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Everest 2003: Charlie Wittmack
Dispatch 21


Transcribed from a satellite telephone message received on April 22, 2003 at 4:02 AM)

Thanks so much for the weather, Dad, and Happy Easter to you!  Ah, I think you can scratch the weather reports as they are not even close to accurate.  Um, let’s discontinue that, and if you have any other messages to leave me you can do it in that way.

Dispatch Base Camp 17,600 feet

Allow me to first apologize for the silence on this end for the past four days.  The immediate circumstances have required our full attention. The story begins several days ago after climbing the Lhotse Face and posting the last dispatch. While posting, we received our first weather report and were delighted with the promise of clear weather.  Relaxing over dinner, we planned our move to Camp Three and didn’t notice the building wind over our laughter and festive conversation.  With a good forecast in our minds we ignored the signs of doom as we headed off to our tents for bed.

Within a few hours the winds were gusting at speeds that I would rather not estimate and snow was blasting through the small openings in my tent zippers. Large boulders tied with line held my tent firmly in place but could not prevent the wind from occasionally sneaking under my tent and lifting me and my belongings several inches off the ground.  The storm raged through the night and by morning many of the tents in Camp Two had been destroyed.  Among the casualties were both our cook tent and dining tent and our neighbor’s $10,000 Mountain Hardware “Space Station.” 

It snowed through the day as we worked to rebuild the tents and fortify them with boulders and rocks. The following night a similar storm raged, this time breaking many of the things that survived the night before. Finding it difficult to judge in such circumstances, as the storm came and went, Chris and I both became quite ill; Chris with AMS and a good case of the “Khumbu Cough” for me. We agreed finally to head back to Base Camp the following morning.

In the wind and confusion of the storm, we couldn’t hear each other’s call and each, believing that the other had already set out, parted Camp Two in search of the other. The wind on the glacier was not bad enough to take your feet but was at a speed that made it quite difficult to breathe. We were both exhausted from spending such a long time at altitude, and the climbing, although down, was among the most challenging I had yet faced.

During the week we had spent in the high camps the lower route had change almost entirely.  Just above the entrance to the Icefall a crevasse had opened that was around 100 feet wide.  Upon reaching the entrance to the Icefall, we noticed that the [unintelligible] had also eroded.  The entrance now was composed of a series of three ladders, the first of which was made of eight, 8-foot ladders doubled up and lashed together with neither the top nor the bottom touching the ground, instead being held in place by a dubious system of ropes.

I was tracing the ropes with my eyes and checking the anchors from the top of the glacier when …

(At this point communication was lost.  When communication was reestablished a failure in recording/transcription equipment occurred so the balance of the dispatch was lost.  Efforts are being made to recapture it. In the interim, please be advised that Charlie and Chris are back safely at Base Camp.)

Dispatches

 





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