21st May 2022 – Standing on the top of the World: Mount Everest, Sagarmatha, Chomolungma
There are no words for how I felt about my 2-month expedition to summit Mount Everest. After spending New Year’s in Senegal I traveled back to Kenya in January 2022 and stayed there the next 3 months to train, which actually looked like this: rock climbing twice a week and, the rest of the time, running with one of the greatest national athletic teams of Kenya. It was such an honour to train in the same team with Olympians and winners of championships.
But let me tell you, please please, if you ever consider climbing Mount Everest, running is not enough. I trained quite well to get better with my time, but then I got an injury again on my left leg, was frustrated and shifted my training mostly to cycling and running (if I didn‘t know better, it sounds more like I am preparing myself for a triathlon).
That was most of my training and preparation for Mount Everest. But I do NOT recommend this training for anyone; many people train 1-3 years for Mount Everest. I felt on my expedition that I didn‘t train enough, not too bad, but I felt it. Chomolungma has been a dream of mine, a dream to stand for a moment on top of this world. Knowing nothing is above you except God and the universe, it was a moment I wanted to experience before I died. And I can promise you, from my point of view, the hardship and some of the sufferings I endured on this expedition: I would do it again just to stand on the summit of Everest and experience that moment and feeling again.
Meeting the team – Hello Kathmandu
Going from Kenya to Kathmandu wasn‘t a big change. Kathmandu was dustier than Nairobi, louder, crazier traffic. I landed in Kathmandu on 6th April 2022 in the evening, quite exhausted but still had the energy to run around at the airport. I met the first team member, Adam, full of energy, a lovely and crazy personality to hang around with. We waited more than an hour for the third person, just to find out he already took a scam taxi to our hotel. We were probably the last members to arrive. Later I dined at “Mitho Restaurant“ in Thamel, next to me was Alex, the guy we waited for more than an hour at the airport.
The next day we had a meeting with the team. Billi Bierling came, and we filled out surveys for the Himalayan Database. Billi is also a great inspiration to me, since she was the German woman to climb Everest and also descended safely.
The Himalayan database was established by Elizabeth Hawley, the so-called famous “Sherlock Holmes of the Himalayas“. Her very detailed mountaineering records are summarized up to date in The Himalayan Database for climbs in the Nepalese Himalayas. It is used as a record of successful ascents and fatality rates, for climbers in the Nepal Himalaya.
According to science, Mount Everest is growing every year by 1mm due to the Indian’s continental plate tunneling below and therefore lifting the Himalayan range.
Names of Mount Everest
Personally, I don’t agree with the name. The name was given in 1865 by the UK’s Royal Geographic Society. Locals had given “Mount Everest” its name way before it was discovered by the British. Countries have their own right to rename their landmarks. Therefore in 2015 Mount McKinley (highest mountain in North America and one of the Seven Summits) was renamed back to the original Athabaskan name “Denali”. Denali is on my list to climb; even though I am not sure yet if I really want to climb all of the Seven Summits.
Chomolungma, Qomolangma, and Quomolungma, are all translated as “Goddess Mother of the World.” In the Sherpa language, it is spelled as Chomolungma. I will use this version in this post, also because I spent most of my time with the Sherpas. Later in 1956 Hindu rulers in Nepal gave it the name Sagarmatha, translated as “the Head of the Earth touching the Heaven”, because the Sherpa/Tibetan name was unacceptable for them.
Back to the Kathmandu chapter. All the team members and Sherpas I met were incredibly friendly and sweet. I really thought I couldn’t get a better team – which was true until the end. Everyone is very interesting and somehow weird (I reckon you have to be to climb Mt. Everest, me included), but a wonderful team.
The next day I was in Thamel to rent all the stuff needed like my down suit, boots to use after Everest Base Camp (which are quite big, bulky and heavy to keep your feet warm), climbing gears and so much more. I felt kind of stressed out, while everyone was having more or less a rest day, many of them arrived earlier anyway. Most people bought more snacks. I didn’t because I thought my snacks were enough (also not true in hindsight).
Trying to leave KTM
The next morning we went early to the airport just to wait there half of the day and came back to Thamel, unknown if we could leave Kathmandu tomorrow due to cloudy weather. Once more, you can’t bend nature, but you need heaps of patience for and in the mountains, which I totally do not possess (everyone knows I am the most impatient person maybe ever lived on this planet). Next morning I woke up and found out that three of our team members left early with a helicopter and started the trek earlier. One member took the jeep to Lukla.
And how does the rest of the team get to Lukla, approximately 2800m? The town Lukla is basically the initial starting trek point to Everest Base Camp, which became my home for weeks. We took a ride with 2 cars and the rest of the team drove all day long. I forgot the name of that town we ended up in, but from there we could finally fly out to Lukla the next morning.
Welcome to Lukla (2800m) to Phakding (2610m)
We had to split for our group in half for the flight. I was with the first group, and unfortunately the second group stayed behind in the little town, unknown if they would make it to Lukla. The first group waited a long time in Lukla till the second group finally (and completely exhausted and relieved) arrived. Then we started our trek to Phakding, quite easy because we were somehow going down instead of up.
