Turns out going up was easier than going down. I am sitting in the lodge in Bimthang with a stove to heat my feet. All the porters, sherpas, and our team made it down safely. What an amazing feat givin the conditions. Except for sore feet , swollen knees, and cold fingers, we seem to be fine. It is 7 pm and half the crew is off to bed.
Wakeup this morning was at 3:30 and breakfast at 4:00. The dinning (sic) room in Darmshala is a 20 meter long rock structure with one long table down the spine. Sherpas from each of the trekking teams were busy ferrying food to the tables and retrieving used plates and bowls for a quick turnover. We got our breakfast quick enough though that last coffee was a negotiation.
We left Daramshala, gladly, at 4:30 slowly making our way uphill to the pass. Footing was good and we made good time up the moraine. No one seemed to have much trouble with the elevation: go slow, stay together, listen to your Sherpa. It works.
By the time the sun rose at 6:30, we had ascended half the distance to the pass. The remainder of the climb was in full sun with ramparts on both sides and a half meter of snow cover. Views up and down the valley were excellent. Dave announced that we had achieved the crest of the pass, at least three times. He got the last one right.
I had thought that today would be a day of celebration. This was the highest I have ever been and the same goes for many on the team. Just as we were reaching the pass though, an elderly gentleman from one of the French teams collapsed not 30 meters from the crest. Mark and Kobus quickly jumped in and diagnosed HACE (High Altitude Cerebral Edema). They performed CPR immediately while I activated the SPOT to call an air ambulance. Mark and Kobus were replaced by two French physicians from the same team. That allowed us to continue as a group as the wind had picked up.
I didn't feel like celebrating making the pass since the diagnosis was not good for the fellow. Shame too since this did not have to happen. We will be thinking of his family as we move forward. We will also keep a keener eye on eye other as Thorong La is at 5400m.
Coming down was just nasty for the first two hours. The pass descends westward so the snow melts during the day then freezes over night. It was slippery, hard, and steep. I fell at least once and so did most of the crew. How the porters made it down in runners and flip-flops carrying 60+ pounds is simply amazing. We got off the snow by noon. After a well earned lunch we veritably scooted the last 8 km and 700m vertical into Bimthang.
Our lodging is amazing and the food is great. I had apple pie. This is the first time in days that I have been too warm inside a building. What a difference a day make.