We set our alarm for 11pm. However, the ringtone was not necessary to wake us. The fixing team, along with a couple of Chilean mountaineers, had already taken off. The clunking sounds and chatter woke us. It was 11pm and I started to melt ice once again. We stuck to our plan of drinking a lot and also had tea and coffee along with bread and honey. It was already 12.30am when we were ready to take off. We saw the lights of those ascending, the Chileans and Sherpas who took off about 1 ½ hours ago. We caught up to them in about 15 minutes.
I immediately realized that we will be out here this long. What if they have to install the fixed ropes from the Balcony up? I calmed down and thought to myself that it’s probably best to not go too fast for now so that I’ll have something left once we get to the top. I enjoyed it. We reached the Balcony just as the sun was coming up. The whole group took a break to eat and drink. I changed the batteries in the heaters in my shoes. It was genius! I had amazingly warm feet and even warm hands. This high altitude mountaineering wasn’t so bad after all…
After a brief break, we continued on. From now on the fixed ropes had to be installed. The terrain was not very steep. You could technically climb it without ropes. My special Leki pole with a type of pick on the handle is the perfect tool for these conditions. But although I was a little nervous about the slow progress, I did not pass. It would have been disrespectful to just pass the Sherpas who are doing their work. And they were doing their job well. I had never seen a Sherpa team work together this efficiently and well organized. I’ll wait in line as you’re supposed to! And it was pretty amusing. We kept having to wait and thus had time to chat. Tenji had fallen back a little in the meantime, but he was moving along steadily. We were the only ones who weren’t hiding behind oxygen masks, which we got great respect from the Sherpas for – just as much respect as I have for them!
The track to the South Summit is long and never-ending. Suddenly the pace didn’t seem so slow anymore. I kept looking up, but the South Summit just wasn’t getting any closer. Finally the leader disappeared. He was on the South Summit and we had another 100 meters to go. From the South Summit, you descend for 20 meters and then you follow the ridge to the main summit.
I was looking at the time – it was getting pretty late. I thought about turning back. It was going to be afternoon by the time we’d get to the top. And then we still have to descend. So far the weather is still perfect, but what if conditions change? Okay, May 19 will still be fine, a little more wind, but still good weather. So it’s not like we’re expecting a storm and I trust the Sherpas who have been up here many many times and really know what they are doing. Once I thought more about it, I realized that I know from experience that I am fairly quick at descending. If I descend from here at the South Summit, I estimate that I should be at South Col in 1 ½ hours max. I can risk that so I continue to follow along.