May 28 (Part II of II) - The End
Several years ago I found myself as a freshman in college. It was one of those first days of school and I was walking to campus in the standard Boulder uniform, flip-flops, shorts, T-shirt, sunglasses, and messenger bag. The sun was out, it was a bit breezy; I was walking to class on one of those quintessential, perfect Boulder days. I hadn't any school work yet, and as I walked to class, everyone was out, including all the ladies in their sundresses, tank tops, etc. . . Wow, I had really picked the right place to go to college - All by myself and walking to class with this grin on my face. Just this very content feeling to be happy where I was and at the time unable to put it into words.
Fast-forward to that January of freshman year (many of you might have heard this story quite a few times - and I think I even wrote about it earlier this trip; bear with me). I get off the phone with my good friend John, who is about to study abroad in Nepal and then call my parents to chat.
My Mom and I talk and I tell her about John going to Nepal – “Dave, why don't you go visit him?” (How lucky can a kid get?)
“I'll call you back in a minute Mom!”
"John, I'm coming out to visit!"
As it were, at some point on the trip, and I really can't recall when, maybe when we were sitting down with our friend Aaron at the Casino Nepal, making 25 cent blackjack bets, drinking complementary beers like they would run out, and acting obnoxious. This Indian dude next to us asked if you always double down on 11 -John responds in a heartbeat, “Yeah, It's like splitting aces!” Aaron and I nearly fell off our chairs and he ended up spilling his beer all over the felt. We still didn't get kicked out. If this doesn't make sense to you, watch Swingers or ask Gary Tripp to replay the scene for you, word for word - Gtripp@bloomberg.net
Anyways it was either here or somewhere trekking in the Khumbu, towards Everest BC and we were just chilling in a tea house, playing cards, with the Khumbu out the window, when either John or I said, “You know, it just ain't that bad.” I'm really not sure which one of us said it, but I'm thinking it was John.
Well that line summarizes that moment, what that day was like freshman year, and what I felt like yesterday as I strolled from ABC towards BC. After getting the bags on the yaks, I started down alone - Marshal had left the day before as his wife was waiting for him in BC. It was the first time in a while that I had been by myself and I started just letting my mind wander. To tell you the truth, the previous day, or rather the day after the summit, I didn't know quite what to think in my head, it was a bit strange - even looking at the pictures.
So I'm on my way down and I start grinning. Occasionally I stop and look back towards Everest and the summit. The grin turns into a full smile, the kind that makes the sides of your eyes wrinkle. After a couple times, I'm pretty riled up. I start busting out with ‘Paul Revere’ (Before you continue to read, go to your favorite file-sharing program, make a donation at the EFF, and download the Beastie Boy's track.) “Weelllllll, here's a little story I got to tell…”
The day before I do know I was thinking about something for sure, but that was Base Camp, Kathmandu, and home - getting out of here. But at this moment, as I was trekking down the glacier, I wasn't thinking about Kathmandu, BC, or home, nor was I worried that I was going to die like I was for many hours two days before, and after a few I wasn't even looking back anymore - I was just stoked to be strolling. Everest behind me, ice pinnacles towering over me to either side, the sun shining bright, and the wind at my back. Not too wrapped up in the days before, not really anxious about getting to the days ahead, just content to be where I was at that moment.
- and you know, it just ain’t all that bad.
Thank you, Chase Manhattan Visa, Discover, University of Colorado Federal Credit Union Master Card, and American Express for 0% interest credit cards. Thank you to the folks at Deerwood, my first hiking trip, 1992 Senior Mountain, Bond Cliffs Timmy T and Chris Keith. Thank you to Mike Brown, whom I met on Aconcagua and watched summit Everest several months later and then two more times over the next several years, without whose patience, advice, urging, and equipment I could have never set foot on this mountain, and who gives me a job.
No thanks to Kylie Minogue, who ended up not being on the summit of Everest, even though that evening after a couple minutes of supplementary oxygen she told me she would be - no, I do not forgive you.
Thank you to the friend who one night in an NYC bar, just before I left said, “Wait a minute, you weren't even able to summit Aconcagua or Khan Tengri, and now you are trying Everest, are you kidding me?” I know you were just trying to rile me up.
Thank you to Tom and Tina, from whom I learned that any normal person can do just about anything they dream of (even though they really are far from normal) and who gives me a job. Thank you to the team at ExplorersWeb, who were always there at all hours for help with weather, tech, and advice.
Thank you Mom and Dad, whose congratulations at the summit gave no hint they had been sick to their stomachs for the past 7.25 hours.
And thank you to all that followed along, friends, family, acquaintances, and people I don't even know who sent all the great emails of support; they kept me going when I really needed it.
- “he stepped into the sun, I had a gun, he had a grin, you think this story's over, but it's ready to begin!” - Ad Rock
May 28 - Summit Day (Part I of II)
If anyone has any connections at Guinness, I think I may be in contention for a record more about that later. Summit day or rather the day before did not start too well actually. Marshall and I arrived in Camp III, just in time for Dorje and Alex to return from their summits. An argument over oxygen ensued, an ice axe was drawn, and Pemba got so upset he was going to go down. Eventually the 8300m altercation dissolved and Marshall and I adjourned to our tent and Pemba decided to stay.
To our surprise the stoves at Camp III were not like the stoves at the lower camps and can be described in two words Fucking sucked. I know kids are reading this, however, when you are at about 27,500 ft not being able to melt snow for water is a critical problem. It's ok to curse this one time.
Marsh and I sat there for over 4 hours just to get one pot of very cold water. We were cursing the stove, freaking out had we come all this way just to be thwarted by bad stoves. We didn't know what to do, time was running out; we had no water, and only a handful of hours before leaving for the summit. We needed a couple hours of sleep at least for a summit push, you plan to be climbing for well over 12 or 13 hours. You don't eat much or even drink, so getting fluid, rest, and energy beforehand was of the essence.
A new stove
I called the Italians on the radio and after some half-English, half-Italian, they had a stove to lend us. At times, Everest can be cruel, with cruel people however, the Italians were really great. Pemba, Marshall's sherpa went up to borrow the stove, unfortunately it didn't work that well either. Pemba also managed to wrangle another stove that did begin to work a couple hours wasted, but at last, warm water, food, and hydration. I should just note right now, without Pemba, I don't know about Marshal, he could probably have done it by himself (he had a doctor rip out his toenails and pour acid so they would grow back) but I never would have summited, simple as that.
Brewed up, warm, fed, hydrated, Marsh and I put our masks on, and started sucking in the O's and tried to sleep as best we could until about 1.30 AM, Beijing time.
I wake up to Marshall saying it was time to go. The tent was rattling with the wind and I started the stove up to brew some warm drink before leaving. We got ready, packed up, put on a fresh pair of socks. It's time. Over 1 ½ months boiled down for the next couple of hours.
Pemba was a little late, so we didn't leave until 3.30. The wind was whipping up snow and pelting the right side of our faces. Pemba led us in the right direction in the wind, dark, and snow, up near vertical sections of rock, protected with questionable rope. I will admit that I was struggling to keep up with Marsh and Pemba. Our right eyelids froze shut just about. Thankfully Mike Brown left me some hand warmers. I would take one out of my glove and put it up against my right eye to melt it open.
Eventually we reached the ridge (see the route pic a couple of dispatches previous) At this point Pemba's headlamp went out. Luckily Marsh had anticipated this and carried an extra one. Unluckily he didn't anticipate on the torch being mistakenly turned on and not working. Luckily we had another Italian sherpa to follow. So we began the traverse to the first step. There was this one section when I saw some really old oxygen bottles on the ground, have to remember to pic one of those up on the way down, I thought to myself.
About four steps after I saw two boots sticking out of a small cave. I turned my headlamp to the left the first dead body, an Indian climber from a while ago. Scared me nearly crapless. A somber reminder to not mess up on the climb and the first of many corpses littering the trail.
Pretty soon the horizon started lighting up, sunrise, warmth, life, oh, I couldn't wait for the sun. At the first step, the sun was getting high enough to be able to turn the headlamp off. Now the route from the top of the first step to the second step is a traverse on the side of Everest that was tilted in the wrong direction, down. Stumble a bit and you better hope that crappy rope will hold you. We stopped to drink and I was so psyched to snag the three bottles of Red Bull that I had lugged from Xigur I put it in an insulated bottle.
Frozen solid, god dammit. I am glad that I at least brought a proper thermos up for water. Changed out oxygen and started to continue, still trailing Marsh and Pemba a bit. They would always wait up at a sketchy section, and we never lost sight. Pemba was even carrying a bottle of O2 for me. Marshal had hired Pemba as his personal sherpa, but had no qualms about letting Pemba carry a bottle for me, for which I was and am extremely thankful for.
The lighter side
Now the crux, and the now, lighter side of summit day. The second step. The second step is about a 60 ft section of vertical and near vertical rock, for the worst part the Chinese had erected a ladder, more recently a bigger ladder was put in. That's the easy part, it's the bottom part where you have to shimmy, and climb. Half your crampons hang off a ledge, below are thousands of feet. And you have almost as bad odds as a roulette game when you are figuring out which of the 20 ropes to clip into.
I'm getting ahead of myself right now. At the foot of the second step, I was scared, real scared. There was one other problem. Remember how my digestive system was in neutral. We'll, at that moment it kicked into gear. There was no way I was holding this in for another 9 or more hours till we got down to Camp III.
So on a two-foot, slanted up and to the side ledge, with a rock wall to my left and a many thousand-foot drop to my right, I frantically took off my backpack (Thank you Jared for the loan), clipped it into the rope, and went for the trap door in Mike Brown's down suit. This is at over 8700m have you. As I assumed the position my face was eating the rock in front of me, and my butt was overhanging into Tibet. Please let this be over, please, I beg. I had heard many stories of people dying while going to the bathroom on Everest and I did not want to be remembered for that same fate.
Have to go
After this experience, I was ready to turn around; I was just looking for excuses. I stood at the foot of the second step, relieved, but extremely scared. Could I go any further, could I just turn around and go home. I remembered Mike Brown (www.seracfilms.com) telling me, It'll be the scariest ten minutes and then it'll be over. Marsh and Pemba had just gone for it, so there was no discussion to be had, I had no radio I had to go up, simple as that.
