Down from Camp 3 and Resting Before the Final Push!

Hello from Pheriche! 4200m….I can breathe!!! :)

Amazing just two days ago I was at Camp 3 over 7000m or 24,000 feet. I spent 4 sleepless nights at Camp 2 (21,300 feet), and then took a little vertical stroll to visit Camp 3 at about 24,000 feet. So this completes my second rotation on the mountain and the next time I go up it will be for the real deal…our summit push!  That won’t be till after the 15th most likely so hang tight!

This climb and journey is a spiritual one for me, and one of self-growth and awareness. If I had to summarize feelings and emotions pre-climb and now during climb, it would be through the Coldplay song, Paradise…. http://youtu.be/J6ZWlDks0nQ  . Sometimes it’s easier to relate things through other means than words.

Our Second Push to Camp 2

Well there is a reason why you basically climb this mountain 3 times….your little body gets used to the thinner air little by little each time. Jang Bu, Tindy, and I set off from Base Camp on May 2nd around 5 AM and made it to Camp 2 around 1 PM. The trip through the ice fall was quite peaceful and finally felt like me and the mountain, as it was really just Jang Bu and I climbing together. I let big groups go by, so I wouldn’t feel rushed and could just enjoy it. I have decided that the ice fall is like an adult jungle gym J If you can get past the part that it is a dangerous place, you can actually feel like a kid in a magical maze. We only had once close call as we were just exiting the ice fall when a small avalanche came down with mixed snow and rock very close to the route. I couldn’t really mutter any words so I just called out to Jang Bu and pointed up and his eyes got really big and he started running up the fixed rope…I tried to follow his lead, but there was no way I could run that fast at above 19,000 feet! When we finally both stopped we just looked at each other and I was totally out of breath and then we laughed. “Close one,” I said…”no more running I hope!”

The stroll from Camp 1-2 was steady and uneventful, but it was getting COLD! By the time we got to Camp 2 it was snowing full on and Phuri met us at the base of Camp with some warm juice, which was AWESOME! That was a COLDDDDDDDD night and the beginning of four nights of no sleep for me :( I really struggle sleeping at Camp 2 and with not being able to take Diamox, I am afraid or hesitant to take sleeping aids at that altitude, especially with my heart beating as fast as it is. Also, when I do fall asleep, it is way deep and full of some crazy dreams, and then I wake up at times gasping for air. This is when the mind games begin,  but we’ll get into that later. The good thing is that I have still had an appetite up there! I have not lost much weight, which is really good news. I will need every little bit to get me up the rest of the way!  

A huge thanks to the amazing Sherpas of Adventures Global, who have been keeping me well fed with some really yummy food. Phuri, the main cook at Camp 2 is seriously incredible and just 3 nights ago went from Camp 2 to the South Col (26,000 ft.) with 30 kg of rope to be fixed on the mountain, and then was back in time to cook dinner with a big huge smile like he had just taken a stroll around the block! That last night at Camp 2 was pretty special, as Ronnie and I just ate dinner in the cook tent with the Sherpas and hung out as they prepared dinner. They really are amazing people and it was nice to have that time with them and some good laughs. Also, all the cooking pots made it much warmer and so we were all nice any cozy :

A Sad Day to Camp 3

Well they say bad things happen in 3 and boy did they on May 5th on Camp 3! Ronnie and my plan was just to set off from Camp 2 and go and “touch” Camp 3. I set off about 7 AM and was back by about 1 PM. The good news is we made it up and down safe and sound and in really good time. I was surprised, as I felt pretty lousy that morning and had no idea how I was going to push through! I was by then 3 nights of sleep deprivation and feeling pretty nauseous as a result.  Then after walking for less than an hour out of Camp I got news that a Sherpa from another team had died at Camp 3. He had had tea and then died shortly thereafter. Someone from his team shared the news with me on the route and it was a sad and sobering moment. My heart went out to his family and friends and in my head I just thought how now was the start of the accidents on the mountain, as the summit push got closer and everyone got higher up the mountain. It is a sad reality of this and many mountains unfortunately, and I was saddened by how desensitized we had to be to death, as we all just carried on up the mountain. 

