Paul Pottinger’s Adventures from the Top of the World

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Lobuche the Right Way

Everest 2015  •  April 14

The weather looked good the following day for another summit attempt, so once again we gorged ourselves on a super lunch and then humped back up to Lobuche high camp—for the third time.  We were loaded for bear, eager to knock this one off and turn our attention to Everest herself.

LHC.  We are ready to be done with this place....
LHC. We are ready to be done with this place….
Our objective looks tantalizingly close...
Our objective looks tantalizingly close…
All the comforts of home, including this latrine, which was padlocked shut.  My multi-tool made short work of that...
All the comforts of home, including this latrine, which was padlocked shut. My multi-tool made short work of that…
Digging in for a few hours rest before the summit push.
Digging in for a few hours rest before the summit push.
Taking in the cold, cold sunset.
Taking in the cold, cold sunset.
Word of the day: Optimism.
Word of the day: Optimism.
Enjoying the view...
Enjoying the view…
Ama Dablam never sleeps.
Ama Dablam never sleeps.
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Kantega and Thamsierku.
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Himalayan alpenglow.
Justin strikes a pose.
Justin strikes a pose.
Mike shows his beard envy of Blake.
Mike shows his beard envy of Blake.
Andy grows a beard at his own pace.
Andy grows a beard at his own pace.
Kim is raring to go.
Kim is raring to go.
Fatima: Let's get this DONE.
Fatima: Let’s get this DONE.
And I agree.
And I agree.

Favorable conditions marked our trip to LHC, and we had plenty of energy to burn, as evidenced by the snow “person” built by team members with a much more… creative flair… than I could ever hope to muster.

Things got a little strange up there.  Lots of spare energy to burn, I suppose.
Things got a little strange up there. Lots of spare energy to burn, I suppose.

Again, to bed early.  Again, fueled by sherpa stew for dinner, and then eggs and porridge for 2:30 AM breakfast.  The idea is to summit early, so that the route is not too hot and sloppy on the way down.  Plus, this helps us avoid the clouds and prices that often happen in the afternoon.

Walking at 4 AM, just as planned.  Beautiful conditions, with clear skies, a billion stars, a crescent moon on the rise, and virtually no wind.  Cold, but no too much.

A chilly, tough start.  But, we are finally moving!  (Photo: Blake Penson)
A chilly, tough start. But, we are finally moving! (Photo: Blake Penson)

Up, up, up Lobuche.  We had studied the route carefully for days, and I thought I could predict what things would look like in real life.  Wrong again… the mountain was much bigger and steeper than I had imagined.  Just under 3,000 feet of gain is NOT a big deal at home, but at this elevation I certainly felt it.  Even a simple mantle move over a small rock band would just about lay me flat out panting for breath.  In some sections it was possible to get into a good rhythm, but often the conditions were varied enough that I had to vary my gait and breathing from step to step.  Good practice for the big E.

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LC leads the line.
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Blake, Phinjo, and Siva make good progress.
I love it up here.  (Photo: Justin Merle)
Following Andy and Kim.  I love it up here. (Photo: Justin Merle)

As the sun rose, marvelous views of the Khubu valley opened up.  Pheriche, Lobuche, Gorak Shep, and EBC all came into view below.  The Everest massif stood just across the valley, capped with a lenticular cloud that belied severe winds aloft.  This is Himalayan climbing!

Summit of Everest hidden in lenticular clouds.  It's rippin' up there.
Summit of Everest hidden in lenticular clouds. It’s rippin’ up there.

Sunrise also revealed a number of other climbers from different parties on the route, above and below us.  We were making great time, but had to cool it while other teams cleared the fixed lines above us.  There were often two ropes, including one of super high quality placed earlier by IMG sherpas, but we did not get “dibs” on this important resource.  Again, great training for E.

