Climber Guy Manning reached the Mount Everest base camp last weekend in preparation for his final push to the summit of the world’s highest mountain next month.
Mr. Manning, a partner at Campbells law firm in the Cayman Islands, set off from Cayman to Kathmandu in Nepal at the end of March, where he met his teammates to begin the two-month expedition. They took a hair-raising flight to Lukla in the Khumbu Valley and then hiked for two weeks to the Everest base camp, which they reached last Saturday.
Mr. Manning is aiming to climb the highest summits on each of the seven continents. If he succeeds in getting to the top of Mount Everest, it will be his fifth summit.
Writing on his blog Sunday, 14 April, Mr. Manning said he and his team moved from Lobuche to Gorak Shep, which sits an elevation of 16,900 feet, the original Everest base camp used by Sir Edmund Hillary’s and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay in their 1953 expedition, and then immediately climbed to the top of Kala Pattar (18,200 feet) for the “classic” view of the summit of Everest and the Khumbu icefall below.
“After a couple of days of fairly steady trekking, I was keen to test my fitness and acclimatisation, so I pushed hard on the way up and then ran all the way back down from the summit,” he said. “At this altitude, each breath only delivers approximately 55 per cent of the oxygen that you receive at sea level. Running up here is therefore an interesting experience. I felt surprisingly good though and am pleased to be arriving at base camp feeling fit, healthy and well acclimatised. Now comes the hard part.”
On Saturday, they trekked the final two hours to Base Camp.
Base Camp stretches for more than half a mile across the glacier at the foot of the icefall and is home to some 700 climbers, sherpas and support staff.
“Tents of all sizes and colours are strewn across the grey moraine covering the ice,” Mr. Manning wrote. “It’s a village unlike any other in the world. The setting is absolutely spectacular, with the Khumbu icefall dominating the view and climbers’ minds. The 750 vertical metre (2,460 foot) climb through the icefall to Camp 1 at 6,100 metres (20,000 feet) is the first section of the route, and sitting here watching ant-like figures moving almost imperceptibly slowly through the jumble of ice blocks puts into perspective the scale of the undertaking.”
Their first night at Base Camp was filled with luxuries they had had to do without for a while. Each climber has his own five-person tent with an inflatable mattress. The mess tent has solar powered lighting, a selection of books and board games, a projector and DVD collection.
“On arriving, I had my first shave and shower for over a week … The change of diet has also lifted everyone’s spirits,” he said. “We were served up a variety of fresh salads and cured meats and cheese from Europe for lunch, followed by chicken, roast potatoes and vegetables for dinner. These may sound like simple pleasures to you, but one of the great things about the hardships of a trip like this is that they make you appreciate the little things that we take for granted in everyday life.”
The team had been eating a steady diet of lentil stew on the route to Base Camp.
The temperature at Base Camp is minus-10 degrees Celsius or 14 degrees Fahrenheit, but will get even colder as they ascend the mountain.
Writing after his first night’s sleep at Base Camp on Sunday, Mr. Manning wrote: “I woke up several times to the sound of falling ice, as seracs collapsed on the vertical cliffs above us, and lay there listening to the strange creaking and popping noises caused by the glacier beneath us flowing slowly but inexorably down the valley. It’s great to be back up here living in the high mountains.”
The next step involves climbing up and down the mountain for about a month to acclimatise themselves before making the final summit attempt in mid to late May, if weather conditions permit.
Mr. Manning has already climbed the 19,340-foot Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa; the 16,067-foot Vinson in Antarctica; Russia’s 18,510-foot Elbrus in Europe; and the 22,830-foot Aconcagua in Argentina, South America. He’s now tackling the 29,002-foot Everest, the highest mountain in the world.
All the funds raised in this climb will be donated to the Cayman Islands Cancer Society. He is also carrying with him a list of the 56 cancer patients supported by the Cancer Society.
He is fully funding the expedition himself, so all money raised through corporate sponsorship or individual donations will go directly to the Cancer Society.
The climb to the summit will be in four stages – getting to the next three camps and the final ascent to the top. The climbers will set off on their final leg from Camp 4 to the top in the dark, between 10pm and midnight, using torches mounted on their heads to light the way. If all goes well, they will reach the summit in the early morning so that the climb back down to high camp can be done in daylight.
In an interview prior to leaving Cayman last month, Mr. Manning said the most dangerous part of climbing is usually during the descent. “People often get exhausted getting to the top, but obviously they’re only half way through the climb when they get up there. They’re tired, they’re exhausted on the way down, they’re not concentrating, it’s getting later in the day, the weather turns …”
If his Everest climb is a success, he has two more mountains to climb to reach his intended goal of climbing the seven highest summits on Earth. Next up is the 16,024-foot high Carstenz Pyramid in Australia, which he plans to knock off his list next year.
And finally, his nemesis, Denali in North America, which he has attempted and failed to climb twice already. He made his first attempt to climb it in 2009, but a storm prevented the climbing team from reaching the summit. The following year, on another attempt, his team got pinned down in another storm for 10 days at 14,000 feet. They made the hard decision to turn back, but due to avalanche risks, they waited another 24 hours before descending. Another team on the mountain that day were caught in an avalanche and only one of the five team members survived.
Mr. Manning’s attempt to conquer Everest coincides with the 60th anniversary of the first ascent of the world’s highest mountain by Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay. If he reaches the summit, he plans to plant the Cayman flag on top of the world.
Anyone who wishes to donate to the Cancer Society via Mr. Manning’s Seven Summits Challenge website.