We have a plan: a big one day push to Camp 2 to beat the storm that’s forecast for the 17th, and then wait the storm out in Camp 2. Moving on the next day to Camp 3, climbing the Lotse face, which was ice three weeks ago. Camp 3 is chiseled into the side of the steep face, exposed and no support for rescue 23,500 ft. We will be on oxygen from this point going forward.
I made it the first day to Camp 2 in fourteen hours and felt good doing it. The first trip to Camp 2 took me sixteen hours and I had a rest day at Camp 1. The climb into Camp 2 gave me a lot of confidence that the acclimating has worked. We have a cook and dinner tent at Camp 2, so from here out I need to make sure I eat all I can get. I have six dried meals and as we get above Camp 2 we have to make our own food and melt snow for water. Last trip, I got sick here and lost my appetite and went downhill quickly, but my HAPE medicine should keep that from happening again.
Having no Internet and down to pencil and paper (the only thing that works in high camp).
Climb journal May 17 Camp 2 21,500 ft. Snowstorm, windy.
We are hunkered down at Camp 2, sheltered and it is not too bad. Not the same at Camp 4 where they spent the night trying to keep their tent from blowing off and getting no sleep. The first team was too beat up to hit the 18th summit push. Over thirty tents and a lot of equipment were lost at Camp 4 without any summits. We are at Camp 2 still not on oxygen yet. The same is not true at high camp and oxygen and food will have to be supplied.
Climb journal May 18th Sunny still Camp 2
Another delay at high camp due to strong winds. Winds kept climbers in their tents another night, now on to summit push. We are still waiting at Camp 2, still off oxygen. Dan instructed first group they had to push next day or second team will not have oxygen or food. There are only three tents at Camp 4 and Camp 3, so coordinating to where we don’t end up in the same camp is critical. We are disappointed, but not nearly as disappointed as our Sherpa that have to walk all the way to base camp and pick up seventy-five pounds of oxygen, gas, and food, and return to Camp 2 the next morning before we leave for Camp 3 at 10 a.m. They will be walking and carrying loads all night.
The first team at Camp 4 also made a good call, as winds were too high. A group of German climbers tried and failed to make it.
Our new plan is to wait until Sherpa make it back, and then climb the steep Lotse face getting to Camp 3 late. My concern is getting there late and not being able to rest for the next day climb to Camp 4 at 26,500 ft. This will also impact our summit attempt if not rested. I am also concerned that our Sherpa are not getting proper rest or food, and they are looking very tired. Our weather forecast isn’t good – the monsoons have started and snow every day is predicted.
I am going through ups and downs, sitting in tents all day. My mornings are hopeful and confident, listening to radios and others talking outside tent. I stay in all day, and by the time night comes I am full of questions and self-doubt. I still feel strong physically, but the emotional roller coaster is taking its toll.
The mountain is getting packed as two hundred people are now in high camps.
Climb journal May 19 Sunny Camp 3 23,500 ft.
Team 1 makes summit push between 9a.m. and 11 a.m. the next morning and everyone makes the summit. At the same time we push to Camp 3, the morning starts with two rescues just above Camp 2. A Sherpa breaks a leg, and then when we get to the Lhotse face, another Sherpa falls to his death right in front of our team. Eight Sherpa make it to the body, secure it, and carry it to Camp 2 to execute another rescue. The snow makes the climb to Camp 3 much easier and now we all are breathing oxygen.
Camp 3 tents are cut into the side of the slope and are wet and uncomfortable. Tendu and I share the tent, and melt water and cook my first dried meal. I got a few bites down, but I really have no appetite. Tomorrow will be the hardest climbing day yet to 26,500 ft. including more of the Lhotse face yellow band, which requires rock climbing with crampons and finishing off with the Geneva Spur, a very steep last pitch into Camp 4.
I only end up with a liter of water, which I tell Tendu is not enough for fourteen hours of hard climbing. He said he would get them from other Sherpa coming down. I start begging for water early, and Dan is climbing with us and leaves me a bottle. Basia gives me a half bottle, which gets me to Camp 4 a little dehydrated. I cook another meal and can’t eat it either.
Climb journal May 20 C4 26,500 ft.
Climb to Camp 4 was another long hard day. I got to camp after 9 p.m. shot. Our plans are to wait twenty-four hours and start our push on the 21st at 7 p.m. I hope to recover by then. I ate my first dried meal the next morning – biscuits and gravy. It actually was good and I ate most of it. Haven’t eaten much the last two days and know that I have to force down as much as I can today.
We pass the jubilant Team 1 making their way down from Camp 4, where they spent the night after a successful summit. They give us encouragement, saying summit push was easier than climb to Camp 4. They all looked good, but Mike and Basia had some snow blindness and HAPE but were moving well. They had the option to stay in Camp 3 or make it on to Camp 2 where there were more tents and better shelter and food.
We get to Camp 4 with another two deaths. One, a thirty five year old Australian woman climbing with her husband, and the other a Dutch man, aged 36. Both were fit, experienced climbers but I think were affected by HAPE. The lady was being carried down; she died on the Geneva Spur. She was a vegan and trying to show what vegans can accomplish. Not sure that’s the cause of her death. Paula, with our group summited with Group 1 and is also a vegan. The Dutch guy summited the night before and struggled on the way back to Camp 4. He was in the tent close to ours, and we could hear him struggling to breathe. When we got up in morning he was dead. They put him in a black body bag and left him on the top of a big rock by the ropes to Camp 3. I’m not sure why, but he was still there when we descended to Camp 2 the next day. I have now seen three deaths and not started the push up. It’s a cold reminder that we are now in the death zone of the mountain and rescue isn’t an option if you get in trouble.
So far the weather has been great for the climb to Camp 4 – sunny and no wind for two days in a row. Dan has decided that he is not going to summit. We are low on oxygen, and he will give his to the team and then he will drop to Camp 3 without oxygen where he will work rescue if needed.