News: Retreat from Camp 5 & Chinese Visit Eric Simonson - Basecamp Tue, May 15, 2001 4:25AM
The 7am radio call this morning brought us the weather report from Brent, Tap, Heidi, and Jason at Camp 5. It was snowing steadily, same as it was down here at Base Camp, at ABC, and at the North Col. We were in the soup. Follow up radio calls at 8am and 9am brought no change in the weather. It was time for a decision. It came down to whether it was better for everyone to stay up high and wait for improvement, or to retreat and re-group and try again in a few days.
We chose the later. The combination of all the snow in the last few days, and the marginal weather forecast for the next few, made it seem more prudent to come back down and wait to see if conditions would improve.
Brent, Tap, Heidi, and Jason retreated down the North Ridge to ABC today. Dave and Andy descended to Base Camp. John, Dr. Lee, Jochen, Terry and Mike, and the Singapore climbers remain at ABC for now. We'll decide tomorrow what makes the most sense for all of them.
So... we are back at the waiting game for the weather and conditions to go back up there and push the route to the summit. So far no one has been higher on Everest than our team (including any team on the Nepal side too!). We just have to be patient and give ourselves the best shot... any thought we might have had a few weeks ago of wrapping this climb up in a hurry has now receded into the realm of wishful thinking. We're here for the long haul now!
This afternoon brought a very nice "thank you" visit from the Chinese glacial research team, just back to Base Camp from Shigatse. The leader of their team, Dr. Hou Shugui from Lanshou University brought back our oxygen bottle and regulator and reports that the desparately sick man (with pulmonary and cerebral edema) who we evacuated, Mr. Gao Xing Sheng, is still in the hospital in Shigatse (still a bit "dreamy") but is able to walk, talk, and remember. It sounds like he is going to recover OK, but that it is still going to take some time. The other man, who had cerebral edema, Mr Li Cui Ling, is doing great. They are now going back up to their research site on the East Rongbuk Glacier, where they are conducting core drilling (in conjunction with the University of Maine!) to depths of over 100 meters. According to Dr. Hou, the upper East Rongbuk is a particularly interesting place, because it is so slow moving. At the research site, liquid water does not exist at the glacier bed, unlike virtually all other non-polar glaciers in the world. Here, at over 20,000 feet in elevation, the glacier is frozen to the rocks below and moves by deformation, not sliding. They are doing oxygen isotope studies on the ice, which is thousands of years old at great depths.
So...that's the lowdown from Mt. Everest today. Never a dull moment!