Monday 12th February
We turned in last night at about 6.30pm,
with the intention of leaving at 3.00 am, should the winds die down. I didn't
sleep a wink at all, I was too nervous and the sound of the wind made sure that
sleep was impossible. I started to doze on and off when I became suddenly aware
of something! Outside there was no noise at all. I sat bolt upright and looked
at my watch, the time was 2.48 am. This was it we were on!
The winds had blown themselves out. As
I looked outside our tent all I could see was the night sky and a billion stars
twinkling brightly like never before. The miracle had happened my prayers had
been answered. We brewed up and replenished ourselves with some much-needed
fluids before the final climb to the summit. It took the three of us well over
an hour to get ready into our high altitude gear. One thing that I did become
aware of was how cold it had become, my fingers were starting to freeze, and so
I wasted no time in putting on several pairs of gloves.
We all left camp two at 3.30 in the
pitch black and freezing night temperature. Upon checking my thermometre I was
alarmed to see that the reading was -30°c. We were climbing in frostbite
conditions, so it was important to keep moving and keep blood flowing to the
extremities. This was without doubt the coldest I had ever been in my whole
life. I followed the beam of my head torch, which gave off a pathetic amount of
light. In fact, I gave up after an hour and turned the torch off, allowing my
eyes time to adjust to the darkness.
We began climbing the glacier, higher
and higher we went, I used my ice axe for support over the steeper sections of
snow and ice, and was very grateful to have it with me. It gave me an element
of security, knowing that it would break a fall should I be unfortunate to slip.
Before very long I didn't feel too good
at all; I felt exhausted; I felt like I was going to wretch at any second, but
most worrying, was the fact that I was dropping behind Guy and Arnold at an
I knew that I needed to stop and empty
my bowels, yet my head was telling me to keep going. The thought of having to
remove layers and warm clothing, and undo my sallopettes and then expose my bare
bottom to the freezing night time temperature was not very appealing at all. I
was worried that I might freeze something very dear to me, you can survive
without the odd finger or toe, but I couldn't live without my John Thomas, no
Anyway the urgency of the matter got
greater and I had no choice but to find the most convenient looking bit of
ground, and strip and squat, holding on to my ice axe, which I planted firmly
into the ice. I was extremely relieved to relieve myself of some excess
baggage, and the minute I began climbing up again I noticed I was moving with
much more conviction, and I felt much stronger than I had done since leaving the
tent over an hour ago.
My feet quickly froze into two blocks of
ice, and I resigned myself to the fact that I may very well catch frostbite. I
caught up to Guy and Arnold and discovered that they too were having a hard time
with the cold temperature. A shooting star whizzed by overhead and I allowed
myself a wisp of optimism to creep in. Upon checking my altimetre, we were now
at 6,300 metres and still moving strong for the top. We climbed up through 3
snowfields, using my axe for support. It reminded me of ascending up through a
mini icefall, very invigorating it was.
When we came out over the other side of
the snowfields, the sun was beginning to rise, away to the east. We made our
way on up heading for the ridge on the skyline, the icy darkness was beginning
to become lighter and more of the route could now be seen.
After 3 hours of climbing we reached the
ridge that we had been aiming for, and at exactly the same time, the sun rose
fully into the sky. I felt the immediate effects of its heat as I felt my
frozen body begin to thaw out. From here on in, we would be climbing to the top
with the sun showing the way. Although I could now feel my feet, I realised
that I was still in danger of frostbite, and my feet pretty much remained frozen
solid for the remainder of the climb.
We passed 6,400 metres then 6,500. I
was setting a new altitude record with each step up. We stopped for a rest on a
slope of at least 60° and I was alarmed to discover that my nose had started to
pore with blood. I thought that surely this was the end of my climb, that this
was a serious condition to be faced with. However, Arnold who was climbing
quite near by reassured me that it was perfectly normal at altitude to
experience nose bleeds. I decided to continue on. The terrain became even more
desperate and I began to become extremely tired. Yet we had only been climbing
for over 6 hours. We still had several hours to go. Scree fields and boulders
the size of houses had to be negotiated with monotonous regularity, and it all
became very energy sapping indeed. To say that the terrain was torturous
doesn't even come close, it was hell on earth. It seemed as if the whole
mountain was ready to slip down onto the glacier below. For every step upwards,
you slipped back three. Very demoralising.
After climbing for a further 2 hours we
stopped for a rest in the sun, with the summit ridge not far above us. Guy took
off his boots, and tried to massage some life back into his icy cold feet. I
elected not to, as I dreaded the thought of finding two badly frost bitten feet
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