Everest 2003 Expedition Dispatches
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I summited Everest on May 21, 2011 and have climbed it three other times (all from Nepal) - 2002, 2003 and 2008 each time reaching just below the Balcony at about 27,500' (8400 meters) before health, weather or my own judgment caused me to turn back. I attempted Lhotse twice - 2015 and 2016. When not climbing, I cover the Everest season from my home in Colorado as I did for the 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and the 2016 season.

This page has my real-time dispatches from my 2003 climb 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.

I climbed Mt. Everest in April and May 2003 from the South Col route with the New Zealand Adventure Consultants expedition. It was another long expedition that challenged me to my core, just like in 2002. We had a very small expedition of 3 climbers, 1 Guide and 4 climbing Sherpas. Plus the base camp staff of Cooks, porters, etc.

Climbing any 8,000m mountain is a complex activity with complicated human dynamics, especially on a two-month climb like Everest. Also it is impossible to predict how your body will react to the high altitude even though you might have done fine the last time out.

Unfortunately, this climb was very difficult for me. My body showed signs of altitude sickness starting with the climb to Camp 3. I had hoped that the rest time at base camp before the summit bid would resolve my symptoms (nausea, headaches, extreme coughing, fatigue) but it did not happen. I found myself in the strange situation of finding the balance of going too slow or too fast: slow got me behind, fast got me sick.

Both Cathy and I appreciated all the support of family and friends. Like last year, we received hundreds of e-mails and positive thoughts. It made a difference.

Final Dispatch
Here is my final dispatch for the 2003 Everest attempt. It details our summit bid which lasted a week. There are four parts. As usual, I am sharing exactly what happened with nothing held back. I hope it provides some insight into what it takes to climb Everest, especially when the weather, health or human dynamics turn ugly.

Will there be another attempt for me? After a week back, my answer is probably not. I am proud to have gone to Everest twice. It was a wonderful challenge and I always leave with a part of the Sherpa culture in my heart. But life offers so many opportunities and I have so many other mountains to climb that another two months of my life on Everest seems misplaced. I'll focus on my Colorado 14'ers, Rainier and Hood in '04 then perhaps a trip to Pakistan for GI and II in 2005.
Summit Bid, Part One: base camp to Camp 2

Summit view from the South Col‘Summit Bid’ The exact expression leaves you empty. As we leave base camp, we pass the smoking juniper boughs and shake hands with the Sherpas as we make our way up the Ice Fall for the last time this year.

I am nervous moving amongst the huge ice seracs. Nick and I go together, as usual, and Bob is well ahead. Bill, is somewhere; neither with us nor mothering us as we don’t like. The Icefall is creaking. Nick and I hear a groan from the glacier and pick up our pace.

Soon we are atop the Fall. I sit on my pack breathing heavily, I vomit. What is wrong with me? Bob, Nick and Bill ignore my retching, as they should. We continue to Camp 1 or what is left of it after the high winds of the past several weeks.

A slow but steady pace take us to Camp 2 and a rest day. The last 100 meters are a killer for Bob, Nick and I. The joke is that I take one step backwards for their one step forward – not far from the truth! Chulden cooks lunch, dinner, breakfast and on and on. The food is not very good. Not the fault of Chulden but rather a commentary on our taste buds at 21,000 feet.

Rest day is exactly that – we lie in our tents silently. An occasional conversation breaks the monotony but the time is spent sleeping and in private thoughts about the days ahead.

“Alan, can we have a cup of tea?” I hear Bill, our Guide call out about 5:00 PM the night before we leave for Camp 3 and the summit. I look at Nick and tell him that this is it…. Bill has already informed me that if I didn’t meet some minimum climbing times then I need to consider stopping.

We have the conversation about climbing time to C3. I have mixed feelings. While I know that I am not acclimatizing, as I should, I don’t want to give up. I believe that a slow and steady pace will get me the camps within schedule while not making me sick. I also do not appreciate being told the night before of an arbitrary timeline which does nothing but undermine my confidence and increase the pressure.

I do not sleep well that night. Thinking about the climb to C3, the hard ice, the extreme angles, the hot, the cold … I toss all night thinking that if I don’t make it on time and in good style my summit of Everest is over.
Namaste, Alan

Summit Bid, Part Two: Camp 2 to Camp 4, The South Col

As usual, we set 8:00 AM for the departure time but we never make it. Bob, Nick, Bill and I set out to C3 and the serious beginning to the summit bid. After a rest day in C2, we are mentally prepared to climb to C3, spend the night, climb to C4-the South Col, spend a few hours and make our summit attempt. A brutal schedule, but this is normal for Everest.

Bob does his normal strong performance to this hanging camp. Bill tells Nick to set his own pace and leave me – good advice since Nick needed to understand his own capabilities. I watch him move on above me.

At this point, I know something is not right with my body. I continue to struggle as I go higher. It is easier than the first time to C3 but still difficult. Maybe I should just turn around. Perhaps I should end any dreams of summiting. Or is it to early to quit?

I find myself separated from my team and alone on the Lhotse Face. Climbing slowly, I am careful to clip into every fixed line. This is not the time to make a mistake. Five hours turn into six and soon I am at the High camp, the location of our tents on the Lhotse face. Bill sees me and waves hello. Nick peeks out of our tent and encourages me onward.

Sitting in the tent, Nick is taking Oxygen. I arrange my sleeping bag and crawl in. We melt more ice and soon have a minimal dinner. As the sun sets below Pumori, I sit crossed legged in my bag and look out the tent door. The angle of camp3 is deceiving. One misstep and you are dead. We stay in our tents the entire night sleeping on oxygen.

Awake at sunrise, about 4:30AM, we begin to melt sdrinking water while staying in our bags preserving the warmth our bodies have created during the frigid night. Soon we are dressing in our down clothes and preparing the bottled oxygen for the climb to the South Col. This will take us over the Yellow Band and the Geneva Spur. I am very nervous since this is the climb where I had problems last year.

It is a clear day with a light breeze. The wind had gusted hard several times overnight but was calm in the early morning. We could only hope for the same for summit night. Bob leaves as strong as ever as does Nick. The route begins over hard, steep ice testing our skills. I struggle. Bill is behind me - I feel contempt in his glare. We have a brief conversation and agree that if I turn back, I’ll inform a Sherpa to let him know. Soon he moves past me, I am glad.

My climb to the South Col was as different from last year as a dog is from a cat. I took several breaks, used the oxygen as designed and took the time to enjoy the views of the Western Cwm, Lhotse Face, Nuptse and more. It was spectacular.


I arrived at the South Col, met by Ang Dorge, our climbing Sidar. I felt good. Tired but good. Entering the tent, Bill tells me that he sent my sleeping bag down since he assumed I would not make it to C4. I laugh and feel good in my down suit. But in my heart I now know he does not believe in me. Bill, Nick, Bob and I joust for position in our 3-man tent. Four men laying on their backs, shoulder-to-shoulder – no good solution, no comfortable configuration. I am miserable and so is everyone else. South Col

The winds pick up as the sun sets. We are scheduled to leave for the summit at 9:00 PM but soon hear Bill speaking with Dave Hahn, a fellow guide. Much to our surprise, he informs Dave that we will not be going up tonight but will wait a day. Nick, Bob and I are shocked and relieved. Dave makes the decision to take his team back to BC to try another day. A good decision in hindsight.

We now focus our minds on getting a good night sleep and resting in the ‘Death Zone’ throughout tomorrow - three nights in all. Tomorrow, at 9:00PM we will leave for the summit assuming the weather cooperates.

Namaste, Alan




Summit Bid, Part Three: The South Col and Summit Bid

Lying in our tent, we are like sardines – even tighter. When one moves, all move. When one breathes, all breathes. Even sleeping with oxygen at half a liter per hour, you feel the altitude.

Chulden brings hot water in the morning for soup. We eat pop-tarts, cereal bars and other snacks for breakfast and lunch. Mostly we lie in our sardine slots and consider what will happen that night. Bill checks the weather again but this time he tells us that it is looking good – light winds, cold but acceptable temperatures.

