On 7th May Christopher and the team repeated the 22km trek from Base Camp to Advance Base Camp, where they took a rest day. Richard unfortunately had to return to Base Camp after his severe cough turned to larangytis and bronchitis. While Richard headed down from ABC to BC, Christopher, Lincoln and Mike started up the long snowy ridge above the North Col, reaching a height of 7,300m, personal highests for both Christopher and Mike. This was their last phase of acclimatisation for the summit climb. Back at BC, the expedition doctor recomended Richard go down to a lower altitude and take antibiotics, if he was to have a chance of recoverying in time for a summit bid. Hearing this news, Christopher, Mike and Lincoln returned to Base Camp in time to catch a jeep with Richard to Shegar (4,400m), where they are all currently resting before beginning a summit attempt next week, weather permitting. See the latest video here.
On Friday 28th April Christopher and the team headed back up the Rongbuk Valley for the second round of acclimitisation. This time they went all the way to the North Col (7,000m) and spent one night there. To get from Advance Base Camp to the North Col each team member had to use a mechanical device called an ascender to grip on to the hundreds of metres of ropes that are no thicker than a finger.
After this five day round trip during which Christopher, Richard and Mike achieved personal altitude records, they returned to Base Camp 3rd May and after having a hot shower and several days rest at Base Camp they will head back up May 7th to begin the long climb back to the North Col for their final acclimatisation round. This will involve sleeping two nights at the North Col, during the day they will try to climb without bottled oxygen to approximately 7500 meters. This would give Christopher the Everest altitude record for someone his age. Everyone will then return to Base Camp before tackling the summit in the last two weeks of May. See the new slideshow here.
It has been a busy time for the whole team since their arrival at Base Camp (BC). It took a week for all the fresh snow to melt, and during this time the first priority was easing into the challenges of life at 5,200m and above. Gear and supplies were unpacked - some of which had been packed in Australia two weeks earlier. Setting up the giant dome tent which is the expedition's Communications Centre took most of a day, and getting the communciations operating with power and the various IT devices took most of the next day.
Christopher Harris, father Richard Harris, Michael Dillon and Lincoln Hall make up the whole team of the Christopher's Climb Expedition. In order to manage logisitics, and share major costs such as expedition doctor, medical facilities, expedition cooking crews, and Sherpa support, Christopher's Climb has joined with an international expedition organised and coordinated by Netherlands-based 7Summits and their Russian partners 7Summits.Club.
After a few days at BC the team were certainly ready to head up the Rongbuk Valley on their first proper acclimatisation hike. It is 22km from Base Camp to Advance Base Camp, and because this is too far for un-acclimatised climbers to trek in one day, Christopher and his team hiked to Intermediate Camp for their first night. They spent their second night at Advance Base Camp, with great views of the North Ridge of Everest, the team's planned route of ascent. The next day it was a long slog back down the East Rongbuk valley to the main Rongbuk Valley and home to Base Camp. After this strenuous three-day outing (remember to factor in the high altitude) the four climbers were ready for a rest before the next phase - acclimatising at the 7000 metre-high North Col. Check out the new pictures and video here.
After leaving Kathmandu six day's ago Christopher and the team have made it to Base Camp (5,200m) on 18th April. They pulled up at Base Camp with snow falling, it was a rush to get their gear into their tents before enjoying dinner in a huge tent the shape of a catapiller (see photo of Base Camp). The snow fell through out the night and the team endured their first night at Base Camp with minus seven degrees Celsius inside the tent. Late on Wednesday afternoon 19th April the clouds cleared and Christopher got his best look at Everest yet (see photo below). The next few day's will be spent preparing and sorting gear in preperation for the next part of the acclimatisation process by spending a night at both Intermediate Camp and Advance Base Camp before returning to Base Camp.
After flying into Kathmandu on Sunday 9th April Christoper and the team, (Richard Harris Christophers father, Michael Dillon Cinematographer and Lincoln Hall cameraman and author) have been purchasing food and additional equipment from the local shops. This task has been made particully difficult by the political unrest in Nepal, where the King of Nepal has been imposing curfews every day, which has meant the shops are only open in the morning. On Thursday morning Christopher and the team will spend five days travelling overland by vehicle to base camp.
