Sunday, 1 March 2015


Conquering ourselves

If the mountain will not come to Muhammad, then Muhammad must go to the mountain
To my big surprise I saw our mountain for the first time over camels humps!
Local Chinese bred camels even in 3,800 meters, just to use them for carrying heavy goods. They also used them to take our gear securely all the way to the base camp. In there, everywhere presented long-haired yaks were curiously walking around our tents and many marmots were whistling to us.
Beautiful weather lured some of our group members for a little bit higher climb, but the lack of acclimatization resulted in headaches and vomiting. Too fast change of altitude can even cause death, so they had to immediately descend to a lower camp for a few days better acclimatization.

We need to take food, gear and other tents to higher camps, so I started to get know our mountain with 30kg rucksack on my shoulders. My 30kg rucksack training (full of water bottles) prepared me exactly for this load, but it didn't prepared me for high altitude oxygen shortage and its' resulting fast breathing problem.
Already in the first camp, we had big problems to erect our tent. Strong north wind was ripping tent from our frozen hands and we only managed to anchor tent with heavy rocks after more than one hour later.

The evening ritual for the next 3 weeks was always the same - pinch the tent, cook dinner and melt some snow for tea.
We prepared our food on a petrol cooker, but that we should not use motor oil for it, we realized only when our tent had changed into a toxic bunker. We both started to have headache and when I had a thought of our rice dinner, I nearly saw my lunch for the second time...
The same as with other climbers, I had got herpes, which in my case didn't just appeared in the corner of my lips, but also on the nose. My nose had already peeled from sunburn, so blowing it became a torture full of painful screams and helpless attempts to look like a civilized human.

High altitude made our ascend to the second camp extremely slow. You can push your legs only just ahead of toes of your other foot and all that in a pace of a slow motion movie.
All the time you try to breath sharp and cold air as fast as possible, because of the lack of oxygen. Even worse, the strong wind is taking it away straight from your mouth.
The more I came to a glacier field, the more clouds were coming from the distance. Only 20minutes later, I found myself in a dark, grey cloud and big snowstorm. The cloud around me became so dense that in some moments I only saw, literally, to the end of my walking stick! Previously visible walking tracks were blown away by new snow and I starting to feel more and more scared and helpless. The wind tossed me from one side to another even with my heavy backpack! Soon the flagellating lightings added into this sever storm, and I could only see bright yellow flashes straight around me accompanied by enormously strong thundering. The frequency of lightings was increasing and I was in the middle of the wide, broad snow-plain just by myself!
I laid down on the snow and because I had a big backpack on my shoulders, I started to slide down the slope, on my belly. I tried to descend down as fast as I could, but the cloud was huge and I hardly saw anything. I decided to bury my backpack in the snow and climb down quickly, when two Russian climbers emerged from the fog. I started to believe them that the storm will pass away, only after 15 freezing minutes, when the storm really started to calm down.
And so, I put my heavy rucksack back on me and I headed up the slope again. If I had slow pace before the storm, then now it looked like I am not making progress at all. During the storm, a lot of new snow fell down and now we were sunk in the snow up to our waists. With all my will, I tried to keep the pace with Russian machines who were pioneering ahead through the deep snow.
We got to the vertical wall of ice, where I vainly tried to climb up the rope. My very heavy rucksack and unusable snowshoes caused, that after a small progress I always slid back under the wall.
Therefore I had to change snowshoes from crampons and that meant in this altitude losing nearly 20 minutes. I tied my backpack to the end of the rope and I climbed up the wall without unnecessary 25kg. While seating with my both legs anchored in the snow, I pulled my heavy rucksack up. This difficult climb completely killed my last strength and I stayed motionlessly lying on the snow.
Meanwhile, I lose my two Russians in the distance, so I really could not rest any more and had to follow them right away.
If the climbing was very difficult for me before, then after climbing the wall, I was using my last bits of energy.
About six hours later, all three of us slowly admitted that the achievement of the next camp is impossible today and we decided to bivouac next to the route.
While erecting the tent, the Russians slipped about 4-meter long tent-stick and it pierced the snow so quickly, that it was never found again. I pitched my tent in two hours.
In this high altitude, even despite your big exhaustion, you still don't have any appetite to eat and that is including even your most popular dishes! And so, the food becomes an obligation, not a reward. But you still must to give your body enough energy for the next day.

