There I was, literally just 24 hours from standing atop the world's tallest mountain, 6:30 am, May 21, 2008. The radio call from Casey had just come in, indicating that he, Ari, Danuru and Dawa had actually done it, and with extra determination I gave my pack a hoist, wincing in sharp pain in the process.
Image: Bob Lowry stretching Scott out on the way down from CII to EBC; "I wouldn't have made it down from CIII the day before without periodic stretching and icing my back every 20-30 minutes."
Just the day before I'd awoken with low back spasms (something I've dealt with intermittently in the past), but I had still managed to climb the very steep Lhotse face between Camps II and III in a very respectable four and a half hours, cinching my climbing harness like a weight lifter's belt. The night at Camp II had been hard, unable to find a comfortable position for my low back for more than a minute or two. I told myself to persevere, the summit was tantalizingly close --- by morning all would be well, else I'd just "ignore" the stabbing pain and press on to the top.
My buddies Adam, Kami, Namgya, Bob and others at camp were as helpful as friends could ever be under the circumstances --- getting ready to move up to Camp IV for our summit assault -- placing a fresh oxygen cylinder in my backpack and installing the crampons on my boots (there was no way I'd have been able to reach them. With their encouragement I braced myself and led off up the steep slope towards the Yellow Band on a test run. Within 10 paces I did an about face and told my friends "I'm done," averting my wet eyes from probably some of theirs. I knew that if I continued up with them I'd slow them dramatically, possibly compromising their summit success, and conceivably place them in a rescue situation (mine). After 59 days on this expedition, and a lifetime of dreaming about it, it was a painful but easy decision to turn away from the summit...
There's no need to feel sorry for me, though, as I've had the adventure of a lifetime here --- and besides, I can handle a short period of self pity on my own! Thanks so much for following along with my Everest expedition. In the weeks ahead (after I've downclimbed the mountain and flown back home), we'll post some other great photos and videos here.
Everest Base Camp
May 22, 2008
Editor's note: I sent Scott a reply to this note this morning (we had some indications late yesterday that something had gone wrong):
"I am so .... don't have a word for this ...
Let me just suggest that the true importance of this climb for you - and for others - has just begun to reveal itself. How - and why - you did what you did - and all that you did in space to precede it - can serve as a rich illustration of exploration - all of the joys - and the sorrows to those who need to have it explained to them - and also to the person who will one day accomplish this feat - in space and on Earth.
Perhaps that person may well be you.
Make sure to turn the prayer wheels an extra time on the way down."
Image below: a self-portrait just before going to bed at CIII on O's