Last night, the wind pounded our tent virtually uninterrupted. High winds with very high gusts, it was not a particularly restful night. Bernie was up at 6:30 on the 2-way radio and made the call that we’ll spend an extra day here in camp 2, only climbing higher tomorrow – hopefully after the wind lets up a bit. The forecast for a 5 February summit day is for >70 km/h winds, it looks a bit better for the 6th. And there is concern that is we move up to Colera (camp 3) today, the tent could be destroyed by the wind. Apparently during his 2nd expedition this season, 4 tents got blown over at camp 3. They were able to recover three of them, but one completely disappeared with sleeping bags, phones, gear and all.
The other news of the day is that Fabio has called it quits. He had a terrible headache this morning and also said that he had not been able to sleep at all. Bernie recommended that he go down, and gave him a few hours to think it over (until the porter arrived at 11:00). After several discussions during the course of the morning, the decision was finally made and Fabio headed back to Base Camp with our porter (who had delivered extra food to us). As much as I won’t miss his company, I do still feel bad for the guy. It’s a tough call to make, turning your back on a summit. If he had been better prepared and informed, maybe he wouldn’t have needed to; on the other hand, with only a 40% success rate, often enough even the best prepared don’t reach this summit.
I took a little break there to go pee – I will be so glad when I no longer need 8 or 9 pee breaks a day! – and coming back into the tent, the glaringly obvious hits me: my feet stink to the high heavens!!! Oh how I am looking forward to showers and fresh socks and underwear every day.
A word about the toilet system up here: if you have to pee, you just find a spot and go. If you need to do more than that, we have a “toilet tent,” which is a normal tent but without a floor. It is stocked with newspaper, toilet paper, air freshener spray and hand sanitizer. The instructions are to spread a few sheets of newspaper on the ground, do your business, and then package everything up and deposit in the garbage bag just outside the entrance to the tent. I have to admit to feeling a bit like a pet undergoing house-training.
That said, I wish that everyone would follow such a system. Unfortunately it’s not the case, and many rock outcroppings and little corners are littered with human waste, complete with toilet paper ends blowing out from beneath rocks. At this altitude, the rules of decomposition are very different than we’re used to, meaning that human waste ends up baking in the sun and freezing in the cold air season after season, for generations to come. The high-use areas are NOT nice. Let me tell you, fossilized and sun-baked human waste is neither a site – nor smell – to behold.