And it was the scariest ten minutes, shimmying, picking a rope, climbing, and then eventually getting to the top. And there I was at the top of the second step, with nothing but a traverse, the third step, and the summit pyramid between the top and me holy shit, holy shit there it is the summit, just up ahead. I just might do this, I just might. See pic #1
I went to go clip into the rope, but noticed that it wasn't laying on the route, but rather off a ledge to the right. And there clipped into the rope, sitting down, huddled up, was the 26 year-old Bulgarian who died just days before. He was only a few years older. It's like he was just resting there for a few, but you knew he wasn't going to get up. Freaky, sad you don't know what to think, except keep moving, don't sit down and don't close your eyes. If you do this, you will never, ever, wake up again.
You slowly make your way up the route and onto the traverse that had no ropes on it. On your left, it was a sheer drop off into Nepal, on your right, you look down the slope to see it littered with more and more corpses. Finally the third step, then a hike up the summit pyramid, then a rock traverse, then you are on the summit ridge. After a smaller roller or two you see the summit with all the flags it's right there, you can almost touch it. Is this really, did I really make it?
10 more minutes and you find yourself on top of the world, looking down over to the South side, you can see the route, you can see Lhotse, Makalu, there is nothing above you. It was unbelievable. I sat down and started making phone calls. I clipped as many pics as I could and just sat there looking all around me.
And then you realize, you've still got to get down. This is the part when most people die, on the way down. They get tired or they run out of oxygen.
Fortunately everything went without a hitch. 8 or so hours later I found myself slowly walking into the tent at ABC, with everything still on just about. As I entered the tent, everyone started cheering, Alex came over to give me a huge hug and help take everything off, and then Vladimir came by and lifted me off the ground. It felt really, really good. I drank two Sprites, and boy they tasted great. Arrived in ABC at around 7 or so. It felt so good to see everyone, and they were all super psyched about the summit. I slept very well that night.
Really not much more to it, throughout the day, the climb, the arrival in Base Camp, I didn't have much time, energy, or space in my brain left to think about what had just happened. Just, keep moving, don't sit down keep your fingers warm..
Captions: (All pics from Marshall) Click to make bigger.
1. Pemba, just above the second step. The rock tower is the 3rd step and just beyond you can see the summit pyramid with the 2 Italians on it. The home stretch. The third step is kind of a butte with a step down on the left. Where it steps down is where you crest the final obstacle.
2. Halfway up the second step looking down. That white and black rope is the good one.
3. Pemba cresting the second step on the new ladder, the old one is the yellow one.
4. Pemba and I (on the ground) at the summit, you can see Nuptse in the background, I think
May 25 - Alive and well, with a summit to boot
Needless to say, I am extremely beat. Back down in ABC by 7 or 8 ish. My leftover oxygen drained about 10 minutes from Advanced Base Camp, thank god I don't know what I would have done without it. Maybe stay in Camp II? It's like your batteries just go dead. Those old people walking around with tanks know what's up.
I am going to bed now, but before I do I'd like to leave some pictures for you. I lugged the freaking video camera up to the top, but my hands got too cold. These are all Marshall's summit pics. The top is me after arrival in Advanced Base Camp. In Kathmandu you can get straight razor shaves and they do this scalp massage thing that's great. That's Mike Brown's down suit this is its 4th summit, must have some built in luck.
The second pic is Pemba on the left and me sitting down on the right. At the bottom is me, Pemba, and Marshall. That's all for now, click on the pic to make it bigger. I am going to sleep like a rock tonight. Tomorrow I chill in ABC and drink Vodka, Coke, and Sprite I have become a sugar fiend the past two months. Myla, our cook made a special summit cake for us too.
So, the big question from people who have emailed is, How do you feel (apart from the tired stupor. I got to think about that one maybe tomorrow after some Russian Vodka. Right now I am super stoked to be in my ABC tent and sitting at a dining table. I will admit there's also a tinge of disbelief. More tomorrow when my head is clear and there's some time for this to sink in without being worried about dieing.
May 21 - Tomorrow's the day
Tomorrow's the day to start climbing. According to the forecast, May 25th is looking like the day for us. May 26th and the evening of May 25, the winds should be pick up. We plan to be down by then.
A health report. All good, except my digestive track has been in neutral for the past couple of days. Last year a sherpa died from a similar condition, no joke Thankfully the Italians left some prunes and they seem to be getting things in gear - hey if you really want to hear the nitty gritty of it all - this whole climbing thing isn't as glamorous as it seems.
So I stopped by the Connecticut tent today - a whole bunch just summited including, Dan Lochner, the now 22 year old from Norwalk. I got tons of information about the route and even saw video of the second step. I have gone through the motions and everything. Between the first and second step is a sketchy traverse and I know on the way down that you turn off the ridge a little after a dead body that has been there for some while.
I don't know what to think right now. I am definitely very fired up, however, I am thinking lots of things. What if I don't make it? It's hard not to let these thoughts enter your head. I try not to, and ignore them, but then I figure maybe to think about it if only for a few, and the only thought that I let enter my head is that I might have a couple takers for next year to come back with (You know who you are and I have the emails saved). Tom and Tina, you guys are great, but I don't know if I could do this 4 years in a row though :)
Thanks for all the birthday emails and good luck emails - lots of "the mountain will be there next year" type stuff. Yeah I know it will be there, and I won't do anything stupid, or at least try not to. For some even being here is stupid, maybe. What do you think to yourself when you know the next four days will probably be the toughest, most dangerous, and painful of your life? I know what I am thinking this second though, I'm going to go fucking get this thing. A fifteen year old did it, and a 70 year old did - I should be able to do it too. It's on.
I've been told the left handed smoke shifter is up there too - some folks have been looking for this thing for 60 years now? I'll do my best to find it
May 20th - Go shorty, it's your birthday
....Gonna party like it's you birthday, gonna sip Bacardi like it's your birthday. And we don't give a f- 'cause it's your birthday" - Thanks 50. Download that song before you read this dispatch, it'll get you fired up.
Serious news first. Vladimir has turned around. He was going without oxygen and I guess hadn't or couldn't drink in a while. Not sure how far he made, but he is back down in Camp III safe now, allbeit, extremely, extremely tired. He is safe, however. I might have mentioned this before, but going without oxygen is like running a 100 mile marathon and going with oxygen is like running maybe a 25 mile. Maybe this isn't the best comparison, but the point it is going without oxygen is in another league of climbing.
25 years old, geez, I'm almost 27, and once you're 27 you might as well be 30. At least I have health insurance show for it.
Anyways, up here in ABC. Today I believe that I have officially broken the record for world's highest online credit card bill pay 6364m - If someone knows any marketing people at American Express, be sure to let them know, we can do a great add.
Onto the juice. Alex, Illya, and Arkadie plan to head up today and scope the situation. Low wind, but some snow over the next couple of days. The only question is? Will the snow bury the ropes. 'till 7500m, it's snow, above it, it's rocks. Take a look at AdventureWeather.com to join in on the good weather day summit fun. 10 m/s and below is considered climbable. Place ya' bets!
Marshall and I are aiming for the 25th or 26th right now, so we'll see. What will it be like up high - check out the picture. Click it to enlarge it, I made this one big. Mike Brown has a great digital camera with a huge lens, so he got this wonderfull picture from Base Camp. He's also filled us in on the scoop with the route.
Camp II is where the fun starts, 7800m - you climb up into the 8000m realm and arrive at Camp III, 8300m, in 4 or 5 hours. Marhsall and I have been trying to really slow ourselves down to conserve energy, or 'your powerfull' as Dmitry says. So you get there in the afternoon, and chill until the evening. We plan on leaving sometime around 1 in the morning, that's 1 in the afternoon EST. Fast climbers do the summit push in 7, but it's more like 10 hours. That'll put us at the summit sometime before noon at the latest, perfect. Maybe we'll leave later to catch more sun, we'll see.
What's in the way between Camp III and the summit. Quite a bit. First you have to climb up to the second step. Before the second step is Mushroom Rock. This is where you ditch the oxygen cylinder you started from Camp III with for a fresh bottle for the summit. The ditched oxygen is saved for when you come back down. If for some reason it's no longer there, that's what dexamethazone is for.
The next obstacle is the second step. Somewhere around here is a frozen dead Indian guy. And as you look down from the second step there's a ledge below, you can see a bunch of dead people there too. This is the point where you try not to crap your pants. Once you're above the second step, you're almost home free. It's a 30m vertical section about. There's a ladder and ropes, but this doesn't make it any less scarier. Just a couple hours to the top.
Here's the plan for dispatches, not sure if I spoke about this before. Up high I'll be using the sat phone to try and phone in dispathes upon arrival at Camps as well as during different stages of the summit push. The only crux is the Thuraya satellite is a couple hundred miles right about Ethiopia, south west of us, about 242 degrees. Being on the Noth side of Everest, the phone might not work in Camp II or Camp III because of the line of site issues.
So groups heading up. Our sherpa spoke to Russell Brice's sherpa and he's got two groups going up. 29 sherpas and 30 westerners. 60 people in two groups. His first summit push will be on the 22nd and the second the 24th, tentatively. Our plans put us right in between and right after - Alex's group on the 23rd and Marsh and I on the 25th. Two groups of 30 people for him. The rumor is he's putting in a second ladder on the second step too. None of this is confirmed though. That would effectively bring the bottleneck at the step down to 15 people - much more manageable than 30.
This is good news because if there is really a second ladder there I plan to get some good shots of Marshall coming up while I'm on the other one. (If I make it to the second step, that is) and as far as I know, I have never seen video like that before. I've got all these ideas running through my head, who knows what'll happen, but I am just staying super positive, and getting myself really psyched up for this. Of course you've got to be super respectfull of the mountain, weather, and your own ability, but that doesn't mean you can't rile yourself up.
I'm even thinking of bringing the Ipod up high to get all amped in the mornings. I can't wait!! Who knows, a summit, maybe I get a raging case of the runs, maybe I get too scared, maybe I get too weak. I've been replaying the start of the summit bid from Camp III over and over in my head. This is all for now.
May 18th, Game on!
It's that time. In the video Marshall describes our summit plan, or a tentative one at least. Today Vladimir is up at Camp II, 7800m and will hopefully be heading up tomorrow to III, and then summit the following day - without oxygen. Illya and Arkadie headed up today and we'll head up tomorrow. Alex, Artur, and Dimitri will follow in the next couple of days.
