For our alpine ascent of Ama Dablam, we needed to go light and fast. As a solution, we took from Camp One (C1), 2 days of food and fuel, 2 sleeping bags for four people, and 1 two-man tent. C1 to C2 was along a saw blade of a ridge with a few teeth missing.
The ridge had three towers on it, of which we had to climb up two of instead of skirting around them. The largest tower had a 100 foot of vertical rock with nicks here and there in the granite, only deep enough to scratch the edge of your Vibram sole. To pull on an ascender, your full body weight plus loaded backpack, was a herculean effort in the thin air of 20,330 feet. Giving up crossed my mind for only a second at which point, I realized that was not an option…below was just air, to the side distant mountain tops.
We made it to C2 exhausted and excavated a perch for the tent on the pointed ridge. One-quarter of the two-man tent hung in thin air over the ridge while on the opposite side was just enough room outside to set down the stove and melt snow.
In 7 hours, we will try for the summit. We filled water bottles and drank soup to hydrate. After a short and miserable few hours of Furba and I spooning to stay warm, 10:30pm came and it was time to get ready and go. I felt like shit warmed over. A combination of very sore muscles and joints that nagged me all night…a result of go, go, go, with little rest and a sour stomach. I was trying to keep from vomiting, unsure of whether it was a bug or whether it was from having my nerves on edge the day's earlier climb.
The wind shook the tent while we waited to go. I knew the winds would be double the speed near the summit. With the winds forecasted to increase later in the day…I knew in the back of my mind that Furba, Elias and Bridget could climb faster than a team of four. This, with the fact that I was not feeling 100%, helped make my decision to stay behind. I turned my focus on getting Furba ready for the ascent. While he was putting new batteries into his headlamp, the plastic housing snapped in the cold. Without a lamp it would be impossible to climb the first 6.5 hours in the darkness. I gave him my headlamp. His mitts were also inadequate in these high winds, so I gave him my down mitts. I was also worried about Bridget’s hands and feet in the cold wind, even though the had all the adequate gear.
Five hours into braving the climb, the winds accelerated and Bridget decided to take shelter in one of the three tents occupied by sherpas at Camp Three. C3 was not a great spot to be, situated just to the side but slightly under an ice fall.
Elias and Furba decided to carry on. The sun still hadn’t hit that side of the mountain; climbing in the shadow of night had Elias’ toes frozen and fingers numb. Looking up, they could see the sun’s rays hitting the summit; hopes of warmth helped move them up. At 7:45am, Furba and Elias climbed over the ridge and onto the summit. The bright warm sun sent its blessing of feeling a little more alive again after the arduous climb while providing a little warmth to their toes.
The only good thing about a single wall tent is its light weight - but we are only talking about saving a few ounces. The negatives are:
1. They are typically harder to set up, due to poles needing to be erected from the inside of the tent.
2. They don’t breath leaving the occupants damp, and in colder temperatures covered in frost.
3. They don’t heat up as well in the sun nor hold heat from the occupants.
The few ounces you save with a single wall tent, you use up in effort and calories setting it up and trying to stay comfortable. It is much better and more efficient to use a double wall tent.
Hilleberg is my choice for a tent. It is lightweight, super easy to set up, and is made from the best and strongest materials in the industry.
Travel to Nepal.
I want to re-iterate that the best thing one can do to help Nepal after the earthquakes is to come and visit and enjoy what Nepal has to offer. Great people, great wilderness and great treks. They need your tourism dollars. Much of the areas we have been to and their tea house infrastructures have already been rebuilt. This is not to say that all is well, more remains to be done in other areas. Know that when you come, you will find great hospitality and a warm welcome.