The Cave Connection – a clip

The overly baritone voice notwithstanding, this clip gives a good taste of Scott’s journey into the Nettlebed/Stormy Pots cave system last year.  The film has shown at many film festivals and has won awards. Many ask – did Scott have to make the squeezes and climbs as well?  Yes, he was fully committed.  No film if you don’t follow….

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oSKi_TxlfIM

What is next and what can you do?

Thanks for following Scott’s blog.  Thanks to a resurrected NCell network, we have managed to talk most days.  Two days ago, a puja took place at Basecamp for the lost Sherpas.  16 died in the end with 3 still buried in the Icefall and 9 ending up in hospital.  Scott and Kent Harvey continue to shoot footage for the movie but the Icefall remains closed.  The production company have decided to withdraw the crew from climbing Mt Everest this season.  We are not sure exactly when to expect Scott home yet – but certainly he will be home long before June 4, the expected date of return.

A little background on the Icefall:  As a glacier wends it’s way down a mountain, it may encounter steep topography.  Instead of a flowing river of ice, the glacier will slowly tumble over the steep area resulting in precariously hung ice blocks – seracs. It’s like a slow waterfall.  Cracks (crevasses) are prevalent between the blocks.  Think of a mars bar slowly melting on the edge of a counter!  This is what is happening with the Khumbu Icefall.  And there is no other way through to the upper reaches of Everest.

Icefall “doctors” fix a route through the Icefall each season and remain on hand to adjust the fixed anchors and ladders to keep access open.  It’s forever changing – a glacier in motion.  Ordinarily mountaineers would avoid such a place but you can’t on the south side (Nepal side) of Everest.  It’s the most dangerous part of climbing Everest.  After the Icefall doc.s (who are Sherpas), the second most at- risk group would be the Sherpas who carry loads and “fix” the upper part of the mountain.  These two groups of men will do more laps through the Icefall than anyone else.  By Nepal standards, these men are paid well but it is very risky for them.

On April 18 numerous Sherpas had carried loads to camp 1 at approx 21000 feet and were returning to basecamp.  In the upper part of the Icefall, a ladder had broken and someone was trying to fix it, resulting in a bottleneck.  A massive serac collapsed onto the bottleneck of people – resulting in this tragedy.

A word on job security – Sherpas, guides and camera operators are all contractors – we get paid for the days we work and we mostly take care of our own benefits (insurance etc).  I am not certain what benefits the families of the dead Sherpas will receive.  Certainly there is nothing from the Nepali government.  It’s worth remembering that no-one climbs Everest (or numerous other high Himalayan peaks) without Sherpas.  To this end, the American Alpine Club has (just) set up a fund to support the families of the fallen.  We have been members of the AAC (and NZAC) for years and believe that this fund will adequately do what it is set up for: American Alpine Club

We have many Sherpa friends who are kind, gentle and considerate people.  Wanaka-based Adventure Consultants, who run many trips to the Himalayas each year, lost three of their people.  It is incredibly sad.

Thank you for your support.

Scott ok

You may have heard of the collapse of the Khumbu Ice Fall that resulted in the death of (I think) 14 Sherpas.  This occurred between Base Camp and Camp 1 on April 18.  Scott was at BC at the time and was not caught.  He and his team at Adventure Consultants have been assisting with the rescue effort.  Details are a little scarce so I cannot write much in case I get something wrong.  This is an enormous tragedy and our hearts go out to the friends (especially those in BC and on Everest) and family of the poor men who were caught. 

 

I will update as I find out more.  For now, the team will remain at BC until further decisions are made.

