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Gavin Bate Everest 2002 Expedition

Gavin recounts summit bid: Part Four

From Everest with Love Part 4:

We moved on and the ridge was not difficult. We cut around a jumble of rock and a boulder and I didn't even think of it until Will said "That's the first step!". The first step ! I thought they were supposed to be technical sections ? That was easy ! I raised my arms to Will and I could see him grinning, he was thinking the same thing too. Now we descended a little, not much, but the ridge became narrower. At one point I looked down and to my left was a monster drop of thousands of feet down the south side of Everest and on my right the north face plummeted away to infinity. Wow. 

The second step is notorious for it's ladder, put in by the Chinese a long time ago. It's quite hard to find, so we bypassed it the first time. We actually followed a route around the base of the second step and climbed further to 8600 meters. Looking up we could see loads of abseil points and ropes where people, in order to avoid climbing down the ladder on their descent and so perhaps causing congestion, had found easier routes to come down. We were now actually above and along from the top of the Second Step if that makes sense and we could see how we had bypassed our correct point. There was also a dead body lying at the bottom of the ropes. We turned around and headed now back down towards the base of the Second Step. It wasn't hard, I knew we'd be up it in minutes and the final snow slopes would take about 45 minutes to the summit.

Then I looked behind me. Will had stopped and was bent double over, apparently scratching himself. What the hell's he up to, I thought, and waited. Some minutes later he came up very very slowly and suggested we find a place to rest for a bit and then try for the top. It was around 1pm, we had time so I said yes. We moved on a bit looking for a little resting place. There was a body lying in a really useful crevice but it was a dead Sherpa so we moved on.

We found a place soon enough, just on the Second Step itself really and Will lay down. "My knee," he said slowly, "I think it's gone". Gone ? Gone where ? I was non-plussed. "Gav, I can't really walk too much anymore, it's dislocated."

Dislocated. Dislocated knee at 8600 meters on Everest. Immediate descent. Survival. Disaster. Death. Thoughts ran through my, our, minds as the reality settled like heavy stones in our stomachs. The dead Sherpa over there died because he took a five minute rest and never woke up. Can I easily explain to you how hard it is to live, breathe and think even quarter rationally at over 27,000' ? Can I adequately explain that every single one of your body organs just doesn't work right ? Including your brain which now was trying to cope with a problem the enormity of which I can not even begin to exaggerate. 

I needed to pee. The knowledge hit me seconds too late and I struggled with five layers to, well, get it out in time. Panic completely overtook me, and I mean that sort of panic when your mental destination board flashes 'Toilet' but your body knows that it's sadly all too late and your eyes, peeled wide open like a startled deer, register simultaneous realization, resignation and humiliation. With a long drawn-out cry, hand pressed uselessly into crotch, I peed long and hand. Instantly the liquid that coursed down both legs went depressingly cold. Moving was utter dejection. "Mate," I gasped, "I just peed myself". We didn't know whether to laugh or cry. It seemed appropriate for both. 

Part one is here.

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Camp 2 at top of snow ramp, Camp 3 halfway up rock face towards top ridge at 7900m