As Bill got out of the tent, we adopted new positions sitting like Indians in a teepee around the edges of the tent, appreciative of the extra space for a little while. Soon morning passes to afternoon and into the waning light of dusk.

I get out to walk around and stretch my legs when Bill comes over. By this point, I know what he is going to say: “You must make it to the Balcony in six hours or turn around.” Laphka will be with you. “Will we have a radio?” I ask. “No” And with that I knew where I stood: the most inexperienced Sherpa with no communication and an aggressive turn-around time.

We discuss the time and I volunteer that I know what is happening to myself. I recognized that I was not at the same level as Nick and Bob. Also that last year, I made my own decision to turn around without Guide or Sherpa support and would make the same decision again if I felt I was in danger. Finally, I had already reset my own expectations so that I would not make the summit; I just wanted to go as high as I could – safely - and return.

Alan going for the topWe soon fell asleep awaiting the 8:00PM call to get dressed for the summit attempt. The call came quickly. Without too many words, Nick, Bob and I got into our down clothing inside the tent. As we stepped out, our Sherpas came over. We put two, four-liter bottles of oxygen into our packs. We adjusted our masks and our goggles and pulled our down hoods over our ears in the –30F temperature.

The clear sky revealed an exquisite Milky Way along with all the constellations. Luckily the wind was calm as we started out. Walking as one group, we left the safety and comfort of Camp 4 for the top of the world. Soon I became separated from the group. Bill had spoken of staying together as a pod and synching up at the Balcony and South Summit but never included me in that definition.

Content to be with Laphka, I got into my own pace – not too fast, not too slow. I enjoyed the oxygen and the feeling of climbing towards the summit. I smiled at Laphka, a re-incarnate of Lama, and enjoyed the night. It was great to be back and knowing that I would do what I could do, nothing more. Freedom, adventure and challenge.

After a few hours, I became tired. About the same place as 2002, I knew it was time to turn around and return to Camp 4 and the solitude of my tent. I stopped for a few minutes and looked around. The big rock where I turned around last year was hidden in the darkness but the lights of the South Col were clear. The wind began to pick up and I felt a little cold. Once again, I was in the same spot: go on and risk my life, go back and accept not summiting. An easy decision, I tell Laphka I am turning around. I feel good. As I step downhill, a wave of disappointment overcomes me...

BSouth Summitack at the South Col, I feel asleep instantly feeling good about my performance and wishing my teammates success for the summit. As dawn hit the South Col, I heard on the radio that they were at the South Summit but the winds were now blowing at gale force and the visibility was down to 10 meters or 30 feet. A very dangerous situation to be crossing the knife-edge summit ridge. Bob returning to the South Col

Nick, Bob and Bill made the decision to return to Camp 4 thus abandoning their summit. As Bob and Nick told me later, the South Summit was filled with climbers staring aimlessly, stumbling on the fixed ropes and stalling other climber’s progress with unsteady progress. They were very frustrated but felt good that they had made the right decision for their own personal safety. We had always spoken about not attempting the summit with all the other expeditions in order to avoid the crowds but that was exactly what had taken place. Three of the climbing Sherpas, Ang Dorge, Pasang Tenzing and Phu Tashi went on to the summit as Nick, Bob and Bill turned.

I watched for my teammates throughout the day before seeing them walking across the Col around 1:00PM. As each one arrived at our tent, I looked carefully into their eyes. They were spent. Very tired. But satisfied with their effort.

Once inside the tent, Nick feel asleep almost immediately while Bob kept watch over the returning climbers. One climber stumbled to his knees as he approached the South Col tents and called out for help. Completely spent, he had nothing left and needed assistance from his teammates to cover the last few hundred feet to the safety of his tent – a commentary of the brutal toll a summit attempt takes on your body.

Eventually, everyone is asleep or in deep private thoughts about the past twenty-four hours. Could I have done better? Different choices? Different approach? Second-guessing or learning?

As darkness fell, Nick sat straight up and made a startling declaration: “I can’t see,” he said calmly. He had taken his sunglasses off when he had trouble with his oxygen mask just below the South Summit. At that altitude it only takes a few minutes for the bright sun to burn your eyes, a condition called snow blindness. While extremely painful, it is not permanent. Nick back at the Col

Throughout that night, I put drops of pain medicine into Nick’s eyes as he kept them covered. I felt bad for him after such a valiant effort that no he had to deal with this. But he did well, slept as much as he could and showed his true courage throughout a long night. Namaste, Alan






Summit Bid, Part Four: Return to base camp

Like every morning on the Hill, dawn came early – about 4:00AM – on the South Col. Shoulder to shoulder, we lie motionless in the tent. Finally, we hear Chulden come by asking about water for the climb down to Camp 2. Bill, in a hurry, rushes us along to get our sleeping bags packed, down suits on and packs ready. Slowly we accommodate him.

Leaving the South Col

Nick’s eyes, still painful, are now open but his vision is blurred. It is decided that Ang Dorge will lead him down with Bob close behind. I get out of the tent and take one last look around the infamous South Col and the route to the balcony and South Summit. I have mixed feelings knowing that I did find my limits and pushed as much as was safely beyond them yet I did not summit for the second year in a row. However, I left the Col with a sense of peace.

Downclimbing the Geneva Spur As we reached the top of the Geneva Spur, I watched Ang Dorge, Nick and Bob descend safely ahead. I gingerly down climbed the Spur not wanting to make a mistake and fall to my death the thousand of feet below on the Lhotse Face. However, I had underestimated my condition. While I felt good being still, I was still very vulnerable to activity and soon found myself fatigued even though I had gone only a short distance.

Trying to find the balance between going too slow and too fast, I clipped into each fixed line as I traversed the distance between the Spur and the Yellow Band. Soon, I heard Bill behind me asking me how I was doing. I tried to explain that I was being careful but soon he crossed all lines of professionalism and lashed out at me with an accusation of “You said you were not going to do this to me again!”

Shocked beyond belief, I invited Bill to descend without me and continued my climb to Camp 3, slowly and carefully. Once at Camp 3, he extended his hand in an indigent apology after I made it clear that I had never lied or mislead him about my condition and I was seriously ill at this point and wanted to get down as fast as was safely possible.

Needles to say, I was incredibly disappointed with how I was treated just at the moment I need support. I felt very bad that my body had not acclimatized properly and showed serious signs of altitude sickness. This could have only been prevented by me never climbing above Camp 2 in hindsight. But at this point, all the prevention was history and now was the time to get down.

Once in Camp 2, I drank some hot chocolate and immediately vomited it all up. I skipped dinner and slept as much as possible. The next day, after a leisurely climb down the icefall with Nick and Bob, I thought about my experience on the Hill. Yes, I had many problems. Similar to last year but more throughout the climb instead of just summit night. Could I have prevented them? What mistakes had I made? Perhaps the schedule was not adequate for proper acclimatization. Perhaps, the food was not sufficient to keep my body fueled. Or perhaps it was not my year.

It happens to every climber. You reach a wall that cannot be passed. Maybe 2003 I hit that wall. But I am still proud not to have given into pressure to stop my climb. I never put my team into danger. I only put myself through significant pain and misery. No regrets. No apologies. If I hadn’t gone back I would have never known.

Twenty years from now a couple of kids may come up to me after being pointed out as someone who climbed Mt. Everest. I’ll look them in the eyes and tell them some stories about the Ice Fall, high-altitude effects, Sherpas, Lamas and correct them that I attempted Everest twice but never made it all the way to the top.

Then I’ll delight in telling them about how Cathy and I chronicled my climbs on the Internet – back when the technology was young and new to so many. I’ll tell them about the pictures and stories and all the emails we received from all around the world. I’ll tell them about finding old friends and making so many new friends. I’ll share with them the positive thoughts so many people sent and what a difference it made.

