And ……. they’re off …….
Wake up call at 1am with porridge, toast, boiled egg and coffee served tent side at 1:30am … what a life! Oh yes, it’s minus 15 degrees Celsius and a 5+ hours steep ice ascent awaits.
The first half of the climb is on rock, a difficult hard upward struggle negotiating boulders and ledges. Half way up, Crampon Point is where, predictably, crampons are attached, and climbing essentials such as harness, helmet and jumar are added and the group are roped up with each other and the three guides.
From here on it gets tough and it’s still dark so each relies on their head torch to illuminate the way. Several crevasses needed to be navigated around and there are many beautiful natural ice sculpture landmarks known as Seracs and can be dangerous as they can topple with no warning.
Before the ice wall there is an 8m ladder climb which fortunately was almost vertical making it somewhat less scary than a horizontal ladder across a crevasse.
The ice wall is approx. 150m high and at a 75 degree gradient (but appears vertical) . This is why all the jumar training was so important and the team start the long haul up. There is no turning back now! This is truly exhausting, the sun was up so it was warmer, and the head wall climb took about an hour of relentless hauling up and front pointing crampon hammering in to the ice.
The feeling of relief (and exhaustion) at the top of the head wall was quickly replaced with concern as a ridge walk awaits to the summit. Upon reaching the small summit (about the size of a snooker table) there is an overwhelming feeling of relief, accomplishment and elation. All four Turtle Trekkers made it to the small summit at 6,189m at about 7:30am. A fantastic and admirable achievement. Congratulations Vico, Keith, Craig and Marcos. They join many that summit this peak each year although the first ascender was the famous Sherpa Tenzing Norgay (of 1953 Everest fame).
After enjoying the views, the accomplishment and taking many pictures it was time to come down. Descending a mountain is notoriously more dangerous than ascending as the body is exhausted and mistakes can be made.
Thankfully the descent was largely trouble free but due to fatigue seemed way longer than on the way up. Coming down you can also enjoy the landscape views, seracs, and understand more the terrain.
The journey down took the team through high camp, Base Camp and all the way down to Chhukung. Arrival was at 5pm (some 15 hours after hitting the mountain) where the Turtle Trekkers were reunited and stories shared around the Yak Dung fire.