2003 Everest CybercastWelcome to the Spring 2003 cybercast of our Mt. Everest Expedition. This year marks the 50th Anniversary of the First Ascent of Mount Everest by Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmund Hillary on May 29th, 1953.
Mount Everest, rising 8,850m (29,035ft) above sea level reigns as the highest mountain on Earth. For decades summiting Everest has been considered one of the greatest mountaineering achievements. In the spring of each year, we embrace this intense challenge by taking a group of qualified climbers to Nepal to climb Mt. Everest via the South Col route. Follow our climbing team on their adventures, as they phone in periodic dispatches which highlight the day's events, and keep us updated on their progress.
Alpine Ascents International 2003 Mt. Everest Climbing Team:
Guides: Vern Tejas, Willi Prittie, Lakpa Rita Sherpa, Luis Benitez, Ellie Henke.
Climbers: Alex Bright, James Clarke, Matthew Holt, Jeff Mathy, Robert Murphy, Paul Obert, Bruno Rodi, Jean-Michel Valette.
We wish the team the best of luck and look forward to following their
[Launch Mountainzone Slideshow]
Wednesday June 4th 10:15AM, 2003. Deboche, Nepal
Hello again everyone, this is Willi Prittie reporting from Deboche on the way out from Everest Base Camp. Today we're walking in a very heavy Northwest-style downpour from a low pressure system that's here and that's okay because we're a little under the weather anyway because from the all-night Sherpa party last night in Pheriche where everybody was celebrating everything from a safe successful expedition on. We're thinking that maybe the rest of the folks are hanging out twiddling their thumbs in Lukla today because I doubt that there's any flights departing in this weather: which is probably going to throw a monkey wrench into some people's plans. But thus mama nature goes sometimes and occasionally you just have to learn to roll with the punches. SO right no we are sort of floating with the punches and canoeing down the trails to get down to Namche Bazaar tonight. So that's the latest from the rain-drenched Khumbu, pre-monsoon, 2003 Everest expedition.
Monday June 2nd 4:25PM, 2003. Everest Base Camp.
Hello yet again, friends. This will be the final dispatch from base camp for the Alpine Ascents 2003 Mt. Everest Expedition. By the time you read this, Everest Base Camp will no longer exist. Only a few rock walls will remain, all of which will succumb to glacier movement and fall over by the end of summer.
Yet again on Chomolungma (Mt. Everest), patience has paid off. Through a season of very difficult weather, and some very nice as well as very difficult people at Base Camp, it is at times hard to maintain one's focus on the expedition. People's natural inclination is to push on and get it over with. As a consequence of that attitude this year, we had to watch several waves of potential summiters swarm up the mountain, and during this it is hard to restrain oneself even knowing that they were climbing into poor conditions. When these same climbers returned down again with many more unsuccessful climbers and frostbitten digits than summiters, it becomes a little clearer to understand what we are waiting for. Good weather.
During the long period we spent waiting for this elusive good weather, there was also tragedy on the mountain. Alpine Ascents personnel participated in two attempted rescues of members of other groups. Unfortunately both of these people died on the mountain. Death by stupidity in my humble opinion. It really doesn't matter what the medical cause of death was, when proactive action could have easily saved a life it is death by stupidity. In one case (already well reported) a Sherpa was sick for several days. Instead of seeking medical care at a lower elevation, he chose to remain high and a tragedy resulted. In the other case, an unroped Indian army climber died in a crevasse fall. That is what climbing ropes are traditionally used to prevent in glacier climbing. Yet another meaningless tragedy for our sport, and for the family and friends of the victim. Also a tragedy, was the number of people, especially from base camp, uninterested in assisting with trying to save another human being's life. I wonder a lot if there is any connection with the bad weather we experienced etc., and the bad and selfish attitude many foreign visitors to the mountain displayed this year.
Lack of teamwork was also a big problem among many parties this season. It was a sad thing for me to observe many climbers' hopes and dreams of the summit dashed by lack of experienced support on the mountain and infighting and discord amongst team members. One would hope that by the time a climber attains the experience to be able to attempt Mt. Everest, such behavior would be behind them. . .
Also an MI-17 helicopter crash at base camp highlighted the dangers of rotor-wing flight at this altitude. This unfortunate incident left 2 dead and several seriously injured. People get rather blasť about flying here and there, without thinking of the consequences. If the same crash had occurred three or four days earlier, it would have taken out several dozen tents and people. I hope the ministry of civil aviation here will now ban all but emergency flights to base camp. We were getting as many as 4 or more flights a day with some expeditions ordering resupply by helicopter. If this doesn't stop, it is only a matter of time until one is crashed right in the middle of base camp mid-season with the resultant several hundred casualties possible
On the positive side, many new friends were made by all here, as always. And there were some amazing things accomplished. A summit climb from base camp in around 12 hours and 40 minutes. Then another in around 10 hours and 40 or so minutes, both by Sherpa climbers. On the rescue front, I'd personally like to give credit once again to the Argentinean brothers Willie and Damian Benegas. After spending six days completing an impressive and difficult new route on the north buttress of Nuptse, they then were involved in two rescue attempts. The attempt to bring through the Khumbu Icefall of the critically ill Sherpa, and later the rescue effort of the passengers of the MI-17 helicopter which crashed in base camp. Of all the western visitors climbing Chomolungma here this season, they are by far the karma accumulating winners, and the entire climbing community should thank them for their untiring effort in behalf of fellow climbers (not to mention upping the ante on high altitude technical climbing in the Himalaya!).
Another highlight (I think. . .) is the new slow record of 11 hours to descend the Lhotse Face from Camp 4 to Camp 2 by Paul Obert and Willi Prittie. This is usually a 4 to 6 hour descent. There must be some kind of award available somewhere for this feat. . .
Yesterday's descent through the Khumbu Icefall for the final time, went without a hitch (thank goodness). With the very warm pre-monsoon weather also comes an acceleration of ice movement. Dozens of icefalls (ice avalanches) now occur per day all around us, and a half an hour hardly goes by without groaning, popping, snapping, rumbling, or actual sensible motion of the glacier under our feet. While we were descending the icefall, there were two very large collapses of seracs (luckily not near us), and many places in the icefall which have looked the same all season were unrecognizable upon descent. All this makes a climber a little nervous when he still has to go through it one more time. . .
A high point of the descent yesterday, was the icefall route crew removing ladders, ropes, and anchors right behind us. Today, the disassembly of base camp is happening right around me as I write this. All expedition members are en route walking out as of this morning. The only thing left now is to load the yaks and walk out. Oh, I forgot the BIG Sherpa party on the way out. . .
Well, it's over now. And by being patient we had a superb summit day with almost no wind and the kind of unlimited views only available from the highest mountain in the world. No frostbite, no injuries, and a respectful deference to Chomolungma and Mialangsangma later, we call our expedition a success. We leave the mountain with an intense shared experience which will cement friendships for life.
Everest Base Camp 2 June, 2003
Saturday May 31st 4:25PM, 2003. Everest Camp II, Nepal.
Hello everyone back there in cyberland. This is Luis reporting for Alpine Ascents and MountainZone. Yes, that's right gang, we're back here at Camp II enjoying some amazing food courtesy of Ang Tsering, and some thicker air. It was a long walk today from the South Col down to Camp II. Most of us are tired from doing it, our knees, our backs, and still coughing up all that fun stuff that develops in your lungs during summit day.
A couple of honorable mentions need to be had at this point. First and foremost to Ellie our Base camp Manager. I can't stress enough, how much support, advice, and direction she gives us during summit day, and during the summit push. Making sure we are all thinking clearly, keeping in touch with all of our families, as well as just being there for support - knowing that someone is thinking about us when you're cold and a long, long way from base camp. So thank you Ellie for all your support!
We're stopping at Camp II for the night because, word has it, is that the icefall is very, very interesting, and we want to make sure to hit it in the cool of the morning. We're going to sit here tonight, eat as much as we can, drink as much as we can, and look forward to celebrating down at base camp by lunch tomorrow. Bruno just reminded me that us and IMG pretty much comprise all of base camp. Everybody is gone! Camp II is a ghost town as well. It's just us and IMG that summited with us. So, It looks like we'll be doing the long walk home in a pretty quiet fashion. It's pretty quiet up here. So, til then, this is Luis and the rest of the gang wishing everybody back there a very pleasant afternoon.
Saturday May 31st 9:00AM, 2003. Everest Base Camp, Nepal.
Hello in cyberland,
Well, it's the morning after, and it sounds like everyone up there has hangovers. I tried to get an audio dispatch from them but Willi says, "we're too busy packing up right now and trying to get out of here by 9:00. Can you do one for us?" However the reality is that although everyone is tired but ok, they also have very hoarse voices this morning from breathing hard and from breathing oxygen. So I assure you all, yes, they are doing better than their voices might lead you to believe and maybe an audio cybercast isn't such a good idea after all. Willi promises they will give me a recording this evening from camp 2. (For you techno people out there, I have a small microphone taped to the base camp radio. I just record from the mountain straight to a wav. file in the computer. Then I can send the file directly to mountainzone by satellite phone. I'm still amazed by what you can do these days.)
Anyway, as Willi says, the team is packing up. A Sherpa team has already left camp 2 to go up to pick up and bring down everything from camp 4: tents, cooking stuff, personal gear, oxygen bottles (empty and full) - everything must come down. This year our team was a little shocked at the amount of gear left at camp 4 by other teams. We understand why this happened when they were getting pounded by high winds and cold and just wanted to get out of there, but after starting to get fairly well cleaned up it sounds like the South Col is turning into a garbage dump again. We have good weather, and although everyone is tired we will do our part to see that everything from our expedition is brought down. (Editorial comment from Ellie: Although no one likes to see "trash" on the mountain, and we frequently hear about "environmental" expeditions to clean up Mt. Everest, I still maintain that no one ever caught hepatitis or cholera from an old oxygen bottle. If someone really wants to help out, how about contributing to improved health care down below where people live and really get sick.)
So for today the team is gathering their energy for the descent of the Lhotse Face to camp 2. Although I'm sure they would rather spend the day lying around in their sleeping bags and drinking tea, there's work to be done. At least they can be grateful that this time it's all down hill. We're definitely looking forward to seeing everyone safe and sound back in base camp tomorrow.
More tonight from camp 2,
Friday May 30th 8:00PM, 2003. Everest Base Camp, Nepal.
It's a wrap! Finally after 22 hours of effort and endurance everyone has arrived back at camp 4. Paul is tired but ok, as are Luis, Lhakpa, Kami, and Pemba Tenzing who stayed with him every step of the way down. By the time I'm writing this they will be eating soup and tucking into their sleeping bags with their arms wrapped around a nice orange bottle of oxygen. I suspect sleep will not be a problem tonight - I know it won't be for me.
Our next scheduled radio call is for 8:00 tomorrow morning when I'm hoping to get a few words from one of the guides - provided they can talk well enough to talk to me. Breathing oxygen for so long badly dries out their respiratory systems so everyone is usually pretty hoarse and coughing for several days afterward.
Tired as the team is, the job isn't quite over yet. Tomorrow (May 31) they will descend the Lhotse Face and spend their last night up on the mountain at camp 2, which will seem like a paradise compared to where they've been. And the following day (June 1) they are base camp bound, which also means the last trip down through the icefall. That is never to be taken for granted, especially this late in the season when ice is melting and shifting. I am never truly happy until everyone is safely back in base camp.
And since I am also running on about three hours of sleep since the team took off, this is Ellie signing off until tomorrow.
Friday May 30th 5:30PM, 2003. Everest Base Camp, Nepal.
Hello in cyberland,
It's 5:00 pm, and almost as expected, it ain't over yet. Here's where we stand: Willi and Jeff arrived back at camp 4 at 11:45 (half an hour before the rest of the group was arriving at the summit). The rest of the group has been working their way back down the mountain following the summit, and when I spoke to Willi at 4:30 he said that most of them were at the bottom of the fixed lines and should arrive at camp within the next hour or so (about the time predicted). Some of them were apparently running short on oxygen, so Dorjee was taking a few bottles out to them.
As of 4:30 Paul, accompanied by Luis, Lhakpa, Kami, and Pemba Tenzing, was still up around the level of the balcony. Lhakpa reports that Paul is ok, but exhausted and moving very, very slowly. At this point we don't have an expected time of arrival for them, but we're expecting that it will be after dark. Paul is accompanied by the best folks around, and we are expecting that they will be able to keep him moving for a late arrival at camp 4.
