Dispatch 41: Climb from Camp II (6532m/21,430ft) to Camp III (7263m/23,830ft); Descent

High winds blast Dhaulagiri’s upper slopes as we climb toward Camp III.

Today, we woke up at 4:00am and began making water. Since Lina had lost her stove in the tent of another Andalusian team, she joined us in our tent. We made her water for her bottles and for breakfast and took her deposit for Camp II from her before she departed for Camp III. After she left, we continued making water and breakfast for ourselves. We finally got ourselves packed and Chris left around 8:00am. I remained behind for a bit so that I could further reinforce our tent anchors, as I knew that Camp II could get quite windy. I left for Camp III around 9:00am. The route from Camp II to Camp III was quite steep and very icy, and the awkward angles that were required for my feet to make aggravated my leg injury. A few hours into the climb, I stopped to take an anti-inflammatory pill which took the edge off enough for me to continue. On a mixed section, I heard a snap in my leg as my crampon slipped on a piece of blue ice. The pain was horrible, but I kept moving up the slope slowly. As I reached 7100m, the wind began to pick up, blasting me with spindrift which entered anywhere it could, be it inside my gloves or behind my glasses. I looked up and noticed that the entire upper mountain was being blasted with winds that far exceeded our forecast. The location of Camp III was also being blasted, and I began to consider my options. We were all wearing our down suits on the way to Camp III. The fact that I was cold while moving and wearing my summit gear did not bode well for my condition when arriving to Camp III. I knew I would have to spend more than an hour carving out a small tent platform when I arrived to Camp III. Pitching a tent in these winds would be a challenge, and the tents would require extensive anchoring in order to be secure. I also had just passed the location where Simone had died and considered the fact that everyone was heading up into horrible weather (that wasn’t forecast) counting on low winds that evening (that were forecast) for a summit bid. I weighed my options and decided to descend, despite being only around 100 meters from Camp III. I knew that if I arrived to Camp III cold and exhausted, dug a tent platform in high winds and cold temperatures and didn’t get inside my tent till after 6pm, I would have almost no chance at having the energy for a summit bid later that evening. I sent a message to Chris informing him of my decision and gave him around 20 minutes to respond. When I didn’t hear from him, I began rappelling down to Camp II, my leg bothering me the entire way down. I reached Camp II at 4:30pm and quickly climbed into my tent and out of the constant wind. I made water, ate dinner, and again tried to contact Chris and Ryan to confirm that they had gotten my message. I got confirmation that they were in Camp III but didn’t hear news of Badia and Mauricio. I worried as I knew that they were ahead of me, but were still not in Camp III. I made the assumption that they had arrived but that Chris hadn’t responded yet to my message (perhaps his inreach was off). I made water and dinner, and tried to get some sleep while high winds began to bury my tent in the newly fallen snow. I slept with my knife in my hand so that if the tent collapsed under the pressure of the snow that was being piled onto the uphill side, I could carve my way out the other side. The high winds and low humidity caused electrical arcs to form on the inside of my tent, making for a very poor night of sleep.