Now back to our summit bid...Our climbs to camp 1 and then camp 2 went very smoothly. After reaching camp 3 on the afternoon of October 2, things got a bit weird. The short version is that many people (none from either IMG group) fell from just below the yellow band and we became involved in multiple rescues. As many of the families may not have been yet notified, I am inclined to wait to give any details. The scene we witnessed in some of the other groups was one of disorganization and it saddened me to see other climbers hurt or killed. In the end one died on October 3 and then another died (a new, dear friend) October 4. These events took some of the joy from our otherwise near perfect climb resulting in 14 of 14 members reaching the summit.
We set out from high camp just before 1 am on the morning of October 3. As on past climbs we were treated to the lights of a thunderstorm over Nepal, far from us, but spectacular to behold. The five clients and 4 guides climbed with oxygen, the 5 Sherpas climbed without. Walking in the dark, with a mask on, and climbing by headlamp is an odd experience. We climbed the yellow band, a 40+ foot section of rock and snow via fixed line and all arrived at the top gasping for air. The common experience was that we wanted to get through this one strenuous section in a timely fashion to give those behind us the opportunity to come up....an event that left most feeling momentarily short on air. Once above this obstacle that starts a few hundred vertical feet above camp 3 (24,500) we had a long hour or two of climbing through steep snow and occasional rock before reaching lower angled terrain above.
Above the yellow band we walked though the remains of an old slab avalanche that had released several weeks before. As a forecaster it was sobering to note the stauch wall (foot of the slab), flanks, and crown, all which indicated a very large avalanche, which in the end had run 3000 to 4000 feet. We had been watching this for weeks and were relieved that it had released on its own far before we were climbing at this elevation.
The group moved very quickly and stuck closely together. Things progressed without a hitch and we all reached the summit within 10 minutes of each other at around 7 am. It was cold, windy, and beautiful. We probably spent about 30 minutes on top and then carefully worked our way back to camp 3, and then down to camp 2.
Olivia should be very proud of leading 14 of 14 climbers to the top of the world's 6th highest peak. I don't know the stats, but I suspect this is one of the more successful 8000 meter peak expeditions recently led by an American woman.
Bob Meyer proved an able and excellent companion as on past climbs, and as a friend I am very proud to have seem him step out of his comfort zone and competently and safely made it to the top of one big mountain.
I plan to post a wrap up of the entire expedition when I have a chance to fully digest the outcome for a few other climbers. Both Olivia and I are particularly devastated by the death of one young climber, a new friend, and it will take awhile to digest the situation.
We are now relaxing in Kathmandu, eating pizza, steak, ice cream, and Thai food and cleaning up supplies and equipment after what was overall a great trip. The lion's share of the credit for our success should go to Eric Simonson of International Mountain Guides and Ang Jangbu Sherpa of Beyul Adventure for world-class logistics, planning, and equipment. The Sherpas that work for Ang Jangbu are the best I have met and provided a steady, cheerful, and powerful engine for our expedition. As I said to Bob, a lot of calories were burned on this trip and most of them by the Sherpa staff. Thanks guys...you are simply the best.
I can't get photos to load at the moment, but will get them up as soon as I can figure out what the issue is. Olivia and I hope to be back in the US on or around October 10.