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Final post

Ill never forget Wednesday May 18 2016.

At 7 pm, as the sun was beginning to set at 26,000 feet at the South Col on Mount Everest, I sat and just watched as a long line of climbers started making their way up the steep slope out of camp four towards the summit - their headlamps all flickering as a line formed up the hill. They were beginning their long summit bid, a night and following day that would take most over 18 hours. It seemed everyone on the Mountain this year had been waiting for this day - predicted decent weather - the summit window - and the majority of climbers here this season were taking their shot. I knew I could not go.

I was with 2 of the most experienced Sherpas on the mountain - Nima and Jangbu, with over 20 summits between them - so incredibly strong - and a rookie - Pemba - eager to prove himself. I could not have hand picked a better group of guys to go to the summit with - and they were there only because I was there and they wanted to support me. Nima asked if I was ok, and told me to go into the tent and eat, but I just stood there, with my oxygen bottle cradled in my arms, and watched as others started off to realize their dream of summiting Mount Everest.

It has been a long week plus since my last post and this will be the final one for this trip. Sorry in advance if I ramble as I sometimes have. 

First thing is thank you for all the support I have received over the past 6 weeks. A lot of people I have not talked to in years sent along nice messages and though sometimes I did not receive them for days after they were sent (our communications on the Mountain were pretty much a non existent joke), I read and appreciated every one of them! Also, I know some have already said that they are sorry I didn't summit. There is no reason to say sorry. For me it was a success and I know I made the right decision to stop at the South Col. I was sick, the day did not go as planned AT ALL, and considering what we went through to get to where we were it was somewhat surprising I got as far as I did. I am happy with the outcome - not thrilled - not overjoyed or ecstatic and of course there is a level of disappointment, but as my friend LaP told me before I left - you have to find peace, be at peace with your decisions knowing you did everything you could, then accept the outcome. I found that with this trip. I know I wont be back here but I am fine with that. I know we as a group and me personally did everything to be put in a position to have the opportunity to summit.... but sometimes that is not enough.

SIDEBAR..... I just had to stop writing for a second to say hello to Doug Scott and Sir Chris Bonnington. Google them - pioneer climbers - can not even express how significant their achievements have been! Climbing and exploring as bad ass as they come in their day they did things that have still not been replicated. I think in their 70’s or 80’s now, they are back in Nepal to help rebuild after earthquake damage.

Ok.... so when last we left I believe we were on our way up for our summit bid, and the first day out through the icefall was as eventful as it always seems to be. 4 avalanches that morning an hour before we headed out made me more nervous I think than I had ever been. It really is a game of Russian Roulette each time you head into the Icefall. Once we got going - I started to focus on the task at hand and other than a small slide just above us that luckily didn't amount to much, the Icefall was pretty quiet as we weaved our way through the huge blocks of ice. About 2 hours in, I heard a call over the radio.... another of our team members that was a bit behind me was having some trouble and experiencing symptoms of altitude sickness. About an hour or two later I saw from above as a ridiculously skilled helicopter pilot dipped into the icefall, found a small flattish patch of snow and ice, placed one skeg of his chopper on the shifting flow of ice and basically hovered as the climber was loaded into the chopper and flown directly to Kathmandu. He is fine now.... but we were down to two climbers - Ade and myself.

As I made it to camp one I was alone and the sun was beating down on the Western CWM. I could not even go into the tent it was so hot so I just sat outside baking waiting for Ade. I did manage to boil some water and eat some beef jerky I had brought along and start to refuel the body. When Ade showed up we were both pretty spent, did what we could to get comfy as the sun went down and the cold set in, and got some sleep - thankfully. The next morning we got up around 4 as we wanted to get to Camp 2 before the sun did. We made the trip in under 3 hours and both felt pretty good.... until we had to eat. As i mentioned we actually have a cook at camp 2 - but with what he has to work with, we found we were better off NOT eating the food there - well other than a fried egg and “pancake” and some porridge which was not too bad. While we should have been fueling up for the tough next day, we were actually going backwards a bit. I dont think I slept much that night. The insomnia and cheyenne stokes breathing I have been struggling with were present and the 250mg of Diamox I was taking every day was making my fingers and toes tingle so much I wasn't sure if they would work - but wasn't helping the sleep problem. Again our goal was to set off early that next morning to avoid the crazy heat reflecting off the snow and ice around us. The crux of the climb was beginning as we headed back up to Camp 3 - our previous high point - up 2000 feet of the Lhotse face. Camp three which is literally carved into the side of the hill, is not a fun place and sherpas nearly refuse to stay there unless necessary.... lets just say you do not leave your tent at night to use the bathroom for fear of slipping once and falling straight down the face to your death.