It's been a fun ride so far, and it's about to get 1000% times more exciting - I'm fired up and the runs that I had yesterday seems to have fired down. Everytime I enter Base Camp, whether from up high or below, the same thing - my body seems to forget how to distinguish between liquids and solids.
So, if the weather holds, my liver doesn't konk out, and another 100 things fall in line, we should be standing on top in less than a weeks time.
I plan to bring a film camera, video camera, and sat phone for the summit bid. This hopefully means voice dispatches pretty regularly on summit day. I am hoping this is the best birthday ever!
May 16th, Back to BC tomorrow
This pic was from yesterday. While waiting for the Internet Cafe Marsh and I tried our hands at peddling. I believe that's the correct spelling too.
Today was much like any other day. The hotel staff came by at 10.30 last night to collect the day's room charge and someone came knocking at the door this morning at maybe 6 thinking we were supposed to be leaving. Down the hall some old British woman was wailing on someone's door for at least 30 minutes. Always thought old people don't sleep too well.
Went to Xigur today and joined forces with the Russians while Marshall worked the Internet Cafe. Snagged a bottle of, "Magic Tibetan Water." It was no Artesian well water, but good none the less. Went store to store looking for the best deal on wine and beer. They ended up with a couple cases of Pabst and some bottles from China's finest vineyard, Dynastya. Apparently the Russian camp has run out of their own booze.
Tonight will be our final meal and restful sleep. Been thinking over and over about the summit attempt - even bought a liter of uncarbonated Red Bull today just for the occasion. Tomorrow we drive back to Base Camp and word is that Alex has brought back a sheep for us. Will let you know if it's live or not. We're keeping our fingers crossed though.
From Base Camp it'll probably be only a day or two before we head up on the summit attempt. I've been going over it in my mind again and again. Been thinking about my plan once I get to the top, phone calls, pictures, video. I though for a few that this might be presumptuous, but f it, that's what I came here to do, isn't it? Why shouldn't I be thinking about it? "Be the ball Danny, See your future, be, be your future." THWACK "Where'd it go?" "Straight in the lumber yard."
Once I'm up there though, all I'll be thinking about is the next step ahead of me. Several folks I've talked to have said it's the most scared they've been in their entire lives - and these folks are a lot older than me, so they've lived through more to be scared of I would imagine.
It's not like being scared of clowns or carnies or the dentist or of that fat woman on Drew Carey, but more like mess your pants scared. How am I going to deal with all that? I don't know, but the good news is I'll find out first hand in due time.
Liver report - actually better today. I don't know if it's psychological or the stuff really works, and really I don't care. It tinged a bit on the morning stroll, but in the afternoon, no sign of anything. Keeping my fingers crossed for the 22km/4000 vertical ft trek to ABC, that'll be the true test. Fortunately I am prepared to take copious amounts of Aspirin should anything happen.
"Figured that one big pile is better than two little ones and rather than bring that one up, we decided to throw ours down, and that's what we did!"
May 15th, Take two
Just wanted to do an extra dispatch today. While we were in Xigur we ran across the Russians from our team and the National team. They told us to come over for some watermelon when we got back, they had bought one in Xigur.
Well, we stopped by after dinner and Dimitri said, "Where have you guys been?" So we sat down, they had been waiting to cut the watermelon. Then I told Luda about my pain and if she had the medication, that I had not brought it from Base Camp.
Well, she didn't have it, but when her husband Yuri (Koshelenko - you know the Golden Ice axe winner) came over for watermelon she asked him, and he walked back to his room to get me not only the medicine, but also a tea that is especially good for the liver.
I must say, that I feel bad. In the beginning, before I had met the team and the Russians I had this mentality from listening to others about how the Russians were fatalistic, that I'd be on my own up high. And when I mentioned the team I was climbing with to other veterans, etc. . . They kind of rolled their eyes, like, good luck kid.
I feel bad, because I couldn't imagine climbing with a better group of people, and today is just another example. None other than Yuri Koshelenko, preparing me tea to help with my problem, and giving me his medicine. As it turns out he's got a similar pain, but it hasn't stopped him from doing some amazing climbs, he's a Russian hero now.
These guys have been great and my previously unfounded views of climbing with Russians had changed. I know that should anything happen, these guys would be there to help. And Alex's budget expeditions, it's going to put a dent not only in people's perceptions, but also into the bigger fish out there. Already we have had members from other expeditions, who have paid more than double, come over to our Base Camp setup and kick themselves in the butt.
Anything can happen, but Marshall and I keep talking about how we luckily fell into this team. And when the other climbers come by and say, "You guys have a generator?" or "They've got sleeping bags in Camp III for you?" we kind of smugly smile. Granted, this expedition is a long ways from over and many, many things can happen or change - to this point, we've been more than impressed by Alex's operation.
The Russians know how to have a good time too. Today they bought four fish, went to a restaurant, and Victor helped the chef prepare - we saw the pictures when we were over there being treated to watermelon and After 8 mints.
Yuri said the mints came from the Mountain Fox. This is a Russian tradition - I guess you are supposed to take some food up the mountain with you and then bring it down the mountain to eat. It turns into a gift from the Mountain Fox. These particular After 8 diner mints had been carried to 7500m by Yuri himself. That's it for now, I just was sincerely impressed tonight and grateful for the generosity shown to us.
May 15th, Cruisin'
The days of rest are dwindling, but today I became the Easy Rider of Tibet. See Xigur is not unlike any other small town - there's every element.
And the coolest dudes in town have a proper motorcycle with the proper 'flare', tassles from the handlebars, a Tibeten carpet seat cover, windscreen, the whole nine-yards. Granted the motorcycles only have a one-cylinder lawnmower engine, after all they only have to drive up and down the block really, there's no where else to go.
So Marshall and I are kicking it outside the Internet Cafe, waiting for the military guys to finish with their war games inside, (Saturday the military and the Monks have off), when dude rolls up on the Chinese Hog - he and his friend were cruising down the street chatting up several ladies along the way, "Don't know what ya heard about me..can't get another out of...Cuz I'm a m-f P.I.M.P." One of these days I'm going to pipe into the propaganda loudspeaker broadcast at night and show Xigur what's up.
As he passes I look at him and do a brum brum with my hands in the air, point to the bike and then to me. Sure enough he stops and to my delight, offers it up. At first I thought I was just getting a ride, then he got off and his friend got on the back (guess they were worried I was going to take off into the dusty Tibetan plateau with the prized ride never to be seen again.)
Anways, it felt good to be on a bike again - I miss mine dearly. The Zingyang was a bit different, it had some umph though - for a couple of minutes I cruised the strip of Xigur in real style. It felt good, if only for a few moments.
Previous to my motorcycle ride Marsh and I got picked up by the Police. Yeah, he was caught urinating on the side of the road and that's illegal here, not to mention the half a pound of hashish I had on me that I planned to peddle to the kids for our hotel costs. They always ask for money (some tourist along time ago started giving kids money, so they ask for that, then some tourist gave them pens, etc. . . etc. . . then candy, it goes on and on and their english vocab is now limited to money, bom-bom (candy), and pen.) I figured I'd be the one responsible for teaching them, 'smoke smoke' natural evolution really - just kidding, it's not all that exciting I realize, so I thought I'd check to see if you are all still awake.
We really did get picked up by the Police while hitchiking. Nice fellow, even offered us a cigarette. In Xigur we climbed the Monastary hill, about a 1000 ft vertical to make sure we could still hike. It went ok and then we grabbed some beverages and sat in the shade to watch the people walking up and down the block. Then internet Cafe wait and motorcycle ride.
Found out some interesting news today - There's been a summit on the South Side, congratulations. Also, on the North, several teams are making a go of it. This is perfect actually and we're glad to hear that teams are making a push now, hopefully leaving us with the mountain to ourselves at the end of the month. This was the case last year, those who waited for the end, got beautiful weather and a clear route.
You never know what will transpire, and we're keeping our fingers crossed, but so far, so good! Hope everyone is enjoying their weekend!
May 14th, recouperating
Same as yesterday. Hotel with magazines, lunch, Xigur, massage, and dinner. This new girl was good, but she started off with a scalp massage and her breath was so bad I couldn't concentrate, I kept getting wafts in my face. I felt really bad for the girl later on though. This one told me to take off my shoes - when she was done she ran out of the room.
I still have this nagging pain in my lower right, just within the lower parts of my rib cage. It starts when I am walking briskly, but almost all the way goes away in an hour. Utterly confusing. We've got some homeopathic liver meds in BC that i'll take if it doesn't get better. I'll stop having beer with dinner too now.
Anyways, my lovely bed with blankets, no dust, and pillows is calling. Got a recent email from my friend Dave in NYC, he's informed me that the Belmont stakes is on June 5th - so now I've got that to factor into my summit attempt schedule. Missed it last year, so hopefully the weather window will cooperate with it this year. Can't miss that level of debauchery two years running now!
Pic - For all the women out there into women's liberation, etc. . . They should spend some time here in Tibet. Man or women, young or old, they all pitch in, literally. Here a team of women are pitching adobe-type bricks up to the second floor for construction.
May 12, Another day in paradise
Yesterday we were told for tonight we'd have to move to a dormitory, so this morning Marsh and I packed everything up in one bag, left it in the room and busted out of here after breakfast keeping clear of the front desk.
After a day of fun filled activities, we returned back to our room to find our stuff still here - safe!
So what is there to do around these parts? Quite a bit. We visited the nearby town of Dingri - a booming metropolis. Tons of construction is being done here building guesthouses, there's even a bank and a gas station.
Found an odd, big building that turned out to be a newer hotel, not quite finished, not quite run all that well. The architecture is really nice, with atriums, etc. . . but the toilets are community and the smell can be described as acrid. If your socks ever got so bad that they smelled like vinagar, compare that transformation to a bathroom.... There was stuff in the gift shop that we couldn't buy, and trying to get someone to show us a room was near impossible. On the upside, there was a boat load of reading material in the dining room of that yellow magazine. I dislike the company, but it was fun to look at the snapshots in the magazines.
What else, we took a ride in the back of a dump trunk to Xigur and set out looking for a massage. Ended up finding a place. The guy thought I wanted a shower, and he already had the generator going, so I figured what the hell. There was a whole bunch of stalls, they were dark and dingy, but it was hot and you kind of have to undress in the front window, odd I tell you. The hotel has cold showers with no pressure - last month I nearly became hypothermic taking that one shower.
