Everest May 2006 – Blog and Diary

10 July 2006

Ben and Tom Clowes at the South Col

Ben and Tom Clowes at the South Col

Everest May 2006 – Copy of Blog and Diary

Congratulations on such an amazing and deserved feat! We can’t wait for the de-brief.
Hermione and James Tilbury

pete and i just back from a 10 day silent meditation retreat… not quite as hard as climbing everest but surely not far off… just to say… ‘you guys rock’. we’ll be looking forward to hearing all about the adventures when you’ve got your energies back. in the meantime, enjoy a tremendous success.
all our love
steph and pete xx
Sunday, May 21, 2006

The Phone Rings!

The phone rings… and I can’t quite believe the voice at the other end.
“It’s Tommy. I’m at Base Camp.”
I did not recognise the voice. It was rasping, and sounded as if Tommy had just smoked a packet of filterless Gauloises and been on the mother of all benders – which is probably not an inaccurate way of describing how he feels. Tender!
There was no great whooping or gung-ho cries of “We Did It!”, just a very thankful tone, pleased to be alive and down safely.
“It was much harder than I imagined,” he said.
“It just went on and on and on and on and on…. I can honestly say that I wouldn’t ever contemplate doing an 8,000er again!
“But I’ve fulfilled a dream. It was amazing. There was only six of us on the top. It was fantastic – we could see for miles and miles. There were electrical storms below us in the distance. But it was bloody, bloody cold. With windchill maybe minus 50 or 60. But it was pretty cool to stand on the top.”
He added: “I’m now just looking forward to coming home and enjoying the English summer.”
Was he looking forward to the mother of all slap-up dinners? No – he just had a craving for some fizzy mineral water. (Sorry, I can’t explain this one – maybe it’s like pregnancy?)
Tom added that his physical state was pretty good – he said he was in a better state than after the aborted attempt two years ago. That said, his right hand has some mild frost injuries and Ben will need to get his toes looked at at they got pretty cold.
“I’m pretty tired,” he added. “It was an amazing experience.”

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Message from Bear

Dear Tom & Ben-
amazing amazing
you should be very proud- you have achieved something very special
well done you both
cant wait to see you
all love and congratulations
Bear (from the jungle in costa rica news reached me- you can’t keep good news down!)

Back at BC!

Tom and Ben are back at BC! In a sat phone call to his girlfriend Di, Tom said: “I’m not doing that again. It was pretty hardcore.”
I’ve asked him to put it in writing, joked Di.
Tom and Ben are obviously both very weary and their achievement hasn’t sunk in yet. They are both reported in good health although they have some minor frost injuries – Tom to his hand and Ben in his toes. And Tom has quite a hacking cough.
Tom told Di he just wants to get home now and is hoping to be in Kathmandu in a few days. This is a bit on the optimistic side. The walk from Base Camp to the airport at Lukla normally takes four or five days, not two! But when all you want to do is get home, it’s amazing what you’ll put up with. You just go on autopilot and walk all day. So it could be possible that they’ll make the city on Tuesday and then they’ll be back on email.
Almost there!

BC Manager Sue writes:

Tom crossing a crevasse in the Khumbu Icefall

Tom crossing a crevasse in the Khumbu Icefall

Good morning, good afternoon, good evening everyone – depending on where in the world you are! The summit team are now almost all back at base camp, through the icefall for the final time! Everyone is very very tired, so if your loved ones don’t telephone you the minute they get back to camp please don’t be surprised, or irritated with them, they probably need a little while to gather their thoughts and catch their breathe – and quite literally come back down to earth!

Friday, May 19, 2006
Champagne on Ice

Tom and Ben should be at Camp 2 by now, which is 6,400m. This is still very high. Just to give you an idea, I once climbed to 6,000m and every step felt like a struggle. It was hard to breath and we all got hacking coughs. (What it must be like above 8,000m doesn’t bear thinking about!) So keep the Champagne on ice. And they still have the Khumbu Icefall to negotiate. They will tackle this Saturday morning, as early as possible as it should be more stable in colder conditions. This is the section where you have to balance your way across precarious ladders – sometimes two strapped together over gaping crevasses. Descending climbers have to run a gauntlett of obstacles off Everest- think Indiana Jones. You have to keep your wits about you and constantly look over your shoulder. At any moment the ground could disappear from under you. There is the risk of avalanche; of blocks of ice collapsing and the danger of crevasses – not all have ladders. Some may be hidden. And you’re descending in an exhausted state. Tom and Ben’s last proper sleep was on Monday. Imagine what you’d be like – demented. But the path is well-trodden. They will still be buzzing from their successful ascent. Just another 24 hours and they should be home and dry. Keep your fingers crossed. It’s still not over yet.

