Often the hardest part of a climbing expedition is never what you expect it to be. That was certainly true for David and me. After two months of climbing towards the summit of Mount Everest, on May 23, David and I were able to reach the top. That is only where the adventure began for us. While descending from 29,035 feet to the South Col at 26,000 feet, a fellow guide of ours alerted us to a rescue in progress at about 27,000 feet. We made our way down and attempted to assist by offering oxygen and equipment to a climber who was slowly making his way down. Everything seemed to be under control, but that incident slowed us down considerably, as we arrived back at the South Col almost 14 hours after we had started climbing. Tired, we tucked into our tents, now in the midst of a snow and windstorm that had suddenly come upon us.
After a few hours of rest, we woke to more wind and snow at 5 a.m. and packed up our things to begin to head down. The intention of arriving at Base Camp by mid-afternoon started to seem like a distant possibility as David and I made our way down the Lhotse Face in a crowd of people. Already tired when we arrived at Camp II, we dropped our packs and realized we were only halfway down. We decided to eat a quick bite and keep walking.
As we dug out our snacks and shifted our loads around to carry down, we were alerted to a climber who had fallen in a crevasse earlier in the morning and was still inside. David immediately took over communications as we tried to assess what was happening. Many people had summited the day prior and with most everyone tired, it was hard to get anyone to come down to help. There are a few guides who work here who always seem to be ready to help, and this was no exception. We gathered some rescue gear and medical equipment and headed down to the Icefall below Camp I, where we were told we would find a female climber who had been involved in an ice bridge collapse and fell about 30 meters.
We arrived around 5 p.m., 12 hours after leaving Camp IV. The other climbers who had come to help were already in the process of stabilizing the women and getting ready to move her uphill, where she would spend the night until a rescue could be completed in the morning. David and I helped where we could, setting up rope systems to move her, communicating with the doctors at Base Camp, and performing a medical assessment to see how stable she was. We eventually got her into a tent, ensured she was warm, and left her with one guide and one doctor, recognizing that we no longer had enough clothes to stay for the night. As dark approached, we made our way through the Icefall for our last time this season, with the moon above us and our headlamps lighting our way over the ladders. At 9:30 p.m.,David and I stumbled into Base Camp, barely able to take off our boots, but happy to be down. Today was an adventure, which started with standing on the summit of Mount Everest. Let’s hope our next adventure is a little less exciting.
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