I am now back at base camp. The first question everyone wants to know is if I summited. I did not.
My client reached the summit at 6:26 am with the help of a great team of Sherpas. She is the second Bangledeshi woman to summit, the first summiting just 7 days before her. I had sent Wasfia out ahead of me by about 2 hours because i have generally faster then her on all parts of the mountain and wanted us to reach the summit at the approximate same time. She left at at about 8 pm and was moving up with a line of about 30 climbers who left at that same time. I left at 9:45 pm with Phurba who was carrying extra oxygen to cache at the Balcony for the descent. As I started to climb I was not feeling 100%, at first I thought it was just the fact that I was now approaching 36 hours at the South Col, most of that time without using supplemental O2. I had decided upon recieving an updated forecast on the 24th that the better summit window was on the 26th with substantially less wind and therefore less danger for the team. My original plan was for,the 25th. The extra day at the South Col required us to scramble and negotiate with other teams to make sure we had enough O2 for the team to have for the rest day at South Col. It was a blessing in a way because our Camp 3 was at the lower end and we had covered almost 1100m in reaching the Col(camp4). it required a lot of effort and would have given Wasfia only about 6 hours rest before heading for the summit. Doable, but less wind is always better.
I have never been to Nepal or on a major mountain when I have not had,what for a lack of a better term, I would call gastronomical distress. Unfortunately that happened while waiting at the South Col. If you have ever had to run to the bathroom with urgency, imagine doing that with a down suit on and gasping for breath at 8000m. It came upon me on the morning of the 25th. To be honest I did not think it was a big deal. At first I thought it was just nerves, by the 4th time I realized I might have a problem and realizing that the summit push was in about 6 hours I decided to be proactive and take an Imodium. I am not a big fan of drugs but I was thinking about the added consequence of having to use the facilities on the summit push with a harness on and steep angles. I always tell people when they have a G.I. Issue to,let it run for the first 24-36 hours. It is unpleasant but the nasty bugs want to get out and they will do it one
way or another. Not following my own strategy of letting your system run when something nasty wants to get out backfired on me. As I was moving up the mountain I started to having a gagging feeling and quickly took off my mask. I vomited, which was a direct result of the Bactria wanting out. This started me coughing for the next hour, and I was moving slow. I was not catching up to the rest of the team and not feeling well. The vomiting and coughing continued as I continued up towards the balcony. I think I will call it voughmiting. I estimate I was about 20 minutes below the balcony and I had very large voughmiting spell where I spit up some blood most likely from a blood vessel in my throat. But this voughmitting spell also left me feeling dizzy and faint. It was at this point I recognized the Bacteria had won the day and was going to come out of me one way or another. I made decision to turn around and descend so that I did not become a statistic. i had passed four dead climbers on the way, which reinforced my thought process of objective versus subjective hazards. Objective hazards being those that you cannot control. I could not control the Bactria raging through my system and had to give way to it in much the same way as giving way to an avalanche. The climbers that had died on the way had at some point passed a threshold of what they could control. I did not want to reach that point. I had told the team prior to us leaving my definition of a mountaineer. "It is someone who has the strength and ability to climb the mountain safely to the top and return with your team without outside assistance and have enough in reserve to help others if needed". I was not fitting that criteria and that guided my decision. It sucks, to have the one 24 hour period when you want to be absolutely healthy and have it go wrong, but shit happens. :-)
You would think that being in the Death Zone, that nothing would really survive. Apparently that is not true.The South Col is littered with trash (although it is cleaner then it used to be). There is feces everywhere. I always say climbers talk about three things on expedition, what goes in, what goes out, and what goes in/out. On the South Col there is a lot of what comes out. The place where you get your snow and ice(what goes in) to make water is always in the path of some wind. You can boil your water but even that is no guarantee that will purify all the wind blown particles. Apparently this is what happened to me and a few others this year. The only real long term solution is for everyone to use WAG bags like on Denali but that is not a process that is being enforced yet here in Nepal.
I thought about staying another day and trying again but I realized I would not have been able to recover enough or have the bacteria get out of my system quickly enough to be able to do it safely. Still visiting the facilities on a regular basis here at BC(too much information?)
I am incredibly happy for Wasfia and I know the happiness she is feeing right now on accomplishing an incredibly tough goal. This climbing season has taught me a lot about teamwork, trusting your judgement, and recognizing the contributions of everyone on the mountain. The rescues that have been done are amazing and getting someone who is injured off the mountain in hours rather then days is incredible.
Thanks to everyone for your support!