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Guy Mannings’ last Blog

thumbdetail_1369412406Summit-with-FlagSummit Hotel, Kathmandu24 May 2013


Hi guys,

Apologies for the delay with the blog – it’s been a crazy week!

Our summit bid got off to an inauspicious start, when we learned of another fatality on the mountain just before our departure.  A Russian climber had left Base Camp early on Wednesday morning to attempt to climb Nuptse, an adjoining peak.  Climbing solo and illegally (without the required climbing permit), he fell to his death.  Gruesomely, it appears that his head got caught in his climbing rope during the fall.  His decapitated body was discovered on the glacier near Base Camp.

Shaken but undeterred, we set off for Camp 2 (6,400 metres) early on Thursday morning.   Our previous best time had been 6 hours 10 mins.  This time I got into camp with Matt P and Guy Mu (aka The Colonel) in a cracking 5 hours 40 mins, overtaken only in the final stretch by a desperate Dean C, who explained that he had to get to the toilet!  Cresting the final rise into camp, we were greeted by the sight of a bare behind at the side of the trail – Dean had not quite made it!  Once again we had managed to beat the sun.  By now I was really starting to feel the cold as a result of weight loss, but as I sat there shivering and blowing into my gloves, Matt P relaxed, lightly clothed and with bare hands.  They breed them tough in Birmingham!

6712So far, so good, but it was at Camp 2 that things started to go wrong for me.  Several bouts of explosive diarroeah left me very drained and weak.  I suppose that all diarroeah is, by definition, explosive.  Let’s just say that this was sufficiently explosive that I created a new toilet on the 10 metre path to our Camp 2 latrine!

When we left for Camp 3 (7,200 metres) at 5am on Friday I was still in a bad state.  On the trail up to the base of the Lhotse face I initially kept up with the group, but dropped off the back after an hour.  I was shocked as thoughts of quitting entered my mind for the first time.  Dean kindly 6718hung back for me at the bergschrund while the others pressed on.  Seeing the state I was in he shoved a welcome Mars bar in my mouth and gave me a drink of his Gatorade.  This gave me a boost up the start of the Face, but the next few hours were grim.  I eventually dragged myself into Camp 3 after 5 hours 45 minutes of torture.  This was well over an hour slower than my previous time, and the final 30 metres up to the tents had taken me at least 20 minutes.

After a night spent sleeping on oxygen, I felt slightly better as we set off for Camp 4 on the South Col (7,950 metres) early on Saturday morning.  We were climbing on “gas” for the first time and it certainly helped.  I was slightly late starting, but for the first half of the climb was able to overtake a string of climbers on the fixed lines.   Dean hung back again and helped me to catch up with the guys at the front of our group, but then I weakened.  I managed to get to Camp 4 in the middle of the group and in a reasonable time, but it had been a real struggle.

We were due to leave for the summit in about 8 hours’ time and I was concerned about how weak I felt.  Still, I was prepared to “give it a go” when David H unexpectedly offered me the chance to climb the next day instead.  He said that I had been at the front of the group all expedition and it was clear from my performance over the last two days that I was not well.  I agonised over my decision for the next few hours.  On the one hand I was keen to go up with the rest of the guys and while the weather was definitely good.  On the other hand 24 hours rest should do me good, albeit that we were in the “death zone”, not an ideal place to recuperate!  With 6721departure time approaching I was feeling no better and took the decision to delay for a day, conscious that the weather forecast was equally good for tomorrow, and that tonight was likely to be very busy based on the number of people moving up the fixed lines with us earlier that day from Camp 3 to Camp 4.

I was sharing a tent on the Col with Matt P and Dan H and I wished them luck as they prepared to set off into the night.  The buggars left both doors open and a gale howling through the tent, forcing me to get out of my warm sleeping bag to shut out the elements.  Given what they were about to attempt I refrained from shouting after them with a lecture on tent etiquette!  I slept nervously with the radio on, awaiting updates on their climb.  It was a long night and morning waiting for news, but eventually we started to get reports of summit success.  David H had told us that it typically takes about 10 hours to ascend on summit day and five hours to descend.  The guys were fast, so when it was taking them 12 to 13 hours to reach the top we knew that there must have been a lot of traffic.  As they returned we got some drinks ready and questioned them about the climb.  I have never seen a more exhausted bunch of blokes.  Without exception they said that it had been brutal.  I poked my head into Dean’s tent to see if I could get him anything but found him doing a No.2 in the vestibule.   He was using his ice axe for support and said that his legs were too tired to squat.  I was seeing far too much of that behind for my liking!

