Dispatch 42: New Plans for Summit Bid; Descent to Camp I

The view of Annapurna from Camp II on Dhaulagiri at sunrise

Today, I woke up buried in my tent. I used my pot to dig out a hole large enough to allow me to get out and spent the next few hours digging out my tent. I made water and breakfast and watched as a steady stream of climbers descended from Camp III. All of Carlos Soria’s expedition descended, and their Sherpas opened the valves on their oxygen bottles, signaling the end of their expedition. It was clear from the conversations that I had with everyone descending, that this was not just a hiccup, but a definitive end to their summit attempts on this mountain. I was disappointed because I had formulated a plan to summit, descending today to Camp I where my body would better be able to acclimate and recover, then ascend to Camp II Saturday, ascend to Camp III Sunday, and attempt the summit on Sunday night into Monday morning. The winds these days were forecast to be significantly lower and the extra days would provide us the opportunity to acclimatize better than we would have been able to with a Friday summit. I sent a message to Chris in the early morning asking about their plans, but didn’t received an answer until it was too late to leave for Camp III. They indicated that they would try to go for the summit in the evening. With no one left to attempt the summit with, and with my injured leg, I decided to descend in the afternoon to Camp I, where I could still mount a summit attempt, but would be able to rest better. I arrived in the late afternoon. Along the way to Camp I, my leg became so painful that I had to stop. I sat on my backpack and almost vomited from the pain. Fortunately, I had packed my first aid kit, which had some very powerful analgesics inside. I took one and continued the remaining way down to Camp I. It became apparent to me that without a somewhat large group of climbers with me on Sunday night/Monday morning, it would be unwise to attempt the summit in my current condition. After making dinner, I made the decision to descend to base camp the following day. Despite the upcoming days of good weather, I realized that Dhaulagiri demands every ounce of strength for a summit attempt, and I would be a fool to attempt this mountain in anything but the best physical and mental condition. I also began to realize that my ability to enjoy my time on the mountain was being hampered by my nagging injury. We don’t pay thousands of dollars to come here just to suffer. Yes, suffering is definitely a factor in every expedition, but it is most often offset by the beautiful views we get to enjoy, the strong relationships we form with one another, and the personal growth we experience as we push past our fears and physical limits. In this case, the distraction of my leg was taking me away from my experience. All things considered, I decided to end my expedition. I went to sleep in Camp I, shooting pain descending my leg, and woke up at 11:00pm to the news that Ryan, Chris, Lina and Eva were going to attempt the summit in the night.