It was magnificent, but for the fact I had no towel or toiletries. It was the first warm shower in about a month and boy was it nice. I finished and actually did end up with a rather pleasant massage (no hanky panky, although things seemed a bit suspect at first)
So let's tally, a hot shower, a bought towel (face sized) and an hour long message for 12 bucks, not bad.
Marshall and I got seperated when he got a haircut and he ended up at a differen massage place that only charged half of what I paid. So maybe I'll try the other one tomorrow. Remember, it is solely our job to be relaxing right now, and at these prices how can you afford not to.
All together a splendid day topped off with a great ride in the back of a pickup truck back to the hotel.
Onto more serious matters. This weekend is supposed to be good weather for a summit push and we are down in Xigur. Tom and Tina even sent me an SMS saying maybe we should go back up. Are we concerned? Not yet at least. This period of good weather is perfect. Let all the others try for an early summit push and clear the mountain, plus it'll give some time for ropes to be fixed up high on the mountian. It's been too windy thus far.
That's about all the excitement for now. Feeling good so far and getting ready for another great dinner. Have been getting great responses about the video, am glad you guys liked it so much! Will try and do another one when I get back to Base Camp.
I said I'd speak of summit day, but it's too early. So, all is well, Marshall got some laundry done, we got massages, and I got a got shower for what amounted to 50 cents.
After dinner walked over to this oddly out of place billboard. Have always wanted to climb one, but back at home barbed wire, high or locked ladders have prevented it - not here though. I'm that little speck at the top of - The people of Dingri welcome you. I think I may have given some local kids a poor idea though. Managed to shoot some good video up there, and now it's time for bed.
May 12th Down to 14,000 ft before the big push
No adventure is really complete unless you hitchhike. Today, several of us went down to the town of Xigur for some rest in the oxygen filled air at 14,000 ft. We'll be shacked up in a hotel with beds and a proper bathroom for about 4 or 5 days.
There's a nearby town complete with internet, barber, bank (they still use Abacus' there, payphones, and the whole deal - it's about 8km away and it's not too hard to get a ride from the hotel. On the way there Marshall and I got a ride in a truck frull of gravel, and on the way back (see pic) we got a ride in tractor filled with Tibetans - the women were singing the whole way back. It was lots of fun.
I am not completely sure, but I think it is Boukreev who came up with the idea of going lower before a summit attempt. You don't quite realize right away that being at altitude for so long takes so much out of you. Now we'll be able to rest very well and also get away from Base Camp which will help mentally.
I read the Shackleton book yesterday, a great, great story of survival. After the boat got crushed, there was lots for the crew to do. It was only after they had nothing to do that they started getting at each other a bit. That is what it is like right now. Mike B wrote to me that it is during this summit waiting time that teams have problems, they're just sitting around after all.
This week we plan to ignore the weather forecasts and chill. The plan will be to arrive in BC all fresh, assess the weather and then head up to ABC at the appropriate time. From BC to the summit and back, it's about a week's time altoghter. More on the actual summit push tomorrow.
May 11th, The latest, and some vid
Thunderstruck never gets old. I think the next time I am ready to head up, that is what I'm going to listen to - nah nah nah nahaaha..Thunder! nah nah nah nahaaha. (If you know the song you get it and you should now be stoked for this dispatch. If not, go to Kazaa and download it.) Also, would like to give an overdue thanks to my good friend Ren Bucholz. He designed the site for me before I left on really short notice. I butchered it a bit, the 8848 for instance - So don't confuse that with his expert work. Thanks Ren!
Anyways, it's been an exciting couple of days - I figure I'll begin on the lighter side of things. My second time up at the Col, as luck had it we had four people inside a four person tent. Sounds logical, doesn't it? Have you ever looked at the side of can of coke or a package of peanuts you might get on a plane - it often says two servings per container. So are you really supposed to share the mixed nuts with the guy beside you?
Do you see the connection? A four person tent is wonderful for one, good for two, tolerable for three, but for four - unghastly. We even tried sleeping head to toe. Needless to say I got about two seconds of sleep the entire night at 23,000 ft, and it wasn't because of acclimatization.
So onto the lighter side I mentioned. It gets dark at night and as it were, my pee bottle and water bottle are of the same shape and size. Their contents are inversely proportional and at midnight the former was full and needed to be emptied outside the tent before being used again. It was dark and one thing led to another - let's just say there was a mix-up and I ended up with two warm bottles. Didn't find out until it was too late and I took two swigs. The first I thought was just my imagination, the second I realized something was drastically wrong. I had liberated precious, precious water from the tent, not the pee. And what was behind door number one was now also behind door number two. It was not unlike the battle of whits with the Sicilian in The Princess Bride. Who wants a wet, sloppy, kiss?
A bad night
Moving on. . . I thought I had found a secret weapon for high-altitude climbing. Sudafed, it clears up your head and makes breathing easy. I had taken two pills in the morning and one at night in case my nose got blocked. As I learn about a day ago, in Base Camp, Sudafed not only dries your nasal passage out, but your entire body. I woke up with this warm sticky mucous in my mouth, not to mention that I was sleeping on a downhill and anything that was in my lungs found its way in my throat. It was the worst night of my life, lying awake for hours upon hours, as tight as a Tokyo subway, blood rushing to my head, mucous slowly traveling up my trachea like syrup down a window, the taste and smell of piss in my mouth. And we had planned to climb higher the next day. I know now why I felt so dehydrated - no more Sudafed for me, any more. I guess it makes for a good story later on?
All four of us collected ourselves as best we could in the morning, made some breakfast. I started boiling water as soon as I could get my hands on the stove, I wanted out. Fortunately as you can see from the pic, the sunrise was quite beautiful, but not nearly enough of goodness to make me feel any better. Warmed up a bit with some warm water and I downed two more Sudafed, unknowingly still. (It wasn't until a phone call later on in Base Camp with my parents after the fact that I learned the evils of Sudafed.)
Started up towards Camp II for acclimatization purposes. The weather forecast was right on and it was whipping up there. Only us, the Italians, and some other independent climbers and sherpas were on our way up. The route from CI to CII is 2000 ft, the 1st 1000 on snow and the second on rock. Our goal was to reach lower CII at 7500m or roughly a hair under 25,000 ft. No one made it to Camp III that day, it was just too windy.
The snow is long, exposed, and was very windy. A little more than halfway up, Dmitry was a bit behind me and looked up at me and waved down. I waited for him to come up and he said that he along with the others, will head down. I said I wanted to go up; it was just an hour or so more to 7500m. He spoke to Alex on the radio and said he would wait with the others at Camp I, North Col, and we'd all go down to ABC together.
For me this was a very interesting situation. I will admit, as seen from my previous two forays to larger mountains, I am the first person to turn around. This time it was different, I felt like going higher even when I had a great excuse to head down. I was moving fairly quickly and feeling good. Lower Camp II was just a bit higher. I wouldn't say I was enjoying the climb, like the way I would an ice cream cone on a hot summer day, but it felt oddly good. No headache, I was putting one foot in front of the other and in a way battling the wind, I just felt good. Dmitry helped me get my down jacket out and I drank some Gatorade. He and the others below headed down and I kept going - it just felt right.
On the way up there, just after parting with Dmitry, I started getting that same feeling as I had the first time up to Camp I - I saw the end of the rope, I knew I could get there, I was looking around, I was getting a little choked up, I was smiling - I still can't figure out why? I looked up at sherpa above and gave a "Hell's Yeah!!"
The summit is a long way off, still, but none-the-less, I can't put the feeling in words. Is it because I've doubted myself so much about this? Is it because I can look down and see how small Camp I was; I could see my progress? I don't know, but I told myself I wasn't there yet, and tucked my head down and kept going up. A few steps, some big breathes and a couple yanks of my Jumar. The Jumar is attached to the fixed ropes and only goes one way on the rope. I slide it up, and then use it to help pull myself up. The sherpas just clip into the ropes and use only their legs - I need a little help from my right arm, not the first time.
Maybe this can help relate. Remember in What About Bob? "I'm Sailing! I'm Sailing! I'm a Sailor! I Sail!" For me that's what the feeling was like, this almost stupefied elation, "I'm climbing! I'm climbing! I'm a climber!" I'm on the side of Everest, feeling good, the wind is blowing, Tibet is at my feet - it just ain't that bad?
An hour and a half later I rounded the last rope, saw the tents, and abruptly the wind speed at 7500m jumped to at least 18 to 20 m/s, just like the forecast said. I had reached lower Camp II, the set goal for the day. In all I climbed from Camp I to lower Camp II, 7500m in about 3.5 to 4 hours - is that good Mike? Climbed up to a nearby tent, stayed clipped in so I had to sit on the windward side, drank, and took some video. 25,000 ft - a new high point for me. I knew that having done this, the next time I am up there is for my summit bid.
A bit haggard
Hopefully there is video to the right. After 10 or 15 minutes to chill I started heading down, all the way down. Made it to the Col and then continued to ABC with Marshall - the others were right behind. By the time I reached the bottom of the glacier and started to hike on rocks to ABC I was very tired, and stumbling a bit. I was whipped and my boots felt loose. Marshall, much stronger stayed behind me the whole way down. When we're going between BC and ABC, I often go in front to slow him down some so he keeps his energy :) He's more than twice my age, but extremely, extremely strong, and his very high tolerance for feeling like crap will no doubt be a huge asset on summit day.
Summit attempt groups
As it turns out, we've split into three groups for summit attempts. The first group will be Alex, Dmitry, and Artur; the second, Marshall, his sherpa Pemba, and me; and the third will be Dilmurad, Arkadie, and Illya. Marshall paid extra for a sherpa, who'll be helping him carry some stuff, etc. . . With any luck I should be able to keep up. Vladimir might go with the first group; he has already been to Camp II proper at 7800m, from ABC! That's from 6400m. He spent 2 hours there, but it was so windy he couldn't get the tent up by himself; so then he headed all the way down to ABC again. All of this in one day. He's trying without O2's, so he has to go higher than us for acclimatization.
When to go?