I had so much fun “running” down the trails and arrived full of energy in Phakding in our little teahouse which was one of my personal highlights on the treks—sitting close to the fire in the evening in the huge dining room of the teahouses, warming myself up or trying to beat my teammate Erik in chess, which I never did unfortunately. It felt so comfortable, and you got to know the Sherpas and your teammates better. It was like growing deeper with connections, and somehow feels like being around your family at the end of the day. Everyone hiked in little groups and at different pace. I usually was alone and by myself up to Basecamp.
Sagarmatha National Park and Namche Bazaar (3440m)
The next day we entered the Sagarmatha National Park and everyone had to show their permits for the EBC trek or for Mount Everest. The way up to Namche Bazaar took a while, since we descended first from Lukla to Phakding, and we were now going all the way up to Namche. When sailors are crossing the Atlantic Ocean they usually stop in Horta on the Azores. There is a small coffee shop where everyone meets before or after crossing their journey.
It is similar to Namche, but just the climber version. The town was the best place to take a rest. Tt has everything I liked: Cute little coffee shops to dwell time, the best food and cakes probably on my whole trek, massages, and great people to hang around. All the comfort on a high level before you go higher and the infrastructure gets less and less. We spent 2 nights in Namche and did acclimatization hike to Everest View Hotel (3800m). The time in Namche was crucial to me, and I came back two more times.
Tengboche (3867m) and Pangboche (3930m)
I arrived after 2 hours of hiking in Tengboche. And because I had to wait for the rest of the group for the next 1-2 hours I decided to make friends with the monks of the very famous Tengboche monastery. It was such an incredible experience to be there.
One of the monks showed me around, and we ate together Dhal Bhat (a national dish which I felt disgusted by much later on). I got blessed, and for each of the team members, I got a blessed bracelet from the monastery.
I arrived quite early in Pangboche and met, for the first time, Zac, a British team member who had the same pace as me going to the basecamp and with whom I enjoyed talking with quite a lot. Also the person who was helping me throw away my disgusting vomit while I was basically dead lying in my tiny tent in basecamp.
In Pangboche we stayed for the night, and I could feel it is getting colder. I was planning in the morning to walk at 5am to the Ama Dablam Basecamp. And I failed somehow because I didn’t sleep that night, also it was my own fault. Moreover, I was too lazy to get my sleeping bag out of my duffle bag. The morning we had breakfast at 7am or 8am as usual and then started hiking.
The next day we were hiking to Dingboche. If you read lots of my hiking stories on this blog you will know how often I got myself in danger just because I somehow have a bad sense of orientation. So, I got lost (just to make a few examples) when I was hiking by myself in Drakensberg, South Africa or the Vitosha Mountains in Sofia, Bulgaria.
On the way to Dingboche I missed the junction and ended up in a very small town called Pheriche. I had to climb over the huge hill to get on the other side to arrive in Dingboche. It was my fault, but the signs were not really obvious. The junction to Pheriche and Dingboche kind of showed the wrong directions, or maybe I was unconsciously seeking for more adventures than I initially thought. Dingboche was also a great place to stay, we went out to cafes to eat self-baked cakes and chilled. The next day we did another acclimatization hike to Nangkartshang (approximately 5000m). This was quite an easy hike to run up the hill and down again.
I am leaving my comfort zone more and more. Landscape gets scarcer of green and lush colours. You see more rocks and dryness while hiking from such a green landscape in Lukla to Dingboche, with many high and long man-made steel bridges to cross some rivers (really not fun for people with vertigo). When we looked down, our team became giddy. In Lobuche I enjoyed my last night in a normal bed, about to live in a tent for the next countless nights in the freaking cold weather. Just because I am neither fond of cold nor hot and humid weather. That’s why living in Nairobi is kind of ideal with its moderate weather all year round.
Everest Base Camp (5364m)
And here we go: EBC!! For some of our members, it was the final destination. For me—a sad goodbye to a few members we spent time with over the 2 weeks we had been trekking up to EBC. Goodbyes are never easy, especially me saying goodbye to the only other female member of the team: Samantha. I had shared my room in the teahouses with Sam, and now I felt extremely down that she was leaving.
The first night I had a hard time sleeping in the tent. Also I had only 2 thin mattresses and a small inflatable mattress which I had brought with me to sleep on.
Almost everyone was sleeping on thick mattresses and not dealing with the stones and uneven underground like I did. Yes I was too stingy to buy myself some thick mattresses to sleep on, and I thought why not try the harder way. But one thing is extremely important being on a 2-month Everest expedition: Sleep and recovery. Not only did I have a bad sleep, but I could hardly breathe during the night, it was hard. One could feel the altitude. My symptom of altitude sickness I guess was bad sleep. Starting from 5000m I never slept well. But I also have very low body-fat, maybe that is the other reason. I freeze most of the time, even with my down sleeping bag.
Kala Patthar ( approximately 5500m)
Despite my sleepless first night at EBC I decided as the only person of the team to do an acclimatization hike to Kala Patthar the next morning. Therefore I needed to hike down to Gorak Shep (1-2 hours) and then hike up again. All in all, a great and fast ascend and descend. I came back to EBC with Dan Mazur (expedition leader) later in the evening. I was exhausted, but I still felt good.
