Successful first rotation through the Khumbu icefall to Camps I & II

Camp I Everest
Camp 1, Everest, 6050m

We’re back from our first rotation! Greetings all from Gorak Shep. This morning, we made the hour long walk down from Everest Base Camp to the nearest collection of teahouses (some might call this a village) and decent internet connection.

The last week has seen us pass through the Khumbu Icefall for the first time, reaching Camp I, and then passing through the Western Cwm up to Camp II.

The Khumbu Icefall is by far the coolest mountaineering terrain I’ve been through. If it wasn’t so dangerous it would be a veritable Disneyland. Just think hours of crossing an obstacle course made of glacial ice, with ladders crossing crevasses and up ice walls , abseiling down ice cliffs, towering seracs everywhere. We left base camp at 3am in order to ensure we passed through the icefall early in the day and to ensure it is at it’s most stable, most serac collapses happen in the late afternoon due to the strength of the sun.



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We initially were only intending to be at Camp I for 2 nights with a hike up to camp II the day before moving up to sleep there but some instability in the icefall which lead to a Sherpa being evacuated by chopper for Kathmandu (we understand he is recovering well) meant our Sherpa turned around that morning and we instead spent a third night using our spare rations at camp I.

In the extra day at Camp I, we created a massive dart board using crampons, ice axe, tent cord, and climbing slings for a fantastic game of Frisbee darts in the morning sunshine. The afternoon brought snow and winds so we returned to our tents and continued the process of melting snow and brewing up to stay hydrated while reading books. I’m currently reading Shoedog on the kindle.


We then moved up to camp II on Tuesday and settled into new digs:

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At 6400m we all had an unsettled evening. I felt like I woke every 10 minutes all night but I know from my crazy dreams I got some sleep between the tossing and turning. Camp II is the other location on the mountain where we have a cook team and heated mess tent and we’ll be back and sleeping better next time!

On Wednesday we legged it back down the mountain, making it back to base camp in under 4 hours.

It’s absolutely amazing to have now experienced these mythical places: Khumbu Icefall & the Western Cwm. Now time to write the next article for Irish Times (check it out on Saturday morning for a more detailed account of our first rotation) and have a well deserved beer tonight in Gorak Shep before returning to Base Camp tomorrow and back up the mountain 3am Saturday.

I was on the mountain when the last article was published, check it out here:

Prevention always better than cure for trusty icefall doctors


Finally found a photo which has justified wearing these red sunglasses! I’m in my Cat 4 Julbo’s for the rest of the climb now.

Heading up the icefall, should be back Tuesday

After the best part of a week at base camp, we are excited to be heading up through the Khumbu icefall tomorrow to Camp I (6000m). We expect we’ll stay there for a couple of nights and then head up to Camp II (6400m) for a night before returning to Base Camp.

I can send update messages to twitter on @realrorymchugh through my satellite communicator (haven’t worked out how to send through this blog).

We’ve had a little snow tonight, this is our camp this evening, that’s my tent on the most right hand side


And this was me going through the icefall on a “recce” earlier this week, we’ll be having breakfast at 3am tomorrow and heading at 330am, we’re expecting it will take us somewhere between 5 and 8 hours to cross the icefall and make camp II


Latest Irish Times article should be out tomorrow morning, I won’t see it till I get back down tuesday or Wednesday though, feel free to do a google search or I’ll share when I get down.

With the early start its going to be tough sleeping tonight

All the best.
















Base camp Puja, entering the Khumbu Icefall, tea with the Ice doctors, good luck to our good friend Blake on his trip home

We’ve been at base camp for 5 days now, and starting to feel very much at home. Regrettably, Blake’s injured left ankle wasn’t getting any better and having assessed it over several days his prognosis was trip over and he got a chopper back to Kathmandu earlier today. We’re now down to three for Everest. We’re all gutted to see him go but wish him a quick recovery and safe journey.

Last few days have seen us enter the Icefall for the first time on a “recce”. This is something we have been looking forward to for a long time. The Khumbu icefall is part of mountaineering history.


