Yes you’ve all read this correctly - our team is now currently in Nyalam (where I sent my very first email update) and we’re here because we’ve had enough of climbing - everything’s over!
We actually came back here yesterday from Advanced Base Camp (ABC) and will be here for the next 2 days before heading back to ABC again. The purpose for this 8-hour trek and overland drive back all the way to Nyalam from ABC is so that we can let our bodies rest and recover fully at a much lower altitude (3,600m) as compared to ABC’s (5,660m).
Also, we will trying to gorge ourselves with more food (Chinese food definitely tastes better than the Nepali food they cook at ABC!) so that we can hopefully return slightly fatter, well rested and more energised. When we return to ABC on 17 Sept, we will be fully ready to launch our summit bid. I think we’re the only team that has taken this decision to go all the way down to Nyalam to rest, and come back up all the way again.
In a way, I think it’s a little like life - sometimes you have to retreat or backtrack a little before pushing ahead for the big one. So, we will be simply relaxing, eating and sleeping all we want here. Obviously we will also try to avoid spending too much time out in the streets in case we fall sick due to inhaling all the smoke and dust.
Hmmm I feel like visiting the hair salon though, even though I do not think any sane S’porean would ever dare step into one here. My poor hair hasn’t felt the nice and gentle touch of a comb / brush in nearly one month and I think I ought to treat my hair better - afterall, I have been trying to keep it long and it has served me well in keeping my head warm in the mountains. Sorry hair, I’ll promise I’ll treat you to a nice proper treatment back in S’pore. I’ll gladly welcome any recommendations on any hair salons back in S’pore willing to treat hair that has been buried under a beanie and hasn’t seen light for more than one month.
Anyway, back to the climb. We made new progress and spent one night in Camp 2 on 11 Sept. The climb from Camp 1 to Climb 2 on that day was simply exhausting. Seriously, I haven’t felt so exhausted in ages. Even as I recall, the summit bid on Mustagh in 2006 did not feel so bad. We left Camp 1 at about 7am and I only stumbled into Camp 2 at around 5pm - yet another 10 hour journey. The temperature that day was so freaking hot and we were also travelling in a huge basin most of the time, so most of the sun’s rays were reflected back at us.
After getting past the first ice cliff, I told myself the worst must be over as the first ice cliff is reputed to be the most difficult section enroute to Camp 2. However, as I was travelling towards the second ice cliff, I nearly fainted at the sight (on top of the heat) - it was a super duper long slope of about 70 - 80 degrees and I couldn’t even see the end of it.
As we rested at the base of the cliff before proceeding up, I saw climbers up there who seemed to be stuck for ages at the same spot. I quickly gobbled down my power gel, re-applied sun block, clipped on my ascending device and began to trudge up the cliff. Once on the slope, it was simply 2-3 steps then breathe like 10 times. Then yet another 2-3 steps, then breathe another 10 times. Occasionally you plunge your ice axe into the snow for balance, if you manage to spare the extra energy.
When you are up on the slope, there is simply nothing to think about except (1) your breathing pattern - it can be such a therapeutic experience by simply counting the amount of breaths you take (try doing it in S’pore!) and (2) how much higher do you have to climb.
There are hardly any landmarks to aim towards (unlike a huge rock, tree or a lamp post) so it boils down to simply counting the number of steps - which seldom went beyond 5 counts anyway. Lihui and Jane are both the strongest climbers in the team and they reached Camp 2 first, and I was simply glad and relieved to see their faces popping out of the tents upon reaching Camp 2.
So we spent a night at Camp 2 and was supposed to set off and try and hit Camp 3 and return back the next day. At 7,000m, it wasn’t a good sleep for both myself and Jane - we woke up almost every other hour, thinking it was already morning and time to boil water. At Camp 2, we slept in our down suits in our down sleeping bags as it was really very cold, and I mean really very cold.
We were blessed with good weather the next morning so we proceeded to set off. We were all dressed in our heavy down suits and we all look like we were walking in our down sleeping bags, so round and puffy. There was only one way to go - and that’s UP.
As I made my few initial steps in the snow, I felt very breathless and as I trudged on in the increasingly soft snow, I seem to feel more breathless than usual. It was like 2 steps, then breathe 300 times. I was literally gasping for breath. Already the last person in the line and quite a distance from the person in front of me, I sounded out my condition to Jamling, the climbing sherpa walking behind me. He told me I might have developed AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) and advised me to turn back towards camp.
I decided to take a rest and continue on for awhile more before deciding if I should turn back. As I resumed the climb, I suddenly smelled something really really bad, like that of rotten eggs that have decomposed for 2000 years. Alas, it was my dear team mate, Jane who just shitted - in the middle of nowhere on the slope. It was soooo smelly that I really thought I would have died on the spot (remember I was already gasping for dear breath). And as if that was not enough, the piece of toilet paper that she used to wipe herself flew down slope and it was literally heading towards my direction. I was so tired that I remember thinking to myself I won’t give a damn even if it hit my face!
After trying to climb on for another 15 mins, I only felt increasingly breathless and I knew it wasn’t wise for me to proceed any more. Upon Dr Mok’s advice, who also diagnosed that I displayed the classic symptoms of AMS, I turned back towards Camp 2 and also decided to descend all the way back to Camp 1 in order to have a better rest. In the end, the rest of the team also turned back about 45 mins after I did as snow conditions got too bad. We then all descended back down to Camp 1 the same day for a good rest…………
Was feeling quite disappointed that I did not manage to perform during our climb up towards Camp 3 but well, AMS can hit anyone and I can only pray that my condition will be better the next time we’re up there - which is during our summit bid!
Alright I think that’s all for now….. I’m sorry if I’m boring you guys with all these climbing details….Oops…need to escape from this internet cafe - before all the cigeratte smoke suffocates me to death!
Miss and love you all and I will probably update again just before our summit bid !
Nyalam, Tibet (in a smoky internet cafe)
15 Sept, 12.50pm (Beijing Time)