I summited Everest on May 21, 2011 and have climbed it three times- 2002, 2003 and 2008 with my previous best was the Balcony at about 27,500' (8400 meters) before health, weather or my own judgment caused me to turn back. When not climbing, I cover the Everest season from my home in Colorado as I did for the 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009 and the 2010 Everest seasons.
This page has my real-time dispatches
from my first climb in 2002 on
the South Col route. Using
a satellite telephone from Everest Base Camp, 17,500', I sent photos and e-mails
to Cathy every few days. She took the
updates and posted them on this page.
Everest in May 2002 from the South Col route
with the New Zealand Adventure Consultants
expedition. There were seven climbers: four from
America, two from Australia and one from Iceland.
It was an honor to be with John Taske, Australian,
who was on the ill-fated '96 expedition and
Haraldur Olafsson, Icelander, who had been
to both Poles plus six of the seven summits in
the previous 10 months! We had several people
who trekked with us to base camp. It was
on a similar trek in 1997 that I saw Everest for
the first time.
It was nice to climb with David Hiddleston, New
Zealand, and Phu Tashi (Pangboche) who were with me on Ama Dablam.
Bill was the lead Guide and Guy Cotter drove the expedition
from base camp. Our expedition doctors were Dr Liesel Geertsema & Dr
Celeste Geertsema (thanks for all you both did for me!)
These dispatches include our puja, my first
trip up the icefall, falling into a crevasse,
first time in the Western CWM, climbing
the Lhotse Face, and, of course, summit
night. I was not sponsored on the climb and these pages are
for the enjoyment of all Everest fans worldwide!
Lukla, Tuesday 21 May - Alan Arnette
Did You Summit?
No. I reached about 27,200 feet (8250m) just under
So close, yet so -- cough, cough, cough
As previously reported by Cathy, I caught a lung
infection that dramatically reduced my ability to transfer the little
oxygen available from my lungs to my muscles. There is a short
story on my summit day but the very short story is: We left
the South Col about 10:30PM, May 15. I was out about three hours
when I started to cough. My cough was continuous and extreme. At
the end of each episode, I felt as if I wanted to vomit and I in
fact dry heaved and gagged at the end of each coughing session.
I know this is distasteful, but it was what happened. I continued
this way for about an hour. With a Sherpa behind me, I never felt
in jeopardy. I did know, however, that my summit bid was at serious
risk. Moving slowly, I was the last person of the AC team on the
Hill. I drank some water and took some concentrated carbohydrates
to see if it would revive me. I rested. But it was not to be. I
thought deeply and carefully about turning around. My decision was
based primarily on not getting better and considered my ability
to safely descend after gaining more altitude.
And the team.
I am very happy that Haraldur Olafsson from Iceland
competed his Grand Slam (7 summits plus North and South
Poles) on this expedition. It is a great accomplishment for the 30 year-old.
The Guides - Bill and Dave, Ellen Miller and Sherpas
-Anj Dorje, Lhakpa Dorje and Pasang also summited.
Feelings, nothing more than...
Mixed. Extremely disappointed and good at the same
time that I accomplished my goal of doing my best that night, testing
my limits and learning about myself. I felt great leaving BC after
the 5 days of rest. While I had a cough (I always do in the Himalayas),
it did not seem serious. My health started to deteriorate on the
way up to Camp 2. Even then, Dave commented on my condition. The
climb to C3 was good but to C4 was very difficult for me. I felt
very tired and weak. I knew something was wrong but hoped that it
was just fatigue and with some food, water and rest that I would
be ready for the summit push.
The three day trek from base camp to Lukla provided
me with ample opportunity to feel sorry for myself, blame everything
and everybody and finally get a handle on how I really felt. It
wasn't until fifteen minutes outside Lukla that it all came together.
I was stopped by two young schoolgirls going home to point out a
person climbing a big boulder. They were dressed in school uniforms.
I looked at the climber and asked them their names. They laughed
so easily and had pure and genuine smiles. We talked for about ten
minutes and they were off to their homes. It reminded me of the
optimism of life. The innocence of youth. New life brings new hope.
I came down from the slopes of Everest with all my fingers and all
my toes and my future. I am returning to my family with newfound
knowledge about myself. The Hill will always be there.
It has been quite a journey for me! Needless to
say, I am disappointed that I did not summit. AND (not but) I am
very happy to return to my family will all my fingers, toes and
nose in tact! Climbing Everest was the hardest mountain experience
of my life. While not as 'technical' as my previous summits such
as Ama Dablam, the altitude, variety of climbing (ice, snow, etc)
and length of time all combine to test you severely.
I am just beginning to recover from the experience
but I have a few thoughts about what it meant to me (and Cathy).
I was pleased that at the moment of truth
that May 15 night I was able to maintain a balanced perspective
and make a difficult decision that ultimately resulted in my safety.
That night, I felt like a car that had just run out of gas. You
can push on the accelerator all you want but it simply will not
go. It was hard. It hurt. It still does. I was thinking clearly
but the body just would not go any further. Each step brought less
energy and more frustration. While I knew something was wrong, I
did not fully understand the extent of the lung infection. All I
knew was that my mind said go but my body said stop. It hurt. But
at that moment, I considered what was really happening and the consequences
of going on. And then just like someone turning on the lights in
a dark room, I said to myself "This is nonsense." And accepted the
fact that I would not go any further. I told my Sherpa I was going
down. At that moment, it was the right thing to do. As a good Friend
once told me, "Once you know the right thing to do, do it." While
it still hurts now, I have no regrets.
After falling in the crevasse, I was forced to
face potential death in a way I have never done so before. While
many people face dangerous situations everyday, this was so 'in
your face' that when I finally reached the safety of Camp 2, I sat
on my pack and started to cry. It was real and it was scary. But,
I was committed to climbing this hill and I was determined to learn
from this close call and move on. I think I will always use this
stark and vivid experience as a reminder that life is precious and
not to waste any moment. The next time I get caught up in the trivia
of everyday life, I will - hopefully - smile to myself and try and
make the day worthwhile. 'Cause, just like that - whoosh - you can
Finally, the whole experience has been very fulfilling for
Cathy and me. She is my partner. We share complete trust and honesty.
This time apart never tested these concepts but rather re-enforced them.
I am very lucky. I had no idea that our web site would serve as such
a strong link between us during the expedition. Each week the number
of hits doubled until we reached 140,000 on summit week! Working together
on the pictures and dispatches kept us in constant communication on
a common goal. It was fun.
I think all this boils down to a few words or phrases:
- do the right thing, even if it hurts
- commit to your goal and make your efforts count
- trust your partner and keep open and honest communication,
especially when times get tough.
Thank you for your support. As I made my climb
that dark May 15 night, I thought about your encouraging e-mails.
It provided me motivation and energy. Thanks. Also, your support
for Cathy during my expedition was extraordinary and sincerely appreciated.
Thanks. We feel like we have created a bond with so many of you.
If you have any questions or comments, please let us know. I will
be posting additional short stories as well as many of the 1,000
photos I took. So, please check our site over the next month. Thanks
again. I am off to bed!
Namaste, Cathy and Alan .
20 May 10:00 a.m. MDST - Cathy Arnette
After sleeping well the first night back at base camp,
Alan decided to start the long trek back to Lukla that next afternoon.
He will be traveling with Haraldur and his group, so he will be with good
company. It will take them approximately three days walking to reach Lukla
with overnight stops in Periche and Namche. Once in Lukla, they will wait
for good weather to take the flight to Kathmandu. Hopefully, once they
arrive in Kathmandu, I will be able to communicate with Alan again. Unfortunately,
once he left base camp, there is no communication along the trail until
Kathmandu. When I last spoke to Alan right before he
departed BC last Saturday he still sounded very sick, coughing hard and
breathing heavily, but was anxious to start his travels home. As soon
as I next hear from Alan, perhaps sometime tomorrow, I will post another
update. He is scheduled to arrive in Denver this Friday
at 2:30 p.m. I will be there with tears of joy in my eyes and a spirit
filled with pride for what my husband has accomplished...Cathy
17 May 10:00 a.m. MDST Alan at base camp - Cathy
I just spoke to Alan and he has safely returned
to base camp. Dr. Celeste did a preliminary exam and determined
that Alan has a severe chest infection and is very dehydrated. He
was going immediately to the medical tent where he would receive
an IV for fluids with antibiotics. There, the doctor will do a more
thorough exam. Fortunately, she did not detect any fluid on Alan's
lungs. He said that the trip back to base camp was very difficult
in his condition. He was able to make it with the help of the guides,
Bill and Dave, and the Sherpas. He said that he started to feel
sick while climbing between camps 3 and 4. I cannot imagine what
it would be like to feel as if you are getting the flu and be at
26,000'. He was about 2 hours out on summit day when he started
to cough so violently that he went into convulsions. That was the
signal to turn around. Hopefully, after a good sleep, Alan will
start to recuperate and start thinking about coming home...Cathy
0940 hours Nepal time - Suze Kelly, Adventure Consultants
All team members are coming down to base camp today
and are expected to arrive tonight. Bill, Dave, Ellen and Haraldur
left from the col at 9.00am and are already at Camp 3. Rob and Tom
have left from Camp 2 to descend to base camp and Alan is already
at Camp 2 after descending with Phurba. Alan is going to wait for
Dave and Bill & co. to arrive and will then descend with them.
Today Bill reported 50-60 knots on the col, although it's calm and
warm in base camp. No-one is going up to the summit from this side.
The weather forecast looks not-so-good so maybe yesterday was THE
day! The Ministry of Tourism reported 54 people on top from 8 teams
yesterday, a record day. Russell Brice reported about 12-14 from
the North side and 30 were expected to go today from that side.
Bill and Dave reported that they were all feeling quite dehydrated
since it was warm for an Everest summit day. The Adventure Consultants
expedition base camp crew are planning a big party this evening
and then people will start leaving base camp from tomorrow. The
yaks and equipment loads will not leave from base camp until May
22, as it takes a few days to clean all the camps from the mountain
and get everything packed. In New Zealand the media have celebrated
the Adventure Consultants climbers' ascent of Mt Everest in various
papers, on the radio and on TV.