Meanwhile, here at base camp, I am once again slipping into my down pants and parka and preparing to sit by the radio for a while longer until everyone is safely down. I may have to go in search of a hot water bottle to slip onto my stomach pretty soon - an excellent source of warmth when the going gets chilly.
I'll be on again in a few hours for an update.
Friday May 30th 12:15PM, 2003. Everest Base Camp, Nepal.
May 30, 12:15 pm
Here's the news you've all been waiting for. The following Alpine Ascents members, guides, and sherpas were standing on the top of the world at 12:15 today: Matthew Holt Jean Michel Valette James Clarke Bruno Rodi Vernon Tejas Lakpa Rita Sherpa Thapkee Sherpa Mingma Sherpa Kami Rita Sherpa Tsherri Sherpa Tshering Sherpa Pemba Tenzing Sherpa
Luis Benitez and Paul Obert took a little longer and arrived at the summit a little before 1:00 pm.
Our congratulations to them all, and also to Jeff Mathy and Willi Prittie for their decision to turn around and head back to the South Col. All members of the team are on their way back down the mountain to Camp 4, and I have talked to Willi and Jeff, who have already arrived at Camp 4, tired, but glad they are there.
It's not over yet until everyone is safe back at the South Col, which I'm expecting by about 5:00 tonight, give or take a bit.
My hands are full at the moment, but I'll try to get the details filled in for you soon.
Friday May 30th 9:30AM, 2003. Everest Base Camp, Nepal.
It's 9:30 am and finally we are able to talk to the team! What a relief! Moving our antenna to point toward Nuptse seems to be doing the trick. So here it is: the summit team is just coming up to the South Summit. Lhakpa says everyone is doing well. They will probably take a bit of a break and get something to eat and drink before continuing on to the real summit. After a cold night, Lhakpa reports that they are roasting. Their down suits are way too hot and everyone is sweating up the last steep slope to the South Summit. After wishing the wind would go away, now they are hoping for a little breeze.
I also talked to Willi, who is headed down to the South Col with Jeff. Our congratulations to Jeff for making one of the most intelligent and difficult mountaineering decisions there is to make - realizing that he didn't have the strength and energy to make it to the top and still be able to make it back down safely. Willi says he is also having a bit of an off day so the two of them are making their way slowly back down to the South Col. All the sherpas are still with the summit team. When I talked to Willi, he and Jeff were a little bit above the triangular face. Sounds like Dorjee is poised to take juice out to them when they get a little closer to camp 4. So we'll be keeping our eye on them as they work their way down.
More as it happens,
Friday May 30th 8:00AM, 2003. Everest Base Camp, Nepal.
We are having terrible trouble with our radios this morning. We are able to talk to Dorjee at camp 4 but not to the climbing team. We have tweaked everything we can think of with no success, but at least Dorjee is able to relay messages when he talks to Lhakpa (all in Nepali, and I get a translation through Ong Chu). This is very frustrating, but we're doing the best we can. So. . . . as of a little after 7:30 am the information we have is that Willi and Jeff have turned around as Jeff "wasn't doing well". I don't have specific information at this time about what that means and probably won't have until I can talk to Willi when they reach the South Col. As far as I know Willi is doing fine and is coming down to assist Jeff. We think that there are no Sherpas coming down with them, which would indicate that whatever it is must not be too serious. If it was anything too bad they would have one or two Sherpas coming with them to assist. I am trying to get a visual confirmation of this from Dorjee.
Meanwhile, the entire rest of the team is just below the South Summit at 8:30 am. This is right on, or slightly behind, the schedule of last year's team, which had everyone on the South Summit at 8:30 am. The first people last year arrived at the true summit at around 10:30 am. This year's team is climbing in good time and at this point there would be nothing to worry about "turn around" times. We also hear that Dave Hahn's team is ahead of our team, and are now going up the Hillary Step.
The weather continues to be good with blue skies and no clouds. We have no wind at base camp, and it looks like not much up high. I'm hoping to get a more complete report when Willi and Jeff arrive at the South Col, and will relay any information I get at that time - possibly even an audio cybercast.
Friday May 30th 5:00AM, 2003. Everest Base Camp, Nepal.
It's 5:00 am here and been getting light for the last hour. We still have had no radio contact with the climbing group but I suspect it is because it is so cold up there that trying to handle a radio would mean frostbite. We did just have a radio call from Dorjee at the South Col who says he can see them above the Balcony, so as far as we can tell everything is going ok. If they were using their radios Dorjee would hear them for sure. The weather looks perfect - not a cloud in the sky with mild breeze at the South Col. We are seeing no evidence of any real wind. Last year all members didn't reach the South Summit until 8:30 am. so things seem to be fairly well on schedule. So patience everyone, it will still be a little while before the sun hits and starts warming things up.
Friday May 30th 2:00AM, 2003. Everest Base Camp, Nepal.
Hello in cyberland,
It's 2:00 am on Mt. Everest, and no news is good news - it means everyone is keeping their mittens on. It's still a beautiful, clear cold night and as far as we know everything is going well. The guides would call us immediately if there were any problems. Right now they are just putting one foot in front of the other. At least here at base camp there is no wind at all, and we have no indication of much wind up higher either.
The juniper fire is still burning and will be all night and tomorrow until everyone is safe back at the south col. For those of you who saw the picture of my "Mani Quilt" that was posted earlier in the expedition, I have placed it on the puja altar for the duration of the climb. Gopal has been taking the first radio watch, and while lying in my sleeping bag (I can't say I've actually been doing much sleeping, but at least it was warm) I've been visualizing the team wrapped in the quilt, all warm and safe and blessed.
Ong Chu was in his sleeping bag for an hour or so as well, but when I got up he was up too - said he couldn't sleep either, so might as well get up. He and Gopal and Lakpa were all huddled in front of the heater in the dining tent.
So signing off for now. I'll let you all know as soon as we hear anything.
Thursday May 29th 11:00PM, 2003. Everest Base Camp, Nepal.
Hello in cyberland,
Well, the team is on their way! The first group of Willi, Jeff, Paul, Kami, and Pemba Tenzing left the South Col at about 9:30 pm our time. They felt they might be a little slower so they left a little earlier. The second group is leaving just now at 11:00 pm. The second group is Vernon, Luis, Jean Michel, James, Matthew, Bruno, Lhakpa Rita, Thapkee, Mingma, Tsering, and Tsherri. It is a beautiful star-filled night with no moon, and very cold. Vern estimates it is about -22 Celsius, which he says is about 0 Fahrenheit - I haven't done the calculation so I'll take his word for it. As an Alaskan with lots of cold weather experience, he should know.
Anyway, with it that cold I have told them to not worry about calling in cybercasts. I will talk to them quickly on the radio and then send in a written report. It is better that they keep their mittens on rather than risk frostbite by talking a long time on the radio. So it may be a several hours between reports but I will get the news to you as often as I can. They will keep climbing through the night, and hopefully we will hear more from them in the morning once the sun hits and warms things up a bit. Sounds like the wind has died down significantly, it's just cold!
So for now everything is good, and the team is excited to finally be on their way.
Thursday May 29th AM, 2003. Everest Base Camp, Nepal.
Hello in cyberland,
Tonight is summit night at last, and base camp is ready! Here at base camp the excitement is building. Ong Chu, Gopal, Gelek, Nawang, and Bishnu (our liaison officer) have been singing and talking while they play cards all afternoon. The way Ong Chu explains it, "if we play cards we don't think too much about the team. If we think too much we get worried. Better to play cards." Anybody else out there feel like that? Try the Sherpa method - start a card game.
For myself, first I made sure all the batteries are as charged up as I can get them for the long night ahead. Then I had lunch, took a shower (it has been a week since the last one, and with the warm sun I couldn't resist), and then took a nap all afternoon. Most of us will be awake monitoring the radio and pulling for the team until they hopefully reach the summit sometime tomorrow morning. Then we keep going until everyone is safe back at the South Col. Myself, OngChu, Gelek and Bishnu are the ones who speak some English, so we are hoping to trade off and get a little sleep. Bryce, I miss you! Where are you when I need you? (Dr. Bryce Brown from Thunder Bay, Canada, has been my summit night partner for the last two expeditions, but is not here this year)
We are also ready for summit night for another reason. Base camp is falling apart and we are trying to hold things together until we leave in a few days. The last few days have been warm, and the glacier ice on which we sit is seriously melting. Which means rocks that have been sitting on ice pedestals for many days are at last tipping over. So far we have managed to control the ones that might hit something, but every few minutes we hear ones rolling over somewhere. We are also rebuilding parts of the kitchen buildings, which have walls of stone. The glacier moves just enough so the walls become unstable, so we are trying to keep the kitchens safe for another few days. So here at base camp we are way ready to get on with things and get this job finished.
We have just been informed that the first group of Willi, Jeff, Paul, Kami, and Pemba Tenzing will leave the South Col at 9:00 pm our time and the second group of everyone else will leave about 11:00 pm. I am expecting to get an audio cybercast from each group as they leave camp. Also climbing tonight are 9 westerners and Sherpas from Dave Hahn's group, and Sean Wisedale from South Africa with his two Sherpas.
So we wish everyone a safe and successful trip to the top, and may they all return to base camp safe and sound.
Thursday May 29th 8:00AM, 2003. Everest Base Camp, Nepal.
I just talked to camp 4 this morning (8:00 am May 29). Willi reports that the wind continued to blow until well after midnight, so they felt they made the right decision in not going last night. This morning the wind has dropped significantly and the skies are clear and sunny. Everyone had a good night and is doing well. Do not worry about the oxygen situation. Unlike many expeditions we have many bottles. They have to pay attention that they don't use it up too quickly, but there is no danger of running out at this point.
Our weather reports show the monsoon is way down by Sri Lanka and the Bay of Bengal and not really moving at this point, so the monsoon is not a problem either. There is a common misconception that the monsoon comes in as a wall of rain. This is not true. Usually there are advance clouds that show up days before the serious rain. We also have the misconception that the monsoon is 24 hours a day of constant downpour. This is not true either. Many days it is nice in the mornings with rain in the afternoons. So don't worry about the monsoon either. Right now it really isn't an issue.
So for today the team will be sleeping, eating, and drinking, and getting ready for what we hope is a summit attempt tonight (tomorrow morning for you guys).
I'll keep you posted,
Good morning everybody from the South Col of Everest. This is Willi Prittie reporting for Alpine Ascents in 2003, and this is in fact the 29th of May, 2003, about 9 AM local time.
With that, I would like to congratulate the family of Tenzing Norgay and also Sir Edmund Hillary and family. Little did they know what they started 50 years ago today.
At any rate, we made the decision here at the South Col not to climb last night. It was a wise decision. It stayed windy until well after midnight, and now the winds have moderated significantly at about 15-25 MPH (perhaps he means "knots". Either way, it's a lot less than 50 knots previously). So it's looking like tonight is going to be a go. Everybody is doing well, we're in good spirits and we're psyched to get this thing over with.
So after one more rest day, or I should say waiting day right here, hopefully with God being on our side, we will be able to summit this thing and all go home.
So that's all from the South Col on this 50th anniversary day of the 29th of May.
Generally a little aside I would like to put in. When it's very windy, and one has to heed nature's call and do number two, one does so in a plastic bag in a tent vestibule. Yesterday, I made the mistake of thinking I could do it outside behind a rock, and I almost frostbit every attached part of my body as a result of it in the 50 knot winds. So live and learn. Hopefully that will be the last piece of stupidity that anybody has to do on this climb.
So long for now.
Wednesday May 28th PM, 2003. Everest South Col, Nepal.
Greetings everyone out there. This is Luis calling from the South Col.
I'm incredibly touched and moved by all of the well-wishers, both climbing partners, both clients, friends, neighbors and family that have called in to give their support and love. I am currently at the South Col after pushing from Camp II to Camp IV yesterday. Felt very strong. Felt very good in spirit. It felt like the right thing to do to come up here, and rejoin the team that I had worked so hard with for two months. After taking a hike into Tibet today, sitting down having a long talk with some dear friends up here that are also guiding, I've decided to join my team for the summit push. While some people might think this may be irresponsible of me strength-wise, I know in my heart that I'm surrounded by some of the finest guides as well as clients in the world, and we will not make any mistakes when it comes to frostbite, snow-blindness or too high of winds.
