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

2009 Solo Manaslu Expedition

Dispatch Twenty-nine: April 21st, 2009

Day Twenty-nine: Climb to Camp III (7000m) in Epic Snow Storm

This morning, after an amazing nightís sleep (thanks to proper acclimatization to this altitude (6,400m)) I packed up my gear, a tent, and my high altitude clothing and started up toward Camp III. The summit appeared peaceful and I commented in passing to the French couple that this was a perfect summit morning. If only I knew then how ironic that statement would be. As the morning progressed, I made steady progress to the front of the line of climbers thanks to, what to me, was a light pack. Weather began moving in fast and winds started blasting the summit ridge above. The winds were so severe that they were audible on the route, sounding like a freight train or an avalanche. As I continued to climb toward the col, the wind moved down the slope, blasting spindrift at us and at times, almost knocking up off our feet. I arrived to Camp III behind the two Spanish Sherpas who had opened the route. I quickly began digging a tent platform on the windy slope; the visibility was going in and out. Lina and Tamara from the Andalucian expedition arrived after a number of Russians. They told me that when descending from Camp II to Camp I, Alberto (Italian) had had to ask whether or not he needed crampons while descending the fixed lines. I wasnít all that surprised. Their tent platform prepared by their Sherpas, they quickly took refuge from the intense wind gusts; Lina aptly further securing the tent to the slope. As I finished pitching my tent, they invited me inside to chat and to warm up. They were going to sleep here then the rest of their team would come up and meet them tomorrow. I peeked outside, the wind intensifying with every passing minute and visibility non-existent. I packed up and started down, quickly realizing that the track had been windswept and that none of the route markers were visible thanks to the whiteout. I headed back up to Camp III discouraged. I hadnít brought a sleeping bag, stove, or fuel as I had intended on descending after pitching my tent. Thankfully, I had brought up my down pants and jacket and could use them as an emergency replacement for a sleeping bag. The weather worsened, the camp being blasted with hurricane force winds and visibility non-existent. It appeared that the mountain had made up my mind; I was going to spend the night at 7000m with no sleeping bag or mattress in a truly savage storm. I placed two empty backpacks on the floor of the tent to act as a mattress pad, insulating me from the snow and ice below and put on all the clothing I had with me; thankfully I had brought a pair of dry socks. I settled in for the night; Lina and Tamara generously made water for me as the storm worsened outside. I drifted in and out of consciousness, frequently awakened by a huge gust of wind that would compact snow against the failing walls of the tent. By morning, the tent was half its original size, the walls sagging against the enormous weight of the snow all around (the wind was so intense and there was so much powder on the ground that shoveling around the tent would have been pointless).

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