Text Box: Nicholas Rice
Extreme High Altitude Athlete
Text Box: Xpedition 8000

2009 Solo Manaslu Expedition

Dispatch Twenty-four: April 16th, 2009

Day Twenty-four: Solo Descent from Stormy Camp II

This morning, I awoke to the same conditions that I had fallen asleep to, the wind roaring outside blowing spindrift horizontally across the snow slopes. I ventured outside to dig out my tent and quickly realized that the route that had been clearly stomped out in the snow yesterday had been completely erased. My plans to venture toward Camp III thwarted by high winds, I prepared my things for descent. I looked toward Camp I, expecting to see a large number of climbers heading up toward Camp II, but instead, saw no one. Perhaps deterred by the new deep snow, perhaps waiting for me to establish the route, Camp  I appeared motionless. I double and triple checked my anchors, realizing that the spot was prone to avalanches and then, after taking note of what food I had left in the tent, started down the slope. With each step, I sunk down waist deep into the newly deposited powder trying to locate the distant first route marker (a bamboo stick in the snow). Unable to spot it, I headed in the direction I remembered from yesterday and quickly spotted it. I continued on, fully aware of the increased avalanche danger on some of the slopes. After nearly an hour, I decided to give my knees a break and took off a few layers, the lower altitude much warmer and less windy. I continued to wander why I saw no movement in Camp I; the Italians, French and Spanish (Carlos Pauner’s Team) all had planned to climb to Camp II today. Instead, Camp II held only four tents including mine, and I was the only climber on the route. At one point, I cut across the slope, trying to reach a route marker when the loose snow around and above me began to slide down toward the glacier below. Thankful that I was on the slope’s upper flanks, I continued until I reached the base of the snow slope. The route to Camp I continues, traversing the serac laden lower slopes of North Peak. After reaching what I knew to be the final slope to Camp I, a whiteout obscured all visibility. I headed toward the only marker I could see then stopped and dropped my pack. I knew I was close to Camp I, but after navigating a crevasse field, was disoriented. I walked to the left a dozen steps and realized I was standing on the edge of a gaping crevasse. I headed the other direction and again found myself on the edge of an abyss. Finally, in a small break in the clouds, I spotted camp and the other route markers and headed down. I arrived to a deserted Camp I. Everyone had apparently headed down to base camp. I stowed my sleeping bag and harness in my tent and a quick 45 minutes later, around 1pm, I was in Base Camp having coffees with the Koreans. I stopped briefly in my base camp to drop off my pack and change, and was invited into Mario Panzerri’s mess tent for some lunch. After this and the compulsory espressos, I headed down to Lina’s camp. She told me that everyone had gone down deterred by the deep snow on the route and couldn’t believe that I had gone up on my own. I had coffees with the Spanish, the storm now in full swing in base camp, then headed up to my tent, surprisingly energetic and unpacked. At dinner, a particularly bitter Alberto stormed in and told me in Italian (which he knows I can’t understand) that I should be shoveling off my base camp tent, not reading in the mess tent (never mind that my tent was fine 10 minutes ago and that I had only just arrived and begun reading). He tried to blame me for the broken tent pole which I had noticed when I arrived down from Camp II and which the cook had tried to hide with a plastic bag (probably so I wouldn’t notice till later when I could be blamed for the damage).. It was clear that Alberto was enraged that I had made it to Camp II and one step closer to the summit and that he had misjudged the weather window and now was stuck in stormy base camp with his mountain of books. His team mates later apologized for his outburst and told me not to let him bother me... he’s just crazy in Base camps.

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