Day 49: Three pass crossings and an evacuation
Image: below West Col (~5800m)
We write these words from Dingbuche, after a hard and strenuous afternoon enjoying our first taste of civilisation for many weeks.
We have gorged on coffee, cake, San Miguel, and intermittent wi-fi for the afternoon.
The last eight days have seen us ascend from Makalu Base camp to Swiss base camp, Sherpani Col base camp, and on to cross Sherpani Col and West Col in a day, have two Stage 2 members evacuated by helicopter to Kathmandu from Baruntse base camp, cross the Amphu Labsta, arrive at Dingbuche, and say adieu to our Catalan members, Jordi and Campru.
It was something of a blow to group morale to lose two members to the effects of altitude but this was shortly boosted when we discovered that the helicopter brought some essential re-supplies lost to the hungry crevasse at the bottom of the West Col descent where porter loads were forced to descend "free fall fashion" by the extent of the height difference (nearly 300m in total). The crossing of Amphu Labsta was a combination of a rock hopping ascent then scrambling over rock slabs covered in a thin layer of snow from the previous afternoon, finishing with a walk up ice formation to the top of the Col.
The descent was then a series of abseil pitches over rock and snow finishing with precarious foot traverses made safe with fixed rope. Then a long path down scree slopes to the valley and footpath along moraine ridges to the night's campsite. The three pass crossings have been very tough for all the group and team members setting personal altitude records for many of us.
We have been very fortunate with the weather on the important days and those crossings would not have been possible (or safe) without the expert work of the climbing Sherpas who we say goodbye today. We are all feeling the effects of the constant effort to keep up with the program and have appreciated the potential contact with home today.
Ian, Rick, Matt, Martin, Rod, Dave & TLs Balram/Juddha Rai