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Pieter Nel

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Island Peak

summiting Island Peak

“Summitted Island Peak at 10am local time, Monday 23 Nov. Back at basecamp, and too tired to write more. More to follow tomorrow. Did this one for my friend Michael, and will give more info tomorrow.”

Thursday, 26 November 2009

After the summit we spent the night at base camp and then moved down to Dingboche the next day. From Dingboche we move to Lobuche base camp via the settlement of Pheriche. Pheriche has been home to a medical post of the Himalayan Rescue Association since 1973. It is stafffed by volunteer physicians during the pre- and post-monsoon season, giving 24h medical support to foreigners (which is charged for), and free medical services for the locals. Since I’m a volunteer with Mountain Rescue in Cape Town, I was keen to check out the HRA even before the trip started. Turns out I had good reason to visit them anyway.

Island Peak base camp – dinner before summit push

During the Island Peak attempt I developed the good old common cold. Fine at sea level, but adversely affecting one’s breathing here where there aren’t much oxygen to begin with. The doctor also confirmed that I, like one or two others in our group, had moderate AMS after the summit, which has since cleared up. Since my body was fighting the cold, it didn’t have the resources to also deal with altitude! Dr Jen at the HRA suggested 2 of us spend a day at Pheriche recovering, before rejoining the rest of the group at Lobuche base camp. I, like a number of other expedition members, am also taking Diamox, which helps one deal with altitude. (either Diamox or the altitude makes one have the wildest dreams up here!). Unfortunately, since I already had it once, I’m now at an increased risk of getting AMS again. So I’ll have to watch things closely and descend ASAP if it recurs.

Pieter Nel on Island Peak

Just below the summit of Island Peak

I’m long over that tough-guy South African male viewpoint of never seeing a doctor because it is for sissies or whatever. How many SA males will bear with some uncomfortable pain or weird symptoms for months, rather than seeing a doctor? And how many times could a cancer have been caught well in time by simply popping into the doctor when things doesn’t seem right. Seeing a doc when something feels wrong doesn’t tarnish your tough-guy image! And if you need extra incentive, there’s lots of good-looking female GPs around. She may just save your life. (The good(looking) Dr Jen here at Pheriche – she’s from Northumberland in the UK – is taken unfortunately, and it’s quite a way to travel to see her. Visit the HRA at www.himalayanrescue.org.

Update: moving to Lobuche base camp in 10 minutes. Cough persists though, so unfortunately at this stage it looks likely that I will have to sit out on the Lobuche attempt. Any lung/breathing problems puts one at a disadvantage to start with up here, so we’ll see how it goes. The Lobuche attempt is on behalf of Niven, who is still fighting the good fight with leukemia. Niven should be just about finishing his stint at Groote Schuur. I last saw him and his girlfriend when we went sailing in Cape Town about a month ago. All the best buddy – I’ll try my best, but the most important thing is that we both stay healthy!

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