As for the summit attempt, wow, 3 times up to ABC, 2 to the Col, and once to lower Camp II - it's hard to believe it's finally here. This is the hardest part - waiting and waiting. When to go? You have to be rested, the weather has to be good, and it can't be too crowded. Last year, there was a 2-hour wait at the second step, ruining summit bids. Everybody was anxious to go mid-May despite bad weather. The best days were at the end of the month. Today Alex came down from ABC and said, "If the toilet tent fall down, bad weather." And it did and it is, and will be for a couple of days. So much for my sophisticated forecasts!
This year everybody talks about the end of the month - is it smarter to try and go earlier? A couple of us are ready with a little bit of rest - how will we tolerate two weeks of doing nothing? By going down, that's how. A change of scenery. Two choices - just a little down and kill a sheep to eat, or go further and stay in a hotel with proper beds and a proper shower and a proper toilet. I think several of us will do that. It'll cost, but the change of scenery and the lower altitude with make a big difference with our health; mentally and physically.
1. Nuru, one of our sherpas inside the kitchen tent at ABC
2. That's me in the blue goggles on the North Wall
3. Inside the kitchen tent at ABC just after Marshall and I arrived from the 7-hour hike from BC. That's Pemba on the left, Chingma, Myla, and Nuru next to me. Courtesy of Marshall.
4. Climbing up the North Col
5. Back in BC after climbing to 7500m
6. Sunrise at the Col, see how it drops off to the right, it drops several thousand feet - be sure to clip into that rope when you use the facilities.
7. Looking above Camp I. That hump on the upper right is the summit. You see that yellow tent on the left? There's a kind of hourglass shaped chunk of snow going up to the left of it that meets the rocks. That's the route, where they intersect is about 7500m
8. Our sherpas, Pemba, Nuru, and Dorje chilling at ABC. The day before they hauled to Camp II proper, 7800m, tents, bags, and oxygen. A well deserved rest.
9. You see those black dots? Those are climbers on the North Col.
May 10th, The waiting game begins
Back down in Base Camp after a second night in the North Col and a climb to Camp II, 7500m or roughly 25,000 ft. Made it up there the day before yesterday in what felt like very high winds; 16 20 m/s. The good news is that I brought the video camera up there and I should have some video up tomorrow or perhaps the day after at the latest.
Now the waiting game begins wait for the weather window and then a summit attempt&.
A windy 7500m, crammed North Col tent, pee bottle mix up, chicken a la Koshalenko, and more about the past couple of days coming up shortly.
We'll be down here for more than a week minimum, resting and recouping most of us, including me are rather tired. Will get on that video!
May 5th, A few repairs
Today we were supposed to go down to some town and eat a sheep. I guess there weren't enough trucks. Weather is marginal, should be getting better, maybe tomorrow head up and start working towards Camp II? We'll see. I just read Boukreev's book, "The Climb" about the 1996 debacle. Been reading quite a bit - trading books with others teams. I tried to stay away from reading this stuff about 1996, because when it comes out you are climbing Everest, the only thing everyone talks about is the trash and 1996. My response to the trash thing is I heard you just kick it aside when it gets in the way (that's a joke, there's not much trash up here, and who really gives a flying F if there is some inert garbage in a place that hardly anyone in the world sees. If a couple bottles and broken tents ruin your Everest experience you should have your head examined.
As for 1996, I didn't read Into Thin Air, but read Boukreev's book, The Climb, today, and all the stuff surrounding it. My stance - Jon ButtCrack is a Ciache, and I really can't stand him anymore than I already thought I might not. I don't even need to read his crappy book. And my already low opinion of Outside magazine is even lower (They are associated with the article, book, publishing, and all that stuff, paid Buttcracks way, etc. . . ) - I don't care who reads this. How dare ButtCrack try and defame and put down Boukreev - I know the background of Boukreev too, and if it is a matter of one against the other, I would gladly take Boukreev's word, he is so respected by everybody I have met who ever knew him. But it's not even about that. Sorry about the rant, but I just finished the book, and it is still well in my head. Yesterday I read Michael Criton's book, Prey - but don't have much to say about Nanotechnology and swarms of microscopic machines - good and quick read though. Climbing Everest isn't always that exciting, you sit around alot. My chess is getting better - Mike B, you wait 'till I get home.
The video shows what happened to our tent in ABC - I have no question in my mind that it can be fixed, neither does Alex. (TT, not using contact for this, but updating the server, the video is in the video file, if this doesn't show up, called TentVid.wmv) The video also shows the Russian mentality - when the tent falls, sit down and smoke a cigarette, no reason to freak out, really. I think some chickens are being delivered tonight for dinner, so that should be nice.
That's about it for now - all well so far.
Here's a quote from Shipton, after a 1930's Everest attempt that I liked.
"The ascent of Everest, like any other human endeavor, in only to be judged by the spirit in which it is attempted...Let us climb peaks...not because others have failed, nor because the summits stand 28,000 feet above the sea, nor in patriotic fervor for the honor of a nation, nor for cheap publicity...Let us not attack them with an army, announcing on the wireless to a sensation-loving world the news of our departure and progress of our subsequent advance."
Ok, ok, so I gues I am kind of, "announcing on the wireless to a sensation-loving world the news of our departure and progress of our subsequent advance." - still, I like the part about the spirit in which it is attempted - kind of applies to most things in life.
Pics courtesy of Dilmurad
View of the Col, looking up - I think I'm like the second black dot from the top.
Vladimir the Ox up at the Col
May 4th, Thar she blows
Back down in Base Camp now and getting ready to head back up. We had some high winds this past weekend - enough to destroy our large tent in Advanced Base Camp, (See video) and to make the descent from the North Col 7100m, rather difficult. Alex says we can get the tent back in operable condition - never underestimate Russian know-how.
One more trip up, hopefully
The winds are starting to die down now, and in a couple of days we'll head back up to ABC and then go for Camp II, 7700m. One night at Camp II means to then go down below BC, and prepare for a summit push.
Making it up to the Col. We received an ominous weather forecast for the Col - and as we headed up to ABC, we saw all of ABC heading down towards BC. That night we all said if it looked good we would go. That morning it was snowy and windy. Went to breakfast and sure enough, the crew had their climbing boots on.
So an hour or two later I saddled up and made my way to the Col. It is a 2000 ft steep and icy gateway to the upper reaches of Everest. Made it up the face in 2.5 hours, about 40 minutes after Vladimir and started to help create a second tent space. It was then that I realized that I might just be able to climb this mountain. The first real climbing on ice, snow, crampons, at high altitude. Believe it or not, I had my doubts before - can I actually do this?. It was a rather emotional arrival - the view from up there was unbelievable. I think you can tell from the voice dispatch I was pretty psyched. I wrote of that potential feeling in a previous dispatch - I think I got it. I will always remember, it will always be stuck in my mind, looking up at the last couple meters and seeing Vladimir's head pop out from behind the tent and wave - I threw my fist up in response and let out a big wail - I made it. Granted it's another 2000 meters almost to the top - it was a triumph for me and I can't explain how amazing it felt - looking down at my altimeter - 7000 and some odd meters.
At this point I would like to digress. In my pack was nothing more than some water and clothes. All the sleeping bags, tents, food, fuel, oxygen, even toilet paper is carried by our sherpas. For those not familiar with Everest, they are the workhorses. And when they are not climbing, they help in the kitchen to make us and serve us food. Dorje, Pemba, and Nuru are our three climbing sherpas. They came up about ½ an hour behind me - but started several hours after me; wicked fast. Ever see those clown cars with where they fit 20 inside a VW. Well, Nuru gets up to camp and starts pulling out O2 cylinders, one after the other, for what seemed like forever. Then Dorje follows with all our bags and tents. Without them, well, without them, there would be no Dave, on the North Col. Period.
Back to the Col
The night at the North Col was crowded, three of us in a tent and quite cold - restless, with very little sleep - to be expected. Not too bad of a headache considering I didn't drink very much. It was my personal high point, ever - climbing and sleeping. Right before going to bed, what seemed like a large rock or piece of ice smacked on the tent from above - a bit unsettling. I might say at this point that not only did I forget the memory stick for my camera, but I had my wind speed indicator deep in my bag - sorry. Hopefully the tent smashing video with a Russian smoking a cigarette inside will make up for it.
Going down was another thing - I started down first, but the high winds and snow buried the rope the night before. I stood there at the edge of the steep slope, a bit below our tent, with the high winds looking down, no rope. What to do? Honestly, I had resigned to what for Vladimir to come down and help. Then I looked down and sure enough it was the blue rope. I stepped on it and exposed the line - What the hell - I started to pull it out, enough to be able to rappel down. Kept going and pulling the rope out.
It actually felt quite good - I was clearing the way down for our team (no other teams were was stupid enough to spend the night up there in the storm). Each meter down I felt stronger and stronger, using both hands to yank the blue rope from beneath the windblown snow. Eventually they caught up, and a bit above me as Arkadie was walking down he set off a slide. 1 or 2 foot deep, 60 ft wide, and it went for 300 ft, right by me. Fuck - that was very scary - we were only halfway down and I was beneath everybody. Who knows what else would slide.
A little help
Vladimir eventually caught up and started pulling rope in front of me - he was much faster. When he got to a section that was too hard and he could see the rope at the other end he just dropped the line and walked unhooked. He did this once - I waited for him to go, and then ran after him 'till the blue cord. I could swear the slope above me cracked. Fortunately we all made it be without a problem.
Eventually we made it to the bottom - that picture of the two people in the white - is the glacier at the foot of the col. You can see the path and the snow - it was now all ice because of the high winds - I'd say 20 m/s with gusting of 27 m/s maybe. You'd have to walk sideways leaning against the wind - it was crazy. Eventually we made it down to ABC, Alex came out and greeted us, he was proud. 5 of his climbers up at the Col in a storm. Rested and then headed the 22 km down to BC.
Later that day the high winds crushed our big yellow tent and blew away our bathroom, crushed the kitchen boy's tent, and knocked down the Kitchen tent ten times. We have some repairing to do - to say the least.
In the pictures, you can see the bottom of the Col, walking back to ABC, A picture of Everest with a huge plume above it (see how far the prayer flags are bending) and Marshall cooking on the generator. These things are fickle at altitude - plugs fowling, the right mixture of kerosene and gas. Anyways 'till tomorrow - peace out - Dave D.
Video coming a bit later, hopefully tonight or tomorrow morning.
