Download the Swissnex Annual Report 2009
Thanks to Hanna Law from the Rotary Club of Yankalilla, Australia here the translation in English. The Rotary Club of Yankalilla set an example and donate colours to poor Nepali schools trough the TOPtoTOP fondation. Congratulation!
Translation by Hanna Law, for pictures check report from the 27th of May:
“TOPtoTOP Global Climate Expedition Member Alexander Hug of Switzerland reached the summit of the highest mountain in the world, Mount Everest (8848m) shortly after his 35th birthday on 23 May at 06.36 hours. Expedition leader Dario Schwörer accompanied Alexander to 8000m, where he contacted his wife Sabine. Sabine provided a weather report forecasting strong winds for the remainder of the climb, and as a result, Dario decided that he would turn around and descend, concentrating instead on his clean-up project.
The clean-up project with volunteers and locals in Khumbutal was the focus of our three months in the Everest region. We also visited local schools in the TOPtoTOP tradition, where we held drawing competitions for a better climate, and we coordinated a rescue operation from the South Col.
Here is an extract from Dario’s diary, written during the ascent of the mountain:
Alexander and I left the Clean Up Troupe and my family on 27 April in Khumjung again heading for the Everest Base Camp region. The parting was very hard and our tears flowed freely.
Sabine, in her base camp at Khumjung, analysed the weather data from Meteotest in Bern in the Sherpa Village simultaneously and then broadcast the weather forecast through to us. Our first weather ‘window’ on 17 May was required for the recovery of Gianni’s body. The winds forecast for the 22 May looked favourable. On 19 May Alexander and I were in Camp 2, and tried very hard to engage two Sherpas to ascend with us from Camp 2 to the Summit – unfortunately we were unsuccessful in our attempt. Instead we joined forces with the two Austrian mountain guides, Robert and Sepp, who had planned to be in Camp 3 on 21 May after the stormy winds had abated. We used the waiting time to clean up around Camp 2. Thanks to optimal conditions on the Lhotse face, we made it safely to Camp 3 by 21 May and a day later we reached Everest South Col. We were both extremely fit, and we rejoiced because the Summit appears so near from this point.
After we had set up our tent, a guide from Alaska lent me his satellite phone in return for a block of Ovo chocolate so that I could reach Sabine. We had set ourselves a 30 km/h wind limit on the Summit Ridge, as this is the safe maximum wind speed recommended and proven by renowned mountain climbers. They warned us that climbing in winds higher than this limit would be dangerous and it would be negligent to climb in those circumstances.
I was looking forward to the weather data from Sabine, and I was already certain that the 23 May would be the day of the ascent – nothing stood in the way of a super mountain experience.
So it was like a fist in the face to receive the news that wind speeds of 37 km/h were predicted for after midnight at 8500m – in fact, in another model, predictions were even higher at 40 km/h. Sabine and I always make difficult decisions that may affect our family together. From mountain to sea, our last eight years has been accident free because we respect the limits of nature. When we started the Swiss TOPtoTOP Expedition in 2002 where we reached each Canton summit on cross country skis, we had to learn to wait in a hut until the danger of avalanches had moderated. It is also the same at sea: we remain in port when we hear that a storm front is approaching the next day, even though the calm before the storm entices us to romantically sail away. We do not leave. We stay in port.
I tried very hard to keep these thoughts and mental pictures foremost in my mind, but at the same time I could not suppress my tears and cried. All the effort of planning, the organisation of appropriate material. Then cycling in extreme heat from Kolkata through India to Kathmandu, and then on to the base of Mt Everest until we came to the end of the road, where we continued on foot… and now I’m stuck at 8000m, with mounting pressure not to miss the last weather ‘window’ before the monsoon sets in if we want to go further. It has always been this way…
Suddenly I awake from my reflections. Alarm bells are ringing in my head. Such thoughts are dangerous. What does ‘It has always been this way’ mean? Yes, everything always went well thanks to God’s grace, and as long as we always respected the boundaries of nature. Being able to wait is gold – lack of time is poison.
In this instant, the words ‘I will turn back’ rolled across my lips. I felt Sabine’s relief on the other end of the receiver the burden of responsibility for analysing the weather was great. The weight lifted from my heart too, and it was clear to me that having a wife and children rather than climbing the highest mountain in the world was the most important thing on earth to me… perhaps the biggest compliment a mountain guide can pay his wife.
