Mt. Everest Expedition - When Fantasy Turns Real

Debasish Biswas

Photographs: Author
Category: Expedition, Climbing, Mountaineering
Date of Publication: Sept 19 , 2014Vol-03 Issue-01


Mission

To conquer the summit of Mount Everest or the then Peak-XV of the vast Himalayan range. In terms of height Mt. Everest is mind boggling 8,848 meters, the highest mountain in the world.

Introduction

The first mountaineer to conquer this peak was Tensing Norgay and Edmund Hillary on 29th May, 1953. Yet, Man is not satisfied just conquering it once. He wants to do it again and again, each time in search of something new. It's like developing a new photograph from an old negative. A different perspective emerges every time- a new kind of Everest experience every time.

It has always been challenging. This is the same treacherous yet beautiful path where a minor mistake could turn fatal. Accidents are inevitable and one faces death at every turn and yet one defies it and struggle ahead for a few days on this magnificent peak to reach its top. Having conquered death one descend smiling. Man reigns supreme. Any things else seem minor.

Standing atop this gigantic peak is the dream of every mountaineer and to fulfill this very dream, two young men from Bengal, Basanta Singha Roy and Debasish Biswas (myself), both members of Mountaineers' Association of Krishnanagar (MAK) ventured out enthusiastically to conquer the summit of Everest once again on 1st of April, 2010. Both experienced in many expeditions this was the biggest challenge of our life and also our mountaineering skills.

Proposition

On 26th March 2010, a press conference was held in Calcutta Press Club where the proposed expedition to Everest was first announced. Club President of Mountaineers' Association of Krishnanagar, Dr. Pramathesh Das Mahapatra welcomed all. Senior lady mountain lover Smt. Pratima Chattopadhay handed over the National Flag to us.

press conference before mt everest expedition

At Calcutta Press Club

My partner, Basanta Singha Roy explained the problems, especially financial, that we would face during this expedition- an appeal was made to all. The response was overwhelming. Everyone - club members, office colleagues and friends contributed handsomely in order to ensure that the expedition could take off successfully.

Next day, on 27th March, the club flag was given by the Club President Dr. Pramathesh Das Mahapatra in Krishnanagar. A few days later our historic journey would commence.

The Team

There were, in total, five members in the team we selected for our Mt. Everest expedition. Basanta Singha Roy and myself were the main mountaineers who would lead this expedition. Apart from this, was our support team- Ashok Roy, Bibhas Sarkar and Sourav Sinchan Mandal.

team members mt everest expedition

Team Members

The Preparation and the Journey

On 1st April, 2010, the entire team flew to Katmandu from Kolkata where we were received by the co-ordinator Pemba Shepra, our long time accquintance. The first piece of bad news awaited there. Due to the ongoing administrative and bureaucratic problems in between China and Tibet, we could not acquire permission to ascend Mt. Everest through Tibet side. Initially, our plan was to go through the North col, i.e. through Tibet, China due to the low cost of climbing. There was, however, a flicker of hope. Our agency, Loben Expeditions, assured us that they would try to get clearance through Nepal instead. With this reassuring news we reached our hotel Samsara at Thamel, Kathmandu. In the hotel, we checked our oxygen mask and other equipments. There was also hectic preparation of packing our eatables and other supplies.

Next day, we received the news of the clearance to go through Nepal and everybody heaved a sigh of relief. Now, in the changed circumstances we would have to go through South col of Nepal instead of North col. This would make the expedition a little more expensive than calculated but these were small barriers which we overcame by our mantra 'We shall overcome'.

Next day, a gentleman named Jeevan Shresta visited us. He worked under Mrs. Elizabeth Howley of Newzeland. The organization meticulously maintains the database of all expedition to the Everest, whether successful or not.

A few days were spent in collection of other essentials for the expedition. In the last day, we visited the Boddhanath Stupa to seek the blessings from Lord Buddha for the success of our adventure.

Journey to the Everest, A Short Document

5th April, 2010. The journey begins. A small plane of the Agni Airways took us to Lukla Airport or Tenzing-Hillary Airport, at the base of Mount Everest Base Camp, Nepal. Within half an hour we reached a height of 2,842 meter. We stayed in the Himalaya Lodge just adjuscent to the airport.