Meanwhile, some more details have emerged of their summit. They apparently suffered some problems with their oxygen. (No oxgyen system is foolproof – it’s not like scuba diving where there’s standardised equipment). It seems the cold affected the flow rate on their new Poisk systems. Fortunately the Sherpas very gallantly agreed to swop their masks, which were working fine.

Thursday, May 18, 2006
Back at Camp 4 for the night

They’ve made it back to camp 4, which is situated at the South Col. It’s just under 8,000m so they’re still very far from home. They will spend the night there tonight before making their way to Camp 2 tomorrow. If they’re feeling really strong they could push all the way down to base camp in one go but it’s more likely they’ll reach BC on Saturday. (It will then be about a week before they leave for the UK.)

“They will be very tired but elated,” writes their expedition manager Sue. “I couldn’t sleep for nights after I had summited. I kept waking up thinking ‘I’ve just climbed Everest’, unable to quite believe it. It really is a lifetime ‘high’ – in feeling as well as in achievement. Something no one can ever take away from you.”

They won’t be able to receive emails for a few days but Sue, the manager, is able to forward on a message via radio. I plan to put in a collective congratulations from all their friends and family back home. To send your own message, email her at and Ishe will pass the message on.

More Messages

Big congratulations to the boys – incredible achievement, even more so for having the courage to go back again this year. Hope the view was impressive and you got a chance to enjoy it. Safe journey down and home.
Peter Hutchison

Well done boys!!!! can’t wait to hear all about it when you get back stay safe till then!!!!
‘Wonderful news of summitting and of safe return to Camp 4. Very exciting day even for us at home! Love and congratulations Aunt Lou’

Fantastic news! We are so relieved. Special congratulations from the Fox-Pitt’s together with a donation of 150 pounds to be spent on the Clowes brothers enjoying a delicious dinner wherever they choose! We are also awarding them two free places in this year’s quadrathlon, a reward for being the first british brothers to climb Everest! (Blogmaster’s note – they may find the Quadrathlon harder!)
Messages of Support

Wow. How brilliant. Pass on my hearty congratulations!!!!
Frank Bulman

Great news. A few of us were having a drink last night and toasted their last push. Thought they would be at the Balcony at the time. Glad to hear they have done it. Jonathan Hunt

Wonderful news- thank you very much for keeping us all in touch. Best wishes Za.

many many congratulations to Tom and Ben on their successful summiting of Everest from all the Warren and Tilbury families. We are so proud of them and thrilled that they have achieved their ambition. Jeremy and Philippa Warren

FANTASTIC!!!!! Andrew Dodd

Well done to the boys. It’s fantastic! All the best, Ian Wilson-Young



The boys have done it. They reached the summit at 7.50am local time – excellent going! This leaves them plenty of daylight hours to get back to Camp 4. Previous teams returned in just four hours so they could be back at the Col Camp by lunchtime and if they’re feeling strong, could push on to camp 3 today. But hang in there folks. It’s not over yet. Reaching the summit is only half way there. But just fantastic news for Tom and Ben, the first British Brothers on Everest!
Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The Summit beckons

They left at 4.30pm UK time (9.15 Nepali time). There’s a lot of snow up there but thankfully they’ll be following in the footsteps of previous teams so with any luck it shouldn’t be too bad. The Jagged Globe team took 16 hours to summit yesterday – breaking trail must have been quite an ordeal. They made it back to camp 4 in just four hours. The timeline we’re looking at is for Tom and Ben to hopefully make the summit between 4am and 8am our time Thurs 18th. By the afternoon they should be back at the Col. By the time you read this… Either way the outcome will be known. Personally, it’s strange to be on the spectators’ end for a change. My heart is in my mouth. My fingers are crossed. I’m saying long forgotten prayers. C’mon boys, just one painful step at a time. Stop. Breath. One more step. And again… Keep it together. Preserve your energy. One more step. No mistakes now. Concentrate. Breath. One more step. And so it goes on, interminably. At this stage, gung-ho sayings of the kind Tom loves to recall (like Pain is Weakness Leaving the body) will do no good. Above 8,000m humour also suffers and saying comedy army phrases like the above will not help. You can’t will yourself on like you’ve got another 100m to run. The determination just comes from every living cell of your body. Some achieve a Zen-like state of meditation and just zone-out. Others just put up with the brutal slog for the prize of the summit. There are no rules. It’s whatever works for you. But the experience is not without it’s immediate rewards.
“There are certain things we need to live,” the great mountaineer Reinhold Messner once told a lecture at the RGS, “Air to breath, ground to stand on. If you take away those things you do have a truly extraordinary experience.” Just to be up there can offer almost a spiritual sense of joy and exhilaration. But at the top, the boys must remember the golden rule – you’re only half-way there.
R & R at the Col

From Sue Todd:

Our team are all now on the South Col. They made reasonably good time and now have until 9pm local time to get some rest. That is the time they will be leaving for the summit. They will now be trying to get some sleep…and feeling very nervous….Sleep will be hard to come by with all the thoughts they will have running through their heads. They will have seen the route in front of them, and wondering…can they do it…well, there is now only one way to find out…I will update again when we know they are going to be leaving. So exciting….

everyone is now nervously and excitedly starting to get ready. It takes forever to put on all the layers of clothing they will be wearing under their down suits, then to struggle into their downsuits themselves – not easy with 3 in a tent and not much oxygen. Then of course there are the big boots with inner boots and laces, which will probably have been in their sleeping bags keeping warm… hat, several gloves and mittens, head torch, eventually crampons (outside the tent) and then oxygen.

