I woke shortly after dawn and after a cup of oatmeal (I’d cracked my bowl in half in the first week!) I slowly began packing my gear. I felt infinitely more rested compared to the prior afternoon but still quite drained from several days of hard climbing in a row. In this improved state, however, I was now able to appreciate the view from the South Col. The col itself is a bit of a rubbish tip – it’s a lot of effort to carry rubbish down so no one does it – but the view is good!
We set off around 7am and crossed the col to the Geneva spur. Once again, walking was more difficult than I expected but a thousand times better than 24 hours before so I wasn’t concerned. Everything is relative, after all. Even Thunang had to take short breaks, however, which was a first for him. I guess he was human after all!
We crossed the spur and made the steep traverse to the Yellow Band. SO much easier in this direction! There were a decent number of climbers on the rope climbing up to the South Col, and even a couple climbing without oxygen. Not sure any of them summited though, with the weather up high due to turn worse and the jet stream returning. I continued to wonder (and still do) what weather forecasts all these people follow.
The Lohtse face was manageable, even with my wrist, and soon we were on the last stretch to Camp 2. The main dangers were now behind us, and with just the Khumbu Icefall to go I felt I was nearly home. Once again I was out of energy, but salvation was just a few steps ahead as the IMG camp loomed close. I could see a few of the sherpas and clients waiting, and it warmed my heart. Great to see everyone again!
Funuru, one of the head sherpa and expedition organizers, was the first to congratulate me, and you could see the genuine happiness in his eyes. Being congratulated by the guy who holds the summit number record on Cho Oyu, another 8,000m peak – 17 summits, plus I believe 10x Everest summits – was pretty special. It was only then I felt I had done something pretty unusual and pretty difficult. I sat in the eating tent and enjoyed a big bowl of spicy noodles and several cups of juice, and just smiled. It was wonderful to be back.