During the 5 day summit attempt
of the team, basecamp has grown from a small Dutch settlement, to a
multicultural global village.
Next to the Dutch, the
Spanish have arrived. They like singing and eating Spanish Omelets (smelling
like Paella). A little more down are the Swiss. They come from Gstaad, and
have a heated dining tent. One of them is now in Lhasa, because he didn't like
the cold here. Then we have the Austrians (grundlich and under supervision of
a Statlich Geprufte Bergfuhrer), the Checs (tough guys and also skiers), a
Belgian guy (lost the way a few days ago 5 minutes from basecamp, searching
for 3 hours), and an American solo climber (who likes Vicks and using our
internet connection). There's also an international expedition (Canadian,
Italian, German, Spanish, etc) and there was a Swedish solo climber (more
about him later). The Japanese are there, and they are non-communicative.
Finally there's a local Tibetan expedition, who's members like to give us tea.
Such a global village above
5700 m brings along numerous medical problems for its inhabitants. And
surprise ... the Dutch were the only ones who didn't forget to bring a doctor
and a proper medical kit.
The result is that our doctor
Herman has no time to get bored. A summary of the last few days: An Italian
climber couldn't walk anymore. Along with other symptoms a clear case of High
Altitude Cerebral Edema (swollen brains caused by low oxygen levels at high
altitude). This situation is well-known to be extremely life threatening...
the guy descended on the back of Tibetan porters not before Herman insisted
that he do so (after giving Dexamethason). The Spanish expedition leader
needed antibiotics for bronchitis. He's now healthy again and high on the
mountain. The Nepalese cook of the international expedition was in his
sleeping bag with high fever for 3 days. Herman gave paracetamol and
antibiotics. The internationals now eat delicious meals again.
The Dutch team is neither
immune: Our cook Kancha got very cold at night... a warm sleeping bag + down
jacket cured him. Ang Pemba Sherpa had altitude problems, but reacted
allergically to Diamox. And Joost got back from 8000 m with compromised sight.
This should get better without treatment. He might have to descend soon.
The most shocking story comes
to us in the middle of the night. We sit right-up in our tents at 2:30 after
hearing a low voice: "I need a doctor!" It appears to be the Swedish solo
climber. We passed him that day on the way down from camp 2. He looked strong
then. We find out that he soon after descended to camp 1 and felt very tired.
He took his only tent and descended further. An hour below camp 1 he could
hardly breath and made a bivouac. After one hour he woke up almost choking and
heavily coughing. Using his GPS he stumbled to basecamp in 4.5 hours (normally
less than 1 hour walk) to find the Dutch doctor. This was a clear case of HAPE
(High Altitude Pulmonary Edema): your lungs get full of fluids and blood.
Without taking action this situation leads to death very soon.
Because the guy had nothing
in basecamp (no tent, no sleeping bag, literally nothing), Herman took him in
his tent and admistered O2 and Nifidipine.
The Dutch + Sherpas spent all
of the next morning arranging a quick evacuation on the back of Tibetan
porters (not easy for a 95 KG guy). While transported out of basecamp with an
O2 mask on his face, we heard several other climbers utter surprised: "Do you
guys have Oxygen???" Hummmmm, just in case of emergency maybe...? We saved one
life with it now.
Swedish climber evacuated on back of
The most difficult decision
of my life has been made. I am not going up anymore.
After consulting Dutch eye
specialists this decision appeared unavoidable. Going higher again means risk
of lasting vision damage. That's not worth it for me. There is a life after
this expedition, in which I need both my eyes.
What happened? I seem to have
developed High Altitude Retinal Hemorrhage. Simply said, some small veins
within my eye have burst because of low air pressure. In itself, this is not
harmful. But the bursts occurred in the center of the eye. Bad luck.
I am mad as hell and
extremely disappointed. Why?
Greg, Herman and I managed
this project from the biggest issue to the smallest detail. We prepared a full
year for this project. I quit my job end of November to be a (temporary)
professional mountaineer. When you do everything you can to succeed it is hard
to accept when you get caught by something unexpected and seemingly
Example of our efforts to
prepare thoroughly: To avoid frost-bite we assembled the warmest ski boot
possible out of 4 different manufacturer's boots. Result: Cold feet at 8000 m,
but no frost-bite. Other example: We sought the help of a top-notch training
consultancy. Result: Test data that match those of professional athletes.
Other example: To avoid mountain sickness we designed a thorough
acclimatization schedule: December - February in the Alps, March in Nepal
before going up to Tibet. Result: Nobody sick, a smooth build-up of all the
camps. Other example: We used the best ice climbing equipment to open the
route on the mountain this year. Result: Other expeditions pay us to use our
route and ropes now. Etc, etc, etc.
We did everything we could to
be successful. And we were until now. From the hundreds of people that try to
climb Cho Oyu this year, we are now the only ones that have all camps in
place, the only ones that reached 8000 m. I feel strong and I was ready to be
successful in our second summit attempt.
But what happens??? My left
eye stops functioning! Who expected that??? Incredible, unlucky and hard to
Anyway, I have to face
reality and accept that my limit is now 8000 m. High, but not high enough...
From now I will support Greg
during his second attempt to 8201 m. He will attempt to ski from the summit on
the 28th. I'm convinced that he has a very good shot at it and I will help him
where I can to make the VICKSpedition SKI8000 a big success!
Thanks for all your support
and advice. Joost
copyright SKi8000 Expedition
Digital Altimeter, Barometer, Compass and Thermometer. Time/Date/Alarms.
Chronograph with 24 hour working range. Timer with stop, repeat and up
function. Rotating Bezel. Leveling bubble. Carabiner latch. E.L. 3 second
backlight. Water resistant. 4" x 2-1/4" x 3/4" 2 oz. Requires 1 CR2032
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