Dates 28 – 30 April
I can’t anymore.
Wed 28 17:13pm. Camp 2 6400m Everest
I can’t lie down. I can’t try sleeping. The coughs that wrack my chest are just too much when I lie down. I’ve been struggling with my chest for days now and it’s made getting to 6800m pretty difficult.
It’s difficult without a cough.
This is life at altitude. It’s taxing on the body.
Everyone is coughing, hacking, like we’re in stereo.
Monday morning 26 April we (Noel Hanna, Abdul, Jozette and I) woke up at 1:30am and forced some tea and rice pudding down our throats.
Put on our harnesses and backpacks and off we walked to crampon point – a part of the ice fall where you put your crampons on over your climbing boots and set off into the Khumbu overall.
“I’m actually climbing Everest” I think. Focus on every step, and every movement Thsering (our sherpa)makes ahead of me. It’s proper climbing, you’re constantly using your safety and often your jumar or just rope technique to get up and down sections of ice.
It’s impossible to get a rhythm, and just a bit of effort to get up and over an overhang leaves me and others, doubled over, gasping for breath, heart pounding. There are only about 3 short ladders, and every now and then you have to simply jump over a crevasse, trying not to look down into the icy blue jaws of the earth.
Heart pounding Again.
At one stage in the ice fall there was an avalanche above is and instantly Noel and someone else protectively jumped over me. It was touching. Fortunately it didn’t reach us.
The ice fall was much much longer than I thought. Just where you think it tops out it actually continues and there are more tricky sections, one leaving a climber ahead dangling, breathless for about 15 min fighting an overhang. Reserve judgement, because I’m next and the queue behind me is watching. It’s harder than it looks. Finally, after 9 hours we reach camp 1.
I crawl into the tent I’m sharing with Jozette (a strong Swiss mountain guide) and the coughing begins.
But I’m not alone, it’s an echo of coughing, splattering and hacking around me.
Dinner is served in our tents, noodles and soup.
Sleep eventually comes and the coughing goes away for a few hours.
Morning comes on Tuesday 27 April, and we’re served tea and porridge in our tents. There’s no dining tent up here.
At about 9 when all our gear is on we move to camp2.
We’re in the western cwm, which can become really hot in an expanse of whiteness.
I bump into Remy, a climber from cape Town. I’m slow.
Anything over a 4 second step leaves me breathless and coughing. I’m frustrated with myself for 5.5 hours of more crossing of crevasses and walking ever upwards. It is snowing by the time we reach camp 2 and thankfully my sherpa (Nima) came to relieve me of my bag. He asks me if I’m sick. I guess the answer is yes.
Eventually make it into camp and Noel and I shovel some noodle soup down our throats on the dining tent. The helicopters are really busy from camp 2 and we hear the Bahraini team are all flying out from here to BC. 7 of us get to use their dining tent and are surprised to be joined by the prince himself who let his team go ahead of him and by now the weather was too bad for helis. What a gentleman!
Today, Wednesday we needed to reach the Lhotse face. You climb up the Lhotse face as part of climbing Everest. This year a lot of people at intending to do the double Everest-Lhotse summit. Remy is one of them.
After breakfast, we leave camp at 9 and trudge upwards. The weather is beautiful and I’m overdressed.
Fortunately I felt better and performed stronger than yesterday (makes no sense) and we stop at 6800m (took about 3 hours) because there was a rescue of two sherpas from a crevasse higher up and its not ideal to go there.
We rest briefly, take some pics and then for the first time in days get to high tail it downhill in less than an hour. Some people are short roped and their sherpas are doing everything for them. Frightening.
Each one is on their own journey for their own reasons so I reserve judgement. Maybe I’ll find myself short roped for some reason too.
Others who steamed past me yesterday turned around way before me and some even turned around and went back to BC.
We hear the stories about Covid but there’s nothing we can do about it.
Back in camp we have lunch and try to rest in our tents.
Thursday 29 April
Everyone is up early to have breakfast and descend from C2 back to base camp.
Everyone except Noel and I. We choose to depart mid morning, reasoning that the ice fall night be busy with traffic coming up and you wouldn’t want to be standing around waiting.
So we lie in and have breakfast of coffee and rice pudding outside at camp 2.
I have salty Tibetan tea with the sherpas and enjoy the sunshine.
It doesn’t last long. By the time we depart camp 2 the weather has changed and the sun disappeared. It’s hard to find the path in the whiteness.
The wands can’t be seen, and sometimes Tshering has to dig the rope out from its snowy covering for us to switch safety.
It’s a little scary, and reminds me of the time we were off route on Denali in similar conditions, and I fell into a crevasse. I didn’t want to repeat that experience.
A little later I see a group of 3 men standing around someone sitting in the snow. I say to Noel “something is up in front”. When we get there I recognize the girl from our camp. She’s refusing to move and I can’t make out why as she sort of points to her legs. Nothing is visibly wrong but she seems to have given up and the 3 sherpas with her at radioing a heli. There’s no way she’d be flown out from that location in these conditions. We help her to her feet and insist she keeps moving to camp 1.
I struggle to deal with the emotions that come up for me after seeing this girl in distress.
We move on, and later heard that she did make it to camp 1 from where she was flown out. Unfortunately she tested covid positive later, which would explain the weakness she experienced.
Camp 1 comes into view but it’s still far from us. We make our way towards it gingerly, searching for the trail, trying to avoid crevasses. Finding the rope to clip into.
At camp 1 we sit down in the cooking tent and we given cups of black tea and
Later bowls of noodle soup. It’s a great relief and nice to get out of the snow.
We sit, cradling our warm blue bowls of food for about 45min before heading back out into the cold whiteness and down into the ice fall.
We didn’t expect this weather, but we we right about having no traffic. It was only a handful of us visible to one another in the ice fall. The ice fall is a place of awe and wonder, but simultaneously not somewhere you can stand around gaping or taking pictures. You need to keep moving, and want to out move the ice fall. It moves, and when it does, results can be disastrous.
I need to focus on every move Tshering makes ahead of me. I put my foot in his footsteps, and so the next 4 hours proceed.
Sometimes you get to a gap that you have to Jump, other times you slide down a ladder, sometimes going forward down sections, alternatively the figure of 8 was used quite a bit.
We rarely rest, it’s not really safe to do so. Quick sips of water here and there and later half a Bounty bar and Enduren honey sachet for some strength.
I noticed here and there some changes to the route since Monday where everyone had struggled with overhangs – there were now ladders.
Finally the last long abseil down a big piece of ice and a couple of meters walk back to where it all started. Crampon point. They can come off.
Tshering has a smoke, and I take my harness off as well.
We make our way through the glacier to our camp and reach it at 4pm.
Change out of our wet clothes, and have some food and drink.
We survived our first rotation on Everest!!
Now its time to rest, recover and wait.
Wait for health, for the route to be fixed to the summit, for weather… so much must align.
So many variables are out of our hands.
Patience is so important.
Currently (3 May) Noel and I are at Pheriche.
It’s a 16km walk from Everest BC.
We are in a tea house, resting, sleeping, eating and our bodies recovering.
It’s common for teams to either fly out of BC to Namche, Lukla, or even Kathmandu, to recover (budgets dependant of course) and get restored before summit attempts.
The tea house is super quiet, as on the way up, there are hardly any trekkers here in the Kumjung. So it feels safer than BC in terms of germs floating around.
Nice to have had a shower and wash some clothes here.
I’m on antibiotics and my chest is clearing up, no coughing for the last 2 nights. I’m pleased.
I’ll need all the strength and health I have to do the whole trip up to 6800m again AND add another 2000m to that!!
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