Respect for the Mountain...Always
In one more month we will be flying off the mountain!! Hard to believe we have been here a month and we have only made it to Camp 2 (6400m) and today I write you from Pheriche (4200m). Pam, Mango, Kevin, BG, Roger, and I decided to venture down to Pheriche for our altitude recovery before our final summit push. Typically climbers go down to lower altitude to recover from the time at high altitude just before the summit push. Since our schedule got pretty messed up with this storm, we are still not sure if we will be able to go for another rotation on the mountain before our summit push. As of now the plan is to go back up to the mountain on the 7th and go to Camp 3, then come down to BC rest a couple of days and then go for the summit push. It is an aggressive plan and will be tough to get this all done, but bottom line it is up to Everest...all plans must be run by her and she must give her stamp of approval.
SOOOO yesterday the six of us decided to head out from BC once we heard the plan that we would not be up the mountain again until the 7th and this may be our only chance to head to lower altitude to recover. We made it to Pheriche(4200 m) in 5 hours plus an hour lunch stop in Lubuche (fried rice...yum...yum...yum...yum). It was nice to make it down fast considering it took us two days to go up this way when we first started this trip...just shows how much we have acclimated and gotten stronger. Mango led the way for us, as he knows this valley like the back of his hand after last season and other trips to Nepal. It was a little odd leaving BC, my home for the last few weeks and leaving part of the team there, but I felt it was the best thing for me right now. We are staying at this nice little lodge the Himalayan Hotel, where we have our own toilets in our shared rooms!! This is huge, not freezing your butt off in the middle of the night in the snow when you have to go to the bathroom. It is all whole 500 rupees a night for two, which is like $3 per person :) Anyhow, we are eating to our hearts content!!! Last night half of us ordered two dinners and then the other half of us had Snickers Pie for dessert (that would be me). Snickers pie is a Snickers bar shoved in a dough pastry shell and baked till it mostly melts....ummmm...delicious :) So we are all realizing how big our appetites really are and pigging out!! BG can't get enough chicken...wonder if there will be any chickens left by the time our whole group leaves!! (kidding of course)I really need it, as when I put on my trekking pants yesterday, I realized how much weight I have lost. I had to use some extra climbing rope to tie my pants up to keep them up while heading down the trail. So my main objective for coming down is to eat and gain weight and sleep!! :) I slept 8 hours last night, the first in a long time since I arrived on the trip and I felt amazing this morning!! Pam and I and the rest of our crew here are doing well, healthy, and feel we made the right decision to come and recover down below.
When I woke up yesterday morning, I knew it was time to go and was really hoping Pam would agree, as I did not want to go without her...soooo glad she also was ready to head out as well :) Don't get me wrong, our life at BC has been really nice and Sherpa cooks are excellent and feed us till we cannot eat anymore :) As I was chatting with one of the docs today, she told me weight loss at altitude is almost unavoidable, no matter how much you are stuffing your face, which I have been!! Hence, why we came down to lower altitude to recover.
Today we explored Pheriche, which took hmmm 30 min :) It is really a cute little town, lots of cute Yaks, a couple of cute pups, warm people, and it's green. When Pam and I were hiking in, we both agreed it reminded it us of being in the middle of remote Ireland, instead of sheep, there were Yaks :) We went to visit the docs at the clinic in town and learned that 15-20 people have been helicopter evacuated from Base Camp this season so far for many reasons. We had breakfast (cheese omelet) and lunch (grilled cheese and fries) and now sit in the lodges' sun room, which is more like a refrigerator room, as the sun has left and there is a wicked snow storm outside....guess that storm is finally moving up the valley. I can only imagine what the weather must be like up above and glad we are safe and nearly warm :) Weather calls on the mountain are always tough..things can change overnight. For now, we trust our guides and Sherpas on their decision to bring us down and just hope for the best in this next month. We will leave here and head to Base Camp on the 5th and be back at BC on the 6th.
