When you look back at the events in your life over just the last year, it’s not surprising that a lot has happened. I spent the last year digesting and healing from one of the greatest adventures of my life. 360 days later I found myself stumbling into the very same camp I left in such a somber manner- Camp 2 on Mt. Everest. It feels different this time and for that I’m grateful.
I don’t typically enjoy doing things twice, especially when it comes to a mountain. Going into this expedition I feared the repetitiveness of climbing the “same” mountain again. Thankfully, the beauty of climbing Mt. Everest is the route changes year to year. In fact, the route changes throughout the season. As my luck would have it, the route seems challenging this year and we are all feeling it. After spending two nights at Camp 1 we departed for Camp 2. The route is a real ass-kicker out of the gates but then things mellow out into a slow cadenced walk across the glacier. As Camp 2 comes into focus I’m flooded with emotions. Here we are again.
I took my time walking the last 30 minutes from the bottom of Camp 2 up to our camp at the top. The last time I was here the ground was rumbling, the clouds were low, and the terrain was blanketed in snow. I never got the chance to embrace the beauty of my surroundings. Walking delicately in my crampons over ice and rock my eyes were mesmerized. Natures ice sculptures radiated tall and blue with smooth curves mixed with jagged edges. It really is breathtaking-literally and figuratively. At times I felt as though I was walking through a museum of history frozen in time. An oxygen bottle estimated to be from the 80’s, shredded remains of a tent, and a vertebra rest gently in the ground. These objects are reminders that I’m not the first person here, and I most definitely won’t be the last. The history and stories left on this mountain are inspiring to my soul and give me the reassurance that if they could do it, I sure as hell can. I say a silent prayer for those who have perished in pursuit of a dream and welcome the high-fives as I walk in our camp…finally.
Laying in my sleeping bag at 21,300ft is exhausting. Your body begs to lay still but your mind is consumed coordinating every breathe, the pounding of your heart, and holding back the inevitable itchy cough that pleads to come out. Laying in my sleeping bag my mind races. I can see the summit. Is this where my trip will end again? Things look different. I think I’m hungry? Where is my water? Calming the mind is a trick I have yet to master, but a tired body always finds its way into a deep slumber. I woke to a humming sound. My mind couldn’t quite place it except that it sounded as though I was camped out on a busy runway with jets taking off left and right. The humming roar grew softer and louder again. Is that a distant avalanche? It sounds like Niagara Falls is in Nepal…that’s not right. Thoroughly confused, I tucked my head back in my sleeping bag as to avoid the snow crystals falling on my face from the tent. Go back to bed.
Surviving the first night of sleep at Camp 2 is always a small victory and to wake up hungry is a giant success. Making my way to the dining tent I heard Niagara Falls again. What the hell is that? Sitting down to my coffee confused I was hesitant to ask if anyone else heard the same sound? Perhaps I’m losing my mind as altitude has that effect on people? Breakfast was hard to get down even though it was bacon and eggs. Things stop tasting good all together the higher you go in elevation. Easy day-to-day things become a challenge. Going to the bathroom is like running a marathon. Regulating your body temperature is a game you will never win. Hot. Cold. Hot. Cold. Ugh. Motivation is another battle. The last thing you want to do is go for a short hike to get the blood pumping. Dragging myself out of my chair we roped up and heading out towards the base of the Lhotse face-the devil.
The Lhotse face is a dreaded part of climbing Mt. Everest because it appears to be an almost vertical blue ice wall of death up to Camp 3. Strangely, it’s beautiful. Traversing the glacier was like forging forgotten steps. Every step we took was a step that no one had taken in over two years. After back-to-back devastating years on Everest no one had made it past Camp 2. At that moment, we were the highest people on the entire mountain. Every bone in my body screamed with excitement. This IS my year and I can feel it in every cell in my body. Stopping for a break before heading back to camp I sat on my backpack staring at the summit. It looked miles away but felt like it was just around the corner. Sitting there in silence I heard that humming noise again. What the hell is that?? The jet stream. That’s the jet stream Kim. The thought of being able to hear something like that is mind-blowing and intimidating. Instead of psyching myself out I focused my mind on the optimistic fact that I’m on “vacation” and my job is to eat, sleep and climb. In the morning we will begin the journey back to basecamp for some rest days before heading back up to properly meet the Lhotse face and Camp 3. I can’t wait.