For the last few days, we climbed as planned from one high-altitude camp to the next. On Tuesday night in Camp 2, we already observed high winds around the summit. The storm sounded like sleeping next to a wild mountain creek, and we could imagine all night what was going on up there. At daybreak, we saw great weather vanes waving around the peak.
When the first sun rays hit our tent, it quickly warmed up on the inside, and we got ready for the ascent to Camp 3. As soon we set out from Camp 2, we were hit by the first high gusts, and the wind became nastier the further we climbed. Despite the sun making it a lot more bearable, the climb through the Lhotse wall was not really pleasant. I reached our tent in Camp 3 shortly after midday. Everything was still in place despite the wind and the precipitation of the last days. Only the ground had suffered a bit and had to be leveled.
Hannes arrived in Camp 3 a few hours later. The Lhotse face was still not his friend, and he had some troubles with the steep vertical sections.
Despite the optimistic prognosis, the wind did not really calm down by the afternoon, neither did it overnight. Then our weather window got postponed. So what could we do? The forecast for the summit for the next days was rather lousy. No appropriate day for the last punch to the summit in sight and no weather window that we could use. On top of that, we are not using any oxygen or porters.
Let me give you a bit more information regarding climbing without supplemental oxygen and why it requires certain conditions: Supplemental – or bottled – oxygen improves the performance at high altitude and supports the body temperature management. After all, you may just call it doping. Everyone must decide for themselves whether they want to reach the highest peaks of the world with this kind of support. We decided against it, simply because it is the fairest way to approach the summit. No porters, no oxygen, no medicinal support. Simply "by fair means"!
BUT: This also requires specific weather conditions, and, of course, plenty of luck. And we weren't lucky this year. The local weather had been extremely unstable all spring. There were a few days when it was possible to climb Everest; many of them involved lots of wind, and only a few people managed without supplemental oxygen.
With our acclimatization sessions, we tried to adjust perfectly to the altitude and then waited for the perfect day. We did not have many options, and in the end, Everest was (this time) not on our side. Thanks to the weather, our nerves became literally as wind-swept as the Lhotse face.
Should we have waited a few more days, should we have tried earlier? We will leave these questions unanswered. This morning, we finally decided to cancel our expedition and descend. We cleared our camps and brought all our gear back to the base camp. This means we don't have to go back and everything is taken care of.
In the end, we are happy to be healthy, without any injuries, illness or frostbite. Considering the potential dangers, we were very lucky. We did not make it to the summit "by fair means." Years of preparation, financial expenses, a lot of time and deprivation, however, provide for a somewhat downhearted mood. But all that counts now is our healthy return to home. We will clean up our temporary home here at the base of the mountain and begin our journey back home, which will take a few days.
Now that this adventure is over, I want to express my sincere gratitude: A big THANK YOU to our loyal readers, our sponsors, and to our families who allow us to make our dreams come true! We have been away for many weeks, and now we are – as much as you – looking forward to coming home!
All the best from the Everest base camp,
Markus & Hannes