In life there is nothing more important than to be safe and healthy. Most of us don’t understand this, until we are faced with dangers. Almost 2 months spent on the Expedition in Lhotse South Face were a great experience. I learned so much and meet so many good and weird people. I climbed difficult trails – as never before / climbed ice and rock, spent many nights without sleep, and many hours in altitude. I spent many nights thinking and planning … never had I had this pressure on my mind before, never had I felt this alone before, never had I watched more movies than I did now…
Overall, I would do the same again, and again, and again. Lhotse South is considered as the most difficult route in the world. Only now, I am really able to understand half of it. People got sick, frostbitten, and many of them died.
Our climb was more or less like this:
Base Camp (5150m) to C1 (5900m):
This 750 meters climbing route is a mixed climb. Mainly snow and ice and sometimes rocky, with few steep sections. Camp 1 is based between two big rivers of snow showers. Quite safe even though the constant snow-showers between these two culuars made C1 snowy and cold throughout the entire time. I have climbed 4 times to C1 (slept few days) – carried all my gears and food and tried to climb at Camp 2 – but it was impossible since the weather wasn’t the best. Sometimes a lot of snow falling, snow conditions and many other reasons… One time we went up half way to C2, maybe 6500 meters, just before the big and famous culuars started, we had to return and try to climb to C2 another time because of the weather.
Camp 1(5900m) to Camp 2 (7300m)
The first and the last time that we could pass the gorge and reach C2, was the most amazing part of this hole expedition. It is around 1300 meter climb and I did it for 9 -10 hours. In the beginning the climbing was on a steep section of rock and ice, with so many small rocks falling (flying) and snow.
The second sections was the traverse, with small holes on rocks and ice, but still safer then the others. While our destination (C2) seemed quite close, it took quite long to climb — not just because of the steepness but also the snowy conditions made it really hard.
The third part of the route is a combination of rock and ice, very thin ice though, accompanied by a surreal view, with the famous colour and the big steep face. I really liked climbing this part, using all my body to climb makes the climbing more interesting.
We used the fixed rope, but this climb is not so much about the rope – its about being balanced in small pockets in rocks and ice, with big boots and crampons.
When passing the culuars, we had to do it fast. It seemed like we were passing a river bed, showered by the snow that was falling all time and sometimes even rocks. If you are lucky, you pass it without any troubles, but this doesn’t happen often. Many of our sherpa team got caught by snow showers and avalanches on this sections.
Throughout the entire time that we were climbing, the snow showers continued. In the beginning I stopped from time to time, to wait for the snow showers to calm down, afterwards I just kept on climbing since they never seemed to stop.
After passing the culuar, there are around 300-400 meters climbing in 70% steep terrain of blue ice. This was the hardest time for me. I had already spent a lot of energy, plus the changes in altitude were a big difference (New ox zone -7000m). I had to swing my crampons 4 times only to be able to step on my feet or my ice tools, and you could never be safe. I felt like everyone suffered on this section.
Yet, when I reached the C2 I felt like I already Summited another 8000 meters peak.
On this day, we were a group of 5 members climbing: Mr Hong – the leader, Jeroge, Sung and He Jin. Me and He Jin were the last ones in the line of the team. We reached Camp 2 the last – I was so happy thinking that our partners came first and maybe they already boiled some water for the team, but it wasn’t as I expected.
First, when Hujin and I reached C2, there was no room for us in the tent. There were Jorge and Hong, inside of the warm tent, sleeping and resting, with all the food and gas that sherpa brought from lower camp.
Seug, was waiting to the other tent, which was maybe 50 meters higher. They told us to go up since here was no room for us there (some sherpa were still there preparing themselves to leave for C3).
At the same time, I remember that one of our sherpa had frostbite on one of his toes since the quality of the tent was bad.
Anyhow, Hujin and I climbed few more meters, very tired, reached the other tent. The other tent was a summer tent, all broken from the wind.
Finally, after few hours, we could go down to the good tent. Oh it felt like we are home. Is was warm, smelled like soup and food, and I as so happy to jump on this tent…
I had so many issues and concerns about the team on this expedition – but this was the time that I truly felt so bad – since I truly understood who some of the people I was sharing my life at that time were. At this time I understood the importance that the people you share the journey with would have on the journey experience itself.
Jeorge, was so angry that we came down – because he didn’t want to share a few inches of the tent with us. To him it a few of those inches of comfort in the tent were more valuable than my, Hujin’s and Seung’s toes, fingers and life.
Anyhow, we went inside. Boiled some water and cooked some soup – we were all very tired.
In the first night, the 4 of us were sleeping in the tent with down-suits and a thin sleeping bag (I was sharing the with Hujing and Seung since we agreed to carry less and share it together). The three of us were resting while sitting, on 40% of the tent, whereas Jeorge and Hong were sharing 60% of the tent among the two of them.
Jeorge was complaining that there was a big hole on the snow under his spot – so he cannot move and make more room for us. We woke up in the middle of the night – I tool all the extra clothes and put them under his spot, to make it flat so that he could sleep and make more room for us, but yet again nothing changed.
Outside it was windy. I thought at some point that we were gonna fly. I felt scared and I decided that the expedition for me was over and tomorrow I would go down.
Second day on C2:
If we have to leave, we would have to leave very early in the morning – like 4 or 5 so we can pass the culuar early – before the sun hits the face. I was lazy to wake up and leave, so I stayed for another night. At the same time I thought it would be a good idea to stay, and would be a good training opportunity for me to go to Camp 3 – so that I can climb more and enjoy the journey more, rather then stay in a tent.
Everyone left to C3 (7900 m) and Hujin and I left the last. The route was beautiful – straight step, rock and sometimes ice. We could see throughout the entire time the guys climbing up. I was really happy to climb on the route. At 7800 Hujin and I decided to go down. We thought lets go down first, rest a bit and eat before the rest of team comes.
This is what we did.
Sleeping while sitting at 7300 meters, on the second night was even worse. Anyhow, I was happy I could climb this beautiful mountain face, a little bit farther than Base Camp – Camp 1. And, climbing to almost C3 – was a great success for me.
The next day we all went down. Took all my gears, clothes, food and everything to base camp. The other climbers, left their gears at C1 since they wanted to go for another summit push and for me that was it.
My bag weighted more than 30 kg. Just near Base Camp I almost fell since I couldn’t carry it anymore. When I reached Base Camp – first thing I did, I went to Istupa (praying spot) and I cried. I was sad, and angry.
I just gave up from a big dream. Climbing the Lhotse South. And, I was almost about to give up from climbing on the 8000. This was the first time that I had this doubt. Sometimes our partners, who thought that they are the best, the strongest, the most experienced, made other younger climbers feel really bad.
I know I am not the strongest comparing to other climbers, but I train hard and I love climbing. And I love being able to climb, I love people and I have less anger. This is what brought me in the mountains in the first place. Peace and joy.
This expedition was all about anger and sadness. It was all about men, strong men, experienced men, who would normally talk, tell how brave they are, and laugh at us, girls who they considered as less experienced climbers, the weak part of the expeditions.
I want to thank from the bottom of my heart the base camp manager Sujin from Korea, and Hujin – a Chinese climber who made my life better during these 2 months. Also Seung – a Korean climber whom I can call as my friend and my climbing partner, Mr. Hong – our leader of the expedition – for whom I have a lot of respect as a great human being and a climber. And Jeorge – a very known and strong Spanish climber, whom I would never like to meet again.