Susan's Blog

How Teamwork Helped Us Survive a Windstorm on Everest

You can endure extreme environments when you have a team you trust. In this video, you’ll see me at Camp 2 on Mount Everest, bunkered down with extreme wind blowing down the mountain and all around us.

This is an excerpt from the book that I wrote with my husband Phil, Together on Top of the World.

“Camp 2 is advanced base camp, so a lot of tents were set up there: a cook tent, a storage tent, tents for guides and Sherpas, a tent for me and Sue…We were just settling into our own tent…

The next morning, despite the forecast, we woke up to good weather… then, fierce wind higher up had made it impossible to climb. With this second warning, we took down the tents of climbers who were not currently at Camp 2 and put additional guy lines on all the others. I took some comfort from the fact that there were a lot of us in camp to tie things down if the wind turned out to be stronger than we expected. In early afternoon it began to blow. Sue and I hung out in our sleeping bags and talked and read. By mid-afternoon it was getting hard to hear each other over the wind. It must have been blowing at around at 60 mph. Fierce wind storms are common in the mountains but are usually short-lived, so I was surprised, as the day wore on, to feel the wind increase. In late afternoon I poked my head out the tent door. About twenty feet away our two dome tents—the cook tent and storage tent—were straining against their ties. There was no way they would make it if we didn’t fight the wind together to reinforce the guy lines.

Through the night the wind howled. Over and over we were awakened by the tent wall slapping our faces and pumice and ice battering the walls. When light came, the wind was as fierce as ever. The cook tent went down and we knew if the storage tent went, our expedition would be in a world of hurt.

Finally, around two in the afternoon the wind began to calm. When it was clear that the worst was over, I went outside to inspect the damage. Remarkably, the cook tent was the only one damaged. One of the Sherpas suggested that we use blue tarps to cover the ripped sections and we radioed Eric at base camp to send some up. Then we congratulated ourselves on our teamwork. It was only because everyone had pitched in that we hadn’t suffered potentially expedition-ending damage.”

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