It's been a couple days but we are back at Base Camp. Yesterday we were at Camp 2. And the day before that, we were at Camp 1. The Ice Fall is HARD this year, wow. It changes every year and maybe I had an easy year in 2011 (flew through it in 3 hours), but this year took 5.5. Some of us even took up to 8 to 10 hours. Holy hell. What a challenge.
We had ventured into it a week or so ago and we thought we had made it to about 3/4 of the way up. Wrong. Apparently that was barely just half way. And after that was some major ups and downs. And to top it off, at the end was a huge wall that was insane to climb. I climbed it and spent 15 minutes sprawled out on top to catch my breath. Ouch. Not sure how some other people are gonna climb that thing...Then another hour of zig zagging and we were at Camp 1. I collapsed inside my tent but I had made it, and in decent time I guess. The rest of the day was pretty miserable, getting so bloody hot in the tent (I was practically naked), then the sun disappearing and a breeze coming through and it was suddenly freezing. I was tenting with Sangey Sherpa who was a rock star and boiled water for me because I was too wrecked.
We ate dinner at 5 (freeze dried chicken and rice FTW) and then it was lights out. My body was sore so it was tough to stay still in my sleeping bag. I didn't sleep very well. Not to mention we were at 6000m.
We woke up at 4am the following day and Sangey was already boiling water again. He's fucking awesome. Then out of nowhere we hear someone singing "Her name was Lola..." - it was Phil having just arrived at Camp 1 (he left Base Camp at midnight and was stopping by to say hi). He gave us a small pep talk and then was gone POOF up to Camp 2 already. We followed suit and packed up our things and made way. I lagged a little, leaving at 20 past 5 (I wanted more sunlight and hopefully more warmth, but it was windy as hell so no cigar).
Sangey and I made our way out of Camp 1 and it was 5 vertical ice wall sections back to back - what a way to start the morning. I was exhausted 10 minutes in and was seriously thinking to myself "well alright I guess I can't do this." But somehow I did, and at the top of that last wall you could actually see the slow ramp to Camp 2. That was semi-encouraging. That took another 1.5 hours slowly trodding along. I at one point started counting my steps and got to 1500, but then got bored because 1500 steps didn't really get me very far in actual distance travelled. I caught up with Ben and Laura eventually and we entered Camp 2 together. Once you get to the start of it, there's actually another 75-100 meters to climb before getting to the actual Altitude Junkies tents. That was painful, and had us stopping every 30 steps or so to rest. OOFF. But eventually we got there. Exhausted, but with Phil merrily cheering us along and congratulating us.
Overall, it was a tough two days. 5.5 hours the first, then 2.5 the next. Our next rotation we will have to do that all in one go when we head for the summit. 8 hours straight. Yuck. But we will be better acclimatized. I felt surprisingly well at altitude but my main issue (and similarly in the past) was keeping my extremities warm. My toes were solid blocks of ice all that morning and it took me an hour to thaw them out. Not sure why that happens to me, I'm warm otherwise, my boots are warm, and I'm exercising. Why is it that my toes just freeze up (just the big toes). That worries me a bit, but I have feet warmers so I'll just have to use them earlier on...
Anyways, so there we were at Camp 2 and the question was how long do we stay here before heading back down. It's not comfortable and your body wastes away. The answer is, just a day. I went back down the next day with Phil, who was antsy to leave. Here's our reasoning: I've stayed up at Camp 2 elevation (6400m) for a week in past seasons and while it helped me acclimatize, it depleted my body. I felt REALLY acclimatized up at camp 2, which is amazing (probably because we spent a solid 2 weeks at base camp) so no need in letting my body wasting away!
Phil and I left at 5am the next morning and basically ran down in 3-4 hours. I twisted my ankle in the Ice Fall (bravo, Nelson), but I'll be fine. Just a small sprain. And here we are at Base Camp again just relaxing until summit push time!