Apr 29. IBC
Up at IBC again. Our team is scattered between BC, IBC, and ABC. By tomorrow we should all be in ABC together. There is a storm expected for this weekend - the jet wind descends upon Everest. This means 25 to 35+ m/s winds up high. (hurricane) The best place for weather is AdventureWeather.com, also for news on all the expeditions, naturally MountEverest.net. A couple folks have asked about the weather.
Hoping to get a night at the Col in before the storm, but might have to wait it out 'till next week.
Sickness seems to have cleared up. Looking forward to getting higher than a kite in a couple days. Got an email from a friend who is getting married soon, and she left me a quote that was rather nice or at least thought provoking, "Right motives give pinions to thought, and strength and freedom to speech and actions." -- Mary Baker Eddy.
To tell you the truth, despite the fact that technically I am a professional writer - the only pinion I know involves the steering in a car. I think its got something to do with having good intentions, the right motives, and the rest will follow.
Makes me think about my motives. When it was late at night, cold, and I was squatting with the runs, far away from my tent I really wished I was home. But right now as I lay at 19,000 ft and can look out my tent at the snow crested Rongbuck valley - there's no place I'd rather be.
Don't think that really exposes my motives, however. Is it fame, is it fortune? As for fortune, I do make a living off of Everest, but my physical encounter with the mountain is putting me into debt. As far as I can tell, no monetary fortune per say. As for fame, unless you do something extraordinary or make yourself out to be something you're not, there is no fame. How I may be doing Everest is certainly hard, but it doesn't compare to Vladimir on our team, who's trying it without O2's - or the Russian team who's doing a new route without O2.
I think, rather, it's that this trip allows for the opportunity for that special feeling - maybe. Those times that you'll never forget. Like lifting off in a stripped out Russian helicopter with AC/DC blaring in your headphones, or driving across the Tibetan Plateau in Jeeps, or sitting in ABC with hurricane force winds. I don't know really what my motives are, but I do know I haven't thought of being anywhere else either - so that must mean I am in the right place I guess, right?
Enough for now. Just finished dinner with Giorgio - Prosciutto and some Parmesian cheese with some chocolate for desert. Then a game of Scala quarante - just like being back in Genoa!
April 28th - heading up tomorrow
First off, thank you all so much for the emails and everything. And TT and AA and the ExWeb crew for putting the voice dispatches up for the last week or so - it's kind of a pain to do, I appreciated it. And a huge shout out to the Saalwachter family, my buddy John has become an uncle; his sister just had a girl. Lauren
Now to some business - just got my base camp Internet straight, figures as I am heading up to ABC tomorrow, one straight shot, no stopping at Intermediate Camp. Also, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, don't send any pictures unless it is really, really, good pornography - This connection is super, super, expensive. You know who you are :) It was like 5 Illegal Pete's burritos.
Onto more positive things.
Zeb stopped by yesterday. He's the guy second from the top. Back in 2001 He and his wife Claire paraglided off the summit - one of our favorite expeditions. And they wrote a great story about it afterwards. If you search through MountEverest.net under "Classic Expeditions" you can read more.Anyways, Zeb is back with two clients this year, but won't be climbing to the summit as he's got two boys now.
Things cooled down yesterday as Ludmilla gave out some massages - she used to do it as a profession back in Russia. You can see our leader getting the royal treatment at the bottom.
Things heated up today as the US took on the Russians and Uzbeks in chess - unlike the Olympic hockey team, the US did not prevail. Only once, when Alex let me beat him I think.
Nothing goes better with chess than dried fish, the same ones that gave me a case of the runs a week or so ago. I enjoyed some juice with my chess, no fish this time. You can see Vladimir looking at a plate - that thing with an eye is the fish head.
Tomorrow many of us will be heading up to ABC, taking a day of rest maybe, and then going for the North Col. I am feeling a lot better now and tomorrow will be a good test. 16,500 ft all the way to 21,000 ft over 22 kilometers. Do you like the way I mix units? - I never know what to use around these parts. Some say a good time is 6 hours, others 7.5 - I'm pushing for 8 - at least for the second time.
So far so good - I hope to keep on getting the pictures out. The generator up at ABC should be running well and I'll have some sense to dig my gel cel out of the bottom of the RaRa noodle barrel.
Onto equipment. Yesterday's dispatch had a picture of Mike B and I. Mike graciously loaned me his summit suit this year. It's been on top three times, so I guess I have luck on my side. What does it feel like to put on? There are two examples. 1 - remember the body suit you had has a kid, made from flannel? Just like that except without the pads on the feet, and warmer. Secondly, imagine if you will you are really drunk, have thrown up, and have found yourself lying in a half-filled tub of lukewarm water, because the boiler only handled half a tub. You find yourself turning from one side to the other to try and get warm, the side of your body not in the water getting very cold very fast - then somebody brings you a warm towel from the dryer - that is what it feels like to put a down, one-piece, summit suit on.
April 27th, Back in it - tech that is
So it's been a while, I know. And I'd written this whole long thing with lots of minutia about the past couple of days. As I sat in my bag this morning I thought it boring. Here it is in a couple lines. Went up to ABC, felt crappy, when to the base of the North Col, went down to BC, got a stomach bug and feeling better know.
Will head back up in a couple of days. The Italians decided to leave, but will now stay an extra week or so. I feel bad about this one as last night I mentioned they are leaving - mostly because I was really sad about it - that combined with my stomach stuff, I wash just in a poor mood. The two of them are extremely nice and brought the morale of the whole group up - their not being here would definitely be noticed.
Well, it got back to the family or friend before they even told them, which sucked because an email made it's way back here. They weren't mad really, but I felt bad none-the-less. The good news is they decided to stay another week, so that news I am glad to send back. Still, now I kind of look a little more closely about what I write. Gibberish never gets anyone in trouble - see as follows:
This morning as I looked at Everest, all snow covered, from inside my warm condo in Base Camp, I thought back to a story I once heard about a friend. You see, this guy was walking home one night and an older woman approached him and said, "I will give you 1000 dollars to come home with me tonight." Just like that!
As I looked at Everest, I felt like I was in that guys shoes, kind of - for some reason it felt like the big E was offering me all this money to climb. Just like with the woman, there's lots of risks involved - the was concerned with STD's, attachment, performance, etc. . . me with Everest, HACE, HAPE, frostbite, avalanche - a dangerous proposition for both of us really - a little bit scary, a little bit exciting - all at the same time. This girl was only a few years the guy's elder; Everest has be by a couple million-billion years. So what am I to do?
Follow the dude's example and go make a 1000 dollars!
1. Gianni and Giorgio
2. "That Ain't Apple Juice"
3. Weighing the load
4. Mike Brown and Me
6. Messing about with the oxygen mask
April 20th, I give you the Russian Adventure Team
Today is one of the days that I wish I was one of those people who can eloquently put their feelings down in words without rambling.
It didn't happen when I took out thousands of dollars in cash from my bank, it didn't happen the night before I left, I didn't happen on the plane, I didn't happen when I landed in Kathmandu, It didn't happen when I trekked on Everest's South Side and saw it for the first time in 5 years, it didn't happen when I met the team, it didn't happen when I walked across the friendship bridge into China, it didn't happen when we arrived in Base Camp and saw the massive North Face with plumes coming off the top it happened today.
I was waiting and waiting, as if something was wrong with me, almost like I was on a vacation somewhere. Last summer when I went to Khan Tengri, it hit me in Barnes and Nobles, the day before I flew.
Today, it hit me, I am fucking climbing Everest. I kept saying that to myself, over and over, while looking up at the North Face- almost in disbelief. What happens from this point on, whether I make it or not, it doesn't matter to me. I am here& I am here!
During the Puja ceremony it was unreal and I didn't even expect it. I sat there, clutching rice in one hand and some form of powder in the other to be thrown in the air at the end. We were above our camp on a small hill, Everest, towering above us in full view, not a cloud in the sky. The Lama saying some incantations, the chorten), an alter made from rocks, with burning juniper (I think.)
Halfway through the Sherpas raised our prayer flags from the top of the chorten, the multi colored flags were spread in all directions. Something about seeing the flags and the backdrop of Everest I realized I am here, I am actually doing this. From the time I became pissed when an Everest National Geo special came on (because I wasn't there) all the way to when I wrote about the mountain for my SAT II's, (ciachies didn't score me that well) to that visit in BC 5 years ago- it all culminated right there, right here.
Yuri Koshelenko, who's credited for the team picture was with us as was Nikolay, the Russian North Wall's team leader they all came out for our celebration. I'm not a particularly religious or spiritual person, but for some reason, it hit me today during the ceremony. No so much the Lama or the burning juniper at the alter, but maybe it was that I sat down and stared at Everest for the first time underneath the flags. The past couple of days we've been running around getting things ready to move up to ABC and getting settled didn't really stop and think. I think it hit several others as well. All the years you've been thinking about, for me, maybe 15 or 20 at most, but for others, 30 or 40 years they've been thinking about this and here we are. The expedition has officially started.
I don't know what will happen from today on, nobody knows. But I do know that in the short time I've been with Alex, Marshall, the Italians, Dimitry, Dilmurad, the Sheraps, everbody, It feels good being here with them. Things may change, sure, but today, as the sun is shining bright, Everest proudly stands in the distance and I'm sitting in the most kick ass Base Camp setup here It just ain't that bad.
A little shout out to Jeff Evans, back in Colorado he was with Michael Brown and the crew for Erik Weihenmeyers blind ascent of Everest back in 2001. If anyone reads this, Mike's film, Farther Than the Eye Can See is up for two sports Emmy's. If anyone can look up to see if it has won, it was announced on the 20th, that would be incredible. Just go to the www.Thuraya.com website and send an SMS from there with the news. My # is lower down in these dispatches, starts with +88 216&.
Back to Jeff I can remember him talking about his Puja; he put some rice in a film canister, the Lama blessed it and told him that if he ever got to a sketchy section to sprinkle a little rice and the gods would protect him. I remembered that today, before my Puja I got some rice and put it in a film canister and had the Lama bless it at the end (see picture below). Jeff emptied his canister at the first ladder in the icefall, he ended up making it to the top I plan to take mine all the way up to the 2nd step, where I think I'll need it the most - we'll see how far I make it before mine gets dumped :)
Anyways, tomorrow we start heading up to the Intermediate Base Camp, and then onto Advanced Base Camp at 20,000ft.
Hope everyone back in the states and abroad had an excellent weekend!