Thank you for your support! I send my love back to all of you wherever you are. Thank you for your thoughts, and know that in honor of Karma's spirit, I will try to go to the summit for his family. Because he, like I, was up here just simply trying to do my job. So til later, this is Luis from the South Col telling everyone back home much thanks, much love, and hopefully the next time I talk to you will be from the summit. South Col clear.
Hello friends and family, this is Vern Tejas with Alpine Ascents.
We're pinned down at the South Col at 26,143 feet above sea level. We have good spirits all the way around, seem to be in good health. Everybody is looking forward to climbing, however, as you know, we are pinned down by high winds, and we've just made the decision not to go on the 29th, the 50th anniversary, due to high winds. We've seen lots of friends in other groups coming down with frostbite and horrendous stories of high winds, rock fall, and it just hasn't been pleasant. So we're going to put it on hold for another 24 hours. Fortunately we have food. We have water. We have fuel. We're rationing out our oxygen at this time, but like I say, we're all in very good spirits. I think when the winds die, when the jet stream moves to the north, we will have our opportunity in the next couple of days. So, stand by. Hang in there. Keep praying for us.
This is ciao for now. Vern signing off at the South Col.
Hey Cybernauts, this is Vern Tejas from the very windy South Col. We're getting hammered by 50 knot gusts. We're pinned down in our tents. We're going to wait, hope, and keep our fingers crossed for a break coming up this evening. It was forecasted by several agencies that we should be getting a break. It doesn't look like it, but we've got our fingers crossed. Please, you cross yours as well...(radio breakup) ...we'll make the call. If it's windy then we'll wait until tomorrow. Please stand by, and stay tuned. We'll be back with you later.
Pray for some calm.
Ciao for now.
Wednesday May 28th PM, 2003. Everest South Col, Nepal.
(Note: This is an INITIAL report from Base Camp, much of it has not yet been verified)
Sorry to wake everyone up this morning with more sad, bad news. First of all, it's not our team. They are all doing well at camp 4. It's a bit windy so they are in the tents more than they are out, but I know people have been out and walking around. I should be doing a radio call and cybercast with them soon and will add any news on to this.
The first bad news is that one of the big Asia Air MI17 helicopters crashed here at base camp this morning. Yes, most of us bc people were watching. I'm starting to ignore helicopters lately because there are so many of them, but this one came in very low over our camp (rattled our tents pretty good) so I stuck my head out. It did, in fact, go on down to the helipad at the lower end of base camp, but it came in wrong (maybe hit a rock???) and just slid down sideways into the river that runs out of bc. Many people went to help immediately. The big problem was to get the thing shut down so it didn't slice someone up. One of the army guys finally got the job done. As usual, it has taken a while to piece things together. Among the first on the scene once again were Willie and Damien Benegas, who were just packing up to go home. Willie came up a while ago to say goodbye and told me more about it. He says there were 8 people inside and as far as they know 1 trekker that it hit. They were right there to pull people out and start first aid. At first he was sure there were many dead, but we are starting to get word that most of them survived (at least for now) with only 2 dead. The good news is that a small army helicopter was also circling base camp when the first one went down. It set down right away and got at least 2 people off to the hospital really fast. Shortly after a large army MI17 came in and took most of the rest, so they got people to Kathmandu really fast. The big thing seems to be head injuries, since no one wears seat belts. There is already lots of talk about only allowing rescue helicopters into base camp rather than this daily cargo stuff. Anyway, all of us have been pretty rattled by this. As I've said all season, it was only a matter of time. Additional info: we think this helicopter was supposed to be picking up Ang Gelu, who just set the speed record at 10 hours 57 min. It was just landing, so he wasn't on it yet. As far as we know no Sherpa climbers on it.
The other sad news is that yesterday a Nepali soldier from the Indian/Nepali army team took an unroped crevasse fall at the top of the icefall entering the Western Cwm. We also hear he was a ways off the beaten path. I'm still not clear whether it was above camp 1 or below, but I believe below because one of our Sherpas, Lakpa Nuru (Gelek - who frost bit his finger) was doing a carry to bring some stuff down from camp 1. Seems none of the Indian team folks could deal with it so it was Gelek who ended up going down in the crevasse to check. Of course it was fatal. And again the sad news is that no one seems to care. So far I haven't even been able to find out what the guy's name was. The Indian army was packing up and planning to leave the same day it happened and it never even slowed them down. They were out of here as fast as ever. The other appalling thing for us was that Pemba Ringee Sherpa, who has worked for us for many years and is one of "our" Sherpas (also Tsering's brother) was working for the Indian army this year. He had already summited Lhotse this year, and was the first person to summit Everest from this side this year - important for the Golden Jubilee. They really wanted him down in Kathmandu for the Golden Jubilee celebration on May 29, but first he had to do two carries down from camp 2 (reasonable) but then had to go back up today to help with the body recovery. Last night he told us he was supposed to go up today for the body, then be in Namche by tonight so they could fly him to Kat. What's wrong with these people? I think it finally worked out that they sent a helicopter to base camp to pick him up, which of course got in just after the one that crashed.
So things up on the mountain are ok but still dealing with wind, while pretty shaky here at bc.
That's all for now, Ellie
Wednesday May 28th PM, 2003. Everest South Col, Nepal.
It's 5:30 pm our time and I just closed down the radio talking to the south col. The first excitement was getting our antenna aligned so I could talk to them properly. They are at just enough of a different location that we were not able to communicate very well. Good old Vern had the brilliant idea to turn our base camp antenna around to point toward Pumori instead of up the Western Cwm. Sure enough we got the bounce and our communications have improved dramatically. And the good news for the team is that I can now talk to them while they are in their tents rather than having to walk out toward the edge in the wind and cold.
The bad news is that it is still blowing. Several weather forecasts have indicated that the winds should be dropping at any time now, but I guess someone forgot to tell the wind that. The guides have discussed the matter and have decided that if the wind doesn't drop by about 8:00 pm they will postpone their departure for 24 hours. They tell me they have plenty of food and fuel, and will go on half oxygen rations if they have to.
I will be talking to the team again at 8:00 and will make another report at that time.
Tuesday May 27th PM, 2003. Everest South Col, Nepal.
Hello everybody from the South Col, 26,000 ft., almost 8,000 meters here. Eight hour trip up today (editorial comment from Ellie: I thought 6:00 am to 6:00 pm was 12 hours) was alternately hot and breezy. We got up here and the forecasted 45 knot winds were in fact a reality. It was a challenge putting tents up, but we're all snuggled in, we're all eating dinner at this point, and we're all suckin' Os at this point. So we're all looking forward to a rest and recovery night and a rest and recovery day tomorrow to prepare for the summit. Let me tell you though, it is windy and cold up here at 8,000 meters at the South Col. That's all for now.
Tuesday May 27th AM, 2003. Everest Camp III,
Greetings to everybody down there and a good morning to you. It is just after 6:00 am in the morning on the 27th of May, our local time, and we are reporting to you from the Alpine Ascents Everest Expedition from camp 3 at about 22,600 ft on the Lhotse Face. We had a great dinner last night. Everyone had very good appetites. We had soup, and hors d'ouerves of crackers, pepper salami, cheese, we had rice with chili con carne over the top, several rounds of hot drinks. And then I don't think it was cerebral edema but as soon as we turned on our oxygen I heard angels in the background singing "hallelujah! hallelujah!" (Note from Ellie: Willi is really giving me the spelling challenges this time!) We all spent an excellent night on oxygen, everybody's in good shape, good spirits, and we're rarin' to go to go to the South Col. Right now we're packing up, preparing for our Sherpas to come up and help us do the move, and we are outta here. It's another little windy but sunny day here on Mt. Everest and we're looking forward to touching 8,000 meters today.
Monday May 26th, 2003. Everest Camp II,
Greetings everyone at home. This is Luis calling. Lhakpa Rita and I are back at camp 2 after a couple of long and strenuous days with the evacuation of Karma Sherpa. From the last cybercast you all know the outcome of that terrible tragedy. But Lhakpa and I are back up here and intend to re-join the group who are safely tucked in at Camp 3. I'm going to try to join the group tomorrow heading to camp 4, so I'll try to go from camp 2 to camp 4. Lhakpa seems to think I can do it, and if he thinks I can do it I'm willing to give it a shot. Willi and Vernon have just approved the plan, saying if I need to stop at camp 3 I can. Grandpa always said that when you start a job you finish it, so that's what I'm going to try to do. All the Sherpas here at camp 2 are pretty excited to be here. They're really excited to get the ball rolling and be heading for the summit. According to the weather window it looks like we're exactly where we need to be.
So until tomorrow night at the South Col, this is Luis wishing everyone a pleasant afternoon.
Monday May 26th, 2003. Everest Camp III,
Hello all you folks out there in cyberland, this is Vern Tejas with the Alpine Ascents Mt. Everest expedition. We're reporting from high on the flanks of camp 3, at 23,643 ft. above sea level. We've had a wonderful day today. It dawned clear and bright and a little bit brisk. The wind made it so we didn't have to sweat all the way up the hill. It was quite brisk in the fact that there were no mosquitoes around and frostbite was on our mind. However, we got a bright early start and felt really strong coming up the Lhotse Face. All members have reported that they felt much stronger than their first time here. We've just nestled in, cooking up some rice and some chili con carne and everyone is enjoying soup and just laying back in the late afternoon sun in our tents. We're looking forward to heading up the mountain to our high camp tomorrow. Just keep your fingers crossed that the weather stays on our side. The jet stream has been reported to be heading toward Tibet and we're very anxious to move up the hill.
So thank you for keeping us in your prayers. We're thinking of you as well.
Ciao for now. Goodnight from camp 3.
Sunday May 25th, 2003. Base Camp,
Editor's Note: The team held at Camp II, as all who advanced have been battered by wind in a very difficult year. So we feel good in our decision to be patient. Following the rescue (see below, amazing story). All team members are doing well, thankful of their decision to rest at II given the poor weather that has been brutal to those who went up earlier...plan is for III tomorrow, summit on the 29th
As all of you following along on Alpine Ascents/Mountainzone know, our team has been at camp 2 for quite a few days, watching the weather, but also the vast carnage coming down from the south col. everything from frostbite to snow blindness. We were feeling good about our decisions to stay put for a few days and simply be spectators to the circus coming down the hill. Yesterday morning, our world went from spectator to participant. After breakfast with Willie and Damian Benegas (dear friends from Argentina that just returned from putting up a bold new route on Nuptse, alpine style, no oxygen), we were lounging in the sunshine, and making fun of Willie for all the gear he dropped on the climb. Then something caught our attention, a Sherpa being helped downhill by the arm by another Sherpa. Given all we had been seeing the past few days this should have been nothing out of the ordinary, but this was different. As this guy walked, he moaned in pain, and struggled to breathe. Upon reaching right below our camp he sat down and refused to move. Willi, Willie and I hustled down to see what was up.
Upon arrival we saw that Karma, the sick Sherpa was not just tired, but in serious trouble. his oxygen saturation was fine, his pulse was a little high, but, "his stomach", he said, was "very, very bad". Upon hearing this and realizing that one Sherpa would not be enough to get him to base camp, I proceeded to get him fluid with sugar and salt mixed in trying to combat dehydration as his friend said, "no eat, drink, shit or piss for 3 days" The rest of the guys got on the radio to try to find extra Sherpas to help him down. no one responded, not only did no one respond but when Karma's (The Sherpa in question) team's base camp manager begged other teams for help, she was flat out refused. Karma's leader, an American man, was stuck on the south col, snow-blind with a dead radio. At this point it was obvious to all of us that we would have to be the team to run the rescue. (Editor's note: It should be emphasized that the lack of a response was not an indication of a lack of willingness by any party to help, rather a lack of available personnel at the time of the incident to assist in a rescue attempt; Luis and the others were in a position where they were the only ones available who could possibly attempt a rescue). Being so close to leaving for our summit attempt, we chose how we would go about this very carefully. After getting karma to drink a liter of sugar and salt water, we agreed that Lhakpa our Sirdar, and a few of our Sherpas at camp two would get him to Camp 1. And at that point after working the radios some more, we were hopeful that a. Karma would recover a bit with a loss of elevation and b. we would get a bigger team moving up from base camp to help.
We could not have been more wrong on both counts.
