The turning point…

I stayed one more day in Base Camp 5,200m/17,160ft and finally left on May 10 for the Advanced Base Camp (ABC) at 6,400m/21,120ft. The reason for this extra day was to make sure that I really had recovered from my cough and from the overall weakness which I felt since the beginning of the acclimatization period. While I was able to climb 6,000m/19,800ft and 7,000m/23,100ft peaks during the last few weeks, I never felt in the shape and condition I used to be on all other of my expeditions, including my 2011 Everest climb up to 8,600m/28,380ft.

So after ten days at Base Camp, I felt mentally ready to move up. For me, it was also a test to see if this recovery period gave me back the good condition I used to be in. The first day was OK, I reached Intermediate Camp which is about 10km/6,25miles away from BC at about 5,700m/18,810ft in about five hours, which was in the limits. I spent the night there and the next day I left early for the 12km/7.5mile hike along the “Miracle Way” up to ABC. First it was OK, but as higher as I came worse it got in terms of my strength and my cough. Actually, the cough came back and last, but not least, a strong wind came up and it started snowing. Well, snow and wind is part of any mountain climbing, but the other two factors did not fit my picture in terms of climbing the highest mountain in the world… It took me almost seven hours to hike up to ABC at 6,400m/21,120ft in these conditions. My mind went forth and back to figure out what this could be. My cough was hurting me and my legs gave me signals that something is not like it should be… I used my mental strength, moved up in the snow storm and finally arrived at ABC.

Begining the long Journey - April 7 to April 16, 2013 Getting ready for ABC – Thanking Phujung for all the wonderful things he did for me during the recovery period at Base Camp!

Begining the long Journey - April 7 to April 16, 2013 Tashe, the Tibetan cook at Intermediate Camp – His wonderful food gave me new strength to move up again for a while…

Begining the long Journey - April 7 to April 16, 2013 The “Miracle Way” – Even the wonderful scenery did not give me back my strength…

I went to my tent and started to reflect. I went day for day over my physical and mental stage since we have arrived at BC about four weeks ago. What went well and what went wrong? Was it my training or preparation? The conclusion was: No, my training and preparation was OK. I was in a good shape and mentally and physically ready for the climb a few weeks before my departure. Was there any other factor that could have such long-term impact on my physical condition? Well, there was a bad cold and cough I picked up at home shortly before my departure. In fact, I had to move my flight by one week because of this very bad cold. Could there be a long term effect from this illness? Then I thought about the effort it will need to climb up to 8,000m/26,400ft and higher by remembering my 2011 climb to 8,600m/28,380ft. I tried to remember each part of the climb, the effort I did need at the time and the suffering that was evolved. I did this for a long time and finally came to the conclusion that I am no healthy enough to climb the highest mountain in the world! Maybe I could make up to 8,000m/26,400ft, and with a lot of luck to the top, but for sure not back… My Self-Awareness told me that it is time to turn back… Unlike in management, up here, in this altitude, a high and “healthy” Self-Awareness will decide over life or death… It was definitely one of my most difficult decisions, but last and not least, I remembered my most important credo: Reaching the summit is optional – Getting down healthy is mandatory.

I went to Charlie, our expedition leader, to inform him regarding my decision. One of the first things he told me was: “I can see that you are sick,” and he fully supported my decision. The next day, on May 12, I checked also with our team doctor, and he too came to the same conclusion. In fact, his diagnosis was even more specific:” Persistent viral /bacterial infection significantly reducing general condition.” He also strongly suggested that I stop the expedition at that point and that I check my blood for possible virus or bacteria as soon as I am near a hospital. Well, easily said than done, we were still at 6,400m/21,120ft, hundreds of miles away from any hospital… However, based on his diagnosis, my general weakness could have come from my very bad cold at home shortly before my departure, a possible new clue for my weak general condition during the last few weeks.

Well, at that day I had really reached a turning point, and my decision which I made already the day before was now confirmed. I packed my bags, enjoyed my last lunch with the team and wished them all the best of luck and health, looked once more back at Qomolangma and started my descend toward the Intermediate Camp. It was a long way down and my head was full of questions and thoughts. In the Intermediate Camp. Tashe, the Tibetan cook welcomed me with a warm tea and a strong soup and made me feel so much better. The next morning, after a good breakfast, I hiked down the last 10km/6.25miles to Base Camp where Phujung, our BC cook and camp manager welcomed me warmly!!! However, before I went to the kitchen, I stopped at one of the Sherpa’s “Puja” ceremony places and turned back towards Qomolangma, the “Mother Goddess of the World”, and I felt somehow that she has helped me to make my decision… a good decision, a decision which will support my health and my life!!!

Begining the long Journey - April 7 to April 16, 2013 A last look back from ABC at Qomolangma before my descend – Will I ever be back here again?

Begining the long Journey - April 7 to April 16, 2013 The last time the rocky way down the 22km/13.75miles to Base Camp – The head full of thoughts…

Begining the long Journey - April 7 to April 16, 2013 Even in difficult times there are wonderful things to see – The Kogmo bird which always made me feel good while being in the Himalayas.

Begining the long Journey - April 7 to April 16, 2013 Or why not enjoying innovation in the kitchen – Good tools can always be very handy…

Begining the long Journey - April 7 to April 16, 2013 Turning back and thanking Qomolangma the last time at the “Puja” ceremony place after having arrived safely at Base Camp!

The next day, on May 14 Phujung organized a jeep for me and on May 15 I will leave the Everest Base Camp in Tibet at 6:00am Nepali time by jeep and drive the whole day approx. 600km/375miles across the Tibetan Plateau towards the Tibetan/Nepali border. Once at the border, the complicated border crossing will start. I will have to cross the border by foot and all the heavy expedition equipment will have to be moved across the border by special designated porters. Once the formalities on both sides will be done, a four – to six-hour trip on a bumpy road towards Kathmandu will start. I remember all these facts from my former expeditions. It is never easy to enter or leave Tibet overland. Well, it will be a long day, but there will be a big reward at the end of the day: I will be able to take my first “real” shower again and sleep in a real bed after many weeks in a tent…

I will follow up with the blog once I am in Kathmandu. However, my first task there will be to check my bad cough and the potential viral or bacterial infection in a local hospital. I am sure that things will feel much better in the warm weather and at the low altitude of Kathmandu.

Begining the long Journey - April 7 to April 16, 2013 Thank you and goodbye – I know you will always be there…

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