The Second Summit Team Begins

Dispatch—Day 56: May 21, 2009

Camp 2 [Advanced Base Camp]—21,200 feet (6,460 meters)
N 27º 58.811' E 086º 54.160'

We had something of a celebration dinner in Base Camp last night. As Peter, Ed, Jake and Gerry made it all the way down from the South Col to regale us with summit stories.

After all that, it was strange as anything to get up by myself early this morning—and to eat breakfast alone. I have become accustomed to nearly constant companionship in the past few months.

I walked out of Base Camp and into a cloud at 4 a.m. This didn’t give me a warm fuzzy feeling—despite the fact that the cloud had kept overnight temperatures mild, and visibility was fuzzy at best. I like my glaciers frozen solid, and the lower Khumbu Icefall was soggy this morning. The high humidity had me dripping sweat and the sogginess had me worried that snow bridges would collapse under my crampons.

Life got better when daylight began to roll around and found me climbing out of the tops of the clouds. I was delighted to have the whole place to myself. It wasn’t until I nearly reached Camp 1 that I began to meet dozens and dozens of very heavily loaded sherpas coming down along with the foreign climbers they guided to the summit in the preceding days. My work for the day became “congratulations” as I ran into many friends—tired, a little beat up from wind, cold and sun, but obviously content to have just completed their great goal of recent months... years... lifetimes.

At Camp 1, I made contact via radio with Linden at Base Camp and Seth at Advanced Base Camp [ABC]. Linden let us know the latest forecast and we all agreed that May 23rd was shaping up as our best summit chance. This meant that Seth, Melissa, Kent and Ang Kaji needed to rally at ABC in order to get on up to Camp 3. We’d go ahead with the plan that had us all moving to Camp 4 tomorrow. This was fine, as all at ABC were sounding strong and ready. A quick check of my own watch showed that I was actually enjoying a day of good strength as well. I got my pack on and walked easily up the Western Cwm to ABC. I didn’t reach the camp in time to see my teammates before their Camp 2 departure, but having made it up from Base Camp in 5 hours, I was satisfied nonetheless.

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Through the morning, our Sherpa team collected at ABC and I was able to strategize with Tendi and Lambabu. I also got to hear their stories of the big summit day on the 19th, and was quite impressed with the massive amount of work our Sherpa team had contributed. Tendi himself had spent 5 days at or above the South Col and on summit day he’d heroically initiated a rescue for an exhausted climber from another team. He ran out of oxygen himself in the long and arduous process of getting the man safely back to the Col. The rescue ended up involving a number of teams—ultimately Jake Norton and John Griber from our own team geared back up and finished their own marathon day by climbing back up to aid in the rescue effort. I began to understand where a few of the coughs I was hearing at dinner last night had originated.

My afternoon at ABC was spent resting—the midday heat was nearly unbearable—and preparing for a few hard days of climbing. My team reported good times on the Lhotse face today and all were moving into to Camp 3 tents in plenty of time to get their own rest for these next make or break days.

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