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  SKi8000 expedition 2004: Update

Update 4/22/04: Joost, Greg and the Sherpa's have now safely returned to base camp. Despite failure on the mountain everyone is satisfied to be back in the high air pressures of base camp. Four nights above 7000 meters have led to exhaustion and diverse health problems to all team members, including Sherpas.

Greg is suffering from a severe dry cough and numb fingers. Joost is experiencing severe vision problems. Pasang has a bad dry cough, Ang Pemba is sick and Pemba the boss is very weakened. Hopefully, the team members will be able to recuperate in the coming days of rest, before going back up the mountain. The final summit bid is now planned for the 28th of April, leaving us three days of rest in base camp before heading up.

More personal experiences of the 5 day summit attempt follow:

Greg: " Five, long, straining days have passed high up on the mountain, and very unfortunately without success. The first couple days of climbing went very well, and we all arrived in Vicks camp 3 in good shape. The first night at 7500 meters turned out to be hard, as I was not able to eat anything. We went to sleep at 18:00 for an early wake up at 00:30, to drink and eat as much as possible before leaving. After a couple liters of hot water, my stomach gave up and I was obliged to vomit. Horror! All the fluids and foods I had just consumed out of my body again. With the little time left, I drink some water and at 01:15 Joost and I exit the tent. Artic winds strike our attention and we decide to wait for less winds. Unfortunately, in the morning at 08:00 we are still waiting, and we know it's too late to attempt the summit this day. Hopefully we have enough gas and food to cover another day and night, so we stay in our tents all day. I begin to feel worse and worse, but cannot figure out if this comes from the altitude or something else. After a couple of radio talks with Herman, I finally decide to stay in camp 3 to try and summit the next day.

We leave camp 3 at 02:15, but the cold keeps us slow. I have cold toes and fingers, and this worries me. I know we are slow but I am determined to push on. At just above 8000 meters, Joost and I decide that we are too slow. For the past hours, every step has been a major decision and we are completely exhausted. If we want to step up, our body says no. We return very slowly towards Vicks camp 3 and then ski to Fugro 2. We do not even have the energy to eat or drink, and directly fall asleep. The next day the descent back to base camp is horrible, due to our exhaustion and dehydration.

A rectification has to be made, because I did not ski from 8000 meters yet. I encountered problems with my light weight bindings. I could not get into my bindings properly on the steep face under the summit. Frustration! After 30 minutes of trying, cleaning the bindings and exhaustion, I packed my skis on my backpack to walk down. The day is horrible, and what a finish. Herman heard the news too late and expected I would have skied down, which is why the last update contained wrong information.

Now I do not feel very well yet, but I hope to recover within the next few days. Eating, drinking and sleeping will hopefully be the key. I am still very focused to ski from the summit of Cho Oyu!

Joost: "The way up to the mountain went relatively smoothly until camp 3 at 7450 m. I knew beforehand that the real game would start above that altitude.

Like "normal people" :) we make an early start of an important workweek: at 1.00 AM at Monday morning we wake up in our tent at camp 3. Unfortunately the strong wind prevent us from even starting our job properly... Several times I try to go out of the tent, but the storm makes it to dangerous to move more than a few meters away.

Luckily, the next day brings better weather. After a quick breakfast (2 Demmenie hardkecks with Isostar squeezy on it and lots of hot water) we get on the way at 2.15 AM. My feet are frozen within 1 hour. I spend a lot of energy to warm my toes, by moving them at every step.

The entire team moves slowly. We have to find the route, brake trail and the Sherpas fix some ropes. The slow pace makes me worry: will we be in time to make it safely to the summit and back on our skis before wind and snow hit us? I decide that we have to be at 8000 m before 10 AM, but we reach this milestone not before 11. After several discussions with Greg and Herman we decide to go down. We promise to come back as soon as possible.


Camp 2 after heavy snow fall

Now I'm back in basecamp and I experience severe vision problems in my left eye. The reason is probably altitude related. We did a couple of tests with Herman, all of them indicating that the vision of my left eye is seriously compromised. We contacted eye specialists back home and the consequences of going up again can be quite severe: lasting vision damage. But on the other hand, chances are that everything will be OK within a few days...

At the moment I am contemplating whether to attempt the summit again, stay in basecamp, or return to Kathmandu ASAP. I am facing one of the most difficult decisions of my life. I'll keep you posted."

copyright SKi8000 Expedition



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