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.