Well, I'm back. In fact I've been back for over a week, but there's been so much to catch up with that I'm only now getting around to putting in a new journal entry. So here's a summary of how it went, and apologies for the delay in posting this. Apologies also for the fact that it turned out not to be possible to post entries while on the mountain, but hopefully the Seven Summits postings will have given a good idea of what was going on. Incidentally I have now posted photographs on this site, so you can also look at those if you're interested.

Sadly I didn't reach the top. A combination of intense winds, which made it clear that we would have to wait at least another day before any summit bid, and a terrible sore throat (bronchitis or a chest infection or  something like that, which had me coughing up some fairly frightening looking stuff), caused me to turn back ataround  8000m, between Camp II and Camp III (the top camp). So that was as high as I got - the summit is at 8848m. Others in the group carried on and some of them summited two days later, having spent two nights at Camp III at 8300m. That was something I wouldn't have been prepared to do, because spending time at that altitude places so much strain on  your body, and one night there is quite enough, thank you. For an article by Harry Kikstra, one of those who did carry on to the summit, describing what he went through click here. Harry clearly had quite a time coming down, and, while I'm impressed at what he achieved, I certainly would not have wanted to have summited and descended in similar fashion. Also, as Harry says about me, I was going very slowly (the result of my chest problems, not asthma, which I don't suffer from), and, while I could certainly have made it to Camp III, I don't think I would have ever made it to the top, especially after two nights at Camp III. And the views weren't really drawing me on - we were now so high that everything else was starting to look flat. Even Pumori was now lost below us  in a sea of snow.  So that was it, and I came back down.

Personally I didn't find it a very hard decision to turn around. We had been waiting at Advanced Basecamp for two weeks for the winds to die down, and it was looking increasingly likely that we weren't going to have a chance to summit. When we did finally make a summit attempt, it wasn't because the forecast was for any better weather, but rather because we had run out of time before our return flights, and so had decided to make an attempt at the summit to at least see how high we could get. Accordingly I didn't really consider that we were making a serious summit attempt, so when the wind started picking up I accepted that that was it. But it seems that a lot of climbers do find it very hard to turn around even when they know they should, and Harry himself admits that he should have done so. Harry was lucky, but this is how some people end up dying, as he knows.

Although I was disappointed not to summit, the expedition certainly wasn't a wasted two months. There were a lot of memorable experiences, and highlights included taking a walk up a frozen river in an insignificant looking  side valley with crampons until it opened out into a huge glacier filled valley,  seeing rare black-necked cranes on the Tibetan plateau, visiting Tibetan villages and a monastery, encountering a flock of wild sheep on the Rongbuk Glacier, walking up a narrow moraine between two  glaciers, each reduced by the sun to a series of tall pinnacles of ice, walking across the glacier to the Rapiu La for stunning views of Makalu and as far as Kanchenjunga, meeting explorers such as Sir Ranulph Fiennes and Adrian Crane (who you may recall ran the length of the Himalayas some years back with his brother), and improving my chess thanks to the Russians,  and then using it on the Times correspondent, so earning myself a mention in the Times. So it was definitely a good experience.

And would I try again? Certainly there were people on the mountain making their second or third attempt, and some of them succeeded this time. So I might. It's unfinished business. But then when I take into account the time needed for the expedition (not to mention all the training and other preparation), the cost, the complete physical exhaustion you feel at high altitude, the danger, and that only the top 800 metres would now be new to me, I think I might just go trekking instead. The views are just as good, you know.

Posted on Saturday, June 18, 2005 at 14:09 by Registered CommenterRobert Ulph | CommentsPost a Comment | References4 References


Day by day progress may be found on the expeditions website at  Some of the group have unfortunately had to withdraw due to illness but currently the group divided into two  teams hope to attempt the Summit within the next week or two although the reports say that an Indian and a Norwegian team have failed in their attempt. Sherpas have advanced to storm camp at 8300m not far short of the summit and the teams are set to follow. Please refer to the web site for very full details. 

Posted on Wednesday, May 18, 2005 at 19:50 by Registered CommenterRobert Ulph | Comments Off

progress Friday 29th April



Spent the night at Camp 2 on the North Col at 7,700 metres (25,250 feet) and then returned to Base Camp to rest for a few days before we climb back to Camp 2 and attempt on the summit.  Weather is sunny but very cold with plenty of snow.  The scenery is spectacular and very beautiful.  Feeling OK except for normal altitude sickness.  Message delivered by satelite phone, hence brevity.

Posted on Monday, May 2, 2005 at 19:19 by Registered CommenterRobert Ulph | Comments Off

Update on April 6th

Have anow been in Kathmandu for six days.  It seems to have changed quite a lot since I was last here ten years ago.  Much more crowded (a lot of people have fled here from the countrryside to avoid the Maoist rebels) and I think more Westernised.  Thamel, the tourist centre, remains a bewildering mix of trecking agencies, curio shops and colourful restaurants, still with a distinct hippy influence persisting from the 60s.  But compared to last time there are also lots of mountaineering stores selling brand name goods with misspelt labels at rather suspiciously low prices, and of course there are Internet cafes by the dozen.

After arriving I spent three days in a small resort caalled Shivapuri village just the other side of the range of foothills which lies to the north of Kathmandu.  The proprietor bought some land there which used to be terraced farmland about ten years ago, and converted it into gardens surrounding the accommodation.  There is a fantastic view of the Himalayas to the north (when it's clear) and it's situated on a hillside just below a National Park. A good rest and a bit of acclimatisation before the exertions to come.

We leave for Tibet tomorrow.


April 16th - Noticed from newsspapers that the group have reached Base  Camp within the last day.


Posted on Saturday, April 16, 2005 at 17:09 by Registered CommenterRobert Ulph | Comments Off

Last minute preparations

Am currently taking an Easter retreat chez les parents in order to have a respite from all the preparations before my departure on Wednesday. It's been such a long time preparing for this trip that it will be a tremendous relief to finally be on my way. Am currently explaining to my parents how to create journal entries on this site so that hopefully you will be able to get news of my progress while I'm away. They're becoming more technologically savvy by the day, so keep watching this space for further updates!

Posted on Monday, March 28, 2005 at 12:23 by Registered CommenterRobert Ulph | Comments Off