Day 40 – A stunning surprise

Time to wake up! Today Sunday 15th, our wait time has officially began. The news of Mike from last evening, alerting that we almost departed that evening for a potential push left me a little nervous. I had a hard time sleeping. I haven’t really admit to anyone, but by far lasting this long in Everest is the furthest that I ever thought I would be staying. If anything, ever since my arrival to the base of Everest, I felt quite exhausted. The trekking journey with the girls was possibly one of the most cherished experiences that I experienced in my life; though emotionally and physically left me quite exhausted, from the very start since joining my teammates on base camp, I  thought I would easily be getting affected by altitude or by a Khumbu cold which would have ended my expedition hopes.

Being at altitude is not the best way to recoup someone’s strength. If anything, Dr. K had mentioned to me that you don’t get stronger on altitude, you should be lucky and work hard to maintain the same level; hence the constant drop of weight of many of us (and in the case of some of my teammates, the disappearance of our own behinds).

Hence for me, lasting this long has been the biggest surprise. Every morning I have my special ritual, I spend a good amount of time in front of our altar, being grateful for being in Everest and also grateful for the mountain protecting us. I pray to my Mom and to my angels; from a spiritual stand point, maybe my rituals have only gotten stronger and with more faith to them.

As some of my teammates decided on continuing their acclimatization regime and climb Kala Patthar, I decided to take it easy on the day and head over to visit my dear friend Marin. She is the youngest Japanese Climber attempting Everest and I had the honor of meeting her last January in Antarctica while we were both attempting Vinson Massif. She was in an expedition ahead of us, and after her completion of Vinson, she decided to stay and ski to the last pole. Quite admirable!

It amazes me how easy is to fall out of touch with friends that are on this journey.  Thais, another Brazilian friend of mine attempting Everest, and we’ve only managed to casually meet a couple of times. With different expeditions we are always on different schedules, climbing a different rotation, attempting a longer hike, or staying warm after a cold streak, it has surprised me the difficulty of being able to stay in touch with fellow climbers. As much as many of the mountains have been a big social fest, chatting with other groups and others, to me, the toll of how significant this shot has been, maybe made me a little less social. As much confidence as I wish to have, everyday I have surrendered to the universe, to Everest about how long both want me to stay.

Though today visiting Marin worked out. She is climbing with IMG who have one of the largest groups in the mountain. There is another Brazilian in this team who knows some of our AC expedition members.

Marin and I sat for tea and chatted about our journeys. I was quite surprised to hear the difficulties she has experienced in her team. She had just returned from a very challenging 2nd rotation and her experience had been marred by some the very well known “male-chauvinism” that is common in climbing. I could only listen and offer some encouraging words to Marin. It was great to catch up with her though some of the things she shared were so upsetting that I got back to my camp feeling a little disappointed about the inability of exposing any of these. and just made me a little sad to hear her journey hadn’t been the greatest by far.

On the other hand, it truly made me appreciate how fortunate I am for having such the amazing team at AC. Mike, Lydia and Ang Dorjee have been beyond phenomenal. And each one of my expedition brothers who are now left have become a great family unit.

As I got back to my site, Lydia and Anthea talked more about the so called “sexism” that exists on climbing. They both had many stories that had been quite unpleasant and uncomfortable to them due to the machismo environment they had to encounter. Ever since my own journey, Mountains have been a sacred place. A healing place, one that is accepting to all. I’ve always approached a mountain as an equal level playing-field; and have been quite fortunate that for the most parts, I haven’t let this sexism bother me too much. Though while I attempted Denali in June 2014; I experienced the worst kind of sexism from a guide which really damped that experience, If anything since it was a great wake up call for me to continue the journey I had started not only for myself but for Courageous Girls and to also being more careful when selecting climbing companies.

Climbing these high peaks has a lot of stress, not only on guides but also on clients. It’s almost a survival type of environment that might bring the worst out of people, yet after today’s talk, I hope there is room for a possible way to bring light to some of these issues.

There is an increase of women in climbing and adventures and maybe these could be an opportunity to think for something further. As the ratio of women climbing is still minimal, how could we expose these stories to make climbing safer for more women?