Once I got on the actual Lhotse face it was full focus up this vertical sheet of ice and every step had to count! I was surprised I was breathing ok and moving relatively well, then as I looked up and down I thought, “Georgina, now you are having fun….you are totally fine and going to make it to Camp 3!” I was having fun, the challenge, the incredible landscape, the fact that this was a final rite of passage before the final push…it was all good. Yet, just before arriving to Camp 3, Jang Bu and I stopped to chat to another climber I knew and his Sherpa and then the Sherpa started smoking! Then I really felt like I couldn’t breathe and was amazed he could manage this cigarette! Just as I was going to ask Jang Bu to get away from this guy, this horrible call came in on the other Sherpa’s walkie talkie….I have honestly never heard screams like I did on that call :( 

Turns out on of the Sherpas from another team was hit on the back of the head by a falling piece of rock or ice on the Lhotse face! Luckily he was helped down to Camp 2 and helicoptered off the mountain to Kathmandu. I am not sure if he was climbing with a helmet ,but it is a sad reality that many Sherpa do not.  At that point Jang Bu told me that the mountain was too dangerous that day and that we would make it to Camp 3, drop our load, and head down.

As we approached Camp 3, Jang Bu went ahead to find our tents and then popped up and announced he had found them….I mustered out a “wooohooo!” We then chilled out with the Adventure Consultants crew and took a little rest. At that point, as I was about to start taking some photos, we saw the Sherpa body retrieval effort go by. It was very sad indeed and an incredible effort by over 7 Sherpas to get this body down. There are two sets of ropes going up the Lhotse face, so the body went down one set and all the other climbers used the other set of ropes whether going up or down.

Needless to say the one set of ropes got crowed quick, especially as there was a team of at least 15 headed up and about 15 of us headed down. At one point about 20 people were on one section of rope and 2 anchors! Trying to pass the team coming up consisted of clipping around them. At one point one of the climbers from that team coming up, took my safety off and just held onto it, I quickly grabbed it out of his hand and reclipped!  That is a big no no, you never take off someone else’s safety. Just one of the many problems of having inexperienced climbers on this mountain. Once we got down to Camp 2, I also found out a climber from another team had to be choppered off due to pulmonary edema. Basically, the same helicopter had to touch down on Camp 2 three times: to get the body, rescue the injured Sherpa, and rescue the ill climber. All very sobering and my heart went out to the families involved;  I was so very grateful we were all safe and a good reminder you can take nothing for granted on this mountain. Happy to be making my way up the Lhotse Face!Jang Bu showing me how it's done!

Sherpas are AMAZING

The human effort and spirit of the Sherpas is truly remarkable. I have said this before, but every day I am here I am moved and inspired by them and their genuine good heart and nature.  Just like Phuri went up to the South Col and back to Camp 2 in time to make dinner with a smile. Their physical strength and endurance is something super human. Their kindness and care after us westerners is extraordinary. I couldn't be here without them, like most on this mountain. Jang Bu, my Sherpa for this trip is incredibly kind and diligent about my safety and well being  He has begun to strategize with me about our summit push and gave me coaching tips for during my rest time. Meanwhile, while I am resting he will be pushing up to the South Col to make sure things are in place for our big push.  On our decent back through the ice fall, I was about to get on one of the vertical ladders when I looked over the ledge and was greeted by a big smile from one of the ice fall docs that was securing the ladder and cutting away excess rope. He said a nice big hello, asked which team I was on, then went down the ladder and called up, “didi, you can come now.” He was the sweetest and making all of our lives safer by securing ladders along the ice fall.
More on this in a future post as well.

The Everest Community

I mentioned this the last time, but climbing Everest takes a community and a big thank you to all the Sherpas, Ice Fall doctors, expedition leaders, doctors, and more that help keep us climbers safe. Even among the climbers, for the most part if we can help each other in some way we do. I was grateful for one of the Spanish climbers that happen to have eye drops at Camp 2 and helped me with my super sore eyes! It is really an incredible effort by an amazing community and more on that in future posts, but I wanted to acknowledge the fact, as I have become more aware and so very grateful. I know on the summit push things become a bit more cut throat, I did after all have about 15 people pass me as I fell ill on my last summit attempt, but I also recognize that is part of the deal. Things seem to change that night.

Mind Games

I alluded to this the last time, but the mental games have begun, especially in the sleepless nights in a freezing tent, or when people are falling ill around you. You have the moments of thinking “what am I doing here again.” Then you reach a major milestone and you realize that even though you are uncomfortable there is so much passion and love for what you are doing it and why you are doing it. This is an Everest for Congo climb and the women of Congo I read about back in 2007 in Glamour magazine gave me the drive and inspiration to turn a dream into a reality of climbing mountains. Their story and their strength gave me and still give me strength and have made an impact in my life to push limits I didn't think possible. It may sound crazy to many, but just the truth and how it happened.