Next day, 6th April, our trek begins. Four of us, me (Debasish Biswas) and my partner (Basanta Singha Roy), Sherpa Pemba and one helper, Santosh Rana ventured out early in the morning with all good luck and courage. The other Sherpa, Pasang, would join us on the way with two cooks, Lilabati and Buddhi. The initial trial path was easy with a broad road going down northward alongside the Dudhkosi River in a strange crisscross. After crossing the small hamlets Chiplang and Narning, we reached Phakdin (2,610 m) by afternoon. There we took a short break for lunch and then again started our trek uphill. After crossing the river Dudhkosi, we reached in a small and beautiful village called Manjo. This is the entry point of Sagar Matha Sanctury Park. At Manjo, we crossed a rope bridge on Dudh Kosi River and reached at Joresale (2,740m).

mt everest expedition

On the way

Just after Joresale, we crossed again the Dudh Kosi River by another rope bridge and then there was a long uphill walk. After an aurdeous trek of few hours, we reached a flat place marked out with stones. This is the Everest View Point. All round there was beautiful flora and fauna. From this point, one could see the gigantic and magnificent Mount Everest standing as the highest wall of the world. We finally reached Namche Bazar (3,440 m) at sunset. This was our halting point of the day. The first part of the trek executed successfully.

7th April - Next day would be our rest day. We were also waiting for our luggage to arrive that could not reach the Namche Bazar Airport on time due to the last minute change of expedition route. Just above Namche Bazar, there is one small airstrip called Sangboche. Its runway caters to small planes used for ferrying luggage needed by mountaineers. As our luggage arrived there, we went down to Sangboche to collect them. Ahead of that airstrip is the Everest View Hotel, from where one could see their goal - the mighty Everest. Next to Everest is Mt. Lohtse, the fourth highest peak in the World; Mt. Nuptse and on the right the beautiful Mt. Amadablam. From there, we could also see two small villages, Khunde and Khumjum- once tiny but now flourishing with bazaar, hospital and school. All these are contributions of the first Everesteer, Sir Edmund Hillary.

We stayed for two days at Namche Bazar. In the meantime, our other Sherpa, Pasang joined us with the two cooks - Lilabati and Buddhi and Yaks to carry the load.

9th April - From Lukla, we travelled northeast, gradually gaining height. From this altitude we could see the entire Himalayan mountain range with the river Dudhkosi flowing down below. Leaving everything behind, we climbed ahead in the early morning of 9th. Thereafter, we reached at four head crossing by noon. As we ascended from Namche Bazaar on our way we passed the left side road that led to Khumjum village and the straight ahead road towards was Gokio village and took right to Tangboche - our destination. This is the way to Everest base camp.

Pangboche mt everest expedition

Pangboche

From Tessing the climb was quite steep. After a tough trek of approximately four and half hours we reached Tangboche, at 3,860 meters. Situated here is an old Buddhist Monastry. Here we took a short rest before leaving for our next destination, Pangboche. We reached Pangboche (3,930 m) within an hour and halted there the next day.

11th April - Next morning, we went to the Pangboche Buddhist Monastry. We took blessings from the old lama who looks after this isolated monastery. After receiving the blessings, we yet again, headed Northeast alongside the River Imja Khola. The trail took us through many lonely, barren and isolated parts of Himalayas deprived of vegetation, apart from a few scattered Juniper bush. We reached Dingboche (4,445 m) by noon where we would halt for the rest of the day.

12th April - Next morning, we commenced at the break of dawn starting with an upward climb. On our way, we found lots of stupas with Buddhist prayer flags. We reached Thokla at 4,620 meters by 12:00 noon. On our right was the snout Khambu glacier generated from the foothold of Everest. From here, our next destination would be towards north. However, we were done for today.

13th April - The team started early the next day with another grueling session of rigorous steep climbing. Our first halt was a large well spread out area that we reached after few hours. At this point we saw some of the memorial tablets of dead and departed mountaineers who attempted to conquer the mighty Everest - but did not succeed. There we found the memorial tablet of the famous Everest mountaineer Babu Chhiri Sherpa.

After a short recess here, we started again and it was only after another two hours of back breaking climb the team reached Lobuche, our night halt.

14th April - Next morning we started off for Gorakshep. All around us were known and unknown peaks. Our path lay ahead through the sand, pebbles, rocks and boulders of the lonely mountains.