830 MDST Update on Alan's condition - Cathy
I received a satellite call this morning at 3:00
a.m. from Celeste, the expedition doctor, regarding Alan's
condition. She advised me that he had safely made it to Camp 3 and would
be spending the night there. She believes he is recovering but is still
sick and very tired. It would be safer for Alan to descend
to Camp 2 as Camp 3 is a dangerous place to stay, but it looks like he
was only able to go so far. I am hopeful that he will be able to reach
base camp by Saturday so the doctor can have a look at
him. I have not been able to speak to Alan myself so I am not sure what
happened on summit day. He did call me after he arrived at Camp 4 and
said he was already beginning to feel sick. Unfortunately, the climbers
only rest at C4 for a few hours before they start the
summit bid. Since C4 is in the "Death Zone" your body never recovers,
it only continues to deteriorate. We both talked about it and I supported
him continuing on to give it his best shot. He sounded
like he was still thinking clearly so I trusted him to make the right
decision when the time came. It is then that you feel like someone has
punched you in the stomach and you try to make your voice sound very calm.
You hope you have helped your partner to make the right
decision. I knew he would still try to start for the summit no matter
how he felt to see how far he could get...that is the essence of Alan.
He made the right decision...he turned his back on his
dream but only for a moment...to live another day to continue that dream...Cathy
I will continue to post updates on Alan's condition as he makes
his way back to base camp. Hopefully, if he feels up to it, he will
send along a dispatch when he returns to BC.
The Chinese say..."May you live in interesting times"...indeed
what a time this has been for all of us. I would like to take a
moment to thank all of you for your continued support of Alan, Ashley
and myself. We received hundreds of e-mails from all over the world.
Alan was so pleased to be receiving your best wishes and words of
encouragement at base camp. He commented to me several times that
he looked forward to each morning when the e-mails would arrive.
It has been a pleasure for me to correspond with all of you. Thank
you for visiting our website and sharing all of our experiences
1630 hours Nepal time - Adventure Consultants
The latest report from base camp advises the following
status of the Adventure Consultants expedition teams' progress
off the mountain. The summit team have arrived back at
Camp 4. Alan and Phurba are staying at Camp 3 overnight.
Tom and Rob are moving to Camp 2. All members will take
a well deserved rest, and may all be able to descend to
base camp by tomorrow night.
1050 hours Nepal time - Guy Cotter, Adventure Consultants
Dave, Bill, Haraldur, Lhakpa Dorje and Pasang
have reached the summit of Mount Everest, and have joined
Ellen and Ang Dorjee. Dave said that the ascent has gone
well and the weather conditions are still good. For Haraldur, this
summit success makes him the 3rd person in the world
to achieve the Grand Slam! He has now climbed all of the Seven Summits
and has journeyed on foot to both the North and South Poles. A notable
accomplishment and admirable effort. Dave is the 15th New Zealander
to summit Everest ( 23 ascents by New Zealanders overall
), and this is Bill and Pasang's second Everest summit. Our congratulations
go out to all! We will update the progress of the entire team on their
descent to South Col, and lower camps. Reported by Guy Cotter via satellite
phone from Everest BC.
Thursday 16 May: 1010 hours Nepal time - Guy
Ellen Miller has reached the summit of Everest
with Ang Dorjee Sherpa. Ellen is the first North American
woman to summit Everest from the North side (2001) and the South side.
Congratulations Ellen and on your achievement! This marks
Ang Dorjee's 8th successful Everest summit... an outstanding effort and
a job well done! Dave, Bill, Haraldur, Lhakpa Dorje and Pasang are at
the top of the Hillary Step and are expected to summit
in 20 minutes.
0930 hours Nepal time - Guy
Everest BC. Update by phone. Dave has radioed BC
to say that the team is now at the Hillary Step making
them on target for a summit around 1000 hrs (Nepal time).
All members are going well under ideal weather conditions.
Whilst there are a reasonable number of climbers attempting
the summit today, there appears to be a good flow and level
of coordination between the teams. Standing by for the
call from On Top of the World! Guy Cotter
0830 hours Nepal time - Guy
Everest BC. Update by phone. The team have just
left from the South Summit and are heading towards the Hillary Step,
which has already had fixed ropes put in place. The weather is still
calm and clear. Alan, Rob and Tom are preparing to leave from South
Col with Phu Tashi in about one hour to descend to Camp 2.
0745 hours Nepal time - Guy
Everest BC. Email report from Guy Cotter; Just
spoke to Ang Dorjee and Dave Hiddleston at South Summit.
They have arrived along with Bill, Ellen and Haraldur
and Sherpas Ang Pasang and Lhakpa Dorje. The team left the South Col at
2215 during the night in clear and cold conditions. During the night
Alan, Rob and Tom turned around and returned to the South
Col. They put in their best effort but made the decision to turn around
based on how they were feeling. Whilst we are disappointed for them that
they did not summit after all the work they put in we respect
their decision to turn around whilst they had some in
reserve and did not wait until they were too spent too descend. Whilst
the weather could not be better, the snow conditions found on the SE ridge
above the balcony consisted of deep snow. This part of
the climb took some time to make a trail and fix ropes. However, the efforts
of Ang Dorjee, Chulden and 4 Sherpas from other teams yesterday
made the summit attempt possible today.
They left at 0500 yesterday morning to make a trail
in the deep snow and fix ropes on the route above South Col to the
balcony region. Ang Dorjee reported waist deep snow. It is again
a credit to these Sherpas that they can work so hard at extremely
high altitudes several days in a row. Ang Dorjee is heading towards
his 8th Everest summit! There are many people up on South Summit
and the weather is perfectly fine with no wind and all the members
are feeling fine with plenty of oxygen reserves for the rest of
the day. Just now some climbers and Sherpas have begun making the
trail along the summit ridge towards the Hillary step, a steep rock
section along the precipitous summit ridge. From the top of the
step it is about 30 minutes to the summit itself. We anticipate
they will reach the top at about 1000 hours this morning. We'll
update again soon!!! Guy Cotter
0700 Nepal time - Suze Kelly
Dave has just been in contact via radio with Guy
at Everest BC, they are just below the South Summit (8750m). The
climb has been going well, perhaps a little slowly as they have
been doing a lot of rope fixing, but the weather has been good.
Alan Arnette turned around not long after starting and is now back
at south col, Phurba Sherpa came up from south col to meet him.
Alan got down very quickly so Phurba had hardly got going before
they met up. Tom Burch and Rob Plotke have also turned around during
the early morning hours and they arrived back at south col about
0330 accompanied by Phu Tashi. Haraldur, Ellen, Bill and Dave are
carrying on, all feeling strong, with Sherpas Ang Dorjee, Lhakpa
Dorje and Pasang. Report by Suze Kelly, Adventure Consultants
2215 Nepal time - Suze
The AC team has radioed in to BC ( who in turn
have phoned us in New Zealand) that they have departed just now
for their summit bid, along with many climbers from other teams.
Guy described the weather as 'perfect - the best night we've had
in quite a few days'. The 11 climbers going for the summit in the
AC team are; Bill (USA), David Hiddleston (New Zealand),
Ellen Miller (USA), Alan Arnette (USA), Tom Burch (USA), Haraldur
Olafsson (Iceland), Robert Plotke (USA), Ang Dorjee Sherpa (Nepal),
Lhakpa Dorje Sherpa (Nepal), Pasang Tenzing (Nepal), Phu Tashi Sherpa
10:45 a.m. Colorado/22:00 Nepal - Cathy
I just spoke to Celeste from base camp...the team
had just reported that they had left the South Col for the summit...they
are on their way...our thoughts and good wishes for a safe climb
and return go with them...Chomolungma Goddess Mother of the Earth
bless them all...Cathy
Summit Attempt to Begin
in 4 Hours
6:30 a.m. Colorado/ 17:45 Nepal time
Alan calls from Camp 4 - Cathy
I just spoke to Alan calling via satellite phone
from Camp 4. He is tired but doing well. He said the climb to Camp 4 was very difficult and very hot. The team is ready to give the
summit their best shot in a few hours. The going could be slow as
there seems to be quite a bit of snow right now. I will be posting
information here as soon as I receive it. We should here something
when the team departs for the summit in approximately four hours.
The latest dispatch from Guy
Hello one and all, We've received reports in from
Guy at Everest BC as follows; May 15 updates 1.00pm Nepal
time Just heard from Dave at 1230. He's just arrived
on the col with the others behind him. The weather is
warm but it's now snowing lightly. Ang Dorjee and Chulden went up to the
balcony to fix ropes last night and arrived back this morning. Whilst
plans were made for Sherpas from several teams to help with the rope fixing,
only a couple of other Sherpas were there to assist. Waist
deep snow on the SE ridge made the going difficult but
the work will very much benefit the efforts the climbers and Sherpas will
be faced with tomorrow. More later.... 3.20pm Nepal time I just spoke
to Bill at South Col. All are resting, eating, drinking and generally
getting prepared for the big night ahead. It appears
there are about 50 people at the col ready to make the attempt tonight
so numbers are not quite as bad as we had thought. The plan is for one
team to go ahead with Sherpas to fix ropes with the other
teams following up later. The Adventure Consultants team will depart about
10 or 10.30. Wen will be following them from base camp and sending
regular updates with progress. Weather is fine and warm
with some intermittent snow flurries which are dying out. Over the last
couple of hours the weather has improved after the afternoon thermals
have begun to dissipate. that's it for now, Guy Cotter
Wednesday 15 May 0727 Nepal time - Guy
Just had a call from Dave at C3. The team are
just departing C3 for South Col in excellent weather.
The team are all feeling strong having had a good rest
last night and report good conditions. Although several
teams were supposed to head for the summit today, no-one
has left South Col to make the attempt today. This is
unfortunate in that it is such a perfect summit day
and obviously those on the col made a call on the weather
last night, it just happened to be the wrong one! The
ramifications are that those waiting on the col will
now join the other groups climbing tomorrow increasing
the numbers trying to summit tomorrow. We will update
news during the day cheers Guy
14 May: 2.00pm Nepal time - Guy
Namaste. Yes, we've just heard from the group at
C3. They report being in good spirits having taken a
leisurely 5 hours from Camp 2 in cloudy, sometimes snowing, warm temperatures.
Now at C3 the weather has cleared and they can see the
impressive panorama including Cho Oyu, Gyachang Kang and the summit of
Pumori which is below them now. All the team are feeling strong and are
looking forward to the rest before heading up tomorrow
to South Col. Ang Dorjee and Chulden Sherpa are now at South Col with
the intention of fixing ropes above the col tomorrow with several Sherpas
from other expeditions.
Ours is one of a small group of expeditions here
who are doing the majority of the rope fixing on the mountain. Disappointingly
there are others who are more content to have the work done for
them! Nonetheless we are happy to see the work completed in preparation
for our summit bid, only two days away now! Bill (AC's lead
guide) reports about 80 people going up the ropes today. Some will
be climbing Sherpa dropping loads at the col and it appears that
at a rough guess, 40 or so are westerners. Some of these climbers
are heading to Lhotse so we believe that about 20-30 will be attempting
Everest at the same time as our group. Not an unreasonable number.
