54Mission Accomplished

ERIC AND BARRY reached Camp 1 at 21,000 feet at 9:00 p.m. They had been climbing almost continuously for two days. Pausing only long enough to remove their crampons, they climbed into their tent, laid a sleeping bag over themselves as they huddled together, and immediately fell fast asleep. Eric awoke two hours later with snow falling on their tent. Eric still does not recall what caused him to wake as the snow was not loud and he was already at his emotional, physical, and mental limit. He woke Barry and asked him what he thought they should do: continue to sleep, wait until morning, and then descend from Camp 1, or “suck it up” and depart as quickly as possible. Both were concerned about the new snow falling on the steep climb up to Camp 1 from Advanced Base Camp. One month earlier, Eric had been caught in an avalanche that killed another climber in that exact location. Although physically and mentally exhausted, they decided to dress (put their crampons on), pack the remaining gear that they had cached on their way to the summit, and descend. It was a mentally tough decision that required great physical toughness.

Eric recalls that shortly after they had started their descent, the snowstorm abated, and a full moon came out from behind the clouds. The full moon was so bright and, with no ambient light so deep in the vast Tibetan mountain wilderness that they shut off their head lamps and descended all the way back to the foot of the mountain with only ...

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