The next day, boom! Being sluggish and extremely tired, my nose started to run, and I felt extremely sick. I couldn’t eat anymore and even vomited my lunch. To my misfortune I couldn’t leave my tent and had to call Zac. By the way I vomited in my pee bottle, another difficult topic to talk about or write about.
Zac, helping me more than a friend could have asked for, took my pee bottle full of my vomit. HE went to our poop tent and threw it away. The worst smell ever! The whole day I stayed mostly in my tent feeling sick out of nowhere.
Pumori Advanced Base Camp (6000m)
The next day after my sudden sickness the team went on another acclimatization hike. Initially I still felt like somebody almost killed me. I am usually fit as a fiddle, and I am rarely sick. But even though I took a full day rest the day before, my body was not physically ready for that hike. I wanted to go, because everyone went, but then Zac decided to stay back with me because he knew that I would have pushed myself just because everyone went for that hike.
They finished their hike and came back at noon time. I told Dan I want to go the following day. A night more in basecamp, I didn’t sleep very well. Shockingly my Garmin watch showed me a resting heart rate of 100-110, which is very unusual to me (in comparison my resting heart rate at sea level is 45-50 per minute). But my decision was done: I will hike up! There were a few more members who also didn’t go the day before and wanted to join the trek to Pumori Advanced Base Camp.
The view from Pumori ABC on that day was just stunning, clear skies and a view of Everest and Lhotse and some of our camps. For the first time, I had a hard time hiking up due to my sickness, even though it had just started. Every step up was very tiring, and I could not run the pace I did before from Lukla to EBC. I knew it must be something serious.
Life at the Everest Base Camp
I am trying my best to give you a picture of our daily life at EBC. We got breakfast, usually at 8 am), Lunch (12- 1pm) and dinner (6 or 7 pm) everyday provided by the Base Camp kitchen team. I requested gluten-free and vegetarian food. Hence my food was always different from the others. Mostly, they would do rice, potatoes and delicious egg dishes for me like omelets or fried eggs. Dhal Bhat — we got quite often. This Nepalese/Tibetan dish can be seen being eaten by the locals literally every day – similar to the Kenyans and their Ugali (maize meal mixed with water, which doesn’t have any flavour but just to fill your stomach).
At first, I was searching crazily in Kathmandu for local dhal bhat, but everyone told me not to eat the local food on the street. Dhal Bhat is a dish consisting of rice, a watery dhal made of green lentils, some veggies and a kind of cracker. When they cooked it for me on the trek to EBC and the first week in EBC, I loved it. Later I got sick of it. I ate too much Dhal Bhat.
I ate it once more when I was very sick in Camp 2 and vomited. Since then I had a serious divorce with my lovely Dhal Bhat. Isn’t it like a marriage though? First you can’t get enough of it until later, you can’t even look at it anymore haha.
Another topic to write about is the hygiene situation on a long mountain expedition. Basically it is nonexistent. We had two poop tents (one worse than the other), in which all of us did number two. One pee tent and one shower tent (next to each other). I took showers only on warm days around noon, which was like every two or three days. Basically I asked our amazing kitchen staff for two buckets with hot water and a cup. I took my shower quickly in this tent and was always happy when I managed to wash my hair. I think many of the guys used baby wipes to “wash” themselves.
During the day I visited other camps. EBC was like a little village. Full of tents of all the expeditions, and each had their own place and sections. Some even had helipads for the choppers. I talked to a few people and we even had a medical station with wonderful local and foreign doctors (Dr. Ellen always took great care of me when I had one of the worst, maybe even the worst, cough of my life).
Others were washing their clothes, spending time on their phones as you could connect via Everest Link and use the internet at EBC. Or just classic: Reading. We spent most of the time together in the dining tent drinking hot beverages, talking or playing card games. There were two dining tents (one for the climbers and one for the Sherpas. I was a little bit sad we kind of got separated) and one huge cooking tent.
How to Pee?
As nights drew on, I always felt lazy to brush my teeth and to even clean my face and go back into my tiny cold tent to sleep in my sleeping bag, which also didn’t keep me warm.
All in all I didn’t like the nights. After dinner sometimes they would watch a movie in the dining tent. Actually, I never attended one. I’m like a grandma always going to sleep early at 8 or 9 pm. Now another issue I had was my peeing situation during the night—one of the few issues I couldn’t really share and talk much with the guys. My problem was I just couldn’t take a normal bottle to pee inside (the boys used a Nalgene drinking bottle).
I literally used a plastic Strepsils jar from the pharmacy that they had given to me with a volume of at least 2 litres to pee inside. It was always a hell of a struggle and dilemma to drink at least 3-4 litres per day and then to wake up 3 or 4 times at night. I had to get out of my sleeping bag and pee into this Strepsils jar like a chamber pot. No wonder I never had a good sleep. To avoid headaches at this altitude you need to drink lots of water. But on the other side I paid for it with many sleepless nights, which is more than needed for a recovery.
In the morning I always go first to the poo tent. When you zipper the tent to open; the smell certainly kills you. It’s like a squat toilet used by more than 10 people, so imagine that.
But somehow the day always passed by fast until we did our first rotation.