So at base camp we wait... we will send updates regularly now as
we head towards summit time.
Monday May 13 - Celeste Geertsema, Adventure Consultants
Well, my name is Celeste, I am Liesel's twin sister
and have taken over the base camp doctor job from her.
One of my most important responsibilities is to update
you on what's happening with Alan while he is up the mountain! He spoke
to me on the radio earlier today and I could unfortunately not send a
dispatch away immediately, because I was halfway on the way to Kala Patar
at the time. We have just returned in the dark after a great
adventure trying to navigate the glacier with headlamps.
Everything in base camp is dark, everyone has gone to bed and I'm typing
this with a headlamp on my head. I therefore apologize if this dispatch
is a little short - I promise it will be longer next time!
Alan has left with the group from base camp yesterday
on their final summit bid. This will involve going up to Camp 2
on the first day, then having a rest day at Camp 2 and proceeding
to Camp 3 the following day. If they are all well and the weather
looks good, they will then climb to Camp 4 the day after, to be
in position to start their summit bid at 10 or so the same night.
When they left base camp, it was very windy, but clear and not too
cold. There was a small farewell party, who sent them off with good
wishes at the bottom of the Icefall. There were also some Sherpa
blessings in the form of a small Puja and the burning of juniper.
I'm in the process of finding out exactly what everything meant
and will report to you, probably tomorrow.
Alan said the group got to Camp 2 very quickly
(within 5-6 hours, which was much quicker than previously).
They all felt really good and slept well. Alan's appetite has returned
with a vengeance and he says he is eating 'like a horse',
which is obviously great news. They talked for a long time this morning
about summit day and went through their gear carefully.
Other than that, they had a rest day, reading and chatting. Alan is feeling
very strong and optimistic and sounded really great on
the radio. They are due to move up to Camp 3 tomorrow. I am sure I'll
get another call from him as soon as they arrive and promise to update
you as soon as I hear anything. Alan talks about you a lot, Cathy, and
is obviously very keen to share this experience with
you. Please don't hesitate to e-mail or call if there is anything you
would like me to relate to him - I would only be too happy to oblige.
All the best, speak to you again soon. Celeste
you Guy Cotter and Suze Kelly from Adventure Consultants
for allowing me to post your dispatches to this website...this
will give our readers the most current information on
the AC team's summit bid...Cathy
Sunday 12 May - Guy Cotter
The AC team rose at 4.00am after a blustery night and headed
off into the icefall at 5 o'clock to begin the climb to the summit.
Before leaving, the team partook in the Sherpa tradition of throwing
rice and walking through the billowing smoke of burning juniper
at the chorten in our camp whilst Sherpa prayers were recited. For
everyone this was a moment to reflect on the climb ahead and focus
on the upcoming adventure. Then the seven Gore-Tex clad climbers
began the ascent on this windy but clear day. Today they will reach
Camp 2 and take a rest day tomorrow before moving to Camp 3 on the
14th, and all going well summit on the 16th. We wish them the best
of good fortune! Guy Cotter reporting from BC
Saturday May 11 - Alan
...Start your engines...
Well, all the preparation is over. The camps are
set. The oxygen is in place. Our bodies are rested, well
fed and acclimatized. Our Sherpas are raring to go. We leave tomorrow
morning for the summit bid. Working with Celeste, our expedition doctor,
I will do my best to radio dispatches from the upper
camps. She will then relay them to Cathy who will post them on the site.
Adventure Consultants will do the same. I will try to add the personal
angle. On summit day, we will be in radio contact with Guy and the team
at base camp and Celeste will let Cathy know my progress
at the crucial points.
One step at a time...
First we go to Camp 2, spend the night, and then
take a rest day-maybe two depending on the weather forecast. Then
the real push begins. We will depart for Camp 3 around 7:00AM to
avoid the heat. Carrying our down sleeping bags and summit gear,
we will arrive in early afternoon and begin the water melting and
resting ritual. Early the next morning, we leave for Camp 4 and
the famous South Col. The route from C3 continues straight up the
Lhotse Face and then cuts across the Geneva Spur. It should take
us four to six hours for the traverse. We will sleep with oxygen
at Camp 4 since it is in the Death Zone above 26,500'. Our time
will not be long at C4, about 10 hours maximum, since we leave for
the summit between 10:00 and 11:00PM. We will be drinking water
and eating what we can get down all afternoon but starting the real
preparations at 8:00PM. Everything slows down at this altitude so
we are forced to start early.
Organize and visualize...
Put on the two layers of long underwear. Put on the
insulated boot liners. Drink. Rest. Put on the
down suit. Attach the down mittens to the arms.
Eat some Cup-of-Soup. Drink. Find the sunglasses
and goggles for after sunrise. Top off the water
bottles - add Gatorade. Put on the harness - make
sure the belt is double-backed for safety. Make
sure the carabineer, figure of eight descender and jumar
are on the harness. Locate the ice axe. Drink. Put on the headlamp. Make
sure the extra battery is in the pack. Put the extra
down mittens, goggles and sunglasses in also. Drink. Lie back down. Rest.
Breathe the bottled oxygen. Hear yourself breath. Review the gear in your
mind. Add the two bottles of oxygen to your pack. Visualize
the summit. Put on the outer boots and crampons. Put on the balaclava.
Pull up the down hood. Put on the oxygen mask. Set the
flow at two liters per minute. You are about to climb Mount Everest.
We leave in the dark with headlamps glowing. The
sun will not rise for 7 hours. It will be dark. It will be cold.
We will be on auto pilot. Step. Breath. Step. Breath. Make good
time to avoid any crowds. Arrive at the Balcony in less than eight
hours leaving one empty oxygen bottle there. Switch to a new bottle.
Enjoy the warmth of oxygen. Breath. Keep going. The South Summit.
The Hillary Step. The Summit Ridge. The sun is shining brightly.
Step. Breath. Step. Breath. Almost there. And then, we are there.
12 hours later. On the top. The summit of Everest. 29,035'. 8,910
meters. The top of the world. Enjoy. Snap pictures and take the
video. A private moment. And back down. Concentrate. Be careful
not to slip on the ridge. Move carefully. Concentrate. More people
die going down than up. Careful. Clip in. Think. Summit Ridge. Hillary
Step. South Summit. Balcony. A new oxygen bottle. Ahh...breathe.
Not too far now. Down the Ridge. Careful. Back to the South Col.
Success. 18 hours. A round trip! Refuge in the thin nylon tent and
the thick down sleeping bag. We did it. Drink. Sleep. Dream. We
The next day back to Camp 2, maybe base camp. And
the party. We did it. Soon, back down the Khumbu to Lukla, Katmandu
and home to my wife. To our friends and families. And safe. All
our fingers. All our toes. The complete team: climbers, sherpas
and guides. A private moment. Visualize...I strongly believe in
visualizing the experience beforehand to shake out any problems
in my mind.
"Did you Summit?"
This has to be the most asked question of any climber attempting
a big hill: "Did you summit?" It has been a case study in human nature
over the past several weeks as we prepared for our summit bid. "Did
you summit?" Each of us has asked each other and ourselves countless
times "What does it mean to you to summit?" Each answer is different
and extremely personal. There is no common denominator. No common
theme. There are those who see the summit as optional. Others see not summiting
as nothing short of abject failure. Each have their own motivation.
Their own goals. As for me, it is crystal clear: I want the summit
badly. Very badly. I have worked hard to get here. I can feel it within my
reach. I am confident in my body but more importantly in my mind.
At this stage it is the mind that will create problems for the body. That
being said, I will do my best. I will find my limits and if I can
summit within my limits, so be it. If not, that is OK as well. I want to return
home safely to my family more than I want the summit. The mind again.
Make the correct judgment at the correct time to balance the want
versus the need. I want the summit. I need my family. I know the difference.
Down to earth...
It is an interesting time here in base camp. Everyone
seems a little quieter. Everyone is checking their gear for the
hundredth time. Even the Sherpas seem to have a different air about
them. We can all feel the summit. As the team makes our final preparations,
we look at each other with the excitement of a four-year-old at
Christmas. We are all ready. We are in it together and will watch
after one another. Hold on, this should be some ride! Namaste, Alan
Friday May 10 - Alan
Everest Base Camp tick, tock, tick, tock
It is day 6 in BC and we are waiting for the Jet
Stream to move north. Most of us went for a long hike today to stretch
the legs and lungs. While the weather is nice in BC, it remains
windy on the summit ridge, thus the waiting game. The daily lottery
is the summit day selected by the other expeditions: 14, 17, 15,
16. The Lamas select auspicious days each season for the summit.
Many expeditions try to summit on these days and this year there
are two: the 13th and the 26th. The 13th is clearly out for most
expeditions and the 26th is awfully far away. The primary issue
will be if all the expeditions try to summit on the same day. The
other issue is if the lines are fixed above the South Col or Camp 4. Most of the experienced teams work together to fix the ropes
above Camp 3 so it is not a burden on any one team. For example,
Adventure Consultants fixed the lines this year from C3 to C4. We
are working with other teams to make sure lines are there on summit
day, especially at the critical areas such as the Hillary Step and
South Summit. Politics exist even at 8,000 meters! I am glad to
be on a team with experience in dealing with these complexities!
As for the traffic jam, this is a more difficult
issue. There is no central controlling agency that determines who
goes up when, so it is actually a free-for-all. Anyone can attempt
a summit at anytime. This was one of the major issues in the 1996
tragedy - too many people bottlenecked on the critical parts of
the mountain thus causing delays, frostbite and using up precious
oxygen. There are techniques to avoid some of this but the best
strategy is not to be too eager. We will just have to play this
by ear, as we get closer to summit day.
What are you eating under there?
The saying "An army travels on its stomach" certainly applies to Everest
expeditions. Imagine trying to feed up to 34 people three full, and
I mean full, meals a day for over two months. Chhombga, our base camp
cook, has this challenge. He must prepare the menus, make sure the food
is in camp, prepare the meals and wash the dishes every single day.
I am pleased to say he does an amazing job. Chhombga has been working
with Adventure Consultants for over ten years so he is familiar with
western tastes. His menus are filled with variety and surprises.
One of his secrets is to get fresh vegetables and
eggs delivered to base camp every few days from the villages down
the Khumbu. Think about seeing a porter with a four-foot high metal
wire frame on his back that contains dozens and dozens of fresh
eggs! That is a normal scene every few days around BC. Our normal
day starts with morning tea and then breakfast. It is usually fried
eggs, toast, bacon and porridge. There is always plenty to eat.
