Mountally challenged > Everest 2007 updates

May 26th: Bill Tyler: Summit day and descent debrief part 2 & 3

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7summits:
We spent about 20 mins getting the line right. Alex was very specific as to what he wanted and we waited for the sherpas to find thier clients and once that got sorted out. We left. The trail was perfect. There was no wind, no blowing snow, open sky with the most amazing clear sky. You could see a night sky so full of stars and the milky way. Off in the distance there was lighting....BELOW us. We could see the flashes in the clouds!
 
I like to climb in the dark. It takes away the impulse to look up and see how far you are from the goal, and focuses you attention on the ground and the immediate area in front. Time passes faster it seems to me. We moved up the slope to the ridgeline. The terrain was mostly steep snow paths, with the occasional vertical section that made the route interesting. There were maybe 15-20 climbers ahead of us, but we passed them with ease (we were on 3L/m ox flow). We did get held up at one point by a guy trying with no ox, he just would not step aside. I think we took about 2 hours to get to the top of the ridge, where he did finally allow us to pass.
 
Once we got past, we moved alot faster. The trail at the top of the ridge is mostly level, with the 3 steps causing the most altitude gain. It really is not all that far to the first step, which is a rocky bump. I thought it was rather easy to negotiate, since we basically just pulled ourselves to the top using jumars. It did get the breathing going though. I had always heard that you take 1 step, then breath 15 times, then another, but I was able to maintain a good pace and was never too far from the lead (alex).
 
After the 1st step, the trail is again sort of level, It leads to the famous mushroom rock (it looks like a big mushroom), where the area is more flatter and you can sit and take a break. At this point, we had been going for 4-5hrs and switched out the bottles with new ones to go for the summit. We also increased the flow rate to the max, 4L/m. It was kind of funny. As we got ready to face what comes after the rock (the 2nd step), alex told me to go after Ludmilla. I got up and got ready, then he said wait. I said ok. Then Aundry got in line and I said should he wait, and Alex said Everybody just go. I felt like a little kid getting yelled at by Dad. The rerason he wanted me to wait was because the 2nd step is a real bottleneck. A climber takes about 10 minutes to get through the step and if there are 6 climbers, that means that you have to wait an hour to go. that is a real issue as you get cold and burn ox.
 
But once I got to the step, it was free of climbers and I was able to move quickly. The step opens with a climb up some snow free rocks, which is difficult in crampons as they slip and slide. Once you get to the top of this, you then have to step around a corner and then climb up another rock area. Then you pass through and up a narrow groove to a snow ramp to the ladder. The new ladder (placed there I think last year) is almost on top of the old ladder but is longer and allows you to get higher up the vertical rock face. But it is kind of ridiculous in that once you get to the top of the ladder, you have to step off to the right and then climb up a rock face for about 6 feet. The issue is when they put the ladder in, why didnt they just move it over a few feet to the right, Then you would just climb straight up? Easy. But no. I dont know. We all thought it was kind of dumb. Going up is no problem really, it is trying to come down that causes a few issues!
 
I made the ladder and then the climb out in good form and time, and moved on. The trail again is mostly level and it leads to the 3rd step. The third step is different in that the climbing up requires much larger stepping and really gets the heart beating and the breathing going. And you are really high!!! It took a few minutes but I got through it. After the step the trail leads to the snow pryamid which is pretty steep and this is where I realized that I just might make summit.
 
One thing was that my feet were frozen. I could not feel them from the balls of my feet to the toes. During the move, I was quite consious that they were bad and was worried about frostbite. I tried to wiggle them to keep the warm but it did not work. I had the feet warmers, but they did not work either. I kept thinking I needed to turn to save them, but I was so close!!!
 
At the snow slope, I said to heck with it. At this point, if they were frozen then the damage was done. So keep going. I felt strong and my mind was clear and I had lots of ox and I knew I would make it.  The slope went fine but I was at this point taking 1 step, then breathing a few times, then another. Once I made it to the top the trail moves out across a steep section that is about 30ft long, the it moves back and up to the summit mound. My sherpa told me we would make summit in 30mins from the top of the slope, which got me going.
 
