May 8 Island Peak (Imja Tse)

 
Hugo, Doug, Lottie and Ade were all up, dressed and ready by 01:30. We had coffee or tea and a bowl of porridge each and left just after 2:00 am with Dendi and Gyalzey. Nima came too, but he was carrying a bag with our heavy mountain boots that we would use on the more technical section of the peak.
The true steepness and difficulty of the terrain was soon apparent as we looked up for the stars and saw instead a train of headlamps from the other teams who left before us. Looking like stars in the sky, we realized the work that lay before us and started our climb.
 
For hours we climbed over steep rock, talus and scree, just focusing on the small pool of light cast in front of our feet. This seemed to stretch on, but dawn broke as we were approaching "crampon point". Set high on a ridge of rock at the foot of the summit ice cap, this spectacular eyrie gave us an amazing place to sit, change boots and put on crampons in preparation for the technical work ahead of us.
We continued on to the ice, using fixed ropes to help keep us safe as we kicked steps up the steep glacier. After sometime climbing the ice, both Ade and Lottie decided that they had gone high enough. In mountaineering your high point, or the summit, is only the half way point of your climb. Climbing safely means knowing when you've reached the half way point of your own energy reserves and resources leaving enough to make it back to your tent. It was a brave and sensible decision by Ade and Lottie to turn around and Dendi went back down with them.
 
Hugo, Doug and Gyalzey carried on eventually encountering the final obstacle: the near vertical headwall below the summit. Island Peak’s headwall is ice and rock guarded by a bergschrund. This is the point where the glacier ice meets the rock of the headwall and there is always a big crevasse. A thin bridge of snow crossed the bergschrund giving climbers access to the headwall where we could climb with the help of fixed ropes for protection.
 
As they were climbing, a careless member from another team above them kicked loose a large rock. Doug shouted a warning as the rock screamed down the face, glancing off the leg of another climber before just missing several others and smashing into the thin snowbridge over the bergschrund, completely destroying it. The climbers continued, but Hugo and Gyalzey started to discuss how they were going to get across the gaping crevasse on their way down.....