Or until the time when I got worse and was miserable.
Puja at EBC
During a Puja from a Lama at the Base Camp, we had to bring some of our gear, and then he blessed the expedition and its team members in a spiritual ceremony. None of the Sherpas nor I would go up to Chomolungma without a Puja.
This ceremony always happens. We ask the gods for permission to climb and to make contact with divine Sagamartha. A large cairn is constructed with long strands of prayer flags, each directed in all different points of the compass for good luck. At the end we tossed Tsampa flour, a staple of the Tibetan diet, in the air for good luck. It is spread on the faces of the team and Sherpa.
First Rotation Up To Camp 3 (7200m)
The Khumbu Icefall
Every year the ice doctors fix ladders and all safety ropes in the Khumbu Icefall so that all the teams and their members can pass the Khumbu Icefall more or less safely. Let’s say I was more than unprepared. I wanted to be surprised and didn’t want to read about the infamous Khumbu Icefall.
From Everest Base Camp, the Khumbu Glacier rapidly recedes. It is a 4-kilometre (approximately 2.5-mile) long icefall. The Khumbu Icefall is considered to be the most dangerous path to the summit. It is estimated to move from 0.9 metres to 1.2 metres (3 to 4 feet) down the mountain each day. It opens crevasses and causes seracs – massive ice towers – to fall. These seracs range from the size of a refrigerator to a big house.
The sunlight warms the area. An ice-melt causes friction within the structure to decline, which increases the rate of flow and opening crevasses, and ice-blocks or seracs could collapse. Due to its danger of melting we started to cross the icefall at 2 am in the morning.
Hardships in the Icefall
First of all my headlamp did not work well, I used my camping headlamp instead of my Black Diamond Mountain headlamp, which I later gifted to Gyalje, my friend and Sherpa. Gyalje helped me to carry my sleeping bag, down suit and down jacket up to camp 2 (6400m). If I had carried it by myself, it would have taken more than 12 hours to pass this icefall, which you really want to avoid. Anyway, it was a hell of craziness. I have never done so much technical ice climbing in my life, crossing ladders over crevasses so deep I also have never seen before. The worst were some gaps in the crevasses which they didn’t fix a ladder. Therefore you have to jump from one side to the other. Since I am not the tallest person nor do I have the longest legs, I was intimidated.
Some of the gaps are quite large. I was so scared to fall down. It was just unbelievably exhausting with the vertical climbs on the ice walls and the use of the ascender. I might have speed, but my shoulders and arms are so weak. I really felt the ice climbing was endless. After 9 hours I arrived with some of the team members at camp one (6000m).
The Khumbu Icefall was just a beast. Ice climbing was just one of the difficult issues to mention. But the worst was my cough. It all started in the Khumbu Icefall. I guess due to my sickness just before and now going through the icefall, breathing in cold and dry air was irritating my lungs to a new level. Every time there was a queue at one of the ice walls we had to climb, I coughed non-stop. I basically coughed for 9 hours in the icefall. I really didn’t know that a cough would knock me down so badly on my first rotation.
Camp 1 (6100m)
Arriving in Camp 1 I got into my tent and didn’t move anymore. I was so exhausted. Our friend and member Zac from the US (we had two Zacs) came, and he helped me get out of my summit boots. These boots are so heavy and have basically 3 layers. I could barely get out of my boots. The liners of the boots were disgustingly sweaty and stinky, I had to dry them in my tent. As if exhaustion was not enough, I had to smell my own stinky socks in my sleeping tent. If I would have known what a luxury EBC was!
Now we had a terrace to do number two. You had to walk there, and it is a long terrace in the snow where everyone goes. I got lazier to drink more water, but luckily I didn’t have a headache like most of the other members. In camp 1 you usually share a tent with another person.
First meal of arrival in Camp 1: Instant noodles. We stayed there for 3 nights, and it was not fun at all. After the second night I woke up with fever, more coughing, and my limbs were extremely tired. I even thought I had COVID; but because I never tested myself I don’t know what it was. Now the real adventure really starts. For the next 3-4 days I was isolating myself from the others not to be contagious to anyone.
Camp 2 (6400m)
I am basically at the Western Cwm now. It is more or less a broad glacial valley basin terminating at the foot of the Lhotse Face of Mount Everest. It is actually also called the “Western Barbecue”. The snow-covered, bowl-shaped slopes reflect and amplify the solar radiation and warm up the valley basin despite the high elevation of above 6000m or 20000ft.
During our stay in camp 1 we would go to camp 2 to acclimatize and then descend to camp 1 again in a day. Obviously, my health was struggling. Therefore I stayed in Camp 1 during our 3 nights, 4 days and didn’t try the acclimatization day hike. After 3 nights of feeling horrible at Camp 1 I walked up to camp 2. Camp 1 to Camp 2 is quite easy (considering the Khumbu icefall and then later camp 2 to 3 and up to South Col/ Camp 4). I arrived in Camp 2 and tried to pick a good tent amongst all the uneven-grounded tents which were provided to us.
