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Day 19. Up and Down (September 20, 2010)

Current Position
Position Date: 2010-09-20 05:25:03
Position Lat: 28.0056
Position Long: 86.8578

It wasn't long after dinner that it began snowing in earnest and every so often I reached up out of my Sierra Designs sleeping bag to push against the tent wall and knock the rapidly accumulating snow down. With nothing really to do in Camp 1 but sleep, I had been lying half awake for some time when I heard more loud rumblings from a nearby avalanche.

We hear these sounds constantly in base camp and hiking up the ice fall. This one, however, like yesterday's seemed eerily closer and in another minute a cold wind filled with spindrift pelted against the tent. I tried not to think about being buried alive and instead simply tried to find solace in 'the odds'. If any of us were think too much about the harm that might come our way in any given day, we might not leave the house. Chhering, I realized, was not plagued by these morbid thoughts. His quiet snoring indicated he hadn't heard anything.

In the morning, our tent was nearly covered in snow. After a quick breakfast, the skies cleared and we were treated to stunning views of Everest, the south summit and the south col. Nearly three weeks after arriving in Nepal, I was finally getting a clear view of the mountain I came to climb.

Our original plan was to hike up to Camp 2 and the head back to base camp. However, due to thigh deep snow, we quickly ammended our plan. We would hike up toward Camp 2 for about 45 minutes and then turn around.

There were two other groups at Camp 1 (the only other groups on the mountain). The Japanese team simply packed up and headed down. They were supposed to be at Camp 2 the previous day. The Chec team who are climbing Lhotse were also planning on being at Camp 2. They had left two days prior and had lost the trail through the ice fall due to whiteout and ended up camping in an upper section that Sherps call 'dumb'.

'I have never heard of anyone camping in the ice fall before,' commented Tshering the next day. 'They were very lucky nothing happened.'

We encountered them late in the morning just breaking camp. With the Japanese team already nestled in at Camp 1, they wisely decided to do the same and the next morning they headed down as well - their two day trip to Camp 2, being ammended considerabley.
Chhering and I struggled in the deep snow for quite some time but neither of us minded. It was clear and sunny for the first time in a long while. Because of the poor weather, our acclimatiztion has been slow. The benefit is that we were both feeling really good. Unfortunately, we could see more clouds coming in and with the fresh snow and warming temperatures were more than a little wary of avalanches.

On the way back, we quickly caught and passed the Chec team. With the deep snow, we opted not to wear crampons and slid and skiddeed most of the way down. There were only a few places where fixed lines were accessible which only seemed to increase the speed of our descent. I became adept at placing one Scarpa boot more forward, Telemark ski style, and slid down the slops using my Leki poles for balance. We only took one water and Clif bar break the whole way down.

We are now getting weather forecasts from Mark De Keyser at weather4expeditions.com. It looks like snow every days for the next week. Not good. In the mean time, I drew pictures and tried to explain the finer points and benefits of snow shoes to Tshering, Chhering and the rest of the Sherpas.

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