I was, at this point, feeling a pull from 2 sides. 1. my job as a guide and responsibility to my team 2. starting to work on someone medically, I was pulled to see the job through. Willi and I agreed that for the time, it was best for me to stay at camp 2 at this point and see over the radio how things would play out. Upon reaching where Willie and Damien Benegas were taking down their camp, Karma had collapsed and was conscious, but unable to walk. Upon seeing this, Willie and Damien knew that they were now a part of whatever would transpire. Putting their fatigue aside from being on an alpine wall for 6 days, they ripped a ladder from a crevasse crossing, got Karma packaged in a sleeping bag and on oxygen, and begun to drag him downhill. by this time we were making some headway on the radios to enlist more help, 3 Sherpas from base camp were coming up with a actual litter to put him in instead of a ladder, and 2 of his own team's Sherpas were on their way downhill from camp 4. Tired to say the least, they dropped their loads at camp 2 and continued down to join in the rescue.
Damien and Willie at this point realized that they needed more western style help. They have limited medical training, and were the only ones that could work the ropes and anchors needed to move Karma downhill. Willi and I started a very serious conversation at this point as to what would be the pros and cons of me heading down to join. realizing that joining in the rescue could cost my summit bid with the team, we reasoned that if needed, I could talk Willie or Damien thru some patient care things if needed, or was it better for me to join as it was found out that out of all the folks at camp 2 that day, I had the most medical training and experience. Right as this thought was being vocalized, Damien came on the radio and said that Karma had lost consciousness, was convulsing, vomiting, and was unresponsive to verbal commands.
Enough was enough.
Willi and I looked and each other, and no words needed to be said. With his eyes, he told me, "go, and do the best you can". As I rushed around Camp 2, Willie was saying that his injectable dexamethazone, had broken, and he needed it, and quick. I don't remember much of packing up at camp 2 and saying goodbye, all I remember, is running. Running at almost 22,000ft. to try and help a man I had never known before this day. I hopped on the radio and told them I was coming. I also requested IV fluid and a prep kit from base camp to be run up by our 2 fastest Sherpas at base. No looking or begging, simply pick our 2 strongest, and send them, fast.
I made it from Camp 2 to Camp 1 in 27min. Don't ask me how, other than I knew that minutes would count, or so I thought. I arrived on scene and quickly administered the dex. I tried to do a secondary survey, collecting vitals and general conditions to relay to Luanne, the base camp doc. One of the problems was, I could not find a pulse, everywhere I looked, it was light and thready, barely seeming to be there, his eyes were rolled up in his head, and to get him to focus on me, I had to rub his sternum with my knuckles, never a good sign. But the thing that let me know that time was of the essence, was that his entire abdomen was rigid, not just tender or firm, but hard as a board, appearing more and more like kidney failure, or septic shock from a perforated bowel or intestine, none of which is good. He had been vomiting bile into his oxygen mask and it took at least all of us to roll him over to clear the mask and his throat. this was not altitude sickness, this was something much, much worse.
We continued to call for more assistance, but none ever came, except the 2 Sherpas I requested, Mingma and Kami. We did however, get more assistance from above in the form of 2 Italian speed climbers. Tired and weary from their speed attempt on Everest, Fabio and Merciel put their thoughts of base camp aside and joined in to help, providing direction on the ropes to manage the travel of the litter karma was on. I would stop the group to check on him periodically, seeing how bad his level of consciousness was. The terrain was too difficult to move fast, most people at these elevations who fall sick are left for dead. period. As I looked at the circle of people around karma, giving everything they had, I realized that these people were not used to failure, or excuses, so we went about our work with the same passion, if we could help it, we would not fail. As the sun set, and the night wore on, we could all tell that karma was getting worse. We were reaching the limit of endurance, doing technical raising and lowering having no less than 5 ropes on him at a time, all in the dark. I was beginning to wonder how to keep all the rescuers safe, as people were losing balance, falling over, and not drinking water or eating food. there simply was no time.
While doing a casual check of his level of consciousness at 7:15 pm, in one of the most dangerous parts of the icefall, Lhakpa, our Sirdar, said "he has passed out again", but shining my light on his face, I knew something was terribly wrong. I pushed all the rescuers aside and proceeded first to rub his sternum with my knuckles, no response. Then I checked breathing and heartbeat, nothing. Then the eyes, as they are truly the window to the soul. Fixed, dilated pupils. At that point we knew that there was one thing left to do. CPR. I began chest compressions as Damien did the rescue breathing. I tried a cardiac thump, Damien and I refused to give up, until a gentle hand on my shoulder, Willie, told me to stop. It was over. I looked up thru the steam coming off all our bodies from the effort and the light from our headlamps and started to cry, we had failed.
Karma Sherpa, 28 years old, was gone. It was agreed that we would secure him there overnight and get to base camp as quick as we could seeing that we were all at that time, beyond the limit of our own emotions and endurance. we silently made our way down the rest of the icefall, watching base camp glow in the distance, and hearing the cheers and laughter of teams finished with their trips, and successful summits achieved. As I walked into our camp with Willie and Damien, a cheer came up from the French camp, not knowing what had transpired. How ironic then that after all that effort, pain, and bold risk for the sake of karma, we had failed. The Sherpa culture has strict rules about cleansing after handling a dead person. juniper smoke, sprinkling with pure water, and throwing rice 3 times into the air. After all this was done, and the weight of what had happened began to sink in, I had a cleansing ritual of my own. I dropped to one knee, and promptly threw up.
As I sit in base camp trying to recover from all the aches of the rescue both of the mind and body, I find myself angry. Angry at the fact that when calling for help, none came, but when his body was brought the rest of the way thru the icefall hordes gathered to gawk. BBC, AP, ABC all set up their cameras. the night before, he was a simple Sherpa in trouble, now, he was newsworthy and all the people in the world showed up for the spectacle of a body coming to the helicopter platform. The Sherpa are our employees true, but they are human, just like us. This did not need to happen. The fact that they are expected to be superhuman at all times sickens me. I have many Sherpa friends that I have met over the years, I would gladly risk my life for them as they do me. Complacency does not count as a modus operandi for an expedition. They are our responsibility as they are here because we are here, no more, no less. The question remains for me, if I can go back up and be satisfied with the reasons for doing so. My team hopes to summit on the 29th leaving me tomorrow to make my decision. This will be one of the hardest things I have ever had to decide. Willi supports me if I choose to stay down, yet the same pull that drew Karma up onto her slopes, calls me still. I have to choose if that call is so important at this point out of respect for him.
May god and lord Buddha hold you in the palm of their hands Karm.
Saturday May 24th, 2003. Camp II,
Team remained at Camp II as much of the staff had to assist with a rescue from another US team. Climbers hope to move to Camp III tomorrow but are still waiting for weather and re-assemblance following the rescue (some of our staff had to return to base camp with the Sherpa who needed immediate and great assistance. The Mountain Zone who oversees the communications is having trouble with some of the dispatch systems so you may need to check both this page and www.mountainzone.com for updates
Saturday May 24th, 2003. Camp II,
Hello everybody out there, this is Willi Prittie from STILL Camp II on Mount Everest.
A lot of people have been streaming down from summit attempts the last couple of days here at Camp II. A few people managed to summit. A lot of people turned back. A lot of frostbite. A lot of very scary stories of extremely high winds in the 40- to 50-knot range. So, unfortunately, we are still in a holding pattern here. The weather forecast that we have, unfortunately, seemed to indicate that for the next several days we're still looking at 50- to 55- knot winds high on the mountain. We're not willing to risk those conditions and any potential frostbite that could mean. We're going to be here still for at least another day or two till we see if there is some kind of break in these conditions.
So, congratulations to those of you who have managed to fight through some very difficult conditions to a very hard-fought summit. We're still waiting for our turn here at Camp II.
Friday May 23rd, 2003. Everest Base Camp,
Yet another day at Camp II. High winds, conflicting weather reports and many climbers on the mountain will force another day of chess and card playing at high altitude. Day 3 at camp II. There was mixed summit success over the last two days but we're being conservative and holding on for one more - our earliest summit attempt day is May 27th...so we're all doing well and hanging on.
G. Janow from Ellie Henke
Thursday May 22nd, 2003. Everest Base Camp,
9:00pm Nepal time
Team remained another day at Camp II due to weather reports and high winds. A formal report should come later but all are doing well, albeit, anxious to move on (including the Sherpa staff) Hopefully a decrease in winds will occur by morning . Unconfirmed: A number of teams (non-commercial) summited yesterday, but it sounds like many were turned back due to very high winds.
Wednesday May 21st, 2003. Everest Base Camp,
Important Addition/Correction to the Potato Pancake Recipe
I just found out this morning: be sure to BOIL the potatoes before grating them up. The Sherpas also peel them first.
Hello from Everest Base Camp,
Let the fingernail biting begin! The team got up to camp 2 yesterday and will be taking a rest day today (May 21). In the meantime, Ang Tsering (the cook at camp 2) told us yesterday that about 300 people were up at the South Col, many with intentions of going to the summit last night. However, we were told by a neighbor here in base camp this morning that all were turned back by wind, so no one has reached the summit yet. Plus a new contingent may be trying to move up from camp 3 today. So it looks like things are starting to stack up a bit up at the Col. It could shake out fairly quickly depending on the oxygen situation for all these people (we know there are at least two large French teams who are not exactly O2 rich). Hopefully no one feels inclined to "borrow" the Alpine Ascents O2 that is cached at the Col.
Today is strangely cloudy and looking like we could have snow at any time - flurries, not anything serious. Our weather reports so far all predict reasonably good weather - low winds and any precipitation is supposed to come lower on the mountain. However we've learned that weather reports this year are not necessarily to be trusted - things seem to be extremely fluky and conditions have been very difficult to predict. The good news is that the monsoon is still far away out in the Bay of Bengal, so at least we don't have that dragon breathing down our necks. We are all hoping that conditions cooperate enough to allow someone to get to the top as soon as tomorrow morning.
As a side note, Ang Gelu, a young Sherpa from Karikhola, set off last night at about 6:00 to try to break Babu Chiri's speed ascent record of 15 hours, 56 minutes from base camp to summit, but as far as we know Ang Gelu was turned around by the high wind. His departure from base camp was eerily reminiscent of Babu Chiri's departure - people cheering and giving him a good send-off throughout base camp under lowering clouds and spitting snow. In 2000 Babu Chiri actually delayed his departure for an hour while deciding if conditions were good enough. Seems he picked it right as his record still stands.
We have also been watching Willie and Damien Benegas, two Argentinean brothers now living in Salt Lake City, do a new route straight up Nuptse. Seen through our binoculars it looks like they pulled it off, and everyone watched their headlamps coming down well after dark last night. Congratulations to them both - and hopefully more details to follow.
So even though the Sherpas start pulling down the fixed lines and taking out the icefall ladders whenever they hear me say it, this is Ellie Henke for Alpine Ascents International Everest Base Camp.
Sunday May 19th, 2003. Everest Base Camp,
Rebecca Valette emailed us here at base camp with several questions regarding climbing route features, and I decided that if she had questions so did a lot of other followers on the website. We have sent in with this dispatch and batch of photos two photos: One of a sketch of the South Col Route and one photo of a map with the route features and camps drawn in. Many people now have a copy of the National Geographic 50th anniversary map, which I have not seen but is probably very accurate as well as a work of art. Other maps, including National Geographic maps (formerly Trails Illustrated) show some features including base camp in incorrect locations with incorrect routes printed on the map. Many maps available in Nepal have used this data and so are incorrect also.
And now a word about elevation values: A very large and expensive surveying-quality differential GPS would be quite accurate over time in determining correct altitudes, but normal outdoor-quality GPS is not very accurate for altitude readings. That plus the fact that most maps are not based upon data as accurate as it could be in this part of the world means that there will be variations in altitude values if different sources are consulted. This can often be plus or minus several hundred feet, so keep in mind that altitudes listed below are approximate.
Base Camp is located at the extreme north end of the bend in the Khumbu Glacier below Lingtren and Khumbutse at an elevation of just over 5,350 meters (approx 17,600 feet). It is on actively moving glacier ice covered by rock debris called ablation or surface moraine. A moraine is the ground up debris consisting of everything from giant boulders to fine rock powder which a glacier leaves behind. Surface moraine is the debris which is concentrated on the surface of the ice as melting and wasting takes place.
The base camp site is surrounded by giant overhanging ice cliffs thousands of feet above which are formed when a glacier flows over a steep or vertical rock cliff below. Thus we are treated several times per day to "icefall" and ice avalanches from Lho La (La is the local word for pass), from a huge ice cliff between Lingtren and Pumori, and from numerous ice cliffs and seracs hanging off the end of the Nuptse Ridge. And this, of course, ignores the collapses and icefalls which occur every day in the Khumbu Icefall itself. (A brief note: For those interested, the term "serac" in American English climbing terms differs from European usage. For us a serac is a big block or pinnacle of ice sticking up in the middle of the feature of a glacier called an icefall. In Europe, what we call an "ice cliff", a long cliff of ice not associated with an icefall, is also called a serac.)
