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  Everest 2006: Fi and Paul: Disappointed,  but no regrets

Location: Camp 2
Altitude: 6425m
Local Time: 20:00, May 24
Weather: Fine, -12C at C4

Hi Everyone, It's Paul here.

Well we are both back down at C2, tired, but glad to be breathing what to us feels like thick air. The climb down from C4 took us about 4 hours, and we have sore toes from hitting the front of our boots. In this update I thought I would share with you the details of my summit attempts.

My first Summit Attempt
We arrived at C4 at about 11am, and then spent until 8pm resting, drinking, eating, activating chemical warmers & warming clothes and boots. (Boots are placed inside the sleeping bag to get them warm.) The wind was steady, but not too strong, however it did buffet our tent a bit. The decision was made to go so Fiona left first at about 9:30pm. I followed her at 10:20pm.

The climb
The first part of the climb is a 45 degree slope, which steepens gradually until it becomes almost vertical rock in some places. After a couple of hours I caught up to Fiona and then two hours later we reached a flat spot called the balcony where we had a rest, some food and water, and changed oxygen bottles. Both of us were feeling really good.

Fiona and I then proceeded along a steep ridge up towards the South Summit. The ridge started off not too steep, but soon we came to a 30m rock section that was nearly vertical. At this stage I was getting cold, so unfortunately I had to go ahead of Fiona to move at a faster pace. Above the wall, there was a more forgiving snow slope leading up to the South Summit of Everest. I was following behind Dasona and he was behind Dennis Kellner. The three of us were moving together well.

Suddenly I found it really hard to keep up with Dennis and Dasona. They could take 10 steps before stopping for a small rest, whereas after 2 steps, I was totally out of breath. I found a less steep spot and put my weight on the rope and tried to catch my breath. After about 10 minutes, my breathing was not so rapid, but something wasn't right. A few minutes later I checked the bottle which caches oxygen from the mask and it was empty. Suddenly it dawned on me that I was out of oxygen. I was at over 8700m, with the South Summit in sight. My first thought was not to panic and to concentrate on breathing really deeply. And I mean really deeply. Graduallly I found that no matter how hard I tried to breathe, I was getting out of breath. I started to feel very drowsy & sleepy and I would estimate that over 30 minutes elapsed since I noticed a change in my performance. Fortunately Dasona came back down and hooked me up to his oxygen bottle. This meant that he had to go without. I was so glad of this gesture, because I was really going downhill fast. The effect of the oxygen was dramatic. Within a minute I was feeling much better, although I wouldn't have been able to stand.

With one oxygen bottle between two people what where we going to do? Amazingly a very strong IMG Sherpa called Danaru came down from the summit and he, without a second thought, gave up his oxygen bottle. To say I was grateful is an understatement. There wasn't enough oxygen to continue to the summit, but this was the last thing on mind. I was extremely happy to be alive. At this time Fiona came along and I wished her good luck and told her she had the summit in the bag.

Heading Down
Dasona and I then started walking down. I was a little unsteady on my feet, but we made it down in a couple of hours. I was very relieved to be back at the South Col. This felt like safety, even though its still 8000m.

Second Attempt
On my way down, moves were already in place to give me a second shot. I didn't expect this and am very grateful to IMG. Unfortunately, I would have to go that night as the expedition was drawing to a close. I deliberated about what to do, but in the end I decided that although I was extremely tired, I would regret it if I didn't at least try. That day I drank lots of fluids & ate as much as I could. I welcomed Fiona back from her successful summit & becoming the 3rd Australian woman to climb Mt Everest. I am so happy for her. Although tired herself, she helped me get ready that evening. At 10:00pm I stepped outside my tent and started climbing up. I felt great.....at the start. At 8300m, I started to slow and tire, and it felt different in my legs. I think they were too fatigued from the previous night/day's exertion. I had a hard choice to make, push on and perhaps work through this pain and fatigue, or turn around. Going through my mind was that if I turn around then and if I want to climb Everest again I am up for another year of training, a two and a half month long expedition to put you at Camp 4 where you hope the weather for that night and day will be kind enough to let you climb. On the other hand I thought that this isn't just some mountain in the Alps, where you can call in a helicopter rescue at a moments notice; up here you have to be self sufficient. I mean, no one can carry you down if something bad happens. I had already cheated death the night before and didn't want to try my luck again. I felt that I couldn't be confident that I was going to be able to get up and down safely, so I made the somewhat difficult, but I think the right decision to turn around and decend while I still could with relative ease.

Lying down here writing this in camp 2, I still think I made the right decision. Normally I climb faster than Fiona, but today decending, she was much faster than me, so clearly I am still not in my normal shape.

The mountain is not going anywhere and I have really enjoyed the expedition, so the thought of coming back is not such a bad one. At least I feel I know what it takes to climb this mountain. I do hope that if or when I do come back, that I can enjoy the tremendous support that everyone looking at this site has shown us.

To good health,

PS. Heading down to base camp tomorrow, leaving here at 5am. One more trip to make through the icefall.



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