We spent about an hour at the top and switched oxygen bottles. I run on 3 liters for good measure. At last the way down should be a lot quicker and 3l get you 5hours plus and safely to camp 2 my sherpa advised. At 8am i was on the descent with Pemba.
We overtook two climbers in the couloir that were probably afraid of ice and rock that our steps kicked lose. My gloves came under real strain from the ropes (i would subsequently give them to Pemba – despite all their holes they are workable). At daytime you get a better view of the couloir and magnificant views of the surroundings. Stunning and enjoyable. Progress was still slow given energy reserves depleted. One always underestimates how much strength it takes to go down steep hills.
Half way through Pemba told me that he had been ordered to go to south col. Presumably to fix the missing oxygen bottles we had encountered when we hit our camp 4 (his english is limited). After two hours we reached the camp, boiled a drink and he left. I had to carry my sleeping bag to camp 3 (not planned) and was by myself (not planned). Not sure what drove this decision to take away required ressources from me to be honest. One of so many issues during this expedition – just this time they impacted my safety directly.
After camp 4 I walked slowly down despite oxygen. After some 3hours i finally got there. On the way i met karl from germany again. He is a friend of scott and does everest unsupported, as he told us over tea and cookies in camp 2 on our failed first summit bid. Then i escaped some injury. While waiting to abseil down, a guy jumped the queue. Initially i was upset. However, when a guy in front of me let an oxygen bottle lose that shot like torpedo into my direction only to be stopped by my waiting feet … i was quite relieved not to be abseiling and get the 3kg bottle into my face. Disaster one averted.
Once at C3, i brewed some much needed water. While pemba is a strong though more junior climber, he doesn’t stop you often enough to replenish energy (too time focussed). I felt it. I got some water and chocolate in and rested on the last bit of oxygen.
Some time later Pemba was back from south col. probably surprised to still see me at camp. He took the sleeping bag and seeing his heavy, double rucksack load i let him set off to camp 2 – todays final destination. I rested a while longer and continued down without oxygen but with a lighter pack.
What a difference that made. Completely exhausted and without my flow of fresh air. I took ages just to get going. I literally moved meters in minutes (i was still above 7000m). But there was time i thought. 4.30pm it was or so. Then i went down the wrong side of the lhotse face – where people come up. Abseiling difficult yet my only way of making any progress. Tight lines (so you cant put figure of eight in to abseil) in came on top. I spent a long time on each rope section before i mastered it. Chatted with folks coming up and down including the guide of one of the deceased on everest. I even took all my Dex steriod tablets in hope to get an energy boost (they reduce swelling – so no help). Only after sunset in complete darkness i was down the face. It was nice to watch, but it was getting cold and late. I ate snow lacking water. Mainly candies i had left to go on. Now the flatter, but longer section back to camp 2 awaited.
Initially i walked slowly (extremely slowly). That was until my dry cough got so bad that i thought i cracked a rib (only pulled muscle as it turned out). I couldn’t carry my bag anymore and wondered if it was time to ask for help. My team i couldn’t, as clients didnt get radio’s on summit day different to prio trip chat (well, most of them don’t work anyway) and my sherpa support wasn’t there.
I decided to drag on. Thirsty. At some point around 8pm a member of our camp2 kitchen came to help. We were still slow, but with him carrying my rucksack we moved faster. I went straight to bed when we got to camp at 9.30pm. It took me 5 hours from camp 3 down (sherpa take 3h up!). My life was probably not very much at risk (given some other climbers around even after dark), but something in the setup went wrong big time. My guide, as i discovered later, didnt even know about this situation. He was busy chatting to the press about the hillary step that appearantly is gone.
Next day Pemba took my bag and we made in 4 hours or so through the icefall to base camp. The icefall was in a horrible state and melting/collapsing across the board. Extremely unsafe. We pulled at least three anchors. Many more were out already. Some ice screws we fixed again. One large section on which i was about to walk (30m away) collapsed. Good i walked slow!
Base camp was deserted (the other three clients now on their everest summit push). Tim still busy chatting to global media about the hillary step. I contemplated a chopper to get me out quick (shared about usd900), but ended up hiking down. It took me two days with some stops and a little getting lost near phakding and two hours in the morning the day after. Speed no longer my forte. I did bump into reinhold messner just before namche (and his film crew for a movie on ama danlam). Quite fitting since lhotse was the last pf his 14-set of 8,000ers (probably my last too). Once in lukla, I got lucky and caught a 12pm flight to kathmandu and on to bhaktapur.
Medical damage assessment: the main issue was my chest problems, but more humid air would fix that quickly. Fingers and toes were still there, just the two big toes a little bit numb (faded within days). So overall, not much to report. Thankfully.
Idea was to head to chitwan national park for safari and more humid air to cure my chest infection. Local temperature +40 degrees – a 80 degree delta to the summit of lhote. But at least there was life! I couldn’t do more tea houses and hiking for now. I needed a holiday ;o)