Completion of two acclimatization rotations
We completed two rotations above base camp in order to acclimatize. The first one to Camp 1 and then Camp 2. The second one was to go straight from BC to C2 through the icefall in the night, which was quite tough, and then up to Camp 3 after a rest day. Because of strong winds, we ended up just doing a “Touch & Go” to lower C3 @ 7,200m and then back to C2 rather than spend the night at C3.
Promising weather forecast comes in for summit window
Our expedition team was constantly monitoring the weather, using mainly forecasts from a Switzerland-based company that forecasts through various satellite systems. The key factor here is the wind forecast, as the summit of Everest is extremely exposed and with the wind increases the risk of e.g. frostbite (and getting blown off the summit!). After our second rotation, around the 10th of May, our chief guide Deano shared with us a forecast that showed winds starting to reduced around the 13th, getting down to the 30 knots key limit by 16/17th and reducing further all the way to 21-23 May. The guides decided we should aim for the beginning of the 21-23 May window. However, we needed to be on stand-by in case the forecast changed.
No need for down-valley recovery
After completing our second rotation, we were ready for our summit attempt. Because everyone in the summit group was well acclimatized and in great shape, we decided based on our guides’ recommendations that we would not go down-valley for a few days but just wait in base camp until our summit window. Often climbers descend by about 1,000m for a few days to regain strength by breathing thicker air for a few days before the summit bid, but there is the risk of for example getting sick from eating something weird (or contracting a cold or whatever from a sick trekker) at a lodge as our base camp was managed with a great focus on hygiene, and you do NOT want to get sick just before the summit attempt. Also, we were quite comfy in our base camp and enjoyed a few rest days.
Injury in base camp – returning from the “G-Spot” – impact on summit chances??
Actually, base camp is not entirely safe either – because the glacier is constantly melting and moving and in order to update my blog – for you guys, my wonderful followers – I made regular trips to the “G-Spot” a.k.a. the 3G tent. This was a spot in the middle of the Khumbu glacier / lower part of the icefall where there was a straight line of vision to the nearest village Gorakshek and a 3G signal. One of the expedition companies had kindly set up a tent there where you could go online without suffering the wind and snow. This became probably the most social place in base camp, where you would meet people from various expeditions trying to update blogs/FB/Tweet etc…
However, you had to cross over the glacier and navigate through ice cliffs. Not a terribly difficult terrain (and no crevasses and overhanging ice cliffs like in the icefall higher up), but still not a total walk in the park. And as time went by the lower part of the icefall/glacier was melting more and more. You actually had to jump over a stream of melt water – which increasingly became more of a river – to get to the G-Spot, and the ice on each side was getting carved out from underneath by the water. When I crossed one time, the ice collapsed underneath me and I slipped down into the river and scratched my leg on the shin which hurt a bit, and this was just a few days before we were heading up for the summit attempt. Initially I was concerned this would affect me negatively up on the mountain, because you are weakened above 8,000m…! I had already hurt my ankle, and my hand a bit before… But the pain subsided a bit after a day or so, and with it my worry… But you have to be careful in base camp – not only on the mountain; it’s easy to slip on rocks and ice…
Time for the SUMMIT BID!
The forecast continued to look good for May 21. So, in the night between the 16th and 17th, at 1am, we left the camp at around 1am and set off through the icefall, again this time all the way to Camp 2.
After a rest day in C2, we moved on to C3. At lower C3 (7,200m) we put on our oxygen masks to try them out “in action”, just for the 100m to Upper C3 where we camped – to get into the habit, and make sure they worked properly.
After a night at Camp 3, we carried on to C4 @ South Col @ 7,950m, in the mid-morning of May 20.
Later at night, at approx 11.15pm Ang Gelu and I left C4, and summited 6.15am – having reached the South Summit by around 4.30am just in time for the sunrise. The sunrise, having just come up on the summit ridge, and seeing for the first time further than 5 meters, was simply put I-N-C-R-E-D-I-B-L-E !!! The most amazing thing by far I have ever experienced, and if I can come across another experience that tops that – I’ll be surprised.
After about 45 min on the summit, we started our descent and were back at South Col by 10am.
Exhausted and very happy I had a very good nap – however, for a small group of us: myself, Ang Gelu, chief guide Deano and another Sherpa, Rinjin, it wasn’t over yet – we still had one more 8,000 meter peak to climb: Lhotse – 8,516m and the World’s 4th highest peak.