By Michael at 03:26AM (PDT) on May 23, 2005

So I've finally recovered enough to actually think and type at the same time
regarding summiting on the 21st. It was an extremely challenging and
rewarding experience. Beforehand I was thinking very arrogantly that I could
do this it was just a matter of the weather window. Having now reached the
summit I don't think I would ever say I know I can make it up. It was out on
the edge for so long I reached a point at the 3rd step where I was standing
3 to 4 feet from the Kangshung Face looking down this incredible face
realizing that I must be standing on a cornice and I was mentally so numb by
that point from all the climbing, lack of oxygen, cold temperatures,
incredible views, and constantly having to force yourself to keep going up
when your entire body is screaming to go down and get out of this extremely
hostile environment that my mind was numb to the risk. I could see the final
summit snow slope and was completely committed.

The summit push started on May 18th with the six of us (Ambrose, Ryan,
Scott, Lhakpa, DaNgima, and myself) heading up to the North Col. On the
morning of the 19th the weather report turned worse than previously reported
for the 21st. We had a few confusing discussions leaving a few team members
unsure of the plans. I thought it was tentatively to head to 7900m. If we
made it there by around 1 to 2pm we try to continue to 8300m and then try to
summit on the 20th instead. Lhakpa, DaNgima, and myself all arrived there
around 3 to 3:30pm and so decided to not continue. Ambrose and Ryan I guess
thought this meant to go back to the North Col while Scott was drained from
his cracked rib which he acquired a couple days prior from a coughing fit. 

That left me with the 2 Sherpas at the 7900m camp. We decided to set up one
2 person tent and sleep 3 people in it. It was extremely windy that night
and we cooked inside the tent. It was very cramped to say the least but we
could actually sleep laying down with our legs straight. The morning of the
20th it was perfectly calm so we headed up to the 8300m camp (really 8210m
per my GPS). I believe Jamie is going to post a picture of Rosa's tent which
I took at this camp. Her tent was pitched next to ours. Notice that the
horizon is level. Cooking and sleeping is this tent with one sleeping bag
for the 3 of us was a new level in intimacy with my climbing partners for
me. The tent sights took at least 2 hours to hack into the mountain. 

After brewing up and sleeping for a few hours we got up around 10pm. Our
original plans were to get up at 8pm because the Sherpas were going to be
taking extra time to fix ropes from the top of the Yellow Band to the
summit. They were all carrying extra ropes for this job. Luckily many of the
groups were a bit late leaving and we caught up with the rest of the Sherpa
rope fixing team at the 2nd step.

The climbing from the 8300m camp was a lot more technical than I expected.
It was pretty much continuous class 2 with an occasional class 3 move, but
in the dark and at that altitude it felt a lot harder. The 2nd step was very
cool. The hard part about it was getting to the ladder. The ladder itself
was pretty straight forward. There are 2 ladders there, the 2nd which people
say was put there last year. It is a bit taller and positioned a bit to the
right of the old ladder which makes the move at the top much easier.

Once above the 2nd step we had sunshine, but also increasing winds. The
climbing was straightforward but a constant strain due to the altitude,
exposure, down sloping rock, and climbing with crampons on. The views were
incredible and the anchors were all suspect. When we reached the base of the
3rd step we were standing in a pretty stiff wind and I was starting to
shiver and my feet were quite cold. After a 5 minute break I decided to head
up and not wait for the sherpas to finish fixing. I climbed over the 3rd
step and up the final snow slope without a new fixed rope. Often I could
clip one of the ropes from previous years. Once we were on the summit snow
slope we were completely lucky that the way the wind was blowing we were
protected. This, I think, helped substantially with our making it to the top
without more serious frostbite or other issues. For myself I came away
without any frostbite, although it was very close on my right foot. DaNigma
fixed a good portion of the final pitches to the summit.

People often ask what the views are like from the summit, and they were
nice, but that wasn't why I was there. It was for the challenge, wondering
if I could do it, that was my reward.

I got I think 4 pictures from the summit before my camera froze up,
unfortunately the first thing in the top of my summit bag was Al's rubber
chicken so 2 of the pictures are of DaNgima with the chicken. Maybe the
first rubber chicken on the summit of Everest!

The descent was reasonable except for needing be very careful with not
tripping (especially on old ropes). Sometime around 1 or 2pm the winds
really picked up and it started snowing. At the 2nd step a rappel line was
not set up so you had to down climb the upper third with the ladder and
pseudo rappel/down climb the lower two-thirds. When I was down climbing the
yellow band my regulator got bumped and came unscrewed. By the time I could
get to a spot I could take my pack off the bottle was empty. This hit me
pretty hard as I was up at 8300m and suddenly cut off from oxygen. I was
otherwise only 5 to 10 minutes from our tent. I would get up walk ten paces
and sit down. It really was quite nice just sitting there. After covering
about half the distance to the tent DaNgima caught up with me and gave me
another bottle he was carrying. It then took me about 3 minutes to get to
the tent.

When I opened the tent a Montarosa client was in our tent. He hadn't set up
an 8300m camp and was shivering pretty good. Rosa had continued down to her
camp at 7900m so we pushed him into her tent. As a side note when I reached
ABC there were a number of people concerned about him and had him classified
as missing. There were 2 people that died that day, out of about 7 non
sherpa climbers. That tally on frostbite isn't really known but we suspect
that there are a few pretty bad off as they still haven't reached ABC.

That night at 8300m Lhakpa and myself shared one sleeping bag while DaNgima
shared with the Montarosa client in Rosa's tent. Descending down to ABC the
next day seemed a bit surreal. The views seemed twice as spectacular. I'm
not sure if this is because I was still on oxygen or because I was looking
at them differently. 

Upon reaching ABC it was like I was a movie star with everyone taking
pictures and hugging. It was hard to not get very emotional.

Current plans are for us to head down to BC in the next day or two and they
work our exit date. The current weather reports look marginal to bad until
sometime around June 4th. Scott is considering staying.

I hope everyone is well at home. I know I'm more than ready to be home and
look forward to seeing all of you.

michael

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