April 29, 2019
Christopher tapped on my tent at 3 AM to grab two of my Nalgenes to fill with hot water to warm up my socket before putting it on. Come 340 AM he was back, and by 4 I was ready to go, when he came back to let me know not to rush; to stay in my sleeping bag another 15 minutes while they finished packing. Holy cow, we were so close to actually leaving when we intended to…
When we initially stepped off, I didn’t feel too bad. Just had to warm up the joints and let everything fall in to place as the well oiled machine it usually is. However, it just never happened. My prosthetic side was giving me a ton of grief. Every twenty steps or so I was having to let the blood back in to my leg. I had either swollen and things were just too tight and I was out of the socket making my left side taller than my right, or I had shrunk and was sitting down too far into the socket making it dig in to my pelvis.
On top of the excruciating amount of pain I was already in, my limb was getting cold at a rapid pace. I fought back tears at least a dozen times — I know if I cry and I lose the rhythm of my breathing that it wont help anything. The wind screamed and my hands and face started to ache from the cold. We hit a couple of vertical maneuvers that I was still able to jumar up quickly regardless of the pain. There were two horizontal ladders — both sketchy in their own ways. One I wobbled on an ice bridge as if I were on a tightrope to get to, neither of the boys being able to hold the ropes as handrails. I am not sure I took a breath until I made it across the 100 foot deep crevasse.
The second ladder was even trickier. Again, not in a position for anyone to make “handrails,” I just had to take a leap of faith. Once on the other side of the ladder, I had to shimmy around a massive bulge of an ice feature. Any one who has climbed with me or chatted about my experiences knows that narrow paths are my nemesis as I can’t use my stix for balance, especially when the high side is my left side. So inch by inch, fighting back tears from pain, impatience, and embarrassment as people watched me move, I made it to the anchor on the other side.
Sure, the terrain got smoother as it turned into a rolling slog on hard packed ice and snow, but I did worse while the temperatures dropped and the winds picked up. Today was not my day and it wasn’t getting any better. Yesterday, the boys had gone on and on about how fast I would be and how much I would love this day. Truth be told, I picked myself apart and said things to myself that no human ever should. Instead of telling myself how slow and pathetic I am, I know I should be reminding myself that I have a quarter of a leg and I am still moving faster than the average climber — it just never happens that way.
For another hour, I fought back my tears and ripped apart my confidence. I was in a ton of pain and my limb screamed as it froze. Our camp was the lowest one in camp two, and in the moment, it didn’t bother me. I was happy to be able to rip my leg off and warm up. It took me three hours to get to camp two, and I had my leg off by 7:30 AM. Certainly not a time I am proud of, but at least I made it and all is well in the grand scheme. The boys all reminded me that I am moving well and to not be so hard on myself, but it’s easier said than done.
I was over the moon excited to see my two favorite locals though – Sange (lead Sherpa) and Kinsang (camp two cook). As soon as I made it in to camp, Sange used his hands to warm my residual limb and Kinsang made hot water for the platypus to be thrown on my leg. This expedition has been, at times, an unorganized nightmare, but I can say that I won the jackpot with these two. As I sat in the dining tent thawing out, I watched them both run around like little worker bees.
Sange left base camp this morning at 2:30, he made it to camp two in an insane four and a half hours. When one of the boys made a comment about him making it in five hours, he was quick to correct him which gave me a good laugh. Even though he had just worked his tail off to get to camp two, he went right to work building a walkway out of stone and setting up a bathroom. I am just in disbelief at the work ethic that this man has, he doesn’t stop. When I want to throw in the towel, I am going to think of him. What a stud.
After a warm embrace with Kinsang and me pointing out that its clearly been too long since he now has a full beard, I crawled in to my tent that has a clear view of the kitchen tent. All of the loud clangs and bangs, I can put an action to as I very creepily watch from afar by the cracks in their tent. I watched Kinsang tote a five gallon jug full of fuel to a higher spot and drag a stove over — then pull out a dirty tube with a piece of cloth on the end to syphon the fuel. A wave of emotions came over me. These people are salt of the Earth and tougher than anyone I have ever come across. Kinsang is always wearing a smile even though he works his fingers to the bone. He confided in me that he hopes to work his way up from camp two cook to Sherpa so that he can one day climb Everest too. There’s no doubt in my mind that he will make it happen.
After lunch and a mid day nap, I shoveled two Reese peanut butter cups in my mouth. This Everest expedition has been fueled by three things: Reese cups, Reese mini white chocolate cups, and Reese peanut butter eggs (the best in my opinion with the perfect chocolate to peanut butter ratio). I can’t help but laugh that these little sweets are my morale booster at the end of the day. If anyone out there has connections at Hershey/Reese let them know that your girl is always looking for sponsors and clearly has a unique diet for an athlete. Just wait til you see this body built by Everest… and candy. Thanks to Christopher for listening to what my favorites are on his massive Costco run.
