I headed down valley for 5+ hours yesterday through some late-day rain with Remza, Mike Moniz (www.climb7.com is his blog), Jef, and Bruce. We could feel the strength returning to our depleted bodies as we descended from the heights of Camp III (23,300’) to the relatively thick and abundant air of Pangboche (13,500’). It’s amazing how the body adapts, as Pangboche now feels like sea level and I practically can run straight up hills with 40+ lbs on my back without losing my breath. If only it felt this way at 23,000+ feet…
The ravages of altitude are insidious though. As I took a shower at our teahouse last night and got a glimpse in the mirror of what is left of my body… it’s shocking. I’ve lost at least 15-20 lbs already, I would guess, and have nearly no fat and dramatically less muscle mass compared to 4-6 weeks ago. I’ve had this happen on many climbing trips/expeditions before, but never to this level. The summit push, which will burn ~30,000 calories cumulatively (over 5-7 days), will make this atrophy even more pronounced. I had read, and therefore somewhat expected, that I could lose 20%+ of my body weight on Everest and that is playing out to be true. I could be back to my early high school playing weight (down to 135 lbs from 168 lbs) when I broke my knee at age 15, before it’s all said and done, which is a terrifying thought. Although, the thought of putting all of that weight back on over the summer is pretty appealing, I must admit.
So, we’re eating a ton and trying to put some muscle back on over these next few days to get ready for the summit push. I must have eaten 5,000 calories (if not more) at dinner last night alone and look forward to doing more of the same over the next few days before heading back up to base camp.
The good news is that as I write this post our incredibly strong team of Sherpa are heading up to the South Col to establish Camp IV and start fixing the route to the summit. We certainly could not do this trip without their exceptional persistence and assistance. The time to go for the summit is nearly here… we’ll arrive back in base camp on Sunday, 5/15, and possibly leave for the summit rotation as early as Tuesday, 5/17, if conditions/weather permit. If that schedule were to hold, we could summit on 5/21, but there are many factors that will dictate that timing as we get closer to departing base camp for the upper mountain and the summit… stay tuned.