Dawa Jamba, Yubarj, Kaji, Chhering at the first ladder... bound for ABC
Text and photographs by Dave Hahn, a guide for RMI Expeditions and First Ascent.
Now it gets interesting in Everest-ville.
Chherring, Dawa Jamba, and Kaji made a significant contribution to our team's potential success today. They got up around 2 a.m., put on big packs at ABC, and climbed all the way to the South Col, establishing what will be our High Camp at 26,000 feet. All three were safely back down the Lhotse Face and into ABC by noon. They'll hope to repeat that extremely big morning of work in the next few days ... boosting enough tents, fuel, oxygen, and miscellaneous heavy stuff up to the Col so that the door will be open for our summit bid.
Dawa Jamba, Chherring, Lam Babu, Kaji loading up at ABC, bound for Camp III
Just when that summit bid will take place is uncertain at this point. To be sure, when Linden, Sara, and I came down from ABC yesterday, we were bucking the local trend. There were dozens of our friends, fellow guides, and Sherpas pushing up the lower mountain with summit stars in their eyes already. This season is turning out to be different from those in recent memory in that the weather window is open early and people are taking advantage. This has long been a hope for those of us who habitually attempt Everest... I've often though, If only the weather could be good enough, early enough so that everybody wasn't going for the summit on the same four crowded days in late May. This year, climbers are getting to the top now....
Linden and Sara
We heard that Apa Sherpa got his record 21st summit of the mountain today.... British climber Kenton Cool is already back home after a head-spinning—and nearly unheard of—three-week round-trip to the summit (we are on our seventh or eighth week). In the next couple of days it should get quite busy at the top of the world as the bulk of the assembled expeditions look to get it all done while the jet-stream seems to be otherwise occupied.
If it seems like I'm jealous, then perhaps I am ... but only mildly. A good shot at the top for others is not necessarily a good shot for us. Having just come down the mountain from our last round of acclimatization yesterday, I'm satisfied enough with our exertions and not yet restless and bored enough to be jealous of anyone else's. Although the three of us are each feeling strong and healthy now, we need a good chunk of rest and we cling to the belief that a viable weather window later in the month will be warmer and quieter than a viable weather window in the middle of the month ... we want every single advantage.
Linden and Sara crossing the "schrund" at the base of the Lhotse Face
That is why we were trying to get up to sleep at Camp III a few days ago. Without question it would have been a big plus for our small team to have the experience and confidence that results from an admittedly dreadful night in a tent at 24,000 feet. But it was clear to each of us that Sara was getting worn out in the most-recent effort to reach that camp ... who knows why? Perhaps the last rest period in base camp wasn't long enough ... perhaps the windy-night at Camp I deprived her of the sleep she needed ... perhaps the hot sun in the Western Cwm or the cold morning at ABC drained her reserves ... perhaps, perhaps, perhaps ... it doesn't really matter. It is a huge disadvantage that younger climbers suffer from—that they don't always know their bodies well enough to know just why and when they'll be tired instead of burly. But in any case, Sara was getting worked by the climb to Camp III ... she knew it, I knew it, and Linden knew it. We all were completely clear that despite this, she could make it up to the camp under her own power and spend the night if necessary. But the day's goal no longer seemed to be a smart one of it meant getting our most important climber exhausted on the doorstep to the "death zone." It became crystal clear that we needed to focus on a bigger picture than a counter-productive practice night at CIII ... we needed to get down, to get in a good rest and to get focused on a summit bid that fit our needs.
And so here we are ... listening to other teams high up on the hill, cheering on our own Sherpa team of heroes, eating everything in sight, beginning to talk just a bit of things we might do in June, keeping Tuck occupied with horseshoes, card games and dice, enduring daily snow showers, making one another laugh and trying to stay focused on a big picture that involves going to 29,035 feet soon... and coming down safely.
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