The Sherpas divide duties thus: Sirdar (the boss and manager), Climbing Sherpa (guide on the mountain), Cook, Kitchen Boy, and Porter.
The title Kitchen Boy does not begin to convey the hard work required. He assists with all food preparation, serving, and clean up so he is slicing, dicing and scrubbing before we are up in the morning and after we go to bed. He carries the food, fuel, pots and pans, dishes, stoves, cook tent, climber’s dining tent, and toilet tent. He also is a high altitude porter handling loads over difficult technical terrain. There were 500 liters of kerosene for this expedition so loads were always very heavy and as you can see, bulky.
Back at Baruntse basecamp, we considered the possibility of trying for the summit again but rejected the idea. We were not convinced that the snow conditions would allow for solid anchors and without them, a summit try is a crap shoot with our lives on the line. So there was a strong consensus between Michael, Alex and I.
The lake is at about 5500 meters of elevation and fed entirely by snow melt and glaciers. What’s the record for the “highest swim by a Canadian” ? By ANYONE? The pic below (cropped at the knees) is not as good as the un-cropped version.
Being upside down when rappelling is generally considered to be a serious problem. The rappel device can release and let you go. Nuru noticed my inversion from the foot of the West Col while he was watching me rappel down the fixed line. Alex was with him and by the time he looked up to where I was, my feet were pointing straight up and my head was down in the rocks. I didn’t fall or lose my balance. The figure eight rappel device was locked solid. I was holding it tight and nothing slipped. The prussik attached between the figure eight and my harness also held tight, backing up the figure eight. Neither budged 180’ed my head. So why was I upside down?
After finishing with the steep and snowy gulley shown in the picture below, I paused at the top of the rocky cliff to figure out how best to negotiate the rocks. My body weight was off the fixed line. When I put my weight back on, it stretched. Even though the line is not designed to stretch, with almost 200 meters of it above me, it did. As I leaned back into the rappel, I just kept going as the rope stretched out. Head down and belly up in the rocks, feet to the sky and pinned by my pack, Pema called “Don’t move!” He was about 20 meters above me and worried that I could fall further. I knew that both the figure eight and the prussik were holding me well so I was not worried about falling, only about how to right myself. Once Pema pulled my pack out from under me, I was able to spin around and stand up again.
The person in the rocks , lower left in the first picture, is located very close to the location of the inversion. The second pic was take just after I righted myself. The rest of the rappel down onto the glacier below was no fun. My nerve was somewhere up above in the rocks.
Lead climbing guide Saila says “Falling is learning.” I learned that really long ropes stretch. I also learned the luck is good when you have it. No serious injuries. This little incident could have been a show stopper.
After leaving us at Namche, Michael Brownsdon, our Isle of Man man, made the summit of Luboche and then moved on to Ama Dablam. His report below is nothing less than hair raising. Suffice to say, we are glad to have him back on solid ground…and oh ya…some pretty serious congratulations are in order too!
Quote from Michael’s email: “The Ama Dablam expedition was mixed. I successfully summited but my partner was too ill (chest infection caught from a sherpa on the LMC trip!). Unfortunately there was also a tragic accident. A British climber who was sharing our base camp fell to his death between Camp 1 and Camp 2 on the day I summited. I spent the 3 days above base camp terrified (even before I found out about the accident). Some anchors are shot and it almost seems pot luck which rope to use. I had a snow shelf collapse beneath me leaving me dangling off the side of the mountain and I pulled a snow stake out whilst abseiling (rappelling). Beautiful mountain to look at, very scary mountain to climb!”
Photos from the summit attempt will come from Michael at a later date.