Up at 2am again for our second “acclimatisation rotation” and next challenge – climbing to and spending the night at camp 3 (c. 7200m). 7200m would be higher than any one on the team had been to before. We set off well making good progress through the ice fall (despite some medical issues that would ultimately facilitate some weight loss…) making what remained of our camp 1 in 3.5 hours. After a quick stop to pack up the remains of camp 1 we set off for camp 2, once again sending our sherpas ahead to prepare for our assault on camp 3. We spread out a bit each making our own pace (and time for medical issues) on the relatively straight forward (but long) climb to camp. Pierre and I reconnected about half way between camp 1 and 2 stopping for a quick rest and drink. Nathalie was a little farther behind. We pushed on looking forward to an afternoon nap at camp 2 when, after about 10 mins, we heard an almighty roar. I turned to see the start of an avalanche on the side of the Western Cwm, just above where we had rested only 10 mins and about 60m ago. At first I didn’t think too much of it but just stared in awe as it seemed to grow in size and velocity. While we seemed at a safe enough distance initially we started to become quite concerned (for both ourselves and Nathalie somewhere below). Just after the pictures below were taken we were almost blown off our feet by the air pressure leading the avalanche and then covered in icy spindrift from head to toe. I knew that there hadn’t been too many people directly behind us (it was relatively late in the day to be heading to camp 2 as we we coming all the way from base camp) but we were concerned for Nathalie. Luckily, we were able to locate Nathalie relatively quickly, but a couple of people were missing. A rescue effort swung into action pretty quickly and managed to save two people who were injured but alive. Talk about a lucky escape.
Following this incident it occurred to me that somewhere along the line I had rationalised the possibility that I could die on Everest, either from being too weak or doing something totally stupid (something I had tried to minimise through training etc.). What I’m not sure I have come to terms with is the possibility of being taken out so easily by a totally random event like this avalanche (this particular area is not known for its avalanche risk)!! I guess this is the reality of climbing big mountains….
We completed the remainder of the climb to camp 2 without incident and settled in for a short rest before tackling the far more technical climb to camp 3 the following morning.