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The Adventure of Elisabeth Revol

This spring my goal was just to climb higher than 8000m, for the experience and to know what happens in thin air. It was a little frustrating not to finish climbing Everest because of weather conditions, but was such a great experience!

Makalu : Makalu was an epic 24 hours, consisting of a high-altitude summit attempt and back to BC.

An adrenaline-fuelled night of the summit push on Makalu. Full moon. Silence on a giant mountain !

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On May 9th I delayed my summit push by 24 hours because it was snowing heavily during the day. I was stuck in a tiny tent with few supplies left. My spirits were low - the window was closing and I faced the prospect of having to repeat some 2,000m of climb again. Seven of us took the decision to try the summit push alpine-style that night. We made rules - turning if it started to snow heavily or if we lost visibility. We knew that our chances were low. Soon the sun was out in C3 with glorious views of Everest and Lhotse. Immediately my spirits lifted!

We left for the summit at 10pm. We traversed the snow-laden slopes of the Makalu-La in full moonlight, feeling privileged to be alone on this enormous pyramid. I felt energized by nocturnal silence. We walked in good rhythm under the enormous moon shadow of Everest.

Arriving on French couloir at 8100m, the sun was out but the topography of this crux pitch created gusts of wind of 60km/h. I added another layer of down under my suit and tried to calm my emotions. As if by magic, the sun appeared on the horizon, lighting up majestic Everest and Lhotse. I looked around the spectacular scenery and absorbed that moment in time.

The last 200m of the climb took a few hours and were painstakingly slow. Steep technical pitches with soft windblown sugar snow. At this moment I felt that the prospect of the summit was dwindling. What before took one breath, now took five. Soon I saw a couple of figures with oxygen coming down. I shed a tear. My energy soared. We had made it to the summit ridge. We stopped a few meters off the true summit, deeming a corniced superfine ridge too fragile to cross. Our perseverance and taking a chance on the 'now-cast' had paid off. The views from the summit ridge of the world's 5th highest peak were breathtaking. The cotton wool of clouds made a floor showcasing spectacular 8,000m peaks: Kanchenjunga, Everest and chained to it the steep eastern slope of Lhotse... Emotion was really strong in that moment and I started crying.

On the way down to C3, I felt exhausted by all these efforts, and fighting with wind and coldness, I fell into my tent in C3 for a brief rest, rehydration and food before heading down another 1700m to base camp.

At BC, after a healthy portion of dal bhat, I crawled into my tent and fell into deep slumber. I could not even start reflecting on the day or the summit. I was hallucinating with a tapestry of images, so deeply tired and spent that if you were to ask me where I was I would not have an answer.

Lhotse: I spent night before the summit push of Lhotse in my tent with a superb view of Everest. 

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I left my tent late for another an oxygenless attempt at 9:30 am. The view was dominated by a superb vision of Everest with its ridge lit up fully by a myriad of climbers, flaming human ambition to get to the sky. That day on Lhotse we were just six. Two turned back, I was last. My body felt strong, like the wind ;) which strongly increased on last section. Step by step I continued to walk, concentrating on my goal. Then, just 10m below the ridge, I came into the sight of a mummified climber - features and gender unrecognisable - Mountain Hardware suit weathered; a stark reminder of the perils of being in thin air. Arriving on the summit of the 4th highest peak in the world, it was like a dream! I was so happy to do it ! But I didn’t stay for a long time because of the really strong wind. I tried to share my position and I lost one glove in the wind, so I just took one picture and turned back 30m down to be protected. 

Back to BC for 3 days to recover..

Everest : 

Dreams are not goals, goals are not dreams... This ethereal image of Everest from a picture in my room when I was young, has seeded that dream.

And still at 8,000m (on Makalu ridge…) dream-like visions of far-flung mountains have provided inspiration for my goal-setting. I fell in love again with Everest’s elegant pyramid from Makalu and Lhotse, and made a spontaneous decision to climb that beauty this spring …

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Everest 

My summit bid journey from C2 to C4 was marked by high winds reaching 70 miles an hour. You had to hold on really tight in order not to get thrown around by gusts of wind.

Arriving at C4 (Lhotse camp), I melted snow for hours and then fell into deep sleep. I had 8 hours to rest before the final summit push. Despite all talk of lost appetite, I was exceptionally hungry.

I zipped up my tent to start the climb at 9pm. It was full moon and the air was warm with no sign of bad weather to come. The climbing line up Everest was magically lit up with head torches. Below the balcony, winds started to pick up, storms and snow arrived. I added another layer of down under my suit and tried to calm my emotions. I was so frozen in the storm, there was no respite from this freezing wind. At 8500 m, each step on the steep section was a struggle.

The weather was really bad; snow, wind up to 50 miles an hour. The winds were too high for a safe summit. My heart sank. It was clear that this weather could end my summit bid.

In that moment you have lots of things in your head. I know that it is generally unsafe to stay at C4, in the 'death zone', for more than two days. Coming back down to C2 would mean needing to rest for at least three days to regain strength. I was simply running out time, given that down below, the spring was melting Khumbu icefall and the season was finishing.

But with this weather we must listen to the way of wisdom: the mountains remain! I decided to give up my dream and stay safe.

 

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