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Altitude sickness up close and personal
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Apr 13, 2007 10: 23 EST
Over a year ago someone asked me if I’d ever climb Everest. A complicated answer; most important is that I have no burning desire to summit the worlds’ highest mountain. Like other huge undertakings in life, I’ve always believed that you really have to want it to make something as big as climbing Everest remotely possible. That being said, I’ve come under her spell for sure, and seeing more and more of this amazing mountain has occupied more than the occasional thought.

This year I decided to try to make it happen – I’ve always dreamed of walking through the western cwm, seeing the route to Everest open up. I was lucky enough to be placed on a permit, and after helping Drs Suzanne and Ola get the clinic set up, my sights turned up – toward camp 2. After several training forays into the icefall, I felt ready for the challenge, and yesterday I took off with my able Sherpa guide. The trip to camp 1 was gorgeous – ice arches, bridges, cerulean blue ice sculptures almost made me linger longer than safely allowed. The trip was also physically exhausting, but I began to suspect AMS problems with my new 6150m altitude when a cracking headache and nausea set in. Symptoms worsened overnight and a pulse oximeter reading of 58% this morning made me elect to say goodbye to the cwm and descend as soon as possible (see links for AMS and HAPE to left.) Although the trip back through the icefall was uncomfortable, it was the right thing to do for me. I returned to find several puja celebrations in full bore, happy to be safe and sound in basecamp and grateful for the careful attention given me by my Sherpa guide.

Photo of an ice arch passage high in the icefall.
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