At the top of the zig zag, there is another flat area, where I stopped to take in the view. The sun was just rising, and as far as the eye can see there were no clouds. You could see tothe ends of the earth. All of the mountains around seemed so small.
 
Just past the flat area is a small rise, and once I topped that I saw the summit and the crowd of people.  I was amazed. There it was!. It took about 15mins to cross the 50-60yrds to the summit, and just as I was getting there the folks there started down. I was able to walk right to the top. Usually, you que up in line and wait your turn, but the summit was free. I sat down and got out the phone and made my calls, then my banner pics, etc. and took in the view again. I watched the line on the south side as they moved up, ands also my teammates as they did thier thing. Alex told me I had 5 mins to stay then down, but I knew that already. I felt just fine and strong and clear. I gotta tell you, the view is worth it. Nothing compares, except maybe the veiw from space!
 
I was up there for about 15mins, and I knew it was time to go. So I started down.
 
Stay tuned, as the descent gets interesting!

7summits:
I started down from the summit after about 15mins. I made summit at 740 on May 20th. Once I got to the flat part at the top of the zigzag, we swicthed out to my last bottle at 3L/m to get to 8300camp. I was feeling good, just the numb feet. I thought things were really going well. I met a few folks coming up the snow slope, and let them know how close they were. By now the sun was burning down, and I could barely stand the heat. We made it down the 3rd step easy and in a few minutes was at the 2nd step. The heat was driving me crazy. The move down the 2nd step involves a blind step down, since the mask makes it impossilbe to see anything. I had to push it against my chest when I looked down or it would have pushed up my nose and them my glasses would fog. That was the other thing that drove me crazy. My glasses would fog over and I could not see anything. I would have to tilt my head and look out of the corner of my eye to see where to put my foot. There are many places on the trail where it is only 6-10 inches wide, so I had to be careful.
 
My sherpa went first. I grabbed the ropes and swung my body over the edge. I had one good footing, and he told me to step down, I could not see, but did it anyway. Yep, I got a crampon on something. I then moved to the left and was able to bend down and touch the top of the ladder. A few moments later I was on it and moving down. I had to stop for a moment and catch my breath, then I was down and through the groove and then a few further steps and I was off.
 
I told the sherpa I needed a break and he pointed out the several climbers lying in the snow forever at the base of the 2nd step and said no way. But I was so hot and I needed fluids. So I got him to stop at mushroom rock for just a moment to drink the last water I had and take off the backpack to stretch. My glasses were constantly fogging and I was really frustrated with the mask. I gotta say, we can send a man to the moon but cant make a better mask to climb with. Stupid. Damn it was maddening.
 
We then finished out the ridge trail and cleared the 1st step with no issues, just down climbed using the ropes. I could see the 8300m camp coming closer and closer, and it was a welcome sight since I knew we would stop and I could get water and rest. I started to take it alittle easier, resting for a moment every so often to wipe down my glasses and breath alittle.
 
Oh ya, just below the 2nd step where the sherpa was pointing out the climbers, my glacier glasses lost a lens so I had to switch to my goggles, which were just as bad as the glasses for fogging.
 
At last we were at the top of the ridge moving down it to the camp. The trail was steep but quite easy, and I think the entire time down to camp was less than 2hrs. I got to camp and sat down to hear Alex yell that we neeeded to keep going. I yelled back I needed to get some water melted, so he relented and gave me 1hr to get that done. Yay!
 
1hr later we got on the move. I was feeling good at that point but my feet were starting to hurt like hell. the numbness was fading and being replaced with pain.
 
Down through the trail from 8300 to 7700. I had to move slowely and rested often. We wanted to get to the north col at a minimum, ABC being the best choice. It took me several hrs to get to the camp at 7700. I could feel the tiredness taking over. I had enough in me to get to the north col, abc was an unknown. I would stop after every rope and sit down. As the descent continued, the sit downs became longer and longer. But I made it the camp and knew that I was at least below the death zone and getting safer each step downwards.
 
Fianally I passed the camp and made it to the top of the snow ramp down to the north col. I was really feeling tired now and my feet were no longer able to take the pain of walking down with my feet pointed front. So, I rappelled the entire snow ramp to the north col. I would have to wait for the rope to clear of p[eople, then slowely walk down backwards to the achor. It actually worked pretty good and helped my damn feet alot. I ran out of ox at some point at the top of this area and Alex came by and noticed. He called the sherpa who by now was carrying 8-10 empty bottles of ox (they get a bonus for each bottle carried down). I mean a huge load. These people are so amazing.
 
