After six weeks we start Saturday morning at two a.m. through the icefalls. The last two weeks have been painful waiting for a doctor to say I am good to continue, waiting for ropes to be fixed, ox to be positioned on the mountain, and a good weather window, which we still don’t have. We have had a lot of snow since we were in high camps three weeks ago and that is a good thing. The steep face with black ice makes it hard on your feet to kick in crampons. Snow gives you steps and allows your crampons to dig in, plus there were people hit by falling rocks, which the snow sticks to the face and not as much of an issue. It is hard to see the impact the weather will have on us until we get to the high camps and get exposed. The strongest winds we have experienced so far were at base camp.
Thirty-two teams made up of three hundred and thirty climbers and Sherpa started pushing three days ago. Many of these teams were racing to be the first to summit, a title that went to a team of nine Sherpa. Since then, we have seen the headlamps moving through the icefalls at 2 a.m. with about 50 climbers a day starting. When we leave, there will be over half the climbers moving to high camps to wait for a summit push. That gets very tricky on one-rope areas like in the icefall, western cwn. Some of the deep crevasses you repel down one side and climb the other. Lotse faces about a 1,500 ft. ascent on one rope. Summit day has several more of these potential log jams that could possibly end a climb if you wait too long, exposed and get cold.
Our team is split into two groups now due to logistics and not enough tents at the high camps. James, Mike, Paula, and Basia started two days ago and are on a rest day at Camp 2. They were separated in the ice falls due to an overnight fall that the ice doctors had to fix, delaying them four hours of what already was a fourteen to sixteen hour day. Two climbers made it to Camp 2 and two climbers stopped short at Camp 1, joining the team today. Haven’t got the report yet today, but I hear Kaji on the radio with them and now they said this morning one is sick. Group 2 will have me, George, Les, Dan (leader), and Jonas and Franse (Lhotse) will be splitting off at Camp 3 and going to Lhotse summit. Franse, without oxygen, left with Team 1 and made the acclimatization climb to Lhotse Camp 4 and back to Camp 2 today and will join us there in two days.
My first challenge will be making it to Camp 2 on Day 1. It will be a 4000 ft. vertical elevation change that took me sixteen hours over two days the first time through. If I make it, I will meet up with my down suit and -40 degree bag I left there three weeks ago. I will be with a Sherpa all of the time. His name is Tenzdu. He climbed with me on first push, and was with me when I started having problems in the icefalls. While I was away at lower altitude eating pizza and cake, he was making trips to high camp carrying supplies and fixing ropes and tents. When I saw him, he was noticeably thinner. I have also lost a lot of weight unfortunately, including muscle mass. My arms look like an old man’s arms, and my belt is 4 inches shorter than when I started. Just fighting the cold burns calories, and we eat mostly carbs and sugar, and consume very little protein. It will give me something to work on when I get home. Day 2 is a rest day from our trip from Camp 1, Day 3 we move to Camp 3 and will be on oxygen until we come down, Day 4 we move to Camp 4, Day 5 rest until 9 p.m., when our summit attempt starts – twelve to sixteen hours up and six hours back to Camp 4 where we spend another night. Day 6 then in two big days go from Camp 4 to Camp 2 and then two more days down to base camp. In total we should be back in base camp in eight days, barring any delays due to bad weather. I am anxious, wanting to get started so I can get home. It has been very hard sitting around waiting the last two weeks. Other than the climb back to camp, I have done very little. Not sure how my lungs or my legs will hold up to eight hard days ahead.
My final doctor’s appointment was today and she asked me to go up. She said if I have any shortness of breath, trouble sleeping, or loss of appetite to come down. Unfortunately, if you ask anyone who ascends 4,000 ft. in one day they will have all three symptoms. She agreed it should be easier now that I am acclimatized and now that I know what HAPE feels like I will be on the lookout for that also. I forgot when I was trying to get down from Camp 2 that a helicopter landed and Mike from our team went to ask if I could get a ride down to the ER. The helicopter was transporting Allen Arnett, one of Everest’s biggest bloggers suffering with HAPE. He told us no, that he wanted to ride down by himself. He returned to Denver and is still blogging about Everest stuff. He probably won’t add this story to his blog. I walked thru the ice falls for twelve hours to the ER, and was diagnosed with the same ailment
The Sherpa call me Baji, which means old man in a respectful way (I think). I look like an old man in Africa on Kilimanjaro where they called me Baboo – Swahili for grandpa. The Sherpa want me to make it to the top and will do everything they can to make sure it happens. They can’t control the weather or my health; so many things are outside everyone’s control. I just know I feel good and am ready to start.
I will be dark for the eight days of the push, then the logistics of getting home so I will probably not send another message until the long flight home. Then, I can send photos and tell the ending. Thanks again for everyone’s support and the late night emails of encouragement. Till my next message, I’m just trying to stay warm.