By Robbie Klimek of the K&K Cafe
The final curtain has been drawn and I now have returned to my more civil life... I am looking back on the expedition with fond memories for life during the expedition was very sweet (tx to Chocolove) We were blessed with everything... (except for good weather). The team's camaraderie and strength were sans pareil. We moved and laughed well together... I didn't get to the summit yet I feel as though I did. I accomplished what I sought out to do; immerse myself into a wild and uncertain milieu, absorb the sherpa spirit and their unpretentious disposition, and push myself to it's, my body's, physical limits... I do love a challenge and I was given more than my fair share for most of the climb... I gave all that I had yet I needed more... I needed more uninterrupted sleep and way more calories... I had been told that my metabolism would be slowing down when I turned 30, that that the metabolic engine brakes would hit. Now that I am 40 I eat more than I have in the past. Go figure. I wish that wasn't the case but it is far better than the bariatric alternative. So, I tried to plump up and by doing so I gave the the expedition members something to behold (esp the French) they were aghast when they witnessed me eat... continuously... I could put down 3-4 dinners per night in addition to the other two meals and treats that were consumed earlier throughout the day... so when I left for Camp 2 (C2) I was fat and happy... that was on the 20th of May. That evening we were hammered... winds to 60 k raged continuously thus hampering our 21st ascent... we stayed in our tents that day and decided to move on the 22nd... Brad and Marty jumped on a lull and move to C3 on the 21st... smart move in my book because I firmly believe that movement is rewarded. The tail end of the 21st was beautiful... skies were mostly clear and the sunset resembled a Georgia Peach being dipped in heavenly whipping cream... I was ecstatic about the days to come... apparently the wind was ecstatic as well and returned once again with even more fervor. I took my normal sleeping agent though it still had on it's training wheels and was not effective what so ever... I thought more would be better but, that was not the case... Morning came early and I was just getting ready to tuck myself in... Klinke was gone, already on the move (damn powerhouse) and the French were slinking up the fixed lines while I was still wiping the benzos from my eyes... @ 6,800 m, the strain of altitude climbing started to take its toll on me... My dinner of Cup'O'Ramen and some Mac-n-chez didn't help matters. I needed a whole lamb, horse, yak, whatever... they say you burn nearly 7k calories per day when you are up that high... I'm frightened to think of how many I may have burned making the push from C2 to C4. I sauntered to C3 passing numerous groups of people and caught up with Mica. We had some tea and treats and reveled in the stark, shear, and winsome beauty of the visage before us... We had a lil tete-a-tete and he told me that that was it for him... I looked @ him and said basically "Ya right..." with my facial expression. He was a strong individual and I couldn't believe what I had just heard. I roused him to continue on and he persevered to C4. As I came into C3 it dawned on me that I hadn't voided since 0800 and it was now close to 1400... I tried and forced myself, in my own macabre way, to get some urine out. I did, though I wish I hadn't seen it. If you can imagine what spoiled sulfur would look like then you get the visual and that is what came out of me... No bueno! I downed my litre, ate a lil pistachio/ dark chocolate energy bar and move on. I was feeling great @ this point. I was now awake and moving rather briskly for 7500 m or 25,000'. I came into C4 with hugs and cheers from a couple of the others and I thought I was setting myself up nicely for a summit bid... Ready for some chow and sleep I settled into camp. Then it happened... another sleepless night with scant caloric intake. We became a nylon boarding house housing three souls instead of a cozy two and that did me in... We departed @ 0230 and proceeded as a group, in the likings of the eclectic troupe of souls from the movie Cool Hand Luke... The rising sun @ 0457 did give more strength but not enough to ascend much higher... the good doctor and I discussed what lay ahead and I thought "Well, maybe now I can cruise up the easy traverse along the fixed lines and get to the French Couloir." Beautiful thinking, but the body and the mind were disenchanted with each other and the mind lost... I moved up the fixed lines for some time and parked it @ a snow stake... I looked down at the stake and new that if I went up any further the chances of me seeing that stake and these fixed lines again was nil. Plastered with fatigue, borborygmus to the point of dryheaving, and now a complete loss of motivation, will and desire, I made the ultimate and most difficult decision a mountaineer will ever make which is look up see the summit so close (yet know that "so close" is still "too far") and head back down to C4. I am glad that I did. Big snows, a lost and presumed dead Sherpa, a crevasse rescue, and our lead Sherpa informing the team that it is too late to continue on three different occasions helped ease my anguish for having pulled a 180 and descend back to C4.
I am now back on the rooftop helo pad overlooking this vast and magical landscape, psyched that I am alive without any deficits (well maybe just a couple small ones) and capable of telling another story about life and how special it can be. Four days post summiting we were informed that a member from a neighboring expedition couldn't make it down from the summit during the same snow storm and perished. Another may have lost numerous fingers from both hands... this all happened the next day. As it turns out our team summited @ 1830ish, 8-10 past the time we had est as our summit time. We also had to wait two hours for Lokpa (our climbing Sherpa) to bring up O2 for one of the French climbers... So, with that said I am glad to be home... Life is "easier" once again though I am longing for another trip... any ideas let me know... Be well all and thanks for all of your support, kind words, and thoughts!