Virtual Everest 2020: Difficult Times

It happens to almost everyone, at some point on a long expedition, the body revolts. The pain begins, the cough gets harder and then you address it. Will the drugs work? Need more rest? Go home. Difficult times for our virtual Everest 2020 team.

Virtual Everest 2020 – Support the Climbing Sherpas is a joint project of Alan Arnette and several global guide companies. Our objective is to entertain Everest fans during the Coronavirus spring closure and raise money to help the Climbing Sherpas who are not working this spring. While there will be accurate historical references, this series is a work of fiction. Names, characters, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. Please join us by making a donation using the links below plus by adding your Everest experiences in the comment section.

Let’s Get You Healthy

“Nice job everyone over the past few days at C1 and 2. Now, time to go down.” Guide told the team over their final dinner at Camp 2 on this rotation. “We’ll stay down for a few days then come back up to get our ticket punched for the top.” He had told them in Kathmandu that they must spend the night at Camp 3, nearly 23,000-feet on the Lhotse Face in ‘style,’ otherwise, he wouldn’t let them make a summit attempt. Buddies looked at one another for a long time.

Dawa took over, “We will walk at 4 am so be ready. We need to go fast, but not be careless. Clip-in always, listen to the Climbing Sherpas. It will be busy with many teams. With this good weather, everyone is on rotations and setting up the high camps. The summit ropes will be there any day.” Loner looked up.

The night at 22,000-feet was better for almost everyone compared to their first night at C1 a few days earlier. Their bodies had adapted well, and the rest back at 17,500-feet would help even more.

“Wait,” Mingma said.” What?” She replied. “Let me check your harness. Must be double-backed. We will do a lot of rappelling today.” His headlamp focused on her harness buckle. He pulled the loose end, confirming it was double-backed. He checked her gear each time they left camp. Checking gear was a standard procedure for climbing partners. She checked his, to his amusement.

The team crossed the shallow crevasses in the Lower Cwm then downclimbed the ladders into the Icefall. The air was crisp. It felt good against her cheeks, but when the wind picked up, She pulled her Buff across her face. At the first break, She ate a handful of Sweedish Fish. Guide had given her some at C2, claiming that was his secret to climbing. Mingma wrinkled his nose, seeing her eat them. Distracted, they both turned their heads to see who was coughing so hard; it was Bud.

As the first rays of the morning sun touched the lower Icefall, Base Camp came into view. It felt close, but they knew it would take another hour, at least. Careful to clip into the fixed-line, the double ropes on every ladder, they moved steadily lower. “Amazing how better I’m breathing as we go lower,” Dutch told Old Man. “Hell, there’s more O’s down here. Tell me again. Why do we do this?” “Dutch stammered, “Because we are here, or it is there, or something like that!” They both laughed as they reached the first tent of an expansive base camp.

“I’m worried about Bud,” Buddy told Guide. “He’s been coughing since Goyko on the trek. He keeps saying it’s getting better, but,” his voice trailed off. “Yeah, I’ve noticed it. Time to get him to the Docs at Everest Hospital.” “You know he has to summit; you know that, right?” Buddy looked Guide directly in his eyes, standing only two feet away. “Let’s get him healthy.” Guide said, walking away.

Bud crawled into his tent, putting his climbing boots outside. It felt good to be in his own tent, around his stuff. He slipped off his climbing pants and crawled into his soft, warm sleeping bag. He coughed hard, his chest hurt. He knew something wasn’t right. “You OK?” Buddy asked poking this head inside the yellow shelter. “Not really,” For the first time, he admitted to his best friend that something was wrong.

As he lay in his sleeping bag, it was now 9:20 in the morning. He had returned to EBC from C1 at 7:00. He still had a long day ahead. He felt exhausted. The down climb took a lot out of him. All he wanted to do was sleep, but as hard as he tried, he couldn’t fall asleep. His head was pounding, his nose was running, and every turn brought on another wave of coughing. He tried to stifle each cough, not wanting to annoy his teammates in the next tents.

Time moved at glacial speed. It was now 11:07. He tapped his digital watch as if that would make time go faster. The camp was humming with activity. He heard every step; he felt a yak train lumber by on the path next to their camp. The stoves began to hiss as the cooks started lunch.

He rolled over and pulled his down bag against his neck. He felt claustrophobic and fought the zipper to let him breathe. Now he was cold and pulled it closer to his neck. Another crocodile roll, coughing attack, as he sat straight up. He fought to unzip the bag that had his arms in sarcophagus mode. “Damn-it, I’m not a mummy. Where is that zipper?” He said out loud. Then realized Buddy, close by, must think he is going crazy with this talking.

Switching between hot and cold, comfort and misery, his frustration increased, as his body temp rose. He closed his eyes and began to drift off. Twitching back awake, he was a sight. Drool dripped from his mouth, snot out his nose, his heart was pounding, his head was about to explode.

He was hot again. He found the tiny tab and pulled hard. The zipper moved an inch before getting caught in the sleeping bag fabric. After another round of zipper-fights, he finally broke free by sticking his arms straight above his head. With the bag around his neck, his arms straight above his head, his face red as it could be, all he needed was a tiny car and huge shoes to complete this circus act. He took a deep breath to regroup.

Tapping his watch again, now it was 11:23. He stared at the tent ceiling debating whether to unzip all the vents or seal them shut – both bad ideas. His eyes closed against his will, but his brain denied sleep.

“Let’s go.” It was Guide outside his tent. He had consulted with the Docs and they wanted to see him ASAP. Buddy came over. As they walked to the Hospital in the middle of base camp, high on a small hill, Bud looked at Buddy. “Did you tell him?” He asked quietly hoping Guide, a few steps ahead, wouldn’t hear. “Yeah, but he didn’t say anything.” “You know what this means to me. I’ve got to get there, no matter what.” Bud confided in his friend. “Let’s get you healthy.”

Climb On!
Memories are Everything

Climbing Sherpa Support

Who, how much, and how often you donate is a personal decision. Maybe you climbed with one of the guides, or plan to one day. Perhaps you have followed them for years and want to support their Climbing Sherpa team, or maybe you support by geography – Nepali, American, Austrian, British, New Zealand. It’s up to you and will be much appreciated.

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