Camp 2 is similar to EBC, here we had a rustic dining tent, staff kitchen cooking for us and also a Poo tent (not better at EBC). Actually I had nightmares thinking of Camp 2. We slept 4 or even 5 nights at Camp 2. At the beginning, it seemed, I got better. I even visited the other camps and tents of the neighbouring expeditions. Then I learned that this year, there is a woman who wants to summit as the first Vietnamese woman and a Kenyan who aims to be the first Kenyan ever on the summit. Super exciting!
Camp 3 (7200m)
If you don’t know why we do this first rotation: It is more or less all about acclimatization. To aim for a successful summit on Mount Everest, all teams of all expeditions go for at least one rotation. Other teams do even two rotations. Our first rotation plan was to hit Camp 3 and sleep there one night. But only 4 of our team members were sleeping one night at camp 3.
I myself never made it to Camp 3 on my first rotation. I only hit the Bergschrund and Lhotse face and had to realize if I would have continued to Camp 3 I might have killed myself. Due to my sickness, every step was just painful, and it just got worse when I tried to climb up the Lhotse face, hence I decided to return. God knows what kind of disease I had (bronchitis?, Khumbu Cough? Covid?). I was quite relieved to see many of our members also didn’t make it to Camp 3 on the first rotation. As far as I remember only 6 of our team made it up there (4 of them sleeping one night in Camp 3).
I made it back down to Camp 2, was disappointed about myself, but I knew my body would just not make it and that I would endanger myself. It was a wise decision to return earlier.
Back to Camp 2 (6400m)
The next morning I was seriously exhausted and wearily drained. Again God knows what it was, but I literally couldn’t even move in my own tent. It was the only single day during the whole expedition that I did not leave the tent. I could not even wake up, but lay down on my thin mattresses and felt spaced out and not being able to think clearly. Food and water were brought by Galjye or Adam. But to be honest, I was not able to eat any of the food and even vomited. I completely lost my appetite and could not eat for the whole day. The glacier water the kitchen team melted and boiled was just at this point wretched to drink.
I had so many problems with drinking and eating that I thought I wouldn’t survive there nor be able to descend to EBC. Unfortunately, I was not the only one having strong coughs and getting sick. It felt like a bunch of the team members were very sick. But I don’t think anyone was as weak as me, not being able to leave the tent for a whole day.
Back to Everest Base Camp (5364m)
“David, do I have to go down today to EBC?”, I asked David after another horrible night at camp 2. David is our second expedition leader who would summit with us.
“Hong, you shall go down today and not stay one more night at Camp 2. You will not recover here at all”.
How lousy. The day before I could not leave my tent, let alone moving in the tent but lie around like a corpse, and now in less than half an hour, I had to pack my stuff and hike down to EBC.
I felt terrible, not able to move much– and to think about crossing with my strong cough (now I’m sure it was the worst cough I ever had) this nightmare of the Khumbu Icefall again. I packed. Galjye and Wanju went down together with me, and it took me 9 hours from Camp 2 to EBC. David even suggested I get a rescue helicopter down to EBC. But I refused. Just to compare the second time when I went from Camp 2 to EBC, it took only 4 hours; and I was more or less fit again.
It must be so difficult for the two Sherpas to go at such a slow pace with me on that day. I don’t even remember anymore how I survived going down when I was extremely sick. Every step was a pain of incredible weariness on that day.
First Rotation of acclimatization finished, unfortunately with me having a painful infinite cough and nose running. Arriving back to Basecamp I decided to leave as soon as possible to recover in Namche before going to the final Summit window.
Back to Namche Bazaar (3440m) – Recovery time
No way could I have recovered at Base Camp. I needed to go down and recover as soon as possible before I went for the final summit push. In Namche Bazaar I stayed for 8 or 9 days until we were called back for the final summit. Almost every one of us took a helicopter or trekked down to Namche to take a rest. 4 of our team members decided after the first rotation to fly home.
In Namche I stayed at Khumbu Lodge like almost all the members, and I tried my best to recover. For the first time in life I took all kinds of medicine I would never take, if it wouldn’t be as urgent and important as the situation required. I took Paracetamol and Ibuprofen (my ribs literally hurt from too much coughing). Then I took Azithromycin (very strong antibiotics), coughing syrup (whatever it was, it helped me). I pumped my body with all kinds of medicine that could help me to recover as soon as possible.
I was stressed out and nervous that I would be fit enough when we leave Namche in one week. The owner of Khumbu Lodge helped me every day, giving me a turmeric tea and a steam bath for my nose. Not only did I have the worst cough of my life but also terrible runny nose and, on top of that, bad sunburn on my face, especially my nose, from the first rotation – probably from when I was walking in the western barbecue.
David later announced that there is a perfect weather window for the 15th and 16th of May for our first group to attempt. Two of our members then left Namche and went on their first summit push! Congrats! – Both of them made it to the top. One of them needed two attempts though. Another team member (who didn’t come with us down to Namche and stayed at EBC) never made it to the top due to severe GI issues, sadly. Also the first Kenyan and the first Vietnamese woman summited during the first summit weather window.
Then not much later David announced for the rest of us the second summit window, which shall be from 20th to 21st of May. Now there was not much time left anymore. Literally I just visited every day to the monastery and prayed I would make it to the summit.
