This is gonna be the first part of my summit blog. The way up, the success and the glorious bit. The way down, which is the more important for any mountain, follows in part two. Stay tuned. Check the video at the end!
First up, a few words of thanks. To the people that helped my prepare (Di, Tim, Paul, Rachel, Shane, the team at Barry’s and the altitude center/physio in London), my extended family, friends (Cedric, Chanel in particular) and the mum of my son who took good care of him for so many weeks. I also want to thank my sponsors (Alister & the Blackrock crew, Davide & Algebris, Andreas & the autonomous team, Yash & KBW to name but a few) who have helped to raise some GBP8,000 so far for disabled Nepali kids & diabetes research. Much appreciated!
The entire summit bid came together all of a sudden. We were still at Namche Bazar for 6 days and had already checked into the Hotel for another night as choppers weren’t flying due to misty weather. Then they were and we enjoyed some crazy & beautiful cruising through the Khumbu valley. Within an hour we were having tea at base camp.
Scot left and we discussed options / weather window with Tim. He suggested to wait for a longer window opening on the 26th and to avoid the huge crowds summit bound for the 21/22 May. Winds were still uncertain. However, while we were away two climbers that had just summited Makalu had joined our team. They were going for Lhotse that night. It didn’t take me long to decide that I would too. Pack your bags rocket, bed at 8pm and then I set off with my summit sherpa Pemba at 2am. Tim stayed at base camp. Radio’s (which had caused us much headache so far) would be my only contact to my guide. They would prove mainly useless again.
The hike up from base camp through the icefall and to camp 2 took me 9 hours. A personal best though still the slowest of the remaining team members. We skipped the typical rest day to position ourselves for a 21 May summit. Tough. The climb up to camp 3 was cruel. We started 5am and it took me 7hours. Sherpa’s cover the distance in just 3hrs. I had never been above 6,650m and C3 was located just under 7,100m. No oxygen for climbing just yet.
The first part of the route takes you through camp 2 (our camp was at the very beginning) and to the end of the Western Cwm. Then comes the steep Lhotse face. Jumaring up was exhausting to say the least. Once the sun is out, you get roasted from top and bottom as the heat reflects from the ice. I literally crawled the last meters into the tent under the burning sun in my down suit where I rested & slept on oxygen. What a help that is! We brewed up drinks, had soups and chilli con carne and rested. We would need it.
The next day proved easier than expected. While we headed to camp 4 at 7,800m the oxygen improved my movement markedly. It was busy with all the Everest guys headed for south col. We parted ways towards the end of a traverse like section called the Geneva spur. Camp 4 on Lhoste had only a few tents bunched together on the steep face. Ropes everywhere to secure movements. Going to the toilet became a real hazard! thanks god I had my pie bottle ;o). We ate, but not too much. Pemba took on most of the cooking and brewing. I rested on O’s.
Then it was decision time. The original plan was to head up 1am if the winds stayed low. Then another sherpa suggested 11am already. Pemba wanted to go. I wanted to get a check with base camp for an actual weather update. Communication was horrendous. We somehow got the message that 4am was fine too and winds would gradually ease over the day, but somehow I felt pretty alone out there. So we observed the actual weather and did go for the 1am slot.
Conditions were really good. Starry night over Everest and lhotse. We were on our summit bid. That one takes you more or less straight up the hill. After two hours we reached the final couloir. A valley between lose rocks on each side. Very dangerous if any climber above kicks lose rocks. But the snow covered a lot of the ground and made it safer. Behind us we could see a chain of headlights marching up Everest. Fascinating. We passed a struggling group of two climbers and caught up with a pair that left hours before us. I was initially on 2 liter oxygen per minute, then 2,5 and near the summit on 3l. One bottle got me all the way up.
On our way up, we passed a dead body and had to step over another one right at the very top. When I saw that dead face staring at me, I almost fell off the hill. Reminds you how dangerous that is. As a sidenote, 4 climbers died on Everest that night.
Finally at the top at 7am. Stunning views from the tiny summit ridge with the deadly Lhotse south face on the other side. I had achieved what only about 600 other climbers had done. No 13 German on the hill and the first ascent of a climber from the Free State of Saxony. Happy. Happy. Exhausted. We took our summit pics and headed down after less than an hour. The hard bit lied still ahead, but I leave that for the next post.