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Descent, November 21st 2017

Today started as the sun illuminated our tent and even though all four of us were still crammed inside, we all slept better from the physical exertion of the summit bid. To my surprise I was able to call Lauren from camp 2 on regular cell service and even though it was a little broken up, it was good to hear her voice. After a quick Mountain House breakfast we packed everything up and slowly made our way down towards camp 1. All the long rappels were welcome because now we get to enjoy the scenery and descent on the faces that we were climbing before, and it is just a great section of rock even with heavy packs.

Just before camp 1 we met up with Wayne who left at 5 am to hike to camp 1 with an empty backpack to help us take some of the gear down. He wanted to continue on past camp 1 and try out all the rock sections we all talked about, but he continued the descent with the rest of us. I was super tired coming into camp 1 and due to time and snow I️ only had 1.5 liters of water for the whole descent, with all the added supplements (tailwind & Spring gels) I made it work. We packed up camp 1 and continued on down through the cursed boulder field with even bigger packs now. We all hate the boulder field just below camp 1 because there is no clear path through even though there are plenty of cairns, we constantly run into dead ends. So for the better part of an hour you are climbing and leaping and skirting huge boulders and scree that move and tilt as you step on them and constantly keep you on your toes and alert. After we passed the boulder field and approached Yak camp the wind picked up in a big way and we were dealing with 40-50 mph gusts that would make our big packs act like a sail and push us from side to side as we continued down. Once we got off the ridge the wind subsided and we were able to hike the rest of the way down without issue.

It was a bittersweet feeling coming down knowing that I will likely never cross these paths again. We climbed the more difficult “purist” way, without Sherpa support, and it took its toll on us. One part of me was happy that it was the last time I would be treading these paths and hauling these heavy loads. But there was another part of me that was almost sad knowing that the climb was over.

When we arrived back at base camp we were welcomed by Chandra and Dill and a perfect cup of hot lemon and ginger tea. We all threw our packs down (which we had been fantasizing about for the past 9 hours) and gathered in for a lengthy, smelly and well deserved group hug! It was the perfect way to end an almost perfectly epic climb. A few minutes later there was a woman from the next camp over who told us that she had been watching our climb through a telescope and was happy to see us down safe amongst all the helicopters flying to and fro. She had a lot of questions because she was planning to summit on the 23rd, so I imagine we haven’t seen the last of her. Dinner was amazing with delicious spaghetti, tomato noodle soup, fried potato wedges and some tasty rice. We sat and chatted a while after dinner as one by one we succumbed to sleep and made our way to our tent for a well deserved rest.

As soon as I walked up to my tent one of the dogs was there thumping his tail on the ground happy to see me, it put a grin on my face and was a welcome site.