Thursday, April 7, 2016

Last bit of the route to camp 3, we hiked a ridge opposite the route with a scope. I'm getting a bit better at taking pictures through the scope since K2. :)

Hands free bouldering comp. There are some lovely bouldering problems around BC. Lakpa, who has won a national rock climbing competition and climbed with Anker, deftly solves this problem without hands and without rock climbing shoes. 

360° Photo of basecamp in the snow.

Annapurna I swimming pool. Mornings tend to be sunny but that is still ice on top of the lakes below BC. I took a very quick dip a few days ago. This counts as my shower for the week…

The Climb: It has been a while since I've posted. I'm firing up the sat modem to check weather but you're getting this brain dump in addition since so many people have been asking what is going on and want photos. Forecasted and observed winds above 6500m have been extreme; 70-100+kmph. A few forecasts have hinted at small breaks but have been unreliable. We've got another hint of a dip pretty far out (13th). We're not getting summit fever about it until we get a lot more data but some of the young climbers and climbers on a tighter schedule are. The old saying, "there are old climbers and bold climbers." We're hoping to be the latter. Along with Norwegian, Nepali, Swiss and other global forecast sources, our amazing friend and fellow Everest club member, Georgina at Altitude Seven, is correlating those and another, traditionally reliable, source we don't have access to. We'll hope to have a better idea of how closely a snow will follow this dip in the winds within 24 hrs. A lot needs to happen between now and then though. There is a huge serrac to cross between C3 and C4 that halted sherpa from another team a few days ago in high winds. The likely solution to this problem will be to descend in to a crevasse and then climb up the overhanging serrac. Winds at 8000m are forecasted to dip to 30-40kmph. This is not ideal but tolerable. Those winds will be cold and coming at the face we're climbing. All conditions need to be evaluated on the spot but in general, I turn around when winds get above 65kmph (40mph). Winds that high have a tendency to knock one off balance and the windchill makes me cranky. When we do make a summit push, we'll likely spend a night at each camp on the way up save camp 4. We'd arrive there in the afternoon and start a summit bid that night. 

The good: we're healthy and really well acclimatized to BC. Every day I run up the hill behind BC topping out close to 5000m. That might have taken 3-4 hours when we first arrived and I'd have a massive headache. Now it takes me one hour and that is with stops when I run across sea shells. Also, instead of pressure breathing to stave off AMS symptoms, I'm dancing like no one is looking because, well, no one is. The re-supply heli comes today bringing with it chocolate, cheese and wine. We'll stay in camp to claim our spoils since we're sharing the re-up with other expeditions.

The reminders: My climber friends know that when the annual Accidents in North America publication and podcast update, I finish them in one sitting. One of the Koreans took a tumble down a crevasse in C2 but besides being cold and banged up, he was able to walk out under his own power. Hindsight being what it is, when we were at C2, I quietly commented that they were building tent platforms without using an avy probe to check for holes first and that in Alaska, we wouldn't even come off rope until a site was probed and wanded. It was a benign, quiet observation made out of boredom as we stood next to our probe that doubled as a flag poll for our tents. Chris reminded me of this when we watched this poor guy limp back in to BC today. Had he not had his pack on to wedge him up high, it could have been much worse. I mention this not to denigrate anyone but as a reminder not to let your guard down in what appears to be a fairly safe spot. 

Housekeeping: I should start the summit push with all of my gadgets fully charged (headlamp, 2 cameras, phone, GPS watch, sat beacon) but a bit of moisture tripped a non-obvious temp sensor on my fancy, rugged solar battery which won't be named but start with "Goal" and ends with "Zero". I've taken it apart and isolated unnecessary higher voltage regulators and caps but it isn't a priority to fix (unless one of you has a Sherpa 50 schematic with the other temp sensor or GZ wants to mail me a new one). The panel still works but this all serves as a reminder that, "no news is good news." I'll report in from each camp with the beacon but don't expect long conversations as I'll be conserving battery incase we're up for longer than expected or need to coordinate between camps and assist others. If you don't hear from me, don't assume anything bad has happened.

The weird/fun: I brought dried Reaper, Scorpion and Ghost chillies with me to season my food. It turns out, they make really good lemon, chili tea! Also, Chris has made two really lovely chocolate cakes used for both our own enjoyment but also to endear ourselves to the Spanish team which is very aligned with our own style of climbing and their doctor (Carlos) is awesome. Quality chocolate supplies are dwindling and she offered to substitute in some peanut butter. I tried to keep my composure but I'm pretty sure she knows I'll carry an extra pack load up if this happens. Not having access to a scale, a mirror, the web, or TV has been lovely. The sound of snow on our tents and distant avalanches puts us to bed at night, the warm sun and Lapka singing promises of breakfast al fresco gets us up in the morning. I often joke that our connected state at home has led us to fear being alone with our own thoughts. I miss the ease of contact with all of you but in some zen states, have managed to solve some work related and personal thought exercises that I never expected to grapple with. Yes, I've even written some code without online references. Yikes! 
Thank you all for your kind 160 character messages every day. Houses bought, tragic losses, loves professed, bad puns, mysteries solved, climbing victories, exams passed, single malt promised, dirty minds, 'boops', yoga poses, niece's words, Disney trips, drunk texts, good wishes, music fests, virtual hugs. I feel the love. I am blessed. 

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