Now while I say that, I have to be honest, as I have had some tough moments and second guessed myself and being here and the sacrifice and prep that has gone in the last 3 years trying to climb this one mountain twice! When you hurt from the cold, you think you will lose your mind from no sleep, and when your lungs hurt for that one bit of air to take another step; you have to dig deep and know why you are doing this and also have so much gratitude for having the opportunity to make your dreams come true and follow what is true to your heart. I don’t expect everyone to understand why this level of effort is worth it, it just is. That is what I have to remind myself. Everything here takes effort, and keeping a good mental attitude is key. Luckily there are lots of things and people to keep you inspired here and make you realize that you could actually do more. 

Rocks of Love

So in my previous blog I talked about choosing love over fear and I have to say this mountain has been reminding me of that with rocks of love, literally! So not only did I find the one little heart shaped rock I talked about last time, I have found more! Also, when I got back to Base Camp this last time, my tent had to be relocated while I was away. The Sherpa crew at Base Camp was kind enough to do this for me while I was away and put everything back in my tent perfectly, except for the little heart shape rock I had found before. I was pretty bummed and spent yesterday afternoon looking for it amongst all the other rocks around my tent, seemed like a hopeless effort at the time….BUT I FOUND IT! And on top of finding it, I found another heart shaped rock, and then found another one today.  These little rocks of love as I call them are my reminder to always choose love over fear and that love and kindness is all around in some way. Very grateful for these little signs from above. Also a nice reminder of the love and kindness that awaits when I get home.  Maybe this sounds cheesy, but I am a big softy for those who know me. 

Thick Air, Rest, and Reflection

So the plan is to rest at lower altitude, eat, sleep, and prepare for one last big final push! More to come, but I will be resting at least till May 12th down the valley. I will have access to email and internet and will update more as I know more. Now the waiting game begins for the weather window that will allow us all to try and see if we can indeed reach the top of the world! It will be later May as weather is looking bad for the next week.  I plan to get some yoga in, short hikes, and visits to the nearby monastery-I will be heading to Deboche for the remainder of the rest period and it sits in the middle of a forest, so I get to see TREES and rhododendrons! :)

I had to wish some of my new climbing friends good luck, as we might now be on different summit bid schedules, so there is a chance I may not see them until after the push. That was a bit sad too, as there is a big part of me that wishes we could all go up together. 

New Oxygen Strategy and Health

Things will be different for me this time going up, and I will be sleeping on oxygen at Camp 3 on the summit push, not spend a night at the South Col before our summit push if we can avoid it, and use a different flow of oxygen at different stages of the summit push. I have talked it through with Jang Bu and Ronnie and many of the other guides and Sherpas on the mountain and feel confident in the plan and feel I will be in a better position this time. I hope and pray that mother nature and my body cooperate this time, but as I said nothing can be taken for granted here. Like I mentioned I have lost less weight than last time! This is really good news and my appetite is going strong :) I have been taking aspirin and stretching tons to counter balance another medicine I am on that can cause blood clotting, so no problems there either. I had had trouble on my first rotation to Camp 2 with extreme leg and muscle spasms in my tent, but that is all resolved now. As for my eyes, the eye drops are doing wonders!


What I Miss

I am definitely more home sick this time than the last time I was here.  I am dreaming of warm places and yummy foods-what I wouldn’t give for some gallo pinto and queso frito, pupusas, Porto’s Bakery, a nice juicy steak!  I miss my close friends and loved ones. I missed getting dressed up. I miss dancing. I miss clean sheets and a warm bed. I miss Oliver my cat. I miss the beach and seeing the water. Being without puts things in perspective, so for that I am grateful and feel blessed.

As for the dancing….I have my fair collection of cheesy dance music and so when it’s safe and I am not in a hazard climbing zone, I put my ear buds in and have my own little dance party like today on my 5 hour hike down to Pheriche :)

If you want a taste of my selection here you go!
David Guetta http://youtu.be/JRfuAukYTKgNe-Yo http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=crrOl0egI00Havana Brown http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NenYxo0ko10Morgan Page: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WyK_82zrfTYChromeo: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6XCcWlgVqHA

And of course, there is old school Snoop Dog, Dr. Dre, and keeping it chill with Pretty Lights :)

Well more soon, I am healthy and in good spirits and grateful for being here. Thank you for those that have sent warm messages of support and encouragement. They really mean so much. A big shout-out and thank you to my two friends that made this journey possible for me. You are in my thoughts every day and you know who you are :)

As always, if you would like to support our efforts, please visit here and share with others if you can :)  All proceeds to go International Medical Corps and V-DAY for their efforts for women in Democratic Republic of Congo and you can learn more on our website….all donations are tax deductible and none of the funds to go to the climbing expenses.
Almost down to the home stretch! 

Big hugs,
G