We left ABC on 27th September for Camp 1 where I felt strong and confident. It then emerged that I’d picked up some sort of stomach bug. I decided to risk it for a Hobnob biscuit and paid the price… I’ll spare you the details but safe to say it knocked some strength out of me. We went to camp 2 the following day. It was only 700 metres of height gain but one of the most painful days of my life, albeit the highest I’d ever been. The team delayed until the following day due to bad weather so we hung back, ate and hydrated. Even the slightest thing like putting the stove on at 7,125 metres leaves you like you’ve just ran up the stairs. Me and Charlene opted not to go the same night so we watched as everyone departed on the 29th and arrived the following afternoon looking (unsurprisingly) worse for wear.
More time to acclimatise had given me strength and by 10pm it was time to get ready, boil water and force down a final snack – which was quickly vomited over the inside of the tent (sorry Dan!). Pre summit nerves are not unusual but I felt horrendous. Charlene, Rolfe, Padawa and Dorje Gyalgen were already outside. My oxygen was switched on but didn’t seem to stop the nausea, headache or dizziness as we set off about 23:45. Dorje seemed concerned I couldn’t even walk in a straight line. There was a relentless snow slope beneath a sickly starlit sky and I had barely made it 20 mins out of camp before I knew from my limited experience knew something wasn’t right. “It’s just a mind game” I told myself, trying every motivational technique I knew in the book. Dorje called up to Rolfe who was already far ahead. I slept for a few hours on oxygen like a deflated Michelin man, then in the morning was given Dexamethasone for AMS. I then descended with the rest of the summiteers which also turned out to be a slightly knackering day – even for me having not summited! After throwing up a couple of times en-route in the baking heat and getting held up at the ice wall for a while I was simply glad to be going down… unfortunately lying around complaining doesn’t get you down the hill. About 30 mins before we arrived at ABC, me and Stefan were greeted by a Tibetan who had been sent by Kami with a rucksack full of cold Coca Cola. We were the only two of 12 not to have reached the summit – yet toasted by headtorch as it snowed harder. The simple things!
We got to ABC by 7:30pm and dinner restored my appetite when even water had made me feel sick. Bizarre. Bhim had somehow made this amazing steamed celebration cake with icing galore!
Today I’m feeling pretty rough but very pleased for my teammates and enjoying celebrating both their success of summiting and getting us all down safety. Rolfe, Charlene and Billi are due back to ABC this afternoon. We should be on the road to Lhasa in a couple of days. The thought of pizza in Kathmandu is keeping me going.
At the start of the trip I remember being so ill I thought I was going home – I was told that my chances of success were slim and even that I should take up sailing instead! All things considered I’m pleased with how far I got, the lessons taken onboard and that I can now close one chapter to open another. The journey has never been about the summits.
Photos and videos to follow but just wanted to thank all of you for the support and positivity on here, I always love seeing it when I get reconnected. Special thanks to all who have donated so generously to my JustGiving page. Despite the lack of success the message about mental health is as valid as ever. Thanks to the whole Himalayan Guides/360 Expeditions team for a great adventure, my guide Rolfe, also thanks to Rob, Henry, and the Sherpas (Padawa, Jhyabu, Dorje, Dorje Gyalgen and Lhakpa Thundu) who work so incredibly hard – their strength and spirit amazes me. Also my sponsors Westgrove Group, your continued commitment to my journey means so much and I’m gutted I couldn’t get your banner to the summit yet again! Thank you also to Ste for doing a great job of managing my updates on here as always and Chris for keeping track of my email inbox! Oh, and the guy who brought us cold Coca Cola yesterday. Legend.
Ok now I really need pizza. Mmm. Pizza.
Gary Spinks says
Hi Alex, congratulations on a brilliant effort!
First of all, it’s tremendous news to hear you are safe and (apart from some sickness) well. That is ALWAYS the number one objective – or should be.
Secondly, while you may be feeling some disappointment at not reaching the summit you have still achieved something BIG here.
You reached the highest you’ve EVER been on a mountain, achieved when you were clearly not at your best. That takes a lot of strength, physical and mental.
To make the decision to turn around (even when you really, really want to be on the Summit) also takes BIG GUTS. We know from history on other mountains that these decisions can be critical to a successful venture.
Once you are home and have more quiet time to reflect, you will realise ALL the many positives from this trip – and picked up new learning and experience which will serve you another time.
You remain an inspiration.
Safe journey home… and trust the pizza was simply delicious.
All the best
claire Mckinley Smith says
Great achievement and so glad to hear you are safe that’s all that really matters, enjoy the Pizza, looking forward to seeing you when you are back
David Bradley says
Good effort Alex. The disappointment fades once you are planning something new.
Andy porter says
Well done Alex, your highest ever expedition and being part of what sounds like a brilliant team, good to hear you are safe, sound and raring to eat again,
See you soon,
Andy, Sarah and Jordi
Well done Alex, you gave it everything. Safe journey home.
Steph @ Marmot UK
Congratulations on reaching a new height, well done! I know you did not reach the summit but you DID make the right decision to turn around when needed, your health is number one.
Hope you enjoyed your pizza!
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