The rain was falling monotonously onto the orange tent. I was trying to read – ‘The Life of Pi’, a marvelous book, by the way – when, suddenly, I remembered why it was that I, too, had been as tearful as the weather at Manaslu base camp, weak and alienated, these past few days. The orange fabric, the quiver of water, quiet but persistent, the cold… – surrounded by these familiar sights and sounds, my mind traveled from Manaslu back to the base camp of Khan Tengri, where, I think, a part of me was destroyed permanently in the course of just three nights of extreme pain and utter helplessness. I couldn’t cry then. Now, I could and I did, without realizing why. However, now that my tears had a reason and a name, I would cry no longer. And the rain, too, would stop when the day warmed up a little.
Yesterday, on the 14th of September, our team left base camp to do a carry to Camp 1 at 5750 meters. We left after breakfast, and were on the glacier by about 8am. Immediately, I noticed a stark change from last year: the glacier was a good deal drier than I remembered, darker, and the gaping crevasses were wider and greater in number. The route, too, had changed a little: it seemed to me to have veered somewhat to the left of where it had been the year before. When we started moving up, I lowered my head, and, focusing on my breathing and pace, followed the fixed rope towards Camp 1, where tiny yellow tents were visible already. I tried not to look up, not to think, not to count, not to hope, not to fear – just walk , for as long as need be across any terrain I might encounter. The slope leading up to Camp 1, neither too long nor too steep but utterly annoying, took the remains of my breath away. At the top of the slope our Sherpas were busy making platforms for the tents. I was very happy to allow myself to sit down next to the future campsite and rest at last. Soon, the rest of my team mates joined me, looking tired but pleased with their good performance.
After treating ourselves to a long rest and some snacks, we headed back down to base camp for lunch. The weather was changing and we seemed to be descending into a cloud as we crossed the glacier once again. When we reached crampon point, it began to rain. In the evening, as I lay in my tent, unable to sleep, I finished ‘The Life of Pi’, and listened to the rain until early on the morning. My eyes were dry that night – not because I forgot about Khan – I never could -, but because I was no longer afraid to remember.
In a few days we will head back up the hill for another, much harder, acclimatization rotation: we will spend a night at Camp 1 and Camp 2, and return to base camp, ready for our summit push. See how it goes…