April 15, 2019
I woke up at 2 AM with a booming headache. Not sure if I was dehydrated or if the altitude was finally settling in. Though I still flailed around, I was pleased with myself as I managed to get comfortable with my prosthetic in the sleeping bag. I don’t really know how I could sleep any more than I already have, but I threw ear plugs in to block out someone sleep talking and convinced myself to sleep another five hours.
I was groggy and grumpy as all get out when it was time to make my way to the dining tent. I was having a Hell of a time fully waking up. I went through the motions of breakfast and found myself right back in my tent.
Rob tapped on my tent door to wake me for ladder work. I haven’t stressed much about the ice fall, with the exception of playing through every scenario on the ladders. How much will my balance be affected with the smaller prosthetic crampon foot in conjunction with a massive 8000 meter boot and crampon? Will stride or foot span affect my stability? Are there any anxieties I haven’t addressed yet with heights? It really isn’t the thought of falling, getting hurt, or worse — dying, its just the concept of walking on the ladders with spikes on my feet. It’s just not meant to happen.
Everyone is quick to offer solutions and suggestions as to how I should approach the ladders — but honestly, there’s no way to simply talk about it, I just have to do it. I have to get a feel for it, and I have to build my own muscle memory. To my surprise, it went far better than I ever expected. Sure, it took me a couple of runs to fully feel comfortable with and trusting of my technique, but later I laughed the entire way through. We swapped out boots and crampons to figure out what setup would be the best. Better to train with what I’ll actually be wearing, and better to be wearing what will be the most effective.
We changed pitches of the ladders and worked on different angles I would use for ascents and descents. I have to admit, the practice put another notch in my confidence belt. Granted, these ladders only needed to be suspended over crevasses 100 feet deep to be the real deal — but at least a couple of feet off the ground felt good. Tomorrow we will work on vertical techniques vice horizontal, and I’ll show Christopher and Rob what works best for me on the fixed lines and passing anchors. Luckily, they’ve both been on mountains with me to know that I have a unique way of operating and know that I will do what feels best and what’s safe.
Later, we had lunch and I immediately excused myself to go lay down. Hours passed, I watched a bit of a Netflix series, and managed to sneak a short nap in. When I woke up, I felt as though I was on a different planet. Everything felt very surreal — like I managed to stay in a dream state. I meandered over to dinner hoping that I didn’t appear to be too weird. Luckily for me, everyone was in a bizarre way. I think the sitting still has finally gotten to us.
April 16, 2019
I buckled and popped a quarter tablet of Diamox last night because my head was screaming — a diuretic that helps with the adverse affects of altitude. Basically, it makes you breathe and pee more. I have never taken it on any of my other expeditions, but everyone else keeps going on about it. Peer pressure is real folks. Honestly, it was a great nights sleep. I hadn’t slept as well as I did last night, this entire expedition. Asleep by 9, up at 2 AM to hear Christopher and Rob set out to recce the ice fall, and right back asleep til 6 AM.
Still wasn’t super keen on hopping straight out of my bag, but I managed to be in the dining tent for breakfast by 8, then in the shower by 9. Our showers consist of a solar bag filled with hot water, or a bucket full of hot water inside a small stand alone tent. The suns baked the tent a bit so it actually feels warm. The stream of hot water ran over my face and I finally felt awake. Funny how a clean body and clean clothes can totally change everything.
Pete, Sam, Mark, Tom, and I waited very impatiently for Christopher and Rob to return. Mark is a polar explorer who has been on a mission of influencing education in regards to climate change — he’s certainly a comedian. Tom is his cinematographer counterpart and is the one that I dare say provides balance in the duo. I love watching their two personalities play off of one another. We watched avalanche after avalanche hit through the skiers left of the ice fall. Admittedly, it stressed me out and my mind began to race. What if something were to happen to them while I was in the comfort of base camp? Could I really live with myself?
By 11 AM, I could hear Rob’s voice outside of my tent and I was instantly relieved. The boys brought back a ton of pictures and good info as to what I should mentally and physically prepare for. Hell, probably emotionally prepare for as well. To my surprise, there was only two horizontal ladders, and a handful of vertical ladders. However, the terrain they showed me definitely has me worried about speed and my temperatures.
Rob and Christopher are both convinced that I will still be faster than half of the climbers out here, which is nice to hear. They’re both also concerned for regulating my heat, as well as timing out the days to avoid the most traffic. It sounds like our starts will end up being around 11 PM to avoid the crowds, but also to avoid my leg sweating off. Works for me.
The next three days are predicted to have garbage weather so I better get used to hunkering down. Sounds like tomorrow we will take a walk (estimated two hours in) to the first ladder so that I can get a feel for the terrain leading up to the crampon point. I am ready for lots of frustration accompanied by “f bombs.”