As I was ascending to
camp 3, I passed the Chilean fellows down from their summit attempt on the
"Shield". The guy with whom I had originally spoken was rattled. He
conveyed that near the summit or a thousand feet below, there was a significant
crevasse. As his friend was belaying him, the lip broke and tons of ice
and snow fell on top of him. His friend confirmed this story as they
paused in their descent back to the moraine. The Chilean said, "I am
lucky to be alive, I am going to have 5 beers when I get back. I
shouldn't be here." I could tell from their faces, they had a harrowing
experience near the summit. Their "Shield" route intersected the "normal"
route near the summit. That is where this occurred.
Whilst sleeping in the beautiful star filled night prior to our move to camp
four through the Candaletta, there was nothing to portend any inclement weather.
As a matter of fact, I crawled from the warmth of my tent to heed the call of
nature in the frigid winter air and marveled at the most clear, star filled
evening I can remember. As I nestled back into the warmth of my cocoon
(okay, Martin's sleeping bag), I zipped up and fell quickly away to sleep.
Within two hours things changed dramatically. I awakened to the flapping of
the tent. It increased with each half hour until it felt as if the tent
would dislodge with us in it. Brian and I both awoke to make comments and
look outside. The gusts were so strong it blew snow into the tent which
was working its way through the ventilation at the top. As the night rolled into
morning, the sounds of a freight train made any sleep impossible. As
daylight filtered in through the gale, Willie had crawled over to our vestibule.
We shouted over each other and realized he was telling us that this was
definitely a time to "stay put". And stay put we did. Throughout the
morning and most of the day the wind would howl and flatten parts of the tent.
Thank goodness we had securely anchored the tent with snow anchors instead of
stakes. Our camp mates didn't fare so well. They had lost portions
of their belongings/tents in the storm. No one was moving until after
lunch when we all got so stir crazy we suited up and headed outside. The
wind would literally knock you down if you stood the wrong way. Here we
all were facing the same direction with full parkas and blizzard gear, digging
out tents and milling about for short periods of time. It was kind of cold
but inside the tent, the UV radiation made it quite tolerable.
Cooking was another matter. The MSR Reactor is the ONLY stove to have
in that situation. It is impervious to wind. Unlike the weak Jetboil
systems and high maintenance Whisperlites, the Reactor cranked consistently and
without fail as evidenced in the video below.