He dug through his load and found a bottle with about half full, and I switched out. The ox helped alot finally I made it to the north col about 3-4 in the afternoon. I was sure by this time that I had frostbite since ,y feet were numb at the same time in so much pain.
 
I really wanted to stop, but knew I needed to have my feet looked at by the doc and he was in abc. PLus, ABC is the right place to get to. You are safe there.
 
So, as the sun went behind the north col, I started down the fixed lines. At first I tried to rappel, but there were too many folks so I had to walk most of it front. What should have taken me 30mins took me about 1hr. BUt at last I was down the lines and walked to crampon point. I knew I was running on empty at this point. I could feel the exhaustion. My throat was so dry that when I swallowed, it would cause me to dry heave. I actually vomitted several times.
 
At crampon point is where I hit the wall. I have seen other climbers so tired they could hardly stand, and I got to experience this too! From this point to abc it takes about 30mins, but I could only step a few paces then stop. I was thinking I was not ever going to make it. I was going no where and I was dry heaving and just a wreck. About 20mins from camp I called in help. Sergey the guide was with me and I told him I needed help. He was already on it and Migma Sirdar RAN the whole way to where I was and took my pack. That was the deciding facter. I was able to walk more than 10 feet. It was dark by now and cooler which helped out too. SO, I made it to camp. I went into the mess tent and sat down and immediatly started to fall asleep. I was doing touch and goes right away. When I was awake I would drink coke then fall out again. I did get my boots off and was releived to see no blackened toes.
 
No frostbite!
 
I slept that night like a baby. Best sleep I had at abc. I took a rest day next and then got up early to walk to BC. My feet hurt like hell but I got down and then it was beer time and relaxation and showers and jeeps and hotels and food I could eat. It was great to see the first team and share stories and have a great time.
 
I have lost 40lbs (18.2kgs to be exact), My pants fall off, my feet are still numb, I am stuck here in kath waiting for flights (not sure when I will get out) but content. I got to sign at the Rum doddle Rest. (they keep track of Everest summitters and the walls are covered with signatures from I think over a thousand folks who have made it). Most of the team is leaving today so I am going to be lonely.
 
Nothing has sunk in. I guess that I need some time to digest this all. It seems that it happened so fast it was a dream. I need to get home and fit back into my life and in a few months, maybe I can start to understand this experience.
 
I want to thank all of you for your support. I felt the good vibes on summit day and all of you were there with me.
 
I need to thank my wife Barbi foremost for her support and sacrifice to get me to the top. She has put aside some of her dreams to help me do this and been there when I needed her to be. I am truely lucky to have her in my life and am blessed beyond imagination.
 
I will leave off here, and hope to see all of you in the near future.

Roger:
Bill thank you so much for taking the time to give all of us your detailed and candid blow by blow account of your journey, it makes for riveting reading and gives one a feel of being there with you.

There are just so many factors that impact upon a climb of such magnitude.

I wonder what the answer is to the glasses problem? We have goggles here in Australia that have a small fan in them to blow a breeze accross your glasses lens, I wonder just how effective they may be.

http://www.smithoptics.com/Phenom-Turbo-Fan_10_70.html

If somebody is will to pay my way to Everest I will gladly test them on the mountain :))

Cheers

Roger

m.c. reinhardt:
Wow, Bill, good read!!! You described the route in great detail. Thanks for the TR. Glad you did not get frostbite. It is interesting that when you were so close to the top and you were considering turning around to avoid frostbite, you decided to continue on. I can understand that. You had a lucky star but mostly you showed great strength, stamina and determination. Well done. Congratulations!

MC    :angel: (I just wanted to use a new "smiley icon"!

Bill:
Hi all. I want to thank Harry for posting these updates and also to all who replied. Milan, you are the bomb and I missed you this year in BC with Kevin and the gang. Barbi says hi!

Hope the movie is a huge success. Looking forward to seeing it. Bruce, you Kiwi! Love you man!

Bill

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