If the weather is nice we sit on the rocks outside the communications
and dining tents soaking up the morning sun while listening to avalanches
and rock slides from the nearby mountains. Better than the Today
Lunch can be large or small. Yesterday it
was spinach burritos with fresh potato salad and a mixed bean salad
and fresh sliced tomatoes and cucumbers. It just didn't stop. Of
course we are eating all we can to prevent weight loss. I am having
a hard time eating enough at the higher camps so I am enjoying fattening
up down here. Dinner is always special. We have had sushi, roasted
chicken, Sherpa Stew and other dishes that stretch the imagination.
We always start with a soup - garlic, potato, or tomato. Then there
are at least four different dishes including vegetables, rice or
pasta and some kind of meat. Dessert is never optional. Last night
Chhombga made chocolate cheesecake. It is amazing the cakes and
muffins he makes up here! The kitchen he cooks in would make Julia
Child blush. Martha Stewart would turn her head. But we just say
A huge tent that allows everyone to stand upright covers the
stone floor. There are several LP gas powered burners. The huge tin
kettles are always full of boiling water. Chhombga and Nema cook everything
here and serve it in casserole dishes to the main dining tent. Cleanliness
is critical since one germ can destroy our expedition. Everyone is expected to wash their hands
thoroughly before every meal. Chhombga and his team are constantly washing
their hands and cooking utensils. All our eating dishes are boiled after
every use. I would dare the health department to find a problem. The
proof is that no one on our expedition has suffered from any stomach
problems. So, hungry we are not! In fact I think I am no longer losing
weight and may have to call Jenny Craig on the satellite phone for some
Thursday May 9 - Alan
Dog Days of May
Turn me over, I'm done. It is hot here in base camp about 90F inside my tent. There is a breeze but it does not
help much. At 17,500' the sun is intense. Most expeditions are down
from the High Camps after completing their acclimatization programs.
We have been here for 5 days now. It seems to happen like this every
year on Everest. Everyone pushes to get to Camp 3 to spend their
night along with the requisite nights at camps 1 and 2 only to get
hung up by the fickle Jet Stream. Patience is one of the virtues
it takes to climb Everest and we are in full test mode at the moment.
Adventure Consultants receives several weather forecasts as do most
large expeditions. We are waiting for a magic four-day window where
the winds are tolerable before we leave base camp. Last year, they
waited over two weeks for the window to materialize thus summiting
around May 20. The major event is for the Jet Stream to move north
and off its usual position on top of the big hill. This happens
like clockwork every year between Winter and the monsoon season.
That is why everyone climbs Everest in April and May.
We remain hopeful that a window will open up next
week and continue to prepare to leave for Camp 2 this weekend, but
you never know. Thus the waiting game. Our Adventure Consultant's
base camp is very comfortable with the toilet, shower and great
food so the waiting is not that bad. I am just anxious to get back
up there. I am feeling great and want to take advantage of the moment.
Some expeditions have gone back down the Khumbu to the villages
for their R&R. We will not do that because the chance of catching
colds or other health problems are very high in those tea houses
and we don't want to take that chance. So we remain homebodies.
This is a serious waiting game since going up at the wrong time
wastes energy, food, oxygen, and Sherpa resources. Also, being up
there in gale-force winds is no fun. There are already several cases
of frostbite from people being exposed at C3 during the storm. One
climber's nose is completely black. I don't know if he will lose
I thought while I had a moment (or day) that I would let you
know the magic behind these dispatches and pictures. Here is the flow.
I am always taking pictures with my Photosmart 812 digital camera
(over 800 thus far). In fact, since the camera is so small, I have it
with me all the time - even on ladders - usually in my breast pocket
for easy access! I regularly upload the latest images to the notebook
from the camera using the standard software that came with the camera.
This way I always have space on the storage cards.
I write the dispatches on my OmniBoook 500 notebook
computer and select some images. I then compress the images to make
the file size smaller and attach them to the dispatch. Adventure
Consultants has a satellite phone here at base camp that I then
use to 'e-mail' the dispatch with images to Cathy. She performs
her magic with the dispatch by putting it on the local website (after
some editing) and then uploads the new dispatch page to the server
in the sky. Then it is live for the world to see!
Cathy and I have been amazed at the response to
our little program. The number of visits is growing each week with
last week having over 40,000 accesses to our website. When I started
this, I never had any idea that so many people would be interested.
We are very pleased to be able to share our experiences with people.
I am personally very gratified that many so many people are taking
their time to send e-mails to Cathy showing her support as well
as for me. Thanks again to everyone!
I'll let you know when we leave BC. I hope soon. Our
team is raring to go!
Wednesday May 8 - Alan
Everest Base Camp
Eat, drink and .. Day 4 of our rest since returning
from Camp 3. This time is critical for our bodies to recharge with
food, water and sleep. Most of us are lying around between meals
just talking, reading or sleeping. We know the 18 hour summit day
will come on the heals of two 6 hour climbs to camps 3 and 4 with
limited food and sleep. So now is the time to prepare.
Turn your head and cough
Today we broke out the oxygen bottles and regulators. This
is one of our most important pieces of climbing gear. Here at base camp,
there is 25% less oxygen than at sea level and at the summit 33% less.
The use of bottled oxygen will only reduce the altitude by a few thousand
feet but it will make us feel warmer. Everyone walked through how the
regulators work, how to read the gauges, adjust the flow and clear any
blockages. It is critical to be not only a user but also a mechanic
for these devices.
First summit attempt this season
We understand the Korean team attempted to summit
today but were turned back by high winds. This is what makes climbing
Everest so daunting. Here at base camp it is a perfectly clear day
with a very light breeze and mild temperatures. In fact some people
have shorts on. We understand they left from the South Col before
midnight and turned around sometime later. We hope to avoid such
wasted energy with up-to-date weather forecasts.
Who ARE those guys?
I thought I would introduce my teammates on the
expedition so you can put some backgrounds with some names. Each
person agreed to this short intro and says hello to their friends
and families and sends a Happy Mothers Day for this Sunday!
Ellen Miller lives in Colorado and was the
first woman from North America to succeed on Everest from the north
side in 2001. She is an avid participant in the worldwide Eco Challenges
with races in Tibet, The Amazon and other exotic places. Ellen is
writing a book about the women who have summited Everest and is
an amazing encyclopedia about what woman summited when and how.
Tom Burch is a lawyer from California.
Cycling and mountain climbing are his passions at home.
This is his third trip to Nepal and he has many friends
here. Everest has been a childhood dream for Tom so, needless
to say, he is very excited to be on this expedition. Tom's
climbing experiences include major peaks such as Makalu,
Ama Dablam and Logan. Tom's calm presence is welcome in
this frenzied environment. He says hello to all his family
and friends back at home who are providing tremendous support
on this great adventure.
Haraldur Olafsson lives in Iceland and, hopefully
with the summit of Everest, will have climbed the highest peak on
each of the seven continents in the past year (the 7 Summits). He
also has completed crossings of Antarctica and The Artic making
him one of only three people to complete the Grand Slam with Everest.
A well-known individual in Iceland, Haraldur brings incredible experience
and confidence, especially on the glaciers, to our team. A special
surprise was when his father, Olafur joined him in base camp a few
Rob Plotke is an associate partner with Accenture,
a management consulting firm. With Kilamanjaro, Vinson and Aconcagua
under his belt, Everest is now on the radar. Rob and I seem to be
sharing tents and ropes a lot these days which is good since his
careful approach to climbing keeps us all safe. Rob has already
achieved several of his goals on this trip, having always wanted
to travel to Nepal, the trip has already been a dream come true.
Well, that is the climbing team and of course we have our two guides.
Bill, also from Colorado, is the lead
guide. A calm leader with a flair for Thai cooking, Bill has made
some of the crucial decisions of when we go up the mountain or down
to lower camps. Thus far, his calls have been right on. Bill was
part of the 1999 expedition to measure the current height of Everest
so his knowledge and experience with that summit is paying big rewards
David Hiddleston is our second guide.
Dave, from New Zealand, also brings his Everest experience
to our team since he came within 100 meters of the summit
in 2000. A Professional Mountain Guide, Dave has already
made major contributions to our safety and good health
on this expedition. I appreciate Dave's contribution on
this trip since we climbed Ama Dablam together in 2001.
There will be four climbing Sherpas with us, two of which
have summited Everest several times so we climbers should
be in great hands. I have been on many expeditions where
the dynamics just did not work amongst the team. This one,
however, is great. Everyone is supportive of one another
and the communication is excellent. While we each have
our personal reasons for being here, there is unanimous
support that everyone do their best in reaching the summit.
I am very proud to be part of the Adventure Consultants
team. I am positive we will all do our best on summit day!
| Dispatch #8
Sunday May 5 - Alan
Everest Base Camp
Ready, set, go...We have finally spent the night
at Camp 3. Everyone is in excellent health. Camp 3 was our last
test before the real thing. Of course, we needed to spend the night
at 23,500' for further acclimatization and it was great that no
one had any breathing problems there. We are back in base camp for
several days of rest before we climb the Icefall for the last time
for our summit push. More about that in a minute.
Climbing the Lhotse Face was much more difficult
than I had thought, especially the last third to Camp 3. And it
was probably the most rewarding climbing thus far. Imagine the steepest
staircase you have ever climbed. Think about stairs at your office,
in a European Cathedral or similar environment. Now, make the stairs
twice as steep. Add crystal clear, blue ice underneath every step.
Make sure you clip your metal carabineer into the small garden hose
size nylon rope. Add people coming down the stairs fast, and people,
primarily Sherpas, coming up from behind wanting to pass you. Hold
every other breath and pant like a Golden Retriever on the hottest
day in summer. You are on the Lhotse Face. Oh, you might want to
add a 20lb pack to make it realistic. I must admit that my thoughts
went to Peter, the Englishman who fell to his death a few days before.
I glanced around the frozen mountain side and wondered where he
slipped, what he must have felt, how these tragic accidents could
be avoided. However, concentration is critical on the Face so I
focused on my own safety - clipping in, double checking my knots,
having solid footing into the ice with my crampons, watching out
for my climbing buddies. We climbed the 2,450' in about six hours,
not bad according to our experts. Camp 3 is perched on the only
relatively flat section of the face. Keep in mind that there are
fixed ropes between every tent, almost like streets in a residential
part of town. Clip in or else. Our three tents shared guy lines
and we could speak to each other in a normal voice from tent to
tent. We arrived at about 2:00PM and immediately started a stove
in each tent vestibule.
