Valerio Massimo Everest Expedition 2009

Me on the summit of Cho Oyu with Everest in the background

The party’s over….off to Camp 3 on Everest

April 28th, 2009 by Valerio

Hello to all from EBC.


Well finally here we go.  This morning we had a full team meeting where the two teams for the upcoming final acclimatisation trip were announced.  I am in Team 1, also known as the ‘Yaks’ (the second team are the ‘Yetis’), and we leave tomorrow morning at 2.30am to head off into the Icefall.


So this is it – we are finally going high on Everest. 


The plan is as follows.  We get up at 1.45am, breakfast at 2am, leave for the start of the Icefall at 2.30am and, crampons on, head into the Icefall in the dead of night at 3am.  This means we will be crossing the double/triple ladders spanning massive crevasses a la Everest IMAX… the dark, with just head-torches to guide us.  This is to try and avid the massive serac falls that are more common during the heat of the day…but they still happen at night as well, as I’ve heard from my tent during my many nights at Base Camp.


For those that make it to Camp 1 at 6,100 meters before 7am, provided they also feel well, they can carry on to Camp 2 at 6,400 meters.  If you don’t make it out of the Icefall by 7am, you have to stay at Camp 1, as the one thing we must avoid is getting caught out in the Western Cwm (the closed-in valley between Camps 1 and 2) in the searing heat of the day.  It is a white high altitude suntrap, and temperatures can rise as high as 35 degrees centigrade or higher – heat is an absolute killer at altitude as it completely saps your strength.


We will then spend three or four nights at Camp 2 acclimatising (provided we get there on Day 1), before heading up to Camp 3 in the middle of the Lhotse Face at 7,400 meters in a single day’s push up 1,000 vertical meters of height gain, without oxygen of course.  This is often known as the one of the most difficult days on Everest.  It is a huge altitude jump up the 45-60 degree sheer ice of the Lhotse headwall.  The idea is to grind our way up to Camp 3 for an inevitably uncomfortable night in tents attached to platforms carved into the sheer ice.  At Camp 3 you cannot unclip for a second, even in your tent.  You need to be attached to the ice at all times via a system of ropes, in case of avalanche, or as many climbers have found, in case you leave your tent and slip.  It is a 800 meter vertical slide down to the bottom of the face, straight into a large crevasse.  Many climbers have died this way so we’ll be sleeping in our harnesses.


After the night at Camp 3, we will return to Camp 2 for another one or two nights, and then descend to Base Camp to rest and wait for the summit window.  It could be a long wait – we just don’t know yet.


I must admit that after waiting for this moment for 29 years, I have a certain degree of butterflies in my stomach.  Perhaps it is because we have been acclimatising away from Everest itself, and now that we are going on the mountain proper, we are going straight up high – i.e. no small forays into Icefall or to Camp 1 but straight up to the edge of the ‘Death Zone’ in one big push.  Perhaps it is just the long wait.  Perhaps it is just Everest itself.  I just want to get on with it and start climbing.  I’ve been higher before (8,201 meters, the summit of nearby Cho Oyu), but somehow this feels different – bigger, more dangerous, more history.


Anyway we are due back on the 4th or 5th of May, which is coincidentally when Alix is due to arrive at Base Camp so that’s worked out perfectly.


So from the serious to the totally unserious.  Last night we had our party and quite a party it was.  The entire expedition squeezed into the Tiger Dome and there was loud music and drink until the early hours.  Highlights of the night were Russell doing his infamous ‘Eminem’ impression (see photo), and the tiger tail being moved by people climbing up the dome performing various acrobatic feats.  The issue was that someone had placed the tiger tail ‘off center’, so by midnight and after many hours drinking someone decided it should be moved to its proper place, which they did.  Unfortunately, a very keen and competitive young sherpa decided to copy this and began his own scramble up the dome.  With condensation on the metal bars, he hung by one arm from the top, showboating.  Suddenly he fell the 20 foot distance and landed with a thud.  Initially he tried to just pretend nothing had happened, but then one of the guides noticed that his wrist was swelling.  It turned out that he had broken his wrist in two places.  Russell was woken up, the doctor called, and more scarily for the young sherpa, Phurba Tashi (his tee-total and utterly professional boss) was woken up – he was not impressed.  After an injection of morphine to dull the extreme pain, the wrist was re-set by two people pulling on the arm and a cast applied.  Ouch.  End of the expedition for that boy.  He won’t do that again.


Anyway, back to the mountain.  I’m currently sifting through my pack for tomorrow morning and it will be early to bed for me, although I doubt I will sleep.


I will try and post from the mountain if I can get my PDA to work with my phone (I’ve been using the heavy modem down here which I can’t take up).


So here goes, after all the training, acclimatisation and waiting.  We are getting ready for 5 or 6 very tough and uncomfortable days.  I feel fine, but am losing weight hand over fist at this altitude, despite the food and supplements, and am likely to come back from this trip a shadow of even my current self.  As someone said in a rather corny but accurate way, this is where the ‘rubber hits the road’.


Hey presto then.  In the meantime, enjoy the photos of the party…


Russell, Phurba and their posse

Russell, Phurba and their posse


Me, my overgrown beard and Kirsty from Discovery

Me, my overgrown beard and Kirsty from Discovery

Russell 'doing' Eminem, as a sherpa looks on

Russell 'doing' Eminem, as a sherpa looks on

An un-identified man re-arranging the tiger tail on the dome roof

An un-identified man re-arranging the tiger tail on the dome roof

Activity this morning at EBC as everyone gets packing

Activity this morning at EBC as everyone gets packing

Tags: 10 Comments

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10 responses so far ↓

  • Ah!.
    So lovely to see a smiley photo of you
    You looking so well and a bit drunk….

    Nelson has a brillant game called ‘Valerio and the mountain’ with a very cool action man in a helmet as Valerio.

    Good luck….were all thinking of you.


  • Tonight:

    Nessun dorma! Nessun dorma!
    Dilegua, o notte!
    Tramontate, stelle!
    Tramontate, stelle!
    All’alba vinceró!
    vinceró, vinceró!

  • Reading John Hunt’s account of Hillary and Tenzings’ ascent at the moment. His first assessment of the next part of your journey was: “Clearly the Lhotse Face would be as tough a problem as we had expected”. He later revised this saying: “From my own experience and from the conversation I had had with George [Lowe], it was evident that the Lhotse Face was an even tougher proposition than we had judged it to be from the results of the reconnaissance”. Good luck my friend and stay safe. Very best wishes, Tim PS Is it the Massimo effect or just coincidence that even Jeffrey Archer is now banging on about Everest with a new novel out about the life of George Mallory?

  • Valero,
    We have been sharing in your grand adventure and wanted to wish you well. We will be at the beach in San Carlos, Mexico with friends sending up balloons, wishes and prayers for a successful ascent. Give Alix and Trich all our best.

    Jeanie and Bill Neubauer (from New Years in Megeve?)

  • Wow wow wow…will be thinking of you over the next days and hope that the climb goes well. This truly is historic and it is incredible to be able to follow your footsteps from hum drum London. Just think, when you see EBC again you’ll have Alix…and Parmesan!! All the best, A xxx

  • .

    thank you….

  • .

    спасибо за инфу….