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Martine's Dispatches
Martine's Route Coverage of Martine Larroque's Everest 2002 Expedition

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What happened on May 16th: 

Since the start, I had no doubt that I would reach the top of the world, I felt strong at all times, my spirits were high, everything seemed in my favour.

But what happened on May 16th?

Let's go back a few days: May 11th

I decided it was best for me to follow the Swiss Expedition's schedule, Tashi and Apa had recommended that I leave the same day as them. Apa, Tashi, Lapka (my great Ssherpa), Pemba Dorma (The second Nepalese woman to have climbed Everest both sides) were climbing together to Camp 2. It was a great, sunny day, the sun was burning our skin.

May 12th

Rest day at Camp 2, it was all about sleeping and eating, ,my appetite never affected by the altitude, I have not lost any weight.

May 13th

Heading to Camp 3, Sean was behind me and did not feel too well, he has only one and half lung left after a surgery. All along we gave support to each other. We spent the night at Camp 3.

May 14th

Before leaving for Camp 4, I went to check on Sean, wanting to make sure he was fine. It is at this point that I started using Oxygen, at first, I felt like I was suffocating, I could not breathe in the mask, Lapka helped me to fix my mask and have me more comfortable with it. We had to cross the Yellow Band, with the oxygen it took long and it was very tiring. We passed the Geneva Spur, the view was stunning, I arrived at Camp 4, exhausted and worn out. At 21.30, a storm started, our summit bid got delayed by a day, I was glad to spend a full night sleep and rest.

May 15th

The storm had stopped, the day was sunny again, some of the Sharps went to fix ropes under the Balcony. The day went by with relaxing, talking, exchanging views... 21.00, I started getting ready for the summit, I felt OK but not great, with Lapka's help I fixed my crampons, it is incredible to realize how slow we become at this altitude. I saw a line of lights taking the direction of the Balcony, I was breathing quite fast in my mask and started to cough, after every spell of cough it took me a while to return to my normal breathing pattern, again I felt like I was suffocating. I quickly started getting tired, I had stomach cramps, my energy was low.

As I was slowly climbing, I was talking to myself, giving encouragements, come on Martine you can make it, look up, the summit is right there over your head. I looked behind me and saw a long, slow line of lights, everyone was so tired, I concentrated on putting a foot in front one at a time, at this point, climbers started to overtake me, I was becoming extremely slow. I just kept on pushing myself up, I just had the top in my mind, upon reaching the Balcony, I did not have any energy left, I was so totally drained, I coughed so much that I started serious vomiting, that was a bad sign. By then, I decided I had to turn back down, Lapka was sad for me but agreed and thought it was a very brave decision from my part.

By 4.30 PM we had reached back South Col, I run into my tent, unable to hold my tears anymore. At 20.00, we decided to descend to Camp 2, my condition was so bad that it was necessary and urgent that I return to lower altitude. It was such a long way for me to cover in my state, by then, I had also heard that 60 climbers had made it to the top, among whom, my friends from the Swiss Expedition, Sean and Pemba Dorma the Sherpani. Once I reached Camp 2, Apa came to me and tried to comforted me as  I was still crying, Apa you are my Hero and inspiration.

May 17th

Back to Base Camp after having done the descent along with Pemba, Tashi and Jean Troillet. The Khumbu Icefall was so dangerous, it took us three hours to go through it, while praying that a block of ice would not crush us, this is the most dangerous passage on Everest. Once at Base Camp, it hit me to see how difficult it was for me to accept my defeat, Apa told me that I had made the climb to high altitude, had passed the Lhotse Face, Makalu Cho Oyu...and that I should on the contrary be very proud of myself.

Time for celebration started for all those who had made it.

Anyway, Mount Everest will always be there, it is Apa's world, I will make it another time, yes, I will come back! I will still use the oxygen which is some sort of cheat, without it no more than 2 or 3 climbers would make it to the top. I bow to all the Sherpas, without their help, assistance, care none of us would succeed.

Mount Everest has taught me so many things and I am thankful for that, to have spent two months with the Sherpa people, share their laugh and pain was an immense pleasure. Thank you all, Lapka and all the team, Pemba Dorma for her friendship, Apa Sherpa for his help and precious moments of laughter, Tashi Tenzing for his warmth and support, the Swiss Expedition who have so kindly accepted me among them.

Laura Alexandrou for her support during my expedition, Francoise Harris, Marie-Anne Benedetti, Serge Kotovsky, Dominique and Joachim, my bank for being my main sponsor, my parents who have prayed for my safe return.

See you soon at the top.


Martine Larroque on Everest Spring 20002

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