There are no easy routes on Everest but we try to put the odds on our side. We take the north ridge because we consider it to be the safest. Technically, it is more challenging than the south side but does not have the ice fall danger. Our Advanced Base Camp (6,400m) is right under the shadow of Changtse and has a view of virtually the whole route. From here we use four more camps, a formula that has worked for us in the past. We have had considerable success on the north ridge route, largely thanks to our extremely experienced team of high altitude Sherpas. Such experience and local knowledge is invaluable in reading the mountain and her capricious moods, and as a result we give ourselves every chance of beating her defences.
Your safety and success are our main concern. Over the years we have been able to hone every last detail of the preparation and back-up logistics and it is at this stage, during the time spent at Base Camp (BC) and Advanced Base Camp (ABC), that the main battle for the summit is won. Once on the mountain there is, of course, the same attention to detail. Everybody says that one of the features of these expeditions is the fantastic team spirit and high morale created by the Sherpas who set up and manage BC and ABC.
Proper kitchen facilities, fresh vegetables and immaculate hygiene keep you healthy and fit, which is essential. There are also important extras like a shower, plus email and faxes which not only provide satellite weather forecasting but contact with your family and business as well. We have found in the past that lengthy acclimatisation at the beginning of the expedition pays dividends later on, so we initially make a carry to 7,800m, and then return to Base Camp for a rest in preparation for the final push to the summit. We also allow plenty of time for any periods of bad weather or strong winds. The final retreat is fast but enables you to experience a different side to Tibet.
This is a once in a lifetime trip and one which requires the right preparation and a high degree of physical fitness. It is an outstanding challenge and whether or not you reach the summit you will be rewarded by the incredible intensity of the teamwork involved in attempting such a goal.
We drive to BC at 5,200m and from there it is 22 km to ABC at 6,400m with yak support. We put an interim camp on the glacier about half way between BC and ABC, so this trip takes two days. From ABC the route continues up the East Rongbuk glacier to the neve of the glacier and then up snow slopes to the north col at 7,000m where Camp 1 is situated on snow. There is a long reasonably angled snow slope to 7,500m where we put Camp 2 on a snow ledge.
The route from Camp 2 to Camp 3 is up a series of rock and shingle steps, again all very easy terrain to walk on. Camp 3 will be at 7,900m on shingle platforms. From Camp 3 the route traverses across a series of rock steps and up medium angled snow slopes, then again on mixed rock and snow to Camp 4 at 8,300m. This camp is normally on rock, but some years there is snow cover here. There will be a fixed rope from the neve to this point. Although you may not need this to assist with climbing, it provides a useful safety line for when you are tired and the wind is blowing. This route is traditionally very windy, especially between Camp 2 and Camp 3.
The summit day is from Camp 4. The route up comprises mixed rock and snow steps to the north east ridge. These steps are quite steep in places and require considerable care especially as you now have all of your bulky clothing and oxygen equipment on.
The north east ridge is quite wide, with small steps and little height gain until the first step. The first step is a short rock buttress, which will have fixed ropes. Above here the climbing is more exposed but again without much height gain until the second step. The second step is across a series of small ledges which are sometimes snow covered, then around a large boulder and up the famous ladder. Again, all of this section will be fixed with rope. Above this step there is relatively gentle mixed ground until what is called the third step. Although not as serious as the previous steps, there is fixed rope to the col before the final summit up snow slopes. These can be quite steep often with deep snow, so again we have a fixed rope to the summit rock buttress from where there is a short section of corniced ridge to the summit.