November 14, 2012 - Island Peak Summit Day

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island peak top

November 14, 2012 - Island Peak Summit Day
 

Today is it – summit day! I didn’t sleep much more than an hour last night.  But I had a fair bit of rest though. The -20 degrees in the tent was a good challenge for my awesome down sleeping bag, and I could feel that now I was finally getting my monies worth :) But I managed to keep warm and comfy. It was quite a fun experience to wake up with frost on your sleeping bag!

We woke up at 1:30, and had some light food and got ourselves ready. FYI – putting on contact lenses in a base camp at -20 degrees can be tricky :)

island peak

Before setting off at 2:00 AM we did a final gear check to make sure that we had everything that we needed? And then the push for the final destination started! 

We were off to a little bad start, due to me over thinking things. Pemba and I had a miscommunication regarding liquids, so I was worried that we would not have enough fluids to sustain us for the summit push. But after a while I realized that I should just learn to trust Pemba’s enormous mountain experience, and let go of these negative thoughts.
 

A little note about hard physical work this early in the morning: Your body is NOT happy about it! My body was doing everything to tell me to go back to sleep. But my mind was very clear – this is what I had been training and dreaming about for the past year. So I tried not to bother too much about the physical discomfort.

After a hiking for a while and gaining 400m altitude we started to do rock climbing. It started of fairly ok, but got more and more intense. I am quite glad that it was pitch black because this was some steep walls, and a slip here would not be healthy! After gaining another 400m and walking on a very narrow and very steep (the darkness was slightly disappearing now) ridge we hit crampon point.

Here we changed to our climbing shoes and put on the crampons. I have never felt so cold in my life! I was shaking so much and my fingers felt like they were being stabbed with knives. But my analytical mind was telling me as long as you felt pain this was a good thing!

Endless Caverns Island peak

After putting on the crampons and the climbing harness, unpacking our ice axes, and connecting each other with a 10m rope (safety if one of us falls down a crevasse) we headed off to walk on the glassier. At this moment the sun just started appearing in the distance so we got a slight bit of light.

I have never experienced anything this beautiful! Walking in this ice dessert landscape in such high altitude with no one around – it was mind blowing, and no photograph will never do this any justice. I felt so calm, happy – and overwhelmed. My senses where saturated!

Walking on the ice was good fun, and went well. We had to jump over some crevasses – maybe 3-4. It is a strange experience. At the one hand you know that falling down one of these crevasses can be a death sentence – so you want to push as hard as you can to make that jump. And at the same time – it is rather bizarre, because these crevasses are some of the most beautiful creations on this planet. I cant help but to think of the fictional creatures from the fairytales – mermaids – who lured the seamen close with their amazing beauty, only to pull them down under the water and drown them. I see some similarities between the crevasses and mermaids :)

But we managed to navigate these beautiful creations safely and reached the steep 300m long icewall at around 6:30 AM. Now we were around 5900meters altitude, and we had a short wee before heading of on this last exhausting endeavor! It took us a bit more than an hour to climb the wall, and the moment we reached the top of the wall we were standing on top of the ridge – with a 300 meter drop on one side, and maybe a 500m drop on the other side. The ridge is not much more than half a meter wide.

I had wondered for months about how I would feel standing on this ridge. And now I was finally here. And not one part of my body was feeling scared. There was only amazement in my mind. Never have I seen

island peak

something so beautiful. It is funny that something so dangerous can also be so beautiful. I think that I now finally understand what drives mountaineers. There is no other way of experiencing such beauty.

Michael

clibing ridge

After having reached the ridge we pushed another 20 minutes – and then it happened! There was nowhere else to climb. We had reached the summit - 6189 meters!
For the past year I had been training intensely – working out hard in the gym 4-5 times a day – walking on average more than 10km a day, shedding 15kg of fat in the process. And now the moment I had been dreaming of was finally here!  I was standing on the top of Imje Tse! I felt like crying!

I remember the first thing I did was kneeling down and kissing the ground – all while Pemba yelling at me: “are you safe, are you safe?!?!” (He wanted to be sure that I was clipped in with my safety rope to the rope on the summit).

top of the island peak

We spend half an hour on the summit, feeling like kings of this world. Words cannot describe this moment. Exhausted bodies, extreme conditions, and sheer happiness! I tried calling my parents from the top but no answer. We got a phone call from Wongchu, CEO of Peak Promotion, congratulation us on our efforts. The service from this company is simply amazing! I have been telling everyone I have met during this adventure of Peak Promotion – I hope it will result in some extra business for them – they deserve it!

After half an hour it was time to return down. We had spent 6 hours summiting. And this was not going to be the hardest 6 hours of my life. The next 2 hours of decent down to crampon point was the most exhausting thing I have ever experiences. My body was on the threshold of giving up. And I felt Pemba Sherpa’s frustration with me – which was very well founded. Mistakes up here could kill the both of us.

I remember jumping over a crevasse wondering if I had enough strength to make the jump. But luckily I did! Had I fallen in, I am sure Pemba with his enormous strength would have pulled me up. But it was not a situation I wanted to explore.
At one point we got way too close to each other, and Pemba had to yell at me: “faster faster” (it is not safe to be close – we need to have around 10meters distance between us should something go wrong). I remember this occurred on the way up an icy hill – so I mustered all my strength and speeded up.

At 10:30 we reached crampon point again. The young porter Chhiring was waiting here for us with some warm tea and some snacks. He had been waiting for one hour for us here. This really shows the mentality of the Nepali people. Chhring had climbed all the way from 5000m, to 5800meter with tea and snacks, just so that we could feel comfortable! Nepali hospitality simply cannot be explained – it just has to be experienced!

After a short break we started descending down the rocks. This time in full daylight! Rocks simply don’t have the same beauty as ice, so there was nothing to distract me from the danger and now I was feeling scared for the first time! It was a long and exhausting way down. But at 12:30 we reached back to base camp. We had a little bit of food, and some drinks, and packed our stuff and headed back to civilization.

The walk that 2 days took us 2 ½ hours uphill, with long breaks for photography, took more than 3 hours downhill. I have never been so exhausted in my life before!

We reached Chukung at around 4pm, and had some good food, and I tried to realize what had just happened. But it wouldn’t sink in. I think it will take some days for my mind to realize what had happened. At around 6pm I crashed into bed.

Thank you Imje Tse (Island Peak) for lettings us safely visit your summit. I am humble, honored, and grateful to have experienced something like this. Thank you Peak Promotion for supporting me in this endeavor and for your amazing level of service. And Pemba Sherpa – thank you for your friendship and amazing guidance and company!

tea

my highest tea above 5900mtr
my highest tea above 5900mtr

 
 

Pemba Sherpa