The bid begins…
Climbing in the Himalaya is always, without exception, a juggling act. You've got to balance acclimatization with storms and the jet stream. Since we arrived on the mountain, this juggling act has been going on inside my head. Optimally, we would have just raced up the mountain on day one when the weather was pretty good. But, of course, to do that would have spelled death from altitude for probably all of us. We needed to acclimate, which takes time.
But, there are also weather phenomenon to be aware of. The monsoon, while retreating slowly south, is by no means done for the season. And, its evil twin, the jet stream, is lurking in the north, waiting for the opportunity to rake the mountains with 150 mph winds. Thanks to Michael Fagin and www.everestweather.com, we know a bit about the weather and trends in the Everest/Cho Oyu region. A large storm has been dumping snow on Cho Oyu, and the jet stream is slowly creeping southward. Good things to know…but, we are about 200 miles west and 50 miles north of Cho Oyu, so it is hard to know with any degree of certainty when these weather trends will become realities for us.
As a result, I have been thinking a great deal about schedules, timing, and options. Given the reality of a major storm coming our way soon, we need to make a bid for the top. While we have a strong team, we are alone on the mountain; a 2 foot snowstorm would potentially end our trip cold. So, it is time to make a go for the summit…and keep our fingers crossed that the weather holds.
Sadly, David will not be joining us on our summit push. He has been having a tough time with the altitude this trip, and cannot seem to maintain a good pace while climbing. It is yet another example of the fickle nature of altitude: I have climbed with David in the past, and he has always been strong. He has climbed McKinley, Vinson, Cotapaxi, Chimborazo, and countless other peaks worldwide. But, for some reason, the altitude is getting the best of him this time around.
While we will miss David a lot on the summit push, my hat is off to him for the noble decision he has made. It is easy to ignore a problem and keep pushing toward a goal until disaster strikes…all you need is ego. But, to acknowledge a problem, to drop the ego and make a decision that is the best for the entire team…well, that takes guts, that takes humility, that takes courage. David has all of those, and I am proud beyond words at his decision; I know it was not an easy one.
We are off to Camp I tomorrow morning. I will try to call in audio dispatches from Camp II and elsewhere as battery and time permit, and I hope you all can listen to them!