Straight to bed, now bed on the north coll consists of sleeping directly on the ice with a thin foam mat as your only saving grace, between high winds and absolutely no sleep temp on the north col dropped that night to a savage -20 man it was so cold and with a storm looming things at the moment looks very bleak. The storm moved in very heavy during the night and boy o boy was it a snow storm we now are bunkered down in our tents as the winds are gusting 70mph plus & Whipping up snow in a tornado style action and then hurdling that through your tent, it was full on and all I could think was the north col surface isn’t that wide 30foot left to right in total and are we going to be blown into the western cum valley on the south side or back down the Rombu valley on the NorthSide. By now the tent was bent in half and I was just praying the dead man weights we placed around the tent would hold.
Inside the tent it was very dim trying to cook up more noodles (going off them for life by the way on my return) and having to suit up to get a pot of fresh snow to melt and boil for water by the time I got back into the tent I was like a snow man head to toe.
The storm never stopped and we were gripped right in the middle of this crazy storm. Best of all we were the only two left on the mountain, the reason we stayed is that I wanted to climb further up to camp two 7700 mts to give myself every success on my summit bid, just outside the death zone at 8000mts unaided without oxygen this also would help see how my body could handle the extremities – cold, sleep or lack, oxygen dept, functionality so these combined.
The following morning looking out that plan was definitely not going to be happening. So as thick as I am I bunkered down again for the second day to see if it would pass & thinking surly this couldn’t continue at this furious level it’s gotta blow over or lighten up giving enough time to get up to camp two and stay there for the night, I could see camp two 600mts up the north ridge but unless conditions were good it was way to dangerous as the ridge is a knife ridge dropping on your left and right . By now there was a serious level of fresh snow that we had to consider dropping back to ABC as there was no sign of this storm letting up if anything it was getting worse.
So at 5pm we decided to pack up making a hasty escape to safety leaving the tents and descend, we got as well wrapped up as possible and harness on big double boots on, crampons on, balaclavas, goggles and stepped out into the madness, as I was clipping into the rope to abseil down I looked up at what was my target height on this altitude cycle but had to except on this occasion Mother Nature beat me.
Now as a good climbing friend back home Iain Miller from uniqueascents.comwould say all these technical set ups and movements are fine in training and in relatively good weather but put it into practice in really extreme conditions and it becomes a whole different game. Never truer words, thick gloves combined with little oxygen and cold with your mind not fully sound, try it – not fun.
Well now this was no game I could see by Sherpas face and he mine we both knew this would take all our technical skill and physical willpower, this was a four hour descent and with high levels of avalanche ground at 30% gradient, perfect for a good slab to go south. For those wondering well on steep ground of 30% and fresh snow building on top of hard ice it has little or no grip so while it looks a blanket of perfect snow when you cut across it then you become the knife in the butter setting off this devastating slab avalanche with fatal consequences. With this in mind we moved with military precision moving swiftly like machines, we hardly spoke as one was clipping in the other ahead setting up for the next abseil section and So on by now our faces were getting badly cut up with the ice filled wind tearing at our faces with gusts of 70+ mph and around our noses and mouths were frozen with iceagles would be proud to have in the cocktail bar at Voodoo. lol.
We were moving so smoothly that the scale of what we were moving on wasn’t a torturous thought, crevasse was the only thought I had from time to time as I could see deep blue bottomless ones as we passed over. The snow filled storm made directional an issue but Sherpa knew the descent extremely well so we tore on.
Eventually on the last abseil clip in the white out where everything looks the same. I could see a red flag marking the bottom. Safely down we moved for ABC taking another hour with the storm making life really difficult to simply stay upright. But we weren’t going to be defeated.
Eventually got to ABC and you know what spirits were high and In good form as it was a damn good test of all the hard technical training I did both at home in the Donegal mountains plus the snow, ice and rescues training I’ve been putting time into in France had all come to fruition and so satisfying it felt been equipped, if not this would be a different blog posting I feel.
More hot noodles and I’m off to bed, so I’m writing here in my tent in reflection of Mt Everest and how this mountain has decided to make me earn this climb to the top of the world and why so many die and fail in the pursuit of this majestic beautiful and deadly mountain standing at 8848mts.
So I’m still focused and In good spirits not deterred in any way, I feel to be honest I’m getting stronger and more accustomed to these extreme conditions. we decided to meet tomorrow and see how we progress from here but for now that’s tomorrow and as I’ve learned every day out here is so different and the best layed plans change rapidly and you must be able to go with it otherwise you’d be in the nut house.
So it blowing a dam good storm outside my tent here at ABC can just imagine how frantic the north Coll would be just now so going to grab 40winks as I’m wrecked tired.
Ps dramatic as this post is its not as dramatic once you have you have taking all the training and correct steps to manage your success .. So today’s post I offer up to a wise youngest Scot called Iain miller – thanks Iain for the tools to play safe
Love to all