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Strong Winds on Makalu Keep Camp III Out of Reach for Arnot and Morton
Posted on May 9, 2011

Story by Melissa Arnot, photos by David Morton

As I sit in the tent at 6,600 meters, I cannot tell if I am having déjà vu or if I am just having the feeling of it because I really have been here before—actually four times before. Makalu is giving us no breaks right now. I feel like at times we are perpetually working against some grand timing clock that we cannot see, and we always seem to be on the wrong side of it.

We headed up to Camp II for our fourth rotation, one that should have been our last before getting ready for the summit push. The trick is, we need to get higher. We need to sleep at Camp III, but we cannot seem to get there. The upside is that the terrain between here and Camp II is getting “easier” and a bit more familiar each time we pass it. This time, we arrived at Camp II in the best weather we had seen all season, certainly the warmest. As we cooked dinner (a dehydrated pasta meat thing), we talked about how it was nice to know it could be calm up there. Not for long.

It seems that as soon as we closed our eyes to sleep, the winds kicked up, and by “kicked up” I mean “attempted to kick us up.” It was one of the worst nights of sleep I have had, with the tent whipping in wind that seemed to come from every direction with no pattern. I woke up in the morning, the tell-tale pile of snow sitting on Dave’s sleeping bag (which is odd because it seems to always be there even if I can stay dry). The winds were still whirling around outside.

A fellow guide came over to say, “You know how sometimes you have to get out of your tent to see that it isn’t that bad?” His words raised my hope that we would walk to Camp III very soon. “Well, it really is that bad out here. Maybe worse.” Hopes dashed. He would keep his clients tucked in and we would change our plan, again. Time to go back to base camp, tails between our legs, and wait for the ever-important forecasted drop in winds a few days from now. I hesitate to write what our plan will be then because I am learning each day that no plan, written or not, is set in any way.

Instead, back at base camp, I think I will try and drink as many varieties of hot drinks as I can (which, if you have seen a Nepali base camp, you understand is a feat). I will eat some food that isn’t a dehydrated pasta/meat combo, and I will try to find some patience in this feeling of déjà vu.

Author: - Monday, May 9th, 2011

  1. Harriett morton

    Does your tolerance of powerlessness just grow greater with every disappointment? I can imagine that you must wrestle with the emotions often as nature’s forces overwhelm you. I’d like to bring you a hot cup of a new concoction to provide variety as you wait.

    We will be eagerly checking to see if the two of you and the other climbers can get in sync with that wind.

    Always appreciating these updates!!

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