No summit on Everest BUT research success-09/06/08
June 9, 2008
Resting in our tent at South Col almost 8 kilometers above sea level, after 8 hours of hard climbing from Camp3, I felt very confident and excited about our upcoming summit push. No headaches, no signs of any high altitude problems; everything seemed perfect. The mice also seemed happy enough in their cage and coped very well with the thin air….I guess as well as one can feel at this altitude: every move is a little harder and takes up more energy than it usually does!
Blue skies, bright sunlight, a wonderful view down to the lower reaches of Nepal and Tibet…not much else we could have asked for except for the very strong winds to die down. The predicted jet-stream obviously had arrived!
Well, the wind didn’t die down and at about40/50 miles per hour it was very questionable whether it was a good idea to step out of the tent by 9pm to leave for the summit. But we decided to leave (it took us 2h to get ready inside the tent) and I packed our companions into my backpack (in their insulated cage with heating pads). Outside, the atmosphere was amazingly beautiful…..clear skies, the air filled with snow crystals which got blown over our heads far down into Tibet, visible lighting from way below in the distant Kathmandu valley and the silhouette of Everest in front of us…..
The wind made it very cold to climb, but we made very good progress with our two sherpas. Due to the supplemental oxygen we were using, Teji and I were climbing independently on our summit push. And it so happened that I got ahead of him and after a while Teji decided to turn back due to the cold (at about8200m) without me knowing about it (we both missed our radio calls). So when I took a rest to check the mice at about 12 30am I got very worried when I discovered that my whole down suit and backpack was covered in a 2cm thick layer of ice! And when I opened my pack I found the heating pads not working too well, one mouse dead and the others very cold! So what to do!? I tried to warm up the heating pads, added more and come up with any kind of solution….but hey that’s not all that easy up there……also no contact to Teji….where was he? Was he still coming up or had he turned back?
All I can remember is the fact, that we spent about 45min at 8500m deciding what to do….whether to keep moving and risking the experiment in favor for the summit, or to go down back to Camp4 and try to save the mice. So at some stage a decision had to be made and in order not to risk the experiment I was forced to turn back.
We were able to save the mice and bring them down to Camp2 the same day to take their samples.
I admit I was a little disappointed not having reached the summit….so close to setting foot on top of the world…I had felt so good, had made excellent timing….but nevertheless we are most certainly the first to have carried a set of mice so far into the so called”death zone” on Everest and even without having reached the summit of Everest this research expedition has been a wonderful experience and a big success scientifically.
Now we are back in Philadelphia and can’t wait to analyze the samples!
We would really like to thank our sponsors and supporters very much!!