In talking to locals and other teams, the weather on Everest this year has been said to be the worst in a loooong time! One guy today at the med clinic who has lived here 60 years said he predicts the monsoon is coming late....only time will tell. One of the hardest things about climbing Everest is the WAITING. You come here to climb a mountain, and a big one at that, and instead, you wait....and you wait alot. Meanwhile, your body deteriorates at altitude, you lose muscle mass, you lose weight, and you try to fight off any bugs. So you show up a rockstar, super fit, toned, strong, and over time you get weak and yet you still have this huge mountain to climb. It is a mental game, gotta stay strong, hope for the best, pray for good weather, and stay positive!!. I believe everything happens for a reason, not sure why this storm had to throw a dent in the schedule and may make things a little tougher for us, but it is what it is and all part of the experience. I have been reading a lot about Buddhism while I have been up here and I really embrace their practice of it is not about what happens to you, but more about how you react to it :) For now, we are enjoying eating and sleeping and getting stronger again for what is to come.
Tomorrow we plan to hike to Dingboche to visit Mama's Bakery :) The next stay Pam and I will hike to Alma Dablam's Base Camp (6 hour trip) and check that out...she is also a beautiful mountain. After that we shall see, we definitely plan to keep active and exercise everyday we are here to get stronger.
Thanks again to everyone for their support and encouraging messages....this is an experience of a lifetime for sure.
Well, there was a plan, Camp 3, but then Everest decided No. I thought I would not be in touch till the 4th or so, as the plan was to head up to Camp 1, 2, and 3 in a 8-10 day rotation on the mountain. We made it to Camp 2 and spent two nights there and then yesterday morning found out a storm was headed our way on Friday and could last up to 6 days, so we had to come down. Better safe than sorry! So now we are safe at Base Camp once again....and now we wait! Not sure if there will be time for another rotation on the mountain to make it to Camp 3 for acclimatization, or we may just have a single push...meaning one more rotation with summit push included. It is up to Everest....all respect to her mighty majesty, as she will only let us go as far as she wants to and we have to play by her rules. She is not going to let us visit her precious summit easily, that's for sure...hmmm Everest, how many times do we have to climb you?!? As if once wasn't hard enough...lol ;)
SO...most of us made it to Camp 2 in a single, but TOUGH push. It took me 12 hours to get there with a 40 min break at Camp 1 (we left just before 5 AM). The trip to Camp 1 took me a little under 7 hours again, except this time by 6:30 AM my hands were FREEZING!! I had to stop and add hand warmers....too bad they didn't actually start working till about 10:30 AM!! See hand warmers need oxygen to activate and well at this altitude they take a lot longer to take effect. Big reminder for me for our push to Camp 3 and the summit push. I was doing punches in the air, waving my arms in the air, anything I could to get the blood pumping to my fingers. My right thumb and index finger were the worst, as that is where I got frost nip on Denali....it was not a fun reminder. Jang Bu also tried to warm my hands up by sticking them in his jacket and I was counting and praying for the sun to shine on the ice fall, as I knew that would make life A LOT better. Jang Bu also had a pair of extra little light wool gloves that he put on top of my liner glove and then we shoved my inner mitt gloves on...with the hand warmers inside too. Mind you this whole time Jang Bu was only wearing little light wool gloves and just fine, not cold at all. So not sure what my deal was, I know I suffer from cold hands, but it was a little much!! The sun finally hit us about 9:30 am and I was cheering :) I thought that by leaving with my mitt inner liners I would have been plenty warm...lesson learned for next time! The nice thing about the ice fall is that it is distracting, so although my hands were cold, I still had to focus on where I was stepping, clipping in, and just overall paying attention to my surroundings. Also, each time you go through it, it is a little different. For example, this time a section I was able to climb up before, I ended up doing this split maneuver to get up! It was pretty funny and I think I gave some of the Sherpas going down a good laugh. I guess those yoga classes paid off...lol. It is also very beautiful and although the sun did not directly hit us until about 9:30, we had daylight within an hour of leaving BC. On a side note, we saw a dog coming down from Camp 1 :( Not sure why they brought him up there, but this little guy was going down the ice fall and also being carried across ladders....I do not think he liked the ladder crossings very much and looked freaked out :(
