The snows of Sepu Kangri begin a hundred feet above Camp 1. The path is potentially dangerous - huge crevasses border on the right as the route traverses above a precipitous cliff band. The route leads to a rock band barring access to the upper slopes. As with all things Himalayan the 1200 feet of elevation gain is deceptive. What looks like 15 minutes from Camp 1 is actually an hour and a half of heavy sun-baked snow slogging. The team fixes 350 feet of rope up steep ice in a break in the cliff - a corner where serac and rock meet. Climbing the fixed lines with loads and skis involves strenuous stemming and scratching up the corner in crampons. The effort leaves the climbers gasping like fish out of water.
Above the fixed line lies the snow slope leading into Sepu's Western Cwm - a 2-kilometer saddle of rolling snow and glacial ice. Beyond lies the summit of Sepu Kangri.
"We left three days ago, on September 20, to establish Camp 1 and spend at least a couple nights there. We also hoped to establish the route to Camp 2, and I hoped to get a load there.
Despite a foul stomach that rendered his and Jordan's tent fairly toxic the night before, Carlos wanted to go up and help fix the rope. Carlos freaked when he saw the deep hole between ice and the rock and decided to belay Carina and then fix a rope across the traverse. I hadn't seen anything to be concerned about - we simply needed to put a path in and people would follow it and stay well clear of the hole. But Carlos is into overkill on this trip, and I'm tired of arguing with him."
Mark Newcomb, 20 September 2002
"Returned from our first over night foray on the mountain today. A few people the night before mentioned they weren't feeling too well. So it seemed prudent to head down.
While I sat there in brief but total solitude, I felt beyond the point of going back. No going back to a steady job; no going back to a warm and familiar home; no going back to school and academic challenges that stimulate those intellectual thoughts that have been accruing dust so thick now it can't be wiped off. No going back to "normal" society, to the sturdy structure of that rivets career to social to home to family to physical. Since college I've drifted ever farther and ever freer of the complex yet predictable structure that is the human realm. My ability and willingness to engage the structure have evaporated to the point where I fear that it would be possible to ever re-attach, re-rivet myself back into place.
It left me with that uncomfortable, vacuous feeling of un-belonging. While so many who are inextricably trapped in the structure yearn to escape from it, what they don't realize is how horrible it can be to not fit in, to not have a place, to feel permanently banished to a state of always remaining outside looking in."
- Mark Newcomb, 22 September 2002
"Tomorrow we'll try to get up by 5a.m. and be out of here by 8 and see where the route takes us. Hopefully everyone will feel pretty strong - we've had some problems - minor illness - I'm probably the worst but if people can manage to keep their strength up and not push things too hard each day. We can go high and take a good rest and see if we can't go back up and climb the mountain by the beginning of October - that's the thought anyway."
- Carlos Buhler, 23 September 2002
"Fascinating discussion at lunch today. Topic: how much better, interesting, and worthwhile our lives are compared to those millions of people who spend their lives working 9-5. If traveling and experiencing was all people were interested in, there wouldn't be anything to experience besides other spoiled brats like ourselves. These people here, can hardly wait until we leave so they can have whatever little we decide to leave behind. Our garbage is their treasure! Life here is hard, much harder than we as Westerners can comprehend, and survive.
But I guess the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. I love living my privileged life, with trips here and there, but at the same time I love having a home to return to. A comfortable home, a nice couch, a neighbor who knows my name, and my husband's name, and I want to go to the store and bump in to people I know."
- Carina Ostberg, 23 September 2002