Professional photographer Steve Brown and I also went to photograph and interview the Icefall doctors earlier this week during a rest day at base camp:


The Icefall doctors are the guys who fix the route through the Khumbu Icefall. Think ropes, ladders across crevasses, and generally keeping the complex route open. Without them it would be total chaos. They are employees of the Sagamartha Pollution & Control Committee and there are 8 of them on this hill, supported by two cook staff and friendly manager Tshering Tenzing Sherpa who invited us in for tea and a nice long chat after the photoshoot. We also spent some time with the Everest base camp ER doctors, who have already had to send down ten Everest hopefuls, mainly with HAPE (high altitude pulmonary edema). Our relaxed acclimatisation schedule significantly reduced these risks.

Those who know me well, probably appreciate that my tent might be a bit messy by now so its good that we’ve had some extra days to get organised here before moving further up the hill.


Today we had our base camp Puja ceremony. Set in the middle of our camp, a buddhist monk arrived at around 9am and the ceremony took just over two hours and included, putting out the prayer flags, banging drums and chanting, and drinking: first tea, then chang (local brewed alcohol from rice), and then beer.


Most importantly, the Puja is a blessing for the expedition ahead. All our climbing Sherpa are buddhist and while we thoroughly enjoyed the cultural experience this is a critical part of the preparation for going on the mountain. We fully enjoyed the morning.


Wishing Blake all the best down in Kathmandu.


Latest Irish Times article is published as we reach base camp

Check out my latest article in the Irish Times

Again on back page of the Saturday sport’s section, with an awesome photo of Bernie Angopa taken by Luca Giancola as we approached Gorak Shep:

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Arriving in Base camp and the end of the trek!

Sitting here in Gorak Shep having just said goodby to Jo, Michael, Bernie, Luca, and Sami. Their trip ends with an incredible chopper ride down the valley. They’ll probably be in Kathmandu before I post this.

Check this video of one of the choppers heading down the valley, taking off at an incredible 5100m, they had to take 2 choppers between them. Luca will never know how close he came to not seeing his backpack again.

Yesterday we had made it to base camp, starting in Lobuche and stopping for lunch in Gorak Shep along the way.


This is the entrance to base camp, you can see tents in the background and Bernie, Luca, Michael, myself, Jo, and Sami.


Jo and me in front of my home for the next 6 weeks. It looks a little more lonely than it is – there are other tents nearby!

And a quick look inside our mess tent:


With the trekking gang heading back by chopper this morning I headed back to Gorak Shep with them so we could have a last night together having some fun and leaving the expedition team behind at base camp. The snow started to come down on the way back, Luca captured this shot.

Luca Giancola Yak in snow

We had a great final dinner and a few laughs.

Anyhow, time for me to return to base camp now, get settled in (this includes laying a carpet purchased in Kathmandu!), and start to do some prep for tackling the Khumbu icefall. We have a Puja (buddhist blessing) sheduled for the 19th, we’ll probably be crossing the Icefall for the first time on the 20th with a view to spending some time at Camp 1 and Camp 2 before returning to base camp. The nights sleeping out at 5400 under the Kongma La last week should provide adequate acclimatisation.

Not sure how the internet will be at base camp, will try to post if I can. Otherwise follow on twitter (@realrorymchugh) where I’ll be posting occasional short messages from my satellite communicator (really cumbersome typing messages and limited to 160 characters so please excuse grammar, spelling, etc!)

Latest Irish Times article should be out today as well, although I pushed the deadlines a bit and haven’t seen online yet, I’ll post when I do.




Leaving Dingboche

Nice breakfast this morning

Followed by cake and coffee at the local bakery
And now leaving civilisation for a few days again. 

Also, I forgot to mention Luca Giancola caught up with us earlier at Phortse. What a legend and hats off to him for bringing a variety of things I had forgotten: iPod, extra camera batteries, adaptor cables, and salami. Also, Child Rescue Nepal had managed to get him the banner which we’ll try to take to the summit:

Thanks to our corporate charity sponsors: Venn Partners, Funding 365, Profunder, LVA, UrbanRe, MyHome, Evalucom, Everest Biotech! All monies raised for building schools in Makwanpur! Getting close to funding our second school!

