows the Rongbuk Glacier until it merges with the Eastern Rongbuk Glacier.

12. ADVANCED BASE CAMP TO THE NORTH COL

The North Col camp is a 2,200 ft climb from ABC. The climb from Advanced Base Camp to the North Col steadily gains altitude with one steep section of 60 degrees that feels vertical. I will clip on in to the fixed lines and use my ascenders. There are a few deep crevasses I will have to cross using ladders.

13. NORTH COL TO CAMP 3

This part of the climb is extremely windy and the tents are on small ledges since there is limited level areas. At Camp 3, the wind is usually blocked by the north face of Everest, so sleeping is easier. Climbers usually take 3-6 hours to reach Camp 3.

Camp 3 is the equivalent to the South Col in altitude and exposure to the weather.

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14. CAMP 3 IN TO THE DEATH ZONE 

Leaving Camp 3, I will follow the fixed rope through a snow filled gully; part of the Yellow Band. From here, I will take a small ramp and reach the North East ridge proper.

The North East ridge is a few hundred feet above Camp 4.

15. CAMP 4 TO THE SECOND STEP

Here I will have to climb Mushroom Rock. Mushroom Rock is a feature on the ridge that spotters and climbers can use to measure progress on the summit night. Oxygen is swapped here. The route can be full of loose rock adding to the difficulty with crampons.

The Second Step is the crux of the climb with the Chinese Ladder. I will first climb about 10ft of rock slab then climb the near vertical 30ft ladder. This section is very exposed with a 10,000ft vertical drop.

16. SECOND STEP TO SUMMIT

It is a steep snow slope, often windy and extremely cold where climbers feel very exposed. Towards the top of the pyramid, climbers are extremely exposed again as they navigate around a large outcropping and experience three small rock steps on a ramp before the final ridge climb to the summit.

The summit is the final 500ft horizontal distance along the ridge to the summit. It is narrow with 10,000ft drop-offs on both sides leading directly to the summit.

SECOND SUMMIT!

SUMMIT!

17. HOME TIME

This descent is going to be grueling as I will be running my energy and oxygen levels will be depleting. The key now is getting back down to Base Camp as quickly and safely as possible. It will take a few days to descend all the way back down to Base Camp and then, hopefully, I will have broken a few records!

 

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