Made it to Camp 2! Next stop Camp 3 -Everest

Camp 2 of Everest

Hello! First news, we made it back from Camp 2 (21,300 ft.) on April 27th! First successful rotation on the mountain complete!  I have been resting at Base Camp the past couple of days and let me tell you… I am loving the thicker air and better sleep! I feel like a new woman :) No doubt Everest showed me she’s in charge! We go back up on Thursday and this time with the goal of sleeping one night at Camp 3 (24,500ft) for one night and part of our second rotation on the mountain. So resting up for that big push!So now I have been gone a month and have the hardest month ahead to go, the mental game of this climb has begun. Setting off on this first rotation on the mountain made it feel like this expedition was really finally on its way. Of course there were moments of pure exhaustion and feeling like I was never going to get to the next milestone, but it was just one foot in front of the other that was going to get me there.  I was reminded how brutally cold this mountain can be and also how it can feel like it is cooking you alive.

At each point of discomfort, I always remind myself how fortunate I am to be able to be pursing this dream and why I am doing it. That thought tends to bring an instant calm and focus. I am staring to miss and crave things, mainly loved ones and close friends, warmth at night, certain foods…and I am a total girl and can’t wait to put on a dress and some heels again haha. I am really missing my little guy, Oliver, the best little cat around. I had a hilarious dream last night that I went to Hawaii with my best friend to get a little rest before the big summit push ;)

The next 3 weeks are critical, we have one more rotation up the mountain to Camp 3, then we will drop down to a nearby village to rest for 4-5 days before the summit push, which can be anywhere from mid to late May. My focus is on staying strong and healthy, keeping up my appetite, getting sleep, and getting my mind ready to play the biggest mental game of all when it comes time to push for the summit. Each day I am reminded of how amazing our earth and what a special place this is. My favorite is looking out my tent at night and seeing each star twinkle.I have met some very kind and amazing people here and grateful for new friendships and for seeing some familiar climbing faces around. The mountain is becoming smaller and it is nice to see smiles along the way up the mountain, especially when you are not feeling top notch. 

I have had to say goodbyes already to Ally and Rob on our team that were just planning to stay to reach Camp 3, they did awesome and we will miss them. Also some other new friends doing research here on the mountain have gone back down the valley. Goodbyes are always bitter sweet.

There are supposedly 282 climbers attempting Everest this year, and at least 20 or so have already gone home if not more due to multiple reasons.  So we shall see how this season turns out. There is still a lot of work to be done on the mountain in terms of setting ropes to camp 3, the South Col, and the summit! A big huge thanks to the climbers, expedition leaders, Sherpas, and Ice Doctors involved in paving the way for all of us to get a chance to pursue our dream of seeing and feeling what the top of the world is like. None of this would be possible without a collective effort.

So since I last wrote we did try to go up to Camp 1 on April 20th, but after getting just about an hour or so away we had to turn around due to high winds and excess snow! It was a bummer indeed, but just how it goes. The mountain decides how high you can go up, not you. So I hung around Base Camp waiting for better weather. It was cool though, I got to meet new people from other teams and also connect with some of the other lady climbers on the mountain. So far I have met 13 of the lady climbers and I am guessing there are no more than 25 ladies on the hill this year from what I have seen. I know there two or three women guides on the mountain from Russia and New Zealand.  I also have only met one other American woman climber on the mountain, Melissa Arnot, who holds the record for most Everest summits for a Female (4 summits). I am still on the hunt for other American ladies, but have met most of the teams and have yet to find one. Most of the ladies are from India, Argentina, Portugal, Japan, Brazil, Russia, China and Korea I believe. Perhaps the most inspiring story of these ladies is that of an Indian climber who is attempting to summit with one leg. She was pushed onto an oncoming train and lost her leg and has an above knee amputation. She is quite an extraordinary young lady and inspiring us up the hill. I saw her last as she was approaching Camp 1 a couple of days ago, as I was on my way down from Camp 2. I have to say it is awesome that all of us ladies are encouraging one another as we see each other in passing up the hill, even if it is just a brief smile, I love that we are all acknowledging one another and wishing one another well. 