My anxiety grew, and later I had to isolate myself from the whole group not to be contagious to anyone right before the summit push. I was quite devastated, hoping for my recovery, which was happening way too slowly, and I felt lonely eating most of the time by myself. But due to the great people around me with whom I made friends during my time in Namche my spirit got lifted again, and there was no way back anymore. The time was ripe to push it to the summit.
TOP OF THE WOLRD – Final Chapter
Once More Khumbu Icefall
My dream to stand on the top of the world was getting closer. On 14th of May 2022 we all choppered ourselves to EBC. We had one full day of rest. On the 16th in the middle of the night I woke up and got ready to leave the camp nearly at 2am again to pass through the Khumbu Icefall. Again. But since I was not fully recovered yet all the guys left me, and Galyje and I kept our own pace. It took me 11 hours to get to Camp 1. Galyje helped me carry most of the gears this time. If not, I would have taken way too long to arrive at Camp 1. I noticed going through the icefall how much it had changed, and some of the crevasses got bigger and the gaps to jump over my sorrow, too.
Skipping Camp 1, Straight to Camp 2 (6400m)
11 hours later at 1 pm, I arrived at Camp 1, slept for an hour, ate quickly and made my way to Camp 2. I told myself even though you might be drained and not able to move quickly anymore, you will make it to Camp 2. And yes, I tried my best to avoid sleeping at Camp 1 (windy and super uncomfortable). Just before the sun set in the evening on the 16th of May I finally reached Camp 2. At the end it was kind of a non-ending hike from Camp 1 to Camp 2. You could see Camp 2 at a certain point but somehow like a fata morgana I couldn’t reach it. After arriving in Camp 2 I was eating so much and went to the uncomfortable sleeping tent. Sleeping at camp 2 was a nightmare for me the whole time.
Every morning when you wake up the whole tent is frozen, and with the sunrise the evaporation of the tent started, and it gets humid and wet in your tent. I was lucky enough to still be able to eat, and having my normal appetite (many lost their appetite), my health was still not the best but good enough continuing to summit.
Also I prepared myself mentally that I just can’t give up now being so close to one of the biggest dreams in my entire life.
On to Camp 3 (7200m) With No Oxygen
This time I also pushed myself to not use oxygen until Camp 3. Because I didn’t reach this goal on my first trip, initinially I refused the oxygen when they tried to connect me to the bottle. After walking with the oxygen mask on for ten minutes, I felt it was quite annoying and took it off completely.
The challenge is climbing up Lhotse face (where I stopped on my last attempt). Incredibly tiring we arrived we finally arrived at Camp 3. At Camp 3, I decided to sleep in the same tent with two Sherpas: Ang Dorii and Gyalje Sherpa. It was a great experience to share a tent with them (which is required further along anyway). Talking and eating with them made me feel warm and comfortable.
It was not too dramatic peeing next to them in my bottle during the night since they slept as deeply as stones. They took such diligent care of me by helping to boil water and cook dried mountain food along with delicious black tea to drink. I felt fine without oxygen at Camp 3. Surprisingly, I slept like a baby there, while others told me they had a terrible night. Definitely it is not a flat camp, and one night is enough I guess.
South Col aka Camp 4 (7900m)
The trek from Camp 3 to Camp 4 was exhausting. Extremely tiring. It is endlessly steep, and you must use an ascender to pull yourself up all the time. I started to take oxygen from Camp 3. Out of curiosity, I took off my oxygen mask for five minutes to try hiking without supplementary oxygen. It was way too hard to continue. Not impossible, but even more draining than with the oxygen mask.
On the way, I was listening to music on my phone when it slipped out of my pocket and down the slope. I had just got the phone the previous year, and I was devastated that it was gone with all the pictures I had taken in that time. But then Gyalje took an emergency rescue rope, tied it to the main route’s safety rope and went down that dangerous slope! I nearly had a heart attack calling him back because I was so scared he would fall into dangerous crevasses.
To add to my distress, the group Sherpa, Tenji Sherpa (whom I infinitely admire) also decided to go help look for my stupid phone. I watched them searching for my phone for the next 30 minutes. I gave up on my phone mentally and just wanted them back safe and sound. Then, out of nowhere, Gyalje found my phone and grabbed it out of the snow where it was hiding. When they got back up with my phone, I was crying out of relief and mental exhaustion. But it was still a four-hour hike till South Col.
That day I also forgot to drink water and got a bladder inflammation. It feels like you have to pee, but then only a little comes out and it burns. Therefore, I needed to stop several times to pee, which is a challenge I don’t want to endure again. The hiking trail is very narrow after we passed Lhotse Camp 4, so you always look down. I had to pee next to a slope with my safety line connected to the main rope to keep me from sliding down to my death, like my phone.
Finally, I passed the yellow band. The yellow band is when a climber touches the first rock on the route up Everest. It becomes obvious when one has reached this part of the climb – your crampons hit hard the rocks. The top of the yellow band is at 7600m, or 25,000 feet.
I arrived at Camp 4 and saw a beautiful sunset while we took one of the other expedition’s tents. Ours were not set yet, so we literally took a tent from another expedition whose was ready and were not at South Col when we were.