We avoided the heat and most of the crowds of the day and arrived at camp three by midday - I felt good and had made the trip in under 4 hours. Our tents had been battered since we were there a week earlier, and one person is all that could fit really in each or the 2-3 person tents that were set up as snow had filled in and collapsed the sides - then froze - thus making it impossible for us to dig out. Our intent was to leave the next morning for camp 4 - the South Col. Nima stayed with us that night which was great in terms of helping with getting ice and snow for water and cooking. While everything at that altitude is a struggle for us, for super Nima, it is as if he is at sea level. He was very appreciative of me letting him use my Satellite phone to call home to his wife and 4 kids. We had a great relationship from the start and I was so happy to be climbing with him.

Again that night - no sleep. But the bigger problem as morning approached, is that the wind began to howl. I mean HOWL..... and the snow and blowing snow was flying! As the other Sherpas arrived at 3 am to head off to camp 4 with us, we all quickly realized that was not gonna happen that day. Ade and I decided to ride the storm out. Each of us huddled in our tent, we told the Sherpas to head back down to camp 2 and meet us back up at camp 3 at 4am the following morning. Seems like a lot for them to go down 2000 feet then come back up the next day - but really it was no big deal for them, and they would rather that than stay at camp 3. Oh yea..... and we had no space for anyone else to sleep! For us it was really out of the question to go down to camp 2 as we would have had to make the trip back up again and that was not likely. So we stayed, they left, and we hoped the weather would clear.

The wind blew all day. And throughout the day the winds actually increased for a while as they lowered from the summit. At camp 4, any tent that had been left up was blown flat. Where we were, some tents were blown down but for us the issue was the snow building up around the tents. At one point I looked out my tent vestibule and saw that the snow had completely covered the entry to the tent!! The sides of the tents continued to collapse as well as the snow blew in and filled in around them. Ultimately we knew we had to do something and so for much of the day we spent our time digging our tents out with a shovel and our hands. Even a group of Sherpas from another group next to us asked us multiple times if we were sure we did not want to go down as they were bailing out and heading back to camp 2 as well, but we knew that could end our summit chances so we stayed put. Food was another issue as we had not expected the storm. Luckily, one of our climbers from our previous rotation up high had left some food in one of the tents - not much, but a couple Belgian army rations which were actually pretty good. Since she had to go home with altitude sickness, we were able to make do with what we had and what we found in the tent, and tried to make the best of the day. It was impossible to sleep - thinking about when the the wind would stop and really also just the sound of the wind rattling the tents. We kept going back and forth about what our next move would be, when we would be able to leave for camp 4. Ultimately late in the day, we decided we would try to get some rest that night, wait for the wind to die, and leave at 4 am as we had decided earlier that morning. It was a tough, long day that took a lot out of us. We were both beat, questioning what we should should do, a bit hungry. The wind finally died down late in the day, we had some early dinner around 4 and went to bed around 6 to try to get some rest. My plan was to get up at 2:30 to have time to get ready for our planned 4 am departure. Boiling water to drink and cook food, packing up our stuff, getting everything set up including oxygen system takes time. I wanted to be sure to leave early, get in front of the crowds that were certain to be heading up the next morning after a lost day, and get up the Lhotse face before the sun started beating down on me in my -40 below suit that I was to wear heading up to camp 4. The next day I wanted to get to camp four by noon at the latests to have time to rest, refuel, and get ready to leave for the summit at 7pm that evening. The plan was in place - should have been plenty of time. I actually slept good that night because I was so tired from the previous 2 days - first 6 hours of sleep I got in 36 hours. I got up at 2:30 as planned, started to make water and packed up for departure.

When 4 pm rolled around I was ready, out of the tent, geared up. I put on my crampons and turned on the oxygen. Problem..... oxygen system was not working properly. I fiddled with it for a while trying to figure out the problem but to no avail. Ade and I were the only ones around... our sherpas had not made it up yet... I was at a loss. Although we had tested the equipment prior to being at this point... it was not working properly and we did not know what to do. A few Sherpas from other teams started to make their way up but no westerners really yet. I was really frustrated. I knew if I could get going the lines would be pretty clear all the way to the South Col. I got on the radio, woke some folks up at base camp. No one could really help from there.... but finally got word from our Sherpas that they were on their way. It was sometime after 6 that we finally were able to get going..... I knew it was going to be a problem.

