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Our 2nd rotation was meant to take us to camp 3 at 7,200m. We didn’t quite get there due to strong winds that have been plaguing the summit preparations of climbing and sherpa teams alike this season. Still, we made it close to the Bergschrund at c6,700m (way past my previous altitude record) and were looking straight at the steep Lhotse face. To test our ascending skills on this wall of ice will have to wait until summit day.
The first news that was overlaying our activity on the hill was that Blake was on his way back. He had dropped out due to ancle injury, retured to Barcelona and arrived back at base camp just as we hit camp 2.
The second, and very uncomforting news, was the tragic death of Ueli Steck not too far from our camp two. He was training for his Everest – Lhotse traverse on Nuptse and fell into his death. I had seen him once racing past me in his grey suit and once actually exchanged a few words with him, as he was waiting on a ladder I was just climbing up near camp 1. Sad really, but at least he dies doing what he loved so much.
Back to the rotation, the way up from base camp to camp 2 in one go was long. We had pretty heavy packs, as we already ferries up provisions for the summitt attempt. I decided to climb with Billy. He continued to suffer from shortness of breath due to some lung condition or so. Doctors help was only very marginally positive. Additionally, his headlamp and walky talky didn’t work. So we teamed up. It took us some 6.5h-7h through the icefall and another 1,5-2h to camp 1.
While way behind our team, I enjoyed my time with now good buddy Billy. We allowed ourselves breaks where secure and chatted about god and the world. It was here that Billy first mentioned that a summit attempt on his part and given his not improving condition would be very irresponsible. He’s got a son and Tina – a relationship he values highly. By now, his departure is confirmed and he will leave us tomorrow. All the best my friend!
At camp 1 I suggtested a quick lunch to rehydrate. Chicken noodle soup in the sunshine and with great mountain views. We were happy. Very.
The episode after was less so. It was again time to pass through the Western Cym. I hate this stretch and took 4,5h. Billy 4h. That left me with a total of 14h walking that day. Long, but under control and including many breaks. The evening and next days we spent resting. I finished my German book and felt really good and slept well at 6,400m altitude.
Next day we left camp at 7am or so. I felt really good and could suddenly walk at high pace. The about 300m altitude until we turned around due to winds took a mere 1,5h or so. Seems my body prefers steeper terrrain (hope that this will last for it will only get steeper). Question now was if we stay another night and try again for camp 3 or descent. The decision fell for the latter given heavy snow in the afternoon and heightened avalanche risk.
So we departed camp 2 for base camp next morning. I walked fast and think had the fastest time to camp 1 at only 40mins (prior 1h solo and 1,5h with Billy). From there progress came to a sucden halt. There had been several collapses in the icefall that required fixing by the ice doctors. The flowback of sherpas and climbers coming up from base camp took some 1,5h to clear. Noone would let us slip past to my very annoyance.
We also witnessed some rather dangerous situations. Short roped climbers, a polish team that didn’t know how to use the figure of eight to abseil, shaky ladders etc. After a good 5h and 9km I finally hit base camp having descended 1,2km. Lunch time and of course – hello Blake!
In the evening Tim discussed a potential good weather window and selected two teams. I fell into the second one, which would mean I’d miss the first window. The reasoning was built on a) limited time to arrange summit logisics and b) my pace that had been so much suppressed by staying with Billy. I was disapoointed to say the least and spent the coming two days mostly by myself reading (Nanga Parbat – the german mountian).
After Tim retured from his rotation to C1 with Blake we eventually sat down and discussed matters. Thanks to the chat and a now longer sumot window (logistics etc), we will now try to attempt the summit push more or less together. Details remain tbc though.
So eat and prepare mentally is the name of the game. A lot of snow has been coming down and we constantly hear and sometimes see avalanches. Once the window opens and ropes have been fixed to the sumotts of Everest and Lhotse, we will likely depart with one day delay between the Everest and Lhotse guys. Patience now.
Unfortunately I have gotten sick with a cold since my return to base camp. Fingers crossed the medication will help enough to give me a fair shot at Lhotse. Wish me luck!
… and the beard keeps growing …