It was painful to turn back when you could see the end…just when I thought that I had cleared the difficult sections of climbing, the yellow band, rock band, the steep slopes and could finally take a break of trudging uphill…my oxygen tank ran out on me (or rather insufficient for me to descend if I were to proceed to summit)…
This trip made me realise that climbing a 8000m peak was a totally different ball game. It was not enough to have the will to carry on, other factors such as oxygen which we depended on and effects of altitude that could affect you very subtly, rapid changes in the weather played a part in determining the success of a summit bids as well as survival rate from attempting it.
Dr Mok said that we were very lucky to have got off the mountain after both of us had spent the 2nd night in Camp 3. If weather had turned bad and we had to stay a 3rd night in Camp 3, there would be a high chance that we could develop fatal complications such as cerebral edema and pulmonary edema.
The descent was far from pleasant. Plodding through thigh-deep snow, navigating through a whiteout where one could only see Camp 2 intermittently, down climb where a part of section was affected by avalanche gave me a taste of the potential pitfalls of 8000m peak. Making to the summit is only half the journey, it is more important to ensure that we live to tell the tale.
A few key learning points:
– Build my fitness further so that I will get sick less and not miss another acclimatisation cycle. It was a gamble to go for summit bid with the body acclimatising up to Camp 1 and I lost on that one try. Bad weather prevented a second summit bid and indeed, expeditions who set off one day after our summit bid were all affected by bad weather.
– Find the optimal breathing rhythm for climbing so as to maximise the time, strength and oxygen that I have.
– Stop wearing my balaclava with the oxygen mask…apparently, in doing so, it could have contributed to some oxygen leakage as the mask fit would not be tight fitting.
– Use the new oxygen mask which is suppose to give me 3 extra hours over the older model that I had used for Cho Oyu.
– Get to the summit quickly and descend as low and fast as possible…Dr Mok had warned that if we were to stay in Camp 4 of Everest, one would die as that Camp would not be a place for resting at all.
Everest will be far more challenging than Cho Oyu and it will be better to learn these valuable lessons on Cho Oyu than to make the mistakes on Everest…