Well I’m at Advanced Base Camp (21,000 ft.), and have been since April 23rd. My hike in from the end of the road Base Camp (17,000 ft.) went smoothly. I made the intermediate camp and ABC camps in less than 3 hours. This was the beginning of the nickname Alex-Sherpa. The first few days at ABC were brutally cold and unrelentingly windy. When I first arrived into ABC I was way ahead of the yaks, and almost everybody else, which led to a 2 hour shiver bivy in a sink of scree waiting for the yaks to arrive with the tents. I discovered that sometimes speed is not an advantage – but it settled some concerns I had about not being in condition to take on this mountain. In the evening when the yaks arrived putting up the kitchen tent was a full on battle versus the high winds that wanted to rip it away and thrust it off the mountain.
The following days – between the 23rd and the 25th – I spent either in my plush Hilleberg Nammatj Base Camp tent or in the kitchen tent wondering if it was gonna go bye-bye on the next gust.
I tried for camp 1 on the 27th, but the high winds turned me around at the base of the head-wall between BC and Camp 1 – gusts in excess of 50 mph and stingily cold. I knew good weather was just around the corner, so I backed off and opted to wait until the 29th. The weather that day was perfect and I cruised to Camp 1 (23,000 ft.) in a little under 3 hours with a full carry. This seems to have cemented the Alex-Sherpa nickname among many of the various teams Sherpa – and also firmly settled in my mind that I am physically ready to summit this mountain.
The night I spent at C1 was pretty damn cold. Luckily my sleeping system of my down suit + Katabatic quilt was adequate – as long as every part of my body was inside the quilt!
With a snowy forecast and the large areas of blue ice on the head-wall I chose to keep it to one night at C1…. fearing another survival descent like I had on Annapurna from C4 last year.
Today the 1st of May dawned with consistent snow fall. The team I’ve bought onto is descending back to 17,000 ft. BC, happy with one night at C1, they’ll wait at BC until a summit window opens up for them… maybe some two plus weeks from now. This sorta blows my mind, leveraging O2 to this extent seems reckless… additionally why sit in that dusty basin at 17K instead of exploring the mountain and themselves during this period of time.
The Sirdar (Sherpa leader) of the 7th Summit team is a great guy. He’s had no issue with me staying at ABC while he, and the team he is guiding, stay at BC. This means that I’ll be cooking my own meals and performing most other ABC maintenance chores. This period of holding down camp with a Tibetan kitchen boy and a few of the teams Sherpa is something I’m looking forward to.
Looking through the barrels of food left behind though… Im gonna have to get creative, my cooking skillzz are pretty sub-optimal even with a Trader Joe’s or Albertsons nearby… Ive got plenty of rice and dal and spices… Meals are gonna be interesting the next couple of weeks.
My goal for the next two weeks is to established, provision, and sleep two nights at C2 25,000 ft., and either touch and/or sleep at 27,000 ft. before my summit push.
The different weather forecasts don’t agree as to which way the weather will go the next week or so. Some say the next few days will be consistent light snowfall to heavy snowfall or just afternoon snowfall, typical for this time of year. I’ve got no set plan, I’ll just head back up when the mountain allows it, which could be as early as tomorrow if the more benign weather predictions turn out to be accurate.