Then, I’ll tell them that sometimes it is not the result but the effort that counts and go out there and pick something really, really hard to try; give it your best and be proud of your effort.

Namaste, Alan

Wednesday, May 28

A helicopter crashed at Everest Base Camp today. To the best of my knowledge, no one from the Adventure Consultants team was involved. I ksure that Bob, Nick and I were in Kathmandu and Bill and Ellen were down valley. My condolences to the families of those killed in this accident.

It’s over … at least for 2003 and our team. Nick, Bob and Bill made it to within 300 vertical feet, The South Summit, of the true summit before turning around due to worsening weather. I made it half way to the Balcony, 27,000 feet, before turning around.

The term ‘Summit bid’ is misleading since once you leave base camp it is a week-long process to attempt the summit and return. I will be writing about this summit bid week in several dispatches that will be published once I get home in less than a week. I think you will find it interesting to see all the details and complications that go on behind the scenes plus the background around our decisions to turn around.

Also, I took some terrific pictures of the team leaving for the summit on May 20, the South Col and stunning views of the Western Cwm from the Geneva Spur. Finally, there are a few telling images of Nick and Bob as they returned from their 15 hour ordeal.

For now, we are resting up in base camp and working on the logistics to get back to Katmandu. But the best news of our expedition is that in spite of some altitude sickness, snow blindness, traffic jams, brutal winds and extreme cold temperatures; everyone is back safely with all their fingers and toes in base camp. Namaste, Alan

May 23 Safely Back to C2

The team is back safely at C2 after our summit push. C4 was still bitterly cold and quite windy as we packed camp (see video clip). The weather improved with our descent and our lungs with the thicker air.

The winds continued to hammer the upper mountain today (photo of route and south summit). We're glad we turned when we did, as we keep hearing of frostbite and other epics. It's been a great expedition.

Safely at C2 - Bill

THURSDAY MAY 22 - 1:45a.m. MDST
AC group back at South Col

Just reported from South Col. 6.05pm Nepal time

The Adventure Consultants group have arrived back on South Col after a long day on the mountain. The group reached the South Summit this morning but the winds were already fierce by this time. Only one member of the expedition reached the summit, a Sherpa named Pasang Tenzing, as he was ahead of the main AC group fixing ropes with a Sherpas from several teams. The climbing party saw many people ahead of them on the ridge between the South Summit and the top of the Hillary step and realised that they would not be able to safely make the top and get down without exposing themselves to undue risk. The weather conditions have deteriorated during the day with strong wind gusts on the upper mountain right now. Sometimes it takes more determination to turn around than to keep going higher. While we at the AC base are disappointed that the group did not reach their goal, we are very happy to see them back safely back at the col.

Guy Cotter
WEDNESDAY MAY 21 - 9:00a.m. MDST
Summit Push!
The weather has improved, so it's a go! We plan on leaving shortly after 9 PM. Not as many team's at C4 tonight, but still good to be out front. Our gear's packed and now just hoping the weather holds for 18-24 hours. Wish us luck and continued good weather!
AC team off to the summit - Bill
Please continue to follow the team's progress at the Adventure Consultant's site


The team will be conserving battery power as they make their way up the mountain so Alan's dispatches will be short and limited.

I am feeling a 1000% better. The cough is an occasional one that I can control, no stomach problems and I am feeling stronger every day. I am as ready as I will ever be for our summit bid. Bob and Nick are also doing extremely well. We leave tomorrow, Saturday, May 17.

The ideal, theoretical schedule is as follows:

Saturday, May 17 Climb from base camp to Camp 2
Sunday, May 18 Rest day at Camp 2
Monday, May 19 Climb to Camp 3 on Lhotse Face
Tuesday, May 20 Climb across Yellow Band & Geneva Spur to South Col, Camp 4
Tuesday, May 20 Leave for summit about 9:30 PM
Wednesday, May 21 Summit 10:00AM
Wednesday, May 21 Arrive back in Camp 4, South Col about 3:00PM
Thursday, May 22 Climb back to Camp 2
Friday, May 23 Climb back to base camp

Now, all this is subject to radical changes given weather conditions and the number of climbers on the mountain. If, for example, we find that on Tuesday night there are too many people attempting the summit, we will take an extra day at the South Col. We have the oxygen to do this and it would be safer than fighting the crowds on a single fixed line.

The weather forecast is almost too good! Low winds, temperatures in the mid-teens (F) and clear skies. This forecast is consistent for several days. That is excellent since so many expeditions have not made their summit bid and there is a backlog. Many have been here since late March and should have summited several weeks ago but for a variety of reasons have not so everyone seems to be using this large window for their attempts. I hope there will not be any tragedies with so many people up there at once. We will avoid the crowds.

So, today Friday, we checked all our gear one more time. However most of my summit gear is sitting in a tent at 24,000’ waiting for me. We are eating and drinking as much as we can hold. I took a shower and shaved today so I can have a nice summit picture. I will be taking my Digital Cameras on the summit bid.

It is another beautiful spring day in base camp - a slight breeze, temperatures in the 60’s F. Not a cloud in the sky. The avalanches are in full bloom since we don’t have flowers up here. In fact, while I was writing this, a large one occurred in the Ice Fall (off route). I saw an ice block the size of a car rolling down the hill!

We will have limited power above BC so the dispatches will be infrequent. Between Adventure Consultants and myself, we will try to get one out a day. They will probably be very short with no images. But there will be lots when I get down. You can also take a look at the 2002 expedition for images of the South Col and summit night.

This has been another interesting experience, very different from last year. The smaller team has made the dynamics more intimate. The number of teams on the mountain has made the environment feel larger. The weather has been slightly nicer yet colder. There is less snow this year. And of course, I have already had my ‘bad day’!

What has not changed has been the tremendous support I have received from family, old friends and new friends from all around the world. If you ever think a kind word or positive thought does not make a difference, please let me suggest differently. Cathy has been pulling your emails together into a single item and sending them to me every few days. They have been and will continue to serve as a source of encouragement, strength and support for my climb. You have been extremely kind to Cathy and I. Your words feel carefully chosen to balance the risks with the goal yet focus on using good judgment to do my best in this difficult undertaking. I really feel like I am not alone. Thank you.

Also, the support from my family has been unquestioning – I would not be here without it. My parents who are elderly kind of understand but continue to give me positive words, as does my brother. Ashley, who is in her own competitive fight, sends me her positive energy (Kido, row hard and no matter what happens, I love you and am very proud of you). And, of course, Cathy has once again pulled off six weeks of uncertainty, pressure and mastering the web site. One more week to go. mulu

I don’t know how to finish this dispatch. There is so much more I could write about: the climb, the risks, our attitudes, the teamwork with the Sherpas, the contingencies in place if something goes wrong, the oxygen plan and on and on. But I think the best way is to simply close by sharing an excerpt from a web-friend, Renee. I don’t think she will mind. Her daughter, Alex, used some of my 2002 Everest pictures in a speech contest earlier this year.

"I dreamed about Alex standing in full climbing gear, oxygen and everything. Taking the last few steps to the top of Everest she reached out her hand and Alan took it and hauled her up the last few steps. Then she did exactly what she said in her speech 'Take a picture, make a toast with your climbing buddy, take a look out from the roof of the world, and turn around and climb down"

I am humbled, gratified and motivated. Namaste, Alan

Meet my teammates...As we wait in base camp for the weather window to open, I thought I would introduce my teammates to you. Nick is from Australia and Bob is from Alaska. Both are going for the Seven Summits - the highest peaks on the seven continents on Earth. Both are strong mountaineers in addition to being strong conversationalists, this last trait being very welcome in a two month expedition!

One of the pleasures of these long expeditions are the friendships that you make. I still keep in touch with fellow climbers from Denali, Ama Dablam and of course, last year’s Everest expedition. It is always a special moment when we find ourselves sitting outside, typically like lizards on hot rocks, basking in the shadows of Pumori or some other mountain. We share life experiences, hopes for this climb and inevitably, wander off to conversations about our friends and family. These are the moments I remember.