Follow us over the next few days on our Garmin mapreach

Nice rest day in Dingboche, eating cake, playing frisbee golf, now ready to head off over the Kongma La and up Pokalde

We’ve all had a great day chilling in Dingboche, a nice little village with some beautiful stupas, a handful of bakeries and basic shops and teahouses.

The village is teaming with trekkers and climbing expeditions making their way towards base camp. Our frisbee golf extraveganza is already creating a lot of interest amongst other groups. By all accounts, Base camp is already receiving daily influx of new climbers and this looks like it will be the busiest season ever.


The village of Dingboche

We’re still taking our time acclimatising en route to base camp and will again go off the beaten track over the coming days, finally getting out the tents and climbing gear as we look to cross the Kongma La at 5545m on Tuesday and then Pokalde base camp at 5400m before summiting Pokalde at 5800 and then coming down to the tiny hamlet of Lobuche next Thursday. We’re then expecting to get to Base camp for Friday with Jo, Bernie, Michael and Sami saying hasta la vista and getting a helicopter back to Kathmandu on Saturday. Time has certainly been flying by!

Overall, feeling in great shape to be moving higher.

We’ll be out of touch but remember to follow us on our inreach tracker, I’ll also be sending an update message through the tracker each day as well which will go to twitter feed @realrorymchugh. This will be a good test of the Inreach for higher up the mountain later on.

Frisbee with the Phortse kids, latest Irish Times article published on the effects of altitude and the people of the Khumbu, and we cross the Renjo La at 5350m.

We had some fun this morning playing Frisbee with the local kids in Phortse.

Since the last post from Thame, we have been off the beaten track and largely without 3G or Wifi (even when advertised otherwise). If you’ve been missing the updates, I hope you’ve seen our map tracker where you can follow our every move. Still was able to get my latest article to the Irish Times by deadline and it was published in print and online today – check it out as I’m trying to avoid repetition. Was able to take the opportunity to talk about all the amazing people of the Khumbu valley we have met over the past week.


Leaving Thame we dropped by Thameteung to visit painter Pasang Nuru Sherpa. Pasang lost his fingers and toes to frostbite while crossing the Nangpa-la in the mid-70’s and has been painting ever since. We got to meet his children as well and they talked to us about their hopes to go to university in Kathmandu. His son has just completed exams for his final year and waiting for results.

We then moved up the valley to Marulung where we stayed at River view lodge run by And Phurba Sherpa, an eight time Everest summiteer. For more on him, his marathon winging daughters, and Passing Nuru, you’ll need to read the Irish Times article. This is the third of my weekly articles in the Irish Times and really pleased with the feedback thus far.

From Marulung we had our first tough acclimatisation schedule ahead. First we tackled our first 5000m peak, check this video out from the top and cheerful Sami Mansour in particular! Some of the team were really feeling the altitude but everyone pushed through.

We then moved up to Lungde and then had a tough day crossing the Renjo La pass at 5350m and then descending down to Gokyo at 4750 for the night.


Jo, Michael, myself, Jonathan at the Renjo La – 5350m

From Gokyo, we them descended a thousand meters to Phortse and after a few days pushing it trekking and sleeping at higher altitudes everyone is back to feeling a million dollars. After a few days living in very basic conditions we’re now back on the main tourist trail. For 4 or 5 days we were seeing less than five trekkers a day but this morning between Phortse and Pangboche we encountered our first trekking groups which we needed to pass.


Jo and me, on our way from Phortse to Pangboche

The lack of crowds this past week against the lines of trekkers we’ve seen on the route today really makes us really appreciate the route that Tim has put together for us getting off the beaten track. Still we’re also happy to have a few creature comforts back.

I expect we’ll have better internet over the coming few days so I’ll provide another update before we leave the main trail again and get out our tents, helmets, and harnesses for the first time before our climb of Pokalde 5800m next week.

Thanks again for your support for our school building project in Makwanpur through Child Rescue Nepal. Our amazing day with Jamuna, her team and the kids in Kathmandu is still fresh in our memory. For details on how to support please check out

We’ll also provide an update on our corporate sponsors shortly. Till then, stay safe and enjoy it out there.