Pheriche Respite – Island Peak Recap

Made the ~7hr walk down to Pheriche at ~14,000ft yesterday. A head-wind
and snow (none on the ground) in my face the whole way. Met some
interesting people at the HRA High Altitude Medical Post yesterday and
have enjoyed being able to reliably get online. But the night was
actually colder than base camp 3,500ft above me with a missing window
pane in my room and without my happy hot water bottle in the bottom of
my sleeping bag. Guess I am getting spoiled? Woke up to everything
frozen except toothpaste which seems pretty resilient to freezing! But
it is now a beautiful sunny day and after wrapping things up here, I am
going to head back up the valley to EBC, likely with an overnight stop
in Lobuche.

Pheriche is right around the corner of Dingboche which has reminded me
that I still haven’t properly posted my update of the Island Peak
(6100m) climb. We ended up doing a ~17hr round trip from Advance Base
Camp (ABC) which is probably 10hrs longer than typical. A lot of this
had to do with crevasses on the summit plateau and having to climb the
headwall instead of the typical summit ridge. Here are some semi-edited
notes from my journal. Cheers, everyone.

March 31st – Trekked to advance base camp yesterday, it was a little
harder than last time with Tandra – but last year we had had more time
for acclimatization etc. No water flowing anywhere so we melted snow.
Had some ramon, tang, half a snickers or mars and around 8pm Damai said
something about eating more and I barely was able to open the tent
before losing dinner. I know that should have been a signal to descend
rather than ascend but I thought things would be better in the morning.
Was able to connect by cell to James and Kelly and Dad. We were up at
2am and out by 3. Damai seemed a little unsure about the route which
made me uneasy. And after a couple hours I found myself losing it again
– but we kept going. Stupidity. At crampon point I changed into my new
millet boots, cramped up and ate some chock blocks with caffeine.
I was feeling so sleepy. We hit the summit plateau and there was a huge
crevasse (just like reported last year) – we roped up and paralleled
down to the end and then carefully skirted it. We did something similar
with another one that we might have jumped if we had better
communication skills but I was fine following his lead. There was some
confusion about doing boot axe belays etc and what route to take. I
thought we should head back up to the main ridge but Damai seemed fixed
on going up the headwall. He was the guide though and it turned out he
had brought extra fixed rope to fix the route for a friend who was going
to lead a group up the next day and as far as I knew, trying to make it
up to the main ridge could have meant lots of crevasses and post holing.

So – up we went. I belayed him while he led. It seemed like he actually
went all the way out on the sharp end with placing only a single ice
screw here and there. I didn’t have gloves on and ended up with tons of
cuts and scrapes on the backs of my hands. After about 200m of near
vertical climbing we hit the second summit where there was a really old
fixed rope. We clipped into that with our ascenders and followed a tight
knife ridge to the summit, reaching it around 4:30pm. Way too late!
Damai was worried because he did not have a headlamp but I had the
track on my GPS and a backup headlamp. It was pretty clouded up by then
and snowing. After about 5 minutes of pictures, we tied a prayer scarf
to the summit and rapped down the same way we came up. Pretty intense –
we were able to follow our foot prints on the plateau w/o headlamps and
reached all of our stashed gear (including Damai’s headlamp) around
6:30pm as it got dark, a couple hours later we were back in our tent at
ABC. One of the hardest things I have done, but fun in retrospect. I’m
writing this on the 11th and the cuts on my hands still have not healed
because of the high altitude :) Uploading pics here is timing out and they are already on: https://picasaweb.google.com/wolpin

Will try to get more pics of EBC posted etc next time I have a good connection.

Cheers all, Seth

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