Forty hours in a tent
We have just come back down from spending four nights higher up on the mountain. On Monday we set off towards Camp I, where we were going to spend one night before we were supposed to move to Camp II at 6,270m. However, due to the fact that the ropes that had been fixed by our Sherpas had been deeply buried in the snow, Adrian and our Sherpa crew spent most of Tuesday digging out the ropes while we were basking in the sunshine at Camp I. However, we were not only hanging out as we had to dig out our tents that had been buried by the heavy snow that had been falling over the previous days. Our big Sherpa tent had completely collapsed and I had to crawl on my hands and knees under the collapsed roof of the tent to find a shovel. But it was a gorgeous day and we were even spoilt with a nice sunset. “I am so glad to see the sun settle on the mountains, I have been missing this,” my tent mate and friend Ellen said.
The next morning we set off at 5.30am towards Camp II and I guess we were all taken by surprise by how steep the route was. The Sherpas and Adrian must have worked very hard to dig out the rope, break trail and carry heavy loads to Camp II the previous day. I had a very bad day and I felt like giving up after the first hour. For some reason I could not find my usual rhythm and my breathing was pretty heavy. “This is not like you, Billi,” said Woody, our guide who was also on Everest with me last year.
But thanks to my determination and stamina I carried on to Camp II even though it was rather frustrating as I was by far the slowest of our team. “I have seen that as soon as you carry a heavy load, your performance drops significantly,” Russell told me when we were back at base camp. And I guess he is right. “Given how slim you are, the weight ratio between a heavy load and your body is just too small,” Monica, our doctor said.
But fortunately I made it to Camp II, where all of us spent about 40 hours in our tents. “There is nothing else to do up here. The weather does not allow us to go any higher, there is no Camp III established and the best thing we can do is lie in our tents and acclimatise,” Russell said. And so we did but I guess most of us had reached our “horizontal limits” after having stared into thin air for almost two days.
However, while we were feeling lazy, our bodies were actually working hard to acclimatise. “While you were up there, your bodies were busy creating more red blood cells and increasing the respiratory rate and volume. You may not have noticed, but your bodies have undergone many subtle changes to help you acclimatise to the decreased pressure and the availability of oxygen,” Monica explained when we returned to base camp.
Well, my oxygen-less ascent is now out of the window, which is partly due to the fact that I was very slow during our climb to Camp II and that I was not able to spend a night at Camp III as it had not been established. However, I hope that it was only a bad day for me and that I will feel stronger during our summit push, which we are all eagerly awaiting.
“Our Sherpas are currently on their way to the Col, which is the site for our Camp III at about 6,950m,” said Adrian. The Sherpas are making good progress and I have to say that the Himex staff seems to be doing most of the work on the mountain. Our Sirdar, Phurba Tashi is just a legend and his team is working extremely hard. “The Sherpas have a hard few days’ of work in front of them,” said Adrian.
The weather has improved and we woke up to brilliant sunshine this morning. It was nice to see everyone in good spirits, washing their clothes, sitting in the sunshine, watching the Sherpas progress through Russells amazing telescope or just hanging out and speaking to other teams.
As far as I am concerned, I am looking forward to starting our summit push and see how I will do on Manaslu, despite its steep sections that sometimes seemed harder than climbing Mount Everest. I probably will not be in touch again before I get back to Kathmandu and then return to Islamabad to take up my job as the press officer for UNHCR again.
I have not really been able to get on the internet since we have limited access and limited electricity due to the lack of sunshine. However, my friend Richard was kind enough to send me some of your messages, which I really appreciated as it is always nice to hear that people back home or in other parts of the world are thinking about you.
Keep your fingers crossed that the weather gods will be kind to us and that our summit push, whenever it may be, will go smoothly.