That day turned into a long, slow, draining, tiring slog up 2500 feet to camp four. Very steep somewhat technical sections (at least at this extreme altitude) behind people that had no business trying to climb Mount Everest. But who am I to judge?? People that were being coddled and led and dragged every step of the way by Sherpas. People that were unable for clip their own carabiners and Jumars into the fixed lines. People that were being taught how to climb at 25000 feet on Mount Everest - and by the way were NOT learning. I was behind one person that would literally take one step - ONE STEP - then stop for 30 seconds! I stepped over a guy who kept collapsing - only to be picked up by one of his THREE Sherpas that were dragging him up the Mountain. I will refrain from Identifying him but he was extremely wealthy, had spent absurd amounts of money to summit, took helicopters up and down from camp 2 to the tune of $40,000 plus dollars (according to some reports) and had paid  each of his 3 sherpas $15000 to make sure he made it to the top. I saw him being led around camp 4 as if he was a lost school boy by whichever of his Sherpa that was in charge of him at that point - delirious. No fault of the Sherpas, the amount they were being paid by this guy changed their lives and their families lives. But this guy bought his way up Everest and was dragged the entire way.

It was one of the most frustrating days of my life as I watched the time tick by. The sun was beaming down and sapping all of the energy out of you as you boiled in your down suit. It took over an hour to climb the rocky section of the Yellow Band waiting for one guy.... it should have taken 10 minutes. It took over and hour to follow another hapless “climber” over the crux of the steep section at the top of the Geneva Spur - at that point I heard her sherpa tell someone she had already used over 3 full bottles of oxygen - most were on less than a half bottle. Again this section was a 15 minute climb at most.

I stumbled into the South Col at 4:30pm..... I had been going for ten hours. I was shot - I was supposed to arrive by noon. Something had also started to cause me to have some trouble breathing. I’ll spare the details but it was not pleasant. As Nima started to organize the oxygen we would need for the summit, I told him to stop. I wasn't gonna be able to go.

As of this writing, 3 people have died this season so far and 2 are missing - they are trying to decide if they will leave the bodies of 2 of them at the South Col or bring them down which is monumental task. There were probably about 200 non sherpas that ended up trying to summit - some made it, some did not. There have been over 30 cases of frostbite that have been reported - certainly there were many more. That is a pretty high percentage based on the number of summit attempts by westerners. We saw the injuries first hand.

That night, one of our Sherpas - Pemba - did summit. It was his first time. He waited on his decent to go down the Hillary Step for 1 1/2 hours because of all the people trying to get to the summit. (No doubt where a lot of the frostbite came from). the lines were absurd and it is not that Everest is crowded - rather it was that everyone went for it at once - and many were very slow and did not know what they were doing. Many people come to Everest and I believe are willing to lose a finger or a toe.... or multiple fingers or toes or hands or feet even to summit this Mountain. That is their sacrifice. I am not willing to do so. I made a decision to not summit - a difficult decision after all the work I had done - because I was in no condition to attempt the summit. I was exhausted and sick. I am at peace with my decision. In hindsight especially with all the injuries and death that occurred as a result of the events of that night - I would not have done otherwise if given the opportunity again in the condition I was in.

I wish the day had turned out differently. I’ll remember sitting there watching others leaving the Col for the summit that night forever. Ill remember the feelings I was experiencing watching them leave to realize their dream - and I will always wonder what the summit is like. But that is mountaineering. I have no regrets. I spent that night in a tent trying to keep an oxygen mask on and just breathe at 26000 feet. My body was not happy and it was a very tough night. the next morning I made may way down to Camp 2 by myself. Two days later we were back in Kathmandu - a world away - after hiring a helicopter to get us the heck out of there. Ade, Hugo and I have had a great couple days relaxing and getting healthy in Kathmandu and just enjoying talking about the trip. We are thinking when we get together again.... it may be on a sailboat in the Med??? A slight change of pace;))))

Thank you to everyone again for all the support.

Cheers,

Bill

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UPDATE - Plan to summit this Tuesday/Wednesday

Another helicopter rescue at the Icefall today....