We are pleased to announce that Christopher Harris will be attempting to climb to the summit of Mt Everest this May.
Christopher will be accompanied by his father, Richard Harris, himself an experienced mountaineer; Lincoln Hall OAM (Everest veteran and one of Australia’s most renowned climbers); and Michael Dillon AM (award-winning Australian adventurer/cinematographer).
His attempt is being made possible through the support of principal sponsor, Bradley Trevor Greive, Major sponsors, Dick Smith Foods, Mountain Design’s and Australian Geographic.
Christopher’s attempt on Everest will cap a remarkable climbing career that has already seen him successfully tackle some of the world’s highest and most challenging peaks.
His goal is to become the youngest climber to capture mountaineering’s ‘holy grail’, known as The Seven Summits – scaling the highest peaks on each of the seven continents.
To date, he has achieved four of the seven – Australia’s highest mountain, Mt Kosciuszko (at age 8); Mt Kilimanjaro in Africa (age 12); Mt Elbrus in Europe (age 13); and, in January this year at age 15, Mt Aconcagua, South America’s highest mountain and the highest peak outside of the Himalayas.
When Edmund Hillary took those last few steps to the summit of Everest in 1953, he made history. Most of us can only ever read about such historical events and dream of what it must have been like to be there, to have been involved.
Now comes an exciting opportunity to be personally involved in the making of history and to follow the event using the latest technology.
Find out more about becoming a Summit Supporter!
Christopher and Richard boarded a porter ski plane on Sunday afternoon (1/12/02) to fly up to Plateau Hut (2210m) on the Grand Plateau that sits below Mt Cook.
After walking roped to the hut they settled in and prepared equipment for their attempt on New Zealand’s highest peak Mt Cook (3754m). Alarm clocks were set for 4.00AM and the party of four (Adam Darragh, Marty Beare, Christopher and Richard Harris) settled into bed around 9.00PM.
When morning came it took an hour and a half before they had snow- shoes fastened to their mountaineering boots and headed of up the Linda Glacier.
The Linda Glacier was the chosen route and to quote the NZ Alpine guide book re this route ”While this is the easiest and most climbed route on Aorak /Mount Cook, it is also one of the most dangerous, being menaced by ice cliffs. The lower glacier is often heavily crevassed and there is considerable danger from ice avalanches off the right slopes.”
Richard Harris is quoted as saying “ It’s not the climb it’s self that concerns me but the fear of avalanches!” As they made there way up the Glacier there was the old rumble or two from the ice cliffs above and after crossing countless crevasses by midday they were just below the Bowie Ridge. Whilst resting here they watched several large avalanches come down not far from their route up. Marty and Adam went higher to find a suitable location for a snow cave and after about an hours work up on the Bowie Ridge Marty had dug an enormous cave measuring approximately 2 metres wide by some 7 to 8 metres long out of a snow covered crevasse. By around two o’clock they had had lunch and were all in their bivvy bags taking an afternoon nap. After dinner a phone call was made on the Satellite phone to let Christopher’s mum Cheryl know that all was well. By 7.30PM every one was asleep again in preparation for the summit day, which would require them to rise at 2.45AM to ensure they were on the mornings crusty snow by 4.30AM. It was actually about 4.45AM by the time they headed off for the day and Christopher is quoted as saying more than once that “ The worst thing about mountaineering is getting up early in the morning!”.
After a hour or so of plodding a way up some steep snow slopes they had to perform a delicate traverse on the front points of their crampons and used an ice axe and ice hammer, one in each hand to keep their balance.
After this exposed bit of climbing Christopher said “This is what I love best climbing on my crampons and ice axes it’s just the best!”
