19th the entire group climbed (Alejandro, Juan Pablo,
Luís, Tom, Martin, Richard and I) from Base Camp up to
Camp 2. The journey must have taken some 5 hours. As
always, the Canadians have left before the Mexicans, so
when we arrived to camp 2 we found them resting there.
We spent that afternoon
making plans on how we would use the tents in Camp 3. We are seven climbers
and we wanted to install just two tents in Camp 3, so that means only four
climbers could sleep there at the same time. We would take turns to climb.
The thing is now planned like this:
On the 20th we would all
climb (including the Sherpas) up to Camp 3 at 7,400 meters to install the
tents and to leave some of our personal equipment. That same day we would all
descend to sleep in Camp 2. That ascent would be useful four our
On the 21st we would all rest
in Camp 2.
On the 22nd a group of 4
climbers would go to spend the night in Camp 3 and the next day would descend
to Camp 2.
On the 25th we would all go
down to rest at Base Camp.
This is a pretty standard
acclimatization process, very well proved and not too aggressive on the body.
So, on the 20th we left for
our ascent, the Canadians Richard and Martin were the first to leave from Camp
2, just behind them was Tom, then Juan Pablo, Alejandro and Luís and me at the
Richard and Martin walk like
marathoners, so I did not see them again until I was almost arriving to Camp
3. Alejandro, Juan Pablo and Luís have a much more conservative style, as we
use to say "it is better to walk steadily than to jog and get tired".
Tom has a rhythm that fits
perfectly between the Canadians and the Mexicans.
Me... it depends on how I
feel, there are days when I stick to the three Mexicans and I go along with
them, there are days when I feel ants in my boots and I urge to leave like
crazy behind the Canadians...
This day I felt fine and
little by little I caught up with the Canadians. I passed Alex, Juan Pablo
and Luís in the Glacier towards the Lhotse wall. In the third part of the
line fixed to the Lhotse wall I passed Tom, and when I was almost getting to
Camp 3, I reached Martin, who had stopped for a nature call, gave me a little
water and just after that I arrived to Camp 3, where Richard was with three of
While we were resting and
rehydrating, the Sherpas were hard at work making two platforms to install the
tents. It is really a titanic task to cut the ice... that is why they were
hired for and that is part of their responsibilities. They are like machines,
and without them we would have a lot of difficulties to climb.
After a few hours the tents
were ready. Each one of them tightly tied to the ice; aluminum stakes of one
meter surrounded our shelters, ropes of 7 and 8 mm entangled the tents
everywhere. A real nylon and aluminum fortress to shelter from wind gusts of
up to 150km/h that can hit there.
When they were almost ready
to start their descent, the other expeditionaries arrived. They came one by
one... some more tired than the others, but everybody with a smile on their
faces. The only one that did not make it was Juan Pablo. At the beginning of
the climb there are two very icy and steep parts and he decided not to climb
them that day, so he turned around and went back to Camp 2.
While we were resting,
watching that splendorous day before we began our descent, Alejandro looked at
me and said:
"We are spending the night
here... I feel lazy to go down... even though we don't have sleeping bags, we
get into our feather suits... it doesn't matter if we are cold, it is just one
night and we would go ahead with or acclimatization..."
I was thoughtful, really.
The plan was not conceived that way... besides it sounded feasible... It
would not interfere with the original plan of anybody, and although
acclimatization would be aggressive and we could have a headache and have much
cold, Alejandro and I had been together on another mountain of over eight
thousand meters, both had the experience of sleeping that high and we knew
that even though it would hurt, the benefit of gaining a day to
acclimatization would be useful in the future...
"All right", I told him,
"it's going to be fucking hard but let's try it".
Luís, Richard and Martin
looked at us concerned, they also wanted to rush their acclimatization, but
neither Luís neither Richard had brought clothing for the cold, or sleeping
bag or feather suits, so their staying was discarded... Martin had brought up
his leather suit... assessed the possibility of staying but I recommended
against it. That was the first time in his life he reached that altitude and
we did not have an idea of how his body our respond to it. It was not a wise
decision, in his case, to force acclimatization that way. Finally he decided
to go down to Camp 2 and to stick to the original plan.
Everybody descended to Camp
Alejandro and I did
immediately the chores every climber must do in a high altitude camp.
Alejandro assembled the stoves and selected the food and beverages we would
use during the day, the night and for breakfast, while I went out to search
for ice to melt. Some minutes later we were both inside the tent, melting
snow and ready to get our sacred food: a delicious instantaneous tomato soup,
a little later a "noodle" soup with dehydrated peas and lots of seasoning and
for dinner a delicious soup made out of pasta a la four cheeses "without
milk", with dehydrated peas and what was left of the other soup... SOUP,
SOUP, SOUP!!!! Alas, if only Mafalda could see us!!!!
Dusk began to fall, the sun
set far away over Cho Oyu... in these moments you understand the greatness of
celestial bodies, the wonder and delight of a beautiful sunset and above all
you understand what COLD is!!!!
When the sun sets, the
thermometer can descend 30 complete Celsius degrees, from being at 15 above
zero, and then falling to 15 below in a matter of minutes.
Like mice nesting, we put our
feather suits on, we put the feather mittens on our feet, we tightened our
hats and we got ready to spend the hard night... We took out Martin's feather
suit and put it on top of us... I had a leg and an arm, and Alex the other leg
and the other arm... one of us pulled the hat to his side... it was usually
Three meters below our tents
was the American group of Dave Breashears, camping. They were spending their
second night there. They were filming, carried tripods, cameras, reels and
all the equipment you can imagine... of course, they had warm and comfy
sleeping bags... but just for themselves...
"Hey, Alex", I said, "I think
we are not going to sleep at all... and you know... if I don't sleep, these
dudes won't sleep either..."
It was like a conspiracy of
little kids, we started to tell jokes, to laugh, to sing and to make all the
noise we could manage... we could not get warm, but at least we had fun for a
while... Little by little we went to sleep with the last warmth of dusk.
At 11 in the evening, the
cold woke us up.
"Hey dude, let's boil some
water, then put it in the bottles and then put them on our bellies to warm us
"All right, your turn with
the stove"... I did not want to move.
After some 15 minutes each
one of us were burning our belly buttons with a hot water bottle.
I was looking at the ceiling,
laying down and Alejandro laying next to me on his side... It must have been 3
in the morning.
"Dude, my tail is getting
cold... I am so cold!!!"
"There, where my back ends
and meets my..."
"Oh, your lower back"...
"Yeah, my tail is getting cold too"... "Get closer, dude"...
"Ok, I'll get closer but back
to back, ok?"
"All right, just back to
"Just back to back"... I
thought... this creep stands 1.86m tall and me just 1.68m... he could give me
a hug and I would not be cold anymore!!! "But that is enough"... "just back
We were like icy lollipops in
the morning but "just back to back".
We had breakfast and we went
down to Camp 2.
To be continued...
Translated from Spanish by