So my bed seems quite broken. It’s tilted and it gets to a point where my head is lower than my legs, hence all the blood rushes to my head. Needless to say I had a pretty restless night. In fact with the heat cranked up in the Barrel, I was boiling in my sleeping bag ñ I think I was lucky to have gotten a couple of hours sleep.
Our plan for the day was to get up as early as possible, have breakfast and be out on the mountain by 7am. Shortly after 7 we were trekking towards Diesel Hut as planned and we reached it in about an hour. Our goals today were to complete the acclimatization trek to 4500m which we missed yesterday due to the electrical storm and also continue up to 5000m, which was the original plan for today. In addition we needed to complete the ice axe arrest and fixed line belay training.
We did the training just above Diesel Hut. I’m happy to say that what I learned on the three-day Yamnuska course in the Rockies just a month ago wasn’t wasted. The arresting was pretty much the same except Sergei was insistent that we pull our feet up when falling on a glacier with crampons on as the crampons might catch and break your legs. He seems to know this from experience. I think I’ll take his advice. As I suspected he insisted on having the ice axe attached, just as Yamnuska had warned me Russian climbers would most likely insist. All in all, I was very impressed with this 23-year-old climber. He may be dismissive of other schools or advice at times, but it’s not with arrogance but rather due to his own experience.
After the training we continued, step-by-step up to the Pastukhova Rocks (roughly 4500m). I could definitely feel the altitude. Oddly though, I was feeling quite okay, though I did feel the pace was a bit fast at times (I wish I had mentioned that earlier for Mike’s sake). At the rocks was the beginning of the ice sheet. At a guess I would say it was about a 25-35 degree slope, so on went our crampons and up we went.
Ahsan was definitely feeling the altitude so I advised him to take it one foot at a time with a pressure breath break. That seemed to help. Mike on the other hand was exhausted and in a very bad way. At 4700m we took a break on the rocks. As the weather was turning (it had been clear, sunny and hot) and with Mike and Ahsan feeling the altitude, we decided to turn down. My heart rate was over 120 at this point, although outside of exertion I felt fairly okay.
On the way down Sergei was commenting on various groups which were practicing rope teams and how actually it was dangerous on this particular slope. Again his experience makes him an interesting guide. He is planning on two 7000m+ mountains in the next couple of months and if all goes well, K2 next summer (we told him to get married first).
I was exhausted on the way down, though nowhere near as much as Mike. We had lunch and tried to get some rest. At supper we discussed our plans. Mike was a bit concerned about his showing today and was worried he would not have the stamina to make it up. We have decided (even Ahsan who had wanted to do the whole mountain at one point) to use the snowcat to reach 4500m and go for the summit from the Pastukhova Rocks. I was all for this ìcheatingî, sorry to all you purists out there!
Saturday is a rest day. I will descend to the Azau valley with the others and pick up mitts to cover my gloves (Iím a bit worried about the cold) and a thermos flask. I think having non-frozen water is critical. Keli is swallowing salt like there is no tomorrow. I’m afraid she might outstrip the entire camp of their salt supply. Vera the camp cook opened a can of really tasty tuna for me for lunch. Awesome ñ I had been craving fish and protein. She’s like a mother and I suspect that I will leave the mountain having gained weight rather than losing it.
We were told by the American climbers (Tom et al who will be attempting the summit on the same night as ourselves) that the forecast is clear tonight but not so good for our Sunday attempt night. Sergei is of the opinion from his experience that the forecasts are as unpredictable and as unreliable as the weather on this mountain. In fact we are in the Barrel now and can see vast swathes of lightning on the horizon. The mountain is still covered by clouds tonight. I guess we will play the waiting game and catch a day when the weather is good. Here’s hoping.