Anna

Trekking: Namche Bazaar

Trekking:  Namche Bazaar

Scott is currently trekking into Basecamp with the team. Iffy weather, snow and rain have meant a few delays – waiting for clearances to get the necessary shots. It’s also meant a fair amount of trekking. They left the colourful village of Namche Bazaar (and the last showers) for Tyanboche Monastery. There’s a big hill to climb to Tyangboche and they still had to get to Deboche – another 2-3 miles. The powers-that-be then called them to return to Namche for some essential footage that had been missed due to the foggy conditions. They duly walked back to shoot in better visibility.  The trekking is all good training for higher up. Their trusty girl guide (Lydia Bradey), has stuck with them. Lydia has done numerous trips to Nepal both personal and guiding and has climbed Everest three times. She’s also a physical therapist and is very creative and funny so they are bound to be having a good time.
Scott was accosted by some Brazilians in Namche after one of them recognized him from Karina Oliani’s show from last year. Scott is famous in Brazil!

Return to Everest

Scott is again returning to Everest for the 2014 season.  He leaves in a few days.  This year is especially exciting as Scott is one of two cameramen (Coloradan Kent Harvey is the other) filming the mountain scenes in a movie depicting the 1996 Everest tragedy in which 8 climbers died in a fast-moving storm.  As the film’s second unit, Scott and Kent will climb the mountain to get shots of climber doubles and plates/scenics.  Much of the action takes place at Base Camp – the set of which is currently and convincingly erected in a studio in London.

Here’s the goss on who is in the film:

http://www.workingtitlefilms.com/news

Adventure Consultants (Mountain Guides) from Wanaka, NZ are providing guides and logistical support.  Scott’s worked for and with AC for years and knows most of the team heading in.  Legendary Everest (ex-bad girl) climber and guide, Lydia Bradey is guiding the camera team and climbers along with prolific kiwi summitter, mountain guide Mike Roberts.  It’s a strong group, all of whom have summitted several (or more) times each.

Many friends from Wanaka will join the group to walk in.  Coffee, cake and food guru-in-harsh-places, Sarah McNab (also from Wanaka) will provide food support.  The Sherpas always do a great job with the food but Sarah will provide extra support – especially for the several birthdays that occur on the trip.

I (Anna, Scott’s wife) will post as the journey progresses.  Scott will be most likely be away until early June,

 

Scott becomes a mole….

IMG_4541Road washouts meant that Scott, with cave legend Kieran McKay, would fly into the cave entrance.  Obie had hoped for a flight too!

After the travel and travails of the Northern spring, Scott had a relatively quiet winter in NZ.  Once again he worked the Audi Quattro NZ Winter Games, a key stepping stone for winter athletes to qualify for the Sochi Olympics in Russia in 2014.  The production crew spent hours every day in cloying fog and the organizers of the event had to be commended for well-run competitions despite the foul weather.  Much of the mild winter, Scott was dad – holding the fort while Anna was guiding and frequently stepping up as (unpaid) photographer for her weekly ski columns.

In October, the family travelled to NW Nelson for Scott to scout the Stormy Pots cave system in preparation for a harrowing shoot which would involve a week underground looking to link what would become the Southern Hemisphere’s longest cave system.  Scott then headed to Hawaii to film the Hawaii Ironman, went home to Utah for 2 days then returned to NZ for the cave shoot.  Red Bull media sent a production crew from Germany and used the services of Making Movies, a NZ-based Production company.

Descriptions of travelling through the cave can bring on slight nausea:  the ambient temperature hovers at 5-7C, it’s rubbly, muddy and dank and you sleep in 40 year old sleeping bags, left from early cave explorers.  Scott, with his equipment, would squeeze through 12 inch (30cm) gaps – including squeezes that involved ducking underwater!  The craziest section appears to be the “hinckle horn honking holes” – a narrow area where wind is funnelled through the cave at such velocity that it causes unearthly whistling and honking as cavers force their heads through the gaps.  The link was found using paraffin and dye but even the most soft-boned caver cannot yet get through the fissure.

Never one to miss adventure, Scott arrived in LAX right after the TSA shooting, spent hours parked on the tarmac and a long day negotiating airport lines, finally arriving home at 2am after 40 or so hours of travel.

Down under