Dispatches from the roof of the world
Dispatch #33 May 11, 2012
Voicemail from Camp 2
Panuru Sherpa
Phil Henderson descends through the Icefall to Base Camp.

The following transcript is from a voicemail left by Mark Jenkins from Camp 2. To listen to the audio, check out our iPad app here

“Hello, this is Mark Jenkins reporting from Camp 2 on Everest, 21,200 feet. It’s dark, cold, and snowy.

“Now we are five. I lost my wingman this morning, struck down by illness. Phil and I have been bunking together above BC from the beginning. Camp 1, inside the tent, the wind beating on the nylon, snow piling atop the dome until we banged it off. We took turns cooking and talked about being black in America, being white in America, and how there was still so far to go.

“At Camp 2 Phil would put a speaker the size and shape of a yo-yo on his chest on top of his sleeping bag, and we’d lie there in the frozen darkness listening to music from Jamaica and Mali.

“Phil was the team counselor. He would wait until everyone had said their piece before presenting his position, always taking the long view, a generous view, of any situation. Conrad trusted his judgment, but the mountain was never generous to Phil. He was the slowest climber, not easily acclimatizing. He learned from the Mayo Clinic tests that his lung capacity was a mere four liters, compared to Kris and Conrad’s seven. His little fighter jet had a small fuel tank, so it was no more than a bullet hole in the fuselage that brought him down.

“It started with an innocuous cough two nights ago at Base Camp—something we all have. The next morning we left for Camp 2 at 3 a.m. Within a couple hours Phil was behind the team. Nothing new, but no worries. But by breakfast, when the five of us had reached Camp 1, Phil was still on the Icefall.

“We radioed him, and he was upbeat, so we carried on to Camp 2 expecting him to simply be a couple of hours behind. At 11 a.m. we radioed again and Phil said he could see Camp 2, and expected to pull in in about 40 minutes.

“Two hours later, Phil radioed and said he had ground to a halt and needed help. Ominously, he said he needed oxygen. Four Sherpas immediately ran down into the oven of the Western Cwm, took his pack, and put him on a one-liter flow of O's.”

Note: Phil Henderson made it safely down the mountain and recovered quickly once he returned to Base Camp. He's feeling much better now.

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