The first order of business at any camp is to re hydrate. In
spite of the cold temperatures and low humidity, we perspire an amazing
amount of fluids. We need to drink at least 5 liters of water a day
just to stay even. However, at this altitude it takes over an hour
just to melt a pan of snow and ice and bring it to a boil. As the sun starts
to set, the temperature drops dramatically. The view from Camp 3
towards the Western Cwm and Pumori was simply breathtaking. I wish I could
have breathed it in like the smell of fresh bacon in the morning but it was
cold and I needed to get to sleep. Sleep at these altitudes is always
tenuous but I was pleasantly surprised that it was not as tortuous
as advertised. I fell asleep around 5:00PM and woke up ready to go at 9:00PM!
A full four hours. Rob put it well: "I was warm and comfortable. I was
ready for sleep but nothing happened." Ellen, on the other hand, slept
for 12 hours straight waiting for the morning light to serve as her
wake-up call. All in all, we had a great night and everyone felt
rested for the down climb to Camp 2.
Our climb down the morning of April 4 was not what anyone expected.
With the Adventure Consultants' Sherpas having fixed
the rope all the way to Camp 4 and the South Col, all the other expeditions
were hurrying to ferry tents, food, stoves and oxygen to meet the needs
of their clients. Ang Dorje and his team were well ahead. Dave, Tom
and Haraldur left first with Rob and I close behind. Bill and Ellen
waited for the full sun before leaving about an hour later. We all met
an onrush of Sherpas climbing to Camp 3 and beyond. At one point Rob
and I were perched on the Face at a junction of two fixed ropes. There
were fifteen Sherpas climbing fast with loads up the only fixed line.
We shifted our weight from foot to foot making sure we remain clipped
in and our crampons having a solid bite into the 60-degree angle ice.
We decided to wait out the Sherpa train rather than having to clip and
unclip to go past each and every climber we encountered. It took about
twenty minutes for the train to pass with more on the way. We were cold.
Most Sherpas we passed were extraordinarily polite asking how was our "condition" and
patiently waiting for us to manipulate our carabineers and ropes. We
made it back to Camp 2 in about 3 hours, another good time. However,
it was not without another crevasse incident.
Crevasse from the Outside
Ellen, Bill, Rob and I roped up at the bottom of
the Lhotse Face for the half-hour walk to Camp 2. I had not seen
any other team from any country rope up in this section, but we
always had. I was in the lead and we were moving quickly. About
fifteen minutes outside Camp 2 I heard Ellen yell. I felt a slight
tug on my rope as I turned around. Ellen was sitting down with her
feet securely wedged into the snow. Rob was standing up but holding
onto the rope. Bill was nowhere to be seen. Ellen called out his
name - silence. She called again. I heard a faint response: "Wait,
I need to catch my breath." It had happened again. Bill was fine.
Rob went over and helped pull his pack out while I pulled on command.
He had stepped on a soft snow bridge only to fall ten feet onto
another. In his 25 years of alpine mountaineering, he had never
fallen into a crevasse. He had a great attitude and soon we were
on our way. Base camp Calling
We regrouped at Camp 2, rested and had some food.
About 2:00PM we left for BC and the 'heavy air' with oxygen plus
better food. We made it through the Icefall in about 4 hours. Bill,
Dave and I were together at the end only to be greeted at the base
of the Icefall by Guy Cotter carrying a pot of tea. Nice touch!
Dinner was short that night with everyone ready for bed.
Dr. John Taske left us this past week for his home in Brisbane,
Australia. John was a member of Rob Hall's fateful 1996 expedition and
shared many of his thoughts about that experience. I felt honored to
spend time with him, not because of '96, but rather that John is a man
of humor, intellect and integrity. I enjoyed the many conversations
we had as well as climbing together. I don't know if he was seeking
anything by returning to Everest but as he left he said he was satisfied
with his effort this time as he was with the previous attempt. Thanks
John for your company in Nepal.
We will rest for a few days and then head back
up for the summit attempt. I will send at least one more dispatch
before we leave. All the hard work is done. Our bodies are acclimatized
as much as possible. Our camps are set. We have proven our ability
to reach just under the Death Zone. I can tell that everyone is
a bit nervous these days. We all speak of the summit push with reverence
and respect. We seem to be at the front of the expeditions at this
point, but there are a couple that could attempt a summit before
us - which is OK. Let them test the ropes and break trail. Sometimes
being first is not best. Namaste, Alan
Friday May 3 - Alan
Hi Cathy I just had a chat to Alan at Camp 3. He
asked me to do an update to you again to let you know
what is happening.. The group (this time without John
Taske, who has called it a day) left for Camp 2 two days
ago at 5 in the morning. They made excellent time and had no mishaps on
the way up. In fact, they shaved 3 hours off their previous time for the
trip! The next day was spent lazing around in the sun on deck chairs (I
am told..) and admiring the view, which included some climbers going up
to Camp 3. This morning they left at 7 am and climbed up to Camp 3 via
the Lhotse face. Alan said that they had been up to about 7000 m
on the previous trip, but the camp is actually a further
300 - 400 m and apparently, the climbing is very difficult. He said
it is almost vertical ice in a number of places and every
climbing skill was tested. Luckily, there are fixed ropes all the way
up and I think that this group is more safety conscious than any of the
others I have seen around here. I think that they are quite safe. Alan
said everyone made it in about 6 hours and they are feeling very good.
Camp 3 is perched on a ledge cut out of the ice
of the Lhotse face. Apparently, the views down the western
cwm towards Camp 2 and 1 are out of this world and they
have all enjoyed the change in perspective. Alan says that there is an
old camp (a bit reminiscent of a refugee camp) just below them. They
are not sure how old it is, but the tents have been shredded
to pieces and it is quite a sad sight. A good reminder of the realities
of life at altitude on a big mountain! Leaving your tent can be fatal
if you do not take the necessary precautions. They are all equipped
with pee bottles to minimize the risk and are awaiting
further instructions for when they do need to leave the tents...
Sleeping at Camp 3 is a necessity in terms of acclimatizing
to the extreme altitude of the summit. The body needs
to be exposed to a particular altitude for a certain
length of time (24 hours is good) in order to induce
the changes necessary for acclimatization. Above a certain
level, these changes do not occur any more and acclimatization
is fruitless. Nobody knows exactly where the cut-off is and in fact, it
is different for different people. However, most experts would argue that
anything above Camp 3 is pointless. The night at Camp 3 will probably
ensure that Alan and the rest of the group will use the limited oxygen
above 7000 m as efficiently as possible on summit day.
Now all they need to do is come back down to base camp, eat as much as
possible, rest properly, build up strength and then go for the summit
as soon as the weather allows them a few good days. Most of the
preparation is over and the summit is in sight!
They are planning to come down to Camp 2 tomorrow
morning (the weather forecast is looking good for the next few days)
and have breakfast there. Depending on how they feel, they will
continue on to base camp later in the morning. Talking to Alan,
I got the feeling that they will indeed come all the way down as
everyone is feeling so good. I imagine they are getting quite fit
going up and down all the time! Otherwise, they will spend the night
at Camp 2 and then descend the following day. They have now spent
so many days at Camp 2, that I think they will be very well acclimatised
to that altitude and any extra bit is a bonus. Ang Dorje, the climbing
sirdar, and his team went up to Camp 4 (the south col) yesterday
and today. They are fixing ropes to Camp 4 and are the first sherpas
to the col this season. They take great pride in being the first...
Although competition between the sherpa teams is not encouraged,
it is good for the expedition that the ropes are being fixed and
Camp 4 erected. That leaves only the weather to play it's part...
Well, Cathy, I have babbled on long enough. Alan (I am sure) sends
his love and will contact you when he gets back down again.
All the best and hope to speak to you again, Liesel
Tuesday April 30 - Alan
Everest Base Camp
We were supposed to be at Camp 2 by now but the
weather turned nasty, once again dropping over a foot of fresh powder
at base camp and more at camps 1 and 2. The changing weather has
created chaos from base camp to Camp 3. Expeditions are acting like
8 year-olds at a soccer game not knowing which goal is their's with
the result of everyone running in all directions at the same time.
Our team, down for 2 days now since the severe storm at Camp 2,
is enjoying an unscheduled rest day at BC.
With my yellow nylon tent acting like a weak filter,
my 'room' gradually becomes brighter as the sun rises. I soon hear
the sounds of morning at base camp: gas stoves starting, pans banging,
Sherpas laughing and singing. One of the perks of our expedition
is 'morning tea'. Now, I know how this sounds, but hey, take it
if you can get it! Every morning that we are in BC, each tent is
greeted with "Good Morning, milk tea?" from Nima, the base camp
cook boy. Actually, Nima is in his thirties with 5 children and
always has a smile on his face. I will miss this ritual when I get
home. This morning is absolutely stunning: clear sky with a blue
tinge that is beyond description. A mild breeze is keeping the air
fresh. I lay in my tent with the flaps open enjoying the change
from yesterday's low overcast clouds, freezing temperatures and
blowing snow. My toes never got warm. As I look out the front of
the tent, I see the jagged tops of the surrounding peaks - all covered
The prayer flags from our Puja are in the foreground
creating a repeating pattern of red, blue, yellow, green, and white
napkin sized flags that generate a peaceful sound as they flap in
the morning breeze. I lazily finish my milk tea, put on my regular
base camp clothes: fleece pants, soft top, down jacket, sunglasses,
cap and trekking shoes. I make my way the short snow covered rocky
hillside to the dining tent. The breakfast pattern repeats itself.
One by one everyone arrives, we write down the same thing for breakfast
every morning: eggs, bacon and toast. Chhongba, the base camp cook,
collects the book and begins to prepare the food. Sitting on cloth
covered plastic lawn chairs, we take our position at the twelve-foot
table. This must have been what it was like at the Walton's house.
We politely pass the milk tea or the hot lemon drink as we wait
for our food to arrive. Invariably, the orders are confused. We
laugh about who ordered what: scrambled or fried eggs? Regular or
It goes on and on. It takes about an hour for us
to complete this ritual and then we look at each other with anticipation
of something new to do today at base camp. Some return to their
tents to sleep or read. Others begin the daily card game that seems
to last to dinner. Clothes washing takes up some time and writing
and reading e-mails is an important part of everyone's day. Today's
agenda is progressing normally with no surprises, conflicts or problems.
The talk is about the weather and if we can go to Camp 3 tomorrow.
We are all anxious to get up there and get C3 behind us. Talk of
the summit is much more common these days than two weeks ago. We
are all ready to get on with it. Then we hear the shocking news...
A Death on the Lhotse Face
Details are sketchy and rumors are rampant. These situations
are delicate and dangerous to the entire Everest climbing community.
Even though it happens every year, it is still a shock, even to the
veterans. The story is told that an unguided English climber spent two
nights at Camp 3 in the middle of the storm. It is not clear that he
had his own tent but it seems he stayed in one from another expedition.