I am safe at Camp 2 as of right now and headed to Camp 3 tomorrow and Camp 4 the following day which would be Monday your time there in the US.  Upon our hopeful arrival at Camp 4 - we will rest for 8 hours of recovery from the day... then head to summit at 7:30am Tuesday morning - again your time, that's if all goes well.  It could be Tuesday evening or even Wednesday morning depending on circumstances....

Hoping to update again at or before South Col.

Bill

(transcribed by Shannon & Shaun via phone)

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Back in base camp after a week up high

So last we left we were dodging avalanches heading through the Icefall. Avalanches have become such a a part of everyday life we barely stir when we hear them. Hugo counted 12 around basecamp yesterday as the glaciers surrounding the area continue to fall apart and melt away. Something like 3 billion people depend on Himalayan glaciers for their water supply throughout lower Asia and India..... gonna be interesting in the future where all that water is going to come from.

So our journey through the Icefall went well other than the fact that the first trip was freaking hard. 2 am departure, cold as you can imagine, people who should not be here climbing putting others at risk & 2000 feet of elevation gain in 5-6 hours..... but no avalanches at least around us. At the top of the Icefall is a 40ft high vertical wall of ice that you must scale, straight up, and all that is there to help you are two ropes.

You ascend this section with a jumar (a climbing device which you can slide up a rope and then pull yourself up on...google it) in one hand and your other hand is then free to grab the other rope. Granted there is upper body strength involved....but if you cant use one of these devices, you should not be on this mountain. I waited for a climber to ascend this section in front of me for 20 plus minutes.... all the while I was getting cold and wondering how this person expected to climb this hill. She was being instructed by a personal guide, but to not much avail. You hear stories about incompetence on the mountain, and that was the first time I was nervous about what we would face up high....maybe on the Hillary step.... what if I had to wait there for 30 minutes or an hour or more??

It took me and the sherpas i was with no more than 1 minute to scale this section...... not saying anything about how my skills compare - just stating a fact to put it in perspective. I actually question my skills compared to others up here every day, and many run circles around me. But you start to question how easy it is in this environment for others to put your life at risk. 

We arrived at camp one for a night, a somewhat makeshift camp with just a few tents scattered in between avalanche slide paths. A few years back some of the guys with us narrowly escaped a massive avalanche at camp one, to the point where they were running from the debris field and their tents were lost. We spent a bit of time melting snow and ice for water, making some dinner, then trying to sleep. I say trying because of the high winds rattling the tents a good part of the night. I think we had a 5am wake up call to start the trip to camp 2 at about 21,500 feet. A slight “misunderstanding” in terms of sherpa support and Ade and I ended up with 50# backpacks of gear to haul up the Western Cwm. Not the plan. 6 Hours later we stumbled into camp two completely spent. The temps in the Cwm that day ranged from about 10 below zero to about 90 degrees. The heat really takes it out of you, and trying to control your temp requires a lot of effort at the altitude, a lot of putting on and taking off layers.... very much a struggle. The kerosene infused taste that permeated the water and food our cook made at camp two, which is the only other place we have a cook on the mountain other than base camp, made recovery from the extremely hard day even more difficult. Camp 2 was abandoned last year after the earthquake and all that came down from the camp were those that were there - all the tents, gear etc that was there at the time had to be left there. Over the past year, all that gear has become part of the moving glacier the camp sits on and the site is a bit of a mess. There is an agency that was set up however that is monitoring all the groups that use camp 2 this year and is requiring everyone to help and bring down some of the mess from last year.

After a restless couple nights in camp 2, some fairly dodgy food, and of course the cold, we set out for camp 3. I was feeling great and flew up to the base of the Lhotse face and was actually pretty excited to get onto the face - a 1500ft high section of rock hard blue ice that varies from around a 40-70 degree slope. Then as I clipped into the fixed ropes and started up, I immediately ran into a bit of a traffic jam with a couple climbers just sitting on the fixed lines waiting for their guides or sherpas to help them down the slope..... again why are they even on the hill?? I waited for a while, tried to get around them, but too many people - it was just a waiting game. I gave up at that point.... I had gotten to that point so quickly, but was now just sitting, getting cold. I unclipped, turned around, and headed back down the hill for good. It sounds like such a little thing, but there are so many other factors that are at play on a long expedition like this.... so many things that have to go well and so many things that are a challenge. I was frustrated.

