05-10-04: Hello Everybody!
Team’s back at Base Camp.
They’ve completed their acclimatization process. Some of them have climbed to
greater or lesser heights and acclimatization results thus vary more or less,
but in the end, what matters is to finally reach the end of the process….
What is to come…? Hoping that
the weather gives us the opportunity…. 4 days without wind or storm… While the
team waits for the “window”, let me share an incredible story with you of
personal courage, determination, mind, body and soul.
On April 30th, weather reports
were predicting the approach of a temporary lull in wind velocities that would
possibly permit us to ascend in altitude. However, things were not clear, it
appeared that May 5 would be a good day to be at 8,000 meters. The concern
was how could we get to 8,000 meters? The team needs at least 3 days to get to
8,000 meters from Base Camp. It seemed that May 5th was going to be reasonably
calm, but the preceding days were not supposed to be good… We were racking our
brains while we waited for the next weather forecast. Finally, on May 1st, we
detected a window in the wind velocities and temperatures.
Low wind speeds were predicted
for May 3rd. The team could therefore use the day to travel from Base Camp to
Camp 2. The forecast for May 4th was mediocre with winds of 40 km/h. On this
day, they would have to battle winds between altitudes of 6,400 and 7,300
meters, between Camp 2 and Camp 3. There were supposed to be winds of 40 km/h
at dawn on the 5th, decreasing to less than 21 km/h at the end of the
afternoon and at an altitude of 8,200 meters… this was the day to attempt to
reach 8,000 meters. If all went according to plan they would arrive at noon
and then begin a quick descent back to Camp 2 at 6,400 meters.
That was the plan, but as
happens with all plans…they change....
On May 3rd, the team departed at
4am. As usual it was cold. Andre hadn’t slept well. He had contacted a virus
and had vomited and had diarrhea the previous day…The stomach cramps persisted
yet he got dressed and headed for the dining tent.
The team began the ascent to
Camp 1 through the infamous and often-traveled Khumbu icefall. It was very
clear that this wasn’t going to be Andres day. He was tired and weak, He had
difficulty maintaining his footing and each step seemed 2 times higher than
usual… stopping was out of the question. There no beautiful sunrise, Andre
kept his head down calculating the number of stops remaining before reaching
When the team arrived at Camp
2, Lakhpa our cook made bowls of boiled rice with olive oil and salt dowsed
with a lot of water. That evening, Andres advised the team that, given his
state, he would leave the next morning, alone, at 5am with the rest of the
group following at 8am. He planned on walking very slowly and as it would
probably be very windy, wear his down suit. By leaving so early, he could move
forward at his own rhythm and avoid the hours with the strongest sun.
On May 4th at 4 o’clock in the
morning, after another bowl of rice with olive oil Andre departed. It
was biting cold with a strong wind. At about 7,000 meters, the wind doubled in
force, it knocked him about constantly. It came in bursts, each gust hitting
harder than the last. Some of the gusts must have reached 70 or 80 km/h. One
gust was so strong and it hit him so suddenly that he felt as if his breath
had left his mouth and nostrils and his air cut off… ‘Another gust like that
and I’m going back down’…
Suddenly, a terrible thought
hit: ‘The tent… would it still be there at Camp 3, or would it have been blown
away by the severe winds that have been buffeting the mountain for the last
Arriving at Camp 3, Andre was
faced with the evidence of Everest’s unpredictable fury. The tents, of every
kind, size and color, torn and frayed, were flapping in the wind. Some of
them were still standing but few… it was like being in a ghost town… the wind
continued to grow in intensity.
The yellow fabric of one of our
tents was waving in the wind like a victory flag. It had endured the forces of
nature, the door was torn and the tent was full of snow. Exhausted, Andres
slipped into the tent, he advised Base Camp that he had arrived safe and
sound. He was advised that the Sherpas had turned back because of the wind and
when they had arrived at Camp 2, they had advised Luis, Alejandro and Tom not
to climb because the wind was too strong.
By 9 p.m., he could no longer
resist the seduction of the mountain, He got out of his sleeping bag and lit
the stove and got ready to climb to 8,000 meters. The wind had virtually
stopped but it was very cold. Once again, he put on the down suit, gloves and
my boots and harness. After a light meal he left the tent, it was 11:30 p.m..
Walking alone on an immense
mountain evokes feelings of insignificance and vulnerability and makes quite
an impression. At moments like this you believe that you are invincible, but
with the humility that comes from knowing you are defeated, you learn to see
these moments for what they really are, and that is, the opportunity to
experience the majesty of God and the good fortune of being a human being. An
intense moment of communication with your being and with your abilities, a
moment of delight in the heart of nature…
Andres arrived at the yellow
band, a rocky outcrop at the altitude of 7,600 meters around midnight.
Anchoring himself to the fixed cord and he began to climb. Exhausted he
continued my ascent. It must have been around 3 o’clock in the morning,
ensconced in thoughts of his family and the bitter cold, when he suddenly
realized that the moon was no longer quite as bright… he could no longer see
in front of himself… barely see the light of his headlamp… this wasn’t normal,
the moon should still be there… but strangely everything had become dark… what
he didn’t know at this time was that nature was playing a trick on him with a
A short while later the moon was
again bright and lit the way. The intensity of the cold was continually
increasing and the sky was no longer as dark, but seemed to be turning a
violet-blue color, it was becoming brighter and brighter, there was no doubt
that the day was about to dawn.
Andres turned around at about
5:30 in the morning. He was at about 7,850 meters, almost at the summit of
Geneva Spur, a mere 50 or 60 meters from the South Col. Completely exhausted
he couldn’t go a step further, and his experience warned him not to take one
more step upwards. The exhaustion had almost reached the critical level and
one more step forward could put him in a dangerous situation. He began his
descent towards Camp III.
Andres reached Camp III at
7:30 in the morning. Fighting the extreme cold he slept until noon when the
sun finally heated the interior of the tent. He ate and drank until he felt
ready to begin the descent to Camp 2.
Alejandro and Luis had left Camp
2 at two o’clock in the morning and had managed to reach the yellow band. They
had just come back down now and José Luis had radioed them from Base Camp
asking them to stop by Camp 3 and see how Andre was. We left together for Camp
Andres, Luis and Alejandro
arrived safely back in Base Camp, tired and ready for a rest. For the next few
days the team will just wait and hope that atmospheric conditions will allow
us 4 consecutive days without wind or snow storms… four days of struggling
with our bodies and our spirits, four days of reaching into the depths of our
souls for the inner flame that will take them to the top.
Weather forecasts predict that
the four day window might come on May 14 allowing for a summit attempt
sometime during the following four days. Climbers are tired, miss their
families and friends. This winter has been especially tough. High winds, cold
and snow. Everest despite its glory is a desolate, unforgiving place and you
are changed by going there. Please take a moment in the next few days, close
your eyes and wish our team safety, good health and good luck. They will
appreciate it very much. Ian