Climbing Island Peak
Trip Start Mar 20, 2009
177Trip End Jul 15, 2010
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I left Tengboche at around 7am, crossed a Rhododendron forest on the way down then went back up towards Dingboche.
There, at Moonlight Guest House I met an English trekker who was going to Pheriche, a village 30min away, for an "altitude talk" from the medical unit installed there. After getting a Sherpa stew (local loaded soup with potatoes, noodles, rice, beans, vegetable..) and as it was only 2pm I joined him as it would be good knowing more about that stuff. Every year trekkers die from altitude sickness.
On my way back from Pheriche I met this herder who told me having climbed the Everest.
Here is what I learnt about AMS (Altitude Mountain Sickness):
Basically the higher you go the lower the air pressure, meaning less oxygen for every breath. So the lungs breath faster to compensate. Problem is they expel more CO2 too which tend to lower the pH in the blood. The body can only function at a certain pH and a lower pH at high altitude has severe consequences. The body will do everything to balance the pH, including killing itself... Symptoms are headache, loss of appetite, sleepless nights and lethargy. Further complications include getting HAPE (high altitude pulmonary edema) and HACE (c for cerebral). Which can both lead to death. Best remedy is to go down quickly to the last altitude you felt alright.
Prevention includes climbing slowly and drinking 3 to 4 liters of water per day (as you expel more water with the increased breathing). Acclimatization allows your liver to get more time to evacuate less CO2 than usual in the urine.
Nov 11: Dingboche - Chhukung (4800m)
On the way I could have a first look at Island peak. Just a half day trek- still, I was starting to feel the effects of altitude. There I met the team - it was a complete expedition with a main guide, a climbing guide, a cook, and porters with 2 Russians who already tried to climb Island peak in February but failed to do so as it was too windy.
I rented climbing equipment, ready for the next day. That was the 1st really cold night since I made it to the mountains.
Nov 12: Chhukung - Island Peak Base Camp (5100m)
After practicing ice climbing (up and down) under the snow with Ratna, I could enjoy some good food as I was having whatever the Russians were having + whatever the Nepali had!
Looking at the weather they told me there were little chances to climb the following day, and that we might have to spend a few nights up there. Discovering mountain climbing..
Nov 13: The climb: Island Peak BC - High camp - Summit (6189m)
Ratna woke me up at 1am saying the sky had cleared. I said: "OK, let's climb in the morning",
he replied with a big smile: "Get ready, we leave in 1 hour"!!
After a "night" of no sleep (I think due to the cold and the altitude), a dump in the snow (...), I ate a bit and then we left in the snow with our headlamps at 2am. One of the Russians had altitude sickness, so they decided to not climb. So only Ratna and I went up in the dark.
After 3h30 we reached the ice part of the climb. It took a long time but usually people climb it in 2 parts: base camp (5100m) to high camp (5600m) then high camp to summit. Here we did it all in one push. It was sunrise and the view was magnificent with Makalu (5th peak on earth) turning pink behind us.
We sat down and put our climbing gear one (big snow shoes with crampons, harness, ice ax, ..). It was really freezing and with my cold hands it took an eternity to put this on.
Then attached with a rope we starting to walk on the icy snow making sure to avoid a few deep crevasses. This part was pleasant as the sun was starting to warm us up a bit and the way was pretty much flat... Until we reached the final wall before summit. It was maybe only a 100 meter high but it took forever. I had to remember how to use my axe and crampons and every 5 steps I had to stop for a minute to catch my breath back! Then back up again.
After maybe another hour I made it to the last ridge and then to the summit. Yeaaaahhhhh!!!!!
Good team effort. We were alone up there for a few minutes. We stayed may be only 15min up there, then, after enjoying the view and taking a few shots as it was windy and cooold and more climbers where coming up, we made it back down.
I went down the wall in rappel like a kid, jumping and laughing (with Ratna telling me to be careful). Then an hour later I started to feel really tired and a big headache started to bother me. That made the descent really painful as I was exhausted.
After hours of laborious descent I finally reached base camp, took a garlic soup (supposed to help with altitude sickness) and a few pain killers and, insensitive about the rest of the team congratulating me for the ascent, I crashed in my tent, head in the sleeping bag, till the morning.
Nov 14: Island Peak BC - Dingboche
I left for Dingboche not even feeling the weight of my heavy bag!