CTSS and their logistics partner TAG Nepal put on an amazing expedition, all the way from the insulated basecamp tents to the calibre of the climbing Sherpas to the high end oxygen systems. Basecamp was extremely comfortable with padded dining chairs, carpet, and heating, thick mattresses in the personal tents, and then there was the huge chillout tent known as the Big House. For those with extra Dollars an upgrade to exec level tents was possible bringing the comfort level up another notch. Intermediate camp 2 facilities also provided that little bit of comfort, with an insulated dining tent, decent food and a great placement high up in the Western Cwm. The higher camps were as expected, the Sherpas making sure that we wanted for nothing. Accurate weather forecasting ensured we eventually made the summit and as usual the highly qualified Sherpa team were faultless throughout. In my case, requiring a helicopter evac, the guiding team did everything necessary to get me off the mountain and on to Kathmandu for treatment. Wouldn't hesitate to climb with Mike Hamill and CTSS in the future.
IMG is the gold standard for climbing Everest. The provide all the resources necessary to summit and get down while at the same time minimizing the risk. The expense of climbing Everest has less to do with getting to the top but having the necessary resources when something goes wrong,. IMG has huge number of resources to deploy in terms of manpower, both Sherpas and Guides, O2, and Experience. This was on clear display in 2015 during the Nepal Earthquake and when I returned and summited in 2019
Deciding to climb Everest isn't something that you do overnight. You climb a lot of hills on the way and see lots of well run and less well run expeditions. Tim runs a small, less commercial climb and while that appealed to me (along with the price tag), on reflection it came with additional risk and lower quality than expected and ultimately we were at the mercy of bad decision making from our leader. Tim is a quirky guy I'm sure he is some climbers cup of tea, I would suggest getting to know him very well in advance so avoid surprises. Even those climbers I have met which like him and are in awe of his achievements accept he is not everyones cup of tea. On the mountain the main reason I will mark this trip down is 2-fold 1) Logistics logistics logistics. Radios which didn't work. Not providing the sherpa cover as promised. Borrowing and listening in on other teams weather and sometimes not having a forecast as a result. 2) Leadership and decision making. I still cant believe what he did on our summit push, and frankly those of us on this trip are often looked at in disbelief by climbers, expedition leaders and lay people alike when we detail what happened. We went for an early summit but aborted before camp 3 as a result of heavy snows and failed rope work higher up. We returned to base camp to wait for the next window and all decided as a team following review of the forecasts that we would take a break down in namche and recuperate. Two of the team walked to Namche, three of team took a helicopter. Just as everyone was settling down in Namche Tim contacted us to say he had spoken to the Ghurka team and changed his mind and thought we should go for summit immediately with them. Weather wasn't perfect but doable and the they would set the ropes themselves and we'd go right behind. We all discussed and decided that given this would be our last shot (as he explained it), we were tired and could use R&R, and there were still no ropes or summits yet in the season, we should stop focusing on being the first up the mountain and just fall in line for a later window. We weren't trying to be heroes. When we told Tim of the decision of the whole team, he said fine but I am going to climb with the Ghurka anyhow and take the assistant guide as he needs to get home early. So off went Tim and we were left with no comms for days. A new window opened which we missed as a result and then finally when Tim came back he suggested we wait despite there being another window. The assistant guide who Tim had brought promptly went home. Finally we did manage (thankfully) to find a window on the last day of the season. Tim suddenly "found out" he couldn't summit a second time without paying a further fee and as a result didn't end up climbing on our final summit push from camp 4 at all. Simply bizarre and certainly not as advertised. We made it so I won't give a 0 or 1 , but the risks were higher on this trip over other (largely more expensive ones to be fair) as far as we could tell - we had been willing to give up some pampering but had been sold on expert risk management. Tim disappearing for 6 critical days as the short weather window opened also gave us all a lot of stress as we started to think our trip was being ruined and we wouldn't get a shot at all. The silver lining is the climbers who went through this crazy experience have bonded and we're all now great friends for life