Saturday, May 24, 2008

Mount Everest Summit Push: Climb To Camp II, 17 May

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Finally, the wait is over. I don't think any of us got much sleep last night, despite going to bed early. I tried my best, but as usual when the generator turned over at 2am, that was it, I was up. The next hour I just laid there wondering why I had ear plugs in after all. G-Man was at our tent doors with tea at 3am and the next hour and a half was spent going through standard motions before we finally stepped off into the dark. somewhere around 04:30.

By 5, we were deep in the waves at the front of the Icefall, commenting about how we hated that section- now melting out rapidly. The first wisps of daylight caught the top of Pumori casting a haunting glow over the valley. When coupled with a cloud skirt midway up its face, it made for a truly beautiful sight.

Higher and higher we climbed until we reached familiar sights- the Ice Block, Soccer Field, Fixed Ladders, Crazy Ladder #1, Crazy Ladder #2, and Crazy Ladder #3.

At one point, I looked at one evil ladder that all of us have traditionally had problems with. This thing is seriously evil. There, scribbled on the side of the ladder with a Sharpie was PTSD. In the military, PTSD stands for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and I couldn't think of a more appropriate thing to have written on a ladder which to all of us on this team has almost slipped off of. So, I took a picture. What else is there to do? I mean, come on.

And then we did it, we topped out- what will hopefully be our final gut buster through the Icefall was over. It had taken 3 hours, 15 minutes- our fastest time yet and a sign of our recovered strength from Base Camp. We had done it without ever really losing our breath too, which was a source of celebration to Francisco and me and brought a smile to Willie's face.

Along the way, we bumped into Apa Sherpa, the Sherpa that has the most Everest summits: 17. Crazy. He was wandering down the trail when Willie asked him to assist in repairing Crazy Ladder #2, the four tied together and spanning a crevasse at a 30 degree angle. He happily did and while they were hammering down snow pickets told Willie that he had arrived at Base Camp a few days ago, ran a load up to Camp II and spent a few days acclimatizing. He's heading back to Base Camp now, ready for a summit push. Wtf. Seriously, wtf.

As for the regular humans, we pressed on slowly and passed through a largely abandoned Camp I. Our tent here was pulled out long ago, but some remain and their sight brought a smile to our team- a mile marker enroute to Camp II- our destination for the day.

Up and around, close to the face of Nuptse, the now familiar trail disappeared under us as we continued on while making good speed. It took another 1:50 of regular, methodical progress to make Camp II. Like with the Icefall, we felt surprisingly good- nowhere near the ass kicking we experienced just 11 days ago. Coming into camp, the Sherpas were all smiles and congratulations. We sat down in the cook shelter and Super Mila, who pushed uphill to replace Indra two days ago, made us a fantastic lunch.

From there, we crawled into our tents and relaxed the afternoon away. It's amazing how easily you can pass five hours staring at the inside of a tent if you put your mind to it. Daydreaming, I thought of the large number of support emails we all have received over the last week- it's truly staggering and actually pretty humbling. In the coming days as we move into the Great Unknown, I can't even begin to explain what it means to us to know that so many people are there unquestionably cheering us, supporting us, and there to smile along with our team as we press on.

Next Post: Rest day at Camp II

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