Text Box: Xpedition 8000

Dispatch Thirty-three: April 26th, 2010

Annapurna Expedition 2010

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Day Thirty-three: Head Trauma Complications; Retreat to BC

Today, after a horrid night’s sleep, I awoke at 5am, prepared my pack, had breakfast, and headed out into the cold morning. I started up towards Camp III but didn’t get far before realizing that the only sensible thing to do, considering my condition, was to descend. I was still extremely dizzy, almost passing out whenever I stood up quickly, and was off balance; surely in no condition for a summit attempt on one of the world’s deadliest peaks. On top of all that, I was the only person heading up from Camp II and would have to open the route in new snow the entire way to Camp III. There was also the avalanche danger to consider and the fact that the new forecast called for 50km/hr winds in the morning on summit day and heavy snowfall the following two days, making for a very hazardous descent in low visibility with extreme avalanche danger. All in all, it seemed like an easy decision to make, but it never is. I needed to go down to Base Camp, and the expedition was more or less over for me. The head trauma wasn’t going to just spontaneously get better, and extreme physical exertion surely wasn’t going to help things along (it’s my understanding that after head trauma (minor traumatic brain injury), one is to avoid extensive physical exertion and rest as much as possible until symptoms improve). Exposing my body to extreme temperatures, endless hours of work at altitude, and probable minor HACE (high altitude cerebral edema) thanks to a rapid ascent would pretty much amount to the antithesis of any doctor’s recommendations. I returned to the tent, packed up everything I had in Camp II, and headed down quickly to Camp I. Upon arriving, I watched as an avalanche swept down the route to Camp III. My decision affirmed, I made a small deposit in my Camp I tent (I couldn’t bring it down as it had the deposits for everyone on my permit inside), then continued the rest of the way down to Base Camp. My vision returned more or less to only shaking and not spinning, and I rested for a bit, deciding to wait and see what happens tonight before I visit the doctor with the Spanish expedition. I had lunch and chatted with the Polish trekker who’s staying in our base camp for the rest of the afternoon. We made radio contact with our group up on the mountain, and they confirmed that they had reached Camp IV, and were pitching their tents and making water. I only hope that the forecast winds aren’t as strong as they are supposed to be tomorrow morning. 50km/hr winds on top of ambient temperatures close to –30 degrees usually will amount to significant frostbite or hypothermia, especially with a long line of close to 22 climbers cued up on fixed ropes at 3am.


Photos: Left: Route from Camp III to Camp IV with climbers cued up; Right: Detail of line of climbers from photo on the left heading to Camp IV