This section led them to the base of a rocky ridge that required them to rock climb up about 150 m with crampons still attached to their boots as every now and then a short section of snow had to be negotiated. After reaching the top of this, which is known as the summit rocks a short rest was had and Christopher was refuelled with the assistance of his favourite brand of chocolate. It was now very hot considering the altitude and Christopher was only wearing a polar fleece and his father Richard had only a lightweight Mountain Designs Power Dry T-shirt on. From here it was all snow and reasonably straight forward, Adam and Christopher lead off first whilst Marty and Richard stayed back for a bit to film the last section. Christopher arrived on the summit at 10.40AM (3/12/02) and Marty and Richard at 11.00AM after shooting some more video and taking some photographs. Both Christopher and Richard were ecstatic with what was now mountaineering history with Christopher being the youngest person in the world to ever summit Mt Cook. Christopher said, “This is awesome the best day of my life!”
After moving off the summit peak to a safer spot Christopher spoke to his mother on the Satellite phone before commencing the descent.
After countless abseils most of a 50m length the Linda Glacier was again under their feet and in the baking hot sun they commenced a slow walk back to the snow cave in thigh deep snow, or at least for every one but Christopher who’s 45Kg only saw him sink to his knees. By four o’clock the four were inside the cave sipping a hot cup of tea. It was decided that they would spend another night in the cave and not risk the walk out to the hut in soft snow and a high avalanche risk. Which Richard certainly reaffirmed was the right decision after watching and filming numerous large avalanches that spat down boulders the size of dinning tables and enough snow to fill a tennis court. The alarm rang out loud at 3.00AM and after a lazy breakfast they packed up the gear and set off at around 5.00AM for Plateau Hut. With cooler conditions they managed to only sink to their ankles in the snow and a reasonably quick trip was had back too the hut and by 8.00Am Adam and Marty had cooked up an enormous breakfast of champions including bacon and fried eggs with lot’s of extras. After making contact with Mt Cook airport on the radio a helicopter was organised and they all flew out to awaiting camera crew of TV3 news back at Unwin Hut.
Christopher and Richard would like to thank their sponsors:
Dick Smith Foods
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Mud Huts, Messi Warriors & The Mountain - Richard Harris
Nothing could prepare my 12-year-old son and I for the realisation of where we were. This was it, Africa complete with mud huts and Messi warriors. Finally the dream of climbing Mt Kilimanjaro was about to come true.
The bus rocked from one side to the other, every bend had me fearing the worse. Suddenly we came to a grinding halt, allowing a group of giraffes to cross the road. After six hours of hurtling down the pothole-ridden road we arrived at the hotel, more than a little weary from our nerve-wracking ride.
After a good night’s sleep we were met by our guide Ernest, and drove to the start of the Machame route, where we were greeted by a soldier shouldering a machine gun. Along with fifty other people we commence the trek to the top of Mt Kilimanjaro (5895m). Our first day on the route was to be an effortless one, we only walked for three hours and made camp at 3000m. Day two and it was an early start on the trail, fortunately it was easy going with only a daypack on our back. By mid afternoon we had reached camp two at the Shira Plateau (3800m). The rest of our afternoon was taken up repairing the tent after a crow-like bird ripped an enormous hole in it.
The sun pierced through the walls of our tent, and another day had begun. We started off slowly, but bad habits die-hard and the pace increased and at 4200m Christopher got a headache. With each step we went higher than we had ever been before. We got to 4600m before descending to Barranco camp (3900m) for the night.
The thermometer showed minus five, and after thawing out we gradually prepared for another days walking. We took it slow due to the sudden increase in altitude. At two thirty we reached the Arrow Glacier (4800m), after a cup of tea we retired to our tent and tried to sleep.
Summit day started at midnight and we ate what we could at this ungodly hour, grabbed our daypacks and under the glow of a near full moon headed up the Western Breach route. This route is extremely steep compared to the normal routes and, offered us a challenging way to the summit. From the onset it was cold and I soon realised we had under estimated how cold it would get. I looked at the thermometer the temperature was minus ten and I was feeling each and every degree that had fallen below zero. As the sun rose we hit some flat ground and before us stood the most fantastic ice cliffs.