I started back down the hill and about a half hour later I ran into another teammate, I had a quick chat with him and then sat down for a few minutes. I looked back up the face, saw camp 3 in the distance and thought I had to at least get there - a high point for me in terms of climbing. I looked and the lines and they had cleared. I caught back up with my friend and a few hours later we made it to camp 3 - 23,500 feet.

View from 23,500 ft

View from 23,500 ft

The tents at camp 3 are carved into platforms in the 60 degree ice of the Lhotse face in-between huge crevasses. Ours took the sherpas 8 hours of work the day before just to set up 2 small tents - and btw they put them just ten feet above a bottomless crevasse. Very comforting!!!! The view is absolutely amazing from this spot though. I sat out side my tent until the sun went down at almost 7pm and just looked around at the towering peaks below us....and the two most prominent ones still above us - Lhotse and of course Everest. The summit seems so close from here - but it is still 5500 vertical feet away - two of the longest, hardest days of climbing still to go when the weather permits.

The summit seems so close from here!

The summit seems so close from here!

Another restless night of sleep, I shared a tent that night with 12 time Everest submitter Nima Sherpa - really nice, very strong climber. He much appreciated the use of my SAT phone to call his wife and 4 kids back home in Kathmandu. He is tired of climbing, as are many sherpas as the climbers get less skilled and the mountain more dangerous. He wants to open a restaurant maybe in the Thamel section of Kathmandu..... I told him we would talk more after the climb:))

I headed back down to camp 2 the next morning, kinda slept for a couple hours then set off for base camp the next day about 7am - before the heat of the day in the Cwm. What should have been a nice walk to base camp this day turned somewhat scary early on in the days decent. One of our groups climbers had not been feeling well and since we woke and met for a quick breakfast you could really tell she was off. As we started hiking down, her and i immediately started to talk about her condition, and she agreed she was feeling very sub par and was not exactly sure why. The beginning of the hike down is a meander around and over the giant crevasses of the Cwm. It did not take long before her condition worsened and it was becoming a struggle for her just to confidently and safely walk down. The next section of the decent was the Khumbu Ice Fall, and as this section approached - what many consider to be

the most dangerous part of the climb, her and I both agreed she would not be able to make it through the Ice Fall. Even though there were 6 of us with her including 4 of the strongest Sherpas on the hill - literally - we would not be able to get her down safely, and we would be putting our lives at risk if we attempted to get her through the Ice Fall. She and I agreed, I grabbed a radio, and began to organize a Helicopter rescue at nearly 20,000 ft.

The effort that goes into such a rescue at such an altitude is immense and requires several people and factors to fall into place. The first thing we had to do was stabilize her condition - we feared she was suffering from some form of sever altitude sickness or possibly HAPE - High altitude pulmonary edema or even worse HACE - High altitude cerebral edema. Both can be deadly within hours if not treated early and properly. Whatever the problem was, we knew it had to be addressed quickly. We got the Doctors from Everest ER on the radio, and they gave us medical instructions - we administered them. An hour later we were stamping out a big “H” in the snow, colored it with the Tang we were drinking.... and as I stood there waving my arms an amazing pilot guided his chopper smoothly and swiftly though some clouds and touched down perfectly without so much as a seconds hesitation right on our makeshift landing pad in between crevasses. We got her on the chopper and we knew she would be ok. More will be made of this in time - Discovery channel crew is in “town” filming and interviewing a documentary about helicopter pilots and rescues this year and they were all over this.

As of this writing - she is is doing fine!!!!! Recovering well, although her climb is in doubt. ALSO, my interpretation of what was wrong with her was only a non professional opinion. She was feeling ill for sure, her and I agreed on that. Her condition was worsening, we also agreed on that, and she needed to get down - we made that happen. Beyond that, I leave judgment of her medical condition to the professionals.

So enough for now, we are back down watching basecamp melt away. I feel ok. I have been climbing well during the day but having a real tough time with cheyenne stokes breathing and insomnia at night - not a great combination. Its very frustrating and unnerving. Have been self administering codeine to sleep a bit at night - not a great solution as that suppresses breathing. May try Benadryl today or the docs gave me ambient. Never took either..... hmmmmm???

