finally after a long hall.....
Sunday, April 24: Our team
after a long rest decides to split due to differing levels of health and
acclimatization. A couple members go up to Camp One and then on the 24th move
to Camp Two. We are all a bit restless with so much time without activity and
it is hard to spend so much down time without doing much physical activity.
There are options to go hiking out of Base Camp, but to stay at such a
altitude is a drag on one's psyche.
Monday the 25, The second
group of climbers move to Camp One as the first group of climbers move to Camp
Two. The temps are cold, winds high in the evening but we enjoy the movement
through the Ice Fall. I (Rob Chang) like everyone else, cut some hours off on
both times in making my way to Camp One and to Camp Two, acclimatization is
taking hold finally.
Tues the 26, We all join up
at Camp Two, At 21,300 feet, the cold, the dry wind and low air pressure takes
it toll on all members, it is a misery to be here and one of our members goes
down due to a bad stomach ailment. We all look forward to tagging Camp Three
and getting down. The weather is very frigid. Sleep is very difficult, I
have had many nights of barely 2 to 4 hours of sleep, making it very difficult
to operate while climbing during the daylite hours.
Weds. the 27, We rest up one
more day, Camp 2 once again drains us. We are getting high winds, light
snows, I feel that my weight is going down. I must be down at least 15 pounds
from my 150 pound frame. Other teams are struggling around us as well and
there is now quite a development at Camp 2 of teams that are vying for an
earlier summit window. Our Sirdar, Apa, believes the monsoon season (storming
season) may come earlier and that our team should be poised for an early
summit. This goal to be ready early on puts a strain on all of us.
Thurs. the 28, the big push,
Rob, John and Chuck (with another fellow American climber named Julie Smith)
ascend to Camp 3. The Lhotse face is as enormous as it presents itself. the
first 800 feet in gain is a gradual glacial approach. Then, it abruptly goes
up, not quite vertical, but close enough to make carrying my small 30 pound
backpack feel like a hundred pound load. I struggle every 4 to 5 steps up the
fixed lines - there is not that many climbers present and the thin air strains
and burns at our lungs. A good way up, a series of steep steps appear and
benches with other teams tents are present. Chuck and John make it higher and
finally into our camp. As I am numerous rope pitches below, what would seem a
mere 1/2 hour away on regular rock/ice climbing ground back at home in
Yosemite or Lee Vining Canyon, takes me what appears hours. At that time, a
huge wind and snow maelstrom hits us.
Chuck and John just make it
into camp, as I still have to fight for another hour or so. The snow fills in
the back of my hood as sheets of vertical snow reinforced with winds of around
30 to 60 miles per hour blast each of my positions. Visibility drops to a few
feet and at times I can barely see a foot in front of me. It becomes very
difficult to see and all the previous steps kicked into the ice, are filled in
with snow, making each step up, one step up, but three sinking moves back
down. It is absolutely physically draining. I start to shiver and realize
that I must dawn my down jacket over my 2 layers of long underwear, my fleece
and Gore-Tex. I clip into an anchor, unclip my pack and attempt to pull my
gear out. In the process, due to the high winds, my pack is almost 1/2 filled
with snow in a short amount of time. My goggles are now useless being fogged
up and covered with frozen snow. I end up ripping them off and then pulling my
balaclava and hood super tight , just enough so that there is a crack of about
1 centimeter to peak out of. Each time I decide to move, I peak up and down,
eyeing my objective footholds and upward direction through my peepholes, then
just put my head down as the wind blasts and snow drops I make a mental
picture of what I looked at and make my moves. It takes great focus to keep
it together and move in such a mechanical and inefficient manner, but it gets
me the progress I need.
As my down parka is now on,
the winds increase, and I feel highly isolated, not realizing where our camp
is and screaming at the top of my lungs at each tent I pass, I pray for some
reply from my team mates. At one point, another climber comes up from behind
me and asks (while yelling at the top of our lungs) "is there something wrong
with my eye????!!!! In looking at him, it is quite obvious, his entire face
is encrusted with frozen water/ice, and a small icicle has formed over his
left eye, from the top of his brow down to his cheek of the same side-
effectively freezing his eye shut. I quickly help him remove the encrustment
watching with some discomfort in seeing the pain this causes. He is lucky,
half a rope further, he finds his tent and turns into the comfort and safety
of shelter. I am almost angry that our camp wasn't there.
Finally, I climb up to a
series of two benches where I see John come up out and wave me in. I get into
the tent completely soaked, covered with snow, with snow down my clothing and
shivering. I make quick work in unpacking my pack attempting to find some
shed of clothing that is dry. I find a top and bottom, midweight underwear,
that I had packed the night before "just in case". The weight of it paid off
in gold, as I scrambled to get into dry clothing, get my sleeping bag out and
stop the shivering. Chuck, John and a Sherpa named Dorjee who climbed to Camp
3 with us had already thankfully had a stove going with hot water on the way.
Our friend Julie, who found similar circumstances as I did, pulled into Camp 3
and had to get warmed up as I did.
John and I shared a tent
which was situated on an ice ledge chipped out at around 23,700 feet. It was
on a down angle and leaning toward the wrong direction for us to actually make
any real type of comfortable sleeping platform. Underneath were bumpy
protrusions of rock, frozen snow and ice that in some areas, rose as high as 4
to 6 inches. I use every piece of gear, pack, clothing, harness to try to
make it flat to no avail. If it were not for being in such a perilous perch,
it would almost be a comical thing. It quickly reminded me of one of the
rooms at a sideshow attraction by my home in California called the Mystery
Spot that features what appears to be mystical or aberrations of natural
science that show deviations of physical buildings, roofs, floors that
seemingly appear to be off kilter, out of balance or just not aligned to the
laws of physics within this spot in the Santa Cruz mountains. Our tent is
definitely misaligned and not in balance - and this really gets to us.
I got around one hour of
sleep between the severe winds and snow battering the tent and the incessant
snow and frozen frost that had condensated inside our tent that fell on our
faces or the fact that our heads were slanted slightly downward, adding to my
already altitude stretching headache. After 17 years of climbing, this could
qualify as the one most miserable nights in a tent ever.
April 29 - we awake, as if we
slept, to high winds and we pack hastily and make it out of Camp 3. I have a
handful of Wheat Thins for breakfast, gulp down some Gatorade and off we go.
I am glad to head down though it is still cold and fraught with the hazards of
small rocks and ice chunks falling on our heads. We make it all back to Camp
2. Here we fuel up with a meal and will head all the way down to Base Camp
(skipping Camp One) the next morning, making it our longest and hardest
journey up onto the mountain so far.
Back at Camp 2, we are a
tired group, but are safe and sound. One more day and we will be at the
comfort at Base Camp.
April 30. We awake early to
winds and huge lenticular clouds that are forming on Everest and a few other
peaks from a far. A definite sign of bad weather and a big motivator for us
to move quickly. Its cold, once again, and we all head out for Base Camp. On
the way down, I am stopped for 25 minutes as I watch some Sharps fix a double
ladder that had come loose. Chuck, John and Julie cruise. It's a long day
but once what seemed like a bad place (Base Camp) is now looking like our
oasis in the desert.
It starts to snow as I
finally make it out of the Khumbu Ice Fall without incident. Our Base Camp
Manager, Paula Stout once again is there, waiting with snacks and hot drink -
for us ragged and weary climbers. For me, what seemed just 6 days, put 6
months wear on my body. I look even skinnier, lips chapped, face sunburned,
knees sore, ahhh, mountaineering, always was what I called a character
More to come soon...... Rob
Everest Climber, author and
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