After a really long conversation, I was a little emotionally exhausted, I remember feeling the anger of frustration brewing inside that it was best to go for a nap (one of the first times) to just digest our convo’s. I had barely laid down when Lydia knocked on my tent and said, “Silvia, we are leaving tonight, get ready”

WHAT??????? OMG! Actually better yet, WHAT IN THE F@#@#$$ WORLD??? We are departing tonight? Are you kidding me? I couldn’t get to bed, I freaked out.

“We are leaving tonight” are the words that I had been looking forward to hear, as I didn’t think I’d have lasted these long here for this opening. Though I went into panic mode. Over the last several days, I had been keeping in my mind all the pieces I’d be bringing but now as the real and big moment of truth was going to begin I was panicking.

I tried to sit down and breath and meditated, right as I felt ready, the fear started again. I realized my nervousness was at an all-time high as I changed the batteries on my head lamp around 7 times, while I kept looking for my guide gloves which were clearly attached to me.

I sat down in my little altar that I had made and let a really good cry. It was a must and necessary. Fear bulging inside can manifest into anger or other emotions, to cry, to let the tears out of my body, to feel that I’m not a super-person but just a regular human being was a good way to relief my angst.

The one big lesson that I’ve learned is that not sleeping through a planned midnight departure is not a good idea, as I get quite exhausted. It was close to 5pm and dinner would be at 6:30, I figured I’ll be able to take a nap and sleep afterwards.

At dinner, Anthea came in and said, “Ok everybody, we need your confirmation on how you’d want us to share the news of your summit, your name and anything else you want to add”!

Those words for a tiny moment allowed me to imagine how incredible it would be to know that I had summit. Throughout all my time here I had tried imagining and at times did a small visualization on what would it feel to make it to the summit. Though I would usually dismiss the idea, is thinking I was too full of myself. How dare I think that I made it to the summit of Mt. Everest? It was at times an internal battle, making sure the ego wouldn’t get too big, as there is still a lot of unknown mountain that needed to be climbed; but for this moment, I felt into Anthea’s words.

“Yes, I want to be announced as Silvia Vasquez-Lavado, the first Peruvian woman to have summitted Everest”. As I confirmed those words, I felt in my heart a big sense of excitement and pride. I have the chance, the opportunity to represent women of my country. I have the opportunity to take a chance for all the Peruvian little girls who had to endure what happened to me, whom also had experienced Bullying, whom had been marginalized, whom had been doubted. I have a chance to represent them. I have a chance to make my country proud. The country that I had to leave in a lot of shame and fear. I have that chance now. And just as I was getting excited to project all those feelings, I realized that my country has no clue. I have gotten amazing support from the Peruvian mountaineering and Alpine community, but that was the extent. I laughed, I figured that at least the fact that I would be attempting and maybe lucky to have the chance to summit Everest might get me a footnote on some of the media; but for now, the intention of doing this on behalf of the women in my country is what really counts; though in addition I felt to dedicate this to all my Peruvian sisters and mothers and daughters, and to women in the world. Though now, back to reality. Though the sense of purpose, took away the fear and for that moment, I felt ready! Let’s go!

We all loosen up with giving Anthea our info; the guys were teasing me, “Silvia Vasquez-Lavado, the first, prettiest and youngest Peruvian female to summit Everest” – (we got rid of the pretties and youngest). Ok, let’s get serious for now, proud to try becoming the first.

Then the instructions came, this is serious, it seems we have a good 5 days weather window. Per Mike, our plan. we’ll depart tonite, arrive to camp 2 tomorrow by 10ish. Rest one day and then depart the following day Tuesday to Camp 3, then the following day camp 4 and then a potential summit push on the 18th at night. The instructions that Mike gave us where to go rest, rest and rest. We’ll be meeting at midnight for breakfast and then depart.

The instructions my head heard were “freak out, don’t sleep it, get nervous, freak out, redo your bag, don’t sleep, get nervous, constipate yourself and so on…..” I was nauseous and still kept trying to get my headlamp ready took me another 45mins as my hands were constantly shaking and unable to get the right set of batteries and spare batteries in the bag. With all the rushing thoughts on my head, up and down sweat, though a sweet voice trying to calm me down and saying, “It’s Ok Silvia, it’s going to be ok, trust, trust, trust.”

Somehow around 11pm I finally closed my eyes when by 11:30pm, Lydia yelled “Silvia get up…” – And the true D day is about to begin!

Treat of the day…. “We have a window and a chance to keep going”