At 5700m we were chilled to the bone but only had 200m to gain. It didn’t look far now, we could see the outline of the wooden structure that marked the summit. Both of us were tired and numb beyond feeling. The emotions overflowed! We had made it, Christopher and I stood on top of another mountain but not just any mountain.
This was the second mountain in our quest to climb the highest mountain on the seven continents of the world.
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The expedition commenced with a little more than the normal flight out of Sydney, whilst we had arrived at Sydney Airport with several hours to spare but a solar panel that was to be used to charge our satellite phone had not. It was consider an integral piece of equipment for both safety and to ensure we had power to broadcast hopefully from the summit back to the Australian media.
So we waited and waited and waited to the point that we were standing outside the airport for a taxi who supposedly had it, and after countless phone calls time had run out and we were now left with less then five minutes till the plane was due to take off. Like a scene from a movie we ran to the terminal and after getting through security and Customs in record time we were further encouraged by airport staff to run for the plane. We got aboard fastened our seatbelts and in an instant the plane commence to taxi, we were on our way bound for mountain number three in our seven summits challenge.
After arriving in Mendoza Argentina we spent the next few days purchasing and hiring any equipment that we had not been able to obtain in Australia. We tested out our laptop and solved some minor problems that would now allow us to send video and still images directly to Australia or anywhere in the world from anywhere on the mountain.
The events that followed in the next week saw Christopher writing himself into history yet again this time before even reaching the foot of the mountain. After discovering we had been given the wrong information about what was required by the Aconcagua Park Authority, this left us unable to obtain a permit for Christopher to climb. The Park laws would not allow anyone under the age of 14 to trek above 3100m, we had to make a few hard decisions now do, we pack up and go home or try and find some way around this law. Our first decision was based on poor local advice and delayed the whole process by at least four days and was an adventure in itself. It wasn’t until after being referred to a local lawyer Arturo Erice Argumedo who was a fellow mountaineer that we began to resolve the problem. After gathering evidence and Christopher having four independent doctors examination including an ECG we then presented our case to a judge who made a resolution that although Christopher was only thirteen that he had previous mountaineering experience and their was no medical reason why he should not be able to climb Mt Aconcagua. This we are told has set a legal precedence in the Argentine Family Court and with some follow up legal work by Arturo will make it much easier for future youth not just to try and climb the mountain but even just go trekking in the park.
With Christopher’s permit in hand we set of on the walk in to base camp which we decide to do in just two day’s instead of three hoping to catch up on every day we could. Six valuable days of climbing time was lost getting the permit sorted out but at least we still had around ten day’s to give it our best. With heavy packs and limited food we made it too base camp in two days. On the third day we took a short walk up to 4600m and returned to sleep at base camp. Day four we carried equipment to camp one at 5000m. On day five we carried the rest of our equipment to camp one and slept there the night. Day six saw us carry food and equipment up to around 5800m just below camp two before returning to camp one to sleep. Day seven was a day of rest and with snow falling and white out conditions we had picked the perfect day for a rest, so we ate as much food and drank as much water as possible in preparation for the next two days efforts that would hopefully see us on the summit on day nine or at least by day ten. The morning of day eight brought the promise of clearing weather so we commenced slowly packing up gear and dropping the tent. And even though light snow was still falling we decide to move up the mountain. We had pre arranged to have a guide come down from camp two and assist with a safe move from camp one to camp two, but by midday we still had not met up with our guide or been able to raise any one from a higher camp for over two days. Our best option still seemed to go up to camp two that was until about half an hour up from camp one when we made radio contact with our senior guide who informed us that he and another guide plus one client had been involved in an epic three day climb on the Polish route and no one would be able to guide us up to camp two for three days. Further more that the three- day weather report stated there would be increasing snow and poor weather for the next three days. Our position had suddenly changed and although we had as good as climbed up to camp two already without a guide I considered the risk in poor weather for Christopher and I alone to be to great and made the decision to return to base camp as we only had enough food to last another day at camp one, this was agreed to by our senior guide at camp two. With this decision made we return to base camp with the intention of sitting out the weather for a day or two and hopefully still having enough time to get another shot at the top. The only flaw in this plan was that when we arrived at base camp all our guiding companies tents and food etc. had been transferred over to the other side of the mountain in preparation for their descent via the normal route. This left us with no food supplies or fuel for our stove other then what we had with us. After reconfirming the weather report with the Rangers station I went about the humiliating task of explaining our situation to a few of the remaining expeditions in base camp and managed to scavenge up two days food. Now with still a limited amount of food, small supply of stove fuel and further bad weather on the way that we new our summit chance was over and we need to get off the mountain and walk out in just two days. With heavy packs on and no option but to wear our plastic mountaineering boots for the 42 kilometre trek we slogged our way back to civilisation knowing if we took more then two days we would need to some how scavenge more food.