Interview with Nick...
What has been your biggest surprise about climbing Everest? The scale of the mountain and duration. This has been twice as long as any of my other previous trips. The Icefall scares me every time. I get apprehensive every morning before going up the Icefall. You just never get used to crossing the ladders.

If you could get anything at all sent to BC immediately, what would it be? A selection of up-to-date magazines on politics and science. I miss getting the daily news.

What has been your hardest mountain climb ever? Denali. Denali was colder but will probably change above Camp 3, 7200m, on Everest.

Who would you like to have with you on this climb? Some of my other friends who I have shared other outdoor experiences with over the years. The guys I went to school with. Of course my girlfriend in BC would be very nice.

Will you summit? Yeah. I’D like to think so but it is entirely up to the mountain. It is dependent on weather and other factors. I have dreamed about climbing Everest since I was six years old. I have a lot of emotional energy tied up in the whole Everest experience.




Interview with Bob...
What has been your biggest surprise about climbing Everest? The cultural experience was a lot more than I expected. The Sherpas and how close their community is, the country itself, the multiple aspects of the Buddhist religion. It has been different from any country I have ever been to. Also, I am surprised that no one has found a route around the Khumbu Ice fall as dangerous as it is. It is also surprising that the body can adapt to such extreme altitudes.

If you could get anything at all sent to BC immediately, what would it be? Small patch of grass to put my tent on. Also cable TV so I can keep up with world news once a day.

What has been your hardest mountain climb ever? Polish Glacier direct route on Aconcagua but I firmly believe the summit day on Everest will exceed it. The entire process on Everest leading up to summit day is more difficult than any other mountain I have experienced.

Who would you like to have with you on this climb? I wouldn’t want to subject any of my friends or family to such an extreme climb.
Will you summit? I don’t want to be overly presumptuous on such a formable mountain. If the mountain and its own weather pattern allow it then I will summit.

In his own words: It would be nice to be able to communicate more with everyone, but especially my Son. Not to purposely leave anyone else out but he is still my baby and I feel the need to focus my limited communication opportunity with him since I have been gone so much this past year. It is a long time on this expedition as we go up and down the mountain and wait for our opportunity. This is a unique feature of Everest. It is a desolate place with the environment of BC at 17,500’ you get worn down by the process.




Resilience. Amazing what the human body can withstand and recover from. Back at BC, I spent some time with our team Doctor, Dedra. She looked me directly in the eye as I explained what had happened on the Face. “If we can prevent this, I want to get started now” I said strongly.

I felt better after returning to Camp 2 and then to base camp but my appetite had not returned and my cough was almost as bad. What I did manage to get down did not stay for long. Nick was doing well as was Bob but both appreciated the ‘thicker’ air in BC.

Chongba, our BC Cook was especially concerned since food was his department. He made me scrambled eggs for dinner instead of the meat and potato Sherpa stew he prepared for everyone else.

The next day, I felt better. Another visit from Dedra brought great news, my lungs passed a stethoscope inspection and revealed no fluid. This was critical since it may have indicated some type of edema – and the end of my climb. I was eating better and the coughing had subsided but was still there.

I spoke with other climbers only to find that my experience was not that rare. While extreme, these coughing episodes leading to involuntary gagging happened to more climbers than I thought. The key it seems is to stay very, very hydrated and keep your stomach as full as possible. Sounds simple but almost no one can execute the strategy successfully above Camp 2.

With a ‘misery loves company’ comfort in my mind, I focused on eating, drinking and everything else. Also I began working on my attitude. Yes I was discouraged. Yes I was upset. A well-publicized Everest guide once wrote that emotions are not allowed on Everest. With all due respect, I disagree. It was pure emotion that kept me going. Emotion allows for the ‘gray’ in ‘black and white’ choices. Too much emotion and you make the wrong choice but just enough and you do things never thought possible.

Today, May 13, is the second day of our rest period before the official summit bid. We do not know when we will leave for the bid. It is dependent on identifying three or four consecutive days of low winds at the summit. Once it is identified through our weather reports, we will leave BC for C2 and above.

We did spend some time today reviewing the oxygen equipment. Nick, Bob and I tried on our masks, plugged the regulator onto a 3-liter bottle and practiced turning it all on and off. This will be our lifeline on summit night so it is critical to understand how the entire system works.

So our time is spent sleeping, eating, and drinking. Tonight we will have a social event with Dave Hahn’s expedition. It is nice to meet new people, discuss new topics and share experiences. But I can promise one topic will almost dominate the conversation: When will you leave for the summit? Namaste, Alan

It was my worst day of mountaineering, or my best. Everything I knew was tested. Every feeling surfaced. Every muscle, organ and body part hurt. It was all I could do to keep going. It tested my motivation to continue and will serve as a reminder as to what my mind and body can accomplish summit night. I accomplished my goal. And I was not alone.

Nick and Bob asked me to lead the walk from Camp 2 to the base of the 6,000-foot face of Lhotse Mountain. It was on this steep, icy vertical face that Camp 3 sat, awaiting the four of us for an overnight stay. My pace seemed to be not too fast or too slow for the early morning walk so, after roping up, I took the lead with Bill at the back.
When I say ‘steep’, imagine putting a ladder against a wall. Now move the base of the ladder so close to the foot of the wall that you can easily reach out with an arm and touch the wall from any rung on the ladder. Not exactly vertical but also not laying down on your couch!The Face is not really snow covered, more like smooth, concrete-hard ice. The hurricane force winds keep any snow from accumulating thus the sharp spikes of our crampons are required to keep our footing.

Bill took the lead and soon was gone from sight. Bob made steady progress up the Face and soon disappeared. Nick seemed content to follow my slow but steady pace. I was not feeling well. A cough had developed that grew to episodes that ended with gags. It was deja vue of last year’s summit day.

“This could not be happening again,” I sternly lectured myself. “You are in better condition, you have not been sick, you cannot let this happen”, I continued between coughs. Not again…

“Go by Nick”, I offered for the second time while leaning on my uphill knee. “Nah, it’s better to have someone with you when you don’t feel good” he said with his Australian accent coming through clearly. Higher we climbed. Soon we met our Sherpas returning from the South Col. “About an hour.” “At your pace, two hours” said Ang Dorge, contradicting his teammate. Nick and I looked at each other and continued.

Each step became harder. I took in three breaths for every one of Nick’s. My stomach began hurting. My right calf went into a severe cramp. Soon we stopped and sat on the cold smooth ice, safely anchored to the fixed line. “I think we are past the point of no return”, Nick stated, rubbing his temples in a sign that a mild headache was starting. I was not sure if it was a question or a statement but he was right. We had climbed over 2,000 feet and had another 800 to go. I was too tired to go on but it was too far to return.

He suggested we contact Bill on a radio and soon started asking every Sherpa we passed if they had one: “Excuse me, do you have a radio?” he asked with a politeness in his voice. None did. Soon it became clear that we had to continue. I gathered all my strength and took another step and another and so on as we made slow, very slow, but steady progress up the Face. Every twenty minutes, I paused to cough, gag and dry heave.

After a while I glanced up to see Bill quickly climbing down the face. In an upbeat tone he asked me how I was doing but I simply could not answer. I felt very tired. Every time I opened my mouth, I coughed. I was angry. This was hard, not impossible. I was discouraged. Nick answered for me. After scrutinizing my condition, we went through the options. At one point Bill mentioned Dex, a high-powered steroid used to stabilize climbers suffering from altitude sickness. While mentioned in passing, it shook me to my core. I was hurting, not hurt. I did not need Dex. That would be the end of my climb. While I didn’t know why my body had resorted to coughing as a coping mechanism for the altitude, I’d be damned if that would stop me this time.

With Bill behind me, Nick took the lead and soon we were in Camp 3. He used his precious breath to blow up his and my air-filled mattress and paid the price by vomiting as his mild headache moved toward migraine status. Bob had arrived earlier and had melted ice and snow so we would have water ready upon our arrival.

