After a few days of R&R in Kathmandu it's time to deliver on the promised update, so I'll write on our summit push.
As stated before, it's been a very windy and relatively inhospitable year on the North Side. We had decided as a team to take advantage of the first reasonable weather window, using meteorological forecasts as a general guide but recognizing that the likelihood of a long window was low. We had heard that the winds would abate slightly on May 17-18 so we targeted those days for the summit attempt.
On the 14th we left ABC for Camp I on the North Col. This was a nice climbing day marred only by the fact that we found ourselves behind the Chinese team, and were severely slowed down by their frequent documentary filming and photography (on the other hand, it made for a relaxed climb).
The 15th was an entirely different. For approximately six hours, as we made our way to Camp II, we were buffeted by 60-70 mph crosswinds that did not relent. Our cache site for Camp II was hard-packed snow, which added significantly to the work of setting up a tent site. Appropriately, I was asked to be the dead weight inside the tent to anchor it while lines were secured!
The winds had been so severe that Lopsang was not able to reach a cache site in Camp III (8300m), therefore we either attempted the summit from Camp II (7600m) or lost our window.
We chose to go from Camp II, somewhat concerning because of the very long summit day, but the only option if we wanted to take advantage of the weather window.
On May 16th we slept in. rested and ate well. We left our tent at 5:00 PM with plans to climb throughout the evening and night. Just before 10:00 PM we reached the Camp III site and found that the Chinese team had not left! After a lot of scrambling they managed to get their team out. Of course, no pleasantries were exchanged, and no hot tea was offered.
We continued on, negotiated the exit cracks without difficulty and soon found ourselves on the summit ridge.
After a short break, we continued, with Lhakpa Gelu going into tour guide mode: "now First Step", "now Mushroom Rock", "now Second Step", etc. Regarding the Second Step, the Chinese have modified it by adding two short ladders to the first rock slab and bolted a beautiful aluminum ladder to the top of the Step. If only Mallory could have used those!
After reaching the base of the summit pyramid I decided to take my time and attempt to take in all that was happening (a tall order in a hypoxic state!) At 7:00 AM we stepped on the summit (I found out later that I was the first Westerner to summit from the North Side this year...I've always said it: better to be lucky than good!)
Next entry will be on the descent.
I want to take the opportunity to thank Maribel, my wonderful and very understanding wife, for the great blog she ran based on my phone updates. She did such a much better job than I would have! Also thanks to all of you for your caring, your messages of support and, yes, your daily jokes! Lastly, I dedicate my climb to my dear friend Ants Palm-Leis (may he rest in peace), who taught me by his example the meaning of courage and grace under fire.