Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Fell off a ladder into a crevasse

It was a small crevasse though. The last several days consisted of some highs and lows, literally.

We made our way through the icefall and up to Camp 1. The icefall was fun climbing, lots of ladders to cross crevasses or scale vertical ice walls. Even some rappelling and arm wrapping ropes in a few sections weaving through the blocks of ice.

Here is a pic of a couple ladders lashed together over a crevasse. Note the nice bend in the end of the ladder!  I enjoy crossing these and have pretty good balance. However, it was one like this that I sort of fell off. If you notice, there are two ropes on either side of the ladder. The idea is that you hold the ropes to give a little extra stability as you cross the ladder. The ropes are anchored into the ice on either end. Then, after you cross, you clip back into one of the ropes after the anchor point to continue on, up or down the mountain.  However, on one ladder, when I was half way across the anchor came undone. As the person clipped into the rope on my left and proceeded on, it pulled me to the right and into the crevasse. But everything worked as it should. I was clipped into both ropes and only took a short fall ending up in a tangle of rope hanging upside down. After catching my breath, I righted myself and was able to climb back out on my own. Not a scratch!

Here is a pic of John, a fellow climber crossing a snow bridge over a crevasse.

And another shot of John descending a section of the icefall. This up and down climbing was a blast!

After making our way through the icefall we continued up and down large crevasses until the terrain became mostly solid snow. That was where you find Camp 1. Camp 1 is basically some tents on ice. Dinner was freeze dried food, which never entirely becomes un-freeze dried at elevation.  Not a huge fan. I settled in for the night and tried to endure the cold, upset stomach, and pressure headache.  I've found that day time and climbing is a load of fun but at night the fun diminishes a tad and it feels more like enduring the environment.

The next morning we woke up, had a breakfast of cold oatmeal and traditional Nepali tea, and got moving up the mountain towards Camp 2. It was a good hike. Relatively uneventful as we steadily plodded higher. We made good time I was told. My Personal Sherpa assigned to follow me and make sure I stay out of trouble (now where was he when I went in the crevasse?) was by my side the whole morning. He is a super strong climber who not only carries his gear and a bit of mine but also oxygen bottles and other gear needed higher on the mountain. Here is a pic of Sherpa Lakpa. Really nice guy!

Camp 2 was nicer than Camp 1 in that it had a small kitchen tent and a larger, flatter area for our tents.  I never sleep great the first night at a new elevation. Maybe 3 hours. But it is what it is.

The next day was a big deal. The challenge was to climb the Lhotse face, a challenging steep mix of rock, ice and snow, to Camp 3. Elevation 23,625 feet, no oxygen. This is about 3,000 feet higher than I've ever been. The climbing was not particularly difficult for me in terms of skills or leg strength, but the the altitude blew me away. Towards the end of the climb I was taking 10 deep breaths to a single step! Unfortunately, since I was preoccupied with a steep wall and breathing, the camera stayed put on my hip, so I can't give you and image of this part of the climb. After "touching" Camp 3, we quickly rappelled down to Camp 2 in a fraction of the time it took to get up.

After a relatively good night's sleep, we headed back down the mountain to Camp 1, then through the icefall, and back to Base Camp. Going back down felt great. I got stronger with each step as more O2 hit my lungs. I went pretty fast through the icefall ahead of the team simply from feeling so good. Touching Camp 3 and zipping through the icefall on my first rotation gave me good confidence for the work to come. My guide said I was equal to the rest of the group that had made two rotations. Surprisingly, I have no sore muscles, and more importantly I am well at the moment. All is well and I am committed to staying on the ladders and out of crevasses in the future!