Next it was our turn.  Nacer had also decided to rest and climb on Sunday night instead.  The Colonel had set off on Saturday night with the other guys, but he felt unwell and so turned back after 30 minutes to try again with us the next night.  As the stories of the summit night continued to flow, the Colonel and I exchanged apprehensive glances.  The tales of hardship and the sight of the summitteers were not exactly filling me with confidence!

I donned my high altitude gear, including a set of battery powered heated insoles in my boots, which would later prove to be a mistake.  The final step was to pop a couple of Immodium.  The idea of having to go for a No. 2 on summit night was just unthinkable!  I stepped outside the tent and immediately felt weak and dizzy, not an ideal start for a 15 hour climb.  As I fiddled with my oxygen, Karma, my sherpa, helped me by putting on one of my crampons for me.  I would usually have done this myself, but I let him help.

At 7.15pm we set off across the Col in the last light of the day.  After just a couple of minutes the crampon fitted by Karma popped off.  While we stopped to fix it, the Colonel, Nacer and their sherpas carried on up the hill.  We were on our own.  After just half an hour or so I was contemplating telling Karma to turn around.  I was in a bad state and I had to be confident that however high I went I still had enough energy to get back down.  There was already a long line of headlights snaking up the hill ahead of us.  I decided to press on, try to catch the queue of climbers, and see what happened from there.

After about 30 minutes or so we did catch the group.  Initially we overtook a few climbers, but this required unclipping from the rope. As the ground steepened this became too risky, and so we settled into line.  Due to the steepness of the terrain there are only really two places where you can stop on the route: the Balcony at 8,400 metres and the South Summit at 8,750 metres.  Our first stop was therefore the Balcony, which David H had estimated usually takes five hours to reach from the South Col.  I settled in for a hard slog.  It is difficult to imagine just how hard it is to climb at this altitude unless you have experienced it first hand.  To give you an idea, I would take just two to three steps and then be bent over hyperventilating for six to eight breaths.  I would then start again, interrupted every five minutes or so by a racking bout of high altitude coughing.  Now imagine repeating that process for over ten hours, in temperatures of -20c to -30c, without any food or water (it’s generally too cold and/or dangerous to try to stop to eat or drink), and carrying 20-25lbs on your back, before having to descend difficult and dangerous ground for a further five hours or so.  It’s not fun!

As I climbed towards the Balcony I was absolutely convinced that I could not reach the summit.  I passed the time by mentally drafting a blog explaining why I had failed.  I was well aware that this negative thinking was not helpful and was wasting precious energy, but I couldn’t snap out of it.   After what seemed like an eternity though, the Balcony apppeared above us.  When I checked my watch I was amazed to see that it was just before midnight.  Despite what seemed like a very slow queue of climbers, we had reached the Balcony ahead of schedule, in a little under five hours.  This gave me a boost of confidence.  Maybe it felt this hard for everyone.

As we changed oxygen bottles, I saw The Colonel and Nacer heading up to the South Summit.  I felt that I still had enough energy left to get back down, so I decided to carry on a bit further and see how things went.  By the time we set off after them, quite a few climbers had clipped into the rope between us.  Once again I was stuck in a queue, but I was happy to stay at the pace of the line rather than risk overtaking, even when we were stopped for almost an hour as some climbers struggled on the most difficult section between the Balcony and the South Summit.  Just before I had left the tent, Dan had said that climbing Everest was all about whether you wanted it enough.  That line began to play in my head.  I did want this badly, and I started to think that I might, just might, be able to get to the top, although the South Summit still seemed a much more realistic target.   I noticed briefly at this point that my feet were feeling a bit cold, but that is to be expected in these conditions, and I thought nothing more of it at the time.  The grind continued.  I zoned out and tried to ignore the pain.

