I have to say that my trip did not culminate exactly the way I had dreamed it would. Although I did not beat the mountain, the mountain did not beat me either… I was beaten by the flu.
I’ve now been back in dusty Kathmandu from the rich and clean air of the mountains for two full days. We’ve been eating well and relaxing, although Kathmandu’s oxygen rich air has played a trick on us and nearly every second of us has got some kind of a backfire flu, myself included. I hope this will pass soon, though it doesn’t matter that much down here…
The whole thing started to crumble down two days before the Baruntse summit push, but had already been dwindling for some days without me realizing. That day we were supposed to haul some gear to Baruntse Camp 1 for the summit push. It took me some 5,5h to reach the bottom of the West Col from the basecamp and I was totally exhausted. Something was wrong, but I was so delirious that I didn’t notice. I stashed some of my gear into the snow and started heading back down, following my mates Mia and Dave. Halfway, there was a stash tent for crampons and so on, and the moment we reached the tent I knew I had to take a little rest there. The daylight was waning and I was tired. Mia and Dave both continued descending because none of us had a headlamp with us (which was very stupid) and I could not have kept to their pace. I had to wait there for the next person to come by and accompany me to get back to the basecamp.
It took 30 to 45 minutes (it is hard to say how long a time passed) until Andy and Viv arrived. I explained the situation to them and started heading down on my own as I could still see something without the headlamp, and told them to catch me in a while. I actually managed to get quite close to the basecamp before they caught me. There was also some kitchen staff with juice, who the others had told to come and meet us. Then we descended in one line to the camp, but the last bit took a good while, as we had to navigate in the dark and there are many wandering paths near the basecamp. Eventually we reached the camp at 7pm after being on the supposedly “short” trip for 9 hours. We arrived just a few minutes before our expedition leader Arnold, who did the sweep that returned everybody tailing to the camp. His words “oh god”, after he heard when we had arrived, says it all…
The next day was no better. In the morning I came up with a wild idea to check if I had some fever. It was 37,2 in the morning. No biggie. But then it was 37,6 in the afternoon and 38,2 just before dinner. F**k. I knew that this is something you should NOT have at 5300m. I pondered on it for a moment and then said to Arnold that I was not going up the following day. He said “good” and some other comforting words, told me to rest for a day and join the others later on. Yeah. I’ll do that. The next day almost everybody (only three of us stayed at the basecamp) left for the summit. It was quite hard to watch that and say farewells to everybody and not go with them. Then…. the following day. I felt like shit. Headache, still some fever and all my sinuses and chest ached. I knew I had something more than just a flu and I started taking antibiotics for it. And then it hit me that this thing is now over.
The process of me mentally getting over the fact that summiting Baruntse was not going to happen nor would I even be able to give it a try, took a few days, a few tears, a few cries and a phone call to my wife who had 100 per cent faith that I would still get to the summit. But no… it was over for me. I had to get myself back into good enough condition to tackle the rest of the trip, as we still had a week more to go and half of the trekking to do, and also would had to cross the difficult Amphu Laptsa pass.
I had some time to think things over and figured, as I started going through all the symptoms I’d had, that I had probably been ill all the way from Mera Peak high camp. Back then, I had been thinking that “yeah, it’s just the altitude”, and Arnold was saying the same, but now I knew better. It was not the altitude but a freaking flu that had been cracking me up. I have a notorious habit of having fever without noticing it. Some people can’t get out of the bed if they have a 38 degree fever, but I don’t necessarily even notice the whole thing until it has eaten me up – just like this time. But I will not blame my unsuccessfulness on Baruntse solely on my illness. No, I’m quite sure now that even without being ill I would not have been able to summit. It was just too hard. The route was tough and only the strongest 7 out of our 16-person group eventually made it. Could I have done it without my climbing accident in August, I cannot say, but I’m not going speculate about that.
All in all, I am not unsatisfied with the trip. I have been on the longest trek of my life, reached higher than I’ve ever been to, seen some spectacular landscape, and spent time with some truly amazing people. No, I don’t think I have lost much here. On the contrary I might have even gained a lot as I now have some priceless knowledge of myself and the high altitude. And as they say… the mountains will always be there. My hunger for heights has not diminished but this trip has only made me yearn for more. I also don’t think this was my last trip to Nepal. In my guts I know that I will be back.
This will be my last post before I reach home after a two-week-trip to India.You can read about the progress of that part of the trip from our travel blog, but it is in Finnish only. I will write a post to cover the whole Mera Peak and Baruntse trip, but that might take a while.