Sunday, September 24

Learning ones limits...and setting new goals

Sorry for the long blog...
Its amazing to be such and old goat (mountain??) and still to be able to learn so much! I think about the paradigm shift mentioned by S Covey. "A man gets on a train with his two young children. They make a terrible racket and can't seem sit still. The man looks upset, head in hands, but does not do anything. Another passenger says excuse me but can't you control your children. The man looks up, says Oh so sorry, but we have just come from their mothers funeral!"
Does that not make you change your perspective about the situtation.

So to have the opportunity to learn about the (mountain) environment and oneself is amazing. One can read, one can listen and one can watch (videos etc), but to actually be there is another thing. An amazing an experience. And just like the change experienced after hearing about the funeral, ones percention by being on the mountain changes imensely.

And time adds to this, ones mind digests and works this new information over...

So where am I going with all this............................

I am off the mountain!

Shisha disappeared into the "white" - first snows at ABC

My load from Depot to ABC - luckily Walter and Clive were with me to keep me motivated

Back at Depot camp

Bit of a white out on way down - not that helpfull considering the crevasses that are around

I mentioned in the last blog that I have some questions to answer. It was quite something to be alone at 6400m at camp 1. One has plenty of time. The view down the valley was amazing. Seeing the route one had climbed gave you a sense of real achievement.

So being there, allowed me to take the information that I had just learned and analyse it. Man alive I can tell you that 8000m is along way up. I was still 1600m away and at the time this seemed like a long way. As you know, my objective was to do this without:
1. Oxygen
2. Sherpa support
so hence the Yak comments in previous blogs...

I became concerned about being able to get all the required logistics in the right place at the right time. Camp 1 was stocked for 3/4 days. But to be able to continue to "stock" camps 2 & 3 seemed impossible - this without any assistance. Although I was improving in health (from the Zhangmu hell), being at altitude one does not neccessarily gain in fitness and ability. The higher one gets the more one deteriorates. So to carry on going up and down to stock all the required camps on ones own, I don't believe was a feasible option any more. I think it would slowly grind one to a halt.

I therefore thought about moving my camp 1 up to camp 2. This would mean I would have depot camp and camp 2 on the mountain. It was also imply some BIG days. This initial stint on the mountain was to aclimatise. Plan thereafter would be to go back down to ABC, eat up a storm and rest, and wait for a good weather window. The summit attemp would then be launched.
But following the Depot camp, Camp 2 and summit bid plan I was worried about the following:

  • Long days to get to each position - although not carrying loads (just intraday clothes, equipment and food) is demanding
  • Ability to eat sufficiently - even though one knows one has to, it very difficult to actually eat - somehow the altitude supressses this
  • Ability to drink sufficiently - I was convinced I could do this well - but again very difficult to actually do - much easier just lying in the tent (wasting away)
  • Would I have enough gear in the right camps - for example where do I leave the Down Jacket - depot or camp 2. I had already experienced leaving the down suit at the stash (between depot and camp 1) for one night and having to move my but to assemble the tent before I froze. Alternatively one could have more gear (duplicates) but then this all needs to be carried up!
  • Would I have enough food and gas at the camps - more a concern if weather chnages for the worse - so again does one carry extra?

I think the above IS possible to coordinate - but everything has to go according to plan. Unfortunately though, one can't make that assumption on the mountains. The weather is the big unknown.

Another factor is ones mental state - can one keep the motivation on ones own - I was disapointed that I was not stronger. As I mentioned, as one is not eating or drinking there is plenty of time to think - the pull to more pleasant environs is strong. Being alone too does not help - I think by sharing the experience with a partner these "negative" emmotions could be coutered. With all the good intentions in the world, Gromit still prefers reading to talking!

So as mentioned I'm off the mountain. I decided to drop down from camp 1 to ABC and not return. At the same time, and this was not the reason for descending, the weather reports were poor. The monsoon had definately not ended, and in-fact for the first section (6400 to about 6100) I descended in a white out. I cleared all my gear, but left the tent and food I had carried up - possibly useful for other climbers.

I am going to have to re-appraise my approach, take all the information I have now learned and perhaps set new objectives for the future. I had set such finite goals, that as soon as I realised that I would not achieve them, it was very easy to go down. I think that this surprised the other two summit teams - why not climb a 7000m peak which was almost on route or why not join Jamie's team (which was supported by Dawa and Namgyal - climbing Sherpas). But I was so focussed on doing it on my own, that although very kindly offerred by Jamie, they were not really options. I needed to completely reappraise.

Answers - Objectives:

  • Go high - I was really chuffed to have got to 6400m on my own, and importantly that my body felt good from an aclimitisation point of view
  • Experience the freedom of the hills - Being in this environment is pure freedom. It is my main motivation for climbing. I will never forget the feeling when Claire & I were dropped by helicopter at the base of Mt Aspiring in NZ, and we were completely alone - heaven
  • See the curvature of the earth from land - still outstanding! I think there is still time
  • Get to an 8000m summit - Still outstanding
  • Sleep above 8000m - This was to cater for a South side attempt on Everest - the South col is at 8000m - still outsatnding, but possibly not so importantant now - more why later
  • “Enjoy life” as Mallory said - Boy did I enjoy the trip, Mallory, Tilman, Shipton certainly were on to a good thing(I won't mention Zhangmu again)
  • “Dare Mighty Things” as Theodore Roosevelt said - I did try, and beleive that I have some great information for the future. I'm certainly not stopping to "dare".

Answers - Questions:

  • Do I have the organisational skills? - Yes I believe I do
  • Do I have the physical ability to get to & above 8,000m? - Although I only got to 6400m I certainly believe I can get to 8000m
  • Is it really all worth it? - Considering the freedom of the hills, the experiencing of something not many people do or understand and the challenges one faces, I do believe it is worth it
  • Is it possible to build a camp infrastructure on my own? Probably not, especially without risking too much - I must return (the top is only half way), so will always measure the risk profile of each stage.
  • What are the affects of the climb on heart rate? - More analysis later, but I always stayed at 130/140 beats per minute - perhaps was a little slow in ascending, but always had energy for the next day!
  • Will I be affected by AMS? - Minor headache along the early parts of drive and at BC, but think this was due to the Zhangmu bug - Overall always felt good and comfortable regarding the altitude gains
  • What rate of ascent is feasible? - Will analyse my stored data and report back in a later blog
  • Is Mount Everest a possibility? - For me definately not without Sherpa support and probably not without oxygen - I'm not sure if it is an objective for me any more - but hearing Bob from New York's experience, I certainly get exited!!!
  • Am I able to climb to 8,000m without oxygen? - I believe I can and probaly still want to - I like the idea that it could be harder than Everest with Oxygen
  • Am I able to climb to 8000m, without Sherpa support? - Probably not, but what about with a partner instead

Photos will be published in next blog there are gsome goodies...

Thank you all for all your support, sms's and emails - amazing to get a "text" while sitting on a slope of a big mountain...

1 comment:

  1. Hi Mark, here Jorge, Iñaki's friend in Pamplona. ¿How is the weather now, lots of snow in the route?
    Good luck and best wishes for you. Give a kick in the ass to Iñaki and a kiss to Corinne.


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