Tom says he’s just had the best day of his life! I’m so pleased he felt like that. It is the most exhilerating feeling being so high up there, above the clouds and the rest of the world… it quite literally does put you on a big high. They’ll be living on adrenalin from now on. Anyway, back to the south col. Each climber has been assigned their own sherpa for tonight’s climb. The sherpa will be carrying extra oxygen. They will probably use 3 or 4 bottles in total for the whole climb. The sherpa assigned to each climber is as follows: Ben – Padawa our climbing sirdar (head sherpa) Tom – TopgenSquiz – ChhwangAndries – TinduPommy – NawgayaSerena – Ang Nuru (he summited with me)The cook boy from camp 2, whose name escapes me, is also at the south col and is acting as chef – but the cooking I’m afraid will probably not be cordon bleu at that height. There will now be rolling updates throughout the night. I won’t get much sleep, but this is so important to so many people and I know how anxious you will be, hoping and praying that they will be safe and successful. Safety is paramount and comes before all else. Success is a bonus and a gift.
Reached Col Camp

Tom and Ben have now reached Camp 4 at the South Col. In a message to base camp, Tom said the climb there was the best day of his life, truly exhilarating and he’s on one big high. They are resting until 9pm our time, according to his BC manager before setting off on their summit bids. The following, from BC, was sent in Wed afternoon:

The weather is perfect – a little warm even I think… and all is looking good so far. The famous, barren, windswept South Col. It really is almost a mythical name.The day from Camp 3 to the South Col I found incredibly exciting because I was actually passing – and climbing – all the famous landmarks that I had only read about in books before. The Yellow Band (so called because of its yellow limestone rock that we have to climb over), the Geneva Spur and then finally…after weeks of building up to it… there it was at last… the South Col. A vast, windswept plateau dotted with yellow, orange and red tents…with the odd oxygen cylinder lying around here and there. And incredible views…. The most worrying of which I found to be the lower slopes of Everest we were to climb up in a few hours – they seemed incredibly steep! I had been told that the climb up to the Balcony would be steeper than I had imagined – but not that steep! Yes, I’m afraid the climb up to the Balcony is at a fairly high angle, and for the first time on the whole trip I was not only glad to have my ice axe with me, but I actually used it. However you are clipped on to a fixed rope with your jumar the whole way, so if you slip you aren’t actually going to go anywhere – it’s just, well.. a bit worrying to look at! However this is all climbed in the dark, so you can’t see anything when you are actually on it. And coming down – well you’ve climbed Everest so you can cope with anything! When the team reach the South Col they will get into a tent – probably 3 to a tent – and relax in their sleeping bags for a few hours. We have got at least one Sherpa up there who’s sole job it is to make drinks and give them food, so they will be well looked after. They will also still be breathing bottled oxygen. At 8000 metres there is only 36% of the oxygen in the air that there is at sea level, so any extra they can get the better.
They’re Off!!!

Tom and Ben have begun their summit attempt! As you read this, they will be on their way to the South Col (7,950 Camp 4 – final camp) and from there onwards to the summit. This is it! The next time they turn around it will be for Base Camp and home. They should make the Col this afternoon local time (UK + 5hrs). They will then have a few hours to rest and try to consume as much fluid as humanly possible – not easy in this environment when it can take an hour just to put your boots on. Most summit attempts are then made late evening, at about 11pm. They will be using oxgyen by this stage. They will set off at night, with head torches, up the final obstacles, including the famous Hillary Step and then the final snow slope towards the summit. They will hope to summit by about 11am local time on the 18th – tomorrow if all things go to plan. But remember, anything can still happen. It’s an attempt on the mountain – that’s all it can ever be with so many uncertainties out there. All it takes is for the weather to turn or a problem to occur with oxgyen flow or a bit of gear for it to be over. There’s still a long way to go.