The route from Base Camp quickly enters the Khumbu Icefall, about which much has been sent in already. The route climbs about 2,000 feet to the top of the icefall and the entrance to the Western Cwm (pronounced "coomb"). The Western Cwm is a very steep-sided ice-filled valley surrounded by the ice and rock walls of Nuptse on the south, and the icefalls and ice cliffs of the West Shoulder of Everest on the north. Camp 1 is situated here at an elevation of about 5,975 meters (19,600 feet) just above the icefall but amidst many large crevasses.
If you have difficulty picturing how and why an icefall forms. think of a river. When the gradient is flat, the river flows quietly. When the gradient of the river increases, the water flows faster and faster, until finally it breaks up into a white-water rapid. An icefall is simply the slower-moving glacial equivalent of a white-water rapid. In the area just upstream where the water (ice) first starts accelerating, a glacier develops a great deal of tension stress. This tends to break the glacier apart into many crevasses on the glacier's surface (around 100 to 200 feet deep, generally). It is in this tension zone at the end of the Cwm where Camp 1 is located, and this presents the greatest hazard on this part of the route. Most of these crevasses are hidden, covered by bridges of snow cover. Where these crevasses form, how big they are, and how strong the overlying snow bridge is only sometimes predictable. Thus conventional mountaineering practice and common sense dictates that we rope up through areas like this. As a survivor of snow bridge failures over completely hidden crevasses over 60 feet across, I can tell you that a rope (with adequate spacing between members) provides for great peace of mind!
About half-way to Camp 2, this zone of heavy crevassing is left behind, as are the ladders spanning the huge crevasses, and the rest of the route to camp is simply a slow, uphill, high-altitude plod, about which we have spoken many times.
Camp 2 is located on a medial moraine at about 6,500 meters (21,300 feet) on the north side of the Western Cwm. A medial moraine is a strip of morainal debris in the middle of glacier ice which marks where two glaciers come together. At the side of a glacier is a lateral moraine (like a little ridge a bulldozer blade leaves behind as it is scraping away at the earth), and when these two lateral moraines come together when the glaciers merge, we have the combination of rock debris and ice on which Camp 2 is located. Camp 2 is likewise surrounded by 360-degrees of stunning scenery: A series of icefall to one side, the southwest face of Everest to the other, and both the Lhotse Face and the Nuptse wall across with its contorted wavy lines of sedimentary rock strata.
From Camp 2, another roped glacial stroll of a couple hours leads to the base of the Lhotse Face and the beginning of the fixed lines (again). The Lhotse Face is an over 5,000 foot ice and glacier face at an average angle of around 45%, and mostly consisted of hard blue ice. Don't fall here! (That's why there's fixed lines anchored to the mountain.) Near the middle of this face at an elevation of around 7,200 meters (23,600 feet), Camp 3 is literally carved out of the ice. No walking around outside here without crampons on and being clipped into a fixed line!
From this no man's land, the route climbs a bit more up the face, then veers left into a climbing traverse to the other side where it crosses the "Yellow Band" a band of yellow sandstone, quite steep and strenuous to get over at about 7,400 meters (24,300 feet). After the yellow band, the way continues up snow and ice fields, and then surmounts the black rock of the Geneva Spur, a huge and very strenuous rock ridge which must be climbed directly upwards. On our summit bid, all of this terrain above Camp 3 will be negotiated while breathing supplemental oxygen. It's still hard!
Once the top of the Geneva Spur is attained at around 7,700 meters (25,300 feet), it is a long but gentle traverse across rocky terrain to get to our high camp, Camp 4, in the South Col at about 7,960 meters (26,100 feet). From here we can see the majority of the route of summit day itself, including the ice bulge, literally a bulge of glacier ice just above the South Col; the triangular face (just that and made of both ice and rock); the balcony a diagonal ledge which leads to the top of the southeast ridge at about 8,300 meters (27,300 feet), and the South Summit of Mt. Everest at 8,749 meters (28,700 feet). The route on summit day has two cruxes: The first is the long steep mixed rock and ice section of southeast ridge just below the south summit, and the second is the Hillary Step, much shorter (about 20 feet) but steeper, harder and higher at about 8,800 meters (28,870 feet.). From there, we hope it will be a short stroll on gentle terrain to the top of the world!
Then, of course, it's time to come home.
Willi Prittie Base Camp Mt. Everest, 19 May 2003
Sunday May 18th, 2003. Everest Base Camp,
Hi there everybody out there in Mountain Zone land. This is Luis Benitez reporting back, from Everest Base Camp.
We all arrived back in Base Camp this afternoon to a light falling snow and the rumblings of teams being at Camp II and various places on the mountain. We're excited to be back and we're excited the final push has finally begun. But we've also been checking the weather and are seeing that no forward fixed rope activity has happened above the South Col. We're a little discouraged by that, but we're somewhat hopeful that tomorrow will bring better weather, lower winds, and the opening of the first summit window.
There are teams up there, poised and ready, and we're waiting for the larger groups to get out of the way so our summit day will be less crowded. So, right now we're resting, eating, and happy to be back in Base Camp. Tomorrow were going to be working on oxygen systems, as well as getting our own personal equipment ready, and keeping an eye on the weather.
Everybody's spirits are high, everyone is feeling really good. I think we all gained a few pounds down the valley, so we're all excited about that. And we're also looking forward to getting back on Ong Chu home cooking here at Base Camp.
This is Luis wishing everyone back home a good evening!
Friday May 16th, 2003. Tengboche,
This is Vern Tejas for the Alpine Ascents Mount Everest Expedition. Well, we have wonderful news for ya'll. Today is Buddha's Birthday. We celebrated it by visiting the Tengboche Monastery, which is a 20 minute hike from our wonderful lodge here at the Ama Dablam Gardens.
We're in the middle of our Russian Recovery, if you will. A technique developed by the Soviets during their great forays into the mountains of the Paramirs. They discovered that if you stress your body, then you need to recover and that's exactly what we're doing.
After the big stress of going to Camp III several days back, we have now dropped down valley. We're now at the Ama Dablam Garden Lodge at the base of the Tengboche Monastery hill, at 12,143 feet above sea level.
The nice thing about being here is the rhododendrons are out in bloom, there are many animals out to amuse us, and a lot of birds for the birders in the group. There is a lot of green vegetation along with cows, ponies, deer... it's just wonderful to be down and back fully involved with life once again after being in the black and white scene of the upper mountain.
We are refilling our bodies with liquids and plate after plate of wonderful vegetables, fried rice, and momos. We also had a great experience at Tengboche where we had homemade cinnamon rolls. [Satellite phone garbles and drops the call]
Tuesday May 13th, 2003. Pheriche,
Good Morning everybody there at Mountain Zone! This is Willi Prittie reporting from Pheriche for the 2003 Mount Everest Expedition for Alpine Ascents. We started what we call our drawback yesterday. We're on our way down to Deboche at just over 12,000 feet down in the forest so we can recover. The whole purpose of a drawback is to try and recover from the incredible stresses of high-altitude climbing. It's very hard on everybody physically to be climbing and finishing the acclimatization process. So by dropping back to a lower elevation we can recover physically by eating very well and by sleeping very well. These are important parts that are very hard to do up high, especially as you spend more time higher up on the mountain.
You recover psychologically because it's a world of difference to be down in the world of green growing things ≠ forest and animals and birds ≠ again. It really helps to sustain your effort later on, on the mountain. And the third thing I also think is very important is a spiritual recovery from being high on the mountain. And that varies quite a bit from individual to individual. Obviously Nepal being a Buddhist Country here in the hills with the Sherpa culture, the spiritual value and the spiritual aspect of climbing are very important and I think that's something that all westerners need to think on a little bit, too. To ensure they have the proper attitude to coming to these mountains.
So, that is our entire purpose for this drop back. To recover, to rebuild our ambition, our strength, all those sorts of things, and to prepare for the final challenge ahead, which of course will be climbing to the summit of Mount Everest, we hope.
It's a beautiful morning here in Pheriche, we have a stiff breeze blowing, high cirrus clouds, some clouds coming in from the North, so we're probably going to get another cloudy, rainy afternoon down in the valley here. But for the moment it looks like we're going to have a spectacular morning of walking down through the highest mountains in the world, you can see Cho Oyu, the fifth highest mountain in the world to the forest in Deboche where we will spend the next several days. Also a highlight of the drawback will be fresh cinnamon rolls in Tengboche.
Sunday May 11th, 2003.
Everest Base Camp,
Special Bulletin for our Trekker Friends:
News Flash: We have a reliable report that Rod "Pasang" Stewart has been sighted at Camp 2. Not only was he wearing the ash blonde wig, but was also reported to be wearing a "eurodog" windsuit of many colors (fuscia, turquoise, yellow, etc.) I told Willi, "Take a picture". (Kind of like a yeti sighting, no??) We'll see if he delivers. For the rest of the world: During our trek back to Lukla after leaving the climbers, Pasang, our faithful sherpa friend, companion, and problem solver, appeared one night wearing an ash blonde "pixie cut" (I guess - what do I know about these things?) wig. He claimed it kept his head warm, but we decided it made him look like a rock star. Apparently he's still wearing it from time to time.
We also hear that the Indian/Nepalese Army team is keeping their eyes peeled for sightings of Indian film star Rikti Rosen (formerly known as Luis Benitez, who is a dead ringer for Rikti). We never pulled it off, but last year we thought it would be fun to send Luis up the mountain wearing a white sequined windsuit with matching cape to see how many Elvis sightings were reported.
Anonymously from BC (since Luis will personally kill me when he reads this),
Additional Bulletin: Think you're fit? Don't try this at home! Today at least two of our sherpas (Mingma and Kami Rita that I know of, and there may be more still arriving) left Camp 2 this morning and climbed to Camp 4 at the South Col carrying loads. They left the loads there and then descended to Camp 3 in the middle of the Lhotse face, where they picked up a load of tents and personal gear left by the western climbers. From Camp 3 they then carried the gear to Camp 2, where they decided that they really would rather spend the night at base camp. When I saw them at base camp it was about 4:00 p.m. and Kami and Mingma were happily sitting in their tent watching the card game in progress. They didn't even look tired, although I can guarantee they really were. I'm sure they'll sleep well tonight.
Sunday May 11th, 2003.
Everest Base Camp,
Hello in Cyberland, Today is May 11, and in Base Camp that means that some expeditions are starting to climb the walls instead of the mountain. You see, every year there are some expeditions who just want to get to the top early and then get out of here. And the definition of early means sometime around the 10th of May, which is NOW! The problem is that finding the right weather "window" for a summit attempt is never an easy task, and this year for the early summiters it is particularly difficult. Here in base camp almost every expedition has at least a computer and a satellite telephone, so each expedition is receiving at least one weather report (and sometimes more) to help them in their decision making. Right now we know of several expeditions, including the Indian/Nepalese Army expedition, a South African group, and at least one French team, who are gazing into the crystal ball and trying to decide which is the magic date to try for the summit. Unfortunately for them, right now the jet stream is tweaking around with them a bit. I know of at least four different weather reports that expeditions are receiving. Most of those reports agree that the jet stream is lurking out there like a giant dragon. The problem is determining how soon and how strong it will strike. Some of the reports say that the next few days will be ok; other reports are saying "get off the upper mountain NOW!" The big question is "Which is it?????". (How much do you trust your weather report at home? Got any picnics planned?) So, you can see why some expeditions are well on their way up that nervous wall. Folks at home, you can help! Just double over your fingers and start chewing your fingernails right along with the folks here at base camp.
Luckily our Alpine Ascents expedition is not yet involved in the fingernail biting. Our turn will come in another week or so. At this point our team has just finished the usual miserable first acclimation night at camp 3 and will be heading back to base camp tomorrow (the request has already been submitted for Ong Chu's delicious cheese/potato momos for lunch), followed by a delectable journey down the valley for a few days of rest, recovery, and thick air after their efforts up in the lofty heights. I'll let the team tell you about their tossing, turning, and gasping for air all night in their next report (it's all normal, folks - just part of the acclimation process that allows them to go to the summit). (It's also why we sane people don't go up to those places.) Anyway, don't get carried away with the nail biting. Save some for us! We'll be needing it just as much as those other teams when our turn comes.