April 19th, More Acclimatizing
Spent the day continuing to acclimatize, get Base Camp in tip top shape, and also prepare for ABC. The large tent you see in the pic will have a sister in ABC, Alex bought two of them, brand new. It proudly bears the Russian flag, and our website, Everest10000.com.
Something I just remembered - have to start saving these dispatches as I forget what I wrote the day before. Anyways, a couple of days ago we were all sitting down to dinner and I asked who had wives on the team. Everyone is married, with the exception of Gianni, who has a long-term girlfriend. I felt left out a little bit, but then Dilmurad informed us he had not one, but two wives. At first I thought he was joking, then I though he had one on the sly. Turns out it's ok to be polygamus in some places - I asked if they knew each other and he said, "Of course!" All have to enquire some more in the future.
Tomorrow Alex heads up to ABC and we have our Puja ceremony - the expedition officially starts.
That's all for now!
April 18th, Base Camp
Yesterday we arrvied in Base Camp to a brand new, huge BC tent, and all our own personal BC tents set up, we each get one. Not sure if this is de rigeur for expeditions, but we were all very impressed. Spent the day wiring up some electricty and lights and felt good, until the evening that is.
I developed a bit of a headache and started to pound water, boiled water from the glacier. I don't know what it was, but the headache subsided and in its place I got a case of the runs, not too bad though, feel better today.
I might have even been the fish, though. Last night the Russian national team came by, yuri from Khan tengri and Yuri koshelenko, who just won the golden ice axe for a first ascent on nuptse east with Babanov were among the crew.
It was great to see Yuri Ermachek, who was the BC manager in Khan Tengri - everyone was very friendly and soon Alex was bringing out the dried fish to drink with the beer, and the vodka, and wine. Yuri kept telling me to drink beer with the fish, something about the salt? But i opted for water instead - didn't help much as I made a few trips to the bathroom. the guitar was broken out and all the russians started singing, was really a great first night, except for the stomach thing. I retired a bit early, but they all stayed up rather late - I know because on my third run to the toilet the generator was just turned off, and that was after midnight.
Slept well for the most part and woke up feeling better today, Silvio Mondinelli, an Italian climber came by to say hi. ExWeb has been working with him and sending weather for quite some time. It was great to see him in person. He invited me over to their camp brought out some parmesian cheese and prosciutto di parma - the italians know how to do it right! Sat down for a while and chatted.
Tomorrow the Lama comes and we will have our Puja ceremony, after we have asked permission from the Gods we can climb. On the 21st we head to interm BC and then to Advanced BC the next day. ABC is about 20/21 thousand feet. This is more a trek than a climb. From there we start up to the north col, roughly 23,000ft. that is on ice and we will be on a fixed rope.
That's about all for know. Things are going well so far!
April 16th, Acclimatization hike, Everest just 'round the corner
This hotel proves that showers can be bad for your heath. The hotel room is a balmy 55 degrees and there is no power for most of the afternoon, until seven. Being all dirty I decided to take a shower yesterday, in the dark, with a luke warm trickle coming from the head. Well, I nearly kissed the expedition good-bye (I exaggerate a little). Shivering my ass off I figured, maybe if I filled the wash basin with the warm water, that might be nice to douse over my head to get the shampoo out. Bad idea, by the time it filled, the water was cold didn't realize this until I poured it all over myself. I'm surprised I don't have pneumonia.
Mysteriously after the shower, my lower back started to ache and it took me 3 hours just to warm back up must have been from the uncontrollable shivering. I even went to bed with the bad back. Fortunately I woke up and everything was good. Woke up for about two hours last night, pretty normal during acclimatization, it's nearly 14,000 ft. here.
The whole team went for a hike today up a nearby hill to a little over 15,000 ft. For the most part everyone seems to be feeling fine, some folks have taken a bit of diamox, but everyone had no problem on the hike. That picture is of Giorgio, the other Italian nice guy; he's on his cell phone constantly selling and buying petrol future's I think, even on top of today's hike. Not really too much going on today, just some rest and acclimatization. Tomorrow we head to Base Camp and will spend about 4 days there or so further acclimatizing. This is where the expedition really starts. A little concerned with the jump to almost 17,000 ft tomorrow am expecting to have a headache at the most. No problems so far, but the 3,000 ft jump will definitely stress the body.
Catch y'all in BC,
April 15th, Dust and familiar faces
Dust, Dust, and more dust. Yesterday we drove along a beautiful and lush canyon with spectacular scenery, all the way to Nyalam (the night time picture) It snowed a bit, which made for a beautiful morning, everything covered with a dusting of snow.
In Nyalam, I mentioned yesterday we ran into Ralf Dujmovits and his girlfriend, Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner. Ralf owns a German guiding company and we have been giving both him and Gerlinde, a very good lady-climber (maybe 5, 8000ers I think) weather forecasts for some time now. Both were very appreciative and we sat down for some pleasant conversation. It's always nice to put a face to the email, something that has happened a bunch of times on this trip already.
So, today, the drive wasn't quite as nice 6 or 7 hours maybe? The road quickly turned to dirt and dust. The close up is of Gianni, one of the Italians. A lot of the team sported some form of mask to keep the dust out. The dirt road on the Tibetan plateau took us all the way up to almost 17,000ft, (where the picture with Gianni was taken) and we stopped for about 45 minutes to acclimate and for the Russians to smoke their cigarettes.
From there it was down to the town of Tingri, a shit hole to say the least. Alex and the Sherpas will stay there tonight and tomorrow head up to Base Camp to set everything up for us. We proceeded on to the town of Xegur at about 14,000 ft. and are staying in a rather nice hotel, complete with TV, a sit-down shitter, which is attached, and even a shower. We don't get electricity until 7 tonight, but not having to go outside to use the facilities is nice, especially since that's going to be a way of life for the next month and a half.
We'll spend tomorrow here as well and then head up to Base Camp the following day. Everyone seems to be doing well. One of the team members has a bit of a sore throat, but nothing too major. The same can't be said for a climber on another team. In Tingri, just as we were leaving, a Land Cruiser pulled in with the climber. I said hello to him, as we had met before and asked what's up? The reply, I'm pretty fucked up, with a bit of a rasp in his voice. I also noticed a brownish speck in his mustache, a possible remnant of a nose bleed. He quickly disappeared into his room and I didn't seem him come out. The climber had already been in Base Camp, but was having some problems not sure if it was infection related or altitude but someone sent him down. Either way, I would rather not be that guy. At best, he'll spend a day or two in Tingri and then head up to Base Camp again to give it another go, at worst, game over. BC is at about 17,000ft.
Alex talked about the medical facilities in Tingri. Have you ever seen the hospital scenes in Jacob's Ladder?
So, it's time for a nice shower, hopefully warm, to get all the dirt out of my hair. Speaking of familiar face, took me this long to really remember the familiar face of the trip. Last year I was waiting for a helicopter flight on Khan Tengri and ran into this Czech climber named Peter. A month or two later I was walking down the street in NYC and ran into him and his girlfriend on Broadway. A couple of days ago on the friendship bridge, on the border of Nepal and Tibet, who did I run into again? Peter he is on his way to Cho Oyu. The climber world is pretty damn small. Anyways, hope all is well back home!
Apr 14, Nyalam
Didn't know how good we had it yesterday until i received an email from Mike B. Those rocks in the road were in fact roadblocks. He had to helicopter just a few days previous as did Ralf from Amical Alpin, a German outfit.
We had our timing perfect. Now that we are in China, there's no threat of Maoists - everyone hear is Communist.
The lady in the picture holding the huge wad is a money changer. How can a young woman walk around with that much cash and not be worried about getting robbed? Because her cash pimp isn't too far away - a small guy but you know you might disappear and never come back if you tried something.
So after some customs and getting our passports back, we headed off for Nyalam, at 12,500 ft. A wonderful road carved out of the side of the mountains.
Had some lunch, went for a hike, and then found a ping-pong table in an official looking building. Dilmarun bought some paddles and balls for 1.50 US and we started a heated Soviet/US battle, not unlike the 1980 Olympic hockey game (got it right this time John) Unfortunately, the US lost - it was close though.
Went to go get a camera, but no sooner did I leave than the Chinese broke up our fun. Apparently the official looking building was in fact official. So, it's off to dinner now. Tomorrow we head to Shagr for 2 days of acclimatization.
April 13th, What a day
What an incredible day! I don't even know where to begin Maoist threats, the friendship bridge, customs, Sars wow! Right now, it's about bedtime and I'm in the town of Zhangmu, Tibet, just over the boarder. First things first, whoever said Chinese food in China is horrible is wrong, or at least in this town. The entire team had a delightful dinner of classic Chinese food and it was great. The town of Zhangmu is cut into a mountainside. The road is a bunch of switchbacks, with the town lining either side.
So after dinner, the entire team went for a stroll up the road towards the top. It was quite nice I started off walking with Alex, our leader (the guy in the picture link) and Ludmilla, Yuri Koshelenko's wife, who's coming with us to Base Camp to meet her husband. He's climbing the new route on Everest with the Russian National team. Over the next few days I'll try tell more about the team.
Alex, our leader, is great. For one, he is a great climber in 1991 he won the Russian Championship for a technical winter ascent, in 1999 he received one silver and two bronzes in the Championship. He's also a master of the sport of mountaineering. In the old USSR, climbers had a passport-like book where all their climbs were logged. After a certain number of climbs you become a master it's not unlike a master in chess. Basically, he's a badass.
Anyways, besides being a great climber, he's also got a great demeanor. While he is very laid back and easygoing, he also makes things happen. This combination is great to have in an expedition leader as his confident and calm manner really rubs off on the rest of us, inspiring confidence. For example, today after the drive from Kathmandu we transferred all of our equipment to a different truck after crossing the boarder. We realized that the lead-acid batteries leaked all over a bunch of a equipment. Without as much as a curse or much fanfare Alex started to clean up the battery acid which was all over the barrel and some of the stuff that was in it. Others in the team chipped in and brought over water to help with the effort, while others helped continue to load the truck. It could have easily been a big deal and something to stress about, but it wasn't.
