Pictures: 1) Matt battles to coil the rope in the wind, 2) Pete on the final pitch to the snow hole, 3) Nick's watches the flag from the snow hole, 4) The Samsung weather station.
We played our hand...
It looked like the weather had changed, or at least that the winds would be more favourable after the northerlies that nearly blew base camp away. After that wind event, a calm day tempted us back up to our lofty snow cave advanced base camp at 6000m on the east ridge. Everything was calm and settled when we arrived after the tiring 1500m ascent from base camp, which turned out to be very stressful as the initial snow slope has started to melt out revealing rotten gullies and tumbling rocks which were using us as target practice! Safely installed in our snow hole we went to sleep dreaming of calm weather.
The day dawned bright and very breezy, which started to get progressively worse as the morning wore on forcing us back into the snow cave and the warmth of our sleeping bags. Even with all our clothing on, 5 minutes outside was enough, enough to tell us that at this altitude frostbite would be inevitable and worse still higher up. We dose. Clouds fly by. We rig up a flag outside the snow-hole to monitor the wind speeds from our insulated cave. The flag strains at its violently flutters all day. Not good.
On the radio, Dave relays a weather forecast: winds decreasing, then gale force winds to approach mid week. We sleep, hoping for calm weather.
On the third day, the winds have dropped at 6000m, but our eyes gaze across to Annapurna 4 which is being beaten by savage winds, the plumes of snow detail the abuse.
We question. We talk. We review the situation: a couple of days of good weather, then gales are forecast, probably right on the day we would be summiting, all going well. And then there is the descent - long, arduous and technical, including a 2 km horizontal section back to our snow cave.
Nick, a battle-hardened veteran of 17 mountaineering expeditions around the world sums up the situation as we hastily convene a conference in the snow cave: "we need at least 7 days of perfect weather to try and get up this mountain and off it safely, and on the basis of that forecast (which has been fairly reliable to date) we have, 3 days". We cannot deny the facts: in 4 and half weeks, there has hardly been a day without massive plumes of airborne snow from the peaks, why should anything change? We discuss. We are all driven climbers and after all the time and effort we are perhaps 3 days away from our goal, but the chances of getting there and back look bleak. We are realists.
These big mountains are unforgiving. We will put our project on hold for the moment while we review weather and discuss options and of course eat lots of Buddhi's amazing food.