Conquering the overhang
A lot of new snow fell during the night and I had to make descend alone and as a first climber that day.
I had got to about 8 meters deep saddle, where on both sides the slopes went steeply down leading straight  into some glacier crevasses. The way from here was through vertical wall on top of which was now big, snowy overhang.
The only way up was climbing and digging the snow above me with my hands and finally, on my belly, I had to hump over the snow on the top.
Finally I managed it safely through and came back into the base camp. For this achievement, I treated myself by drinking one beer, which I enjoyed only to the moment, when the ice crystals appeared on the top of it...
Not stopping headache, herpes on the lips and nose, sore throat from the cold air, burnt nose from sharp sun, loss of appetite, fatigue, cough and other things can one cope with some bitterness, but probably the worst is spending a night in the cold tent. You even cannot rest properly, because the freezing temperatures wake you up, or the wind is trembling with the tent too violently, making big noise.   
Broken toe and fight for a tent
It was the time, for the first attempt to climb all the way to the top. Meanwhile, my climbing partner had broke his toe in some rented shoes (initially, he wanted to climb in trekking shoes...) and so he had to descend down. He was definitely leaving the mountain and was coming back to civilization.
I, on the contrary, was going from the civilization further away. After monotonous and exhausting climb through the cloud, I finally emerged from the fog into the third camp. Some Chinese guide in the base camp promised me that I can sleep in their tents, because they will not be there on that day. In the tent, when I was enjoying my favorite food (bacon with egg on the frozen polystyrene bread), suddenly the zipper buzzed and my tent opened. It was a group of Chinese climbers, who has started to claim the tent back. Even I swore,  that I was promised this tent from the leader in the base camp (annoyingly, it was impossible to make radio contact with him now) and I explained that I don't have any tent, I still had to leave. So I slipped outside from my warm sleeping bag, put on my frozen boots and throw everything back into my rucksack. Angrily, I was descending down thinking if I would find at least one place in some lower located tents. Luckily, I had not only found place, but also a German climber - Christopher from our base camp.
I dig out from the snow already the second tent today and fell down next to oxygen bombs that I found inside. I finished that day by accidently pushing a pot from the stove and therefore I had to sleep in a wet sleeping bag. I pushed a thermo flask, head-torch, mobile and a battery from my camera into my sleeping bag to protect them from freezing temperatures. It might seems clever, but there was not enough space left in the sleeping bag and I couldn't change the sleeping position because something will always get under my body. The sleep in a mummy shaped sleeping bag will became more-less sleepless night in one position, where at some point you will feeling cold. The wind was getting more and more wild and was throwing snow on the tent with strong rumble. With the headache, I only managed to steal some sleep few hours in the morning.

Fight for the summit
It takes even two hours to put on all countless layers, to pack everything into a backpack and put on frozen gear and shoes.
Christopher started a very high pace and I had to try very hard to keep a half-hour deficit from him. The surface on the slopes turned into ice plate that was literally, as hard as concrete. To find steps after previous climbers was nearly impossible, so I had to not lose sight of Christopher. The fast pace began to choke me and now I only managed hasty and shallow breaths with extremely fast frequency.
After a few hours, Christopher suddenly stopped near a small rocky hill and began to put off his skis. Only after a while I realized that it's actually our so much longed summit ...! I burst out into tears and I couldn't believe that I finally managed it too! It was 12:30 in the afternoon, and there was only 30m between me and the top. Still with tears in my eyes, I first embraced Christopher and then I slowly stood on the top.
Not even strong wind, nor -37°C prevented me from enjoying beautiful views in the distance, where snow caped tops spiked through the clouds like needles.

While descending, my emotions interrupted the problem with the most expensive part of my equipment - a zipper on my boots broke. At 6,200 meters it meant getting frostbites for sure, but luckily, after probalby ten attempts, the zip started to run again and I could safely return back to the base camp.
The base camp is something like your second home and mainly because of delicious food. Our chef welcomed and greeted me with hot and tasty lunch, which I enormously enjoyed!
Until now, I considered the pain in my toes as a result of descend from the mountain but unfortunately I got some frostbites which I probably inherited after one winter bivouac in Slovakian Low Tatras.
The next day, when a bus dragged us on 6 hours long and bumpy road with dramatic scenery around us, I already didn't think about frostbites.
The famous Edmund Hillary quote says that we don't conquer mountains, but ourselves. And therefore, despite our enormous effort and amount of spent energy, I was leaving those beautiful peaks mentally rested and filled with a new energy for conquering myself again. I hope, that with a bit of luck, I will manage it some time again.