So even though the team decides to stay clipped into those fixed lines for a little while longer whenever they hear me say it, this is Ellie Henke signing off for Alpine Ascents International, Everest Base Camp.
Saturday May 10th, 2003.
Everest Base Camp,
Hello Mountainzoners, It has come to my attention that our illustrious guide staff has been remiss in their cybercasting duties, and that they failed to report the departure of Alex Bright from the expedition in a timely manner. I know a lot of you out there have been following Alex's progress on the mountain and rooting for her success, and it is a disappointment to a lot of us that she has decided to call it quits. Alex came to realize what a difficult task it is to climb a mountain like Everest, and how physically demanding it is just to climb up through the icefall to camp 1. There is a lot of talk these days about being able to pay your money and "buy your way to the summit", but Alex would be the first to tell you that just isn't true. This mountain demands a high level of physical and technical skill to even get started above base camp. Alex was able to climb successfully through the icefall, but realized that the effort needed to continue the climb is enormous. So she has decided to abandon this adventure, and get on with new adventures in her life. Of course we all wish her well in her future undertakings, and I for one will miss having her female companionship on the expedition. Now I'll really have to get out the whip and chair to keep these guys in line.
So, Alex, here's a big hug and congratulations for the success you did have on this mountain. It takes a lot of courage to start an adventure like this, and just as much to know when to end it.
Ellie Henke, Base Camp Manager
Friday May 9th, 2003.
Everest Base Camp,
Hello again in cyberland, While the team's away the BC mice will play - and here at base camp that can mean only one thing: SHERPA POTATO PANCAKES! Yes you read that right. You see, Sherpa potato pancakes take quite a long time to make, so it's hard to make enough of them to feed the whole group. But as soon as they are gone - YUM! Here's how it goes : (Ong Chu says these are instructions to feed two people) The ingredients are: 4 or 5 medium sized potatoes, 2 eggs, enough flour to make the thickness of pancake batter
The first step is to grate the potatoes. The secret is that they have to be grated really really fine so they come out like mush. Many Sherpas say that commercial graters that you can buy in stores don't really do the job right, so they make their own graters. Recommended is driving the fine point of a nail through a metal plate over and over to make many little holes and rough spots. I don't think the potato mush actually goes through the holes, the potatoes just get more or less liquefied. I suspect your average kitchen blender would do the job, but I have yet to see one of these in the Khumbu.
Next, mix in the eggs and flour and fry in a frying pan just like the pancakes we know. The Sherpas make them big so one pancake covers the entire bottom of the frying pan. It's finished when it's cooked and brown. The Sherpas make them of a consistency that does hold together. If they fall apart the batter is too dry (too much flour).
Now for the magic touch: the sauce. We westerners are used to eating sweet things on our pancakes (syrup, jam, honey, etc.) In typical Nepali fashion, the Sherpas go for spicy. The closest I can come to describing the sauce is to tell you to buy an individual yogurt size container of sour cream. Into that mix ground/grated up fresh hot red pepper to taste. If you like hot, go for it! I don't know if the blender would work for grinding the peppers, or maybe a mortar and pestle. The Sherpas do it the basic way grinding the peppers with one rock against another. Experiment.
When the pancakes are hot and ready, spread with nak (female yak) butter and the special sauce and enjoy. Believe me, it's GREAT. I'm almost ready to not let the team come back down just so we can have them again soon.
So even though the team deserts camp 2 and comes tumbling back down the icefall to get in on the pancake feed whenever they hear me say it: this is Ellie Henke signing off for Alpine Ascents International, Everest Base Camp (Burp!)
Thursday May 8th, 2003.
Everest Base Camp,
Hello Mountainzoners, Yes, after another false start yesterday the climbing team and the Sherpas are finally headed up the mountain for real today (Thursday, May 8) for their acclimation trip to camps 2 and 3. We'll be hearing of their adventures directly from them, but in the meantime I thought you might like to hear what goes on in base camp when the team is away.
Although the team seems to think that we base camp folks sleep the time away, I can assure you that that is not the case. Willi thinks he was the first one up this morning, but really it was Ong Chu and the two Lhakpas up dark and early at about 2:00 am to begin boiling water and getting breakfast ready for the team. Willi rolled out at about 3:00 am to talk on the radio with Ang Tsering at Camp 2 (who also had to be awake at that hour to talk on his end). After five straight days of wind and an aborted attempt yesterday everyone wanted confirmation that the wind had indeed stopped blowing up on the mountain. Ang Tsering assured us it was a go, and that he was "ready for the team to visit." So ignoring Willi's cries of "everyone out for volleyball", Ong Chu woke the rest of the team shortly after 3:00 and I got up as well to join them for toast and dudh chai (milk tea) and to see them off promptly at 4:00. Yes, it's still dark at 4:00 although you can start to see a faint milky color in the sky through the Lho La.
After everyone burned a little juniper and threw blessed rice at the Puja altar we base campers watched the headlamps disappear into the dark folds of the icefall - while stomping our feet and blowing on our hands to keep warm. I don't know how cold it was, but I was wearing my down parka, down pants, and even then my feet were getting cold even in Sorel pack boots. Brrrr! The Sherpas weren't up yet so I dove back into my lofty down sleeping bag until 5:30 when I heard them preparing to leave. By that time it was light enough to see what we were doing as we gave them their send-off at the Puja altar with admonitions to "climb safe."
For me today is a "radio day." Everyone is climbing up through the Khumbu icefall, which means I monitor the base camp radio full time until everyone arrives safely at where they are going - in this case Camp 2. I settle myself in at the base station at about 6:00 a.m. and soon get word that most of the team is arriving at the top of the "popcorn", a particularly broken section of the icefall. Perhaps I should define "settle in" a little better. Yes, the radio is on, but I'm pacing around trying to keep my feet warm. My hands grip cup after cup of dudh chai for inner and outer warmth. But I'm also enjoying the spectacular morning light on the surrounding mountains and glaciers. This place is truly amazing and beautiful.
His chores finished, Ong Chu has gone back to bed and is thoroughly ensconced in his sleeping bag and snoring lightly. Finally around 7:15 the sun hits. Warm relief comes within minutes. I have a bowl of cereal, adjust the solar panels, and settle in at the computer to "send and receive" e-mails. I'm saved! Gordon has re-sent all the e-mails that were mysteriously lost yesterday. Now that they will get their mail my head will remain on my shoulders when the team returns.
Now that it's warm and the business of the day is finished I really do settle in next to the radio. Finally I have a chance to do a little quilting. I don't work on the "mani quilt" in the communications tent because it's too big and would drag on the dirty floor, so I have a back-up project. I'm also piecing "Carolina Lily" blocks for a quilt for our cabin in Alaska that hasn't been built yet. (I know, I know, Alaska and Carolina are a long way away from each other, but I like the pattern). It's anyone's guess whether the quilt or the cabin will be finished first.
While I'm sewing I also help keep communications on the mountain going. Willi, Vern, Luis, Lhakpa Rita, and Thapkee all carry radios but as they move through the icefall and the Western Cwm they can't always hear each other if they are down in a gully or behind big ice seracs. My base station is stronger than their hand-held radios so I frequently act as an intermediary to make sure everyone knows where the rest of the team is and that important communications are heard by everyone. Actually, it's kind of nice to be at the "nerve center" and know what's going on up there.
In the meantime Lhakpa, Ong Chu and Lhakpa Tamang are on rock duty. Base Camp is located on the rock and rubble covered ice of the Khumbu Glacier. We have had some days of sunshine, which melts the ice and leaves rocks large and small sitting on pedestals of ice that keep getting smaller and smaller as the melting continues. The small rocks we don't worry about too much, but the large ones can wreak havoc if they tip over into a tent. So one base camp chore, as well as entertainment, is tipping the rocks over in a controlled fashion so they don't hurt anything. Usually everyone is involved, but today it is just the two Lhakpas.
Speaking of ice melting, the glacier has also been moving. I have been watching one small crack open up in the ice right outside the communications tent and another one getting started next to Matthew's sleeping tent. These aren't big crevasses - just routine cracks that won't hurt anyone - but it is fun to watch the changes. In a way they are actually beneficial as they also act as channels for running melt water. Better to have the water go down the cracks than into someone's tent.
4:00 p.m.: The final people are arriving at camp 2. I realize they've been climbing for just about 12 hours, almost the same as climbing from the South Col to the summit. It's a good thing they have a rest day tomorrow. In the meantime the clouds have come in and snow is starting to drift down, although they say it is still ok up at camp 2. As they have soup and hot drinks I'm shutting down the radio and preparing to dive into the warmth of my sleeping bag with a hot water bottle. I suspect tonight we will have an early dinner at base camp so we can all make up for the lost sleep of two early morning starts in a row.
So even though Ong Chu leaves the sauce off the momos whenever he hears me say it, this is Ellie Henke, Base Camp Manager, signing off for Everest Base Camp.
Thursday May 8th, 2003.
Everest Base Camp,
Hello in Cyberland from the AAI Everest Expedition, Well, that nasty old jet stream finally moved north into China and gave us some reasonable weather. It was a beautiful day today. We called our cook, Ang Tsering, at camp 2 at 3:00am and he said it was "dead calm, please come visit!" Because we had a previous stay at camp 1 we decided to do a bypass this time, feeling we were acclimatized enough to go right on through to camp 2. Walking through camp 1 was quite an experience, seeing all the skeletons of tents left after the previous storm. Taking advantage of the excellent weather, we made good time to camp 2. It made for a long day, but with help from our Sherpas we rolled in in time for a late lunch. After gobbling all the goodies we made for the sleeping bags and took a nap. The team is doing well considering the big push and we are certainly tired, so tomorrow we will have a rest day at camp 2.
Stay tuned for further adventures. Love to all,
Wednesday May 7th, 2003.
Everest Base Camp,
Viento, hawa, wind, whatever you want to call it, it has stuck us here. Some say the biggest game in climbing is the waiting game. I say they are right. You can only eat so many jelly beans, read so much of your books, and visit so much with neighbors. Now is the time of the season that people start to get cranky (even the chess players are looking a little irritable).
Up at 3 am today we sat after a quick breakfast to listen to Camp II tell us over the radio that the winds were higher than yesterday. We waited for an hour, falling asleep in the kitchen, around the heater, dreaming of either going back to bed, or getting on the road, or beaches in Thailand... wait a minute, that was my dream... anyway, suffice it to say we are still here at Base Camp, hoping to leave tomorrow early again, to get to Camp III in the next few days.
Not much else to report. Know that all of you at home are in our thoughts as you always are, for without your support and love, we would have surely gone coo coo by now. So hopefully our next report will be from Camp II enjoying the sunset. Till then, Luis
Tuesday May 6th, 2003.
Everest Base Camp,
Hey there Internetsters, Here we are and here will stay until the wind has gone away. Well sort of, the wind is supposed to drop tonight through tomorrow. Our plan is to hit the trail up the Icefall bright and early, emphasis on early. The magic is to start at 3 am with breakfast, quick pack and a short trek into the Icefall. We expect this to be a big day as we want to go all the way to Camp II. So with that in mind, we have busied ourselves with eating and relaxing. We have organized our gear down to the bare essentials in order to move quickly through the Khumbu and the [Western] Cwm.
Base Camp has been a hive of inactivity, with many climbers waiting for the weather to improve. The lines at our local cybercafe are long. Fortunately, there have been no recent power crunches as the high winds drove away most of humidity so it's been clear and sunny. All the solar panels in Base Camp are digging the ample free energy. Of course wind energy has also been in great supply of late but few teams are set up to take advantage of it.
We appreciate all the letters that have been pouring in, they have been a nice diversion from the waiting game. Not to mention no small consolation when we feel so far away and out of real touch. Thank you all. Our thoughts and love are with you. We know you are with us.
Monday May 5th, 2003.
Everest Base Camp,
Happy Cinco de Mayo everyone! The Alpine Ascents team spent Cinco de Mayo once again hanging out and waiting at Base Camp. But today, fun and games at Base Camp had a background reality: the freight-train wind howling over peaks and ridges thousands of feet above us reminded us always of why we were here instead of above. It was even windy and cold in Base Camp, but nothing like the maelstrom churning just above us as the jet stream winds tear through the highest mountains on earth. (We are talking of winds in excess of 50 meters per second or around 120 miles per hour blowing over the summits.) Ang Tsering reports from Camp II lots of damaged tents. Our Sherpa staff there even dropped The North Face VE25 tents and slept dorm-style in our new Camp II cook tent as it was solid enough that there was no chance of it blowing away! (Thanks again to El Montanes of Mendoza Argentina, this time from our Sherpa staff!)