Gorakhshep mt everest expedition

Gorakhshep

We could see the peak Pumori at 6,713 meter standing in front of us, on its right Lingturn at 6,639 meter and further right is Khumbutse at 6,639 meters. Next to it was the Lola Pass, entry point to Tibet. Behind Lola-Pass, rising from Tibet was the glimpse of Mt. Chhangse. Mountaineers attempting to climb Everest from north col use this route through the Rongbuk Glacier and East Rongbuk Glacier, keeping Chhangse on their right. On Lola-Pass's right is the extension of Everest - called Everest's West Shoulder at height 7,268 meters. Right of Everest's West Shoulder we could see Nuptse at 7,864 meters. Between the rapture of this Everest West Shoulder and Nuptse lies the path leading to the ultimate destination - Mt. Everest.

We reached Gorakshep (5,140 meters) at 11:30 in the morning. After a few refreshments we moved onwards to the Everest base camp at 5,364 meter. Leaving Gorakshep behind and keeping Kalapatthar at our left hand, we moved towards north east onward to Mt. Everest Base Camp and finally reached there after two hours. Here we met with a few teams of our fellow mountaineers also with the same purpose.

15th April - Our tents were already pitched among other groups coming to conquer Everest. A kitchen tent and toilet tent were also set up additionally. The cook Lilabati, Buddhi and helper Santosh Rana made their separate tent. Three tents were pitched for climbing members (us) and one tent for the Sherpas - Pemba and Pasang. One dining tent was also pitched which would be used for meeting and discussions.

We were to stay in the Mount Everest Base Camp for a few days, both to give our fatigue bodies little rest and to acclimatize them to the harsh conditions of high altitude. Thus, to keep ourselves fit we continued some mountaineering activity regularly. We practiced with all our mountain gears on the Khambu icefall. Our sessions were mainly on how to walk on the glacier, to negotiate the crevasses and ice fall, and how to use ladders to cross huge crevasses or how to jump over ice crevasse or to climb up slopes and many other daring and death-defying stunts that were no less adventure than climbing Everest. At 6,100 meters, ice was all around us.

19th April was the day for prayers. Sherpas are deeply religious people and very particular about their rituals. Two Lamas came from another team to offer prayers with us for the success of our expedition. Buddhist prayer flags were all around. According to Buddhist theology, these flags scripted with words of Lord Buddha has the power to ward all evil and protect us from any kind of misfortune and carry the prayers directly to God and are thus hung as high as possible.

20th April - Pemba Sherpa and the helpers left for Base Camp I one day ahead of us.

Base Camp mt everest expedition

Base Camp

21st April - The final lap of the journey begins. The goal was Camp-I. We two - Basanta and myself, along with Pasang Sherpa started off early at 2:30 am in the morning. The other supporting members - Ashok Ray, Bivas Sarkar and Sourav Mondal stayed back at base camp.

We ascended the Khumbu icefall surrounded by nature's magnificent sculptures. This was a very dangerous climb but we skillfully used our ropes and ladders to make a safe landing. After an arduous climb of 10 hours we reached the Camp-I (6,100 m) at the afternoon. This is the famous Western Cwm which surrounded with vast snow field, three sides covered by massive walls of the Everest, Lohtse and Nuptshe is appropriately called the Valley of Silence. On this barren level ground were tents of other mountaineers. A single tent was pitched for us where we would cook, eat and sleep.

Crevasse crossing at Khumbu Glacier mt everest expedition

Crevasse crossing at Khumbu Glacier

22nd April - We return to Base Camp I. This is a general practice for all mountaineers at this altitude in the Himalayas in order to acclimatize themselves to the environment. We stayed there for 3 days while the shepas and cook party left for Camp-II and III to prepare for the arrival of us.

On 26th April, we start again for Camp-I and traversed the now familiar path in less than six hours. Next day, we started for Camp-II in the south-easterly direction. It was a straight road ahead. On our left side was Everest's west shoulder, standing straight was Mt. Lohtse, the forth-highest peak in the world. On right side was the Nuptse mountain range surrounded on three sides by rocky walls and in its center was an ice field. It took us two hours to reach Mt. Everest Base Camp-II at 6,400 meters. The Camp-II area is adjacent to the slopes of Everest. The only open space is on the North-west. South-east is Lohtse and south-west is covered by Nuptse ridge. Here too, were tents pitched other groups. Our tents and kitchen was already set up. We prepared water for drinking and cooking by heating ice.

