We returned from our last acclimatisation rotation about a week ago. Our plan had been to climb from Everest Base Camp (5365m) via Camp 1 (6150m) and Camp 2 (6500m) to Camp 3 (7400m), the highest we'd ever been on the mountain.
However, heavy rockfall en route from Camp 2 to Camp 3 forced us to change our plans. In fact, a sherpa from another expedition got hit in the face by a falling rock close to Camp 3, was knocked unconscious for 45 minutes and evacuated by helicopter to Kathmandu. Later, we found out he lost his life.
This was enough for a handful of teams on the mountain to agree for a joint effort to look for a safer route from Camp 2 to Camp 3, which meant we would not be going further, but instead, head back down to enjoy the "thicker, oxygen dense air" of Everest Base Camp (EBC), while the new route was being scouted.
I had heard of the notorious reputation of the Khumbu Icefall, and traversed the icefall a few times already, but I'd never seen sherpas react like this: they all hummed prayers the entire three hours we spent coming down, making the entire experience new.
As we descended through the Icefall, a familiar sound of a rescue helicopter sounded overhead and as we reached EBC, we learned that a sherpa from another expedition had developed a high altitude stroke. The prognosis didn't sound good.
The omens were certainly not looking good: avalanches, rock falls, strokes etc.
I had also been nursing a combination of Khumbu Cough, sinus infection, bronchitis and flu but luckily after returning to the EBC, a doctor at the Himalayan Rescue Association (HRA), a not-for-profit organisation ensuring doctors are available at EBC throughout the climbing season, prescribed me with some strong antibiotics.
However, the antibiotics didn't seem to do much, which is not a surprise as in high altitude, your body struggles to just maintain normal functions, let alone fight infections.
In light of this, the conclusion from my guide was for me to descend lower down the mountain. So I packed my backpack, grabbed a map and headed about 13-14 kilometres down the valley to the village of Pheriche (4415m), where I'm currently resting and hoping to kick out the bugs from my system.
This morning, after the first night sleeping indoors for a few weeks, I got some surprising news. Himalayan Experience (Himex), a company owned by Russell Brice and made famous by Discovery Channel's TV series Everest: Beyond the Limit, cancelled all of their Everest, Lhotse and Nuptse expeditions this season.
Russell has been concerned about safety on the mountain for the entire start of the season, but I believe it was his sherpa’s concerns about the Khumbu Icefall that pushed him over the limit and take drastic action.
Himex was the second largest expedition this year, with almost a 100 people when considering both climbers and support staff, so Russell as well as his sherpa team's experience will no doubt be missed for the remaining few weeks of the climbing season.
Despite Russell's decision, the rest of the teams are now working together to set fixed lines from Camp 3 to Camp 4 and onwards to the summit. We hope this work will be completed in the next few days, so that we can finally begin our summit attempt - subject to suitable weather.
I'll be spending two more nights here in the village of Pheriche before I need to make the 13-14km trek up the valley back to EBC, which should give me a couple of days to rest ahead of the start of our 5-6 day summit push.
So now I just need a bit of patience and a little luck in getting rid of my bugs. Then a bit more luck with the weather and lots of strength on the summit push!
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