Sorry for being out of contact. Since our summit day the weather has been appalling with consequent lack of solar power.
Based on the forecast and our reading of conditions, Neil and I decided to try for a summit on 2 October. We set off on 29 September for Camp 1 and up to C3 on 1 October at 7400 metres.
Other teams were trying only for the Central (false) summit but we’d come for the real summit and decided on a variation of the ‘Inaki’ route, which would have us climb further east on the North face than Inaki’s line. We hoped it would give us steep but direct access to the summit ridge.
On the 2nd we set off at 5am from camp 3 and traversed across the broad north face to position ourselves under the route we wanted to climb. The snow on the face was mucher deeper than we’d hoped for, making it harder climbing with greater avalanche risk but still achievable if all went well.
Although we wanted to hit the top around midday, the deep snow and long route delayed us and the weather deteriorated through the day, making it a race for the top. It was absolutely exhausting breaking trail in deep soft snow but we finally hit the summit ridge at 4pm.
We then had a razor sharp ridge to traverse before sneaking along the face underneath some chunky ice cornices. This was the most dangerous part as the cornices threatened from above whilst with every step we set off small avalanches.
Finally however we hit the top at 5.05pm in swirling cloud, snapped a couple of pics then raced as fast as we could back down the ridge to our route on the face.
We downclimbed in darkness trying to beat the encroaching storm but it caught us. Our tracks were covered and headlamps rendered useless in the falling snow, so we decided the safest though very unpleasant option was to bivouac on an ice ledge we cut with our axes. No tent, stove, sleeping bags etc, so we sat on our packs for a little insulation.
The biggest fear was being caught by oedema or high winds. Luckily neither happened. It snowed on us through the night and it was bitterly cold ( -20 to -30 C) but we made it through.
At 5.30am it was light enough to see the way, so we downclimbed to c3, arriviving about 8.30 am.
The first thing to do was radio basecamp and let them know we were alive, then we melted snow to rehydrate as we’d only had 500ml each to drink in the previous 27 hours and were terribly dehydrated from all the climbing in the very cold dry air.
Later in the morning we packed up C3 and started the descent to abc, which took 2 days to complete.
That about sums it up. One more despatch to follow now that I have power again.