Tough Decisions

27 Sep

Today (27th Sept) has been the hardest day of the 1.5 months of this
Cho Oyu expedition. I woke up with this nagging thought at the back of
my mind if i had made the correct decision. I got out of my tent which
had snowed into the vestibule (the barrier at the entrance between the
inner compartment of the tent and the environment). I couldn’t find my
ski poles/ boots and sandals as they were all covered in snow. The
snow outside was abt 70cm high. No wonder the it was so cold last
night. I was being incubated by the ice all around the tent. I shook
the snow out of my boots and got out of my tent at abt 0635H. Everyone
was outside making sure that they had got their packs ready. 2 duffle
bags per person. 18 duffels altogether and there were the porters
haggling about who was to carry which baggage. I had breakfast with
everyone just like any other day. But today it was difficult wondering
as i was eating, what it would be like to have a hot shower, to be in
a warm environment with no snow, to have a choice of what you want to
have for dinner, to sleep on a comfortable bed that night, to give a
phone call to family and loved ones back at home. This was what the 9
clients who were returning back to Kathmandu would be doing this very
day. I had a heavy heart as i bid them farewell. It was difficult to
part with the 9 strangers who had become friends over the 1.5 months
especially when i knew i was choosing to stay on and suffer in the
conditions that they had chosen to be gone with.”

The summit push on the 24th had returned out disastrous. The Germans
who left a day ahead of the main team were stuck in C1 due to strong
winds. They mentioned that they were glad to stay alive for the night
as they were afraid that the winds would blow their tents away. No one
except 1 climber had left C1 to C2 on the 24th. We eventually heard
that he got caught in an avalanche while ascending from C2-C3 and lost
his ice axe and ski poles but somehow managed to survive and return
back to ABC. We were experiencing strong winds all the way up to C1
but only when we reached the ridge on which C1 was sitting on, did we
know what the Germans were talking abt. 100km/h winds which nearly
swept us away from the ridge. We had to literally duck walk to our
tents. We stayed there for the night hoping that the winds would die
out. Then, it started snowing. What luck. The avalanche danger was
growing larger as loose snow was being swept on the slopes of the
mountain. The next day wasn’t much better either. The winds died down
a little in the morning but picked up in the afternoon. The Germans
being afraid of avalanche danger left for ABC in the morning. We
figured that we weren’t going to risk it either and left ard 2pm back
to ABC.

All the commercial groups on the mountain had turned back that day.
Some even called it quits and decided to pack their bags and head back
home after the winds they experienced. We also received news that
someone had died while ascending the 1st ice cliff on the 24th and his
body was dangling on the ropes as it could not be accessed easily in
the storm. What a shock it would have been for ppl descending from C2
to C1 to have been rappelling off the ice cliff and to see a body
dangling there!!! There was a very bad storm on the 26th (the day
after we descended). It kept snowing heavily the whole day and the
winds were the strongest ever in ABC. We received word that there were
a few climbers suck in C2 unable to descend due to deep snow. I can
just imagine how they would have been praying for their lives and for
god to give them a window of opportunity to descend safely. It was a
wise decision made by our guides for us to descend from C1 to ABC on
the 25th. If we had waited in C1 for a possible weather window, we
would be in the same boat as the unlucky climbers stuck in C1/2. So
far only the handful of Koreans have summitted the mountain (as they
fixed their own lines and headed up a week before the rest) and many
speculate that it will remain this way. Furthermore to testify to the
bad weather there was a private plane crash near Kathmandu on the 25th
where 19 ppl died. It was an international group of tourists returning
from a scenic flight along the Himalayas range when the plane got out
of control when the weather suddenly turned bad.

9 out of the 11 climbers (including the Germans who were with us)
decided to pull the plug and head back home after the failed summit
attempt. I have been extremely disappointed and demoralized at this
juncture. Having spent 1.5 months in this expedition only to have
reached C2. I wanted to give the mountain another shot even though i
knew the chances of summiting are close to none. Coming so far,
spending so much time and money, I don’t have it in me to just let it
go like that. Once again, weather has foiled everything. 2 mountains
in a row. Mustagh Ata and now Cho Oyu. I have decided to wait out the
weather and try to summit again while the rest head back to the
comforts of their home. It has been a emotional roller coaster and
this trip has tested my mental strength greatly. This decision has
been extremely difficult to make and I’ve to live with it as i said
farewell to the rest of the group leaving to Kathmandu this morning.
IMG has left me and the other climber (who has chosen the same path as
me) a skeleton Sherpa crew. We shall await the weather reports and
news from the other teams for a suitable weather window to try again.
The odds seem extremely against me that I even get a chance for
another attempt. Every moment, i see huge groups of ppl and yaks
loaded with luggage heading down from ABC. Many teams are pulling out.
All i can do is hope.

None the less i have to thank my lucky stars to have survived an
earthquake at 6400m and to have made it safely to a personal record of
7100m without supplemental oxygen. Time is my limiting factor. I have
to get home within the 1st week of Oct to prepare for my next
expedition on Ama Dablam. So if weather decides to play me out for a
3rd time, I’ll have to head back home like the rest of the climbers.
We shall hope and we shall see how the story turns out.

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Posted by on September 27, 2011 in Uncategorized


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