Many changes took place on the mountain in my absence. For one, it had gotten hammered with snow, so the concern for water at the higher camps was alleviated, and upper trails were covered in perfect styrofoam snow, great for cramponing. Additionally, the park (which is a provincial park, not a national one, which might explain some things), in its zeal to be a real park with real rangers and rules, used some of the newfound money from elevated permit fees to station a doctor at the very first camp. So while Matthew made hamburgers for dinner, I sat with the doc while all our people were checked for oxygen saturation, lung sounds, blood pressure, etc. More checks and more structures = a better park, right?
Ahem. Once at base camp (after a second medical check), we settled into carrying loads up the mountain. Lhakpa Gelu joined us at Camp 1, which meant that we had more stories and carrying power added to the team, as well as just an amazing mountain person. Afternoon snowstorms graced us for a few days but didn't cause trouble, and after that we had some great weather and moved up to our Camp 3, most people's camp 2. The forecast was for a couple days of high winds followed by a good period, so we spent an extra day there, gaining a little more rest and acclimatization, then moved up and summarily had our summit day.
A beautiful day, though a little windy at the start, and 6 of 10 folks stood on top with us. Lhakpa took three down who were running out of resources for a continued trip up AND down, and once back at camp we pooled all of our remaining meal resources to have some very flavorful mashed potatoes for dinner that night. But there's no standin for real food, so the next day we gratefully headed down to base camp and the path home. A memorable team, for sure!
Back in Mendoza, I was psyched to enjoy a few more days of watermelon and other fresh summer fruit, but am expecially excited to be back in the Pacific Northwest where there are things like organic lettuce and molasses. Yes, I have odd tastes, but it's good to be back where I can have them! The mountains are wearing some fresh snow, I get to go skiing in the fog with my partner, and it's good to be back.