Day 13 – Camp I (5256m) – Summit Camp (5490m) – Camp I (5256m)
Last night was one of the most uncomfortable nights we’ve had in a camp thus far. We did our best to lay flat rocks beneath our tents to make the ground as even as possible, but we could still feel rocks poking against our backs. Needless to say, the sleep was not peaceful, but given the conditions that we were in, it was still possible.
We woke up to unfavourable weather as layers of thick white clouds blocked out most of the sun, making visibility very poor. At some point, it got so bad that we almost approached “white-out” conditions. While this was far from the ideal weather to set off in, Edwin gave the “go ahead” and we all headed towards Summit Camp (5490m). We all agreed with his decision because the weather forecast predicted bad weather from 1st September to 5th September. Time was not on our side.
Snow and clouds. Not good.
Camp I from far
Breakfast of maggi mee
Our plan for today was actually discussed and decided upon the day before. We had 2 options:
1) Bring up half of our equipment (along with ropes, snow stacks, food rations) to Summit Camp before returning to Camp I to spend the night there.
2) Take everything from Camp I and spend the night at Summit Camp.
Given that the summit day is the same for either plan, the only difference is that Option 2 gives us an extra full day of rest at the Summit Camp. After much thought, we decided to go with Option 1 because an extra day at Summit Camp meant more time spent in even colder temperatures and having only instant noodles for our meals – conditions we weren’t really looking forward to. Furthermore, this plan allows everyone to acclimatise better to the higher altitude as it follows Edwin’s “Climb high, Sleep low” philosophy.
Getting ready to move out
Daniel securing his equipment
Samuel putting his water bottle in his bag
Ozgun helping Javier secure his stuff
All set and ready to go!
As such, we left our tents, sleeping bags, and mats behind, and brought our crampons, helmets, and technical axes (amongst the ropes, snow stacks, and rations mentioned earlier). After approximately 15 minutes of walking, the terrain transitioned from rocks/moraine to hard snow. While it did not warrant the need for crampons, some of us had to plant sticks, marked with a red ribbon, into the snow at 100m intervals. Those markers served as guides in case we had to turn around in “white-out” conditions. They also pointed out the presence of crevasses along the way. At the halfway mark, we roped up in three groups for safety purposes. The chances of falling into a crevasse is high from this point on. The icy wind buffeted our faces with snow and this reminded me very much of our previous summit push up Friendship Peak (5289m). Slowly but surely though, we made our way past a few crevasses (jumped across one even) and finally arrived at Summit Camp.
Placing a marker
Javier leading the way
Poor visibility all the way
Roped up, in case there are crevasses
Andrew crossing a small stream
Visibility was bad. Still, we managed to catch a glimpse of our objective. Honestly, it looked like an even more tiring and freezing journey up to the top, but the sight of our mountain got us rather pumped up. However, with more clouds coming in and the wind picking up again, we quickly dropped off our equipment at Summit Camp and made our way back to Camp I. We managed to arrive back at our tents much quicker due to our lighter loads. After a quick lunch, we all went back to our tents to rest and escape the cold.
Mount SUTD in clouds
Weather was beginning to clear on the way down
Camp I in sight!
Back at Camp I
At the time of writing, Camp I has once again descended into “white-out” conditions. Edwin said earlier that we might be forced to use one of the buffer days to wait out the bad weather. One thing for sure though, with our mountain so near to us now, we are closer than ever to reaching our objective!