Everest: To the South Col
I am back in Deboche again taking some rest days. The past week has been very eventful. I arrived in Base Camp on May 3rd with another round of acclimatization necessary before getting set for a summit bid. The forecast was for high winds and a large dump of snow. In Base Camp, I talked with the RMI guides to see what they were planning. Dave Hahn informed me that they were heading up for a final acclimatization round for the next five days. That was all I needed to know to set my wheels in motion.
Sam and John Bricker had met me in Tangboche to shoot some footage of my efforts. We met up again in Base Camp and shot some additional film footage of plans and climbing preparations taking place. Suddenly I was preparing to go up which compressed their time schedule with me.
I headed out to Camp 2 on May 6th at 7 am. There were two other climbers with Willie Benegas’ group heading to Camp 2 as well. We ate and rested at Camp 2 with different acclimatization plans, but at least it was nice to have other folks to share company at 6500 meters. Motoko and Mara were planning on touching Camp 3 and then returning to Camp 2. My plan was to carry a 45 lb load to Camp 3 and then continue on to the South Col (Camp 4 on Everest) and return to Camp 3 to sleep.
At 7 am I headed up to Camp 3 with a load of gear to sleep overnight and some extra gear to cache for my summit climb. I made it to Camp 3 at 10:30 am and handed my gear to Simone Moro. He had an extra tent he was allowing me to use overnight. Then I continued on toward the South Col. I was wearing a down suit in anticipation of high winds and possible snow. However, the weather was clear and calm. I was very warm in my suit and had to open the side zippers and tie the top around my waist to vent the heat.
I followed the fixed lines above upper Camp 3 and began the traverse towards the Yellow Band. I made progress slowly as this was a new altitude for my body this trip. Up and over the Yellow Band and across the next traverse towards the Geneva Spur. I ran into two climbers with full oxygen systems on descending from the summit. We exchanged glances as we passed on separate ropes.
Above me I could see three tents at Camp 4 for Lhotse. I traversed onto the Geneva Spur and enjoyed fantastic views of the Western Cwm from above. I was level with the 7,890 meter summit of Nuptse which until then had always been above me. The final section of the Geneva Spur was almost vertical. I was making about twelve steps before taking a rest to recover. As I rounded the Spur I was able to see the South Col and a huge boulder. The traverse to the Col was gentle and I made good time. I left two thermos bottles tied to the First Ascent oxygen cache. My hope is that on my summit bid somebody will be able to fill the thermoses with hot water on my behalf.
I returned to Camp 3 and found Pemba Sherpa also sharing the same tent. He had come up to remove the tent the next day as Simone’s client had already gone home. It turns out that we have mutual friends. In fact he had a text on his phone telling him to get in contact with me. We spent the night at Camp 3 and woke to high winds and spindrift in the morning.
I filled my pack with two thermos bottles, my down suit, Alti mittens, Raw Revolution Bars and battery operated toe warmers. The winds and blowing snow pummeled me as I ascended the fixed lines to the Hanes Expedition tent at high Camp 3. I could see climbers climbing the Yellow Band in poor weather. I was not envious! I unzipped Jamie’s vestibule on the tent and cached my gear inside.
Quickly I descended the fixed ropes back to Simone’s tent. Pemba had been unable to take down the tent in the high winds. It was too easy to get frostbite in this weather. I collected my overnight gear and made my way back to the fixed lines. The cold was a motivator to move quickly down to warmer temperatures below the Lhotse Face. As I walked back to Camp 2 I could see Pemba making his way down the face with a hefty load.
I arrived in Camp 2 and talked with Motoko about his trips to Camp 3. He had encountered the high winds and cold temperatures that morning before the sun came up and had frozen his toes a bit. It was warm at Camp 2 and I decided to rest until the Khumbu Icefall had gone into the late afternoon shade.
At 4:45 pm I descended. As I reached Camp 1 I went into the clouds and shade of the evening. My timing was good and the Icefall went quickly and safely. I arrived in time for dinner. Sam and John Bricker had left for home that morning and I did not have a chance to say goodbye.
As I went to bed the evening of May 8th I began to cough. The cough grew worse throughout the night and cemented my resolve to descend again to Deboche the following morning for some additional rest. I spoke with Willie Benegas and got the extended weather forecast. High winds were expected to continue through the 14th.
I went to talk with Jamie and Scott at the Hanes Base Camp and let them know I had put a cache at their Camp 3 tent. They said it was no problem and they were waiting out the high winds as well. I said my goodbyes and started the 20 mile walk down to Deboche. Five hours later I was resting at the Rivendell Lodge and eating with the Argentinians. The thick moist air felt good on my tired lungs! I will rest here until the morning of May 13th before heading back up to Base Camp for my summit bid.