Valerio Massimo Everest Expedition 2009

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

Back to Camp 3, and an Empty Base Camp

May 19th, 2009 by Alix

I woke up yesterday at 4am to the unexpected sound of freight trains rushing through the camp, while my tent snapped and flapped wildly around me. We were in what I would call a windstorm, with anything not tied down being lost and many tents in other teams being flattened or blown away. The wind was enough to make me breathless as I battled through it to the mess tent for breakfast, so was I amazed to hear that it was ‘only’ gusting around 40 miles an hour. It makes me realize how awful the conditions on top must have been last week. Mentioning I was impressed by the sangfroid exhibited by the remaining climbers and guides, I set off a storm of reminiscing of ‘real’ wind… in ‘88 when a gust ripped open Russell’s mess tent and swept away every single item on the dinner table from under their noses, lost into the night… whole campfuls of tents destroyed and expeditions ruined… a more sober story of an entire lodge with three climbers in it that was gusted off a cliff, just before a guide here arrived in a rescue attempt; and most of all Kiwi stories of the winds of their homeland which are enough to sandblast the paint off a car in the night. This little bluster, I was assured, was nothing.

It still sounded pretty loud.

Camp 2, where Valerio and the rest of Team 1 were enjoying a rest day before pushing on to Camp 3 this morning, was not badly affected. They even managed to get in a game of cricket as promised on the glacier, apparently, although I’m waiting to see the photographic evidence! After general fears of losing strength during the weather-enforced fortnight of rest, the entire team were delighted to find they were stronger than ever – they got through the Icefall in three and a half hours, faster than last time. Valerio continued straight to Camp 2 and reached it by 9:30am. Some of the team rested at Camp 1 and then unfortunately got stuck in the Cwm just as the sun began to beat down, making the trip between camps a bit longer and more difficult – it was  miserably, bakingly hot (often 40 degrees, and sunburns can be  permanently scarring). However, everyone made it safely by midday. Today they got up at 5am and made their way up the Lhotse Face to Camp 3, where they’ll be resting and boiling water (at least two hours per litre!) in their familiar tents for the last time before ascending to Camp 4, a completely horrible place from what I hear- more on that next time.

Yesterday was meant to be a summit day for several other teams (back to tactics- with a summit the size of a dining table it was felt better to hang back and let some other teams get the early days) but the rumour is that they were not able to go due to the winds; if true this means they were stuck in the energy-sapping altitude of Camp 4 for two nights, an unpleasant idea.

The second team left last night at midnight and are now safely in Camp 2. Among the first to arrive, we’ve just heard, was Chris Macklin, Valerio’s tentmate throughout the expedition. He’s consistently been one of the strongest (and most fun!) on the team so it was a great pity that they had to be split for the final attempt. Chris got frostbite on one of his fingers during the trip to Camp 3 a couple weeks ago due to a split in his liner glove and the decision was made to give him as much time as possible to heal before braving the cold again. He will be fine, but won’t be taking his mitts off, even for a second, until he gets back down here in a week, a major inconvenience when in the tents boiling water.

Meanwhile, four of us are left in EBC, spending our time fixing tents, laying rocks, and tidying up – but most of all staring intently at the crackling radios, waiting for static-blurred news from the teams on the mountain.

Oh lastly in News of the Truly Pathetic, while Valerio stays strong at 7400 metres I have managed to get mild frostbite on one of my toes here at Base Camp. It is painless and slightly embarrassing among all these mountaineers! 

X from EBC

Katrina – I looked for Yonden Nuru but he was swapped and is actually climbing in Team 1 with Valerio and the others. He’s listed as the guides’ Sherpa so is climbing with them. I’ll ask V to pass on your message when I next speak to him.
Paul – Ummm… yes. But not the lovely ones. xx

Thank you all for your comments and support- I pass them all on to Valerio.

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15 responses so far ↓

  • Alix, Thanks for all the great postings. I can’t even imagine the nailbiting (though I guess mitts prevent that); you have great fortitude! We’re all thinking of Valerio and you and wishing him great success and a safe return to base camp and you.
    xx Alex

  • The Milan financial community is aware that the big night is just coming.

    Insofar as practicable, anything and everything is purposefully crossed.


  • Darling daughter. Please keep careful count of your fingers and toes. There were 10 of each when you arrived in this world. (Equally for V)

  • Moises …Tranquilo Campeon todos quienes te conocemos y estimamos sabemos ,que de mejorar las condiciones,lograras tu proposito.

  • Unbelievable! Be safe Valerio.

  • Dear Alix, so glad you survived the ‘horrendous’ freight train attack!! Also great news of V’s progress and fitness. I updated Simon Rowlands and Cinven team today. love and greetings to all. James and Co.

  • Good luck once again to Valerio as he nears the Geneva Spur and the terrible South Col. He is an inspiration to us all. Very best wishes to you both and I hope your frostbite heals soon, Tim

  • Alix,

    Thank you so so so much for passing on my message to Yonden for me! I will be thrilled beyond words when he receives it. I haven’t seen or spoken to this boy in months so it really means everything to me that you are able to do this! I really appreciate it and I only wish I had a better way to thank you.

    Please pass my sincere thanks on to Valerio as well. My prayers are with him and the rest of the team for a successful summit and safe return home.

    And I send you Alix my warmest thoughts to heal those frozen toes!

    Thank you once again for your kindness :)

    All the best,

  • Semjon and I are going up Kilimanjaro in August, but obviously that’s a walk in the park compared to our ginger hero. Worryingly though, he keeps referring to it as our trip to “Brokeback Mountain”.

    Take some more photos! Free speech for Paulie!

    Lots of love,


  • ´Moisés: God bless you and your team on the way to the summit and hope to see you soon

  • Vai Valerio!!!!!! sei tutti noi!!!!
    Gx & Mx

    ….pls mind the yeti…. 😉

  • .

    спс за инфу….

  • .

    good info….