Text Box: Xpedition 8000

Dispatch Twenty-eight: April 21st, 2010

Annapurna Expedition 2010

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Day Twenty-eight: Concussion/Neck Injury from Falling Serac

Today, after packing up my things, and completing the 8:00am radio call with Base Camp, I started up from Camp II toward Camp III. I arrived close to the avalanche cone at the start of the vertical route and struggled to find the way in the newly deposited avalanche debris (probably from last night as we heard quite a large avalanche around midnight). I navigated past huge towers of ice and finally arrived to the top of the cone. I looked around for what would now probably be the buried fixed lines, and finally found one in the rocks 50 meters to the left. I arrived to it and started up the 60 degree slope of rock and hard ice. I continued as quite a bit of debris was falling all around me thanks to the hurricane force winds that were slamming the upper flanks of the mountain. As I continued up the steep slope, the weather began to change, clouds came in and I noticed the winds scrubbing the lower slopes just one avalanche chute over from me. I knew that they would arrive to where I was climbing soon, so I stopped, made radio contact, put on another layer and donned my goggles, as snow was already pouring down the steep slopes and filling any opening in my clothing with ice.† A half hour after my radio call, the winds arrived, gusting at over 100mph and knocking me completely over on more than one occasion. They sounded like a jet engine on an airplane at take-off and the flying shards of ice and debris were cutting any accidentally exposed skin on my face. I stopped yet again to put on more layers and attempt to thaw my now frozen† hands when I heard a loud snapping sound above and looked up. A car-sized piece of ice had broken off of the serac above me and was falling down directly at me. I dove the rest of the way into the slope hoping it would whiz past me, but I heard a loud crash directly to my right, and looked over momentarily to witness the enormous piece of dense ice shatter on the rocks only a few meters from me. One of the smaller pieces struck the right side of my helmet with impressive force, breaking it in three places, and almost knocking me unconscious. Shocked, I stood up, and almost passed out as my field of vision started to go black. I had a burning sensation shoot up my body, then vomited on the spot. I regained my bearings during a short lull in the winds, then decided that, since I was closer to Camp III (I was at 6,250 meters) than to Camp II, I would continue up. This decision didnít last long, as twenty minutes after I started, I had the same black-out sensation, and preceded to vomit yet again. I knew this meant that I had a concussion, and that I should immediately descend. I rappelled down to the glacier below and continued toward Camp II in complete whiteout conditions. I arrived around 3pm, but not before emptying my stomach yet again enroute. I boiled some water, unpacked my things in the tent, and tried to warm up as it began snowing harder outside. I finally held down some tea, and at 5pm, radioed base camp and told them what had happened. Jorge spoke with me and insisted on a 6pm and 8pm radio call to be sure that I was ok. I told them that I would descend first thing in the morning back down to base camp. My neck stiffened up thanks to whiplash, and I struggled to fall asleep the whole night, complete juxtaposition from the wonderful nightís sleep Iíd had the night before here in Camp II.

 

Photos: Left: The start of the route to Camp III, a serac looming above; Right: Looking up toward the windy upper flanks of Annapurna, note the banner of snow being blown off the serac mid-frame