Saturday, May 25, 2013

Dizzy on the Lhotse Face.

Camp 3, carved into the Lhotse Face. 
Wave 2 left for camp three the morning of May 18. Some troublesome G.I. problems interrupted the first stages of my ascent up the Lhotse Wall but I thought little of it as such occurrences come and go with frequency at high altitude. Mingma and I settled into our regular aggressive pace as we carved out the first 2,000 feet of gain up the steep ice, then stopped on a small ledge to rest and hydrate. Gibby, one of the Air Force climbers, soon joined us on the ledge.  Trained as a “PJ”, Gibby’s job is to jump from airplanes and provide medical aid to wounded soldiers on the ground. He is a kind and generous man who again and again engaged his skills to help Classic Team members who fell injured or ill in the course of this expedition. Gibby and I were both clipped into anchored protection as we stood there looking out across the vastness of the Himalayas. Suddenly I began to feel dizzy. “Gibby, there’s something wrong with me,” I said as my vision narrowed.  I sat down and began breathing hard. Gibby asked questions as he held me steady on the ledge. He radioed one of our Guides, Aaron, who was ascending the wall not far below. Together they encouraged me to drink more liquids as Aaron radioed EBC leadership for medical consultation. HAPE and HACE were quickly ruled out.  A new bug had hit camp 2 a few days earlier and my symptoms matched.  A climber stricken the prior day confirmed experiencing dizziness which passed quickly, and said he was now back at 100%. I began to feel better as we rested there and talked things through. As descending would take more time than moving up to  a wider ledge, we agreed that I would continue higher to a flat shelf where I might lay down for a bit.  If I did not improve, I would have to go back down to camp 2, perhaps ending my Everest climb. 

We climbed for another 30 minutes to the shelf, where Mingma found a generous space for me to stretch out. Gibby sat next to me. A few other team members joined us for a rest as they ascended the face.  All had been monitoring our earlier radio transmissions and asked how I was doing. I ate most of my lunch and swallowed another liter of energy drink. By the time Ty joined us I was feeling much improved. Again Aaron consulted with EBC and received approval for me to continue up to camp 3 where my condition would be closely monitored. 

I felt strong as we resumed the climb, making good time the remaining 1,000 feet to where our tents sat, carved into the side of the Lohtse face.  Myself and another sick climber were quarantined in a tent by ourselves. As camp 3 is the point where all climbers begin breathing bottled oxygen, we too strapped on our masks and, flowing at 1 liter per minute, relaxed in the luxuriance of breathing. It occurred to me the tearing down process was now complete. When one can experience rapture by the simple act of breathing, life can only get better. 

That evening I was visited by our lead Guide, Max. He explained that certain risks to the heart are incurred when taking Azithromiacin at high altitude. So that medication was off the table.  Max gave me an initial dose of Cipro to take if my symptoms revisited during the night and also left a radio I could use to raise him or EBC if more urgent developments arose. Fortunately, neither were needed. I slept well with the aid of the oxygen and woke feeling better. 


  1. This blog David Jon was not, as you full well know, music to your parental units ears! However - lets move on and focus on the positive. We are so very thankful for the medical suppoprt you had - God Bless each and every one! This all brings tears to my eyes. Sooo let me say congratulations on your 7th summit and we are going to hold you to the promise you made to us before you left for Everest - "No more high altitude climbing after Everest". Dad says "Good job Dave - Safe trip home to our arms."

    Luv, The Folks

  2. I just found this blog tonight and it's been an absolutely incredible read. Thank you for sharing with those of us who will likely never have the chance to experience something like this in our lives; I hope your return home and subsequent reflections bring you much joy.

  3. Hey Dave, You sure have met some really great people on this journey. Mingma is a great Sherpa and I am sure now a friend. Gibby, one of the Air Force climbers wow you met him at the right time! It sound like some of the "elite or Hybrid what ever they cal those climbers" they were a little testy but they don't seem like much of a problem when you look at the big picture.It was nice of them to pave the way and put up with any problems first! Congratulation again on your Mt Everest Summit!!Great accomplishment & for & summits! Dot