Door to door – 2 months
Route – Normal from South Side
Elevation – 8848 alt
“IT’S NOT IN PROJECT, OTHERWISE I’LL JUMP AFTER YOU”
After two weeks of climbing 2520 m, we finally made it at Everest Base Camp (5,380 m). At the heart of the Himalayas, a small village of 1000 inhabitants from all over the world, each with different purposes and task. Sherpas, climbers, cooks, trackers, doctors, professional photographers and many more.
The first few nights were frightening, we couldn’t sleep from the rumble of avalanches and glaciers falling every 5-10 minutes in Khumbu, but day after day we got used to it and it was one thing that turned into routine. The most difficult thing about living at an altitude of 5,380 m was the adaptation of the body to lower oxygen content in the air, and even the lightest flu was hand to handle up there. The expedition did not begin until the Puja ceremony was completed. A day dedicated to prayers to the mountain and to the bodies resting happily and quietly on the mountain. I was lucky enough to be in the company of, besides my father, two of my friends whom I began to love as my sisters, Anu and Adit, my sisters from India with whom I spent moments of sadness and joy.
It was time for the first rotation, which included the route from base camp to camp 1, and then to camp 2, meaning passing through the Khumbu Icefall – the most challenging and at the same time my favorite part of the climb, where I’d experience the thrill of crossing the crevasses on ladders and ropes. I asked Dad the night before departure: Dad, if I fall into a crevasse, what will you do? It’s not in the project, otherwise I’ll jump after you – he answered. Noo, I said to him, you have to go back, because Mommy and Leka (my brother) need you.
We had a good start of our rotation.But when we started the second rotation, intended to reach camp 3 (altitude 7,470 m), I wasn’t feeling good, and I was unable to complete the rotation successfully. I had to make my way back to the first camp under severe stomach cramps. There, the guide advised me to go back to base camp and check in with the doctor. I went back to base camp, and I started crying in my tent, worried about how I could help myself at that altitude, worried about my health and big dream.
After 5 days of rest and treatment with antibiotics, I was ready to embark on my journey to the highest summit of the world.
But we didn’t set off. A major storm, Cyclone Fani, had engulfed the first and second camps, and all who had been up there had returned to base camp in their tents, and were waiting for better weather…
As we were playing cards with the Sherpas, who were certified guides and had climbed with Simone Moro and UeliSteck, two excellent climbers, the news started spreading around the camp that we’d set out after midnight, but this time the last station would to be the summit.
I wasn’t ready, I was scared, and didn’t want to leave that night. At dinner we talked and made questions about our itinerary to the guides. We were led by the Western Guided Group and were the last to set off for the summit, so that night we saw off all the groups, and we were scheduled to leave in two days.
The day came, and we started the long, dangerous and difficult climb to the top of the world, and I don’t know if I can say it, but thankfully we didn’t make itout of camp two.
All the groups had reached South Col (the last camp), into the “death zone”, and some were left without enough oxygen to continue to the summit. There were more than 200 people trying to reach the summit, and accidents were increasing due to heavy traffic. The Sherpas went to their aid with more oxygen (which they took from us) and we waited in camp two without knowing what was really going to happen to us, and whether would we even have the chance to use the window to the summit, as the season was drawing to a close.
All teams with dozens of climbers made it to the summit. We waited for them in the second camp, where we listened to their experiences, helping them either with hot tea or with their accommodation in tents.
Some had returned with frostbite on their fingers, cheeks and eyes. It had been an exhausting day with a lot of traffic and accidents… I knew what was in store for us…
We realized that we were also supplied with oxygen, and the next morning would be the great day of the summit.
I gathered all my strength and willfully continued the final part of the two-month long expedition. We arrived at camp 4, rested, and at 09:00 pm we made a dash for the summit. After a long night, we were climbing but still far away. I had that feeling that the closer we got, the farther seemed the summit. Hours passed and there was no one left on the mountain except for our group. We reached the southern summit together with the beautiful sunrise. How I adore sunrise on the mountain… The sky was calm and clear, it looked like the sky in the dreams that accompany all my nights. We changed the oxygen dispenser and only I, Dad and our two Sherpas continued, the others were behind and coming slowly. My mask froze from the cold and I could hardly breathe, but I didn’t care, I was very close to the top of the world, but my father’s situation worried me. His oxygen dispenser was depleted,but the Sherpa was thinking of changing the dispenser when we arrived on the summit, but according to my calculations, that would be too long for Dad to go without oxygen, and I began to worry. At about 8848 m, I started arguing with the Sherpa, and now I wonder where I found the energy to do it, and finally we convinced him to switch the oxygen dispenser…
The last steps to the summit went by the body of a young woman, resting in peace in the beauty of the Himalayas. These were sad steps, I stopped, and I was analyzing her… From behind, Dad drew my attention to continue… I was too close to the top, which made me forget everything… Incredible…
At the top of Mount Everest, at the top of the world, I hugged Dad, in the most exhausted, most challenging, coldest, but also the sweetest and most beautiful embrace.
The spectacular view unfolded in front of us… Only us and the largest mountain in the world.
What piece of luck, we had the whole mountain to ourselves… No traffic, no winds… The long waiting had been worth it.
But it was not the end of the expedition. A very long descent was awaiting us, and I knew that most of the accidents and failures occurred during the descent, so we had to return safely to the base camp where Uta and Mike were waiting for us. Then the expedition would end successfully.
The descent was long and seemed like never ending. We left the group behind at Camp 4, and Dad, I, and Casey (our guide) immediately set off for Camp 2. We were tired from the long climb to the top, and the weather wasn’t holding up well. The day’s sun had melted the snow, and the afternoon frost had frozen everything. The ropes were frozen on the ground and it was very difficult to use them. Finally, we made it at camp two. It was dark and no one was there, only Lahkpa and the cook waiting for us. Entering into the tent we listened into the radio conversation between Mike and Tom, who was in camp 4 with the rest of the group. A saddened Tom was reporting that one of the members of our group was no longer between us, his heart had been unable to cope with the pressure and torment of the majestic mountain. Hungry, but now without appetite, we drank a bowl of soup, pitched our tents, and fell into a deep but brief sleep.
The “raindrops” that were created by the air condensation and the phone alarm woke me up at 4am. I’ll never forget it; it was one of the coldest mornings I’ve ever had. We packed up and started the descent to the base camp. Although I had “rested”, I was exhausted and dreaming of the moment when I would embrace my mother and brother. When we passed camp 1 and approached Khumbu, we took a break, took in some calories and prepared our minds that we now have to do our best, more than ever, and pass the Khumbu as quickly as possible, because of the danger.
Nothing was like before; the trek had changed. The anchors where the rope was fastened were barely hanging in, but my greatest fear were the horizontal ladders set cross the crevasses. They were barely hanging on. The snow had melted more than expected, and the space was now wider than the ladder.
I remember passing one ladder, and it was Dad’s turn, and he was in the middle of the ladder. For a moment, the ladder beneath him, which was no longer functional, collapsed and my heart spun around. I prayed for our safe return, as we were in the most dangerous section, at the worst of times. The glaciers kept cracking, the avalanches kept rolling down, but we continued to the end. I could see the base camp from afar, as each step drew us closer, and I finally saw Uta.
I hugged her and thanked all those present who had contributed to our expedition. We took pictures with triumphant orange scarves and in the end, Gelbu, a very nice man who was close to the group every time at the base camp, filled me a glass of masala tea and congratulated me in his language, which I never understood…
The safe return to the base camp, where we had arrived two months earlier at the start of the expedition, marked our triumph.