National Geographic : 1979 May
After what seemed a long time, I did get one crampon on, but the strap was danger ously loose. The sight struck me as funny, and I began to giggle incoherently, although conscious that I was in serious trouble. For the second time in less than a day my family in far-off Seattle came to my help. Abruptly my thoughts turned to my wife, Mary Lou, and our five children, and every thing suddenly seemed to focus. I tightened the one crampon, strapped on the other, and set off down our trail toward the camp. As Jim Whittaker has recounted, I met Rick Ridgeway and John Roskelley on their ascent to search for me and perhaps to reach the summit. In Rick's words I seemed "like an apparition emerging from a cloud of snow," though apparently a welcome apparition. Once assured that I could make it down alone, the two continued their ascent, and in passing, John patted me affectionately on the head. It struck me as the first human contact I had had in 14 hours, a much appre ciated gesture. Lou greeted me with obvious relief at the camp and offered me water. Although I was severely dehydrated, it seemed vital to me that we clear away the snow that had drifted overnight onto Rick and John's tent as well as our own. Once inside the tent, I had my first taste of water in nearly an entire day, and I sensed somehow that I had made it. THE FIFTH and final mishap was hard ly a small one. That night when Rick and John returned, exhausted after their own great victory achieved with out oxygen, their stove blew up inside their tent. Rick's sleeping bag, with Rick inside it, instantly caught fire. He managed to free himself and throw the bag out into the snow; the tent was a charred ruin. The four of us spent the night in our remaining two-man tent, an episode that would have been comic but for our weakened condition. The weather had been kind to us during the climb and the crucial first part of the de scent, but a storm harassed us at Camp III. At Camp I Rob Schaller diagnosed the se vere pains in my chest as a combination of blood clots in my lungs, pneumonia, and pleurisy. In addition my toes were frostbit ten, two of them seriously. But for Rob's prompt and skillful treatment with antibiot ics and intravenous fluids, K2 might have claimed its eighth victim. During the week's trek out to the end of Baltoro Glacier, I suffered far more than I had during the night below the summit. Be yond the glacier two Pakistan Army helicop ters rendezvoused with us, and I was evacuated along with John and Lou, plus Rob as attending physician. Our other ten teammates were judged fit to walk the re maining fifty miles to the road at Baha. I don't begrudge them the experience. ] 649 * $ bN..