Newsletter 1618 May 2001
It's My Party and I'll Climb if I Want To
You know you're in trouble, when you roll over in your tent, at 21,400 ft. (6400m) and the first thing you see is a crushed cardboard party hat and a New Year's noise maker. As the battle with hypoxia is slowly won, you begin to remember a few things about the night before.
May 17th is the birthday of some of the greatest people (my dad for instance), including Evelyne and David Walsh (David is the leader of a "North Col" group that is part of the greater Himalayan Experience Everest 2001 entourage). In little need of an excuse, we decided to host a birthday bash.
Word trickled through ABC, a place where the average bed time is 7:30. Any excuse to stay up late was welcomed. Our dining tent was transformed into a dance hall: balloons hanging from the ridge poles, party hats, noise makers, poppers and well hidden sodas and beers were dug out of barrels and laid on the tables.
As the guests arrived, carrying cakes and dangerous bottles of brown liquid, the tent heated up. Soon over 50 of us, representing at least 10 expeditions were packed together. The Austrians brought a guitar and the singing and dancing was contagious. Bottles of the famous Malt Scotch Whisky, Glenmorangie (if you drink whisky, you'll know that this stuff is beyond the best, perhaps far too good for this crowd), were uncorked by Russ, and Evelyne and Dave's birthday's were toasted.
The party lasted until late at night with the revellers happily finding their way home. (The rumors about Ellen dancing on the table tops are grossly exaggerated.) Morale at ABC rocketed up, as a result of the party. We've all been hanging around, kind of trapped by the weather, getting ants in our pants. Last night's release of energy (dancing, singing, laughing and socializing) was just what we needed. Hats off to the Austrian's and their acoustic guitar. A special thanks to "the sixteen men of Tain" who handcrafted the Glenmorangie. This party, of course, was another in a long line of bashes thrown by Russ. Funny enough, more than a dozen of us at last night's party were also all together at a Russ thrown party on Cho Oyu in 1999.
Well, with the mystery of the crushed party hat solved, we were able to redevote our energies to the climb. As you know, we are ready to go, all the tents, oxygen, sleeping bags and fixed ropes are in place. We just need a weather forecast that says "go!" We've been receiving three separate forecasts, none of which are in perfect agreement. When a new one arrives we analyze it closely, even going back a few days to determine which is most accurate. Forecasting is a difficult job at best. On Everest, it is nearly impossible. If we time it wrong, we could miss the summit at best.
Currently our forecasts indicate a possible window. If today's forecasts confirm this, we will be headed out, perhaps before I can even update the web sites. At this moment, we are planning a single, large group, push. We are doing this because we will need every ounce of energy to push open the route through the deep snows that lead from Camp 4 (8300m/27000 ft.) to the crest of the North Ridge. We will be carrying at least 550 m. of rope to fix up high, and we may even have to replace the ropes which the Americans recently placed just above high camp. Those ropes were too buried when the Americans made their summit attempt (they turned back because the snow was too deep).
With every forecast, comes a re-juggling of our logistical plans. Most folks would be amazed at the amount of hours devoted to this planning. While we build in contingencies, a Sherpa not being in the right place at the right time, or a sleeping bag forgotten at Camp 2, could cause the house of cards to shift and shudder. Detailed notes are taken at each of these meetings, and these are based on inventories that have been painstakingly recorded and re-recorded.
Once we leave ABC, it will take us 5 days to reach the summit. We will update the dispatches as best we can, but please understand that our efforts will be focused on the climb not on the computer's screen.