We have spent the last few days recovering at EBC but now it’s time for us to head back up through the Khumbu Icefall for our 2nd of 3 Rotations. We will be spending four nights at Camp 2 and climbing to Camp 3 on the third day to further our acclimatization. I’m anxious to get through this rotation because it is a lot of acclimatization, which is sometimes painful, and waiting. Once we get through this, we will play the weather waiting game for our Summit Rotation. Anyway, here is an update on the past three days at EBC. I apologize for the lack of photos but I am struggling with some uploading limitations. I promise to share a handful of pictures when I return in a few days. Enjoy!
Monday, April 24th (Rest Day at EBC)
Yesterday evening, we found out that one of our teammates will be returning home because of altitude complications. He had been having respiratory problems and flew back down to Lukla to recover while the rest of the team went up on 1st rotation. After a few days in Lukla, he visited a doctor and was told that his expedition was over because of HAPE (High Altitude Pulmonary Edema), which causes ones lungs to fill with fluid due to stress from high altitude. Once diagnosed, he was flown to Kathmandu via helicopter. This is one of the many risks associated with mountaineering and despite our disappointment in his departure, we are happy that it was diagnosed early enough to avoid a more severe outcome.
Note: Our Madison Mountaineering team is currently moving in three groups; Anders, Brent, Geoff and I are one of these three teams. We are currently moving on the earliest and fastest schedule, a few days ahead of the other two teams.
If there is a silver lining, it was that Billy and Sid were able to return to the team. They are two of our experienced guides and a couple of the funniest guys that I’ve had the pleasure to climb with. They were in the dining tent when I hopped in for breakfast and exchanged bear hugs! Guys like Billy and Sid are essential on long expeditions because they are able to keep the mood light in what can be a very isolated and stressful environment.
I have to admit that over the past couple of days, I have felt a little off. It’s normal on a long climb to feel isolated from the outside world, as you also deal with physical and emotional stress from the climbing. You spend countless hours thinking of everyone back home and don’t even get me started on guacamole… I’d kill for a pile of Chipotle chips and guac! Guacamole aside, I miss all of you and can’t even begin to stress how important your messages are for my morale. I know that God is watching over me and he knew that I was struggling a bit, so he inspired you to send all of your messages over the past few days and lift my spirits!
Anyway, my body continues to respond well to the altitude and physical demands but I am beginning to notice weight loss. I’m desperately eating everything in range, in hope that I can limit my losses to 20 lbs or about 10% of my body weight. I’m heading to dinner in a few minutes and plan to gorge myself on all of the amazing food that Ant puts together. I’m looking forward to another peaceful night of rest at EBC and waking up to my thermos of coffee!
Tuesday, April 25th (Rest Day at EBC)
It sure is nice to wake up sprawled out in a three person tent all to yourself with a thermos of coffee next to you. When Dad departed, he left the -20 degree sleeping bag that I had loaned him. This leaves me with three sleeping bags; a 0 degree, -20 degree, and -40 degree. The -40 degree is at Camp 2 right now and will move up with me as I move up the mountain but I still have the other two at EBC. My little sister, Julia, is an interior designer and would be very impressed with my tent setup. I have two pads and two sleeping bags to form what is the equivalent of a twin bed sized sleeping area that allows for me to sleep comfortably with my water bottles, electronics and pee bottle. I bet you are jealous…
Well, I finally crawled out of bed and realized that there was a puddle of water under my pads. After some inspection, I realized that there is a hole in the bottom of my tent. Remember that EBC is based on a glacier that is covered in rocks, so the platform that we are on is constantly in flux. It appears that one of the rocks ripped a hole in the fabric and the ice underneath it is forming a little stream, right into my tent. The rest of my morning was spent duct taping the hole and drying out my belongings. I bet you aren’t jealous anymore…
The remainder of the day was very low key with lots of organizing, clothes washing, and napping. The second wave of our team made it back into camp around Noon. We also received word that one of our teammates from the third wave was having issues with altitude and would be brought down on oxygen. When she arrived she wasn’t feeling well and it put the rest of her expedition in doubt. We spent the rest of the afternoon helping her get hydrated and reacclimatized to the a more manageable elevation. These altitude issues are always present in this environment and something that we have to accept when facing a mountain like Everest.
Time for me to shut down my iPad because I can’t feel my fingers anymore. Guess I should try to enjoy my last full night of sleep in my waterlogged tent before we depart on our 2nd rotation tomorrow…
Wednesday, April 26th (Rest Day at EBC)
Today is the last day at EBC before we depart for our 2nd Rotation. It is bittersweet because I am excited to get back to climbing but I sure do enjoy the luxuries of EBC. My least favorite part of the day before rotation is the packing. While my pack won’t be nearly as heavy as it was on the 1st Rotation, it will still be 20+ lbs and not the most fun to haul around. Some items that will be carried up on this trip will be my down suit (to be used above Camp 3), my mittens, goggles, energy foods, and my stereo, of course!
We have three rotations and the third will be our summit push. The plan is for us to depart at 3 AM tonight and push straight for Camp 2, where we will spend four nights to acclimate to higher altitudes. The first day will be a rest day, followed by a hike to the Lhotse Face, and we will finish by climbing to Camp 3 on the third day but descending back to Camp 2 for our fourth night. On May 1st, we will cache our high altitude gear and make our way back down the mountain to rest at EBC before we make our 3rd (Summit) rotation when a weather window allows.
You may wonder why we are spending so many nights at Camp 2 after we already spent two days there on the 1st Rotation. (You can skip this paragraph if you are not in the mood for a quick science lesson.) The reason is because the process of acclimatization involves climbing to higher altitudes to stress the body into producing extra hemoglobin (red blood cells), which are necessary to carry oxygen throughout the body. More hemoglobin means that our bodies can operate more efficiently in oxygen deprived environments. The problem with hemoglobin production is that while it begins immediately, the new cells require approximately seven days to mature enough to maximize the oxygen that they can carry. Thus, the hemoglobin that was produced on the 1st Rotation is now just beginning to mature and we will be able to operate more efficiently at a higher altitude. But why not just move up to Camp 2 and stay there, you might ask? Camp 2 is at an elevation that does not allow the human body to recover and we need to descend to EBC to allow for our bodies to better digest food and repair torn muscle fibers. For reference, air at an elevation of 18,000 has approximately 50% of the oxygen density of sea level because of reduced atmospheric pressure and the summit of Mount Everest is about 32% of sea level.
Once again, I can’t feel my fingers after typing out that science lesson. I should try to get a few hours of sleep before chugging a bunch of coffee and heading back into the Khumbu Icefall. The ambient temperature at Camp 2 is supposed to range from 0 to -4 Fahrenheit during the day, so we are in for some relatively warm conditions, assuming that we can get some sun. As long as we have clear skies, I will be calling in via satellite phone for daily updates during this rotation. Please continue to keep those prayers and good vibes coming because Geoff, Brent, Anders and I will need them every step of the way!
Up, we go, again!