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Kevin turns back
A few of the Project Himalaya team turned back, here is why Kevin (and Inigo) did
23 May - Kevin emails his wife
Well my Dear, good news and bad news (depending on how you look at it, of course).
The climb for me is over. I was ascending with our remaining team members back up to the North Col and was within 100ft. of that 23,000ft. elevation when I realized that I was so exhausted, and my level of stamina and strength was so drained, I knew without any doubt that I lacked the strength to make it to Camp II at 25,000ft. the next day. Imagine running a marathon every day for four days with the last day 12 to 16 hours long over difficult and dangerous terrain (plus you would be stepping over a number of corpses that remain frozen where they collapsed). While I was becoming more and more convinced that it would be wiser to turn back now instead of dying up higher, a 7 Summits Team member came down a parallel fixed line and I asked him (by leaning back on my jumar and speaking through very labored breaths) if he had summitted. Since their team is 1/2 Russian, I wasn't sure if I would get a "Da" or a "Yes". He then told me, in perfect Australian accent, that he had summitted- but the victory was marred by the death of a fellow team member.
One of his Russian Teammates had summitted, but complained of being extremely exhausted on the descent. He made it all the way down to his tent at Camp II and was sleeping on oxygen whereupon he died during the night. I'm thinking, "Yikes!, this guy had it in the bag and he still died from pushing it too hard!" It was at this point that I realized the voice of wisdom telling me that a wise man knows when to back off - especially when I knew my body was completely "out of bullets". And so, I made the difficult decision to turn around and head back to Advanced Base Camp.
Inigo from Spain had already turned back due to a debilitating cough (the kind that cracks your ribs). I was also developing a bad cough, so much so that when I made it down to the rocks on the way back to ABC I started gacking up some yellow gunk from my lungs. Then I started vomiting. The mucous coming out of my lungs was so thick I couldn't breath for a bit. Most unpleasant. This may explain my lack of energy - not getting enough O's even while breathing hard.
Well, whatever the reason, here I am at ABC with five of my remaining Teammates headed up to Camp II and the summit. My prayers are with them. I will be descending to the luxurious thick air at Base Camp tomorrow (elev. 17,000ft.)
Your Husband, Kevin
Dawa Gyalgen with Kevin;