Newsletter 611 March 2001
So much for the weather reports
As I read the weather report, my palms began to sweat. The summit was in reach, as the winds were to drop, the temperatures would rise and settled weather would descend upon us. The Sherpas were preparing to move up to Camp 1 and then boldly establish Camps 2, 3 and 4. Owen and Ellen were spending the night at Camp 1, hoping to climb to Camp 2 on a sunny, barely breezy day.
I was shaken from my sleep, just past dawn, to the ripping of my tent's outer layer. I had tied my tent to another, which having been recently evacuated by our departing trekkers, was pried loose from the rocks it was lashed to. Filled with only a few foam pads, the tent was picked up by a fierce gust of wind, tore itself free of my tent and flew more than two hundred meters down valley.
I jumped out of my sleeping bag, pulled on a down coat and pair of boots and chased after the tent. As I ran through Advanced Base Camp, other tents and plastic barrels were being torn and pushed about. I saw an expedition's large kitchen tent literally been sucked upwards, exposing the poor cook boy and his pile of pots and pans to the winds. Toilet tents were toppled. Cheap dome tents were squished.
A poor Sherpa, trying to find a quiet boulder to use as a toilet, was hit by our flying tent. Luckily, this gifted athlete maintained his grip on the flying tent, while pulling up his pants.
Above us, black clouds were swirling around the summit of Everest. Asmuss radioed Ellen and Owen, who were sheltered by the ice wall at Camp 1. Owen later tested the weather and the two decided to descend. They were among the last to leave the North Col and described it as an eerie ghost town, with black cloud hovering overhead.
Their retreat was eventful, the descent along the fixed lines the easy part. Once on the flat glacier, the winds kept knocking Ellen over and the 200 pound Owen had to lean into the wind and fight to stay upright.
As lunch approached, the snow began to fall. This is the Everest I remember from last year, flexing her muscles to remind us who is in charge.
Well, our casualties are limited: one tent destroyed and two others with torn outer coverings. The snow is piling up around us. Our Colombian neighbors have their DVD player on its highest volume, providing a dramatic soundtrack to the storm. And I'm making perfect use of a snow day, getting all caught up in Owen West's soon to be published novel, "Sharkman Six".
Sometimes I think I come to Everest for days like this: a mini drama followed by hours curled up with a book.