Today was a pivotal day, we would either be heading up for a summit push or down to lick our wounds. Descending would mean at least 3 rest days at BC, to recover from our failed attempt, and then however many days it took to find a favorable weather window. I knew it, the team knew it, and Garrett knew it, which is why he woke up earlier than normal to fire up the radio.
Initial reports were that both the Sherpa team at C4 and Dawa’s team at C3 were in a holding pattern. We weren’t surprised since it was still early and no one had been able to do a full assessment of the night’s snowfall, so we held out hope. As reports began to trickle in, our optimism increased and then we received the call from Dawa to inform us that his team had begun to move and snow conditions were heavy but very stable. Then Phurba received a call from Mingma, who called in to report the exact same conditions above Camp 4 and he was optimistic that he would be able to move without issue. With this information in hand, we knew that yesterday’s decision to remain patient had paid off for the time being and we would be moving to Camp 3 today.
The news was initially communicated to the other tents by yelling but then in person when a more detailed plan had been orchestrated. We knew the routine, pack your packs, break down the tents, and get out of camp by 9 AM. The entire team did so with precision, probably due to the anticipation that had built over the past 2 days of waiting.
At 9 AM, the entire team began moving up the famous feature known as the Black Pyramid. It is an incredible 2,000 vertical foot section of the Abruzzi Spur that is comprised of rock that is so dark against the snow that it appears to be black. The rock itself is sharp and angled, requiring mid-5th class rock climbing skills (think easy-to-moderate at the rock gym). The movement required on these features require your full focus, unlike some of the monotonous snow slopes below C1 and above C3. Additionally, passing other climbers would be incredibly difficult, so the order of ascent was more or less determined by the order in which we left camp.
The day was grueling to say the least and the sheer mental focus required to safely navigate the rock made the 6 hour climb feel like 10+. Nevertheless, we pulled it off without issue, which is all that we could ask for. Gradually, the entire team hauled themselves up the last 500 vertical feet and onto the glacier where Camp 3 resides. I arrived around 3 PM with others almost 2 hours behind me but regardless, we were all spent. Each of us crawled into our tents as soon as we could build them and finished dinner just as quickly, in order to maximize our rest.