Hi everyone, it’s Paul here,
Yesterday we climbed from camp 3 to camp 4.
The climb itself was pretty straight forward, although the quality of the fixed ropes on this side of the mountain is noticeably worse than we have been used to on the North. Both the North and South routes converge at camp 3 and from then on it’s the same for both sides. One of the first things you notice when you climb past camp 3, is how many people there are and how easy it is to get to camp 3 from the South side. The climbing above camp 3 to camp 4 is still quite technical, so a lot people coming up from the South side are in for a shock when they attempt the summit. The reason we are explaining all this will become clear shortly.
So we arrived at camp 4 at about 7pm, and setup our tent. Camp 4 is not often used by climbers with most preferring to go to the summit from camp 3. We were advised to use camp 4 from various people as it increases the change of success, and is much safer, because you have a shorter summit day. The camp itself is small with room for max 2 tents, is very exposed, and the winds were extremely strong throughout the night and are still howling as we write this.
We saw lots of people still coming down the mountain at 9pm after attempting the summit, all who were camped at Camp 3. At midnight we saw torch lights dance on our tent, and we knew that it must be someone coming down the mountain. The wind was at least 60 kts and it was snowing hard. The torches stopped on our tent and then 2 people opened the fly and asked if there was room for them.
What could we say? Of course there was no room for an extra 2 people in our 2 person tent, but if the situation was reversed we would want them to let us in, so we said come in. So in they came, with their large mountaineering boots and all covered with snow. They were two 30-something French guys and were quite rude, starting immediately to move our stuff and us around so that they could lie down and get to sleep. The tent was full of snow, as they weren’t fast in closing the tent doors and just left their boots on. We asked them if they had made the summit which they proudly answered that they had. That was about all we could get out of them as their English was limited (and our French non-existent).
As we all tried to get comfortable, I became increasingly annoyed, as Fiona and I were in a life threatening situation because of the sheer stupidity of others. We had a very overcrowded tent, with 2 people wearing sharp climbing boots, pressing hard against the walls of our tent, with everything covered in wet snow. One tiny tear in the tent would have been ripped open instantly by the wind and we would have been at 6400m with a severe storm blowing completely exposed to the elements.
One of the guys was complaining about the cold and the other just rummaged through our stuff to find something for him. I know that might all sound pretty harsh of me, but I really felt that our lives were being risked because of the sheer stupidity of these guys. To be coming down the mountain at midnight would have meant that they reached the summit at around 9pm, way too late to get down safely. Summit fever had taken hold of them and now our own chances of the summit were being severely jeopardised, not least our lives. I might add that they had no apparent physical problems that could have prevented them from descending, or caused them to go extremely slow. At 6am they got up and left without saying a word of thanks, again letting a whole lot of snow into the tent in the process.
It seems that there are a lot of idiots coming up from the South side of the mountain and Fiona and I are concerned about this. On the North, all the climbers are experienced and self reliant, given the route’s more difficult reputation. We have decided to stay at camp 4 tonight and if the weather is good tomorrow make a summit attempt, if not we will clear out of here.
Thanks everyone for your SMS’s – we love getting them. Also thanks for the news on what’s happening on the South side Re the avalanche. It’s amazing that when we have asked people from the South, that they don’t seem to know any of the details; like even that anyone had died!
Again this underlines the issues with this side of the mountain – everyone knows that this area is extremely prone to avalanches and rockfall and to safely cross you need to complete it by no later than 9am. We were talking to a UK guide and he said that for most people this means leaving camp 1 at about midnight (not pleasant – very cold, can’t easily see where you are going etc). I’ll bet anything that these guys didn’t do this.
Paul & Fiona at camp 4.