Possible summit window aiming for 17-19th. After that, I'm helicoptering down to Kathmandu and heading home. Wish us luck!!!! There will be a lot of folks up there. Thanks for all the kind wishes.... when one or two emails make it to me, it makes me smile to read them.  I found a spot on a rock yesterday, raised one leg and put one hand in the air, chanted a bit, twirled around, and got 100 emails to show up on my phone.... BUT.... only was able to download the content of a couple. Just silly. Hope i can get this post out.... internet sucks here - not nearly what it was supposed to be:))))

Bill

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Avalanche

Hi all, so as many of you know we started out this morning at 2:30 am through the Khumbu Ice Fall - you go early because that is when it is safest and supposedly most stable. There had been several avalanches around basecamp for the last 24 hours, and unfortunately as we made our way up, we saw an avalanche above us and it took out the route through the icefall.

Fortunately no one was injured and we are all back in basecamp waiting to find out how long it will take the ice fall doctors to fix the route. It sounds like a couple of ladders were taken out. I will try to get more info to you as we get it. Two days ago, there was also a collapse of part of the route at the base of the lhotse face.... so now everyone is waiting.... and the mountain will be busy up high once the route is repaired. No one has been up to camp 3 yet so it's gonna be interesting.

Take care!

Bill

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Lobuche to base camp

April 23 Lobuche, 16,600 feet.

Our last stop before base camp, we are all excited to get climbing. The trek here is fine, it obviously helps us acclimatize, but we are here to climb, and we all cant wait to get on with it. The drawback as you get higher in the valley is the accommodations and food progressively get .... well.....worse. Everyone struggles to stay healthy and I continue to stick to ramen noodles, fried potatoes and rice - seem to be pretty safe. So far so pretty good - just a dry throat and nose from breathing the dry, dusty air on the trek. I wear a buff or face mask piece of fabric covering my mouth and nose to help but still the feeling like you have something scratching the back of your throat is unavoidable.

So I attached a couple nice pics of our acclimatization hike yesterday - we went from 14,500 ft to 17,000 ft in just over 2 hours. It was a nice climb with some great views of surrounding 6000-7000 meter peaks and a nice perch at the top where I took a 2 hour nap - good for getting our bodies used to the altitude.

Memorial Valley - Where there are monuments to all the climbers who have perished on mt Everest

Memorial Valley - Where there are monuments to all the climbers who have perished on mt Everest

Definitely helped sleep last night as well, where as the night before I struggled with breathing which is never fun. Kinda common as you reach new heights to have some issues at night..... usually the second night at the same altitude you do better. 

April 25 - Base Camp

So I have no idea when this post will get through. The base camp internet hot spot and cell service are pretty much non existent right now - they took our $50 bucks each though and said they are working on fixing it..... typical. Anyhoo.... we made it to base camp yesterday and are are settling in with better food and more comfortable accommodations than during the trek in. Yes.... we even have Sherpa Beer - Nepals first micro brew and box wine at our camp but no one is really up for it right now.

First view of base camp on the approach... the tiny colorful specs. Everest on far right with the lenticular cloud above.

First view of base camp on the approach... the tiny colorful specs.
Everest on far right with the lenticular cloud above.

View from base camp tent

View from base camp tent

First couple days are pretty rough at the altitude. So we spend our time relaxing, sorting through our gear getting it ready to bring up high, hydrating and just acclimatizing. We have to just take time right now to get our bodies used to the altitude before the stress of the work to be done up high. The Lhotse face looks to be a sheet of 50-60% blue ice this year as it hasn't snowed much - which will make it a tough climb kicking the front points of your crampons in the whole 1500ft up.

The view from our camp and out our tents is pretty spectacular with the Khumbu Ice Fall right in front of us. Last night I was up a couple times and you can see the headlamps of people going up throughout the night. We head up on Thursday Night probably around midnight - we try to go through the ice fall when its coldest - which unfortunately is the middle of the night - which is when it is most stable. It will be about a 7-9 hour trip and we will hopefully get to camp 1 just as the sun is coming up. It can easily be well below zero when we start hiking, and by 11am could be 100 degrees at the top of the ice fall. Its like a big reflective oven with walls of ice and snow towering still 8000 ft above and around you making it unbearably hot.