This was one of the hardest decisions of my life and I think I have grown more by making that decision than if I had decided to continue the climb.
I then went to Alexander and our two Austrian mountain guide colleagues, Robert and Sepp, and told them that I had good news and bad news. The good news was that there was more oxygen available and the bad news was that we would not all four be standing together arm-in-arm on the summit. They understood immediately. They wanted to know the reason for my decision, so I gave them the wind data that I had received from Sabine. The facts were on the table: the wind poses the greatest danger in the final stages of the climb because it is in the Jetstream zone. It can blow one away, or is the cause for frostbitten fingers and toes because of the extreme cold.
Alexander, Robert and Sepp spoke of their hope that the wind would not be that bad, and that the weather forecast for 17 May had predicted even stronger winds, and yet the day turned out to be spectacular. It (the weather forecast) is speculation… I don’t think that the lack of oxygen can weaken the hard facts at such heights. I think rather it is the desire to finally stand at the Summit after waiting two months in Base Camp for suitable weather. In the end you begin only to see what you want to see.
I had the advantage that I had rarely been in Base Camp. My priority lay in cleaning up the area, visiting schools and the retrieval of the Swiss from the South Col. So I was distracted and not always fixating on the Summit. Also, I had twice made the long journey to Khumjung to visit my family. This was not just good for my fitness, but also for my disposition. The laughter of my three children was my drug of choice. I did not need infusions, powders or tablets.
Shortly before the descent my emotions rose once again. They seethed in me. I have been so nervous, so close, so fit and healthy. I spent three months in the region getting extremely acclimatised and Alexander and I had been determined not to shame ourselves in comparison to the other 150 mountain climbers who also stayed in the South Saddle. Surely I really wanted to take the Clean-Up-the-World sack to the top of the world? I asked myself if I would ever be this fit again in my life… and yet, that cursed wind!
But then, a moment later, I was suddenly rather proud and knew that if I could make the decision to turn back, then I could do anything and I felt the essence of survival and raised my feet and struck the crampons into the ice with front points facing down the mountain. We hugged each other one last time, in tears. I took my waste bag in hand, symbolically took along some waste from the South Saddle, and began a rapid descent through the Lhotse flank driven by my wife and children far down in the valley. I was highly focussed and careful, controlling the anchoring in each descent position, suspended myself in each existing fixed rope, and at one stage had God’s preservation when a Serac (a sharp pinnacle of ice among the crevasses of a glacier) collapsed before me. I know that God helps one when one carries out tasks thoroughly and conscientiously. Sabine, Salina, Andri and Noé are my best life insurance, and I know that after this experience I will always return to them. After three days we could once again cling together in each other’s arms.
In the early evening of 22 May, the others headed in the direction of the summit. Each climber was accompanied by a Sherpa with additional oxygen. I gave a tip to travel quickly because the winds were predicted to increase in speed after midnight. Unfortunately there are 150 climbers in all, so it is impossible to climb at one’s own speed. Each climber is attached to the fixed rope and they move in single file, like a line of geese, in slow motion, step for step into the infinity of darkness. If someone at the front is overcome by weakness, then the whole column comes to a standstill. At the Hillary Step there is always a traffic jam anyway, because not all are true climbers. Alexander told me that it was already 06.36 hours when they reached the summit. Sepp had frostbite on three fingers, and Alexander believed he had frostbite on his toes, although he also believed that it was not serious. After a cold and difficult night, they arrived back at the South Saddle on 23 May. Dorjie Sherpa told me they stayed there again because they could not disassemble the tents due to the strong wind. Only on 24 May was it possible to continue. I managed to contact Alexander in the evening, and congratulated him and the two Austrians, Robert and Sepp, on their successful climb to the summit. I wished them a speedy recovery from their frostbite. Alexander told me that he was very tired and would now be very happy to have a yak steak on reaching lower altitude…
That night in bed, Sabine asked me if I was disappointed not to have reached the summit of Everest. I whispered in her ear: the wind made the decision the same good wind that has carried our sailboat Pachamama over the seas. It is stronger than us, and it is good to have it as a friend. The probability that a weather forecast is right is higher than that it is wrong, and therefore we made the right decision together. If I had climbed further and then received a bad weather, and then something had gone wrong, then our friend the wind would forever after be our enemy….”
Download the Swissnex Annual Report 2009