So, back to the stroll after dinner. Alex and I chatted about his climbing experience and he quickly lit up a smoke. I asked him about his smoking and if he does it while he climbs his reply, I climb because I smoke. He's hilarious at times. Soon we walked by a carpenter and Alex thought it nice to buy some wood to build a proper toilet in Base Camp instead of having one of those tents that tend to blow away. Another Russian team member walked by and soon the two started discussing in depth the design for our deluxe toilet. Giorgio and Gianni, the two Italians then walked by and I left Alex and Aktur (I will probably butcher these names for the first couple of weeks) to join them for a stroll. They were actively looking for a good espresso, but nary will you find one in this town. These guys are great as well, lots of fun. And they've agreed to help me with my Italian.
By the time we reached the edge of town and walked back down, Alex and some others had finalized the design of our toilet. A great evening to cap a great day. We started off this morning from the hotel at 6. All of us crammed in the bus and before setting off the driver hung a large green sign on the front that read, Tourist Only. Why do we want to tell everyone we're tourists? Because the Maoists don't torch tourist buses, just the other ones. Really, there was a major concern this morning when we took off that we wouldn't make the boarder because of a Maoist imposed strike in the region we were driving. And the burning bus thing that we've heard about that's true.
Along the way we saw a jeep that had been torched. Around every bend there was something else more interesting than the next. Between the torched jeep, the police blockades with spike strips, another bus that had fallen into a ditch, loads of local buses with people pouring from the windows and doors, not to mention the crowd sitting on top and this road was one of those winding and twisting on the side of a mountain that had occasionally been washed out and then repaired. We also picked up a Lama along the way this'll give us good karma. After a couple of hours we arrived at the boarder, the Friendship Bridge between Nepal and Tibet. Filled out some paperwork and had our temperatures taken (see picture). The only thing was, all our equipment which was behind us hadn't arrived yet. Eventually it did and we were on our way across the bridge and up the road to the other trucks and Land Cruisers. That's where the Base Camp batteries leaked. A bit long winded of a dispatch, but a long day as well. The group is getting along well.
Marshall, the other American is a great guy, as are the Italians, and the rest of the Russians. Everybody's in good spirits and enjoying each others company so far. A good start there's a positive feeling within the group, everyone is really friendly. Sitting around today waiting for the equipment to come, we all got to know each other a little better. Tomorrow we get our passports back from the Chinese and will head towards Nylam, a nearby town that's a little over 9000ft. Currently we're at 7,000ft. Alex is making sure that on this drive we aren't rushed and become properly acclimatized. In just a couple of days we'll be in Base Camp.
till tomorrow Dave
One other thing, I can communicate via SMS just put the number (hold down your zero key to get the +) +88216 5020 5495. You can also go to Thuraya.com and send an SMS from somewhere in the website.
April 11th - A lot lighter
Strangely enough it didn't feel that weird giving some Russian I just met in person several thousand dollars. It actually feels good, especially after carrying it around for 11 days. You can look at it this way, I got a really snazzy jacket out of the deal! (see other picture)
April 11 - You know you're climbing with Russians when...
...the hotel staff tells your expedition leader to not hang the drying fish on the balcony because other guests were complaining of the smell. So now they're in a box in his room. Glad I'm not rooming with him, although my socks after the couple days of trekking might be in contentiontion for smelling close to the drying, whole fish.
Tomorrow is the day! I've met several of the team members and we'll all be getting on a bus at 5 tomorrow morning, with the Tibetan Base Camp in our sights. So far, so good. Got some last minute shopping done, laundry, film, some candy bars, a gel cell battery. . . all is set to go.
If you ever come to Nepal and are stressing about fogeting drugs, don't - you can buy everything here over the counter and for pennies. Just picked up metrotinidazole (powerfull antibiotic), Acetezolomide, and Nifedipine (Schedule H - don't know what that means, but sounds important) - for maybe 2 dollars and some change.
The drive to Base Camp will be about 4 to 5 days and I'll be hiding some of the satellite equipment, but I'll try to keep the ipaq and use that instead of the laptop. Thanks for all the emails and will be in touch hopefully over the next few days!
April 10 - Piloting a plane is as good a time as any to...
...be reading a paper. We all got a kick out of it when the pilot opened up the daily paper just moments after taking off from one of the sketchiest airstrips in the world. Unbeknownst to him, everybody started taking pictures and laughing.
Back in Kathamandu after some lovely trekking. All is well and we should be leaving for Tibet in a day or so. Walked past some Maoists today having a protest, but unfortunately didn't have either of my cameras with me. A couple minutes after I walked by I saw some military guys with sticks walking towards them. It's seems as if everyday there's another protest and someone else is getting beat up by the cops, whether it be a supporter of one of the five parties or Maoists. The Maoists have been burning buses and taxis when folks haven't been abiding by their strikes.
Up in Phakding, on the way down from Namche I missed a skirmish by just a day. Apparently some Maoists grabbed a local woman by the hair and pulled her out of her house - the cops were nearby and chased after the three. They caught two, hog tied and blindfolded and the third Maoist got away, but not after they fired a shot at him. The whole Adventure Consultants team saw it first hand.
Meanwhile the King is parading around Nepal in his ridiculous Army outfit and sunglasses kissing babies. As of now, there is no government, just him - no assembly or house to legislate, just him; or at least that's my understanding. He claims that next year there will be elections for the new government. Meanwhile, this place is impovrished, dirty, and no one has jobs. You hope for things to change, but it's rather bleak - and in the rural parts, things are even worse, with the people feelign cornered by both the Maoists and the govt. Both groups giving you problems if you are pro or anti govt. Enough of my ranting, but it's hard to ignore when it's in your face everyday. 'till tomorrow.
April 9th Back in Namche
Back in Namche after a little acclimatization in the Khumbu. This place is packed, or at least it has been for the past couple of days. Loads of tourists are trekking right now in the high-spring season. I flew up to the Khumbu to get acclimatized until it's time to leave for the expedition.
All is well. Hiked up to 13,000 ft and spent two days in Tengboche. Visited the Monastery and was blessed by the Lama, Rinpoche. With Everest ahead in the next couple of weeks, I can use all the help I could get.
A funny thing happened to me on my way to Namche today I had an encounter with someone wanting to take a picture of me because I'm going to climb Everest. I can recall being here 5 years ago with my buddy John and running to Base Camp, asking all the climbers to take a picture with us and to sign our oxygen bottles. One of the guys said after asking for an autograph, ..but I didn't even make. Neither of us really cared, what mattered was that they were there and went for it. I reveled in the small amount attention and had this grin on my face for the rest of the hike because I remembered being on the other side and thinking that I would never be in the shoes of an Everest climber.
Skipped an acclimatization day in Namche on the way up and felt great upon arrival in Tengboche. Yesterday I even fancied a kickabout with the Sherpas using a deflated mini soccer ball. This kid in a Bulls jersey was pretty darn good, but I represented tough, only having to fold over gasping for breath every one and a half field lengths or so (the field wan't very large either). Game ended when a Yak train came through reminded me of Wayne's World. No hint of a headache yet and have been paying regular visits to the Charpi with no problem those who have been here before understand that if your stomach and head are ok, you're doing well. We'll see what happens on the drive to the North Side BC, which is at about 17,000ft.
The status of the expedition is that we will be leaving KTM on the 13th, for the North Side. A little late, but that is fine by me. Last year teams waited two weeks in Base Camp for the weather to clear before going for a summit attempt, and that was in my opinion a forced attempt as the weather was pretty bad. Would rather be waiting up here in the Khumbu than in a tent in ABC, so it should work out well.
Spoke to my expedition leader yesterday via satellite phone and he gave me a warm, No Problem. I'll be meeting up with them on the 11th and then will have a day to get everything in order. Looking forward to meeting the rest of the team in two days time and get moving. Tonight I'm lodging with the Adventure Consultants team, so it should be a good time. Back at you in Kathmandu.
April 5th, evening - Phak!!!
...ding that is. Phakding is about halfway from Lukla to Namche - two villages in the Solokhumbu region. Felt great today, only at 8500ft, but my oxygen saturation was in the 90's (see pic) - this is good. Lots of folks have it drop to the 80's upon arrival to Lukla.
Made the trek to Phakding and cruised along pretty well - only hang up was not bringing a rain jacket, figures. Tomorrow it'll be up to Namche, around 12,000 ft.
On the way to the airport this morning, noticed that the cab driver was always a gear too high, never using first unless we were on a steep hill. It took me a while to realize that they did this to save on gas. It actually works out quite well as it really slows them down, or at least keeps them from accelerating quickly. Driving through Kathmandu is a like some sort of disorganized ballad, everyone pulling in front of one another and coming within inches of head on collisions - somehow it all works out. I've never seen two drivers get into an argument either.
Is nice to get out of the valley and into the hills for a while.
April 5th - A little change in plan
Today started off pretty normal. Had breakfast and then headed over to the airport to meet Mike B and grab my bags. All went pretty much to plan. On a whim I decided to go by the trekking agency to see what was going on. I spoke to Dawa, and as it turns out, there'll be a new strike starting tomorrow and then continuing on until the 9th. Then, from there's another strike scheduled outside the valley, where we'll be driving through to get ot Tibet. Basically, instead of heading to Base Camp on the 10th, it'll be more like the 13th.
Having all this time to kill, I decided to get out of dodge and head up to the Khumbu for a couple of days to get some acclimatization in. I fly tomorrow morning at 10.45 and will head back early morning on the 11th.
So, the next time you hear from me will be from up in the fresh air of the Khumbu!
Apr 4 - I made it
Well, I made it. The picture you see to the right is the aftermath of a little going away get-together. Unfortunately I didn't get to participate due to an all night packing spree, but in the pic you can see Cory in the most un-natural sleeping position I've ever seen and I think Austin still has a Pabst in his hands. Huge thanks to Cory and Ryan, my roomates who drove me to the airport at 4 in the morn'. This pic was taken at almost 2.30, just after I finished getting everything packed.
All is well so far - ran into a bunch of folks in LA and also upon arrival in KTM. Lots of expeditions are getting geared up right now. Wasn't expecting to get here so soon, so I've got a couple of days here in Kathmandu to kill. It's only been one day and already my snot is black - lots of pollution here.
It's actually been quite nice though - today was a Bandh, or strike. Bad for business, as everything is closed, but good for touristing as the streets are emtpy and it's rather peacefull. If you click the video link you can see a picture titled - "dont' go here" - I was told that is what the burning log in the middle of the road symbolizes. On the smaller streets, an smoldering motorcycle tire suffices for the same message.
So if's off to bed now - the email@example.com email is up and running.