So for the next couple days we will be at base camp, Thursday night/Friday early am we head up the ice fall to camp 1 at about 19,500ft. Spend 2 nights there, then through the Western Cwm to camp 2 for 2 nights at about 21,000 ft. Then up to Camp 3 just above 23,000 feet for a night or two depending on how we feel. Then its back down to base camp, then lower into the valley for a couple days to recuperate and breath some thick air, then back to base camp for a couple days, then we look for weather. Our summit window realistically is the May 16 - May 24th. We are hoping other teams that got here before us go early and get off the mountain so we can avoid crowds up high - but it all depends on weather so we shall see. We want the mountain and summit to ourselves :))) 

When we head up on Thursday, we won’t have communications to the outside world except for a couple satellite phone calls for the week. When we get back down, hopefully they’ll have fixed the internet. So first I hope I can get this out - and send a couple pics. Then I’ll let you know how it goes up high when we get back down. Hopefully we have good weather and I can sleep!!!

By the way... when I do get internet service - I do get the comments that are made about the posts. They are great to read sitting in the tent at night and I appreciate them!!!

Cheers,

Bill

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Arrival at Dingboche

So today we arrived in Dingboche at 14,600 feet after 2 days and almost 20 miles of up and down (mostly up) trekking through the Khumbu. Yesterday was a long 7 plus hour day and everyone was feeling it last night.

We stayed in a small lodge in lower Pangboche - the woman running it is a widow - her husband was a well known Sherpa killed in an avalanche in 2006. She runs the place with her kids helping but but you can tell its hard - the place needs some work and a lot of other sherpas including our lead guy Dendi like to bring climbers there just to try to support her. We could have stayed somewhere else, and perhaps been a bit more comfortable, but the community here is strong, and friends support one and other as best they can. Sherpas are well respected and can make very good money - as much as $3000 in the climbing season’s short 2 month window, while the average household income in Nepal is just $600 a year!! Obvious drawback is the risk, and especially in recent years, more and more families are left to try to survive after the loss of a father or husband or brother from climbing accidents and avalanches. Many took the money they made working as support for western climbers and opened very comfortable (for this region) lodges throughout the Khumbu so that they could stop climbing and have a good life and make some money putting up climbers and trekkers. But if they die in the mountains, their families are left with very little and few options to make a living and some struggle to operate their lodges. 

The effects of last years earthquake though not catastrophic in the Khumbu can certainly be seen. Crumbled buildings, leaning buildings with people still living in them, new rock, snow and ice slide paths are everywhere. Rebuilding is slow and the process of getting pledged aide to those in need is even slower. (I’ll reserve my comments about that till I leave!!)

Just today I heard about a town I visited 12 years ago - Zhangmu. Just over the border in Tibet, it has been completely deserted as it now sits precariously above a void created by the quake which it is now destined to fall into at any moment. Truth be told - it was probably the worst place I had ever been to in my life. I can only describe it as a perfect location to film a horror movie set in a sanitarium. It was scary. And was also where I had to pay a bribe to be allowed to leave China - at gunpoint. Fun stuff. Anyway..... I ramble as I have nothing else to do right now.....

So lets talk about today. We were fortunate to have an audience with Lama Geshe this morning in Pangboche, one of the highest Lamas in the world behind the Dali Lama. We spent about 45 minutes receiving his blessings for a safe climb (he gave my knee some extra good juju love and smacked it a few times with the Dharma)!

The blessing includes chanting, head butting, getting rice thrown at us and burning juniper. It was quite special and many will not even step foot on Everest without his blessing. A good way to start the day’s trek which wasn't as bad as yesterday’s but altitude is really starting to hit us. That dull persistent headache is nearly unavoidable, but manageable as long as your drinking 3-4 liters of water a day. Meals are becoming repetitive - fried rice or noodles with egg and vegetables for lunch and dinner. Fried egg and egg battered french toast style bread with honey for breakfast. You kind of start to eat what your stomach thinks it can handle. Step outside the box - like I did a couple day ago with a “pizza”, and you pay the price - yak cheese is not exactly fresh mozzarella.

The cold also starts to feel.... well... colder. I was hiking yesterday with shorts on but by the time the sun went behind the mountains I was in my down jacket, wool socks and hat....WHICH I also slept in under two thick blankets which I can only hope i was not sharing with any other critters. 

Everything considering is actually quite nice and comfortable, it is part of this journey and shows you how fortunate we all are where we live. I mean the rat that I almost stepped on on the way to a “shower” wasn't THAT big, and at least I could have a “shower”.... and it only cost 500 rupees - 5 bucks! Showers for the rest of the trip will be a real rarity - I’ll be lucky to have 4-5 over the next month so I wasn't giving up the chance.

