By the morning of October 2, altitude illness whittles the summit team down to three climbers - Mark, Carlos and team member Jordan Campbell. Two hours into the summit push, Jordan turns back. Several hundred feet below the summit, the weather turns ugly. The same situation turned the British back in 1998. This time, the pair continues. At 9:45 a.m. Mark and Carlos stand at a point where the slopes drop on all sides. The elevation is 22,821 feet.
As Mark recalls in an article in Powder magazine, "(On the morning of October 2) Carlos and I are alone, making good progress in bitter cold beneath a clear sky… the high alpine air is restless… we are climbing through tremendous mounds of avalanche rubble. At 8:30 a.m. we pass Muir and Saunders (British climbers in 1998) high point. We are standing under a wall of ice that caps the summit. A decision must be made. To go on would mean risking a descent in terrible conditions. If we turn back, we can still get down and out of the storm."
Mark continues, "Through the fog we can barely make out the edge of a huge serac. It leads to the sheer 5,000-vertical-foot northern face. We've made the summit. We stand for a second then turn around and begin threading our way down through the whiteout."
The first ascent of Sepu Kangri is a triumphant culmination of four expeditions and years of research and planning. Success isn't sealed until the pair safely descends - they spend hours lost in a whiteout, eventually reaching the safety of Camp 1 in twilight.
"We came all the way down to Camp 1 yesterday in ferocious weather. I was pretty tired skiing with the 3 intense days behind me since going from Camp 1. Last evening I had that "few times in a lifetime" pleasure of satisfaction over completing a job I'd set out to do. It isn't winning the Tour de France, but it's probably the highest first ascent of a peak I've made.
Together with explorations on peaks, like the West Face Extremo Ausangate, the Anqosh Face of Huascaran Sur, North Face of Kampur, East Face of Milarepa, and the West Face of Siula Grande; these types of routes will be my legacy rather than 8000 meter accomplishments. As part of a 30-year "fabric" of climbing, it certainly underlines the importance of just prolonging life over taking enormous chances for the sake of one or two dangerous routes. I've never done the "block buster" climb. But over the long haul, at least you get to enjoy a few more than just one 'great feeling of accomplishment'."
- Carlos Buhler, 3 October