Adjoining Camp-II is an ice field. Next to it is the steep Lohtse slope rising almost vertically. Atop there are the Hanging glaciers, Mt. Everest Base Camp-III.

29th April - We leaf Camp-II behind us. What waited ahead was uncertain. Ascending through the Lohtse face we climbed towards Camp III. Due to the arduous nature of the climb our movements were slow and cautions. It was only after five hours of steep climbing we reached at Camp-III at 7,300 meters.

30th April - Next day we returned back to Camp-II.

Camp 2 mt everest expedition

Camp 2

On 1st May, we again returned back to Base Camp I. Then it was the long wait for the weather forecast, waiting for the green signal to conquer Everest. Finally, we got clearance. The condition would be perfect at 7,500 meter and above to attempt the peak between 14th and 16th May. In the meantime, we once visited to Kalapathhar via Gorakhshep, to keep fit ourselves.

The Final Countdown

12 th May - As 16th May would be the D-day, we started off from Base Camp I on 12th May, 2010. We reached Camp-II on that day itself and stayed for a day there.

On 14th May we reached Camp-III. The oxygen masks were checked here again, since from here it would be our only supply of life.

On 15th May we set off for Camp-IV with four oxygen cylinders per members. Camp-IV is at South Col at 7,955 meters. All around us was nothing but ice. Turning north-east we met a Yellow Band, a wall of yellow stones. Thereafter again a field of ice. On our way we came across a dead body of a Russian mountaineer who was trying to conquer Mt. Lohtse, carried back by the Sherpas. This sharp pinch of reality gave complete shiver to our mind and body as here nothing else determines your life except the will of mighty mountains. We respectfully uttered a small prayer for the departed soul and moved ahead in our mission- our hopes tinged with uncertainty.

Further north-east we came across a black stonewall. This is the Geneva spur. We reached the famous South Col at 7,955 meters at around 4:00 pm in the evening. In the north of this South Col was Mt Everest and in the south was Mt. Lohtse. One tent was pitched there for four of us, Basanta, myself, Pemba and Pasang.

mt everest expedition

One more step away

This is genuinely a death zone as there is very little oxygen in the atmosphere and breathing becomes difficult even while resting. Success was so near yet we could also see the cold face of death. Initially, our plan was to march towards the summit at that night only, after taking a few hours rest at tent. But the wind started howling from late afternoon. No movement was possible at night. The night was spent with the aid of oxygen inside the single tent pitched there.

16th May - Next day, the wind dropped at 8:00 pm in the evening. With all hopes in our heart we started off for the final assault on Mt Everest. Our only luggage were four litter oxygen cylinder, head torch, a few medicines, water bottle and obviously a camera, the instrument to capture the moments.

The temperature recorded as - 25° C. As we gained height there was further dip in the temperature. The night was passed slowly pushing and progressing one step at a time. At around 4:00 am in the morning a ring of light was seen and then the sun came up. It seemed that the Everest had cast a shadow on the sky. In front of us was the south summit. A small peak below the main summit. Thereafter we faced the Hillary Step which is a steep mix slope of rock and ice and after that was the highest point in the world - Mount Everest.

mt everest expedition

On the top of the world

Everest Conquered - The Final Destination

The time read 7:45 am in the morning. On our south-east was Makalu, on the south was Lohtse. There was nothing higher anymore except the sky. The Everest was conquered. The world was at our feet.

On the summit were two metallic pillars placed by Chinese climbers. Those pillars were wrapped by various prayer flags. We offered a ritual prayer at the summit to than the Almighty for giving us the will and luck to conquer the impossible. At around 9 am, we started to return. Mount Everest was truly behind us.

We returned taking the same route and reached Camp-IV by 1:00 pm. Here we rested for the day

17th May - Next day, we descend to Camp-II.

On 19th May we were back to the base camp. There was joy and elation in the camp. We have done it! We have done it! It was a spontaneous dance on the ice. The next two days were spent fin packing. From Namche, we came back to on Lukla on 24th May and to Katmandu by flight on 25th May.

On 27th May, we were back to Kolkata. It was here that a dream had started on 1st April, 2010. Five adventure loving Bengali boys making a daring attempt on Everest. The fairy tale has truly turned for real.

the summit team mt everest expedition

The Summit Team

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