The news that the Walking With The Wounded Everest 2012 Expedition supported by Glenfiddich has been postponed for this season was broken by charity patron HRH Prince Harry. Speaking from Washington, having been awarded the Distinguished Leadership Award by the Atlantic Council, His Royal Highness said:
“Last year, I struggled to keep up with the four British soldiers whom I joined for part of their expedition to walk to the North Pole. Each of these men had recently been gravely wounded on the battlefields of Afghanistan. Theirs was the fastest team to reach the Pole that season.
At this very moment, another team of our wounded are returning from Mount Everest. Sadly, I have to be the first to say they have been frustrated from reaching the summit by the unusually warm weather, which brings particularly dangerous conditions. However, the mere fact that they are up there on that fearsome peak, I find totally amazing.
Ladies and gentlemen, these people – ours and yours – are extraordinary.”
The reason for this disappointing news is simple: the temperatures experienced by our team this season have been the warmest ever recorded on Mt Everest. Russell Brice, the expedition leader who has led expeditions up to Mt Everest for the past 25 years, commented that he had “never seen conditions like this before – the mountain is in a very critical condition indeed”.
Our team has been keeping you all regularly updated via our interactive team blog and this morning David Wiseman explained the team’s views on the matter – please click here to listen – and Expedition Team Manager Martin Hewitt put his thoughts into words and sent a written blog update through to Walking With The Wounded HQ, which is available by clicking here.
Co-founder of Walking With The Wounded, Edward Parker, further explained the decision and fully understands the risks that face all who are on Mt Everest this season:
“On Saturday I was contacted by Russell Brice, the expedition leader. We had chosen him to lead the team as he has comfortably the best record on Everest. He and I have been in close touch since the team deployed to Everest and I was aware that this season was proving to be particularly difficult. The main issue is it is unseasonally dry and warm. The result of this is there isn’t enough snow on the mountain side, leading to very loose rock, and hence rock fall. Also, as the core temperature of the ice cliffs is higher than normal, there have been a far greater number of avalanches. Last week an avalanche narrowly missed a team climbing with our boys.
“A Sherpa was also hit by another and swept down a crevasse. He has survived but has a broken back. Last week one of our summit team Dr. Francis Atkinson, was also needed to tend another climber who has been hit by rock fall in the face. Coming back through the Icefall on Friday the boys missed two rock falls by no more than three minutes. During the last phase we were not able to get the team above the Lhotse Face and onto Camp 3 because of the dangerous conditions. In our discussions Russell described sending his Sherpa team through the Icefall each day (as they take supplies to feed our boys at Camp 2) like sending them off to battle. Sadly one Sherpa, from another team, has now been killed in the Icefall.
“The decision not to aim for the summit was not an easy one, but it is the right decision to be made.
“The team are very low as they have worked so hard over the last 9 months to achieve the target, but they do understand why we have made this decision and they were involved in the process.”
The team will partake in a scheduled whisky nosing, which will set a record for the highest event of its kind, at Everest Base Camp on Thursday 10th May. The record-setting event will be broadcast live at 1930 BST – come back to this website to find details of how to watch this unique, ground-breaking event in support of our wounded servicemen and women.