David, Alex and I are the planners of the group and we want to get out of basecamp asap and back to Kathmandu, the mission has been completed so none of us wish to spend any longer than necessary in a basecamp that is rapidly melting away and with weather than can see you stranded for days if the cloud is too low, so we’re on the first heli out.
It’s a fitful sleep in Camp 2 I have, almost beyond exhaustion I can’t settle and I’ve developed a hacking cough that keeps me awake and unfortunately probably the rest of the camp too. I’m keen to get going early to avoid the heat of the sun in the icefall, not just heating me up beyond an uncomfortable level but the icefall itself which is already melting at a rapid rate and becoming fairly unstable from that first frozen time I went through it.
Summitting at around 6am on the highest point on the planet was an amazing experience, so overwhelming after such a feat of endurance to reach it that it was hard to take in but one thing I knew for certain that hadn’t escaped my mind was that getting to that point was only half way and key to this being a successful expedition was making sure I got back down in one piece. We spent maybe 20 to 30 minutes on the summit taking our photos, looking at the views and chatting with fellow climbers before it was time to leave and as I gather my belongings and untangled my feet from the prayer flags I could see not far away coming up the final slope towards the summit a steady queue of climbers all eager to get their photos and do the same.
I found it impossible to sleep during the few hours rest we had in camp 4 in the South Col, Everest loomed over us in the camp and the sun was blazing hot in our cramped tent full of bodies and equipment and the best I could do was lay still and try and at least rest my weary legs whilst counting down the minutes to us setting off, Mingma and Pemba next to me slept soundly without an apparent care in the world!
Sleep seemed to elude me last night as I listened to the wind raging outside our tent, I think Mingma David got a great nights sleep next to me though as I spent half the night being a pillow for him I think! The oxygen had made my throat sore and I searched out some water as soon as I woke up whilst Mingma made some hot sweet tea and gave me one digestive biscuit for breakfast - as a diet plan this trip was working successfully so far as I’d lost around 9kg in weight since the start!
We’ve done the hike from Camp 2 to Camp 3 before as part of our rotation climb to get acclimatised so I know what to expect and that it’s not too long (relatively) and we leave camp 2 and make good progress across the Western Cwm towards the base of the Lhotse Face, for some reason I remember this section as being less steep but today it feels vertical! My legs ache quite quickly and I ding in for a long slog up the hill.
Not much to report from the rest day, as usual we try to hydrate and eat as much as we can (eating isn’t going that well for me as my appetite seems to have gone and anything I try and eat I don't seem to be able to swallow). Sitting around camp all day we do our best to keep a lid on our raising anxiety of what’s to come in the next few days, the mountain looms over us and just looking at the size of it starts an over active mind from analysing every bit of what’s to come - the hike to camp 3 isn’t so bad at 4 to 5 hours but the hike after that to camp 4 at 9 to 10 hours on oxygen looks very hard up the Lhotse face, over the yellow band and Geneva spur - it will be a proper test!
Wow what a big day this was!! We all assembled in the dining tent at 2am for breakfast, ready to go but by the look of most people everyone had been up and ready waiting for most of the night with little sleep in anticipation of finally heading towards the summit. Everyone rushed around checking equipment, food, water, head torches, batteries, gloves, backpacks - it’s an endless list of checks and stuff that we need whilst also only trying to pack the bear minimum we need to keep our backpacks as light as possible, our Sherpa’s carry some equipment for us but this is also kept to an absolute minimum as they have heavy packs already and for some will be the fourth or fifth time heading up through the icefall to the high camps - they are strong but also have limits like everyone else.
A last minute weather change means our departure from basecamp has been delayed 24 hours, it happens and it’s important we go for the best weather window we can so Nims decides to delay everyone and we will now go tonight, I must say from my point of view I’m glad of the extra nights rest and waking up this morning to blue skies and sunshine was glorious and has certainly put me in a positive mood to set off on our summit push.
I woke to the sound of helicopters coming into basecamp this morning, finally able to get through the low lying cloud and bring Nimsdai back to camp to rejoin us for the final push of our expedition.
Usual routine to start the day - out of bed, quick change into day clothes, search out my Nalgene bottle from inside my sleeping bag that kept me warm and is now cool enough to add electrolytes and start my day firing down a concoction of vitamins with the litre of super water.
I enjoy a final breakfast in the Marriott before pick up, up on the 10th floor overlooking Kathmandu and the mountains beyond - the weather looks good so hopefully our journey up the valley will be uneventful and we will be dropping into basecamp around lunchtime.