Friday, 6 July 2012

Summit Attempt: Part 3

As soon as we got into the saddle proper, I realised I had to seriously go to the toilet again...and guess what?? Except for 2 rocks/boulders there was NOWHERE else to go and bare by this stage pulling down your pants really does not matter and everyone around you is so exhausted and so busy concentrating on their own slog that no one is going to even bother peeking a sneak at my exposed derriere!
So I tossed my pack down, and walked up the couple of metres to the 2 mentioned boulders...haha another surprise, they were about as big and high as a backpack!  I shouted down to Joe, pointing at the rocks, shrugged my shoulders and just did it!  The relief was immediate and I didn't even give it a second thought!
Back down with the boys, the plans were discussed - Yuriy would rope us all together, and Ray would be second, I would follow him, with Joe bringing up the rear.  This roping up together business was all new to me, it sounded quite easy in theory and from what I've read, but getting the rhythm going would be another story all together as I was to find out later....

Yuriy told us to leave our packs behind, just take some water and leave gear on as the winds are very high up on the summit and ridge.  I had a few bites of a powerbar as I hadn't eaten anything all morning and a few sips of some carb/electrolyte mix.  Joe took his point and shoot camera and the water, we also gave Ray one of our bottles as he had almost run out of water already!  He had to give Jay extra whilst trying to get him re hydrated earlier, but I had plenty so it worked out perfectly!
There were a few people on the ridge already, they seemed to be quite high as we started, but it was clear after about only 5 minutes that we would catch them, we seemed to be stronger and had a better rhythm walking together.  Yuriy really had a great pace going, slow enough to catch your breath and for your legs to not feel like they were working hard.  I was confident, and for the first time today I let myself think that I could actually be on that summit within 2 hours!! I didn't completely shrug off the chance of not summitting either, I am too well read to be fooled by great conditions....mountains have a mind of their own, and things can quickly turn from amazing to life threatening....within 10 minutes as we were to experience!

The slope is super super steep, you cannot actually explain it and the photo's don't do it justice.  I told myself not to look right and just to focus on the narrow little path and step into Ray's footprints...the snow was so deep in places that I had to use all my strength just to hoist my boot and crampon out of the track and swing my leg around to the next footprint...also keeping in mind not to get my crampons caught in my pants or on my other foot!  There really are so many things to concentrate on, I am super lucky that altitude doesn't seem to affect me at all...I can honestly say I was 100% with it at this stage...I did get a tad worried when talking with Ray, he was starting to slur his words and his eyes didn't seem to be all present at times...after seeing that 'crazy russian guy' who just collapses in the paths and sits there staring into space, I made it a point to watch everyone around me whilst I was feeling normal.   Joe also mentioned that he was starting to feel the altitude and had a mild headache about 1 hour into the crawl up the summit ridge.

I kept watching the groups up ahead, we were amazed at this one super fit person, he just motored along breaking path with the other 2 groups following him...he didn't seem to stop once...even Yuriy said wow he was super strong!  After about 90minutes, I realised that the wind was a lot stronger and when I looked around I saw that some serious looking clouds were rolling in and that I couldn't see anything behind or to the side anymore....please God I silently prayed, keep us safe!
I do remember also muttering quite a few f-bombs at this stage, Joe didn't seem to be getting the whole 'keep the rope tight' instruction and I had it caught under my crampon a few times, causing me to start a tripping motion and having to brace myself and exert a load of energy!  I kept having to turn around and ask him what he was doing?? Turning around was no easy feat in this tiny path with this huge sheer drop on my side as well - but I kept my wits about me and just continued to focus on the path ahead.

Yuriy turned around at one stage whilst Ray needed a break and said that the weather did not look great at all and that he didn't think we should continue upwards...not the sort of thing you want to hear when you can just about see the summit!  Ray was not keen on this and said that he was still feeling strong!  We agreed to carry on for a while, but that when Yuriy said down the next time we all just packed it in for our own safety.
We went on another few minutes and I could see the teams up ahead had all stopped and were sitting down on the narrow ledge...all of a sudden the major clouds rolled over, and huge gusts of wind with snow were all around us!  The snow flakes were huge and next minute it was just all white around us.  Joe screamed up that 'I can't see, I can't see', basically he just couldn't see through his goggles anymore due to the snow fall and them not really being for snow sports.  At this stage Yuriy made the hard decision and I was first to accept it, we had to go down for our own safety, it would take us at least another 60-80min depending on the conditions, especially if Yuriy had to break trail in these conditions, and then we still had another 5 hours to get down as well - not an easy feat when you have used all your reserves on getting up.  The weather was very scary and I must say I did shed a tear going down...but I think it was more of relief to be alive and well and in such capable hands than for not getting all the way up.

The start of the really bad whiteout was quite scary!!

It's never a great feeling to not get to your goal, but as all mountaineers know, the mountain will always be there....we had to make a decision and it was the best one for us at the time.
Going down that slope was super scary, and by now my neck and shoulder were in such spasm from looking down all the time that I was seriously considering taking some medication!  I tried to ease the cramping by stopping and looking up, but each time I did this I would cause the rope to be too tight and I didn't want to trip Ray in any way.

I cannot remember exactly how long it took us to get back to the saddle, I think it was about 45min to 1 hour.  I was super relieved as we got to the bottom, and Ray said lets take a few pics to just celebrate our achievement!  Great idea and we got some good shots of the 3 of us.  Looking up we couldn't see anything as the whiteout was still in full force and I felt comfortable with the decision.  Obviously it's only natural to always think what if and should have, but to dwell on that can drive you crazy and I was not going to let those thoughts taint any of our amazing feats on this day.  We still had a very long way down and we were super exhausted by now.  We gathered our packs and as I was quite nervous on going down the traverse, Yuriy just grabbed his ropes and roped me up to him, he said I would be fine and he could hold any fall or slip I had, but that he was sure I would be fine anyway!  He really went above and beyond his duties, always looking out for me and doing the smallest things which meant so much!  It still brings a tear to my eye when I think of how selfless he just slogged on and helped us achieve our dreams.

Ray and I

Segers and I

Another amazing adventure together...


  1. I enjoyed reading your account Cands!! - it really captures the precious moments when we were fighting as a team to keep our summit hopes alive. I think it was a great personal accomplishment for each of us to get that high under those conditions.

  2. You guys were so close. Going down was so hard on the legs. i described it as doing squats nonstop for several hours.

  3. I think every expedition needs a really captured the emotion of the moment. Well done on your amazing amazing achievement everyone.

  4. I think every expedition needs a really captured the emotion of the moment. Congrats on the amazing amazing achievement guys - you are all incredible.