This morning, April 30, he left for C1 or BC. Something happened and
he slipped down the Lhotse Face coming to a rest, dead, at the bottom.
Everyone sat quietly as the story was told in hush tones. The card players
stopped. Lunch was delayed shortly. The veterans shook their head with
confusion about someone being at C3 during the bad weather. The newcomers
to Everest asked about fixed lines and safety precautions such as clipping
in. No one could explain. No one could understand. Lunch soon started,
no one speaking of the death.
I reflected on Alex's death on Cho Oyu and the similar reaction
of fellow climbers to death in the mountains. Perhaps it is a defense
mechanism, maybe the appropriate reaction to the death of someone you
do not know - like passing a car accident. Denial that it could happen
to me? I think about what his dreams were and why he was climbing Everest.
What must his family be feeling right now...horribly sad but part of
the agreement when you step on the icefall. Confusing reactions to a
confusing situation. The afternoon passes. We are told to be up by 4:00AM
for our next climb to Camp 2 and hopefully on to Camp 3. I wonder what
we will see. Probably nothing given the strong winds and snow each night.
Even if there is something to see, it is not unusual on Everest. Anyone
who dies here stays here forever. It is almost impossible to recover
bodies in this environment. Refilling my water bottle, I notice the
card game has resumed in the dining tent. The Sherpas are washing the
lunch dishes. The guides are checking the regulators for the oxygen
tanks we will use on summit day. Others have taken a walk, are reading
or sleeping. I think everyone has part of their thoughts with the fallen
Englishman. Back to normal at Everest Base Camp.
Sunday April 28 - Alan
Everest Base Camp
We have had a wild time since my last dispatch:
crevasses, windstorms, climbing the Lhotse face and more. We are
currently in BC for some rest and plan on leaving for another overnight
attempt at Camp 3 on Tuesday, May 1. Everest veterans Pete Athens
and climbing sidar Ang Dorje ranked the storm that blasted Camp 2 on April 26 as one of the worst in the past decade. By not overnighting
at Camp 3 on this past trip up, we have added about 5 days to our
summit schedule. More on that decision later. We are now looking
at May 13 for an optimistic date but you know how quickly things
can change. We still need to spend the night at C3, rest for a few
days at BC and start the summit push which will take at least 6
days including return to BC. The team continues to be in good health
with a positive attitude.
We have avoided the serious upper respiratory problems
that have plagued many other expeditions this year. Our Sherpas
are working incredibly hard stocking Camp 2, preparing Camp 3 and
putting in fixed lines to the South Col. When I started our family
website, and especially my section on climbing with the short stories,
I promised myself to expose my thoughts to any reader who took the
time to explore the site and not hold back on what I thought or
felt during these climbs. The past week has tested that promise
with my fall into a crevasse. The following is my attempt to be
true to that promise.
"Crevasse" It was a cold and windy
We left BC about 4:00AM on Monday April 22 to avoid
the microwave heat of the Western Cwm. Our intent was to continue
our acclimatization by spending at least 5 nights at C2 with one
night at C3. We also needed to prove ourselves by climbing the steep
Lhotse face with loaded packs. The weather turned very nasty halfway
up the icefall. The winds were strong. Temps hovered around 0F and
snow started blowing at C1. These conditions made the icefall challenging
to say the least. Crossing the ladders, especially the longer ones
on a tilt, required strong concentration in the winds. We stopped
at C1 for some food and water and then left for C2. Dressed in full
Gortex with goggles, Haraldur, Rob and I left C1 roped together.
The nylon climbing rope created a single climber with each of us
separated by 20'. With Haraldur in the lead, me following and Rob
bringing up the rear we climbed a short steep section then began
the traverse of the upper Khumbu Glacier. Crevasses are common in
this area with several spanned by ladders. As I previously reported,
Adventure Consultants seemed to be one of the few expeditions roped
up in this section.
The visibility was very poor with blowing snow
as we moved across the glacier. I saw the small black hole in front
of me, a tell tale sign of an emerging crevasse. I have crossed
many of these at this point. So I followed the track to the right
of the hole and prepared to take the extra large step designed to
clear the visible - and invisible - obstacle. In a heartbeat, I
fell through the trap door with a whoosh. Everything went dark as
snow covered my face. I felt myself hanging in clear air. And it
became silent. All in a heartbeat. My first sight was of the nylon
rope digging into the ice wall. I intensely stared at it hoping
that Haraldur was secured on the other end. It moved deeper into
the ice. Solve the problem.
My mind became focused on getting
out quickly. I looked down and to my right. There was my
trekking pole resting on a snow powder shelf twenty feet
below and there was clear blue ice for as far as I could
see below the shelf. To my left was a brighter prospect,
a similar powder shelf within reach of my left crampon
point. About this time, Rob appeared above me anxiously
inquiring about any signs of injury. He called out to Haraldur
to hold tight. I reached out with my left foot to the powder
shelf hoping for a foothold to leverage myself out. The
snow puffed away into the crevasse carrying away my hope
for an easy exit. I looked again at the rope cutting deeper
into the ice wall and thought of my training where you
put the handle of an ice axe between the rope and the wall
to create a temporary edge. But before I suggested this
maneuver, I drove the front points of my crampons into
the ice wall. They held. I called to Rob to tell Haraldur
to start pulling. Working together, I began to clear the
icy trap. With Rob providing extra support, I soon stood
beside the crevasse.
The walk to Camp 2 was long. My mind was preoccupied
with the crevasse. I had lost all my energy and optimism. Haraldur,
Rob, Bill and I made steady but very slow progress. The weather
cleared up and now the sun was baking each of us. Off with Gortex,
apply extra sunscreen, trade goggles for glacier sunglasses. Arriving
at Camp 2, I was spent. I had absolutely nothing left. The final
steps were on autopilot - no conscious decisions. I found my tent
and sat down heavily on my pack.
I began to feel the emotions starting to escape:
frustration, anger, guilt and fear. How did I step on the snowbridge?
What if I had not been roped up? What if I had not been properly
tied in? What if. The questions went on and on. Whoosh, darkness,
hanging, quiet. The sequence repeated continuously in my head. How
did this happen? I dwelled on the negative and on the fear. For
the first time in the mountains, any mountain, I was afraid. I knew
I needed to get a grip on myself but the fear was overwhelming.
I saw myself hanging in clear air. I felt my feet reaching out to
nothing. I saw the rope cutting deeper. I saw the faces of my family.
It was about 3:00PM and I was thirsty and hungry but was not ready
to do anything about it. I sat on my pack and thought about the
I remembered the story of another climber who had
a friend die in a crevasse and he had to perform miracles to save
his own life. I considered the danger I was exposed to and how many
other people fall into crevasses on mountains. It was part of the
deal. I decided to draw on my teammates for strength. I entered
the tent at C2 where we ate our meals and told the team that I was
shaken, very shaken. Haraldur and Rob talked everyone through exactly
what had happened. I received glances throughout the conversation.
Soon, someone made a joke. I joined in. It was working.
I slept fitfully that night and spent the next
half-day dwelling on what had happened. It wasn't until I read again
a letter that Ashley had given me before I left home that I started
feeling better. I felt my confidence increase and the will to continue
the climb return. I pondered what I had learned. How could I avoid
such a misstep? The experience was turning into lessons. After a
rest day at C2, we left at sunrise for a trip up the Lhotse face.
I had one of my best days on the Hill yet.
" Lhotse Face" We can see Camp 3 from C2 - if you
Sherpas from many expeditions had already established
ten or so yellow tents on the icy wall. C3 is at 24,000'
about 2,500' above C2. But it requires ice climbing skills and stamina.
We left on Wednesday April 24 at sunrise to climb about 1000' up the wall.
I felt good. We made the round trip in about 3 hours
- not bad. The next day we set off once again to 'tag' C3 and return to
C2 since the weather forecast was for very strong winds. Once again
everyone made great time and we felt very successful.
As for me, I had shaken my confidence crisis and seemed to have more strength
and determination than before. I climbed the Lhotse face.
It was fun. It is a combination of hard packed snow, soft powder and concrete
hard, clear blue ice. This ice is the most difficult.
Even with nylon ropes attached to ice screws that are driven deep into
the face, your legs do all the work. Using jumars or mechanical ascenders,
you tackle steep icy sections that prevent you from climbing
with your legs alone. The wall is formidable and serves as the gatekeeper
to Camp 3, the South Col, Camp 4 and eventually the summit.
I felt good that I was able to handle it. Our team did well, especially
Tom who seems to get stronger as the expedition goes
on. We felt good that night over dinner - except for the weather forecast.
Camp 2 leveled by winds About 9:00PM April 25
Thursday night it hit. The winds went from a rare
breeze to a steady blow around 40 miles per hour. Rob and I slept
fitfully. The winds stopped conveniently for breakfast on Friday
morning. We gather quietly to watch the snow swirl on the Face,
the South Col and the surrounding peaks. It was obvious that there
was more in store for camps 2 and 3 today. We had a weather forecast
predicting high winds, but not to the level that began around 9:00AM
Friday morning. With a sudden rush of cold air, it began. And it
did not stop until midnight Friday night. 27 hours of non-stop hurricane
force winds left Camp 2 in various states of destruction. Big dome
tents had complete halves ripped to shreds. Small two-person sleeping
tents were flattened, their occupants taking shelter elsewhere.
Any small item left outside was miles away.
At our camp, we escaped serious problems through
good planning and the hard work of everyone, but mostly the Sherpas.
Upon seeing the forecast, Bill and Dave asked that everyone find
rocks as large as you can carry and attach the tent's guy lines
to them. And once you had that done, do it again with larger rocks.
I have never felt such wind velocity. You could hear it starting
up the mountain walls, gain force and then hit the tents like a
locomotive. Snow actually penetrated the outer and inner walls causing
it to snow inside the tent during the strongest gusts. The winds
were over 110 mph at the height of the storm. I layed in my bag
sometimes staring at the tent walls wondering if this was the gust
to roll us over or to rip a side apart. Luckily,
we survived with no damage except for 2 nights lost sleep! The Sherpas
spent some of Thursday, all day Friday and most of Friday night
adjusting lines, adding rocks and most impressively, using their
hands to hold the cooking tent up against the strongest gusts. If
you can believe it, they never missed serving a meal! Throughout
Friday, but most clearly on Saturday morning, the damage became
clear. Looking around the broad Camp 2 site, many expeditions had
lost tents or had sustained serious damage. People mulled around
like hurricane refugees. Schedules were changed.