We eventually got out safely and back to Mendoza to discover that we had had a large amount of gear and clothes stolen. It seemed however that a good decision was made pulling out when we did as for at least five days afterwards the weather was bad and saw large dumps of snow on all the surrounding peaks. We flew home more than a little disappointed but already planning our next attempt on Mt Aconcagua.
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The 12th September saw school boy Christopher Harris stand atop Europe’s highest mountain, Mt Elbrus, 5642 metres, in the Caucasus mountain range of Russia, around 150 kilometres from the site of the recent horrific massacre in Beslan.
Christopher’s climb of Mt Elbrus, the youngest known ascent of the mountain by an Australian, was achieved in unseasonally cold conditions, an ambient temperature of minus twenty degrees Celsius, was made even more extreme by a considerable wind chill factor of at least minus forty degrees Celsius.
It was so cold that Christopher found it impossible to eat hardly any food as it was frozen solid, making the climb even more difficult because of a lack of any calories to produce energy.
His accompanying cameraman, who had to remove his gloves to film, suffered frostbite to four of his fingers and his thumb. Christopher’s climb had been put in jeopardy by impossible weather conditions in the days leading up to the ascent. This combined with the delayed arrival of his climbing equipment, meant he was forced to carry out acclimatization walks in the lightweight trousers he left Sydney Airport in, shrugging off the bitter cold knowing that with out acclimatization walks, any attempt would fail!
Christopher reached the summit of Mt Elbrus at 1.50PM on 12th September accompanied by his father Richard Harris and cameraman Michael Dillon.
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This expedition is happening now! Please see the News page for updates.
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Christopher Harris (age 14), Richard Harris, Michael Rofe, and Michael Dillon.
We were able to fly in a day earlier than first planned, a good omen for any expedition on this mountain of unpredictable weather. Everyone was aware of stories of people waiting up to a week to fly both in and out of Base Camp. The first few days of the expedition saw us pushing on from one camp to another without having to do a carry of gear in between like most expeditions, we were all fit, and were acclimatising well, everyone was carrying around 25kg on both their sled and in there backpack. We decided it was only necessary to do one carry before our camp 4 (Basin Camp) at 14,300 feet / 4,300m and that was just for the safety of navigating a dangerous section of the mountain known as Windy corner, where strong gusts of wind can send an unroped climber to his death. Fortunately we were roped and had nothing more than a breeze to deal with at this point.
Nine days after flying in we had established our selves at camp 4, food and equipment had been carried to 16,200 feet / 4,900m and we considered ourselves to be in an excellent position. Nighttime temperatures saw the thermometer drop to an average –15C inside the tent, this we were told was unseasonably cold. Day ten was a planned rest day and well deserved, things were looking good, that was other than the weather, which was turning from sunny skies to cloud and snow. The forecast was all bad and we spent most of the day building an improving our snow walls to protect our tents from the forecast storms. The wind raged that night and high winds and poor weather kept us in our tents for most of the next four days. Sunday 12th saw us rise early in freezing conditions, in an attempt to get an early start up the more than 200 metres of fixed ropes that lie between camp 4 and high camp at 17,200 feet / 5200m. An early start of sorts was achieved and we left camp just before 11.00am in strong winds (gusting around 60+kph) and cloudy almost white out conditions. By 4.00pm we had made it to the top of the Head Wall and commenced digging up our food and equipment that we had buried there six days ago. It took just on an hour to recover everything and load it into our already heavy packs. The wind was now blasting us from every direction, the question was should we go on or return to camp 4. We reluctantly all conceded that we needed to push on and commenced the precarious climb of the ridge, everyone carrying around 30kg, Christopher proving that age is know barrier for what is required on McKinley.
