Day 50; Purgatory –Hurry up and Wait

On May 7th the walk from Pheriche to Lobuche was easy for Daniel and me.  We remembered 36 days prior how difficult it had been for us the first time.  We arrived to stay and rest at Lobuche early.  While we were encouraged by how easy the trek up to 16,000 feet was, now having arrived early in the day we looked around the lodge wondering what to do.

On May 2nd we had climbed down from Camp II to Everest Base Camp (EBC) having completed our second full rotation up high which included one night at Camp III on the cold Lhotse face without oxygen.  We arrived for lunch at base camp tired, aching, and in need of rest and healing.  Daniel had a bad cough, my throat was raw to breathe and swallow, plus my ankles were worked.  Todd was just in need of R &R. Plus we had all lost around 15 pounds of muscle by this time.

That afternoon hydrating and resting we decided on a plan to heal up for the final summit push (whenever it may be).  We decided to go down valley early as opposed to later so we could be back at EBC ready for the first summit push openings.

Daniel left immediately the next day on May 3rd , I needed full day of rest for my ankles so I followed on the 4th, Todd decided to remain at EBC to rest and not risk GI bacteria and infections that might be lurking down below in the lodges. Fortunately Daniel and I encountered neither and after three nights down at 14,000 feet we felt great. Now we were hiking slowly back up to EBC taking two days to go back up what we had hiked down in one.

At Pheriche with internet access we had reviewed summit weather reports.  The reports were not promising, at times the summit winds exceeded 120 Kmph and there did not appear to be break at all for the Sherpa’s to put in the summit lines. (Which needed to be done prior to us heading up for our summit push).  We had falsely hoped for an early summit bid so we could get off this mountain.  Hiking our way back up to EBC we knew that was not to be.  We knew now it would be a watching and waiting game.

Returning to base camp has been a Pyrrhic victory. We have returned rested, healed and ready; ready to hurry up and wait with apprehensive anticipation.  When I was an initial attack wildfire firefighter that is what we use to say…hurry up and wait.  Sometimes during fire lulls that is what we would do.  Wait, for days and days and days.

Sitting at base camp now, watching the weather that is what we are doing, waiting days and days and days.  With summit winds at times forecast at 96 Kmph for through to the 15th we have no choice.

The mind drifts and body weakens in this waiting period.  At 17,500 feet we are resting but not getting stronger.  While we have healed somewhat down low, the reality is it will take months back at normal altitudes until we return to normal.  Superficial cuts have not healed; in the dry cold air your skin takes a beating. Having lost so much weight, I tighten the straps on my Gore-Tex overalls and Velcro up the sides of my down pants daily to make them hang off me somewhat efficiently.  I do not know how much muscle I have lost, I can only guess, but I know I will lose more during the last summit push; I just do not know how much more I have to lose.

Despite languishing in this EBC purgatory, our days stay full.  A trip out to the hot spot to check internet, repairing gear, stretching and some light exercise…a day goes by quickly and we play cards or watch a movie on a laptop at night.  Everything is so much harder to do up here at 17,500, sometimes it takes 15 to 20 minutes to work up the energy and conviction to move on to the next task instead of just lying back in your tent in resigned lassitude.

Today is May 10th; listening to the handheld radio we are pretty sure that the Sherpa Summit team has finished the fixed lines to the summit today.  (Despite the forecasts the weather has been agreeable enough the last two days for them to work but is turning nasty again tomorrow).  Looking at the forecasts we think we have a chance for a summit bid on the 16th.   That means we may move back up to Camp II the morning of 12th.

As I type this I know a new daily weather forecast is coming in.  We will check it today and it may change our plans.  We may read the weather and realize that we just have to continue to hurry up and wait. There is a building anxiety in all this waiting.  This is not just a hike we are undertaking, there is serious risk involved and I want get on with it and face the challenge once and for all. I only hope that when the time comes, I will have the strength and courage left to finish the job.

It has been 50 days since I have left Canada, 43 days since we started our trek, 36 days since our arrival at base camp, and 31 days since my wife left base camp returning home…


  1. Darla Johnson
    May 10, 2013

    I cannot imagine the personal strength it takes to tackle your climb, mentally as well as physically. I admire you for what you are doing and thank you for sharing.

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  3. willie foehr
    May 21, 2013

    congrats, my adult class is following your adventure. they find your quest interesting. all of the students are war refugees from all over the world and doing something challenging besides surviving really peaks their interest. we love the posts and the photos. travell well. willie foehr

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