April 24th I am back in base camp after a productive week higher on the mountain. I left for Camp 2 on Tuesday the 20th. This was the last major carry up through the Khumbu Icefall. I left Base Camp at 7 am with a 35 lb. load. I was pumping through the maze with my favorite songs playing on my iPod.
I arrived to Camp 1 just before 10 am. My friends Scottie and Jamie were staying there for a couple of nights so I stopped by to say hello. They informed me that my cache of gear had been moved. Grateful to know the whereabouts of my gear I collected it from the other side of the crevasse. Now my load had increased to about 55lbs. I waved goodbye and shouldered my load.
As I made slow progress towards Camp 2 I met many folks that I knew from the climbing community. There was Garret and Vern from AAI also Michael Brown, Dave Hahn and Leif Whittaker from RMI. It made the trip very enjoyable. The weather was clear and sunny as I rolled into Camp 2 around 1 pm. This would be my first night above Base Camp.
The weather changed in the afternoon to snow and gusty winds. I opted to sleep in the weather port and hope that the early weather would favor building a tent platform and erecting my MSR tent.
The sleep went pretty well above 21,000 ft. I woke up feeling surprisingly good as most first nights at this elevation are complimented with a headache and some nausea. Feeling hungry the cook made me bottomless rice pudding for breakfast with hot Tang to hydrate.
I set to work with shovel and rock bar to level a good sleeping platform. After an hour and a half I had made a great foundation for my tent. Crushed rock less than 2? made up the final layer. There would be no sharp rocks in my back at night! Then I set up my tent using pickets and large rocks to secure the structure in place.
After a few moments of rest in the sun the Argentinians arrived with the Benegas Brothers. They wondered why I was not so eager to help them level their tent platforms. I needed some rest for the work ahead of me in the week.
Willie approached me and asked if I would help work on the fixed lines that needed to be placed on the Lhotse face. I agreed as no one would be allowed up the Lhotse face until the up and down lines were in place. We agreed to begin the following morning when the sun hit the face about 9 am.
Early the next morning we synched up during breakfast. We would pick up ice screws and carabiners to replace all of the anchors going 2,000 ft up the face. There was a group of 14 Sherpa's that were carrying up the 11 mm fixed lines and leading the 50-65 degree ice. Willie was in charge of the lines that climbers used to go up and I was in charge of the lines that climbers used to go down. As 95% of the face was blue ice Willie suggested that we make two V-threads and equalize them every 165 ft. This would replace the single ice screws that were in place and would melt out in the sun relatively quickly.
We arrived to the base of the Lhotse face at 11 am. We switched into work mode and began by crossing a bergshrund that separated the face from the glacier below. There was a small snow bridge in place, but after a large amount of traffic this would disappear. The bergshrund would need some ladders brought up to fix in place later. The Sherpa's had taken all of the 7 mm V-thread chord so we made a pendulum over to last year's fixed lines and cut about 100 ft of nice 9mm chord to use for anchors.
We were able to secure about 8 anchors each before 3 pm arrived and the whole work crew descended to the base and began the mile walk back to camp. The ropes to Camp 3 still were not fixed so we would have to resume the anchor task the following day. Damian (Willie's twin brother) and Charly, from Argentina, had jumared up to our high point and dropped off some more rope and ice screws for the Sherpa's to use the following day to reach Camp 3.
Back at camp Willie decided that his group was going to descend the following morning. Damian was going to get the ladders to the base with the help of another Sherpa and Alvero. I had mentioned that April 23rd was the three year anniversary of Lara's death. Someone suggested that I had better do something good in her memory. I decided that replacing the anchors on the Lhotse face up to Camp 3 would be the most productive activity that I could do for the whole community.
The morning of April 23rd I picked up a V-thread hook from Mike with International Mountain Guides and headed up to the bergshrund with Damian, Alvero, and one Sherpa carrying the ladders. I made it to the base, holstered my ice tools and began to jumar to the highpoint of yesterday. I turned on my iShuffle and listened to the mantras my friend Brittney had put together for me. The work and the Sanskrit helped to sooth my mental state. By the end of the day I had made it to lower Camp 3 above the 23,500 ft level. I was the only westerner on the face besides the Sherpa's. They thanked me for my help as they abseiled the down line I had secured. The temperatures dropped and the winds increased. That was my cue to go back down to Camp 2. It is a surprising amount of work to make 40 V-threads above 22,000 ft.
Satisfied with my contribution I walked back to camp and thought about Lara and her rappel accident. It seemed to me appropriate that the descent anchors would be my project in her memory. I ate dinner with two of the Argentinians that had decided to stay. Topo, Alvero and I ate dinner in the weather port and talked about climbing. The cook had decided to go to Base Camp the following morning so everyone would have to descend.
I spent the fourth night at Camp 2 and slept very well. The weather had changed for the colder and Alvero measured the morning temp at -19 degrees Celsius. I had to break out my one piece down suit to stay warm outside my sleeping bag. Once the sun hit at 8:15 am we all began to descend towards Base Camp. A person does not recover physically above 19,000 ft in this region so I was feeling good about heading down for some rest.
I arrived to Base Camp safely negotiating the icefall again. It took about two and a half hours to get down from Camp 2 to base. I would have to go nearly that fast up on the speed ascent. I am getting times and splits figured out. Staying healthy is half the battle at this point both mentally and physically.