- Ryan Bowd
Khumbu Icefall, Camp 1 and 2 - In Hari's Own Words
We arrived safely at Camp 2 (6,536m) on May 8th. It was hard going through Icefall but I didn’t expect it to be any easier.
We left Everest Base Camp (EBC 8:15pm) on 6th May after toasting for the King Charles III for his Coronation.
I used my Ottobock Genium X3s up to crampon point, so I can slightly move faster. The plan was to change legs and send X3s back to EBC but as I was faster on them, so we decided to take with us, so I can use them between C1 to C2. I felt sorry for extra weight (over 5kgs each) for my two Sherpas. But they just bent the legs knees and put one each on top their rucksacks each.
We trained around the icefall before we head up, but I never seen that gigantic Ice in my life. It was so intimidating as may collapse at any time.
It was cold and dark when we left with our head lights on. It was first time ever a double above knee amputee was going through this Icefall. They looked quite small from far away, but they were huge when we went through!
l knew and realised that humans are just small particles in comparison to nature, but I haven’t realised that enormity of Icefall, even having climbed many mountains before.
The route through the Icefall has been divided into five different sections. With section one at the bottom and five at the top.
I don’t know why they are marked that way, but I believe it is because it becomes easy to locate and rescue people, if something goes wrong.
At the crampon point, I changed to my small legs (stubbies) with crampons,.
After the crampon point, it was straight up onto the big vertical Ice, to the first section which, felt like a mountain to me. We got up to the top somehow using ice axes, zumar (ascender) fix line and guide rope.
The first one done but that’s just a first.
I didn’t think about section two and three, I was just focusing on every step, I was crawling most of time on all four limbs. Sometimes I used my walking poles.
One of my Sherpa was on the guide rope all the time for the safety and attached to my waist harness all the time, sometimes I was attached to two Sherpa on steep parts, with them giving me their hands for safety when needed.
Some people said the route through the Icefall was nine miles on their GPS watches, I am not sure it was that long but it was long.
I didn’t focus on whole route, but I focused to tackle one step and one obstacle at a time, which I learned from my previous climbing. I knew that it was going to be extra hard, but I was there to tackle it and not run away. I also knew it will be three times harder and longer for me than average climber and yes, it was. It took me eleven hours.
Our Sherpas crossed the same distance in around three hours to three and half hours.
There were two places I really struggled, one called ‘Pop Corn’ and the other between section four and five.
Pop Corn was small ice scattered some areas and they look like pop corns, not actually that small as was it was still huge to me, but smaller comparing to the mountain like ice we started on.
I struggled because there were a lot of collapsed pieces of ice, holding each other up, creating small crevasses everywhere and could collapse at any time.
I also really struggled between area section four and five where the ice was collapsed. It was in this area that three members of rope fixing team were recently lost to an avalanche.
There was a mix of ice and soft snow, which made it loose under foot. I always struggle in fresh snow as I don’t have knees to lift up my legs over it and I have to walk like penguin from my hip.
I looked up ahead and there were big ices hanging loose over us like a mountain. It felt like it could collapse at any time.
When I was taking breath, my team said it’s not safe here, we need to move fast, I just told them that sorry I can’t move faster, I need to take a breath. I knew that we just needed to trust and have faith in nature to hold us up, but I knew that if we are at the wrong place and wrong time - nothing can protect us.
This I learnt in Afghanistan where I was the 10th person in 20-person squad walking single file. Why was I blown up not the 1st to 9th person?
I have self-belief that I am not going to die anywhere in the world, if I’m not meant to die.
My dad also used tell us that if you are not meant to die, you are not going to die anywhere in the world. With my dad’s saying and my belief, I just told my guides that we are not to meant to die here bhai (brothers), we are here to create history and we carried on.
Some our team sped up through the risky area, why risk more.
I am really grateful and thankful to all my team who chose to risk their life with me. There are many brothers who would like to work with me but unfortunately, I can’t give opportunity to everyone.
I was also really tired between section four and five, I couldn’t move faster but there’s never a question of me going back down. I was not there just to go through the Khumbu Icefall but to go to top of the Everest. I am not a quitter. We carried on.
We climbed and walked the whole night. Up and down, sometimes going round the icefall, crossing many ladders (longest was 3 ladders connected together).
My Sherpas said that this year’s route is long but it’s for “the Yak’s route”. By this they mean it’s an easy route. I joked with them that nature knew that I was coming and I need easy route, we laughed.
The sky started to get brighter and we came up to a big hanging (which is the tallest vertical face of ice in the icefall) which I was excited because I love a challenge and it was much more fun.
Waiting more than two weeks at EBC was really boring. I was very excited to going through the icefall but also nervous because I have never done that before. Nobody like myself has done that.
After climbing the big hanging crossed more crevasses and walking sometime, we could see camp one (C1) but it felt like we never going to reach it.
I was so exhausted crawling whole night that I couldn’t move fast. The gust of wind also started picking up and blowing in our face but we had no choice but to carry on.
We arrived at Camp one at 7:15am which is on the flat ice that is after crossing the amazing, crazy and dangerous Khumbu Icefall.
It was windy but the view was amazing, and I could see summit of Everest.
I am feeling very close to my dream. Our tent was just set when we arrived, and I threw myself into the tent and the team got us hot water to drink. It was the best!
I only sat down four times during whole night, first at crampon point to change my legs, the football ground (it’s a small flat area on edge section three, as you approach section four, and at the top of section four and on sledge.
I was so tired and didn’t sleep that night, I felt sleepy once I got into the tent, but we shouldn’t sleep for first two hours due to altitude.
My expedition leader Krish Thapa and I tried to wake each other up, when our heads goes down.
After two hours, we both went to sleep. Krish slept well but I couldn’t, initially, I felt choked up due to altitude; and after I felt restless and couldn’t sleep the whole day.
I think was over tired, which I previously felt during my Ben Nevis and Mont Blanc climbs. I couldn’t even swallow food after 23 hours nonstop crawling on Mont Blanc.
Fortunately, I slept really well the following that night. I think that is because we acclimatised well on Mera Peak the previous month, where we slept up to 6,400 meters and C1 was 5,900m. I had no sign of headache or any symptoms of altitude.
We slept that night at C1 and planned to leave at 7am for Camp two (C2) but due to the strong wind we waited and left at 9am.
As the wind slowed down we left camp. I used my X3s. This is first time double above knee amputee was going through this route and X3s were used here.
There were two technical places on the route to camp 2, with crevasses. I had to climb and cross the crevasses on ladders. I never climbed with X3s before, but I climbed and crossed ladders. I amazed myself. It’s amazing what we can achieve when we challenge ourselves and try.
It was the first time ever I climbed ice and crossed a ladder with X3s rather than just my stubbies.
After four hours, we arrived at camp two (C2).
The wind really picked up just before we arrived at C2. We didn’t have any altitude sickness on arrival, though I started coughing slightly. I think that is because I was breathing snow particles very hard as my lungs were pumped up with the effort.
Going through icefall and reaching to C2 is a world first and huge achievement for me. I will be happy even if I can’t make it to the top - but I am here to reach the top of the world. I will do everything I can to make all proud who helped me.
We stayed good two nights, slept pretty well, walked around at C2 and went up to 6,576m but as the route was not fully opened to the summit, we came back down the mountain. The climb to C2 sees us much better acclimatised, we are now back down at Base Camp. I have good rest and we are now ready for final big push.