There is no way one can mince words about the last rotation – it was a punishing feat of mental and physical strength. Over five days the team climbed from Base Camp (4800m) to Camp 3 (6750m) and back down. This doesn’t sound like a great amount of climbing, however it must be considered that all the team had blood oxygen saturation levels of under 65%. The first day was the familiar and relatively simple trip up to Camp 1. However, there was a new route to Camp 2 as the original route had been compromised with the threat of over-hanging ice. Nothing on the trip so far had prepared the team for the no-holds-barred, mega turbo thrashing we received climbing from Camp 1 to Camp 2. There was not a man in the team who did not suffer on the near vertical face called ‘The Hour Glass’ that seemed to go on and on into the sky. When we finally reached Camp 2, Jaco was heard to say “I would rather do P-Company 5 times back-to-back than do that again!” Whether or not he would repeat such a claim in front of his Para mates is still in question. Karl also remarked that he had “survived being burnt alive for a reason…climbing mountains is not that reason!” The next day was spent in recovery with everyone lying in their tents; only moving to eat, drink, or increase the depth of the pee hole in the snow.
On 18th Sept we hauled our exhausted bodies up to Camp 3. Although it was a pretty steep ascent it was a mercifully short leg. As we paused to catch our breath on the way up, one could steal a glance at the amazing panoramic views behind us. For miles around, the cloud base sat far beneath us with the occasional monstrous peak thrusting up through the clouds. The clouds were a magical mix of white and purple as the morning sun played across the billowing surface. Coming straight back down to Camp 2, everyone reassumed a semi-comatosed state in their tents. We were only disturbed by an earthquake that measured 6.3 in Kathmandu early in the evening We felt the ground shake and were treated to some spectacular avalanches on surrounding peaks and ridges. However, our camp was specifically chosen for its shelter so we were all OK.
The next morning we had a speedy descent back to Base Camp for a couple of beers to celebrate Martin’s official discharge date from the Army on 16th Sept. All the best for the future, mate.
David (Wisey) Wiseman