Return to ABC
As we emerged from our tents to prepare for our journey back to ABC the full extent of the damage caused by the storm hit us forcefully. I was immediately struck by how different camp 1 looked. Tents had been blown clean off the mountain and there were now gaps in the snow where they had previously stood. Equipment was scattered across the camp, with people’s personal effects strewn here and there. Two large dome tents had been destroyed which had been put up by other team to use as mess tents. The storm had devastated camp 1.
Out of our team’s tents only 4 survived intact along with a storage tent. Two of those tents had been the tents we were sleeping in, poor Salam’s tent had had the outer cover of the tent ripped off by the storm. What was left was a rather flimsy looking play tent rather than a high altitude tent. By now we had managed to contact ABC and had reported back to Chris and Zack what had happened the previous night and the state of camp. A lot of teams’ members had left equipment in camp 1 to save carrying it up again and were obviously concerned as to whether it had gone missing. If something crucial, like a down suit went missing, it would be very hard to replace this far from civilization. Kathmandu would be the closest place another could be sourced, if borrowing from another team was not an option.
We therefore set about going through the destroyed tents, checking what equipment had not be blown away, removing what was left from the broken tents and storing them in one tent which could be lashed down securely. Thankfully not many of our tents, unlike other teams’ tents had be blown off the mountain. Luckily, the tent poles had given way under the strength of the wind and the tents had collapsed making them less susceptible to being whipped up and away.
As we were going through the remains of our camp and safely storing away what was left, the weather was improving dramatically. The sun had come out and the wind had all but gone, at least lower down the mountain. I therefore started to contemplate trying to climb up to 7500m to acclimatise, after all that was why we had come up here in the first place. One member, of our 3 man team, was exhausted after the previous night’s escapade and said he could not make the climb, but that he was happy to go down to ABC by himself if we wanted to try. After contacting Chris and Zack on the radio again we got permission to continue up to 7500m, as long as we kept a wary eye on the weather and if it changed come straight back down. Chris and Zack had very kindly offered to meet us at the bottom of the north Col with coffee and biscuits after our long night and had already set off, so we felt bad having to let them turn around again, but reaching 7500m was the most important goal.
However we had been walking for no more than 15 minutes, when we bumped into a couple of Sherpas from another team further up from camp 1. They were preparing to go down, and on hearing that we planned to continue up they strongly advised us to return to ABC. One explained, that in his experience, while the winds had subside down here they would not have further up and, while they may normally be manageable, after the night we had all had it would not be sensible. We were then left with a horrible decision, turn round and be 500 metres behind the rest of the team in terms of acclimatisation or continue up but risk the weather getting worse. I was feeling strong and edging towards continuing up a little bit more to assess the conditions, but my climbing partner, after hearing the advice of the Sherpas, was clearly unsure. After chatting it over the decision was made to turn around and hope that our lack of acclimatisation would not affect us later on.