Day 21 – A good day to descend and a somber remembrance

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A wake up call of 4am was in order with a departure time of 5:30am. Today we’ll be descending from Camp 2 back into Base Camp. An early start was a must as we wanted to be by the icefalls at 7:30am and avoid the crowds plus the sun. It was freezing cold! Learning from my mistake of not having too much warm clothing, I decided to bundle up as the wind was heavily picking up. My trusty hand warmers provided a comfy feel and with a good protein breakfast we were out the door by 5:30am.

One of the goals for us was to be in Base Camp by 11:30am (apprx a 6hr descend). Though today marks the one year anniversary of the very deadliest earthquake that rattled Nepal last year. That earthquake left close to 900 people dead in the whole country and here at Everest it killed 19 people and left 61 people stranded in the mountain. Both my teammates Roy and Danny were here last year and had to be rescued by helicopter from Camp 1 after several days without connectivity. Today at 11:56 there would be a minute of silence and for us it would have been great to be at Base to honor this very painful anniversary.

The natural light of dawn beautifully reflected on us, and we were able to start descending without our headlamps. We walked without crampons until the lower part of Camp 2. It was amazing to see the new number of tents that had been set up from when we originally arrived. As we took a brief stop for the crampons, then it was a nice descend into Camp 1. Amazing to see how descending in altitude can easily increase our overall well-being. By 7am we were in Camp 1, though the freezing wind made it for a quick hydrating stop and then our plans to continue descending through the Khumbu icefalls. I was dreading the big 5 ladder descend, and figured it’d be about 1 hr before I’ll have to overcome that fear.

We were all moving really well through the first big wall descends. Though we came accross a big wall drop and our first human traffic jam. Climbers and sherpa’s trying to either climb from below or descend using the same ropes. Some climbers avoided using a repelling device and instead opted for a manual repelling. This created a little backlog which makes it tricky as while you are waiting and with freezing winds, you are more prone to getting sick and frostbite. Traffic eventually moved, luckily we were just a few of us descending, there was more traffic of people venturing up into C1 and C2.

At last my dreading challenge, descending the wobbly ladder. No real support, though I was surprised how a big breath and mentally staying calmed helped tremendously. As I had prepped myself to count 100 steps down, by the time I hit 30 I was completed. Massive relief!

The downhill through the Khumbu icefall went relatively smooth. Either my warm nerves have turned into steel or maybe a good night sleep had been the trick.

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Of course given that I’m such a klutz when walking on normal terrain, I had my occasional tripping moments. On one of them, Mike hilariously had to lift me up from my backpack before falling further; I felt as a human tea bag.

As we approached the last back to back vertical and horizontal ladders, an amazing backlog jam. The India Army is here with about 24 climbers plus another 20 cadets who are attempting climbing Lhotse and Mt. Everest. They have had a reputation for being extremely slow and without a lot of experience, hence it created such a beautiful spectacle to watch. This picture captures something that looks as a Lego game cover.

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By 11am we all had arrived at Base Camp. It was a great timing, and I believe a key incentive was that we all wanted a shower badly. I luckily was able to exercise my lady privileges and got to cut ahead of my other gentleman lads.

It felt great to be back at Base Camp! Incredibly exhausting but knowing that we all had completed our first rotation was something to be proud of. Promptly at 11:56, a big minute of silence to honor such a tragedy last year. In the afternoon I walked to our Puja Altar and had my own private moment of respect. If anything, returning from Camp 2 had been extremely fortunate for us, since 2013 noone had gotten that far. Else the season is still ways to go, so asking the Mountain for protection and humble guidance was appropriate for me.

After an amazing meal and all of us cleaned and proper, the rest of the day was to take it easy and catch up on sleep!

Treat of the day: A safe return into Base Camp!