One Night at South Col – Above the death zone
I did not feel too bad, so I even slept at Camp 4 without Oxygen. However, I unfortunately got a quite severe case of diarrhea. During the night at Camp 4, I had to leave the tent to do number two. The crazy, strong wind at South Col is not to be fooled with. To make this disgusting story short: the wind blew the diarrhea onto my boots. Better than into my down suit, right? Apropos down suits, we all started wearing them at Camp 3. It looked like a big fluffy onesie, so I looked like a yellow Michelin-man most of the time I wore it.
When I got back into the tent, Gyalje saw the feces on my boots. Disgusted by myself I left them outside instead of bringing them into the tent. The next morning, I washed them with hot water, and they were clean again. Believe me, nothing is private or secret up there. A few members of our party unfortunately defecated into their down suits. That night at Camp 4 was not super comfortable, but I could rest the next day until 8 pm when the final summit push would begin.
The whole day, I stayed in the tent, except when I needed to do number two. Just in case, I took 3 Azithromycin and 2 Imodium. That my GI issues would prevent me from reaching the summit, I just couldn’t accept it. Thanks to all the pills, my diarrhea stopped for the day, but that is just what I needed. Just one more day to the summit!
Summit Push, around 8 pm 20th May 2022
I tried to sleep, but I was too excited and nervous. Later, around 7pm, I started to put on my summit boots, the crampons, headlamp, and got a new oxygen bottle ready.
We left Camp 4 and started the hike up the summit. It was now or never. The hours went by, and the summit push was not too difficult, despite me causing a traffic jam for my team when I reached some rocks I could not see well in the dark. I also could not climb easily. My crampons kept slipping on those rocks.On top of that two of my water bottles froze. I was very dehydrated and only ate GU gels to get a little energy.
Finally, around 5 am in the morning, I reached the South Summit. Erik (the only other German on the team) and I took a break for 15-20 minutes, enjoying the sun slowly rising while three of our group members reached the top of the world. When we got up and made our way to realize both of our childhood dreams.
The last big challenge on the way from the South summit to the main summit is to pass the Hillary Step. When I saw those rock walls and formations, I was scared. The Hillary Step is a nearly vertical rock face with a height of around twelve metres near the summit of Mount Everest, about 8,790 metres above sea level.
I also saw a corpse, which made the situation much worse. When Gyalje slid down the Hillary Step with crampons on, my heart seemed to stop beating. I was really scared to pass the Hillary Step; despite all the safety ropes, you can still slide down and then you are gone. Just like the corpse I saw. When I passed it and realized how close it is to the summit. I was so relieved and at the same time incredibly thankful we had passed the Hillary step with just a few problems.
21st of May 2022 , 6.25 am
Standing on the rooftop of the world. 8848 m.
Being the youngest female German on Chomolungma/ Mount Everest/ Sagarmatha
A dream came true. When I was nineteen, I hiked in Nepal for the first time. Who knows, 6 years later I would stood on the rooftop of this world.
Closer to God and the Universe. The most breathtaking view of my life.
The world slumbers below me for an hour. Tears of joy. Feelings which cannot be describes. A milestone of my life I always wanted to reach, and now, after all this adventures of craziness, I am standing here. It is only me and the mountains. The sun is shining, and I am above the clouds looking down on our wonderful and beautiful planet Earth. This is Mother Nature, and for the hour I stood on the top there, I perished. That is how I felt. It was like nature and I merged into one entity. No time, no space, just Mother Nature and me.
Memories I’ll have until the end of my life. And all the tears I will never forget. Infinite joy like I’ve never had before overwhelmed me. I don’t know how to put it into words, but it is definitely one of the best and most beautiful moments in my life.
Descending to Camp 2 (6400m)
The next chapter describes the journey from heaven to misery. After the summit and the bliss I experienced there, I needed to descend.
I got back to Camp 4 without many problems but arrived as dehydrated at a raisin. I guzzled tons of water and fell down to sleep. After 15 minutes, Ang Dorii Sherpa told me I should pack and get ready to descend to Camp 2. But I did not get a proper rest and was longing for even a short nap. Instead, I had to get up, pack my things, and descend with Ang Dorii to Camp 2. Imagine descending from 8848 metres to 6400 metres after all night on the summit push with no proper rest!
Unfortunately, Ang Dorii hurt his knee (possibly on Hillary Step). I could never leave him behind with the condition of his knee. Hence, I stopped when he did. We took frequent rest breaks and arrived at Camp 3 quite late in the afternoon.
Then I rested for a whole hour waiting for Gyalje to descend from Camp 4. Meanwhile, I ate a little bit at Camp 3. Then packed all my stuff I left at Camp 3 before. Once Gyalje arrived, everyone wanted to start the descent to Camp 2. I wasn’t sure about descending, due to the time and the dimming sunlight. I also thought of how many people I’d heard of dying as they descended. However, everyone wanted to go, and I really didn’t want to be left behind. So, I decided to go down, too. The descent from Camp 3 to Camp 2 was one hell of an adventure (not in a good way).
