01.10.02 Baruntse Base Camp 5450m/17900ft.

Reached Base Camp at 12:30 in perfectly sunny weather. We are camped on a flat sandy area near a lake.

Eduardo seemed a bit anxious --- he wants to fix a rope to Camp 1 tomorrow.

02.10.02 Baruntse Base Camp to 5900m/19360ft.

Pulse 51 in morning (Ang Dawa had 35 at Khare, which he said is typical for high altitude sherpas; Eduardo has 64 and Vicente over 80). [Vicente never really acclimatized to base camp. For several days he had headaches. When they passed and he went higher, they would return. Finally, on his last day at base camp, he reached Camp 1.]

We had a short puja, and then Ang Dawa, Eduardo, and I left up the mountain. I reached to top of the rock, and switched from running shoes to boots at 5700m (64min). Continued to 5900m (150min), and spent half an hour eating lunch and admiring the glorious view, before returning in 90min.

The view from my high point (11:20am)

Felt good during climb, but very tired on return.

Made plans with the sherpas. They want to climb together fixing rope for us (the Italians have 700m). I will spend 6 days acclimatizing and resting, which leaves 7 days for the climb. Eduardo's plans are similar to mine.

The Italians arrived at Base Camp today.

03.10.02 Baruntse Base Camp to 6000m/19700ft.

The sherpas and I set off about 8am and reached the foot of the steep couloir leading up to Camp 1 at about 11:30. We had lunch there, and I returned, leaving the sherpas to fix a rope up the couloir. They returned about 4:30 and Pemba said the snow above the couloir was deep powder.

Eduardo had set off earlier to sleep at Camp 1. When we passed him, he was complaining of a sore knee, but he did reach Camp 1 about 2:15.

A Japanese group arrived today, consisting of two women climbers and five high altitude sherpas.

Alpenglow (5:39pm)

04.10.02 Rest day.

My second rest day of the trip. I went for a walk up a hill behind lake and round the lake to the Italian camp, and chatted with Nima Sherpa who I had met on Cho Oyu. Otherwise spent the day reading.

Eduardo got down about 12:30. He said the snow above Camp 1 was hard early.

The Italians went for a seven hour walk up the hill.

Weather remains perfect.

After dinner we had a planning session --- I was ready to summit on 9th, but Eduardo not until 11th; we compromised --- we (Pemba, Ang Dawa, Eduardo, and I) will try for summit on the 10th.

05.10.02 To Camp 1 6150m/20,178ft and spent night.

I left at 9:15 and had a beautiful walk up to Camp 1. Took me 4 1/2 hours with a 15kg pack, including about 1 1/4 hours in the final couloir.

A climber heading towards the couloir leading to Camp 1.

The site is really beautiful, and I sat out in the sun soaking in the view until the sherpas arrived with my tent (Bibler) at 4pm. 

View looking south from my tent. The foreground ridge is the ridge to the right of the couloir in the previous photo (2:30pm).

I didn't have a very good night --- I was not very hungry and I had strange and unpleasant dreams during the night [not uncommon symptoms at high altitude].

06.10.02 To Camp 2 6450m/21160ft and return to Base Camp.

The sherpas and I left at 7am, and had a beautiful walk up to Camp 2 (6450m arrived 10am).

Pemba and Ang Dawa setting out for Camp 2 (7:04am).

Lower down the snow was a breakable crust and higher up it was powder, and so the sherpas had to work hard breaking trail. At one point, they thought they could see the route all the way to the top, and it was easy so they began to congratulate themselves on a successful ascent until I pointed out that we could only see the south summit, which is the start of the difficult section.

Pemba and Ang Dawa (8:22am).

While the sherpas erected Eduardo's tent, I descended to Camp 1 and had lunch. By the time I set off down the couloir, the 12 Italians were ascending it, jumaring on the rope. I descending using the "Nepalese jumar", i.e., with only one hand on the rope, and so was able to pass them.

 I passed Eduardo below the couloir --- he is spending the night at Camp 1, and plans to spend tomorrow night at Camp 2.