Back to base camp
With stronger winds in the forecast and 5 nights
at Camp 2 under our belt, the discussion turned to our own schedule.
Almost everyone was feeling good and everyone wanted to get our
overnight at C3 completed. We discussed the merits of staying Saturday
and hoping the forecast was wrong, going to C3 Saturday or Sunday
or staying at C2 until it became clear we could make C3 safely.
Over a light breakfast we decided to return to base camp to rest
and get prepared to return to C3 as soon as possible. This type
of discussion and decision typifies alpine mountaineering. You consider
what you know, factor in the schedule and team health, throw in
a dash of experience and make a decision. We left C2 Saturday morning
feeling good about our decision. Base camp
It is snowing with a light wind. I have been gone
from home over one month now. I feel physically strong. I have had
no ill effects from the altitude. My attitude is good AND this is
one hard mountain. Clearly my toughest mountain yet. Everest continues
to be everything I thought: big, changing, impersonal and long.
I think my biggest challenge will be exercising patience as we complete
the required steps for a summit attempt. While I feel good, I know
I am losing weight. The icefall is hard, very hard. Every trip is
different. This week the seracs at the top collapsed requiring a
new route and new ladders. I cannot allow my concentration to lapse-even
for a moment. I miss my family. I miss home. I miss my mattress.
I even miss work! But I knew this would take commitment beyond what
most people are asked to deliver. Thank you to everyone who has
sent e-mails to Cathy. I sincerely appreciate your support for her
role in this expedition. Namaste, Alan
|Saturday April 27 - Cathy
New Photos!!! Kate Smith carried these photos
out with her from base camp to New Zealand when we thought
there would be a problem sending them through the satellite...Thank
You Kate! I have also posted a few of the new ones
below. Alan is safely back in base camp and will prepare
his next dispatch tomorrow morning...so keep checking
back. Extremely high winds (80-100mph) and unsafe conditions
forced the team off the mountain before they could reach
Camp 3. This could mean an extra trip up since they
must know how the team will do at Camp 3 before they
attempt the summit. This might delay the summit attempt
until May 10 or later. This is disappointing for me
as I was hoping they would only have to cross the Icefall
two more times.
| Dispatch #4
Wednesday April 24 - Liesel Geertsema, Adventure
Hi Cathy! No, the world has not gone mad with computers
and sat phones halfway up the Lhotse face! My name is Liesel. I
am the doctor for this expedition and am doomed to stay at base
camp while Alan and the rest of the crew are playing higher up the
mountain... Nice to meet you.
Alan has mentioned you several times and I feel
as if you are here with him and joining in the trials
and tribulations of every day. I spoke to Alan on the radio a few minutes
ago and he asked me to send an update to you regarding their progress.
They left for Camp 2 two days ago. These days they simply pass Camp 1
and head straight for Camp 2. They left between 03:30
and 04:00 in the morning. It was very cold, snowing and windy. Apparently
it was a difficult day for traveling and the going was
hard. They roped up from Camp 1 to Camp 2.
Alan was roped between Rob and Haraldur (I presume
Alan has mentioned the rest of the crew to you and you will be familiar
with everyone). At one point Alan stepped onto a snow bridge and
into a crevasse! As is the intention of the rope, the guys held
it tight and Alan managed to get out with Haraldur taking in the
rope. He suffered no injuries, but was a bit shaken! However, he
says that the experience made him stronger for the summit push and
wanted to share it with you.
They have spent two nights at Camp 2 and walked
to the Lhotse face with its fixed ropes today. Everyone
is feeling well and appear to be benefiting from the
previous acclimatization trip. It is a great day up there
and they enjoyed the walk. They were back at about 10 and will be resting
for the rest of today and tomorrow. The day after that they intend to
move up to Camp 3 for the night. If everyone feels up to it,
they will come all the way back to base camp the following
morning. There is also an option of staying another night at Camp 2 on
the way back. The weather forecast looks OK, so I expect that
they will be back in base camp in about 3 days' time.
This will hopefully be their last acclimatization trip. Once in base camp
they will recover for a few days and then push for the summit as soon
as the weather presents them with a suitable window!
The Sherpas are back at base camp for a rest day.
They work extremely hard and deserve every bit of rest they get.
Guy has escorted Andy down to Namche and is on his way back up to
base camp. He is planning to stop in at Nuptse base camp to meet
with some friends on the way. I have been left to look after communications
and any medical mishaps. As it turns out, I have problems receiving
radio calls and managed to bewitch the computer two days ago! This
is what happens when you leave technology to a blonde... Anyway,
I finally managed to get things going again and hope they will last
until Guy gets back! Who would have thought that one's biggest worry
sitting on a heap of rock and ice at 17 500 ft, would be whether
the computer works!
Well, Cathy, nice to have spoken to you. Alan did
not mention it specifically (with the whole world, not just the
students, listening in...), but I am sure he sends his love to you.
All the best. Liesel
Sunday April 21 - Alan
We leave tomorrow
for our longest and most ambitious trip up the Hill thus
far. Our goal is to spend one night at Camp 3 on the
Lhotse face, approximately 24,000'. C3 has the reputation
as the worst camp of the four. It is carved out of solid ice on an extremely
steep mountain face with zero protection from the winds. However, it is
a required stop on the 'tour' for acclimatization. As Dave said this morning,
it is your ticket to the next step. We will use Camp 2 as an Advanced base camp for 6 days while we continue
to acclimatize and take trips up the Lhotse face and to C3. I will radio
a couple of short dispatches to Liesel, our doctor, during
the week who will e-mail them to Cathy for posting. Ain't technology wonderful?
This might be our last trip up the icefall before our summit bid. IF everyone
does well on this trip AND everyone feels good after
the next rest time AND the weather is good THEN the next trip up the
icefall will be with the intent of going to camps 2,3,4
and on to the summit in early May. This is the most optimistic schedule
possible but is real given our excellent progress thus far. The expedition
leaders and climbing Sidars get together regularly to
coordinate schedules as much as possible. We are currently in the top
5 teams for a summit bid in early May. But everything can, will and does
change in the mountains.
Birds of a feather...On rest days, there is a tendency
for several people to get together in the dining tent
or around someone's personal tent and talk. This morning, Liesel, Tom,
Haraldur, Dave and I sat on the granite rocks discussing the climb, Nepal,
world events (as much as we knew of them) and many other
topics. The sun was warm on our faces requiring sunscreen. The wind blew
gently as we spoke in quiet tones. At one point, about
10:30 in the morning, we heard the sharp crack of falling ice. We hear
this all the time but this sounded different. Soon, we all looked up
the ice fall only to see a white puff of billowing snow
rising near the trail through the icefall. We quietly watched it dissipate
until Dave reminded us of the motivation to move fast through the fragile
areas. We all agreed in our private silence. Pumori,
a beautiful ice cream cone shaped mountain, stood above us hosting a climbing
party to her summit. We tried to find them but could
not. It is moments like this I remember most about these expeditions.
Shared visions of success. Shared fears spoken with those who understand.
New bonds are made - some that last a lifetime.
After two round-trips on the icefall, Andy made
the decision to end his expedition. A longtime friend of John's,
Andy and John had been climbing together from the start of this
trip. Andy spoke openly of his limited experience on mountains and
seemed pleased with his effort on Everest. His confident manner
and fantastic sense of humor and story telling ability will be sorely
With Andy's departure, we held a small party at
the Adventure Consultants' base camp last night. It started off
innocently enough with some Rolling Stones, story telling and attempts
to embarrass Andy. We started in the dining tent but soon moved
to the kitchen tent with all the Sherpas. There, the music switched
to Sherpa music (available on CD!) and ignited a rash of Sherpa
dancing. These guys are good! The style is similar to Western club
dancing but with more flair and use of the hands, Hawaiian style.
Soon, everyone was trying to keep up, but most importantly were
establishing new friends. Then a sudden shift in the music - disco!
I will not say which country-person of our expedition actually had
a disco CD with them but suffice it to say, the Sherpas soon fled
for their tents while the rest of the expedition went wild. Two
steps forward, one step back. Oh, well...
I feel like a fish..
Cold and smelly but with good knees. It has turned
much colder this afternoon. My clothes stink. Wash day is definitely
scheduled upon my return from C3! My knee feels fine after two days
rest. Namaste, Alan
Friday April 19 - Alan
Hello Everyone, It is a beautifully sunny Friday,
April 19 at Everest Base Camp. We returned yesterday from an acclimatization
trip to camps 1 and 2. We spent two nights at both camps. I must
say that Camp 2 is a very inspiring place! More later but first
about the trip up.
We left early Monday
morning about dawn. It was not too cold but we hurried up the lower
icefall until it became steep and then we attached our crampons
to our boots. We checked each other's harness to make sure they
were double-backed for safety in case of a fall and we began the
2,000' climb. The sun was just rising as we got to a section known
as the 'popcorn'. This was my third trip through the fall and it
was becoming easier. Believe it or not I am actually becoming comfortable
on the ladders except for one that tilts sideways and is not attached
very well at one end and is actually three ladders tied together
... you get the idea!
I arrived at Camp 1 about 4.5 hours later. C1 is
a grouping of mostly North Face yellow tents on a flat section of
the upper Khumbu Glacier. There are huge crevasses all around. When
I say 'huge', I mean 100' wide and 400' deep - like a tunnel. We
go around these. Others are very small cracks that you can easily
step over. And then there are those requiring either a 30' down-climb
into the crevasse and then an up-climb out or more ladders. C1 sits
amongst these obstacles. All expeditions come here eventually on
the way to C2. We spent Monday and Tuesday mostly sleeping, reading,
eating, drinking with a short interruption of a two hour walk towards Camp 2 just to keep us motivated!
No one slept very well. The surrounding mountains
were busy both nights delivering rock, ice and snow avalanches towards
us. Actually we are far enough away that there is no danger but
the noise is enough to keep you awake. Also, it is difficult the
first night at these altitudes. Wednesday morning we left for Camp 2 around 6:00 AM to avoid the searing heat in the Western CWM. Our
expedition roped up in teams of three or four for additional safety.
I was amazed that we were the only team I saw taking this reasonable
safety step. It was a perfectly clear, cold morning as we got into
a rhythm. Cross a ladder, down-climb into a crevasse, cross another
ladder, begin an uphill line.
As we moved from 19,650' to 21,200' our
breathing became labored. But I was absolutely stricken by the scene
unfolding before my eyes. Nuptse on the right. Lhotse straight ahead.
Everest on my left. A box canyon that defines box canyons. The beginning
of the Khumbu ice fall. I have seen the end and now I was walking
toward the beginning of this great glacier. Surrounded on three
sides by 8,000' to 10,000' feet of jagged ice and snow covered rock
walls it was eerily quiet, except for the random avalanche - they
never seem to stop. And of course, there was Everest.
