There have been some extremely intense, dangerous and exciting moments for ColdAvenger athlete, Blair Falahey, in the Himalayas. He is traveling with an expedition led by Mingma Sherpa up the south face of Kanchenjunga.
Here’s a goosebump-inducing update from Falahey on 5/9/11: “Back at Base Camp and waiting for a Summit Window.”
Quite a few of the team were planning on heading up the mountain for a few days to build camps and acclimatise higher on the mountain. I went to bed the night before still unsure of my actions. But seeing as I wake up around 5.30am everyday anyway I had plenty of chance to access the weather conditions in the morning and then decide what I wanted to do. In the end I decided to go up the mountain. And it almost turned out to be a really bad decision….
No sooner had I climbed 5-10m but I heard “AVALANCHE”. This time much louder. Again I was unroped, except this time I could hear the panic in the other climbers voices. There was nothing I could do. And I could hear it thundering down to me from the rock cliffs above. I dove into the snow in front of me and started digging myself as far down as I could. Then once I hit hard terrain I tried to anchor myself as best as I could to the side of the mountain and wait for the inevitable approaching wall of snow.
It seemed to take forever before it hit me. And fortunately with it coming from high above me and off a rocky cliff, it hit me more from on top than above. This was probably the one thing that saved me. Instead of sweeping me down the mountain. Instead I was pushed into the mountain face.
Fortunately I had not been buried deep at all. I dug myself out and pulled myself up. Shook my head and all the snow off myself. I then saw my friends anxiously looking on. I flapped my arms up and down and gave them the “crow crow” sounds that has become a running joke in our base camp. I had survived and was unscathed. But it was no time to count my blessings. I was out of there…
The weather is improving as we move into May. We need probably 3-4 days of decent weather to try make it to the summit and back safely. Right now a team of Sherpas are up on the mountain establishing camp 3 and the route to camp 4. Once they come down and rest a few days, and mother nature cooperates with some nice weather, we can give it our best shot. Until then our days are filled with eating,reading,sleeping,making fun of each other and basically killing time.
And earlier in his expedition,back on April 28th, here’s what Blair writes about the toughest climb to Camp 1 ever:
Back down in Base Camp right now after climbing to Camp 1 (6200m) yesterday. It is without a doubt the toughest climb to any Camp 1 I have ever had to do.
The problem yesterday was the wind. My god!! It blew all night. Then all morning. And then all day too. Foolishly I thought it would be a good idea to go lightweight. This would mean climbing with smaller, lighter, but less warm boots. Which would have been OK had there been no wind.
For the first two hours of the climb I had to constantly stop and shake warmth into my numb toes. Constantly I had to keep wiggling and moving my toes to keep them warm.It was a really stupid thing to do on my part. Several times I thought about turning around and calling it a day, but still I continued on. And in hindsight had I got frostbite my expedition could have been over before it even begun.
The problem was the wind. It was ferocious. It just blew and blew and blew. Sometimes when it would drop a little bit so it was actually quite warm and comfortable. But the rest of the time it was really quite unpleasant.The climbing for the first half of the climb it was moderately easy. Good snow at an angle of 30-45 degree max. The second half of the climb was a different story. Mixed rock traverses then on to loose and soft snow. Finally for the last hour or so it was blue ice.
An hour or so later I was back in Base Camp. Changed into warm dry clothes and was eating a late lunch. I am always a little nervous when I take my boots after days like yesterday. I worry about discolored toes. The first sign of frostbite. This day I was lucky.
Another awesome note: If expedition sirdar, Mingma Sherpa, successfully summits Kanchenjunga, he will be the first Sherpa to summit 14 8,000 meter peaks.
The team includes team leader Cleo Weidlich from the US and other experienced climbers from across the globe, including Falahey. Falahey climbs with his ColdAvenger mask to protect his face from frostbite and warm the air he breathes. A few years back he suffered severe frost bite to his face and now only climbs with his ColdAvenger at these altitudes to protect his sensitive skin and lungs.
Good luck team! Can’t wait to hear the rest of the story….