The weather has been perfect since we arrived at Base Camp, but it clouded over in the afternoon --- it doesn't look too threatening.

The Japanese will attempt the summit on the 9th (they are acclimatized, having already climbed a 7000m peak this season, and have 1000m of rope).  The Italians will attempt the summit on the 14th.

07.10.02 Rest day.

Finished Bellow, Humboldt's Gift. Both serious and very funny. Perhaps his best.

Completely clear in the morning, except for a little cloud to the south.

[Every rest day at base camp, I went for a walk round the lake, and visited the Italians and their sherpas. I also tested myself on a small 45 metre high hill behind the lake --- every time, I climbed it in 5 minutes, with a maximum climbing rate of 11 metres/minute. I seemed to be neither improving nor deteriorating].

Talked to Hermann, leader-guide of the Italians. The last time he attempted Baruntse, he had failed because of deep powder snow, but the snow now is much better than then, and so his is hopeful.

At 2pm, Pemba told me of a change of plan: we now go from Base Camp to Camp 2 tomorrow, and attempt it with the Japanese on the 9th. The reason seems to be that our sherpas will then be able to work with the Japanese sherpas in preparing the route, and we'll be able to use the Japanese fixed rope.

In the afternoon there was a small storm at camp --- some wind and a few inches of snow.

08.10.02 To Camp 1

Because of yesterday's bad weather, Pemba told me we were reverting to the previous plan: I go to Camp 1 today; everyone goes to Camp 2 tomorrow, and we attempt the summit on the 10th (with the Japanese).

I left with a light pack at 8:30, and reached Camp 1 about 1pm.

Looking back at Base Camp (8:48am). Our tents are in front, the Japanese tents are behind, and the Italian tents are at left.

Half way to Camp 1, I met Eduardo descending. He had had a bad experience. Yesterday he had walked from Camp 1 to Camp 2, and went a little higher. When he got back to his tent the storm was starting, and he tried to return to Camp 1, but visibility was nil, and so he stayed at Camp 2. However, he was unable to make his stove work, and so spent the night without water. This morning, the wind was so strong it blew him over. Now he was returning to Base Camp for several days rest.

There were a few clouds in the morning, and then the weather grew steadily worse as the day progressed. It snowed most of the afternoon.

09.10.02 Storm at Camp 1.

It continued snowing during the night and by 10am there was more than an extra half metre of snow.

The Italian tents half-buried in the new snow (10:26am).

Then it stopped snowing, and became sunny, but still foggy. I am alone at Camp 1, and am worried about the condition of the couloir  --- it could avalanche. After lunch I estimate my food --- 68oz --- good for at least 3 days. Gas could be a problem --- perhaps only enough for 2 days (1 full and one almost empty canister). Unfortunately, as I write it has begun snowing again.

View from my tent in late afternoon (4:52pm).

10.10.02 Rest Camp 1.

Blew quite hard during the night, but one of the Japanese sherpas arrived very early. He said the sherpas would make a trail to Camp 2 today; they would move to Camp 2 tomorrow; attempt the summit on the 12th. He said Pemba and Ang Dawa were coming up today.

By 7, the wind had stopped, and by 8 the clouds looked benign.

View down the glacier from Camp 1 (7:58am).

I went for a one-hour walk. Felt very lethargic.

About 1pm Pemba and the Italians started arriving. Pemba and I will go to Camp 2 tomorrow and (maybe) attempt the summit the day after. Eduardo and Ang Dawa will go from Base Camp to Camp 2 tomorrow if the weather is good. But where are the Japanese? At present, they are not at Camp 1. The sherpas for the Japanese went to 6500m and came back --- they say there is too much snow, and the peak is impossible. However, the Japanese did arrive from base camp quite late. Perhaps we can reach the south summit.