As I sat in the tent at Camp 3, I cursed my body. “Why was this happening?” “How can I stop this?” A thousand questions yet no answers. Then Bill said, “Everyone has a bad day and this was yours. Even in your condition, you were moving up the Face.” Right or wrong, I felt somewhat better. Breathing supplemental oxygen at half a liter per hour, I dozed in and out of sleep. Nick, lying in his sleeping bag next to me, looked enviously at the oxygen mask on my face!

After a restless night, we returned to Camp 2 safely the next morning. Everyone felt a little better at the lower altitude. Promising to see the doctor upon my return to base camp, I continued thinking about what happened all the way down. I kept wondering if this was the end of by summit attempt. Should it be? What did I learn to keep me going next time? I was discouraged. Namaste, Alan


After a day’s delay for high winds, we left BC around 5:00 AM. Nick, Bob, Bill and I passed through the thick smoke from the burning fur bough, tossing a pinch of blessed rice into the air three times. The goal for this trip was to spend a single night at Camp 3, 23,500’.

We made our way through the Ice Fall easily but slowly. Soon we were spread out amongst the huge seracs, ladders and ice sculptures. I heard Nick call my name from below: “Where’s Bill?” he asked. After a few minutes he and Bill conferred about his condition. Nick, fighting migraine headaches since arriving at base camp, was not feeling 100% this morning. Actually, none of us were. Nick kept moving higher and soon we were all gathered at Camp 1 or what was left of it.

High winds the previous three days had destroyed almost all the tents there including ours. I was concerned about my down suit and other summit gear I had left cached in the tent but found it unscathed. The scene was amazing; tents reduced to shreds of nylon held to the ground by a few bamboo poles, ropes flapped in the air. The wind had no preference for make, model or style; all were destroyed equally.

We roped up and began our trek to Camp 2, 2,000 feet up the Western Cwm. Upon the way, the winds picked back up. My face stung sharply as it was hit by the blowing snow. My eyes burned as the wind took away all the moisture. With every gust, we looked down, focusing on the footsteps in the snow. Careful to look for hidden crevasses, we made our way to the safety – and comfort – of Camp 2. Chulden met us with hot lemon drinks and soon we sat in the cook/dining tent and enjoyed a hot lunch of chi pates.

After a day and a half of rest and acclimatization, we would be ready for the Lhotse Face and Camp 3 – the next big test. Namaste, Alan










With the winds still very strong above the Ice Fall, we took another rest day at base camp. After lunch, Nick, Bob and I went to the Internet Cafe to catch up on email and for me to send this dispatch.

We leave tomorrow (Wednesday) for Camp 2 and to sleep at Camp 3 one night. We are all anxious to get back up the mountain. Also to see the damage caused by the winds to the High Camps. We understand that many tents have been destroyed on both the North and South sides. We only have one tent still at C1 and our full compliment at C2, including our full time cook, Chulden. He is fine but says the damage is severe to many sites.

We should return to BC on the 10th or 11th. Coincidentally, those days may be the first summits of Everest this year. Several teams, including the Nepal/India and the UK's Jagged Globe, are targeting those days for their summit bids since the weather forecast calls for a lull in the high winds. I wish them great success in the bids. Namaste, Alan



Tomorrow we leave for one of the biggest tests while climbing Everest-a night at Camp 3, 23,500 feet perched on the Lhotse Face (see note below). It is a test due to the altitude, the site conditions and the load you need to carry while climbing the icy wall. If you cannot reach C3, your summit dreams are over.

I left home four weeks to this day. If our summit day of May 20th holds, I will return home a little less than four weeks from today. In other words, I am half-way through.

This becomes a very difficult time for everyone. I miss my family and home. They miss me. I am a little tired of smelling bad and sleeping on the ground. As good as the food is, it is not the variety or quality I get at home. As good as my climbing buddies are, I just met them a few weeks ago.

Anything as big and massive as climbing Everest takes commitment. There are a thousand reasons to quit everyday and only one reason to keep going. I have a huge benefit as compared to many others on the mountain, I have been here before. This year is different for me. I know what is coming. I anticipate the feelings. I know the rhythm. I clearly know why I am here. For me success on Everest is identical to my attempt in 2002: Find my limits, push a little further, return home safely. No debate. No negotiation. As I said last year, I want the summit, but I want my future with my family more.

Returning has been an emotional experience for me. Not in the hysterical or out of control way, but rather in a deep reflection of what it means to set a really, really hard goal and not give up. If I summit, I will be very satisfied. If I don’t, I’ll be very disappointed. But regardless, I have a deep sense of accomplishment just being back. That feeling will live in me until I die.


I find a sense of peacefulness on Everest that is beyond just climbing. The Sherpas, the Lamas, the sense that our Earth has more to offer than just oil and water; the responsibility of treating one another with respect and dignity goes beyond a trite slogan; it is real and meaningful. Climbing for me amplifies important lessons in life: humility, respect, and trust. Every trip up the mountain forces you to make a decision: will my role contribute or be a drain. You may still live regardless of your role but what a missed opportunity to learn.

So, while some may see climbing Everest as a simple physical challenge, it is much much more to me - and my family. It is a metaphor for life’s teachings and life’s hard lessons. Stand on top or turn around at the base, the lessons are there if you open your heart. Namaste, Alan

NOTE: I just spoke to Alan this morning (Monday) calling from base camp. They will be postponing their departure for the higher camps one day due to high winds. Hopefully, they will leave on Wednesday morning instead of the planned Tuesday morning departure. Alan reports that base camp has had steady 20-25 mph winds during the past 24 hours.








I have posted two dispatches this morning from Alan from base camp. Also, please continue to click on the link below for additional updates and pictures from Adventure Consultants.

With Bill well above me and Bob and Nick starting up the Face, I take a moment to let it all sink in. Here I climbed the Lhotse Face once again. I reach out with my jumar and take another step. The snow, while firm, can give way at any moment. This is why I am attached to the fixed line with two pieces of equipment: my jumar and a carabineer.

In modern times, more people die climbing the Lhotse Face than any other part of the South Col route. This is because the surface is either concrete hard, blue ice or hard packed snow. If you are lucky, there are small steps cut into the Face from the hundreds of climbers preceding you. There are “fixed lines” anchored into the Face with ice screws or snow anchors. Everyone clips their carabineers into these lines to stop a serious fall.

It becomes very interesting when you need to pass someone since you share the same line. A high altitude ballet takes place. Like in an old west gunfight, you eye the other guy. As you get closer, you make your move to the right or left. Standing close to each other, you make sure your footing is fixed. With a few grunts and a smile, you unclip one of your carabineers keeping the other one attached to the lifeline. Reaching around the climber, you clip back into the line around him, then move the other ‘biner above this new placement. All this happens in a moment and you move on. Not every swap is this complex but everyone requires caution. One mistake and there is no recovery on the steep Face. Once you start to fall, there is nothing to stop you for thousands of feet. It is real. It is harsh. It is climbing Everest.

I reached 6800 meters on the acclimatization climb and felt very strong. I am eating much better this year at the High Camps. Back in BC, it feels like I am on a beach! I believe my training is paying off. I have not carried any load bigger than what I train with so I believe that my strength is holding up and my reserves are deep at this point. I’ll send another dispatch before we head back up for our C3 sleep but for now I am back to my hard work of resting and eating at BC! Namaste, Alan
“The forecast says 100mph winds by Saturday” Bill said reading from the Compaq PDA in his hand. Racing against the weather is a given on Everest. We get daily weather reports from the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute. We had been at camps 1 and 2 for two nights and needed to get as high up on the Lhotse face as possible for our acclimatization. We also needed to stay at C3 another two nights. But the gamble would be if the forecast was wrong and the high winds moved in earlier. We would be stuck at C2 for more nights than planned, which creates problems with food, fitness, etc. We made the decision to stay and go up the Face one more time. There will be more on climbing the Lhotse face in the next dispatch, but once again it was a great experience for me.