So we all passed the day awaiting a better mood from the weather gods. Some listened to music, some played music, some played with computers, some worked out on a slack line, and of course we all ate plenty, especially at our Cinco de Mayo Nepalese-Mexican dinner! (Thanks Ong Chu!)
We'd all like to say a special thanks to Tina Clarke of New York, James Clarke's sister, who has been supplying us with lots of classic song lyrics via email to keep a good part of Base Camp entertained during our evening jam and singing sessions! I knew we brought James along for some reason!
We hope within a couple of days to be on the move again, but until then, the expedition waiting game continues here at Everest Base Camp.
Sunday May 4th, 2003.
Everest Base Camp,
So you know how delicious that breeze is as you sit by a pond? Or perhaps under a giant elm tree? Ahhh, that cool refreshing wind. Soothes, calms, even entices.
Except if you are on Everest.
Ever try to cook chicken stroganoff in an 80 mph wind? We did. Last night. That's not all we did. Around 4pm as tents started to groan and pop under the strain, we dug in, literally. Built a wall around our tents, of snow, to try and lessen the impact of the wind on us. Spirits were high, confidence soared, and we went to bed feeling like conquerors. Ha. You don't conquer anything on this mountain, she tolerates your presence, and if she does not like you, she spits you off.
This morning we got spat on, hard.
Right about the time our cook tent started bursting at the seams, a radio call with Willi at base confirmed that not only were the winds not stopping, they were going to get bigger before they stopped. As Vern and I made the decision to descend back to Base Camp, Jean Michelle came to us to inform us that, um, his tent had simply torn apart.
Enough is enough.
We packed quickly, walking back down through what, as James said, "ever see photos of the Nevada test site for the h bomb?" tents torn, ripped, or simply gone, leaving a small indentation in the snow where they used to be.
Blown this way and that, we slowly worked our way back down to base, where amidst tea and soup, peering at each other's wind-burned faces, we allowed ourselves a grin, and a joke or two, even if they were on us...
So we are here till the wind abides, all safe, happy, and none the worse for wear.
Saturday May 3rd, 2003.
Everest Base Camp,
Caught with their pants down, they scurried like rats abandoning a sinking ship, and everyone realized the Minnow would be lost if they didn't work efficiently. So, with four shovels and eight men on deck, they rotated and built an 80 foot wall looking like a battleship built out of snow and ice. This sounds like Verns Denali experience kicking in.
Finally, proud of their work, they are sitting inside their re-enforced kitchen tent and enjoying another round of hot drinks.
They are guesstimating the winds to be blowing around 60-70 knots. They are crossing their fingers and hoping their camp will be there in the morning. Unfortunately the weather report calls for at least two more days of continued high winds. So, stay tuned for further events from up at Camp II on Everest.
So, even though the team would rather brave the elements up at Camp I, than stay here in the warm comforts of Base Camp when they hear me say it, this is Ellie signing off at Everest Base Camp.
Friday May 2nd, 2003.
Everest Base Camp,
Hello Mountainzoners! I've just heard from Vernon and the team up at Camp I. He reports they set a blistering pace up the Icefall today and arrived at Camp I within six hours of departing from Base Camp at 4 o'clock this morning. They said the Sherpas had already set up the tents at Camp I and as advertised, the wind was high, just as the weather reports indicated.
It was a great team effort to setup the group tent. And the team was safely ensconced in the tent, casually enjoying dinner, when they realized the storm was increasing. While they were discussing plans to fortify their encampment, suddenly a quarter of the cook tent blew out!
Thursday May 1st, 2003.
Everest Base Camp,
Wow, the start of another month. That's right folks, it's May. What does that mean back home? Flowers blooming, grass growing, off with the winter heavies and on with the summer skimpies! What does that mean up here? Well, for today, we had snow...then more light snow....same as yesterday, same as the day before. But we are staying busy, content with the knowledge that we will be moving up in a few days to try to sleep at camp 3. Then all the way down valley for our rest before our summit attempt. This is what we hope our May will bring us. It might not smell like spring roses, but it makes us happy never the less, come to think of it, nothing up here smells like roses, especially us!
Last night our place was quite the revolving door around dinnertime, the South African team came up for a bite, quite a few of their team are friends with Matt from Jo'burg. Their journalist in residence interviewed a few of us for the daytime talk shows back in Johannesburg. Nice to know our faces will be seen as the sun comes up in Africa. Later the Brown University research crew showed up for tea, they are continuing the same study my team started 2 years ago up here with Erik Whienmayer's expedition.
Jean Michel's banner arrived via helicopter today, he says a big hello to Amy Faulkner's 2nd grade class at Old Mill School in Mill Valley, Ca. Paul also says a big hello to kid one back in the big ol' Alabama, he has been keeping us entertained with lots of Stevie Ray Vaughan cd's at dinner and stories of life in the south. For the rest of the crew, they all just say hi period. To family, friends, assorted pets, horses, and the like. As for me, gotta say hello to all my mom's students as well and tell them to remember that art, and the appreciation of it, is just as important as math or science.
Lots of folks here are getting antsy to get their summit pushes started. Today in fact we had a big conversation as a team about patience, diligence, and traveling with heart, minus ego. We all agreed that we are here to climb safely, slowly, and intentionally. Nice to feel that coming together as a team the closer we get to the summit attempt.
So that's about it from here. As usual Willi and James are engaged in a deep chess match, others are off reading books, listening to music, visiting neighbors, and generally getting ready to go up in a few days....so until later, hopefully from up on the mountain, this is Luis wishing everyone back home a pleasant afternoon.
Wednesday Evening April 30th, 2003.
Everest Base Camp,
Hey there cybernauts, this is Vern Tejas with the Alpine Ascents Mount Everest expedition report. We're here in Base Camp and having a great time at 17,143 feet above sea level. It's been snowing and the weather has been rather inclement and that's the way we like to plan things, take our rest and recuperation when the weather is miserable and then climb when it's beautiful. It helps to have friends in high places. Again it costs a little more to go first class but it's well worth it.
Today was filled with chess battles between the French and American team. And goodness gracious it's been a tight race and the board ahs been a flurry of black and white chess players and everybody has been enjoying the entertainment. Also today Matthew came back! Matthew has had some bronchitis and he went down to Pheriche a town that's several thousand feet below Base Camp in order to recuperate. And we're happy to report that after three days of rest and recuperation down below that he is back with us and feeling strong and fit and looking forward to going up.
It was also a day of music. Guitars and playing of the cds, everybody's enjoyed that a lot; it's one of the things that our team is known for. We have musicians coming in from around Camp to jam with us and play harmonicas and guitars, Bodhran, which is an Irish traditional drum. So we're looking forward to more of that it keeps us occupied on these rather miserable days with the snow coming down all day long and very little sunlight.
Stay with us and check in later, we're going to be here for a while waiting for the weather to get better so we can go up to try our next acclimatization up to Camp III. So stay tuned and ciao for now!
Wednesday Morning April 30th, 2003.
Everest Base Camp,
As per standard Alpine Ascents practice, we would like introduce our Sherpa staff for this 50th anniversary season (that's 50th anniversary of the first ascent of Mt. Everest by Ed Hillary and Tenzing Norgay). Amongst our guide staff this year we are fortunate to count 10 previous ascents of Mt. Everest. But as usual, it is amongst the Sherpa staff where the real experience level resides. The stats are impressive: 22 previous summits of Mt. Everest, 92 previous expeditions to Mt. Everest, and 23 expeditions to other 8,000-meter peaks. Few climbing expeditions truly acknowledge how key a good Sherpa staff is to a safe and successful expedition. Often, the Sherpas do the bulk of the work, and the foreigners bask in the congratulatory climate after a successful summit. Without a good Sherpa staff and Sirdar (who is the chief of staff of the Sherpas and is really the person who makes everything happen) there would only be about 10 percent of the people who in the past have summited still able to summit.
The following are individual descriptions of the experience of our Sherpa staff for this year:
Ong Chu: Our chief cook and the best cook in the Khumbu. Good food and lots of it is key to any successful expedition, and we have that in spades.
Tshering Dorjee: 31 years old and married with two daughters aged 4 years and 2 months, Tshering has summited Everest 4 times during his 8 expeditions to the mountain. He also has multiple Cho Oyu expeditions under his very capable belt.
Lhakpa Nuru is 30 years old, married with no kids, and has 3 Mt. Everest expeditions to his credit.
Nima Sherpa is married with an 11 year old son and and 8 year old daughter and has been on 3 Mt. Everest expeditions as well as numerous treks and smaller peak climbs for Alpine Ascents.
Gopal Magyar is our Sherpa staff cook here in Mt. Everest base camp, but he is a familiar figure to members of other Alpine Ascents treks and climbs as chief cook.
Mingma Tsering is a fixture on many Alpine Ascents trips, with 4 Mt. Everest summits to his credit on 12 expeditions to Everest, as well as expeditions to Cho Oyu and Manaslu. He is 30 years old and married with a son of 3 years and a daughter of 5 years.
Ang Pasang is a 57 year old veteran of 10 Mt. Everest expeditions, plus Annapurna, Dhaulagiri, Manaslu, Cho Oyu, Shishapangma, along with numerous other "smaller" peaks in the Himalayas. His has a wife and 2 sons aged 26 and 13, and also has 3 daughters aged 25, 19, 17.
Pemba Nuru is 50, married with 4 sons aged 18, 14, 12, and 7, and 2 daughters aged 15 and 4. He has been on 3 Mt. Everest expeditions.
Pemba Tenzing has 2 Mt. Everest expeditions behind him, as well as expeditions to Lhotse, Lhotse Shar, and Makalu. He is 27 years old, has a son of 2 and a daughter of 4 along with a lovely wife.
Pemba is 48, married, and has 3 sons of 16, 13, and 11 years, and 2 daughters of 17 and 9 years. He has 6 Mt. Everest expeditions behind him as well as expeditions to Manaslu and numerous other smaller expeditions.
Mingma Dorjee is 32 years old and has 5 Mt. Everest expeditions behind him. He is married and has 2 sons of 11 and 8 years old and 2 daughters of 12 and 9 years old.
Tsheri has summited Mt. Everest once on 3 expeditions, and has also been to Cho Oyu and Dhaulagiri. He is married but with no children.
Kami Rita has summited Mt. Everest twice on 3 expeditions, and is married with 1 daughter aged 2. He is 26 years old.
Thapke (Kami Rita also) is Lhakpa Rita's brother and is 33, married, has a son of 4 and a daughter of 1 1/2. He has summited Mt. Everest 6 times on 15 expeditions to the mountain. He has also expeditions to Cho Oyu, Manaslu, and Annapurna to his credit.
Jangbu is 24 and married with no kids. He has 3 Mt. Everest expeditions behind him.
Ang Tsering, while not a climbing Sherpa, has tremendous experience as such. He now fulfills a more critical role for us as he is our Camp 2 cook. His food amazingly rivals Ong Chu despite laboring under the handicap of cooking at an altitude of over 21,000 feet! On Alpine Ascent's 2002 expedition he spent over 40 days continuously at this elevation both cooking and caring for the tents during storms.
Pasang Tenzing is 29 and married with no kids. He has been on 4 Mt. Everest expeditions.
Lhakpa Rita is an integral part of Alpine Ascents programs on 3 continents, so far. He lives in Seattle, Washington when he is not guiding in Nepal, Alaska, Washington, or Argentina. Lhakpa is 38 years old with a beautiful wife and 3 children; 2 daughters 14 and 8 years, and a son 12. He has summited Mt. Everest 5 times on 14 expeditions to the mountain. He also has expeditions to Manaslu, Dhaulagiri, Annapurna, Makalu, and multiple trips to Cho Oyu to his credit.
Karsang, Lhakpa Ong Chu, Lhakpa Tamang, Nuru, and Nawang Gelgen are all our assistant cooks and cheerfully keep us supplied with tea, water, and food even in the most inclement weather.
As an interesting ethnic note, Lhakpa Tamang is a "Tamang" not a Sherpa, and Gopal Magyar is a "Magyar" not a Sherpa. The Sherpas are the most well-known and famous of the highland tribes or clans of Nepal, but there are numerous ones throughout the Himalaya and the Tamang and Magyar are two others.
