May 11, 2019
Expedition Day 39
Summit Rotation Day 1:
Sleep didn’t come easy last night. I made every effort to be able to rest. The last thing I want to do is go in to this feeling tired in any capacity. But as my excitement would have it, I was wide awake a bit before 1 AM. My mind sifted through mountain bikes, my dog, travel plans, and anything in between. I laid awake attempting to solve the world’s problems, but was never able to put my mind at ease. At 4 AM, I sent Christopher a message asking if the plan was still for them to arrive around 6 AM. If not, I was going to go to sleep — I had finally exhausted myself.
I slowly managed to dress myself within the confines of my sleeping bag, and packed up the random odds and ends that I left scattered from the night before. At 5 AM, I pulled myself out of my tent to peek outside at what was taking place around me. At home, I love to be awake before the sun comes out. There’s nothing better than sipping a cup of coffee in front of my fire place while the world still sleeps. Out here, it’s a battle to convince myself to leave the warmth of my bag. The sun kissed the summit of another peak, Pemorie and for a moment, I managed to forget everything. I watched the sun make magic happen as it danced across the faces of the mountains, giving light to what was dull. I have been out here for so long that it’s easy to overlook the little things that once fascinated me when I first got here — this reminded me why the Himalayas will always consume a big piece of my heart.
A gust of wind nearly blew me over and the cold washed over me. I wiggled back in to my tent and sent another message, “Wake me up when you get here, there’s still no hot water for my leg.” I dozed off for a bit, breaking my neck as I used my pack as a pillow. My alarm went off at 6 AM and there was still no signs of Christopher, Rob, or even P Diddy for that matter. My fingers smashed the buttons on my InReach again, this time to Rob, “Are you guys okay?”
I knew the boys were totally capable, but I began to worry. 640 AM rolled around followed by a few slaps on my tent door. It was Rob. He came in to get out of the wind and said that he tried to wait for Christopher, but he would be here soon. Rob is notorious for wearing 18 layers, but I could tell he was cold by the stiffened look on his face. We chatted a while about all the juicy gossip from base camp and what the word on the street was for forty minutes, then heard another tap on the door — Christopher had made it and looked equally as cold.
We all piled in to my tent and got cozy. No sense in being miserable in the cold and brutal winds up to camp two, so we waited for the sun to come out. Eventually the hot water for my leg arrived and things were starting to warm up. I managed to get completely ready in the tent, even though there were two giants occupying most of the space. My leg went on, as well as my harness and boot, then I sorted out my layers and kit. I looked up to see both of the boys nodding off. I felt for them, that ice fall can be an ass kicker especially with heavy loads and now they were being teased of a nap when we still had another three hours to move up to camp two.
Eventually the sun started to brighten the tent and the rays warmed everyone up enough to get moving. Christopher sorted through gear that would be distributed and brought up to camp two this evening or tomorrow, while the essentials to get through the night stayed with us. I made the threat, “If we don’t hurry up and I have to take this leg and harness all the way off to go pee before we actually move, I won’t be happy.” Let’s just say, I had to take the leg and harness off.
My motivation level severely decreased by the time we got on the trail. I was flustered, irritated, and confused as to why my prosthetic was fitting just a bit off. My best guess is I have lost weight up here at altitude for so long, so I am sitting further down in to the socket. The pressure was awful under my pack making me sit even harder on to the edge of the carbon fiber. I finally had enough, I dropped everything and took the leg off to see if I could align it any better. I extended the leg so that I wouldn’t be reaching as much when I walked, cut off the make shift anti-balling plate which was adding to a weird pitching motion when I moved, and finally, attempted to turn the crampon foot to an appropriate angle to help stabilize me a little more.
Christopher bent down next to me, even though he already had an awkward pack of his own and attached my smaller, nugget of a pack to his. I think everyone was willing to do something in order to have us not have a rough start. I know my pain and sour mood radiates on to everyone, even if I try with all my might not to let it. We started again and navigated the same features I’ve been over twice before. The ladders and technical moves are my favorites now, even though I was once unsure of them. They keep my mind occupied and keep the problem solving side of me engaged — better than the long slogs where my mind goes to places that it shouldn’t.
After an hour or so since our last stop, Christopher looked at me and said, “Just one more ladder and one more feature, then crampon point.” The narrow and surely soon to break ice bridge to crampon point gave me a chill. It was definitely not a spot that you’d want two people on at once, and my gut told me that it would just be a gaping hole when it was time for us to come down. I waddled over it and felt like I was in the home stretch. We were back to the hard boot pack and rolling never ending hills in to camp two.
I threw it on cruise control and fell in to my rhythm. Half way in, Christopher made the comment that one of us was going too fast and gestured to me. For the first time on the trip, I was actually pleased with myself. With the exception of my socket cutting in to my groin and the usual aches and pains from compensating, I felt good and I am glad it showed. The altitude didn’t seem to affect me and I found a stride that was giving my prosthetic side somewhat of a break. We continued on, even passing Sherpa, and before I knew it we were back at camp two. It was like dejavu.