Camp 2 seems much bigger this year with all the expeditions on the Hill. Tents upon tents crowded into the moraine of the Khumbu glacier. Everyone selects the same spot since it is off the main glacier yet close to the bottom of the Lhotse face. It is about two hours walk from C1, about 1,500 feet higher. It is cold at C2. You can hear the Jet Stream ripping across the summit of Everest, Lhotse and Nuptse. With Nick and I in one tent and Bill and Bob in the other, we spent most of our time sleeping, reading or making the short walk to Chulden’s cooking/dining tent for meals. In spite of living at 21,000 feet, we ate and slept well.

Rumors spread quickly on Everest. Once the weather forecast came out, it seemed that every team had a different reading. Some went down immediately, others stayed in BC while others reset their summit dates. The Nepal/India Army Expedition reset their summit window to May 9th. They seem to want to be the first to summit this year. Which is fine with us!

Our decision to stay, go up the face once again and return to BC on Saturday, May 2, proved to be right on. Just like last year, Bill, our expedition guide, used his experience and good judgment to make the most out of our time high up on the climb.

Our trip down to BC was eventful. In the Western Cwm and again in the Icefall, we were hit by gusts so strong that it literally moved us a few steps – well over 60mph. Blowing ice pellets pelted our faces and the visibility went to zero. As always in the Cwm, we were roped together – a rare sight which amazes me to this day. Why expeditions risk their lives by not taking the simple precaution of roping together to prevent losing someone in a crevasse is beyond me.

I learned today, Sunday, that of the over 70 Sherpas trying to ferry gear to the South Col on Saturday, only nine made it – including our four Sherpas lead by Ang Dorge. Most turned back due to the high winds. Also, almost two-dozen tents were virtually destroyed at Camp 1 by the high winds.

Back in BC, we spent a very, very peaceful night getting ten or more hours sleep. It snowed gently all night but we didn’t care. We now have oxygen cached at Camp 4 for our summit bid. We will spend three nights before going back up to spend one night at Camp 3. Namaste, Alan
I just spoke to Alan this morning (Saturday evening his time). The team is safely back in base camp. They are all fit and doing well. It seems they are down just in time as they were hit a couple of times in the Cwm and Ice Fall by winds in excess of 50 mph. High winds are expected to hit the region sometime today through Monday. Due to a low pressure system over Afghanistan, the Jet Stream will be moving back over the Everest region. A dispatch from Alan should follow sometime this weekend.

The snow finally let up here at Camp 2 just before dinner. Today was one of the hardest of the entire expedition - we did absolutely nothing. We ate breakfast, slept, ate lunch, then slept some more. We did add some big rocks to the tent lines since 100mph winds are forecasted for Saturday - after we leave. But that only took a few minutes.

After dinner, Nick commented that at home he and his girlfriend would see a movie every Wednesday night. I thought about my own routines and what Cathy and I would be doing tonight. Funny that a routine can be missed so much.

This trip to C2 involves two climbs up the Lhotse Face. Today we went to 6700 meters, 22,250'. I felt great. Much better than the first trip last year.

More complete dispatches when I get back to BC on Saturday or Sunday. Namaste, Alan


The team is now sending dispatches directly from the mountain. Now we are able to follow their progress above base camp. Please check out Adventure Consultant's current expedition news dispatch page for continued dispatches from Bill (expedition leader) by clicking on the following link.


Be sure to check out the April 24 dispatch from the Western Cwm for a video clip.
Hello everyone...I just received and posted three dispatches from Alan. Due to some equipment problems, Alan has been unable to communicate with me above base camp. Please read and enjoy all three dispatches.
Everest Base Camp is always a unique spot on our planet. This year even more so. With international publicity surrounding the 50th anniversary of Norgay’s and Hillary’s first ascent in 1953, there are 24 expeditions on the South Side and nearly the same on the North. Looking out my tent door, all I see are prayer flags, small and large tents and banners announcing the sponsors and origins of the multiple expeditions. In total there are over 400 people living in base camp. Some of the largest expeditions include the Joint India-Nepal Army Expedition (90 members) and the French Expedition (42 members). Then you have the smaller teams, such as ours with 4 climbers, and the large commercial expeditions with teams ranging from 9 to 18 from all around the world.

You might think that it is very noisy and frenzied, but it is not. For the most part, life is quiet and orderly. There are multiple generators to run lights, computers and radios. But they are always shut off by 8:00 PM to allow for a peaceful sleep. There are a few ‘thoroughfares’ that keep people from tramping through one another’s camps. If you do happen to walk right through someone’s camp, you are greeted with a friendly “Namaste” and more than likely meet someone you know.

The Internet Cafe is a unique place. They are using a microwave link to a satellite dish at Pumori base camp and deliver speeds of up to 128kbs. The link is required since Everest Base Camp is on a moving glacier and it would require daily dish adjustments. However, a recent thunderstorm knocked out their system. Dinesh and Sanjay had to move the dish several miles to base camp. It came back online today, Sunday. They have several notebooks but many people bring their own and plug in or use the wireless connection. The charge is a reasonable $1 per minute for trekkers or $0.45 for expedition members. They even let you run an account.

For all the people, this is an enormous place. At any time there can be climbers strewn from BC to camps 1, 2 and 3. The Ice Fall seems to be the consistent bottleneck at this point in our climb. We try to avoid it by leaving an hour later than the Sherpas. Summit night will be interesting but that is later. But in general, life runs at a slow pace in BC.

The biggest event is the sound of an avalanche off Pumori or the Cho La. Everyone looks out their tents and “ohs and ahs” at the tons of snow falling down the mountainside.

Today is a rest day for our team. We leave on Monday, April 28 for four nights at camps 1 and 2 and an important climb up the Lhotse Face. We hope to reach at least 7,000 meters or 23,100 feet. This will be crucial to our acclimatization. We already have our cold weather sleeping gear at Camp 1 but will need to get our summit climbing gear to Camp 2 on this climb or the next.

The weather seems to have settled into a pattern of mild, sunny mornings with cloudy, snowy afternoons. But the temperatures have been reasonable thus far. We do not have any real health problems other than the annoying head congestion, sleepless night or stomach irritation. My cold seems happy to live a low level of casual stuffiness and a very rare cough. I am thrilled that I am not experiencing my usual ‘Khumbu Cough’ where I enjoy a short, dry cough every two minutes. I am sleeping and eating well. I spend most of my time sleeping, writing these dispatches, reading (just finished Sir Edmund Hillary's 'View From The Summit'); what else? And of course, thinking about the next step.

I am very focused on doing what I need to do each day, whether it is a climb or rest - accomplish the task, eat, drink and rest. While my mind takes me often to the difficulties above Camp 3, I feel more comfortable this year based on what I know. Also, I feel more anxious this year based on what I know. All I can do is control what I can control and that means focusing on my daily health, putting in the work, and remembering why I returned to Everest.

Every morning when I awaken, I still cannot believe I am back so soon. Perhaps it was too soon to appreciate how fortunate I am to have another chance. Then again, I feel like I picked up where I ended last year. I am glad I returned this year. The memories are still in my muscles, the feelings in my heart and the knowledge in my mind. If this was not the best time, when would have been? Namaste, Alan

'The quiet valley' or 'The hidden valley'. By any name, the U-shaped basin sitting between Everest and Nuptse holds a special place in mountaineering. First spotted by George Mallory in the 20's as a possible route to the summit, it has been an entrance and an obstacle for several thousand climbers attempting these hills for the past half-century.

My health vastly improved, I gladly got out of my minus 40-degree sleeping bag to take a walk up the Cwm to improve my acclimatization. No need for heavy down today, the clear sky allowed the sun to radiate in all directions. Sun block was necessary on any uncovered and covered areas of the body because the sun penetrated the light layers of our protective clothing.