Andy rolls in to a break.
Andy rolls in to a break.
Quick break while we wait for others to clear the line above.
Quick break while we wait for others to clear the line above.
What we don't like to see... but, it is what it is.
What we don’t like to see… but, it is what it is.  (Photo: Justin Merle)

Steep terrain, soft powder to the mid-shin, light winds, ever-intensifying sunshine, some folks from other outfits with less experience or confidence on the lines… the morning had it all.  And, in the end, we topped out in just over 4.5 hours.  Our goal had been 6 hours, so this was super.  Happy celebrations at the summit for everyone, and special thoughts for me of home and my family, the reason I climb in the first place.  Frustratingly, no cell signal at the summit, though I did send a message via SPOT beacon.

Everest watches from across the valley.  (Photo: Justin Merle)
Everest watches from across the valley. (Photo: Justin Merle)
This stuff is steep.  (Photo: Justin Merle)
This stuff is steep. (Photo: Justin Merle)
We are not alone up here....  (Photo: Justin Merle)
We are not alone up here…. (Photo: Justin Merle)
Rocks make things fun.  (Photo: Justin Merle)
Rocks make things fun. (Photo: Justin Merle)
Kim tops out nicely.  (Photo: Justin Merle)
Kim tops out nicely. (Photo: Justin Merle)
Andy on the summit.  (Photo: Justin Merle)
Andy on the summit. (Photo: Justin Merle)
One of our amazing Sherpa guides.  (Photo: Justin Merle)
One of our amazing Sherpa guides. (Photo: Justin Merle)
Phinjo, Andy, and Justin are an amazing team of guides!
Phinjo, Andy, and Justin are an amazing team of guides!
Blake savors the summit.
Blake savors the summit.
So does Fatima.  (Photo: Justin Merle)
So does Fatima. (Photo: Justin Merle)
Happy times at 20,000 feet.  (Photo: Justin Merle)
Happy times at 20,000 feet. (Photo: Justin Merle)
LC summits in style.  (Photo: Justin Merle)
LC summits in style. (Photo: Justin Merle)
Siva crushes it.  (Photo: Justin Merle)
Siva crushes it. (Photo: Justin Merle)
Loving my Barkeater goggles.  (Photo: Justin Merle)
Loving my Barkeater goggles. (Photo: Justin Merle)
Is this a photo of me or Justin?  You decide...
Is this a photo of me or Justin? You decide… Note Kim’s pose in the background, nice.
Proud to carry my lovely family to the summit.  They are always with me!
Proud to carry my lovely family to the summit. They are always with me!
And proud to bring these inspiring kids to the top, courtesy of the Shining Stars Foundation.  Way to go, kids!
And proud to bring these inspiring kids to the top, courtesy of the Shining Stars Foundation. Way to go, kids!
IMG Hybrid Team Awesome 2015.  (Photo: Justin Merle)
IMG Hybrid Team Awesome 2015. (Photo: Justin Merle)

I also used this climb as a chance to test out some new gear, including my Mt Everest Edition Barkeater goggles, which performed beautifully, as well as running my go pro 4K on helmet using a body-mounted battery charger, which worked fine but needs a bit more tweaking.

Do I look like a teletubby with this on my head?  Po.  Call me Po.
Do I look like a teletubby with this on my head? Po. Call me Po.

Of course, the summit is just halfway home, and we needed to descend safely.  We got ready for the drop VERY quickly, in order to avoid getting stuck behind the same folks who had held us back on the way up.  Still, there were plenty of folks headed upwards as we went down, which gave us a great chance to practice passing people on the fixed lines.  Steep and deep, we had nice conditions for plunge-stepping and arm-rapping.  Of course, the sun emerged from behind Everest to blaze down on us, and the temperature shot through the roof.  By the time we reached high camp I felt like a rat drowning in its own sweat.  Juice and snacks awaited us, as well as a brief rest to organize our kits before the final drop to LBC 45 minutes below.  Pulling in there felt like a great victory, made even sweeter by the absence of other climbers in camp, meaning we got our own private tent for the night.  I slept soundly, and happily.

LHC greets us, complete with hot pineapple tang and the promise of shade.  Direct sun made this descent a scorcher!
LHC greets us, complete with hot pineapple tang and the promise of shade. Direct sun made this descent a scorcher!

See our summit and descent here:

 

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