Misery of Descending From Camp 3 to Camp 2
I left by myself because Gyalje needed to collect the empty oxygen bottles at Camp 3 and would catch up with me later. The others had left before me, so I was on my own. I could feel myself getting weaker and my energy was almost non-existent while I was descending to Camp 2. Moreover, I got nervous once I saw the sunset while going down the never-ending, very steep Lhotse face. To make a long story short: I lost my concentration, then balance, and slid down parts of Lhotse face. Like a miracle, nothing bad happened to me, but it sucked the energy out of me. I sat down and all I wanted to do was sleep instead of continuing. I was out-of-my-mind frustrated.
Next I even did an emergency signal with my headlamp, but no one at Camp 2 saw it, or came to help. I later found out my teammate Morgan had seen the SOS signal, but thought it was nothing serious. After five minutes sitting, I slapped myself. And remined myself that I didn’t want to die on this mountain. If I wanted to see my mother again, I needed to keep moving. Otherwise, I really might die or get frostbite.
I got myself together and moved again. Later, Galyie came to help me. He was incredible. I could no longer walk on the Lhotse face, so I sat down and slowly slide down the steep face while Gyalje helped me by going right in front of me. Just a few hundred metres from our camp, we suddenly couldn’t find our way. I got lost in a maze of huge rocks and Gyalje was nowhere to be found. Melting ice and glaciers have changed the landscape, which was frustrating.
Troubles on Mount Everest
Suddenly, I had the urgent need to pee. I was indescribably exhausted and was trying to pull down my harness with all the mountaineering equipment from my down suit. Like I was five years old, I couldn’t control myself. After 24 hours of being awake, summiting, sliding down the Lhotse face, and getting lost just a few hundred metres from camp: I urinated in my down suit. The pants of my down suit were soaked in urine. It was so gross.
This downfall made me lying down and I did not want to move again. I felt defeated. Defeated by Mount Everest and thought this mountain was going to kill me. For me getting up to find the campsite was hopeless. But then I pulled myself together, stood up, and walked for another half an hour, got lost again until I miracously saw someone with a headlamp. It was the cook from our camp, who Gyalje had sent to search for me.
When I reached the camp I ate dinner quickly, went into my tent and cleaned myself with baby wipes. That night, even though I was both physically and mentally wiped out, I just couldn’t sleep well. Typical Camp 2 nightmares. The next day, I took a full day’s rest in camp 2. The flowing day I hiked back to EBC in four hours in good condition. My cough got worse, and my ribs hurt more than ever, but I made it back to EBC!!
Trekking from EBC (5364m) to Lukla (2800m)
Once we were back at Everest Base Camp, the team members all decided to chopper out to Kathmandu. However, I really wanted to finish this expedition by walking back to Lukla, the initial town where everything started. I wanted to see the landscape on the way up to Everest Base Camp once more, getting to know the locals better and stay in little houses instead of the big teahouses. This is my style of backpacking and travel. To be more accurate, that’s how I have been traveling for the past seven years. I feel more alive when I travel this way.
And this is precisely what I experienced when I hiked down with Nima. Dan Mazur sent Nima with me to carry my mountain equipment but also as company. Nima doesn’t speak English well, but the two days we spent hiking down to Lukla made me fall even more in love with Nepal and its people. He always smiled. I asked him many questions about life in Nepal and its culture. It was, for me, the perfect ending to this long and unforgettable expedition of a lifetime. In Kathmandu, I saw a few team members before I left Nepal. Somehow I felt extremely down and sad when I left and a bit of nostalgic.
Here I want to say thank you to everyone who helped me so much along the way, and I want to mention and underline the real heroes of the mountains: the Sherpas. Kudos to the The Sherpas!
Without the help and work of the sherpas, not nearly as many people would have the chance to summit Mount Everest. They are the true heroes for me, and therefor a special thanks to Gyalje Sherpa who made my summit possible, and who saved my life on the descent from Camp 3 to Camp 2.
A big, really BIG THANK YOU to my amazing sponsors Perfect Corp. and Cyberlink who believed in me. I appreciate their philosophy to empower women all around the world, and to have a sustainable solution for the cosmetic industry, while pledging themselves to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the UN.
My mother and Terry, who always believe in me and supported me with my dreams, even though they are not easy to achieve. They still never failed to believe I could make it. Also, to all of Terry’s friends who helped me along the way with some of mountain gear, plus cheering support.
The amazing team of wonderful individuals on this expedition. Our expedition leaders Dan Mazur and David O’Brian, who helped us with logistics and motivated us along the way.
Kudos to the Sherpas
And once more for the true heroes of the mountains and Himalayas: The Sherpas. Especially Gyalje Sherpa, Ang Doril Sherpa and Tenji Sherpa. And a huge thank you to the cooks and kitchen staff at EBC and Camp 2. Without all of you, us lazy westerners would never make it to the top.
Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay reached the summit of Everest on May 29, 1953, becoming the first people to stand on Chomolungma/ Sagarmatha/ Mount Everest.
This quote of Sir Edmund Hillary inspires me a lot and I hope to inspire everyone to always chase their dreams: “You don’t have to be a hero to accomplish great things – to compete. You can just be an ordinary chap, sufficiently motivated to reach challenging goals.”
Never give up or let someone tell you what you can and can’t do.
Live your dreams! Cheers to all the wildest dreams we can achieve in our lives.