May 12: We began our preparations for the next day's departure....only to have the summit rotation delayed based on the actual weather up high, in combination with the available weather forecast.
May 13: Yet another rest day. After reviewing the new weather forecast, the decision was made to begin the rotation early the next day. Spent the evening packing for the beginning of the summit effort.
May 14: Up at 2:00 a.m.....breakfast at 3:00 a.m.....climbing by 4:00 a.m. Moved through the Khumbu ice fall, past Camp 1 and onto Camp 2. Arrived at Camp 2 in the late morning.
The Kumbu ice had had two major changes since our last visit. Two days earlier, just as another team was descending, a section had collapsed, forcing a portion of that group to "run" down towards Base Camp...for their lives (...and who were very fortunate to have not been injured). The second part of the group had to turn around and return to Camp One for the night.....later I spoke to someone in that second group who indicated that the return climb to Camp One was the hardest thing they ever did. Because of the weather, they had returned from Camp 3 to Camp 2 and had the decided to return to Base Camp...only to encounter the disruption in the Ice Fall. In my opinion, their guides had seriously misjudged the weather and corresponding weather forecasts and had brought their clients down unnecessarily. Their guides were part of the group that produced the two seasons of the Discovery Channel shows on Mt. Everest that aired a couple of years ago....and which had mounted their summit attempt from the Tibet side of the mountain.
Unknown to us at the time, at some point during the morning of our move to Camp 2, there was an even larger collapse of the Khumbu Ice Fall. Over a quarter of a mile section had dropped about fifty feet and utterly eviserated a portion of the existing route. The normally "fixed line" route had been transformed into a newly created jumble of snow and ice. When we reached the collapsed area, we decided to continue with our effort to reach Camp 2. We carefully maneuvered our way through and ended up climbing a 40 foot vertical ice wall (i.e., the main newly created obstacle)....with the help of recently laid ropes and our ascenders. The destruction of the normal route was most impressive...and a reminder that the Ice Fall is not a place to linger unnecessarily, despite its intense beauty.
The remainder of the move to Camp 2 was relatively uneventful....but I did make note of the lingering hole on the upper part the the snow field where I had fallen into a crevasse on the first rotation.
May 15: Rest day at Camp 2. Organized gear and prepared for moving on up to Camp 3.
May 16: Up at 3:00 a.m. Breakfast at 4:00 a.m. Moving by 5:00 a.m. The first portion of the move from Camp 2 to Camp 3 is two hours of a relatively slight incline to the base of the Lhotse Face. While more people have heard of the Khumbu Ice Fall, the Lhotse Face is a much more difficult part of the climb. The Lhotse face is essentially an ice wall with an approximate 60 Degree slope....and consumed the majority of the day's climb. As we passed the super steep iced slope inbetween lower Camp 3 and upper Camp 3 (where our tents were located), it was difficult not to recall the second rotation when we had literally climbed past the climber that had collapsed and died in that spot.
SIDE NOTE. Since that time, a Japanese climber had also died on the mountain above Camp 4. For a while he was attached to the fixed line leading to the summit. The guide climbing with the first wave of our group cut him off the fixed line to save future summitters from having a direct encounter with the deceased. It is my understanding that the body of the Japanese climber was somewhere near the fixed line when we made our summit attempt. However, the body was covered by snow by the time we eventually passed by. The plan was to have the body removed at some point in the near future....before the end of the climbing season.
When we reached Camp 3, we climbed into our tents and put on the oxygen masks and began sucking down oxygen. I was unprepared for how much better I felt once I began breathing off the oxygen tank. I had a wonderful night's sleep and took to the oxygen system like a calf to an utter.