As Bob, Bill and I roped up, I glanced around at Camp 1 and allowed myself to think about last year and the crevasse. There are four clusters of tents due to the large number of expeditions on this anniversary year. Tents set so close to each other that you could hear every conversation, every bodily function. Perhaps too close! Yet just like in most large cities, you never get to meet your neighbor. Maybe, what we need is a front porch.

Just beyond Camp 1, the Khumbu Glacier begins to crack into large crevasses. Some so large that you must go around, others that need multiple ladders to cross and then there are those that you easily step across. It is this last variety that lulls you into a deadly sense of confidence. As we approach a small dark hole, my mind flashes back to falling into one of its cousins almost exactly eleven months ago to the day. This time, I look deeply at the hidden danger, look left and right as if for oncoming traffic and step across. There, I did it. Not this year! Not again, I tell anyone inside my head that cares to listen.

The crunching under my feet sounds like a cereal commercial for the latest honey-baked breakfast treat. The snow has melted, frozen, melted and frozen so many times that the only defense it has against my crampons is a loud crunch. We move at a slow but steady pace towards Camp 2.

Last year I was almost overwhelmed by the beauty of the Cwm, a Welsh word for valley. Everest on the left, Lhotse ahead and Nuptse guarding the right; nothing but rock, snow and ice in every direction. The only exits are down the Ice Fall or … over the South Col and to the summits. Ravens ride the air currents in search of food. They seem ignorant of the dangers below or maybe just confident of their ability to escape.

Everest overwhelms everything in the Cwm. It is huge, massive and forbidding. From lower down the Cwm, the summit ridge stands out clearly – almost daring the fools below to take a chance. The South Summit, the Hillary Step and then, the top of the world - I simply cannot take my eyes away. We take a break at about 20,200 feet and sit on our packs. While Bob and Bill discuss geo-political concerns, rebuilding the U.S. economy, climbing other mountains, I pay only half attention while staring at the summit the way a two-year-old stares at his birthday candles.

The sun, frustrated that we have not given up, turns up the heat a notch. I take some cold, wet snow and put it underneath my hat. The cool water feels good running down my face. I push my dark glacier glasses close to my face and cover my neck with the drape of my cap. I glance again at Everest, almost afraid to look her in the face. Out of fear, out of knowledge, out of respect? I know what this mountain can do to people, what it did to me. I want her to know that I know.

We return to camp and settle into the normal alpine mountaineering routine – eat, sleep, eat, well you know. That night I get only a few hours sleep. Wide-awake from midnight to dawn, my mind races. I solve every problem, consider every scenario, write every thought and then again, I do nothing.

We make our way down the Ice Fall in half the time it took to climb a few days ago. Tired, I catch some sleep before lunch and think about the next trip up. I have been gone from home for three weeks. Still four to go. Most of the excitement is still ahead so it is critical that things go well. So far, so good. Namaste, Alan

“Tell him not to get sick again”, Turnor said in a squeaky voice. As the primary representative for my support team in the under five demographic group, I took his advice seriously via the email from his mom, Susan. A heavy dose of Azithromycin the night before we left for Camp 1 had made me feel significantly better as I awoke at 4:00 AM. Today we were to climb the Khumbu Ice Fall to Camp 1 and spend two nights. This is part of the up-down cycle to prepare our bodies for the punishment higher up on the Hill.

Climbing the Ice Fall is one of the most interesting sections of the South Side, other than the summit bid, itself. While you can see pictures or even look at it from base camp, it holds treats and threats that are revealed only from within its icy walls.

Consider a tall, very tall, waterfall that is frozen in time. At the top, the water suddenly drops over a sharp edge but since the temperature is below freezing, the water is ice and moves very, very slowly due to the pull of gravity down the hillside. As more snow falls above the Ice Fall, the ice falls on top of itself thus creating ice blocks the size of houses that gently rest upon each other. Silently, they hide their true goal of falling some 2000 feet to the bottom. As climbers, our goal is to get past these sulking giants as fast as possible. Suddenly, a new view appears as we pass a danger – an incredibly beautiful ice sculpture that could have only been created by nature. An eagle perched next to a dolphin atop an ice ridge watches the climbers struggle to take one more step. A pillow atop a 30 foot spire holds a secret prize.

Lower down the Ice Fall, the route is more direct, mostly up! Swing to the right, more up, then back to the left and finally a big easy loop to the top.

This year there are seventeen ladders, a few less than last year’s twenty something. But towards the top, the sudden fall of the ice creates deep crevasses that can only be crossed with our aluminum friends, sometimes three or four tied together. Sherpas cross these helpers like dancers across a stage floor. Western climbers demonstrate their experience, confidence or naivety with various techniques: one rung at a time while tightly holding onto the ropes, two rungs at a time, the occasional fast step, and then, the hands and knees method. No judgments are made. No scores are kept. The goal is to cross the ladder safely.

The top of the Ice Fall is where a Sherpa was hurt earlier in the week. Reports from Katmandu say he is OK with a hurt lower back. I feel glad for our hardworking friend. The area where he fell is a huge ice hole littered with ladders, ice debris and ropes. Nick and I reach this area only to experience a famous ‘Sherpa Train’ – fourteen smiling souls going down to BC unburdened of the tents, food or fuel they carried to the higher camps. We wait patiently as they scurry by and then slowly take a few final steps to the top and onto Camp 1 to join Bill and Bob.
Tomorrow we will take our first real steps into the Western Cwm. I am looking forward to it because it is one of the most unique places on earth and to be able to confront the location of last year’s up close and personal inspection of a crevasse! Namaste, Alan







I heard the Sherpas getting ready at 3:00AM this morning, an hour before we were supposed to get up for a roundtrip climb to the top of the Ice Fall for acclimatization. The morning sun on Pumori was stunning. Every step seemed to bring deeper breathing. While I lead for awhile, I soon followed our team up the Ice Fall.

A sore throat had turned into a head cold and my energy was simply not there. At least that is what I thought. As I climbed higher and higher, with Nick staying close beside, I thought about last year and my experiences. I remembered that the first trip up the Ice Fall was brutal. This year it seemed it was going to be no different.

As we approached 19,000 feet, I saw Bob waving from an ice ridge above. Soon I learned that there had been a collapse of a ladder above the Ice Fall but before Camp 1. Unfortunately, one of the Sherpas with the French team had been hurt. Some of our Sherpas had just crossed the ladder and some were about to cross when it happened but no one else was hurt.

Five hours after our start, we returned to BC. I went to my tent and fell asleep before lunch. About one o’clock, I heard the sounds of a helicopter. The injured Sherpa had been hand carried down the Ice Fall and was now in BC. The helicopter, fighting a snow squall just hitting BC, took him to Katmandu for treatment.

It is cold and gray in BC late Monday. We will take a rest day tomorrow and hopefully spend two nights at Camp 1 on Wednesday. I feel better after an afternoon of rest and will take advantage of tomorrow’s rest day as well. I am very glad to draw on my experiences of previous climbs. Accidents will happen, I will get sick, it will be uncomfortable; but it is time to keep going. It is early in the expedition, a lot more will happen to be sure. Namaste, Alan







Today is a rest day after our first trip up the Khumbu Ice Fall yesterday. We left about mid-morning to miss the droves of climbers and Sherpas going to spend nights at Camp 1 or to establish Camp 2. We are about one to two weeks behind most expeditions, by design, to miss the 50th anniversary crowds. There are about 24 expeditions in base camp so, needless to say, it can get very crowded going up the Ice Fall.

It was a beautiful day, not a cloud in the sky. We put our crampons on at the base of the Ice Fall and checked each other's harnesses and gear. This will become a standard procedure as we make at least five round trips through the Ice Fall. I was looking forward to getting back up there since this represents the start of my return bid to summit.

It was also nice to see Bob and Nick, my fellow climbers, crossing the ladders for the first time. They did great. After my fist ladder, I felt a wave of excitement come over me. I was back! I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. I went over to Bill, my guide from last year, and told him that I finally felt like I was back to finish what I had started ten long months ago.



