Stephen Fahey – Day Two

Reporting from Camp IV on Mount Everest, via Everest Link; Joseph Ernst

Day Two, 3 A.M., 162 ft. below the Death Zone:

This is it. Bishal gave the all-clear this morning and the Italians started off at once, fifteen minutes ago. We’re leaving in ten. I write now as I eat instant noodles. None of us have slept. Not so much for the constant noise of wind over the camp but for the unfiltered adrenaline. Each of us has already paid dearly to be here. In blood and tears as much as in coin. But cost aside, I feel no worry. I feel no fear. I know now that even if the worst comes I will go and meet my maker with love in my heart. It is strange feel so exhilarated and so calm simultaneously. In the light of my headlamp Clarence looked wide-eyed but docile when he told me we’ll be moving up and Murray had the same look when I passed word to him. It’s a beautiful madness to share.

 

At this altitude every step is slow and methodical. By the time you reach the Death Zone, where most of the 200+ past fatalities have occurred, the pace drops to almost 0 miles per hour. The following 2,500 ft. up to the foot of the Hillary Step, itself a 39ft. vertical fixed-rope climb at 28,839 ft., followed by the last few hundred steps of excruciating ecstasy up into paradise, are all performed with the assistance of oxygen tanks – which don’t make you feel like you’re at sea level. They only help make you feel like you’re at 26,000ft, but they help to ward off frostbite and hypothermia. And then, even after everything we’ve been through to get here, the summit will only be held for minutes before we begin our decent and the next team takes our place.

 

The guides have stashed replacement tanks below The Step, just in case, but even with the extra supplies it is probable that at least one of us will not live to see tomorrow. This fact has plagued our thoughts and families’ thoughts since we decided to make another attempt. We all have families. And kids. But this is the truth of the mountains. And part of the reason we are here.

 

Bishal has come for me. I go now.

 

Until tomorrow…

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