KATE MOSS -- I FEEL YOUR PAIN.
May 10 2010
Dear Kate -
You and I have not met, but we have much in common. I know that for years people have scrutinized your eating habits and have criticized your weight. Well, I know just how you feel because after so many weeks at altitude I am also really having trouble getting my food down and keeping it down. I realize that the difference between your situation and mine is that you are pushing away plates of food at Per Se and Il Molina and I am staring down deep fried Spam covered in some kind of unrecognizable gravy. Also, you are puking into toilets at the Four Seasons and the Ritz and I am throwing up in my tent vestibule. Please pass along my greetings to Calvin Klein and tell him that I can now also fit into size 0 jeans. xoxAL
Altitude is starting to take effect on my body in many ways – most of them NOT good. I have completely lost my appetite which is dangerous here because we need to be consuming about 6000 calories on the days that we climb. I try to supplement my meals with candy bars and have better luck getting those down vs the food we have been eating during the main meals. Not unlike many high altitude climbers, I have developed a severe cough which may actually be exercise induced asthma. The doctor tried to put me on an inhaler but it made my heart race so I had to stop using the Advair. Bummer. I coughed so hard the other day that I damaged the intercostal muscles on both sides of my ribs which makes breathing both difficult and painful. I cough so much at night it feels like I’ve burned a hole on the inside of my throat. I also bruised my kneecap going up the Lhotse Face when I slammed it while climbing a portion of vertical ice, but I think the Aleve has got that under control.
The team dynamics are proving to be as interesting and challenging as the mountain. After 7 nights at camp 2 and 1 night at camp 3 (23,600’), I can tell you that the team that will finish this climb together will look very different than the team that started out together. A failed attempt on the Lhotse Face (see photo) was what really started things in a bit of a downward spiral. We spent several nights at camp 2 acclimatizing, and then at 5 am on May 3rd we made our way up the steep face of hard blue ice. About 5 hours into it we got hit with some pretty brutal weather and we had to abandon our attempt and return to camp 2. It was incredibly demoralizing and by the time we had reached the safety of our tents back at camp 2 the team was exhausted both mentally and physically. The weather was supposed to remain poor for the next 2 days – and we had already been delayed by weather for a few days at the beginning of this rotation, so rather than wait another 2 days and then make another attempt at reaching camp 3 several people decided it would be better to go BACK DOWN to base camp where our bodies could recover at a lower altitude. The problem was that several other people decided the best thing to do would be to wait another 2 days and go fight our way back up that face that had just shut us down. There was discussing, there was reasoning, there was arguing, there was pissed-offedness. In the end, 5 of the climbers decided to pack up and go down to BC the next morning, and 4 decided to stay up at camp 2 and give that face another whirl. I stayed. I climbed. For nine hours I fought my way up that Lhotse Face and made it to camp 3 along with Jan, Vanessa and Jack. Alpine Ascents guides Vern and Michael came up too – and of course our awesome sirdar Lakpa was with us every step of the way. Of course I threw up in my test vestibule that night – but you don’t get any extra points for that as puking isn’t all that unusual at nearly 24,000’. I was miserable all night, but I am SO glad that I stayed with the group that went up to camp 3. Climbing that Lhotse Face was a good confidence builder. PLUS, those who did not go up with us are at a big disadvantage from an acclimatization standpoint, because now they will have to make a summit attempt after only having only gone as high as camp 2. Funny thing is that I DID actually think about going back down to BC with the others who abandoned the attempt, but my kneecap was so badly bruised from the day before (injured during our failed attempt on the Lhotse Face when I slammed it into the ice on a vertical pitch) that I didn’t think I COULD get down, so that helped make up my mind to stay, take a rest day at camp 2, and then try it again. Luck was with me this time.
We will sleep at BC tonight and then head back down valley in order to let our bodies recover at a lower altitude. Yeah, we want to go lower than BC to breathe some of that thicker air. Maybe my appetite will even come back. Oh, and FYI -- of the 5 guys who came down from camp 2 after giving up on Lhotse, only 2 of them are still here at BC. The other 3 were not feeling well and took a helicopter (dangerous and $$$$!!!!) all the way back to Kathmandu where they are relaxing at the Hyatt and are deciding whether or not they will continue on this expedition. I really hope that they do.
We will spend about a week down valley and then it’s time to return to the mountain for a summit attempt. I have absolutely no idea how things are going to go. NO IDEA. But I will give it my best shot...for myself and for Team Meg. Signing off for a few days. Will write more when I get to back Pheriche or one of those other little villages that we pass through during our recovery. Thanks for your thoughts and prayers.
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