After making our various ways to Chukhung the 8 of us - Martin, Jack, Angela, Marcus, Philipp, James, Toby and myself - had 3 relatively relaxing days while doing some ropes/ice-axes/abseiling training in preparation for Island Peak, at 6200m high a "bump" just south of Everest/Lhotse!
On the 21st we headed up to base camp - the 3hr trek enlivened somewhat when we heard some screams in the thickening fog and ended up doing some light "fell running" at 5km above sea level to help re-acquiant a lost couple with each other and the village. Most of us suffering from colds/high altitude lurgy by this point, so pretty knackered by the time we eventually got to the tents in a snow storm.
Just a few hours later we were being woken by the sherpa crew with mugs of coffee at 1:30am to get ready for the climb.
The first few hours of trekking were in the dark, before we reached the glacier about dawn and got into our crampons, harnesses etc. A beautiful trek over the glacier and then the 200m snow and ice wall climb, at times near vertical - using a fixed rope ascender - to the summit ridge. To be honest, this was absolutely exhausting but enjoyable in its own way...although the occasional blasting with ice particles as the wind got up and falling ice chunks from climbers above were less than welcome!
Eventually the summit ridge - and at this point I realised that I had probably slightly underestimated the challenge. Island Peak may be fairly basic, baby steps, in the world of mountaineering, but here the high level exposure suddenly felt pretty scary to a hiker like myself - it was a case of focus on the rope, check safely attached and not look down too much as I plodded and crawled the final 50m or so up the exposed (and extremely windy) ridge to the summit. Made it eventually - although given the actual summit was about the size of the roof of a small van, with seemingly near vertical drops in all directions, my relief at reaching it, and confidence to celebrate and take pictures, was somewhat limited!
My main thoughts were along the lines of yikes...I can hardly breath, it's blowing a gale and there's loads of people coming up the rope towards me, how the heck do I get down?! Thankfully all 8 of us did - although personally not without a good deal of seriously increased heart rate!