At Camp 1, we had a little 40 min break and grabbing what we had left up there from the last trip-my sleeping bag, mat, and some extra warm clothes. I had a bar and some GU and then it was off to Camp 2. I told Jang Bu to go ahead of me, as there was no need for the poor guy to go as slow as I do, with his heavy pack. I knew he could book it to Camp 2 in no time, as to where it would take me quite a while and it DID! He made it to Camp 2 in a little under 2 hours, whereas it took me about 4 hours! It was a tough slug up to Camp 2, we are all not sure why, as the route is pretty easy and not inclined very much at all...it is like a baby roller coaster...not even. Anyhow, that push from Camp 1 to Camp 2 was a loooooong slug as for like 2 hours you can see Camp 2, but just not reach it. I guess normally this is the easy part of the climb and a quick 2 hour stroll....well not this time. We saw an avalanche come down as we were walking and it seemed pretty close....but not too close obviously. When I was about an hour from the actual Camp, Jang Bu appeared with a thermos and hot juice :) He told me how he had made it in under 2 hours and then grabbed my pack, which didn't have a whole lot in it at that point, but still I was soooo grateful for the help, cuz I was tired and he showed me the rest of the way. That day I had tighten my waist belt on my pack just below my rib cage, to avoid friction on my hips with my harness and well, it killed my ribs...it felt like I had done hours worth of stomach crunches. When we were almost to Camp 2, I got to meet Squash, a 30 year British girl that plans to paraglide off the summit!! I look forward to learning more about her proposed plan :)
So we were at Camp 2 for two nights. On our second night we got 18 inches of snow about. Pam and I were pounding our tent at night to get the snow off and keep the ventilation, but the Sherpas also came around and made sure all our tents were not buried as well. While at Camp 2 we got to see the Lhotse Face and part of the route up to Camp 3. It did look pretty intimidating and it will be a big push to get up there, 1000 m from Camp 2. It was cool to be at Camp 2 and feel a little closer to the mountain. It is a massive one and we definitely haven't scratched the surface!! We really haven't had a chance to experience the most challenging part of the climb. The views from Camp 2 are pretty amazing though and it gets chilly once the sun goes down!! We all got to try out our down suits up there which was neat :) They were pretty much mandatory attire for dinner since it got soooo cold at night. They work great though :) My second night at Camp 2 was a painful one, as I did something to my neck in my sleep...I maybe got an hour or two sleep total! At one point Pam and I both sat up in the tent at the same time in the middle of the night and we both agreed we couldn't sleep. I was trying to use my Nalgene filled with hot water to massage out the knot I had :( When we got up the next morning, we got news of the storm at breakfast and were told we had to pack up and head back down to BC. I left at 10 AM and by then all of Camp 2 looked like a ghost town, most of the teams had left as well. I was able to make it down in 4 hours back to BC. I was really surprised, as it was 12 hours up and 4 hours down!!
The way down was interesting, it was HOT though!!! As we went through the ice fall it got hotter and then Jang Bu was laughing as I was grabbing fist full of snow and shoving them under my helmet and down my shirt...I just couldn't get enough of it to cool off. Where was that polka dot bikini I left in Kathmandu when you need it!! Kidding...my skin would have been roasted. That is the thing about traveling on the glacier...no matter how hot it is, you want to keep your skin covered up to protect against sun damage. It was tough with my all black outfit on and capilene 3 layer top! Jang Bu called me strong and said good walk, I think he was surprised I made it back in 4 hours too, considering how slow I have been walking. I felt really good that day and it was nice to be able to keep up with the team for once and definitely helped my own moral for sure :) Oh I also got to cross the five-ladder crossing coming down from Camp 2, I did it!! It was adventurous and fun :)
Well now we are at BC and it is a waiting game. Tim has a meeting at two with the other team leaders and we will learn more about what is happening on the mountains and what a summit push might look like. Last night we watched the movie Blades of Glory...totally cheesy, but Will Ferrell gave us all a good laugh and distraction :) We were all cracking up. My neck is fine now too and I got a good night sleep so I feel better. Depending on the weather forecast and how the meeting goes, some of us may head down from BC to wait out the storm...but too early to tell right now. I am feeling good, stronger, and ready for whatever we need to do next. Getting up to Camp 2 definitely kicked my butt, but I made it, which felt good. I am finally starting to notice I have lost a little weight, so although I have been eating like a horse, I guess I need to eat more :) No problem :)
SO more to come, but for now....Everest, what is next? What do you have in store for us? Wish we knew, but it is all part of the adventure.
Big Hugs Everyone!!