Eventually, the South Summit loomed out of the darkness.  I checked my watch and was surprised to see that it was 4am.  Again, despite the seemingly slow line of climbers, we were right on schedule. We changed oxygen bottles again, and as the first light of dawn showed the way up the summit ridge and the Hillary Step, I was suddenly absolutely convinced that I would reach the top.   The views as dawn broke were spectacular, but this was the most difficult section of the route, with steep drops of several thousand feet on either side, so we had to maintain our concentration.  We inched along the ridge until we reached the Hillary Step.    There were 10 to 15 climbers waiting in front of us.  Some of them climbed the step efficiently, others scrabbled about incompetently.  After about 30 minutes or so waiting, Karma and I got our turn and moved on up.

Just above the Hillary Step I passed The Colonel and then Nacer on their way down, and gave them a congratulatory hug.  I also bumped into my friend Dave Mauro, with whom I climbed Vinson in 2010.  It really is a small world!  I had thought that the summit was very close to the Step, but the summit ridge seemed to go on and on.  Eventually though we turned a corner, and there were the prayer flags marking the summit!  One final slog and we were up on top at about 6am.  I had thought I might be very emotional, but the main feelings were relief and exhaustion (and mainly exhaustion)!   I unfurled my Cayman flag, and Karma and I spent about 30 minutes taking photographs and soaking it all in.  The views were simply stunning, and as I poked my head over the summit I could see two climbers approaching from Tibet.

It was time to get moving.  It is between the summit and South Summit where the worst bottlenecks occur and I was keen to get back down below the South Summit before too many climbers arrived.   As it happened we were fine, and we only had to wait 10 minutes for our chance to descend the Hillary Step.  I felt a huge sense of relief as we began to descend below the South Summit, although I knew there was still a very long way to go and I was becoming increasingly exhausted.  My feet were also starting to hurt with every step, but I hoped it was just my boots rubbing.  There was nothing I could do about it now anyway.  Karma came into his own on the descent.  Although he’s only half my size he’s as strong as an ox, and he clipped into my harness so that he could hold me if I slipped.  The descent took about five hours, but they seemed like the longest five hours of my life.  The main incident which sticks in my mind is passing a corpse just above the South Col. The man was lying on his front just off the route, one foot hooked over the other ankle and arms outstretched as though he had fallen.  He was still wearing all his climbing clothes and boots, although the back of his jacket was mostly missing, revealing a back bleached white by the sun and wind.  I had never seen a corpse before, and the sight of him lying just half a mile from camp was both sad and macabre.

By the time we reached camp at 11.30am I was completely exhausted.  The flat final 20 metres of ground from the end of the fixed lines to the tent took me about five minutes to cover.  I was stumbling like a drunk and could only take a couple of steps before doubling over to recover some strength.  Finally I collapsed into the tent to congratulations from The Colonel and Nacer.  We had done it.  10 for 10!

I changed into dry socks and slipped into my sleeping bag.   I had a feeling all was not well with my feet, but I was so tired I didn’t really care.  When I woke up early on Tuesday morning I immediately checked for damage, and realised that it was the frostbite I had feared.  When I had taken off my climbing trousers I had noticed that one of the heated insoles had turned itself off in my pocket and the cable on the other had become detached.  They had therefore been providing no heat, just taking up space in my boots and restricting the blood flow in my feet.  This, I believe, was the cause of the frostbite.

I had to get down, but at least I had the opportunity to do so.  That morning, a South Korean climber who had reached the summit without oxygen and descended to the South Col was found dead in his tent by his Sherpa.  Pasang also told us that after we had gone to sleep he had been called up to the Balcony to help with a rescue.  Despite having already been to the summit and back with me, Karma joined him.  A phenomenal effort.  A Bangladeshi and a Nepali climber, both double amputees with no arms, had managed to reach the summit but collapsed from exhaustion on the descent.  Their Sherpas had done so much work to get them up that they, too, were exhausted and could not get them back down.  By the time Pasang and Karma reached the Balcony the Bangladeshi was already dead, but at least they were able to get the Nepali climber back down to the Col. We also heard news that a further climber had died nearby in the Lhotse High Camp after a desperate attempt to rescue him by helicopter had failed.  A sad day.

Pasang had decided after consultation with the Base Camp doctors that my frostbite required helicopter evacuation, but this meant descending to the helipad at Camp 2.  We set off down.  Each step was painful, and I was doing my best not to inflict further damage on my toes.  As we descended the Lhotse Face we looked back up to watch a spectacular rescue of the Nepali climber from 7,800 metres in the Yellow Band.  A helicopter hovered above the face trailing a long cable, which they used to pluck the Nepali from the Face and carry him off down the Cwm to Base Camp.  The pilots said later that a rescue at this height was only possible because the conditions had been absolutely perfect.