We will be here for 2 nights acclimatizing then on to Lobuche then base camp. We have internet access here - about $4 for 100mg of service and very slow but no phone service. Its not like we are surfing the web, its all sending and checking emails and updating their social media outlets. First thing everyone does when we get to a new village is check cell service and WiFi options - its actually pretty funny - in this remote place 3G and WiFi is available - and makes all of us happy! Everyone races to be the first to post a new Facebook photo every time there is one bar of service on their device. They really are encouraging me to start a Facebook page - even if just for the trip... but I’m staying strong and have not given in just yet!!!

Headache is ramping up staring at this screen.... signing off for now, maybe go have a coffee and throw on another layer of warmth :))) Tomorrow we are doing an acclimatization hike up to 16,000 feet so gotta get some rest!

Cheers,

Bill

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First glimpse of Everest

Hello from Namche Bazzar – 11,000 feet in the foothills of the Himalaya. After a few days in Kathmandu is was nice yesterday to get out of the heat, smog and general craziness that is life in the big city. Really tough to see the level of poverty which most cannot even imagine and the conditions that this thriving city exists under. From rolling blackouts, garbage just being burned in the streets, ever-present smog and smell and smoke…children no more that 3 yrs old begging and sleeping on the sidewalks, sewage in the streets and rivers, and don't forget the cows – yea cows wander the streets as they are considered holy and must not be bothered!! Surreal and often sad, Kathmandu still would be a place I would recommend for an adventurous traveler that wants to see both the good and the bad of a proud third world country.

Our plan was to fly to Lukla which is where the start of the hike to base camp begins. We were delayed one day leaving as the weather in Lukla was poor - and as one of the most dangerous airports in the world - good weather is key to making the short 50 minute flight successful. 8 hours in an airport waiting I at least got in most of the Nepal vs Namibia cricket match - a 50/50 which Nepal won 197/5 to 195 - great stuff - and I got a good tutorial on the rules of cricket which was interesting. You leave the smog of Kathmandu in a vintage Twin Otter tin can stinking of gasoline. Only Nick Cardwell would appreciate the reliability of a plane that most people would never step into!! The smog slowly dissipates as you climb into the mountains - and as it does you notice out the window that you are weaving through a labyrinth of peaks higher than the plane….. so close that you feel you can reach out and touch them. Next you realize you are aiming right for a hillside 6500 feet high and a 1700ft postage stamp size runway (I think most major airports in the US have runways in excess of 11,000 feet long!!) As you land the look on everyones face is always the same - whew!!

A nice 5 hour up and down hike and we arrived in Monjo… our first stop. A 3 hour nap, dinner, then a good night rest (well until the giant rats running around on the roof woke me) and we were off again at 8am for Namche.

A simple sounding 2.5 hour hike - but with around 2000 feet of elevation gain up to 11000 feet - you already started to feel the altitude. So far everything is going pretty well. Getting communications, phone, texting, and emails sorted seems to be everyones priority as we acclimatize and make our way up the valley towards base camp. It will be another 6 days until we arrive there and everyone is looking forward to settling in to our “posh” base camp tents. Even in the remotest of the villages we trek through - where people may not have running water or electricity, most have cell phones as glued to their ears as any teenager in the US. Since I was here ten years ago change is evident everywhere from the cell phones, to the new lodges and improved accommodations and especially the food! Yea, your lucky if you get through this week without getting sick…. but still the food is far superior than just ten years ago. I just wish someone could make an espresso martini! We occasionally will have a Sherpa beer - Nepals first craft micro brew…. but that is the extent of it. So in Namche now for the next two days - we all agree that some shopping therapy in the last outpost before the mountain is on tap for tomorrow. Grab some socks that i forgot in another bag thats already further up the mountain….maybe a clean t-shirt…. and oh yea….enough toilet paper for the next month!!! We’ll go for a little acclimatization hike as well just to keep our bodies moving and continue acclimatization. Legs are definitely tired… but knee seems to be getting better, sore, but better…. I think all will be good with it - thanks Dan & Jen! Great group of 4 climbers on the trip all with experience here in the past so as far as dynamics go couldn't ask for much better - everyone really gets along which is often NOT the case. Ill try to send some photos as we progress, and some rambling updates when I can. Hope all is well with everyone. Hope for some good weather for us!!!

Bye for now,

Bill

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