April 29 – Back at BC – North Cole Climb and News

Edita wrote this morning. The climb of the North Cole sounds wild, read on…

“It was an unbelievable week above 6,000 meters! When we arrived at ABC from IBC on Apr 23, it was hard to believe we were just at the footsteps of Chomolungma. It was a really long and hard walk from IBC… I arrived after some 6 hours of walking. I was exhausted. I knew it would be a difficult walk but I didn’t expected I would arrive so exhausted! Already the trek to IBC was hard and I arrived there with my face sun burnt…  The best part of the trek to ABC was when I saw Sange Sherpa sand Tarki Sherpa walking towards me with a thermos of warm juice. The disappointment came a little later, when they said that there were still two hours to go to ABC… The last hour was the hardest very hot, sun beating, heavy back pack, etc… When I finally saw ABC from the distance,  I was so thrilled, even though it took a good 30 min to reach it.

North Col Wall

North Col Wall

Edita at ABC Everest behind

Edita at ABC Everest behind

I could say now I climbed Chomolungma! Yes, I went close to 7,000 meters on our first rotation to the North Cole. It was unbelievable! It was hard but liberating. When I saw the North Cole from the distance, I had an uneasy feeling –

Leaving ABC

Leaving ABC

how I am going to climb this vertical ice wall! However, once you are on the wall, the reality is different – the climb is not that steep as it looks.By no means, it was easier than I thought. It was really hard. It was just that I was feeling strong and motivated and I wanted to keep climbing.

Start of steep section North Cole

Start of steep section North Cole

My cough is still strong but no worse then in my previous expeditions. It is strange that when I climb I cough less and when I am back after the climb, my cough is much better – as if the wind takes away… Many people are coughing here, almost everyone… It is called Khumbu cough, from dry and cold air… It is normal to have it as long as it doesn’t develop into chest infection. Last year, the cough and later the infection cost Margaret her summit bid — she had to turn away at the third step.
We got up 5 AM that morning, had breakfast at 5:30, packed water and snacks and were on the way to the Cole. The day looked promising – the winds were not too strong and it was a nice and relatively warm morning. I was only wearing my base layer and goretex jacket and wasn’t cold at all. At the beginning of the trek we went up through stone and rock up to to the crampon point were we put on crampons, before we crossed a snow plateau towards the North Cole wall. The walk was not difficult, however, it made me feel a bit nervous seeing that huge wall right in front of me. I passed several group members and decided not to stop and rest but continue on and climb on the wall. It was good to get ahead of the huge group of Chinese and some other climbers.
The first section was quite steep, ice wall, pulling up on my jumar. At the end of that section, I had to take few minutes to brief.

Up the North Cole Wall

Up the North Cole Wall

Edita coming down the North Cole

Edita coming down the North Cole

I didn’t want to wait for too long, so I just kept going section after section. Several hours into climbing, the wind because stronger and colder. I put my warmer gloves on and continued. I felf strong and focused. I don’t have a personal Sherpa, so I climb alone, taking my own pace. This is what I like. However, the wind continued to blow stronger and stronger. I had even to stop several times and stay low until it passed. The higher I climbed the more dangerous it became to do so, especially with wind blowing so hard — there were several crevasses with aluminum ladders over. I saw one group member heading down… He said he reached his goal he wanted for today and now is heading down. I wasn’t too cold and I still had enough energy and motivation to continue on. I was curious to see how far I could go today.
So, the turn down of a group member didn’t discourage me. However, I wasn’t feeling too safe to continue alone. I waited for some time and saw two figures emerging from below. It was Margaret and her Sherpa Ang Gelu. I let them pass and joint behind them. Margaret also seemed to be motivated and determined to continue as high as possible. It was a wise decision.

