He describes to me, on a crackly phone over half a world away, the accomplish “as everything he imagined and more”. An “indescribable feeling” standing on the summit at 8:15 in the morning on a blue bird day. The training, the slogging, the breathless steps forgotten to a 360 degree view of the Patriarchs of the Himalaya.
Summit day began as most summit bids with a wake up at 2:00am, not that anyone was really sleeping anyway. Beginning the final ascent at 3:00 under a moonlit sky, fortified with tea and soup they begin the climb. They cross out of 18,000 feet from high camp up to the snow and ice, stopping to don crampons, pull out ice picks and rope up. They cross deep crevasses with the aid of a metal ladder laid horizontally on the ground across the chasm. Step by step, one rung at a time, they slowly cross the crevasse. Ridlon, of course, stopping in the middle to snap a photo!
Then, he pauses to wonder which way the route will lead them to the top when he realizes the headwall in front of them IS the route. at an 80% angle (yes, that is almost straight up!) they climb 450 feet. He describes it as looking “straight up the wall of a skyscraper”. at over 20,000 feet, they make 5 or maybe 10 steps before gasping for a breath (sound like fun yet??). Then he kicks his crampon into the ice and snow and begins again.
Five hours later he stands on the peak, as close to heaven as he can be. I know…..I can hear it in his voice.
Well done, Ridlon, well done.