As we approached Camp 2, it stood directly
above me. Strong, unassuming, huge, ambivalent to the wind and snow
that stuck to the other peaks, Everest took on human qualities.
My eyes stared at the summit and steadily went left to right seeing
the Summit Ridge, Hillary Step and the South Summit. Down the 2,500'
Southeast Ridge to the South Col - the saddle between Everest and
Lhotse and the location of Camp 4, our launching point for the summit
in a few weeks. Continuing right, the Lhotse face stood proud. The
ice was glistening in the mid-day sun. That means we will be climbing
on concrete hard ice, not my preference. I was hoping for more snow
this year. Mid-way down the face and just to the right of the Geneva
Spur, a nose-like rock structure that would make Jimmy Durantie
proud, will be the location of Camp 3. For the first time, I could
see the entire layout of the Everest climb.
I was very quiet and humbled. This place was huge!
The Lhotse face was intimidating as the avalanches continued. I
kept looking up again and again. Starting at the summit, down to
the South Col, over to Camp 3 and to Camp 2. And then there was
this roar. Like an airplane taking off in the distance, rapids in
a nearby river, or a train passing on overhead tracks two blocks
away. The Jet Stream! By any description it was amazing to here.
The wind being ripped by the highest point on earth, Mount Everest.
We arrived at C2 our new home for two days and
settled into our tents to begin drinking, eating, sleeping and reading
- the pattern had been set. Actually all of this was to force our
bodies to create more red blood cells. Those new cells, rich with
oxygen, will make or break our ability to climb to the summit next
month. I didn't sleep very well any night. It was hot: 115F in the
tent in mid afternoon and -15F at dawn!! But I know I have more
red blood cells than before. And the roar. Wednesday night the Jet
Stream moved as predicted and the train moved into our backyard.
Blowing at a steady 50 mph with gusts to twice that, Rob and I dove
deep into our -40F sleeping bags while pressing against the sides
of the tent. I was glad he had put a few more big rocks on the guide
lines of the tent before we went to bed Wednesday night. Thursday
we started back down to base camp before dawn to avoid the heat
I was not feeling 100% and about an hour outside
of base camp my right knee twisted like on Denali. It hurt like
Hell. I was on a 10' snow step and managed to get down without putting
any weight on it not knowing the damage. I remembered what my orthopedic
doctor had said about your mind trying to shut down a knee upon
injury by having your brain tell your knee it cannot function even
though it can. The trick is to know if it is really hurt. So I sat
as quiet as possible and put a little weight on it to test the strength
of the joint. At 19,000' my breathing was fairly heavy but I quickly
determined that my knee was hurting but was not hurt. I still wanted
to vomit. I drank some water and relaxed and told my brain that
my knee was OK and ready to complete the trip to BC.
It is funny that much of the time on these trips,
you find yourself alone, but this morning Tom seemed to sense that
I was not 100%, a little unusual since I am normally in the first
third to arrive at our destination and today I was in the last third
from C2. Anyway, he appeared downhill about 100 yards and yelled
to me if I was OK, not having any idea of what had just happened.
I told him I was coming down. When we got together, I told him what
had happened and we completed the journey to BC together. You are
rarely alone, even on Everest!
Today, I feel fine. The weather continues to be
good, there is lots of talk about an "early" summit but these things
change quickly. We have three rest days then leave for camps 2 and
3 on Monday. We will spend at least one night at C3, it will be
amazing and dangerous with the conditions this year. The team continues
to do well. Almost everyone has something annoying them - to be
expected on these long trips. It is now three weeks and two days
since I left for Nepal. It seems longer.
I have my own routine for rest days, my habits
for going to sleep and my tricks to keep my mind alert. Climbing
Everest is a huge commitment - in every sense. I am staying focused
on the mountain. I know that I must be ready physically and mentally
when it comes time to rise at 11:00 PM and push for the summit.
Every day is designed for that night and I must stay focused. We
hear of little outside of base camp. An occasional visitor or a
BBC report via short-wave brings news. We all show great interest
in any tidbit.
I am struck by how much relationships, business
or life are like climbing - focus on the day to day while keeping
the big picture in mind. Don't let the little things drag you down.
Listen carefully to advice since it may save your life. Never lose
your sense of humor. Enjoy every day.
Friday April 12 - Alan
Hello, We arrived at base camp on Monday April
8. We had a great trek in from Lukla. The new paved airstrip takes
all the fun out of the landing. The weather trekking in was perfect
- 70's, clear skies. We spent 8 nights in tea houses. They have
really improved their cleanliness and quality. The team is doing
well except for a nasty cold that is making the rounds. I am very
happy to report no stomach problems - only a runny nose but today,
Friday, I am getting over it.
It is great to be back in the Khumbu with all the
Yaks' bells and Sherpa smiles. Seeing the mountain Ama
Dablam, which I summited in 2000, has been very inspiring as I trekked
to Everest Base Camp. It brought back memories of what climbing is all
about. We had an awesome view of Everest from Kala Patar (18,500') this
week. It was a clear, windless day. I hope we have the
same for the summit. We rested on Monday and Tuesday as everyone settled
into their individual tents and the base camp schedule
of rest and meals. We have a fairly crowded camp with 7 climbers, 2 western
guides, 4 cooks, 7 climbing sherpas, camp doctor, 3 researchers
from Brown University and others.
The Sherpas are busy establishing camps 1 and 2
with tents, stoves, fuel and food. They have already made several
trips to Camp 2. Everest Base Camp is a unique spot. There are 7
expeditions here. You never know who might show up for a coffee
or tea. Peter Hillary, son of Sir Edmund Hillary, dropped by to
say hello to Guy Cotter. National Geographic is making a 50 year
anniversary film about the impact of Hillary on the Khumbu Valley
and following Peter's attempt to summit. The film should air next
year. Pete Athens and Dave Hahn and many other well-known Everest
climbers are here with other expeditions.
Each camp is like a small city. There are
different tents for cooking, dining, toilet, shower, communications and
sleeping. In the center of each camp is a stone alter about 5 feet high
with an 8 foot wooden pole rising from the center. From the top of this
pole prayer flags are strung in 7 (always an odd number)
different directions covering all the tents in our camp. It was at this
alter that we had our Puja on Wednesday morning. A Lama walked
in from a nearby village to perform the blessing for
all our safety on the mountain. We placed our climbing tools against the
alter. It was a very special event. Fir boughs are burned covering the
camp in a dense smoke while the Lama, our Sidar and Climbing
Sidar chant prayers. Occasionally, rice is thrown into the air. Everyone
involved in our expedition attends the Puja and takes
the ceremony very seriously.
After the Puja, we made our first trip up
the icefall. It was a short 2 hours up and back to the first
ladder. I was looking forward to my first ladder and asked Bill, one of our guides, that when we got to it I wanted to walk
right up and go across with limited delay. This was an important
goal I had set for myself throughout my training. The first ladder
was about an hour up from BC and was a single 10'
ladder across a 200' crevasse. I clipped my carabineers into both
ropes that are strung on either side of the ladder. With confidence,
I placed my right foot on the first rung and began to place my left.
I paused after allowing my eyes to focus on the crevasse instead
of the ladder rungs. Then I took a step and the next until I was
across. I did it! I was happy that I had practiced at home and had
the feeling of my crampons on the aluminum rungs. After it was over,
it was not nearly as bad as I had thought. We did another ladder
and then returned back to BC for dinner.
What a day: the Puja, my first introduction to
the famous Khumbu Ice Fall and my first ladder crossing.
Thursday brought the beginning of climbing Everest. We got up at 3:30
for breakfast and left BC at 5:00. The sun was just rising over the
Khumbu. You can see the ice fall from BC but it is deceiving.
You only see about a third of it! This year, there are about 19 ladders
much less than the usual thirty but according to the
Sherpas and John Taske, who was here in 1996, it is much more dangerous
and difficult. The longest ladder thus far is about 30 ' - three ladders
tied together. In the middle of this one, you bounce and have
to concentrate to stay level! And, you don't look down
into the crevasse. All this will change over the next month as the glacier
moves thus generating new crevasses and closing old ones.
We will probably make 4 to 6 round trips over the expedition. Climbing
the ice fall took all my alpine mountaineering experience. I climbed
ice and snow of various difficulty. I rappelled down
steep spots, arm wrapped the fixed rope many times and more. The path
is circuitous with many ups and downs. While it is 2,000' it took me about
4 and a half hours to reach the top of the ice fall at 19,500'. Not too
bad considering it was my first time. I was pleased.
The ice fall is everything I ever read about. It was long. It was hard.
It was cold in the morning and horribly hot once the sun rose. The seracs
are huge. They are sitting above the fixed ropes seemingly
daring you to pass under. Once at the top, we rested and had food and
water before taking three hours to return to BC. It was a long day!
I have met several fellow climbers here that I
exchanged emails with before I left. Above the icefall yesterday,
a tall man with a Texas accent walked up to me and asked if I was
Alan Arnette! I said yes, not knowing what was going on. He introduced
himself as Stewart who I instantly remembered from his emails. We
laughed and commented on the ladders sharing the fear and relief
of successfully crossing them.
Today, Friday April 12, is a rest day - we all
need it! We plan on spending several nights on the next trip to
Camp 1 and maybe Camp 2 tomorrow. The weather has turned colder
with snow every afternoon. Believe it or not, I am off to a hot
shower. The Sherpa cooks heat water in heavy plastic bags and hang
it in a small tent. There is a wait! The stereo is playing Cheryl
Crow and everyone is attending to their personal business. Some
are sleeping, some reading, some talking and some sending emails!
A nice and relaxing day.
The only problem thus far is with sending back
pictures. My camera is working great. I have over 400 pictures
and videos! But we have a problem with getting the images into the
sat phone system. Just what I wanted -debugging computer systems
on Everest! Oh well, maybe we can get it fixed soon and I can get
some out. In any event, my web site will have full coverage once
I get back home.
It is amazing to be here. I am feeling great now that the cold
is gone. I am acclimatizing well to the altitude, eating well (already
losing weight, however) and sleeping throughout the night. We have a
great team that is working well together. Our Sherpas are world-class
and the expedition is being run as professionally as I have ever seen.
Here's to hoping for continued good health and good weather. I think
we have a great chance.
The path to Everest
|Thanks for visiting our site.
About 18 months before the climb, I committed myself and
began training for
this Everest attempt. I had enjoyed some great times on
mountains such as Ama Dablam, Cho
Oyu and Denali so I decided to attempt Everest.
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