Margaret and me behind Coming Down North Cole

Margaret and me behind Coming Down North Cole

The wind was getting stronger and stronger and there were more of these ladders. I won’t be able to thank Margaret and Ang Gelu enough for extending their hands toward me when I had to cross a difficult section – walking over the ladder.  It takes all your energy to put one foot in front of other when you climb in this altitude. To help someone is very hard, it exhausts you instantly. These are true friends and selfless people who do not leave you behind in this difficult environment. These are the priceless moments.
Finally, we run into Phil and couple of other group members who where coming down. I still had energy to climb on (the top of the Cole was just less than 200 m away)  but Phil encouraged us to turn around as the wind was really strong by now. Climbing further in this cold wind could mean risking getting frostbite before even going on to the summit push. The goal today was to climb as high as we could without taking any risks. We felt we even exceeded that goal and it was the time to go down to ABC.
Going down the Cole was quite a drama – a huge group of Chinese climbers and some others where sill coming up on the fixed line. The descending of the Cole was quite difficult – very steep wall and a group of coming up climbers.There was not even a chance of using a figure 8 or any other repelling device. It was steep, slippery, deep snow and ice descent. Several people slipped right in front of me. The only security you had was your safety sling that you clip into to the fixed line no matter what. The slope is steep, but you don’t have enough rope (fixed rope is too tight and plus people clipping in both ways) to use a repelling device but just a simple arm wrap technique . I’ve been using a different technique (including arm wrap) before but this one looked scary  – just holding onto the fix rope with one hand behind and another hand in front and the security sling in the middle. It is actually anything but “technique” more like “no technique”… but that’s the way you can safely and quickly descent the Cole. Using Phil’s technique, I was still extra careful until I got down the last section of the wall. I was back at ABC just for lunch. I was screaming with joy – yes, I did it! I climbed Chomolungma! I came in such a close contact with the mountain Goddess! Chomolungma was kind to me – all my earlier fears about climbing the North Cole were dissolved.
However, deeply inside I know this was still an easy part of climbing Chomolungma. The real test will come in a week or two weeks during our summit push.

Our original plan was to stay at ABC for a week and do two rotations to the Cole if the weather permits. However, a day after we came back from our first rotation, the jet stream came over the Everest few days earlier than predicted. We waited a couple extra days hoping for a change in weather, however, the winds were becoming stronger and stronger with each day and hour. Phil made the decision and announced the North Cole rotation is now completed. Even though the part of the group wasn’t able to tag the Cole for various reasons, the acclimatization at the ABC level was successful. Everyone stayed on and overcome any high altitude related symptoms. Everyone now deserves to go down and rest at BC.  It is so nice being back at BC. The weather warmed up here so much in just a week! I got a bucket with hot water and could finally wash my hair and shower! After a week at a rugged ABC, the life at BC seems like a paradise! Our cook Da Pasang made a delicious meal last night – steak sizzler, accompanied with red wine… ABC is really a no man’s land… especially now, with winds hollering all night long, where the only comfortably place is your sleeping bag and your down suit.

Our camp site at ABC

Our camp site at ABC

Besides a spectacular views of Chomolungma, there is nothing else there for a human being to stay there longer than necessary for acclimatization. Your body at that level starts dying out. It’s not acclimatization anymore, it’s just an adjustment to that altitude.
The plan is now to wait until the ropes are fixed up to the summit and for that ‘magic’  weather window to open for the summit push. Our Sherpas will have to carry loads with tents and oxygen from the Cole to camp two and three.  This can take from five days up to two weeks. My guess is about 10 days.  So, the waiting game begins now.”

That sounds like it was quite an adventure! Also, she wrote that there was an “incident ” at ABC where one of the Sherpa’s had an issue with a climber from another group who swore at him after using the toilet. The Equatorian seems to have been taught a lesson in why not to use bad language to a Sherpa, a bit of mountain justice, Sherpa style.  It also sounds like things got a little out of hand on the south side.  Three arrogant climbers also were servered up some Sherpa Justice. I will not elaborate other than sounds like everyone should use their own “facilities” and respect Sherpa or tempers will flair up .http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/04/28/police-probe-fight-on-mount-everest/

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