From my great highs to disturbing lows as Mt Everest takes another life…
Mt Everest bad weather continues, & it’s relentless in dishing me out all it has to offer,
So may 5th my plan this morning in to head straight back into the loins jaws to the north Coll 7090mts by now I’ve faced this vertical climb that it’s starting to become in a sick way enjoyable pain. Took me 5hours to climb it today and I took it with reserve in the engine my Fitness is really really good & I’m feeling very strong, the climb up was labored again with high winds driving down super low freezing conditions, by now my well grown beard which serves as dam good insulation is white & solid with ice, my nose, face numb and painful.
Arriving at the north Coll sometime after lunch we carried up extra reserves & high camp food as this would probably be the final set up as we push through for the summit bid in a few weeks time, so I left my second sleeping bag & full down suit expedition glove mitts & high energy food.
Tonight at the north coll I cooked a pre-cooked Irish stew – Ration pack from home. Just boil in the bag. Up here it was beautiful, by now conditions were bordering impossible with temps -30 & winds 50-70 mph my tent was taking some battering, just before darkness fell I had a good look up the north ridge to 7700mt camp 2 where I’m heading tomorow for an overnight, as the final part of my jigsaw preparation for my summit bid to follow. So Popped my diamox “which seams to be really working for me” Head down at about 9pm.
Now I was feeling really well with no headaches or signs of altitude sickness as this was my third sleep at the north coll so my body’s really accepting the altitude change & pressures thankfully.
The tent is really cold with a full lining of ice covering the complete inside of the tent roof & walls & as the wind blows hard & shakes the ice chaff of landing perfectly on my face – chilling as you nod off.
Sleep was light purely due to the cold & even though I’m using a top range north face -40 below still freezing never as glad of having my pee bottle tucked up beside my neck for some heat – sounds grose but needs must. Later that night a weird thing started happening about 3am as I’d dosed off I’d get this frighting drowning effect and would frantically waken to having to suck huge amounts of air with the feeling I was suffocating, so that put the tin hat on the sleep. 6am I got up and sholved fresh snow to melt for hot water. Sherpa and myself cooked up again, boil in the bag noodle soup, imagine lol.
Black tea as usual and filled some hot water bottles for the climb.
The welcomed sun was rising at 7am as we set off fully decked out in full expedition clothing, forecast was for the high winds to continue, not something I was looking forward to as the ridge line to camp two is narrow and very exposed.
Jesus I could hardly get one leg to move in front of the other as with in a few meters I was wrecked and couldn’t see how I was going to keep going, not less climb to camp two just below the zone.
Camp two is the equivalent height as camp three on the south side. After about a half an hour I got this old Diesel engine fired up and got chugging along the air with every step was getting less and less by now those predicted winds were making what oxygen that was available to suck in hard to obtain.
Within 1 hour I was back looking like that white frozen bearded yeti like yesterday, starting to become the norm.
Today’s push was a tiring 5 hours of a relentless climb on hard snow thankfully, stopping due to pure exhaustion to my knees below I could see out through my goggles the beautiful sight of mt AMA Dablam, the one that got away but ill be back for that bad boy.
By now you could really sense we were super high as we were looking down on everything, everything that is except the sight up ahead, Mt Everest summit ridge line.
The sight was a mixed bag now I was looking up close and personal as there was no one on the ridge line, well except two tiny dots setting out from the north Coll 4 hours earlier.
So mid day’ish we arrived into camp two with my face feeling it had just been sand blasted to the bones, tired, cold and hungry.
Bad news again – Damn Mother Nature bit again not a hope of setting up our tents here, we could hardly stand ourselves not to talk about making a tent stand. There was a few tents here all abandoned, wonder why lol and getting the shit kicked out of them.
Sheltered and ate some high energy barsand gels, consumed hot tea and got the hell out of there.
Strangely I was feeling still very strong, surprised myself, those old cycling legs were proving key in my endurance.
My lungs were feeling good and to be sitting just outside the death zone @8000mt & not feeling the need for any sublimentry oxygen, again years and years of the bike would have helped lung development.
So I achieved in a headstrong determined way what I had set out today to achieve see how my body would feel and operate at 7700mts or a staggering 25.410 feet I’m waiting to see in one of the windows of the passing jumbo jet planes. haha
Back to north Coll where we brewed up a cuppa tea from fresh snow avoiding the yellow, doesn’t taste so good. lol.
We decided to go back down the north Coll as I was still feeling strong, rather that another flipping freezing night up here. lol.
So secured the tent with packed snow in and around the doors and sides for added protection to the elements. Before breaking down I had a good look at what would be the summit bid set up in a few weeks time with a real sense of excitement.
I have to admit by the time I did get back to ABC I was damn well dead beat. Having been going now for 10 hours straight and a terrible nights sleep the night before, a hot cup of tea was welcomed.
But reality struck as it does times as your in your own bubble on expeditions – especially this one. TRAGEDY STRUCK
Within minutes of arriving back we were informed that Mt Everest had claimed its first life on the north side – details were sketchy but it was a young lad aged in his thirty’s that was just earlier to our arrival and on the same returning path between north Coll and ABC while acclimatising and just 10 foot from my tent he dropped dead and couldn’t be saved. He was a young Russian climber and he too had his Sherpa with him.
We are all stunned and shocked that this guy was just out doing same as the rest do in preparation for our summit bid.
Over this last final push on altitude acclimatisation and seeing the scale of the task ahead I wish I could only put into words and feelings the magnitude of the pressures physically, mentally & emotionally that at this altitude what the body must endure to survive at this level…
Anyway it was a damaging sight watching a young body been carried out of ABC (no coffins up here) with his tearful companions in tow walking back down to base camp to await transport I suspect.
Tonight my prayers are with this young mountaineer, friends and family.
As I write this I look back up at Mt Everest, cold, windy & heartless with no conscious.
A gentle reminder…
Back to base camp for me as I’ve finished my acclimation process, it’s rest and recovery now for my full summit climb has arrived and in the next weeks. GAME ON.
Love to everyone at home.
I’m nearly in the final stretch as I’m just arrived back into base camp time now to mend and heal the mind & body.
Thank you all for the good wishes & kind comments to myself and my family.
Now that I’ve got communication here at base camp a special hearty congrats to Laura (Furey) & Gavin McMenamin who got married at the weekend..
Also Garry Jennings & Neil Doherty and the awesome rally team winning the Killarney rally also at the weekend.. Ill be back in time for Donegal international rally…can’t wait.
Great to hear on another successful Northwest 10k and congrats to all who took part & especially My wife Sharon on setting a personal best time… Girl power.