Sunday, January 26, 2014

Ready for the final push: Demanding but Exciting Next Two Days

Randy filled us in on the carry day up to Camp 3 yesterday.  It was a major effort in this increasingly scarce air, taking the team just under 4 hours to reach the 19,600 ft. encampment.   Randy still feels like he is acclimatizing well, although definitely feels the impact of the extreme altitude.  It just gets harder and harder to climb, but he and the team are still making great time on their ascents.  Camp 3 is unusually crowded right now, jam-packed with all the teams that had reached that level but been on hold due to the high winds and just biding their time hoping for a summit window.  The summit has basically been shut down for a week with these merciless winds. One team had been up at Camp 3 for 7 long days, holed up in their tents trying to stay warm and protected.  Many of these teams were planning to try to summit today or tomorrow.

Randy and team were just up there for about an hour, long enough for them to cache their gear and hang out at the altitude a bit to help with the acclimatization process.  Randy laid down on his pack and took a nice nap in the sun, then the whole team hiked about 1 hour and 20 minutes back to sleep at Camp 2 for one more night.  Hopefully, many of the teams already at Camp 3 will have their chance to head up the mountain, and Camp Three won't be quite as crowded when Randy and team climb back up there tomorrow.

Here's a couple pictures of Camp 3 at 19,600 ft, their goal for tomorrow:

Once again, there was a little excitement last night, nothing as dramatic as a few days ago with tents being torn apart by the 70mph relentless wind.  Randy was getting a drink during the night from his Nalgene bottle and spilled his water on his jacket. This was seemingly minimal, but actually a bit of a hassle.  When it's below freezing and staying warm and dry is imperative, this has to be dealt with.  He had to bring the wet jacket into his sleeping bag so his body heat would start to warm and dry it.  When they got up this morning, he and the ladies did a bit of housekeeping, airing everything out and moving their gear around so everything was dry and ready for the big move tomorrow. 

Hanging out at Camp 2 today, the acclimatization continued as they rested, read, hydrated, ate dried meat and cheeses and other energy foods from their dwindling food supplies and contemplated their major task ahead. When Randy last checked in around dinner time, they were getting some snow and even some thunder and lightening.  The forecast calls for about 4 inches, but you never really know what to expect at those heights.  A few inches wouldn't be a big deal and may even help with traction on their ascent.  But a lot more could be an issue. 

So this is it: next two days are the 'make it or break it' days.  They will move up to Camp Three tomorrow, leaving around 10 am.  The trek back up will take longer if they get a lot of snow, but hopefully they will arrive by mid-afternoon and set up camp.  Then they'll basically spend their time prepping mentally and physically for their big summit push the next day.  That'll be a grueling +/- 12 hour round trip affair, so they will try to rest, hydrate and fuel up for the herculean effort. 

Now we all need to hope they get lucky with the weather, stay healthy, continue to display the body's remarkable ability to adapt to thinner and thinner air, and find the tenacity to dig deep and put one foot in front of the other.  And let's also hope those of us back here at the more saner altitudes who are just a little bit worried about this whole event can also stay positive and calm during these next two challenging days! 

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