It was a relief finally to reach the bottom of the Face and relative safety.  We arrived at the helipad, but just as the helicopter approached, the clouds rolled in after a full day of brilliant sunshine.  Two minutes later they cleared, but the helicopter had gone.  As I trudged the final and painful twenty minutes down to our camp, and the prospect of a real bed for the night receded, I couldn’t help feeling briefly sorry for myself!  I crawled into the tent for one final night, with the assurance that the helicopter would try to return at 6.40am.  I woke up to brilliant weather on the glacier, but the news that the helicopter was grounded by bad weather down the valley.  The Sherpas packed up camp, leaving me and Pasang alone.  As they left Pasang grabbed the last bag of coffee, which I thought was strange until he wandered on to the glacier and marked out a large H with coffee!

Four hours later the helicopter finally made it and swooped us off to Base Camp.  On landing I stepped into a scrum of people.  The medics were there with a TV crew and I was surrounded by people and doctors all wanting to talk to me and inspect my feet.  After the solitude of the glacier it was all a bit much!

A few minutes later we were off again down the valley for the first of a series of crazy helicopter rides.  The cloud was sitting in the top of the valley, so the pilots skimmed down just above the river beds, banking around the bends in the valley.  As we arrived just below Lukla, the cloud closed in completely.   We were in a complete whiteout, and all I could see were trees emerging out of the cloud.  It was by far the most scared I had been all expedition, but the pilot calmly wound down the window and landed us in what had been an invisible field!  After a 3 hour delay we were suddenly off again.  This time the pilot dropped us down in a tiny paddy field the width of the helicopter, so that we could change to a different helicopter for Kathmandu.  The villagers emerged, understandably demanding compensation from the pilot for the damage to their potato crop.  The pilot started to insist on a receipt for the fine.  This seemed unlikely, so we quickly handed over $60.  Suddenly the villagers were all smiles and waving us off!

After one final and spectacular ride we were suddenly in Kathmandu airport, where I was whisked off by ambulance through the crazy streets of Kathmandu to the frostbite clinic.  Most of my toes should make a full recovery, but it’s too early to say whether I may lose parts of my big toes.  Fingers (and toes) crossed they will be alright!  It’s not the way I would have liked to end my expedition, but it could easily have been a lot worse. I was severely dehydrated when I arrived at the clinic, and when I weighed myself I had lost 25lbs over the course of the expedition.  I had dropped from 190lbs to 165lbs.  I’m 6ft 1in and my body fat percentage was only about 12% when I left Cayman, so most of that weight loss is muscle rather than fat.  I’ve got a lot of rebuilding work to do.

What a week!  What an expedition!  It’s been an amazing experience which has left me with memories I’ll never forget and friendships which I’m sure will last.  Ultimately I’ve learned that I can keep on going when things seem impossible, which is partly why I go climbing in the first place.

I hope you’ve all enjoyed the blog as much as I (to my surprise) have enjoyed writing it.  I’ll post another update once the position is clearer regarding my feet and the donations total is in (it’s still not too late to donate!), but in the meantime thanks very much for joining me.  I’m currently stuck in Kathmandu (my bags are missing somewhere in the Khumbu valley), but I should get back to Cayman on Sunday evening.  I hope to see many of you back there soon.

All the best

EDITOR: Cayman Islands-based climber Guy Manning has arrived back in Grand Cayman after conquering Mount Everest, frostbitten and 25 pounds lighter.

Manning has so far raised approx. US$78,000 for the Cayman Islands Cancer Society and will continue to raise funds for the charity in the coming weeks. He carried the names of 56 cancer patients from Cayman with him on his climb and planted the Cayman Islands flag at the summit of Everest.

All of Guy Manning’s blogs can be found at:

PHOTO: Everest 60th anniversary celebrations at the British Embassy in Kathmandu Photo: © Matt Parkes

Helicopter landing in Everest Base Camp 22 May 2013 Photo: © David Hamilton

Matt on Summit with JG Flag. Photo: © Matt Parkes,

For more photos go to:



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