21.01.10 – 7.00pm (1.19pm UK)

WE DID IT! WE MADE IT ALL THE WAY – ALL OF US! WOOHOO!!!! What an amazing day. I could have blogged through all the details first, leaving the amazing climax until the end, but we’re all just too elated to hold back – & to be honest, there’s no guarantee I’ll still be awake at the end to type it! Wiped out doesn’t even come close.

Now I know in previous blogs I’ve commented on hard days, & how I’ve been mistaken about those days being the hardest having actually found harder days to draw reference to… & I know I’ve commented on long trekking days – & early ones – & how I’ve been mistaken about those being the longest &/or earliest having actually found longer &/or earlier ones to draw reference to… Well, hold on to your hats – today was the mother of all hard, long & early days! It was an immense day.

One of the party pulled out (lots of reasons, will fill you in when we get home), which left 12. Everyone was in remarkably high spirits as we prepared to leave at 7.00am – hours before sunrise. Down jackets, thermal leggings, lucky pants, warm hats, Michelin gloves… all were needed. As we stepped out of the lodge into a temperature of around -20c (it had been -6c in the lodge & a number of us had struggled to regulate our breathing as we climbed into our sleeping bags the night before – me included) the surroundings were quite surreal. Silence all around, except for the rise & fall of boots & walking sticks, no conversation – symbolic of the gravity of the task that lay ahead, & an almost ‘moon-like’ landscape – white dust everywhere, rocks, no vegitation & just huge mountains on every side. All the moment needed was 2001 Space Odyssey & it really would have been complete!

Our aim was to get to Gorak Shep for 10am, where we would have our ‘lunch’ before the trek to Base Camp itself. We reduced our back packs to a minimum & did the same with our clothing, as the trek that lay ahead, as well as being the toughest we had experienced all trek – & for the some of us the toughest of our lives – it would mean getting to Base Camp & back in the same afternoon. It was to be the final climb, to the 5360m goal, & what we had all come to achieve. We knew that in lots of ways, things would never quite be the same after this day was over.

We left the town of Gorak Shep (5170m/17061ft) at 11.30am & stepped out onto the broad sandy plains that led to the immense rock falls left behind by ice falls of many years gone by. The temperature was bitter, but helped by the fact that the wind was with us. We passed many frozen lakes & the noise our walking poles made as they hit the ground told us that sheet ice wasn’t very far beneath us.

It wasn’t long before we started climbing & as we rose above the plain, the landscape started to change dramatically. As we climbed nearer to our goal, huge tears appeared in ground in the valley before us, made as the ice beneath forced its way out into the open. With the dusty dirty top surface & the pure white of the ice exposed from beneath, the effect visually was that of a coconut that had been cracked open & just left on its side in the valley. They were vast too – far bigger than any of our photographs will truly show as we couldn’t get near to show the scale – but they were immense.

We continued to climb, & we continued, & we continued… & we started to flag. As each corner was turned & the elusive Base Camp was still nowhere to be seen, we each began to wonder whether we had enough in us to get us there. The Yfriday song ‘Strength will rise’ with those wonderful words from Isaiah 40 will never again sound the same to me – I sang that song over, & over, & over in my head. Mike & I were also looking to each other for strength & each spurring each other with the words from ‘Eagle’s Wings’ –

“Hold me close, let Your love surround me.
Draw me close, bring me to my knees.
& as I wait, I’ll rise up like an eagle –
& I will fly with You, Your spirit leads me on,
in the Power of Your love.”

Suddenly, Base Camp was there. Within touching distance. It had taken us 2.5 hours, which doesn’t sound like much, but believe me, we virtually crawled the last few meters. I, in actual fact, just sat down when I saw it. I had nothing left in me. I was completely spent. At that moment I could have sat there for an hour & been positive I still wouldn’t have had the energy to move. I just sat there & said to the Sherpa next to me “I can’t do it. I’ve got nothing left. I’ll just watch from here & see how I feel when they come by on the way back.”. But he had other ideas.

He stayed with me for a moment, then led me step but painfully slow step to Base Camp where, by now everyone had reached. It was all I needed. I found some energy from somewhere, because in a moment we were all hugging, crying, videoing, taking pictures, collecting souvenirs… it was magnificent.

We had achieved what we came here to do. Some of us would do something similar again in the future. I can’t speak for everyone obviously, but for two of us this trip has shown us just what we have been blessed with in this life & although this has been the trip of a lifetime in many ways, it has been the trip that has shown us that, in this lifetime, there is no place we would rather be than with those who make us complete. Rob & I are now counting the days until we return home.

In fact we daren’t ring home beforehand because we both know we’ll be uncontrollable!

Having spent 45 minutes at Base Camp, we trekked back to Gorak Shep, arriving at 5.15pm, a journey time of 2.5 hours again which is very telling of how tired we were as the journey back is usually much quicker than the journey there. We walked in to the wind all the way – & it was a very, very cold wind too. The only piece of my face that was showing was a thin line above my specs & the rim of my thermal hat & that was enough to give me a really bad headache. Our Sherpa leader very kindly carried my rucksack for me as I was just wasted & I really didn’t know where the energy was going to come from to get back – in fact none of us were really sure, but you know what? It came. Funny that…

Your prayers carried us today. Without a doubt. Without loving families & friends praying for us, we just wouldn’t have got through it as a whole. So it works. It really works. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

We start our downward trek tomorrow. The majority of us have opted out of the bonus trek to Kala Patthar at 5545m, which would have given us the best view of Everest so far. But, at a 4.30am alarm call & a 3 hour hard trek, we decided that we had already achieved what we came here to do, the rest is just decoration – & we’re too wiped out for aesthetics! I know a lot of you will feel it’s a great shame to miss this part out – especially as we’ve come so far already – but hey, we’re not proud, just let us see your photos when you’ve done it!

My cold sleeping bag beckons, accompanied by Rob’s loud snores (he’s got really bad Claire), so I’ll bid you nite nite & God Bless.

Today is a day that dreams are made of…