The following is from the Sue Todd (Base Camp Manager) sent yesterday:

So, the latest news is: the first Everest team of Tom, Ben, Andries, Squiz, Pommy and Serena today climbed to camp 3. The plan is for them to go to the south col tomorrow and attempt the summit tomorrow night. Weather, of course, permitting. It is now getting very exciting…the culmination of all these weeks of preparation and hardship is now tantalisingly close. They will all be lying in their tents wondering if they are up to it – mentally and physically – and it is not long now until they will find out.
Today one of our Sherpas, Ang Nuru, together with Sherpas from the IMG team, fixed ropes and carried loads of oxygen to just below the Balcony. .So it’s all happening now…The Everest team have had a long day and will be glad to be resting in their tents. When they left Camp 2 early this morning it would have been really cold – up there at an altitude of 6400 metres it would have been at least -10°C, which makes fumbling with crampon straps and harnesses quite difficult as your fingers are going numb. The first part of the route is a 1 – 2 hour walk up a glacier to the foot of the Lhotse face. It’s not actually that far in distance if you look at it on a map, but at that altitude you just can’t walk very quickly. The muscles are getting a lot less oxygen (there’s not much around up there, about 47%) and therefore get tired much more easily. The glacier is quite crevassed so they have had to jump over some fairly deep holes (while clipped to a rope I hasten to add…). Once they reach the bottom of the face (they will be mightily relieved to do so) the climbing really starts. They will clip in their jumar to the fixed ropes, slide it up the rope, and pull down on it as they walk their feet up to it. And then repeat the process….endlessly….And by this stage in the season there should be good steps to put their feet in, as plenty of people have been up before them. When I was climbing it a few years ago I found the going a whole lot easier once I had got on to the Lhotse face – because instead of just using my legs walking across the glacier, once clipped on to the fixed ropes I could use my whole body (arms, legs the lot) to help me climb. And as I moved up the face it became so exciting and exhilarating, as I watched the world as I knew it dropping away below my feet, that I forgot about the pain! Soon I was catching up with the top of Nuptse (7861m) and I had the most incredibly view down the Western Cwm.. it was so spectacular….. but the Lhotse face does tend to go on a bit…and the excitement did tend to wane as I went up and up and still there was no sign of Camp 3. And even when you do glimpse Camp 3 it still takes about another hour to actually reach it.The first sign that you are nearly there is some old ripped bits of tent canvas which are partly buried in the snow – old tents from past expeditions which have obviously had a hard time in a storm (it’s very exposed up there, tents can easily be shredded) and have just been abandoned. But still the slope goes on…and just when you think you can’t go any further… you are there. The phrase ‘Camp 3’ makes it sound much more than it is. As I mentioned in an earlier dispatch, making tent sites on a steep icy face is not easy – the platforms have to be hacked out of the ice by the Sherpas – it is almost impossible to get them totally flat, and sleeping in a tent there is extremely uncomfortable. My worst night ever, was at Camp 3! There are several of you in a fairly small tent, plus rucksacks, boots (to stop them from freezing), not to mention oxygen bottles. From here on oxygen is important. Tonight the team will be able to sleep on oxygen. They are now at 7300 metres and have less than half the oxygen that they would have at sea level. Extra oxygen will keep them warm and help to ease their fatigue. They will be using oxygen to climb to the South Col tomorrow (Wed) .Once at Camp 3, they will have thrown their gear in a tent and then gone out to collect some snow. There is of course no running water up there, everything is frozen. Any water for drinks comes at a price. Snow must be collected, then melted, then heated. And this all takes an incredible amount of time. Especially since at this altitude you have to drink even more than normal. Any time not spent sleeping at Camp 3, is spent melting snow and making drinks… it’s never ending….So if you want to think of them at this moment, that is what they will be doing… lying in their tents, warm in their sleeping bags, trying to find a comfortable spot on the ground.. chatting and listening to the hiss of the stove melting water for a much needed drink….We have just heard from Jagged Globe, who climbed to the south col today (Tues), that there is a lot of deep snow at the foot of the Geneva Spur which may hamper the team tomorrow, so they will be setting off a little earlier than they would normally. At this very moment it is a very starry, clear night. -8 degrees centigrade. A perfect summit night…let us hope for the same tomorrow.

Monday, May 15, 2006
All quiet

No word for a while from Tom and Ben, which means they’re up the mountain! From what I can gather, they will be finishing off their acclimatising cycle and are probably heading back or back at BC for a final rest before gearing up for the big summit push. The exped organisers report that Ben and Tom found the hike up to Camp 3 fairly easy!
“Tom, Ben, Andries and Mike appeared to have had a nice stroll up to camp 3, having a picnic on the way. It really does seem as though they didn’t find it as hard as they thought they would. They are now back at camp 2.” That was Friday.
Elsewhere on the mountain the summit attempts are beginning in earnest with many teams hoping to reach the top early Wednesday morning – both from North and South sides. Among them are the Adventure Peaks team (who Tom and Ben were with last time) and Jagged Globe. Interestingly, both these teams are sporting contenders for the crown of youngest Brit on Everest – there are three of them – all aged 19!