We are back at basecamp after spending our first night on the mountain. It was a day where everyone had their weak moments but we succeeded in our aim regardless.
I was less than enthusiastic yesterday (19th) morning. I’“” –—… yet to spend a night at basecamp without a headache and was expecting a horrible night 700 metres higher. However once I was moving I felt better and it was Sandy who was feeling poorly, held back by a cold eating at his energy. Rick stormed off ahead while Sandy and I took the slow-and-steady approach to the climb. We were at camp 1 (5650m) in 4 hours, and piled into the 3-man Vango tent to rest and brew up.
Low on the mountain, heat is as much an enemy as cold. The sun had been beating down on the ascent, made more powerful by the thin atmosphere and then of course reflected back up at us by the snow. Being seated in the tent was like being trapped in a pressure cooker and headaches were creeping up on all of us. The weather changed as the afternoon progressed, mist creeping in and light snow falling.
We decided to head out to climb up the ridge above the camp. The Sherpas had left BC much earlier than us and were somewhere above in the mist. The ridge rises steeply above C1, mixing rock outcrops with cornices and soft snow. We climbed another 100+ vertical metres before meeting the Sherpas on their way down. They reckon they reached around 6200 metres with the going difficult, deep unconsolidated snow and yet more rock outcrops to navigate. With nowhere suitable to place tents, C2 is likely to be at around 6400 metres. We parted ways back at C1, with the Sherpas heading straight down in BC in falling snow.
We settled in for the night at C1. Sandy and I had both perked up considerably and it was the turn of Rick ’“” –—…who is normally phenomenally tough ’“” –—…to look miserable with an aching head. In the end we all had a reasonable night and we headed back down to BC early this morning, breaking trail through the fresh snow. A temperature inversion had us plunge down into a layer of cloud, the snow soft underfoot and we were endlessly breaking through as we trudged down, back at BC in under an hour.
We stuffed our faces with fried eggs, chapattis and porridge, and endless cups of coffee. After a mega-wash of bodies and clothing, we did it all over again at lunch with super-deep pan pizza and tomato-and-cucumber salad. (We have the best BC cook ever!) After lunch we all looked through the various photos we have of the ridge, speculating over heights and distances and where camps might be put.
We need clear weather to make correct navigational decisions and we need colder temperatures and possibly some wind to pack down the snow. Current conditions are reasonably good but not without their difficulties. I think of the climb as having four stages, 1) to get up onto the Mazeno ridge, 2) to get along the Mazeno ridge to the col, 3) to get from the col to the summit, 4) to get off the mountain again. This first stage is a slow one as we (the westerners) have to acclimatize at the same time as the route is established. And it is not turning out to be a terribly easy one. Getting up onto the ridge is not a simple snow plod.
Tomorrow is a rest day for everyone, before the work continues once again. But what a stunning environment to be going to work in!
Cathy climbing up towards camp1.
Camp 1 at 5650m.
Rick with Sandy below and C1 in the distance.
The boys chilling out in the C1 tent.