We were a week into our Shishipangma expedition, in the less than predictable post-monsoon season. Yet the weather was perfect.
We were up pre-dawn and climbing higher every day. In 10 days we had Camp 1 and 2 ready, with plans to skip 3. Weather reports were good. Gear was packed, food in place, no oxygen to worry about. Everything was going perfectly which is always scary on a Himalayan peak.
It was Shishipangma after all, the lowest of the 8,000rs, where extra air really is just more than you should really need. I talked to my Sirdar – “when shall we go?”
“Can I just use the Sat. phone?” he asked. A long phone call ensued.
“Ok, we wait another day,” he says. I reset the plan, the weather is cloudy now, but ok.
Next day, another meeting with my Sirdar, “Here is what I think, everything is ready in the Camps, when shall we go?” I ask impatiently. The clouds are swirling above us now.
“Can I just use the Sat. phone?” he requests. Another long conversation.
Day three, same thing, “Heh lets go,” I say.
My Sirdar gets on the phone, it is 11 a.m.
“Ok” he says, “We go now.” We have a big lunch, we pack up, we head up to Camp 1.
The next day we climb on to Camp 2. The weather is perfect. We sleep fast, get up at 2 a.m., and are at Camp 3 on the ridge at sunrise. The ridge is a perfect rolling line above us, the plains of Tibet spread out in that distinctive purple-pink haze below.
The snow deepens, we have a small team of 4, and only a few Sherpa’s. We are all taking turns breaking trail up the spectacular ridge. There are no ropes, no-one in front of us, no trail. We are hugging the ridge, hiding from the avalanche prone slopes below. It’s long and hard, but by 4:30 p.m. we summit.
Yes, a bit late, but skies are clear and wind is low. We have headlamps, what is there to worry about? We follow our tracks down in as much of a rush as 1,000 meter descent will allow. We are back in Camp 2 by 11 p.m.
We wander back to Base Camp the next day, I’m walking with the Sirdar.
“All ok at home?” “Oh yes, he says. I thought all his earlier phone calls were something family related in Kathmandu. I was curious.
“Do you want to use the Sat phone when we get back?”
“Oh yes,” he says, “I must call the Lama.”
“Yes,” my Sirdar says, “he picked the Lucky Day.”
So much for modern technology, digitized weather reports, high camp logistics and team acclimatisation.
Just climb 8,000 meter peaks on a Lama certified “Lucky Day.”
As told to Peter Hillary’s National Geographic group on their return from Tibet, Kathmandu, October, 2018.
From an Expedition with Jagged Globe.