The best ladder yesterday was a trio that bounced unevenly in the middle. I just had to stop and do a small dip! I guess I am much more comfortable this year!

We woke up to heavy snow and thunder this morning. The thunder rolled down the Khumbu Valley like nothing I have ever heard. Some booms lasted for 20 seconds or more. The snow stopped after an inch or so. We enjoyed another excellent breakfast by Chongba and set off to relax under the clear, breezy sky here at BC. We go back up the Ice Fall tomorrow to generate more red blood cells for use in the weeks ahead. Namaste, Alan











We finally made it to base camp (BC). We had a cloudless day for the trek from Lobuche. I took a quick side trip to climb the famous trekking peak, Kala Patar, since the views are outstanding on such a clear day. I was not disappointed. I took several pictures that should look great on the site as well as printed. I used my big zoom camera to focus on the summit ridge of Everest. If you look carefully you can see the Hillary Step about a third up from the South Summit on the right of the picture. I hope to be there in a few weeks!

We had a small team of four trekkers who made their summit of Everest Base Camp. It was great to share in their excitement of spending a couple for nights here. Robert and Jack from New Zealand were especially pleased but Claudia and Grizz shared in the excitement as well.

We had our Puja today, Friday, April 18. It started early, about 8:30, with an older Lama coming in from Pangboche. He was very focused on praying from the Tibetan prayer books while our Sherpas passed around refreshments and hung the prayer flags from the stone altar. Our Puja took over two hours and everyone got something from it. The trekkers enjoyed taking part in a climber’s ceremony, and the climbers and Sherpas took strength from the spirituality of the ceremony. As I said in a previous dispatch, having a Puja under the gaze of the Ice Fall is very, very special. Throwing rice into the air, smelling the burning juniper, seeing the prayer flags flap through the hazy sky brought the purpose of the Puja home to me. Hearing the Lama chant his prayers asking the Mountain Gods to watch over us and bring us back safely touched me deeply. Everyone is touched by a Puja.

I appreciate everyone’s support back home – your thoughts and prayers are always felt on the mountain. Namaste, Alan







It has been about a week since we left Katmandu. My health continues to be excellent. No cough, no runny nose, nothing like I normally get. My body is doing well in adjusting to the altitude.

Today, I took a short walk to 17,000' with no difficulty. I am drinking and eating much more than I did last year so that may be helping. Tomorrow we leave for base camp -BC. On the walk today, I could see the flat part of the Ice Fall for the first time and BC – home for the next five weeks. It will be good to get there. We have four people trekking in with us. Their destination or ‘summit’ as Rob calls it, will be BC. For me it is just the beginning.

My mind is focused on pacing myself as we start the climb but first we will have another Puja. A different Lama will come to BC and perform the ceremony on Friday. Even though we have had two Pujas thus far, this will feel different since it will be in BC. Not only will we receive the blessing but our ice tools will as well. Just hearing the Lama chant the prayers and ring his bell will be very different outside under the gaze of the Ice Fall.


Here are some more pictures of the view I have been enjoying the last week. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did. Namaste, Alan

Namche is the center of the Sherpa culture in the Khumbu. There are many stone buildings with tin roofs that are arranged in a horseshoe around a ‘U’ shaped mountainside. The streets are dirt and you often compete with Yaks carrying heavy loads. Shopkeepers line the streets with jewelry, blankets and yak bells for sale on long tables. The young ladies are the most aggressive calling out to you to stop and then instantly making you a deal you can’t refuse. All this is done with a beautiful smile and a casual laugh. I always feel good here.

Friday morning we left for an acclimatization hike to the famous Everest View Hotel. Built by the Japanese many years ago, it was targeted for high rollers who wanted to see Everest but not make the trek up the Khumbu. A great idea until some of the clientele started dying due to the fast altitude change from sea level to 12,000 feet! Even with oxygen in the rooms, business fell off (what a surprise). Today they host trekkers up from Namche and serve tea on the patio, complete with stunning views of Everest, Ama Dablam and hundreds of other Himalayan peaks. We did our obligatory stop, complete with tea (how civilized!), took in the views and left for the ‘highest bakery in the world’ in Khumchung. Apple strudel was the pastry of choice and then we were back to Namche for the first of three Puja.

I was deeply moved by this puja since it was the same Lama and his son who performed our Puja last year in the same room. Somehow, I felt his presence more this year.

Saturday, we will visit the Namche Bazaar and then leave for the monastery in Tengboche. I was lucky to see the Bazaar in 1997 on my first visit. It is an amazing feast for the eyes, ears and nose with Sherpas and Tibetans selling everything from Nikes to peppers to water buffalo meat. Many photo-op's!!






Landing in Lukla is always exciting. The runway is extremely short, more suited for helicopters than airplanes! It ends directly into a mountainside.

We had a quick lunch and started due north for Packding for one night. This is my fifth stay at the same teahouse so I am getting to know the owner well. We had fried rice for lunch, then she brought out some incredibly hot peppers. Since I love hot and spicy food, I had to try one. If you remember the old cartoons when a character’s head ballooned up, turned a bright glowing red from ears to nose; then you will understand what I mean by hot! I instantly became known as ‘Chili Man’ by all the locals, a name I wore proudly since I felt competed to eat another! After all this gastronomical fun, we left the next morning for Namche for a two-night stay.

The trek to Namche is one of my favorite parts of any Nepal climb. The villages are about a half-mile apart and filled with children. They laugh and smile quickly as you approach. Since the advent of digital cameras, they want you to take their picture and show them their image on the LCD. We could have stayed in one village for hours just laughing and playing. Just as I got finished with one, another would appear wanting her picture taken. Typically, mom or grandmother was nearby watching carefully but with a loving smile. Once again, I am struck by those who have so little get so much out of life.

About halfway up the infamous Namche Hill, a 2000-foot climb up dirt switchbacks, Everest revealed herself for the first time. I missed it on my previous three climbs up the hill so I was careful to watch through the trees as the switchback turned south. Just like in the airplane, she appeared. A huge white plume waved to the west. Once again, I zoomed my camera for the best shot and captured the moment. But the best was inside my head … and heart. Namaste, Alan







We have all made it to Katmandu. Adventure Consultants has three different trips running at one time: an Ama Dablam expedition (4 climbers), an Everest Base Camp trek (6 trekkers) and the Everest expedition (4 climbers). We have all rendezvoused at the Hotel Tibet, a quiet place just outside the hectic Thamel area of Katmandu. We leave for Lukla very early Wednesday morning. This is always an exciting trip. A small two-engine Twin Otter, packed with gear and climbers, makes it way over a hilly Central Nepal. Looking out the window, we will see barley and potato fields carved out of steep hillsides connected by dirt paths. It will be a similar view on our trip up the Khumbu to the base camps.





Monday, April 9

Sitting on the full Thai flight, I was surrounded by people wearing surgical masks. I wondered about the risks of being exposed to SARS and what bad luck that would be at the beginning of my trip. I listened to my music and looked out the window. From ocean to silt covered flatlands to green forest and finally the brown hills of Nepal, we flew over Thailand, Bangladesh and India on our way to Katmandu. Knowing that on a clear day you can see Everest out the right side of the airplane, I walked to one of the doors and peered out the tiny round window. Several hundred miles to the Northeast was a layer of white puffy clouds. There it was! I quickly grabbed my camera and steadied my hands on the emergency exit. Flying 600 miles per hour at 38,000', I zoomed in eight times until the goal came into focus. Click, click – I took eight pictures not sure if any would come out. I set aside the camera and took a long look. There it was. A huge white plume rippled off the mountain revealing the ever-present jet stream howling from East to West. I could see Lhotse and Nuptse standing guard on Chomolungma, Goddess Mother of the Earth. As I looked closer, I told myself I could see the big rock where I turned around last year. Returning to my seat, a wave of excitement came over me. I stood taller, walked faster and felt strong. I was returning to finish what I had started.