As I began this blog I established a few self-imposed rules: first, no drama or stories of blood and guts, and second, no complaining. Thankfully there were few instances when I imposed the “blood and guts rule,” but when describing Camp 2 I have found myself writing several drafts of posts before satisfying the “no complaining rule.”
I found Camp 2 a particularly difficult place, and it was a mixed blessing that we spent so many unplanned days there on our summit rotation. I will be careful not to break my “no complaining rule” as I pick up the narrative of the summit rotation, but recognize in advance that it might be a close call.
The factors that make Camp 2 difficult start in the Icefall and the stretch of climbing above Camp 1. Climbing in the Khumbu Icefall does not allow for the steady, methodical pace that lends itself to a sustained 9-to-12 hour day. Rather the Icefall is an all out sprint through some emotionally draining terrain that leaves many climbers spent. Then there is the long push up and down the “bread loaves” and the Valley of Silence (remember the Tea Pot post?) before arriving to Camp 2. In other words, most climbers show up to Camp 2 already pretty worn out and not feeling their best.
Camp 2, also known as Advanced Base Camp, provides precious little for rejuvenation. It just is a challenging place, especially for the Camp 2 staff that is tasked with providing prodigious amounts of food and water for the climbers. No one gets off easy at Camp 2.
Our original plan was to climb from Base Camp to Camp 2 on May 9th, rest one day and then push higher on our summit bid. This plan brought us back early from our “drop-back” in Namche Baazar and the comforts of heated blankets and ordering meals from a menu (but I am not complaining). However, when we arrived to Camp 2, the weather reports had changed to include high winds at the summit so we settled in for a better forecast and more favorable conditions. Pretty much each day we would prepare to climb the next day only to receive an updated weather report in the evening and decide to wait “one more day” before pushing higher. This went on for 6 days and it was challenging.
The upside to our delay was that we were spending time at 21,000 ft and gaining a more solid base of acclimatization to the thin air. I know it was very beneficial for me. And the views, especially at dusk, were simply heavenly.
I could provide some additional descriptions but will yield instead to my no complaining rule. Let’s just say that we were settled in at Camp 2 for nearly a week waiting for an improvement in the weather and that no one went hungry or thirsty thanks to the hard work of our Camp 2 team.