Dawa Sherpa has come out of retirement to help Kristin beat the record of 14 peaks, and has seen how climbing has changed in the last few decades.
“Before you were truly going into the unknown, nowadays they can tell us precisely when a weather window will open. It is much easier,” he says, but adds that the mountains still have plenty of surprises.
Dawa and Kristin had a tough time in April on Annapurna 1 when they got lost in a complete whiteout with fierce winds. “It was the first time that I was in that situation. Annapurna 1 is truly the most difficult mountain in my experience,” he says.
All activity at EBC also revolves around the weather. The conditions in Lukla for the ferry flights, weather here, and high up on the mountain. Nature has to be an ally for any progress from Kathmandu to the high camps, and the summit.
Purnima leaves for her Lhotse ascent, and we head up to Pumori High Camp to get a better perspective on things. It is the day of Ang Tsering’s summit, maybe it will be possible for our lens to capture him on the southeast ridge more than 4,000m above us.
These mountains are taller than anything else in the world, and even here we are already higher than all mountains in Europe. Be humble, the mighty mountains silently implore.
Far off to the south, Ama Dablam is a swirl of vanilla ice cream, gleaming like gold in the first rays of the sun, even as the crags below us are in shadow. A shroud of fog blankets the Khumbu Glacier, drifting up the valley. It is movement in stillness in these mountains.
The sun is rising from behind the West Ridge of Everest. The Icefall swooshes down from the Western Cwm and veers off to the right – like the bridal train in a white wedding.
There are little dots of yellow and orange of Base Camp on the moraine below us, but even these soon disappear as the fog turns into cloud.
There are rockfalls off Pumori as we descend, and we get word that Ang Tsering did summit Mt Everest that morning.
But getting to the top is only half the battle, getting down safely is even more difficult.
Back at EBC, we learn just how difficult it can be just listening in on the walkies. A client has thrown off shades, and is walking aimlessly on the South Col. Another ripped off the oxygen mask, and told his guides he will come on his own but headed off the wrong way. A team of unroped guides have to quickly help him back.
“This happens,” says Lakpa, “there is lack of oxygen, a feeling of accomplishment, and some people hallucinate. This is when the Sherpa’s job is critical. Sometimes we have to force them to come down. They are angry up there, but once they get to Camp 2 they are grateful that we took control.”
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