11.10.02 To Camp 2 6500.

Very cold in the night (-12.5C in my tent). Beautifully fine in the morning with only a few white clouds and no wind.  The Japanese are going to Camp 2, their sherpas will fix ropes, and they will attempt the summit tomorrow. Pemba went up with their sherpas. I followed the Italians up (they set up their tents and returned to BC). 350m in 2 1/2 hours with about 15kg in deep snow with tracks.

By 12 it was cloudy, and by 1pm it was snowing again.

Fortunately, Pemba had put my big (Stephenson) tent up at Camp 2 before he went off to help the Japanese sherpas make a trail in the deep snow above the camp. Ang Dawa came up about 3. He said Eduardo had set off from Base Camp for Camp 2, but he didn't think he'd get past Camp 1, and there was no sleeping bag or down jacket there. Eduardo didn't arrive.

12.10.02 Camp 2 to Base Camp.

It snowed during the night, but it was fine in the morning except for the usual clouds. All the sherpas agreed that the snow was so bad that the summit was impossible --- it would take several days of sun to settle the snow. In fact, the whole area of Camp 2 was becoming dangerous --- there had been an avalanche less than 200m from the tents during the night.

Morning (7:54am). The Spanish tent at right has been almost buried. Note that the slope at far left has avalanched.

So ended my attempt on Baruntse --- I have to be in Lukla on the 19th, which means I have to leave Base Camp on the 15th.

Sometime my luck will change, and I'll get good conditions on a mountain.

The views in the morning were spectacular --- it had already been foggy when I arrived, but taking photos on a tiny complicated digital camera with frozen fingers is not easy.

Beginning the descent from Camp 2 (8:11am).

We left about 8 and, after a stop at Camp 1 to take down and dry my little tent, we were back at Base Camp about 11am. As usual these days, it snowed in the afternoon.

An Ugly Incident. When Eduardo left Camp 2 on the 8th, the wind was so bad that he had dumped his pack with sleeping bag, passport etc. on a flat area 50m below the camp. He told three Japanese sherpas that he would pay them if they brought his pack down to Camp 1. When he looked in his pack at Camp 1, his sleeping bag was missing. Eduardo blamed the three sherpas. When they got down he and Vicente attacked them. From my tent I heard a disturbance --- apparently he was threatening one of the sherpas with a knife. When I got out of my tent, I saw him punch a sherpa, and then grasp the back of his neck with one hand and threaten to get his knife if the sherpa didn't return his sleeping bag. All three sherpas said the sleeping bag was not in the pack when they found it. I stopped Eduardo, and told him that if he used or threatened more violence, I'd see that he ended up in a Nepalese gaol when he got back to Kathmandu. [In Spain, Eduardo is a lawyer.] Meanwhile I saw Vicente slap a sherpa and dump the contents of the three sherpas' packs on the ground.  Eduardo grabbed the third sherpa, took him into the cook tent, and started zipping up the door, but I followed him. While he was trying to persuade me to leave, a tiny Japanese woman climber appeared at the door and asked Eduardo "What are you doing to my sherpa?" with such authority that it stopped Eduardo in his tracks. Later, when he had calmed down, Eduardo went to the Japanese camp and discussed the missing sleeping bag. On his return, he told me that he agreed with me that the three sherpas were telling the truth, but I don't think he apologized to them, or even paid them what he'd promised.

13.10.02 Rest Base Camp

Eduardo doesn't have to back in Lukla until the 21st, but he has also decided that Baruntse is hopeless. Today, Ang Dawa went to Camp 2 to Eduardo's gear, and Eduardo and Vicente went to Camp 1 to take photos. I went for my usual walk around the lake. The weather was cold but perfectly clear at dawn, and still fairly clear at 1am --- it looks as though fine weather has returned. The Italians and Japanese will attempt Baruntse again on the 15th [they didn't succeed --- the snow was still too bad]. The German party, with whom I share a permit for Baruntse, arrived today.

The Italian Base Camp is at left, and that of the newly-arrived Germans at right.

Everyone was down by about 4pm, and we have found enough porters from the incoming group, so it looks as though we will be able to leave tomorrow.

Finished Robert Penn Warren, All the King's Men..