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Off they go!

Two mountaineers navigating a glacier on a Gasherbrum II Expedition
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Hello again from base camp. We have just enjoyed a couple of days of R&R all together in base camp in the sun…(albeit still in frigid temperatures!) in preparation for the task in hand. Although enforced rest is usually endured with chagrin, the team actually did pretty well at it this time! 

This could well have been because of a hefty dose of viral respiratory tract infection that half of our crew has been hit with! I detest “colds” at altitude with a passion. They are invariably the full cough, congestion, catatonia trilogy …and there is very little I can do either to ameliorate symptoms or to expedite recovery. They are incredibly frustrating for me as a doctor…! Everyone knows that there is nothing you can do with a cold but grin and bear it….and perhaps take some generic “cold and flu” remedy that at best makes you feel a little better for 25 minutes and at worst does nothing at all: but at altitude, where everything just feels WORSE, and, with people who are here to undertake a physical, psychological and emotional challenge of some magnitude and who want to feel 100% it’s just soooo hard to say that there is nothing to be done. Anyway, I’m grateful to the team a) for putting up with me being the coughing sick one for 36hours, and b) for hanging in there and understanding that as much as I’d like to, I don’t have a magic wand to make them better overnight….yet!

Despite the sickness, we had a nice couple of days; catching up on eating some great food and sleeping on the flat for the guys who had spent 2 days up high and had had a long, hard day pushing the route beyond camp 2. The digital projector came out in the evenings for a couple of after dinner movies and the days filled themselves with internet, remote control octocopter flying, siestas and sitting around chatting. 

It’s hard to explain just how important these days of inactivity are for a team of climbers preparing to head up a 6800m mountain, but the physical toll that the next three days will take on our group is significant. Any replenishment of reserves prior to a climb of this type is undoubtedly of immense benefit.

So…now Alpenglow Expeditions’ summit push on Ama Dablam is officially underway. Dorji Sonam, Tenzing Gyalzen and Pasang Renji left early this morning for camp two, and the rest of the team left just before lunch for camp one. They have all arrived at their destinations and are settling into the usual routine of collecting snow, melting it, boiling it and drinking it. Adrian tells me that there is a light yet chilly breeze up there, but spirits are high. The Sherpa plan to make one further push with the rope fixing tomorrow. They would like to make it half way up the final snow face in order to get a real feel for the snow conditions and to speed up progress for the team on the 16th.

These early days of a summit push are always a little strange. The work has begun, the team has gone from base camp, the apprehension builds but the true grit is yet to arrive. We have heard spurious reports that perhaps a couple of Slovenian climbers will also be trying for the summit on the same day as us or before. This would be truly great if it happens. The more people who climb the route, the more consolidated the track becomes, and the easier and safer it becomes for everyone. 

It’s such a strange year on Ama Dablam. In comparison to last year when stellar snow conditions made the ascent relatively easy and quick for good climbers, this year, even strong climbers are going to be challenged, both by the technical nature of the snow conditions and by the energy that will be required to put a track up the summit face in deep snow.  To add a little spice to the situation, our weather forecast is good…but not GREAT..! Winds will be moderate and temperatures cold: completely within our safety limits, but I am (perhaps greedily) wishing that the winds would be a little lighter and temperatures a little warmer…just to give my guys the best possible chance. 

This is by no means a done deal and I have to admit to carrying a little more than my normal pre summit apprehension, nonetheless we have at least been lucky enough to get a legitimate chance at success this season, which is so much more than other teams…so we will give it our best.

If my Internet device allows (always an unknown!) I will give brief daily updates of the team’s progress on the mountain. 

Thanks for following.

Monica Piris 

Expeditions Doctor
Alpenglow Expeditions Ama Dablam 2013