If we could hear the sound of snow falling, today our ears would be ringing. Snow and
wind have stopped all movement for our team on the mountain. All the climbers, except
Eric Simonson here at Advance
Base Camp, are augured into their tents at Camp V, and the Sherpas are waiting patiently
down at Camp IV. "The wind is just hammering us. We're in for another El Nino cycle.
Hang on!" were the words Dave Hahn
used to describe the scene at Camp V at noon.
The Sherpas asked for Pinzo Sherpa to please bring up more toilet paper, sugar, and
chapatis (flat bread). Throughout the day, bent-over figures came off the ropes from
the North Col, headed for the sanctuary of their tents at Advance Base Camp.
We are all tent bound, without enough books to pass around and few jokes to tell
that haven't already been told. The radio provides us with news: Climbers who
reached the summit yesterday on the south side are still at the South Col
(at 26,000 feet), comfortable, snowed into
their tents. For our climbers, this will be their second night at 25,600 feet,
an elevation that some physiologists call "The Death Zone." Here, climbers will
experience trouble sleeping, and a lack of appetite. Humans, in fact, will start
to deteriorate because of the high altitude at around 17,000 feet. (For more on
the story of humans at altitude, see High Exposure.)
At that elevation, sleeping becomes a problem, the blood becomes thick, muscle
wasting takes place, and weight loss takes place. Over the course of this
expedition, we have all lost a little weight, but as we are aware of the
toll altitude can take on the body, we eat enormous amounts of food up here.
We call it the Everest Weight Loss Plan, where members can eat all the high
fat-content food they want.
A storm forces the team to stay put.
"The wind has picked up since this morning," came in Conrad Anker
over the radio. We could hardly make out what he was saying, as the flapping
of his tent in the wind competed with his voice. "Jake and I are experiencing
problems with our hang cook set. It keeps splashing around with the wind.
We might have to cook on the floor."
"I'd say the winds are blowing at about 30-35 miles per hour outside,"
interrupted Dave Hahn, from his tent nearby. "Gusting up to 60,"
added Tap Richards,
"It's nasty out there." We could all but imagine the tents at Camp V bending
against the climbers in the wind. Eric Simonson will check in with his e-mail
weather reports today, hoping for signs of diminishing winds and snow by
tomorrow. Meanwhile, at our various elevations on Mount Everest, we wait
out the gusts in our small rip-stop spheres of orange and gray, reminding
ourselves of the drive that sent George Mallory up Everest's slopes: "For
the stone from the top for geologists, the knowledge of the limits of
endurance for the doctors, but above all for the spirit of adventure
to keep alive the soul of man."