Yesterday we started at about 8:30am leaving camp 4 for our summit attempt. It was extremely cold, and as the sun doesn’t hit this side of the mountain until about 11am, it remained bitterly cold for some time. We were wearing down jackets, 2 hats plus the down hat from the jacket, a down vest, 2 pairs of thermal pants and tops, gortex overpants, 3 layers of gloves, and double insulated climbing boots. But we were still very cold!
The first part of the climb involved climbing up some near vertical rock and ice. The middle part involved a long traverse, then a 30m vertical rock section, followed by a 150m steep snow gully. This then brought us to a ridge, followed by another 30m rock climb, then finally a very long, seemingly endless snow slope to the summit.
As you can seen from the picture of Fiona at the summit, it was a perfect weather day, however the wind started to pick up as we got near the summit, so we didn’t linger when on top. We reached the summit at about 4:00pm and after a long descent were back in our tent by 9:30pm, just as the sun was setting. It was only then that we noticed that both Fiona & I had frostbite.
The cold in the morning had been so severe that it had caused Fiona to get frostbite on her thumbs, and me on all my toes, and in my right foot, down to the ball of my foot. We had hand warmers in our mittens. These are the kind you expose to air and they heat up. These have obviously protected Fiona’s fingers, but the thumbs have their own section in our mittens, & so didn’t get any of the heat and therefore the damage to her thumbs only.
We think that my boot liners may have got wet previously and then this turned to ice, making for very cold boots. I have taken the liners out now and are drying them in the sun. We don’t think that its going to cause permanent damage but in the case of my feet may give us problems getting out of here. We have thawed out the affected areas and have got full movement and a lot of pain, which are both good signs. We have decided to have a rest day today, and see how we feel tomorrow. Drinking lots of water, eating plenty.
Frostbite is a funny thing, in that you initially feel pain from the cold, but then the pain goes away and you just think that the cold has worn off. In our case it hadn’t. So we reached the summit, but we have paid a price.
Paul and Fiona licking their wounds at Camp 4.