The mood has shifted dramatically around base camp. Nearly everyone, certainly those teams using oxygen for a conventional ascent of Everest, have made their final acclimatization rotations and are resting and waiting for their shot at the summit. Our team is no different. After a long acclimatization climb, we hiked down the valley to Pangboche, rested for a few days, and have finally all returned in good health to base camp. We are checking several high-end custom forecasts daily and will be making our decisions regarding summit day very soon. Yesterday, a team of rope fixing sherpas made the first ascents of the season. They report good conditions, with lots of snow. This is particularly good news for me, as I’ll be climbing the steep, narrow and often rocky Lhotse couloir. The more snow, the better the footing and the less rockfall, both auspicious for my summit bid. Unlike Everest, Lhotse doesn’t have fixed ropes the whole way, so I’ll have to do some serious climbing near the summit.
Today, we had a welcome surprise. Reinhold Messner, the living legend who first climbed Everest (and all the 8000m peaks) without supplemental oxygen, visited our camp. He struck up a conversation with fellow researcher Susannah and I, and we even did an interview with him for German television about our research and the cooperation necessary to climb these big peaks. It was an unbelievable set of events, one that I won’t forget. It’s not often you get the chance to spend time with someone who has shaped the world in such a powerful way. It was his book, The Challenge, that first lured me into the world of big mountains. He continues to be a larger than life figure in alpinism, and is a strong advocate for ethics in climbing and stewardship of the mountains.