An arduous three hours past before we made it to High Camp (17,200feet / 5,200m), the wind had dropped on the ridge but as we approached camp it began to gust again. As we arrived at camp the temperature dropped, so much that Christopher and I were forced to put on our down suits to keep warm. I’m sure frostbite crossed all our minds as we franticly spent the next four hours digging down and building walls to protect us from the ever-increasing blasts of wind. It was after midnight before we crawled into our tents and were able to cook a hot meal. The wind kept up its attack all night but thanks to the hard work of digging in we were well protected. Morning of Monday 13th brought snow and calmer conditions, but the outside temperature was horrendous. I took of my gloves for a mere minute whilst outside, and had to scurry back inside the tent and find my down mitts to warm my fingers which were now throbbing with pain. All morning groups of climbers were preparing to leave for the summit; the first group left camp at around 1.00PM. This was the first attempt on the summit in at least a week. After yesterday’s push from camp 4 and the ordeal of digging in last night we were far to exhausted and rundown to attempt the summit until at least tomorrow.
It was extremely late in the day by the time the last climber headed up, that made around 60 climbers all heading for the summit. All but a handful made it, and it took them till around 3.00AM before they return to High Camp. We rested all day in our tents as snow fell and the wind blew, with only the occasional excursion outside that left one frozen to the bone. The temperature in the tent at night hovered around minus seventeen degrees Celsius, and I hate to think just how cold it was outside, probably some were around minus thirty. Tuesday 14th we awoke at around 9.00AM to slight snow-fall and the occasional gust, the plan was to go for the summit today or tomorrow, as we only had just enough food to stay till Thursday, if we wanted to keep a two day emergency supply of food just in case we became stuck at high camp in a storm.
The word spread quickly amongst the camp that high winds and snow were blasting the summit, and no one was going up. It wasn’t looking good for us today; we needed to leave by midday to allow a safe twelve hours or more to get to the summit and back. At 11.30AM (5.30AM in Australia) I rang Cheryl (Christopher’s mother) back in Australia from the satellite phone for the latest forecast. Cheryl gave us the bad news, oncoming stormy weather that was set to worsen by the end of the week, with increasing strong winds between 50 to 80km/ph today and tomorrow before snowfall on Thursday.
It was certainly a different forecast to the one we had received just a few days ago that was showing Tuesday and Wednesday as sunny with winds down to 15 to 20 km/ph.
It seemed the mountain had turned on us, just as we thought we had it beat. The hard decision now was should we sit it out till Thursday and hope the weather changed yet again, or head down the mountain with plenty of time to sit out a storm and descend safely not having to rush down in just a day or two like most.
We spent an hour or more discussing what the options were, but unfortunately the decision lay squarely on my shoulders, and after considering the ramifications of the forecast and our food supply, I felt the only safe option was to go down. And with the knowledge that we had just spent seventeen days getting to this point, we reluctantly packed up the tents and prepared for the descent down.
The descent was far from straight forward, our first bit of action was on the fixed lines when we were involved in our own little rescue, and continued with some exciting moments trying to stop the heavily laden sleds from dragging us down the mountain. After an exciting and tiring three days we made base camp and by Thursday afternoon we were able to fly out to civilisation knowing we had all learnt a lot and given it our best shot.
Back in Talkeetna we met up with an experienced mountaineer, he was one of the few that summated on Wednesday 15th, he described the storm that hit them on there descent at 2.00PM as the worst experience of his life and felt lucky to have survived.
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