So on the 24th we made the push to Camp 1 (19,900 ft.) from Base Camp. We set off about 4:45 AM and made it about noon. Everest kicked my butt that day! I found the ice fall a bit more challenging than in my 2011 attempt. It just felt a bit longer and well there were more awkward ice formations that seem like they are just waiting to fall! There were less ladders though. The ice fall doctors say there are about 30 total. There were long queues that day, as everyone had been waiting for good weather to make the push, so we had expected it to be crowded. We waited at least 30 minutes, in line for one of the ladders that probably lay in the most danger of an ice formation falling. Thus, we waited down below to not be in the danger zone. Somehow the hours fly by in the ice fall. You are so focused on clipping into the ropes, climbing safely across ladders, and just in awe of where you are walking. I had my first instance of frozen hands for the trip and it was an instant flashback to last time. I was wearing thinner gloves as we were moving and I was afraid of getting too warm, but waiting in those long lines chills you quick and so by the time I changed gloves, my hands were a slight shade of purple and Ang Kami helped me put on my big mitts and add extra layers to warm up my core. That is the fine balance of layering appropriately at all times…you never want to be too warm or too cool. Yet, as you walk through the ice fall at moments you get sun and then suddenly that beautiful sun could be blocked by a huge piece of ice and then well you are insta cold. Regardless of the dangers of the ice fall, it is still probably one of my favorite parts of the climb, and one of the most challenging. It is like a rite of passage and it allows you to really step into the western cwm and feel like you are actually on Everest!

It was a great feeling getting into Camp 1 and knowing that I could rest a bit and prepare for another push the next day. I had the wonderful surprise of having our camp next to Alpine Ascents and so I got to visit with Vern Tejas, a friend and my very first guide on my Seven Summits climbs in Russia on Mt. Elbrus. Ally and I shared a tent and we also took some time to get some awesome pics at dusk. 

The next day the 25th we headed to Camp 2…we only hit one long ladder queue, but Ally and I had to remind some of the climbers waiting to cross about proper etiquette to let one and other alternate. It took me about 3.5 hours to get there and the last bit to camp was a slog, but beautiful and amazing to be in the Western Cwm. I had a lot of memories rushing through my head of the last time walking up to Camp 2. Just like last time, I finally felt like the expedition was beginning and I was walking on the mother of all mountains.

I got to visit with new and old friends at Camp 2 and take a little stroll to the base of the Lhotse Face with Ally, as the ropes to Camp 3 were not yet ready. As you may have heard in the news, there was indeed an incident at Camp 2 over rope setting up the Lhotse Face between some world renowned climbers and the Sherpas. I rather not get into the brawl that took place a day after heading back down to Base Camp, but I am sure if you Google it, you can read about it. I find it sad that violence and egos are exploding at this special place, but so it goes.  We are all fine and no need to worry. My last night at Camp 2, I decided to take the advice of taking a quarter tablet of Diamox to help me sleep, as it is quite tough to up there, but I WILL NEVER do that again! OMG that little quarter tablet had the reverse effect and kept me up all night. I was WIRED! Needless to say, I got about an hour or two sleep then was up at 5 AM to head back down to Base Camp. Sleeping at Base Camp was the best present in the world :)

Our team has split in two and Ronnie and I from Adventures Global will be on the same rotations going forward and the other two climbers are sticking to one rotation. I am confident in Ronnie and my plan and we are taking the more traditional approach of having two rotations on the mountain before dropping down to rest before the summit push. You cannot rush this climb or mountain…things happen on her schedule, not yours.

Well, I have to hike back to Base Camp and one more day of rest before the push up to Camp 3… Ronnie and I will head up with Ang Kami and Jang Bu, our amazing Sherpas that are incredibly talented, kind, and rock stars on the hill. I know all I can do is my best, and I pray mother nature and my body cooperate for the rest.

Keep us in your thoughts and prayers.

To learn more about why I climb and support our efforts, please visit here. Everest for Congo 2013!

Much love!
G