Location: Camp 3
Local Time: 4:30pm, Sun 21st May
Weather: Overcast and a little windy, snowing -11C
Hi everyone, it’s Fiona here.
With a continuing good weather forecast for 22nd-23rd, Paul and I have now climbed up to Camp 3 – hopefully the beginning of our summit attempt.
The Weather Forecast
Last night we waited with our radio tuned in until about 10:30 when base camp received the new weather forecast by email. It’s quite surreal lying in a small tent, trying to sleep, and then hearing a voice come on the otherwise silent radio with the “weather report”. Almost thought we’d move into sports news and the financial report afterwards!
Anyway, we were very excited to hear that the weather is now looking even better for the night of the 22nd and day of the 23rd. The predicted wind speeds have lowered (although it’s still a big range at 10-30 knots), and there is now less chance of snow. Yeah!!
This news firmed up our plans to leave early this morning and suddenly made our summit attempt very close and very real. I don’t think that either of us got a lot of sleep last night. For the whole trip, I’ve been trying to keep focused on the next milestone – and have avoided thinking too much about the enormity of the whole undertaking. But last night, I couldn’t help but be a little overwhelmed with the task ahead for the next three days. Amazingly, that’s all it is from here – three days of really hard work. And now that we’ve climbed back up to C3, it’s only 2 days – but I imagine they’ll be the hardest days of our lives, and hopefully also the most memorable and satisfying.
Of course it’s a very exciting time as well – finally we might have the chance to see whether we can climb this mountain – a goal we’ve been working towards for 2 years now. And after welcoming back two more successful summiteers yesterday, we were starting to get a little antsy.
Climbing up to C3 Again
We started our climb today just after 5am and were lucky to have almost perfect climbing weather – well for the Western Cwm anyway. Although it started out clear, after a couple of hours it clouded over – keeping the temperature nice and manageable (we were wearing our massive down suits again which can easily get too hot). We had about an hour of cold winds, which had us pulling out the hand warmers and tightening our hoods around our faces. But thankfully, this didn’t last too long.
The climb up starts out with a fairly gradual snow slope, punctuated with small rolling hills as the track swings around to avoid crevasses. We found that our acclimatisation now allows us to trudge slowly through this part with the need for breathing breaks now only after particularly big hills. Doesn’t sound like much but it’s a big improvement.
The second and more lengthy part of the climb starts when we hit the Lhotse face. Here’s where the fixed line also starts as most of the face is very steep, I’d guess ranging from 30-80 degrees. This is where the hard work really begins. It’s a pattern something like; step, breath, slide jumar up, breath, breath, step, breath, slide jumar up, breath, breath…repeat. Although usually I can only repeat this maybe 10 times and then you find yourself doubled over and gasping for breath. But despite feeling like not moving, you somehow will yourself into the next 10 steps. And that’s how you climb around 650 metres of elevation up the Lhotse face!
Despite this painfully slow movement, we did reach C3 faster than last time – another good sign.
Sucking down the O2
Once we arrived at Camp, we settled into our tent after mopping out the pools of ice and water we found in it. Unlike last time we were at C3, this time we’re using oxygen to rest and sleep on. This is the first time we’ve used oxygen (aside from testing) and so far, it’s great. We initially bumped the flow rate up quite high (3 litres a minute each) to help us recover quicker from the climb up. Now we’re down to a resting rate of 1 litre a minute.
We’re also continuously melting snow (well Paul is!) so that we can fully hydrate ourselves before tomorrow – we’re aiming to drink at least 4 litres each this afternoon / evening. We’ve got plenty of food here and fortunately have still got good appetites – this is pretty important as when we’re actually attempting the summit, we’ll hardly eat anything and we may be climbing hard for up to 20 hours.
Tomorrow morning we’ll head off early for Camp 4 – so that we get lots of time to rest there. This will be the first time we’ll be climbing on oxygen so it’ll be interesting to see how we go.
Once at C4, we’ll bunker down in a tent and again, try to drink and eat a lot to stock up our stores. We’ll rest here until around 9pm, when we’ll leave for the actual summit – hoping to arrive on top sometime in the morning of the 23rd. After we leave for the summit, Mary will be able to give regular progress reports as we radio in our position.
Rebecca – thanks for your lovely message. You’ve got a very interesting story. Unfortunately we won’t be visiting Tibet – but will hopefully get a good view of it from the top.
Hi Liv, great to hear from you. Sorry but we haven’t met any Mallorquin climbers (although may have crossed paths when climbing with a quick hi). Hope things are going well with you.
Hi Jack – thanks for the vote of confidence. It’s always great to hear from you. A holiday in the Keys also sounds fantastic.
Dame – thanks for your voicemail. Paul and I were stoked to hear your voice.
Karlyne – thanks for all the hen’s info. Sounds perfect. And of course I’m a positive rsvp (unless I’m still sitting here in 2 weeks waiting for weather)! But I don’t think that will happen. Thanks for organising everything. Can’t wait.
Alan A – Hi and thanks very much for your messages. Always nice to hear some wisdom from someone who’s been here and knows as much about this challenge as anyone. Your perspective is much appreciated.
Kerry – your description of Carlton and yoga sounds like a million years away from here. Love the reminder of home. Great news on your big trip as well – can’t wait to hear the details.
Well, that’s all for now – we have some serious resting and hydration to do tonight.
We hope to bring you an update from Camp 4 (8000m) tomorrow before we leave for the summit, Fiona