Post 11: Getting Home

Next morning there are now five deaths.  We wake to a sunny day, but my legs are still not working well. We get dressed and start down, and Les and George have already left. The plan is to go from Camp 4, meet Dan at Camp 3, and keep going down to Camp 2.  I pass the Dutch guy still in a bag, and 2 Indian climbers in yellow suits that have been moved down above the Geneva Spur.  They were not struggling and looked peaceful. I start slow and gain strength as I get lower, make it through the Geneva Spur, and repel the yellow band with no problems. I descend the Lotse face and meet Dan at Camp 3.  I continue down to Camp 2, and make it off the face and have a half-mile of flat before I start shutting down again. Dan checks my oxygen out and the mask is suffocating me, I take it off and continue very slowly.  I get to Camp 2 at 1130 p.m.; everyone is in their tents asleep. I get another bottle of oxygen and go to sleep.

I wake early and get to the kitchen tent and find Les and George. They bring us Spam and mustard and it is the first meal I have had in days.  We talk about the terrible things we saw and our plans. I struggle to tell the story, as we all are emotional.  Les and George are Marines, both deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq. Les has seen some bad things, he tells me we did what we could for the dying climbers and forget about it. The next move is from Camp to base camp, then the long trek to Lukla.  I am moving slowly and know I will not make it through the icefalls before noon and have to spend another night at high camp to recover enough.

I make the call for a helicopter to arrive in two hours. I grab my gear and make it to the helipad, hope to leave all our gear, and get Les and George on but the chopper lands and said only one passenger.  I quickly tell everyone goodbye and load in the chopper, put headsets on, and the pilot informs me that it is too warm and he may not get off the mountain. He also disconnects his oxygen to shut the door and when he puts his headset on he tells me he is fucked.  The brief time without oxygen has him too dizzy to fly and he asks me to check his hose and make sure his oxygen tank is not empty.  Everything is good and after another ten minutes with rotor spinning, he lifts off.  He bounces gets six feet off the ground spins and after he clears the helipad, we free fall to Base camp.  I unload, meet Kenji and Yangie with my other bags, load another helicopter, and within a few hours I am in Lukla.  I get to Namaste Lodge still in my summit suit and heavy boots, check on flights tomorrow to see if I can get out of Lukla and I will make it home in 36 hours.

I get lucky and get out. I make my flights from Lukla to Kathmandu to Doha to Chicago to Evansville and home without a glitch. I eat pizza and a beer in Lukla and get sick. I don’t care. I have a toilet to sit on, a shower, and I find a barber to cut my hair and shave me so I don’t scare people when I get home.  My face is burnt with a spot of frostbite on my cheek, my legs are back, but still will not win a race. I sleep, eat and write my notes on the flight home. My expedition isn’t finished until I make it home, and I treat it as I was still making it from camp to camp. I land with Lisa waiting and my expedition is finally over.

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