April 7: descent to Island Peak base camp

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In the high peaks, the difference between how you feel going uphill and how you feel on the downhill is remarkable. Going up, I was concentrating on maintaining an even pace, taking two breaths for each step. Once I got into a rhythm it wasn’t difficult to maintain a reasonably steady but slow pace. However, when heading downhill, our pace seemed almost the same as at sea level.

We made good time going down the glacier and back onto the rocks. Much of the snow that had fallen on the rocks was melted off by the time we headed down, which made the traveling much easier. As we approached our high camp we could look back and still see a mob of people on the summit. We would still have been in the waiting line had we stayed and tried for the top.

When I’d stop and take a break, I would feel pretty normal, but the slightest effort would remind me of the elevation we were at. At high camp, I had to stop and catch my breath a couple of times just from the effort it took to cram my sleeping bag into its stuff sack.

We packed up our high camp and moved on down to base camp, all in the same day as the climb. The cook crew had tea and biscuits waiting for us as we returned. Quite a day.

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