October 2 - Close call on the Lhotse Face
It’s October 2 and I’m calling you at the beginning of the second night that the climbing members of this team are spending at about 20,800 feet or somewhere just over 6300 meters, about 6340 meters.
I have to report that the group is looking very well in terms of their acclimatization. And also report that the weather is still exceptionally pretty and stable. Clear skies. Some winds up high. It’s colder today, but really pleasant weather throughout the acclimatizing.
We had a close scrape with another avalanche incident this one much bigger than anything we’ve seen so far. Much more threatening to any of our team today. Three of the climbing Sherpas Nima Tashi, Ang Rita and Nawang Pasang went up to work on the Lhotse Face. They reported to me when they first got up there that even though it was bright and sunny, it was windy and they were cold. They put in 400 meters of rope quite quickly.
And after that, I actually asked Nima Tashi to come down. I said, “Good day. Good job so far. Let’s come down.” But he was eager to try to get to Camp 3 and of course I was eager to see him get there. So they continued advancing a line up the Lhotse Face.
Some time in the very early afternoon, there was an avalanche. And Nima Tashi got a 300-meter ride. Nawang Pasang was belaying him and Ang Rita was standing down by the anchors. Nima Tashi was caught in the avalanche, swept down towards them and actually some at least 30 to 50 meters beyond where the anchors were. All the Sherpas got a ride. It was quite a scary moment.
They seem fine. They came back to camp shaken. I think it was a very sobering and reality-check type of experience for us to see these brave guys that I’ve been through so much with over the years, a lot of close calls and danger in the mountains some greater than this even. But to see the look in their eyes from such a close call was a sobering moment for all of us, and a reminder that we need to make every judgement about when and where we go with the greatest caution.
In fact, it has been snowing on the Lhotse Face within the last 48 hours. But we just got overambitious, I believe, because of the improved weather. And we pushed a little too hard. We got away with this one but tonight we’re all just regrouping, relaxing. Tomorrow I want to assess how the guys are doing mentally and physically a little closer and we’ll take it from there.
A definite rest day tomorrow. We’re going to give the Lhotse Face 72 hours to set in the sun and stabilize. We won’t be going up there tomorrow. We’re continuing to move loads up from Camp 1 and get settled in here at Camp 2.
Other than the scare today, I’ll have to report that life is very good here at Camp 2. Shom our Camp 2 cook, who told me today this is actually his 11 time doing this job, does an excellent job of feeding us very simple, light and quite small meals not the way we eat at Base Camp. The Sherpas still eat huge mountains of dal bhat every day. But we eat a lot more simply and with a lot less quantity up here at these altitudes.
I’ll report to you tomorrow. It should be mostly a rest day at Camp 2. I’ll let you know how the Sherpas feel after a night’s sleep. And hopefully we’ll be looking up at Lhotse Face baking in the sun, perhaps some more slough running, general getting in a better stable condition for us to begin travelling on it later this week.