Comparing it to my last stint up to camp two, I was in a lot less pain and a different sort of pain. I was glad I was past the swelling and nerve pain sensations. We made ourselves comfy in the dining tent. I began to open a handful of things wrapped in foil that the base camp cook sent up for me with the boys — a special gift. I think everyone was starting to feel bad for me as I deteriorated at camp one. Lau sent up two fresh apples, a snickers, two bounty bars, and some cheese. So thoughtful of him and quite frankly, it was the pick me up that I needed. Biting in to the apple was the best thing I tasted since being in Nepal. We hadn’t had fresh fruit in weeks… fresh anything in weeks for that matter.
Kinsang came in with a coy smile and said hello. It is pretty easy to see that he missed us. He prepared lunch as Christopher, Rob, and I ran through what tomorrow was going to look like considering they were spent and ready for a nap (rightfully so). We scarfed our food down and parted ways. After setting up my tent, I didn’t really plan to nap, but before I knew it, I was out cold at woke up at 530 PM. Clearly my body was more tired than my mind.
A few days ago, I mentioned Rob putting together a kit of snacks and feel good food. I have been looking forward to Mac and Cheese for ages especially after Christopher and I talked about it for what seemed like hours. It was brought up and given to Kinsang to make for dinner alongside whatever else he had prepared. Well, I hope you can imagine my heartbreak when the plate was brought out and the pasta was bare. He did a killer job of cooking the macaroni, but I guess he didn’t realize what the cheese was.
And yes, I cried like a two year old. All I want is some good food. I am absolutely sure this is where and why people break.
May 12, 2019
Expedition Day 40
Summit Rotation Day 2:
At 1 AM I woke up in a panic, melting inside of my sleeping bag. I frantically stripped off my bootie and base layers. My temperature regulation has been a huge issue since I have been out here and is now one of my biggest stressors. When I crawled in to my bag last night, I was cold — but it didn’t long to heat up. By 4 AM, I woke up nauseous and started to dry heave. I ran through what I had to eat and if it were the altitude, the move, or the food that caused me to feel so ill. I dry heaved for a second and laid back down, thinking it had passed. Before I knew it was tearing open zippers and praying that I would get out of the tent. All of the commotion for a little bit of bright yellow stomach bile. I can’t help, but wonder if my nerves are interfering with my sleep. We will be attempting the first summit day of the season, after all.
I rolled over and made myself comfortable and passed right back out until 813 AM. I wondered why the kitchen crew didn’t wake anyone up yet and why I didn’t hear the boys stirring. I laid on my back and stared at the far from a straight line stitching on my tent and ran through everything I needed to do before moving up to what we’re calling accelerated camp two today.
-Sharpen my crampons
-Sort gear for loads
-Extend my pylons, externally rotate my foot, lock tite everything
-Baby wipe shower and change my clothes to start the summit bid with a fresh start
-Run through oxygen systems
I started slowly weighing out what was mission critical for our moves and a summit. I would be moving from camp two to camp three in what I made the move from camp one to camp two in — but in my pack and set aside I now had a few extra layers for my top half, a summit suit, a variety of gloves, snacks to shove in pockets, hand warmers to keep my leg warm, technical gear, and my oxygen set up and crampons were over in the dining tent. My sleeping system would be packed up later and set aside to move. It doesn’t look like much, but everything feels ten times heavier up high.
We got ready for breakfast at 930 AM, and shoveled in the calories. Lord knows we are going to need them. We chipped away at my list and double, then triple checked everything. I know I have said it multiple times, but it’s feeling real now. I think once we start making our way from upper camp two to camp three tomorrow and we go on Os, my nerves will kick in and the reality of what we are setting out to do will set in mentally and emotionally.
After lunch and while waiting for a last duffel to make it up from camp one, we started to make final preparations and plans. 430 PM eventually rolled around — a bit later than we wanted, but no one is surprised. Christopher, one of the kitchen assistants named Chennung who was carrying a tent, and myself all stepped off for upper camp two. Sange told Chennung to go with us on our snowy route, and he nodded in agreement. But once we made it to the start of our snowed in boot pack from before, Chennung shook his head and said, “Nope, I’m going the other way.” I admired him trusting his gut and also waiting to get out of camps view so he could do what he wanted. I actually got a good laugh out of it.
Christopher and I stepped off with me in the lead for the first half. The boot pack was fairly solid with a handful of deep sections, but we were moving well. Once our old boot pack ran out I asked Christopher which way to go. After a bit of trial and error, I told him to go out front to pick the route. Let’s just say, he didn’t pick as good of a route as Sange did the very first day. About fifteen minutes in, my leg went into a hole up to my socket, pitching me forward and bent at a 90 degree angle face first in the snow with my side stix flailed out to my sides. “You ok?” Christopher yelled. “What kind of stupid question is that?” I responded.