I stayed in my tent for the remainder of the day, even ate dinner in my sleeping bag. Felt good to keep my leg off as my limb tingled with a sensation similar to frost nip. It was a tough day, but everything is as it should be so I am yet again thankful for another day in the mountains with a happy and healthy team.
April 30, 2019
I woke up to my face being glued to the inside of my sleeping bag by my drool and Sam explaining how he missed his pee bottle and managed to splash on Pete. I can think of far better ways to wake up. Since I left my leg off for most of the day yesterday, the golden hue of my tent was making me stir crazy and I decided that I would join everyone for breakfast in our dining tent. I can’t help but laugh at nearly everything the British team has to say, it’s all just so ridiculous, but definitely helps morale. After listening and shaking my head for nearly an hour at all of the nonsense, I decided to question why my second set of stix were sitting on the table. Rob then informed they were the delivery from the Sherpas earlier in the morning — which is great, except that the delivery was meant to be an actual prosthetic leg (socket, knee, crampon foot, etc), not forearm crutches. You could say we were off to a strong start.
The British team went for a stroll over to the fixed lines of the Lhotse face. If you aren’t familiar with what my next move up to camp three consists of, I highly recommend that you hop on the google machine as it will not disappoint. Rob also headed over that way to scope things out for the best route for me tomorrow. Christopher and I both stayed back — me, more so because I didn’t want to put my leg on and Christopher because he was battling the BGAN so that I can still manage to post these blogs in hopes of you all reading not forgetting about me.
An expedition definitely isn’t an expedition without a little chaos. Rob, Christopher, and I have had our fair share of controlled chaos and unorganized mishaps with the local team, but ultimately, I wouldn’t change anything about my team. Rob has been my cheerleader, always knowing the right things to say and always being able to recognize when I am getting to myself or making matters harder than they need to be. Rob without fail can run laps around Christopher and I ensuring that we get the perfect shots to accurately depict the Hell and high water we have been through, but also the moments of complete gratitude for all that is taking place. Rob is far more than just a cinematographer out here, he’s a friend, he’s a guide, and he’s a Hell of a team mate.
I know I have given Christopher a fair amount of grief as he was/is the Western facilitator and lead for this expedition, but I admire his ability to react under pressure. He has handled every hiccup well and with a level head. Even more so — I have to give him a ton of credit for practically being my Sherpa while we are on the move. People sing my praise for managing to tackle the tallest mountain in the world on one leg, but every step of the way, he is there behind me with my layers, random odds and ends, and hot water bottles should shit hit the fan. He is there for me to toss my stix to when sections get super technical and there to listen to my tangents when I am struggling the most. Thank God for his resiliency and the fact that he may be the only person more stubborn than me.
While Christopher debated whether to go all the way back down to base camp from camp two to grab my back up leg (in order to avoid any more blunders), I listened to the snow tap on all of our tents. For the last month we have had lovely weather, which makes me nervous. At the moment we have a tropical storm floating around that may cause heavy snow and high winds. I would rather get the foul weather out of the way now so it stabilizes well before the fixed lines to the summit are completed. We are all praying for the rope fixing teams to finish in a safe and timely manner, and that the weather manages to hold out for us. For a control freak like me, this may be the most challenging part. Jesus, take the wheel.
You’ll be happy to hear that since being in camp two, I am not forcing down expired MREs, but I have been enjoying Kinsang’s semi-homemade meals. Today for lunch we had spam, coleslaw (mainly cabbage and mayonnaise), potatoes with onions, and rolls — I still have no idea how they are managing to bake things up here. I am wondering what it would take to tote Kinsang around for the rest of this expedition so I don’t wind up living off of Quaker Oats.
Outside of that, it has been a fairly slow day. It has just been of problem solving and talking through scenarios for our summit rotation. Tomorrow we will walk to the Lhotse face to scope things out and to get an idea for a start time for a move up to camp three. Tomorrow and Thursday will be full of me running around camp in my summit suit playing out scenarios. For now, its time for me to crawl in to my sleeping bag with yet another technique we are testing. We are breaking the cardinal rule of having no sharps near or in the tent…. my crampon foot isn’t just in the tent, but its in my down sleeping bag. Fingers crossed the rice bag and velcro number we have it secured in doesn’t come loose. I’d like to keep my other leg and not wind up looking like I’ve been tarred and feathered. Whatever we can do to save a little time to refrain from losing heat on my left side — we need to get it dialed now and not when time isn’t on our side.