Our day started at Midnight. The plan was to start at 1am and go through the Khumbu icefall with a brief stop through Camp 1 and then our ultimate destination Camp 2. As usual, 4hrs of sleep wasn’t a lot for me, though the calm weather was a great incentive. It wasn’t windy which was a plus. My only fear was the news of the avalanche on the icefall the night before, though with the blessed Puja, I was trusting on the higher spirits of the mountain. The four of us, Brian, Danny, Mark and I plus Mike, Dorjee, Lydia and Pasang (one of our climbing Sherpa’s) would be our climbing leaders.
As we got climbing into the Khumbu Icefall, we got into our first big ice cliff to climb and boom it hit me! The aftermath of the previous night avalanche, and my concept of avalanches completely proven wrong. I had imagined that an avalanche would be a larger amount of soft snow powder falling into an area, but here in the Khumbu icefall, the avalanche had been massive blocks of ice that had fallen all over various areas of the icefall, these blocks so powerful that had destroyed ladders and others. Extremely somber to witness and it just made me had a big sigh and pray for our safe passage through the rest of the night.
It was amazing how much had the route changed due to this activity of nature. The blocks of ice that fallen through the route had somehow made it a little easier to cross some areas full of crevasses, it also had damaged other known sides plus with the ongoing melting of the Khumbu icefall it was impressive to see how much can change in just a short amount of time. Our pace and of other Sherpas carrying multiple gear for different outfitters was quite faster than ours, it was as if all of us were conscious about getting out of the Khumbu icefall as soon as we could.
By 6am we had completed most of the Icefall, we got to camp 1 by around 7am. A brief stop and then continue our journey through Camp 2. Even here, the route had changed quite a bit, there were multiple crevasses with ladders to cross and cliffs to use with the ascenders. Somehow the excitement of crossing the Khumbu icefall had left me exhausted. I could feel my energy levels decreasing, as it was also exhaustion. As we kept walking, we were greeted by Sherpa’s from our team who were on walking from Camp 2 back to Base Camp. One of them had come with lemon tea from Camp 2 to keep us warm.
By 8am the sun was in full force, making the Western Cwm quite the hot. As we kept walking towards Camp 2, I felt nature’s urgent call towards me. These overnight expeditions have made my regulatory digestive system quite compromising and though I can be very good at holding until the end of a goal, here I had a must urgency. As we were hitting altitude, the efforts of finding a safe spot and leave no trace took everything from me. The rest of my team forged ahead and only Pasang stayed with me, as it can take time and concentration to focus on these unexpected calls.
As I resumed my walk with Pasang this massive huge cramping pain took over me (last day of my moon cycle) Ouch! OMG, the pain was so unbearable, I was cramping with my knees on the snow, unable to breathe well and simply begging for it to go away. Poor Pasang only looking at me collapsing in so much pain. We took multiple breaks but somehow the altitude was affecting me badly. Trying to hydrate wasn’t helping me, as this was something I’ve never experienced before. Though Pasang spoke little English, this was out of his understanding range. Ultimately another urgent call of nature, and more cramping.
Somehow the universe got mercy of me and we arrived in the lower side of Camp 2 with another 45mins left to our site on upper camp 2. As Pasang radio’d Camp 2, not sure if he somehow mentioned in Nepali that maybe I was having a breakdown and to send someone to help me carry my semi-heavy backpack for the last big incline into our camp. I’m not the type of person that asks others for help but my cramping was so bad, I was ready to gift my bag away. As help arrived, it was more bearable for me to walk into Camp 2.
As I got into my camp and join all my male teammates, I shared my challenges only to find their faces in shock as they couldn’t understand the pain that I went through.
If anything this simple episode of painful cramping made me realize that as women we have plenty of challenges to overcome and in a very rare chance for me, I experienced a beautiful sensation of pride that as women the road will not always be easy and fair for us; However our sheer power and determination can help us overcome our limitations and lead us to whenever we need to get. And sometimes it’s more than ok to get help, it won’t take away from the end result.
A little bit of buscapine and Panadol were enough to get me relaxed for the rest of the day. Tomorrow would be a full rest day, recovering our energies and for the following day to potentially make it to lower camp 3 @ 23, 200ft and the last place we’ll have to experience without oxygen.
Treat of the day: Embracing my monthly vulnerabilities and proud of them!