What a difference a day (or week) makes! I came down from C3 last Wednesday basically shattered. My upper repository lung infection was taking control and I was in a battle for the future of my climb.
Combined with my personal battle was the fact that Everest weather this year has been down right strange. Usually April has clear days with little precipitation. Teams get their Camp 3 night in before May 1st and then wait out a traditionally bad weather spurt in the first half of May. Miraculously around May 15, the weather turns good again and the race starts for the summit.
In 2011, the weather has been all upside down, and it continues. It is 10:00 in the morning on Tuesday, May 3rd and snowing at Base Camp. Last week we got a foot of fresh snow at Camp 2. Each day has only a few hours of sunshine creating havoc for the solar panels. It is cloudy, cold and downright uncomfortable. Thankfully, IMG has propane stoves in the dining tent so we often huddle around like the Walton’s trying to get our toes warm before bed each night. The endless supply of hot water for our water battles are a Godsend inside the sleeping bags!
However this weird weather has not stopped progress. The Sherpas have the lines fixed to the South Col and are starting to stock this highest camp in the world with tents, stove, fuel and oxygen bottles. There is a virtual non-stop Sherpa train up and down the Lhotse Face. They make the climb from Camp 2 to the Camp 4 at the South Col, in a few hours refusing to spend the night at the dangerous Camp 3. Over the next week, the lines will be set to the summit.
One aspect of this weather is the impact on the climbing conditions. Even though we are getting snow, the upper parts of the route may still be more exposed than I personally prefer. In other words, the loose shale rock of the Geneva Spur, on the Triangular Face to the Balcony and the slabs below the South Summit; all may be smooth rock, not snow covered, making it a bit more challenge with crampons.
But you know what? It is what it is and I will be thrilled to climb on rock, snow, ice and whatever the mountain asks of me. I am ready!
I leave at 3:00AM Wednesday morning, May 3rd to spend the night at Camp 3. I will climb with Jay and Mirjam; two teammates also holding back a bit to climb at 100%. We will see the rest of the team at C2 as they are leaving or returning from C3.
One strategic move I am doing this time is to spend a night at Camp 1 on each rotation. This is a nuance but for those familiar with the schedule, Camp 1 is normally only used for the first time up the mountain to acclimatize. Upon advice from several people, and my own experience, I am going to spend the night at C1 on my way to C2 this rotation and on the summit bid. Thus will save significant energy even though it adds a day to my schedule.
Also a word on pace. Our team has a broad range of ages, skills and strengths. With my previous three Everest climbs and at age 54, I am an old goat. I love talking with my teammates and hearing them discuss times, schedules and strategies. Kami and I will climb at our own pace. We are not trying to race anyone. Patience and perspective. What I am trying to do is to tell the Alzheimer’s message from the top of the world.
OK, time to climb again! I’m excited to get back up there and see the result of my weeks “vacation”. I will send audio updates during this rotation to keep everyone updated plus use the SPOT tracker during my moves to C1, C2 and C3 on the Lhotse Face.
Finally, thanks again to everyone for your comments . I read each one and it has been instrumental in keeping me going the last week. I love your sense of humor, insights, your suggestions and most importantly your identification and support with our goal for the 7 Summits Climb for Alzheimer’s: Memories are Everything.
Memories are Everything
Arnette is a speaker, mountaineer and Alzheimer's Advocate. He is climbing the 7 Summits throughout 2011. He has summited Vinson and Aconcagua already and leaves for Everest in late March. All to raise $1 million for Alzheimer's research. You can read more on his site.
Photo Courtesy AlanArnette.com