I pryed and wiggled my way out. Even though I was annoyed, I just kept moving. Three minutes later MY ENTIRE CRAMPON FOOT fell straight off. I must’ve pulled one of the clamps loose when I was working my way out my ice trap. “STOP!” I yelled and threw myself in to the snow, ripping my gloves off to find my wrench. I guess I’m getting the adventure I was looking for, just not in a good way. But this is par for the course on this expedition. I readjusted, cranked everything down, and crossed my fingers that my simple fix was solid enough. We continued on navigating the crevasses and eventually made it to the heli pad, where we were supposed to meet Chennung.
There was no Chennung, but off in the distance there was a duffel bag staged. We later found out it was not our duffel bag. It was a neatly wrapped up black, frozen body waiting to be exported. Christopher called back to camp two asking if there had been any updates. I mean I felt good, and think I moved well, but really we weren’t that fast. Sange reassured us over the radio that Chennung would be there eventually. Our make shift plan was to occupy an empty tent or squat in someone’s dining tent until he showed up.
Roughly thirty minutes later, we saw a headlamp flash off it the distance. It was Chennung, he grabbed the duffel and several minutes later we were reunited with our tent and sleeping bags. Hallelujah.
My Mac and Cheese craving was finally satisfied and I couldn’t have been happier. By the time everything was cleaned up and situated, it was 930. Christopher and I couldn’t wait to get some shut eye — but just as our heads hit our make shift pillows, a puja started. Chanting, drums, chimes, the whole nine until 1030 or so. Then, I had to drown out Christopher’s snoring when I stupidly forgot my ear plugs. The struggle was real.
May 13, 2019
Expedition Day 41
Summit Rotation Day 3:
I think I finally dozed off around 3, and my alarm was buzzing come 430 so that we could meet Rob and Sange at 6 to start our move. I was wide awake with my excitement, even though I knew today was going to suck. I hate rushing too so I don’t mind sitting in the cold for a bit. Christopher, on the other hand, never rushes and stays late. Christopher mumbled to me, “Hot water at 530?” “No? Hot water at 515 please,” I replied. “Oh, shit,” was his answer.
I laughed as I finished getting ready with the exception of having my leg on. I can find things in the dark with my left arm, whereas Christopher’s side of the tent looks like a yard sale with things thrown everywhere. I ate my oatmeal out of the packet and heard Rob approach. There was no way in Hell we were going to be ready any time soon. Eventually things were all packed up, tent was broken down, and kit was on — nearly an hour after our step off time.
I didn’t mind the long slog of a hike up to the fixed lines as I fell right in line with my rhythm. Things were going really smoothly and I have to admit I was pretty proud of myself — showing Sange that I can actually move at a decent pace. I pat myself on the back as we were keeping up with the Sherpa and people already on oxygen. As we got to the base of the fixed lines, the sun peaked over Lhotse and we threw on our sunscreen and sunglasses in preparation to be roasted.
Once I was up close and personal with the Lhotse face, I realized it was everything that I thought it wasn’t. I was expecting slick blue ice that hadn’t been kicked in yet — and what we were on was bumpy, rocky, stomped in terrain. I would actually prefer it to be slick so I can make my own bizarre path to accommodate my funky stride and feet size. For hours we jugged up the face. It was every bit as miserable as I thought it would be with the sun reflecting off the snow and the wind tearing in to our eyes. The people on the mountain are more dangerous than the mountain itself. Common climbing etiquette seems to go out the window out here with people going up the down lines and vice versa, anchors being half assed or stolen altogether, and people not utilizing the protection in place or their safeties. It’s a wonder there’s not more injuries than there are already are.
The altitude and heat started to get to me and my pace slowed, though no one seemed to mind. I gnawed my way up the rest of the face and was relieved when I poked my head over the last knoll to see our yellow tents. Again, normally, I wouldn’t be very happy to see us at lower camp (makes the next day that much longer), but today I was relieved. As I sat in my tent, I actually envied the other climbers I passed who started their move to camp three on oxygen. I couldn’t catch my breath to save my life.
As I sat in the tent I am growing to despise, I peeked out the door. Right below us was a crevasse with shredded tents scattered throughout. I couldn’t help but wonder if there had been life in there before the collapse — then I questioned why the shit this was the spot our Sherpas wanted. Our three tents were clustered close together, maybe two feet apart as there wasn’t space for much else. Sange would be in one, Christopher and I in one, and Rob solo in a tent. I wiggled out of my harness and crampons, then slowly made myself comfortable.
I was more than relieved when Christopher showed up with a bright yellow three liter oxygen tank. Even though a flow rate of a tiny 0.5 didn’t really appeal to me at the time, I was happy to fill my lungs. The masks are insanely uncomfortable, and even the small size isn’t small enough for me. Typically, I would have a Hell of a time sleeping with something smothering me, but my exhaustion outweighed everything else.