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  Carlos Pauner Mt. Everest 2005: LAST DAYS AT THE BOTTOM OF EVEREST

By Javier Pérez

Since we finished our acclimatization period on May 14, sleeping in C3 at 7,100m, we knew our next transit by the Khumbu Icefall would be to attempt the summit of Everest, 8,850m.  It would be the sixth time we would pass that dangerous passage.  Unluckily all that were just plans.

It is true that when we were in C3, Everest was hard on us, with a morning strong wind and temperatures of -25º, which made us rush down using the steep fixed lines of the Lhotse Face, hollering because of a finger that wouldn't get warm.  Even so we were happy and excited of having slept well in C3.  the acclimatization had finished in the planned time and the strength, illusion and motivation were intact to attempt the summit.

We then went down some days to Lobuche, 4,900m, where we recovered strength and healed our throats, irritated by the very dry and cold air of the high altitude camps.  Everything seemed to go normally.  We were attentive for the definitive attack.  

In Lobuche, we got each day a weather forecast, not too good.  Some disperse precipitation, but above all wind.  The "jet streams", winds of over 100 Km/h that run above 9,000m, where the planes fly, were playing hide and seek with the summit of Everest.  Trying to get to the summit in one of those sunny and windy days at those speeds, with temperatures of -30ºC, meant to risk a few fingers, if not life.  The right thing was then to wait for the famous "windows" of good weather, when the anti-cyclone from Tibet and the strong winds coming from the Indic Ocean, move the jet streams and an equilibrium in the atmosphere is established, with dry days, without snow and relatively calm winds.  In the last years, that has happened systematically starting from May 10-15, allowing more than 100 climbers each year to reach the coveted summit.

As in many of the games of chance we have played these days, we have trusted our luck, fate and statistics, waiting during those days our "window" to summit.  But like gamblers forced to win, we have lost this game with Everest.  The window has not come, doesn't look like coming, according to the forecasts from here to June 1st.

These days of waiting, from that May 14 going down from C3, winking at the summit of Everest, have been like the Marx brothers cabin: a mix of laughter and good mood at times, when the wind seemed to be weakening, and a mix with all kinds of alternative plans and desperation when base camp had a few inches of snow.  We also had all kind of visionary weather men visiting base camp that planed to summit, without a doubt, on the windiest days...

We have been through all kinds of mood, knowing that as days go by, the summer monsoon came and its daily snowfalls -end of the season-.  Also, in these warmest dates, the Khumbu Icefall, already melting, becomes a game of chance with the fall of their blocks and avalanches.  We have already gambled a lot at base, with the weather, to risk more in that treacherous Icefall.  If we also count our brave and strong Sherpas, real motors of this Nepalese side of Everest, the risk that something happens to them, who transit by the Icefall with loads of up to 40 Kg., it makes us tell them "expedition finish".  A mix of relief and sadness shows in their proud faces.  They didn't want the other groups to climb if we didn't.  But for the moment, nobody has climbed by Nepal.  Good luck for those who stay here.  One more look up to confirm that the wind doesn't stop, and the "feather" - the long cloud made by the strong wind in the heights - is still there.  We are leaving. 

Today, May 26, our match with Everest has ended.  Two months here have been enough bet.  Maybe it will happen on a better year.  This huge mountains are like that.

Our thoughts are on the way to Zaragoza, looking for our loved ones.  I want to thank once more our sponsors and collaborators for their trust.  It wasn't this time.  But our will, illusion and motivation are still intact to go soon to another ascent.

But that is another story...

Translated from Spanish by Jorge Rivera


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