In conclusion, here are a few more statistics for those inclined: Just over 300 yak loads were used to establish base camp here on the lower Khumbu Glacier. Each yak carries 30 kilos on each side or 60 kilos (132 lbs.) total. That translates into just over 7 tons of equipment and supplies. This would be equivalent to over 600 porter loads. Plus during the duration of the expedition we have yak trains come up about every week to resupply base camp with things such as kerosene, fresh fruit and vegetables, fresh meat.
At the beginning of the expedition we must ship into base camp about 125 4-liter cylinders of Poisk (Russian-made) oxygen to ensure that we have enough for all expedition members should they all be able to make it to summit attempt. This is no small task in its own right as it must all be air freighted from Russia via several different airlines with several stops and transfers in Asia.
Putting on a proper expedition to the world's highest mountain is truly a monumental task which takes a large team of people working cooperatively, many behind the scenes.
Willi Prittie Everest Base Camp 30 April, 2003
Tuesday April 29th, 2003.
Everest Base Camp,
Greetings to everyone out there this is Willi Prittie reporting from Everest Base Camp. Yes the Alpine Ascents International 2003 Everest Expedition is still at base camp and today we are glad of it. A rather dreary bone-chillingly cold snowy day today, it snowed all the way down the valleys to below Pheriche. Reports from Ang Tsering at our Camp II suggest almost a meter of fresh snow up on the upper mountain. Here at Base Camp we've only had a few inches but its been persistently snowy and cold and damp this day. So we've been very happy to hibernate still continuing our rest cycle from going up the mountain the first time to Camp II.
Also we've heard from Matthew Holt, he actually three days ago went down to Pheriche to get to a little lower elevation and thicker oxygen and recover from some bronchitis. He says he is doing much better and is planning on coming backup to Base Camp tomorrow so we're excitedly looking forward to the reunion of our team here at Base Camp.
We're hoping that this weather will actually improve in the next couple of days and we can be thinking towards making our second go around this time as far as Camp III for acclimatization on the mountain. As it stands right now however there are a lot of people at Base Camp and we're all making do with playing cards playing chess, playing musical instruments, hanging out and just waiting in general for Mama Nature to cooperate. So that's all on this day from Everest Base Camp and we hope that the weather will allow us soon to report a lot more than simply sitting around on a rest and acclimation day.
We are sending a photo for the website of Ellie's "Mani Quilt" especially for the trekkers who were unable to see it at Everest Base Camp. This "quilt" has been three years in the making and is inspired by the many mani stones and rocks seen throughout the Buddhist Himalaya. It is all hand sewn, and all characters are made of home-dyed fabrics. The Sherpas in particular have taken great interest in this project of Ellie's and have watched it unfold since its beginnings on the 2000 Alpine Ascents Everest expedition. Willi
Monday April 28th, 2003.
Everest Base Camp,
Greetings all, Quiet day here in Base Camp. Lots of rest, card games, chess with neighbors, (Willi found a helpless French skier to prey on this afternoon), not to mention the fabulous Indian food I got to enjoy with my friends from the Indian army. Not often that you get to eat with a Major, Colonel, and Lt. Colonel! Hanging out at the medical clinic with friends, (chocolate does wonders for free Advil from your buddies), and watching our Sherpas gamble (I have never seen soo much excitement over playing with coins, obviously all for fun and not for financial gain) and cut each others hair thru the afternoon hours...quite a fulfilling day.
Right now we are all snuggled into our dining tent listening to Miles Davis, chatting with friends from other teams that have come to visit, and getting ready to eat dinner as the snow falls softly outside... a few more days of this, and we will all be ready to head back up the hill to try for Camp III.
Till then all of us here are talking about home, family and what our hearts are missing so far away...
So till tomorrow, with hopefully more of the same of the above, this is Base Camp signing off for some amazing tomato soup.. Luis
Sunday April 27th, 2003.
Everest Base Camp,
Hello there Cybernauts, Our first foray onto the mountain came to a close today. We spent the last two nights at Camp II, approximately 21,143 feet above the sea, in order to start our high altitude acclimatization program. It seems to be working, as most every team member was able to sleep through the night without too much discomfort. We arose at the veritable crack of dawn this morning and were on the trail by 6:00am. This is prudent when descending down through the notorious Khumbu Icefall for it allows for a safer passage than traveling in the heat of the day.
Believe it or not, there is a tremendous temperature swing induced by the sun's radiation. It will be seven degrees in the shadows of Everest and when the sun comes out the temperature can soar easily into the eighties. This thermal shock can un-stabilize the large blocks of ice that form the Icefall that our route passes through. So we want to get down through the precarious mess as early and as fast as possible. Fortunately, the team is moving well and we were able to descend in six hours. It is actually fun to move fast, aided by gravity rather than fighting it as we have for the last several days.
Then there was an ominous rumble. The radios cracked. It was Willi. He was bringing up the rear when a serac of blue ice tumbled down less then rope length away. He moved quickly and decisively. Injury was avoided yet the message was clear, this is a wild and dangerous place, beware.
We were greeted by Mingma Dorjee twenty minutes from Base Camp, carrying fresh fruit and a kettle of cold juice. The pause that refreshes. Then it was showers and shaves all around followed a scrumptious lunch. We all enjoyed receiving mail from home. Then we spent the rest of the afternoon resting and answering mail. This climbing can be pretty rough.
Thinking of you all, Vernon
Saturday April 26th, 2003.
Everest Base Camp,
Hello out there in cyberland, this is Elle calling from Everest Base Camp. It's Saturday, April 26, and I've once again talked to the team up at Camp II. Where, this evening they are enjoying clear, crisp weather, and a beautiful evening alpenglow. An afternoon snow flurry deposited about two inches of snow around Camp II. The team reports that the snow is not a problem, and has actually made the whole area up there absolutely beautiful. Highlighting the sedimentary rock strata that lines the valley, and making things glow in the evening light.
Today the team roped up and headed up for a tour of the upper Khumbu Glacier. They set out towards the bergschrund, the huge crevasse where the Khumbu Glacier actually separates from the bedrock, up at the head of the Lhotse face. So, they actually have a look on farther up the valley, where they'll be going on future trips up the mountain.
Early reports are that everyone is feeling well. There were a few headaches overnight and some Chain-Stokes breathing, which is alternating between not breathing at all and then gasping for breath. But, generally the crew is feeling well, and these symptoms are pretty normal for the first night up at Camp II.
Willi reports that they've had visits from the neighboring Canadian, French, and Indian Army neighbors. And that it's quite the social scene at Camp II, with folks visiting back and forth from one camp to another. Tents are much closer together there than at Base Camp, so it's very easy for people to make the rounds and check up on each other.
Apparently Willi is still taking a beating at chess, at the hand of James. The increasing altitude has not helped Willi out yet, and James is still winning these games. So, Willi still has hope that as they move on up the mountain, that altitude will prevail and maybe at the upper camps, he'll be able to win.
So, in the meantime, the group is putting on their down suits as the sun goes down, and they're appreciating those Mendoza Tents there at Camp II. So, even though Vern flinches and straps his crampons on the wrong feet whenever he hears me say it: This is Elle reporting from Base Camp.
Thursday April 24th, 2003.
Everest Base Camp,
Greetings everyone out there. This is Willie Prittie reporting from Everest Base Camp. Firstly, I am still at Base Camp after starting up for Camp I again this morning, at 4.30am. But we turned back, Bob Murphy decided he would withdraw from the expedition. He feels he gave it is best shot, but wasn't strong enough. The entire team is saddened by his withdrawal, as Bob has been a very fun person and a truly wonderful human being. We all however respect his decision greatly.
At Base Camp today, a beautiful flawless blue sky gave way to clouds and snow, and the largest grapple I personally have ever seen. A grapple is a little Styrofoam like pellet which results when a snowflake falls through a cloud with a great deal of super cooled water vapor, and it's heavily lined. These things were three-quarters of an inch in diameter. I've never seen anything like it anyplace in the world.
Other news from Camp I, Vernon Tejas reports to all cybernauts out there, that the team's pull through the Icefall yesterday was completed in a very timely fashion. All of us are always in awe of the forms in the Icefall, natures other worldly beautiful ice sculptures. The fantastic spires and towers which we call seracs, and the icy blue depths of cracks which we call crevasses.
Arriving at Camp I, they report as arriving at a tent city at almost 20,000 feet on the glacier. The multi-colored international collection of tents apparently spread out for almost a kilometer along the trail of the snow covered upper Khumbu Glacier.
Today, Camp I reported a clear, calm, cold dawn, followed by a walk partway up the steep walled, high protected ice valley known as the Western Cwm (pronounced 'koom'). This "walk" of course involved lots of continued clanking of ice axes, crampons, and mechanical ascenders amidst the huge crevasses and icefalls the Western Cwm is famous for. As they progressed upward, Nuptse and Lhotse, the fourth highest mountain in the world dominated their view.
Finally Chomolungma or Everest itself, made its appearance from behind the west shoulder dominating all. The climbing sun turns this ice valley into a solar oven on clear calm days like this one. So the team took a rest break to cool off and enjoy the views. The views of Camp II, Camp III, the South Col, and the summit, which we all hope is our destination in the next month of this expedition.
Stay tuned for more from Chomolungma!
Wednesday April 23rd, 2003.
Everest Base Camp,
Greetings to everyone out there. This is Willi Prittie reporting from Mount Everest Base Camp. The entire team left this morning. We started out at 4:30 this morning under a beautiful clear starry sky and half moon. We successfully traversed the first complete climb of the Khumbu Icefall up to Camp I. Bob Murphy and I however turned back part way up. Having some bad days here and we're going to actually start out tomorrow morning and go on up and be reunited with the rest of our team at Camp I at about 19,700 feet.
The party at Camp I tonight relays down best wishes and love to all friends and relatives that are checking into the cybercast. Everyone did very well, traversed the Icefall in very good time up there. It's now about two hours after dark, and as you can well imagine at nearly 20,000 feet, everybody is well ensconced in their sleeping bags with hot water bottles. [Satellite phone garbled out the rest of the message...]
Tuesday April 22nd, 2003.
Everest Base Camp,
Greetings everyone, today marks hopefully, the last of our rest days for the next week or so. Tomorrow, bright and early, we plan to head up to Camp 1. So what does that mean? Tea at 3:30am, departure at 4:30am. why do we do this? To avoid the heat of the day hitting us in the icefall. The waiting has been good for us. The time has allowed the sniffles of many to pass, the stomach aches of others to run their courses, and the icefall to be fixed and ready to use. I myself have been busy playing computer repairman to our neighbors the French. How someone that failed, yes failed, typing in high school actually got a whole teams sat. phone and computer system back up and running again is beyond me. The food I actually got to consume while over there was out of this world. Foie Gras, wine, Olives, prosciuto, you name it. Got to know the team and remaining film crew well. Then today, much to our amusement, they arrived in our camp, to say thanks, (I got a beret, and while I have never actually owned a beret, Vern thinks I look good) eat some chocolate chip cookies, (that's right, no foie gras compares to good ol' home cookin') play a little guitar, and simply talk of climbing, goals, good books, and things we all miss about home.
The rest of the day was spent packing and planning (Jeff to me, "Luis, what do you think about the mp3 AND the game boy?" Me to Jeff, "Jeff, only if you bring the Legend of Zelda.") Most of our meals are spent in hot political debate given the world issues at hand right now. Today however, was more focused on how many socks to bring, what gloves are warmer, and just exactly how cold is it at 3am? (my answer to everyone, "DAMN CHILLY!") So expect to hear from us via iridium phone from up on the mountain. we will try to send photos back down to base camp to process while we are up there so you all can see what we are up to. Who will be here to send the photos you ask? Why Ellie, our base camp guru has finally arrived after dropping off the trekkers in Lukla. We are all excited to have "mama" back among us making sure all the boys behave themselves and to give Alex some much needed female companionship that actually speaks English. So till later, everyone here wants to make sure that everyone back home, from London to Canada to the USA, knows, that we all love you, are thinking about you, and carry thoughts of you up the hill with us. hi ho, hi ho, its off to work we go.....Luis
Monday April 21st, 2003.
Everest Base Camp,
Hey Cybernauts, last night's Easter Party had little to do with our decision not to climb into the Icefall today. Even though we had a raucous good time with two guitars a strumming and blues harps wailing, weather and psych kept us out the Icefall. And good thing too, but first about the soiree. Our friend Bruno from the French team came over to play vintage country and western tunes on my Martin guitar. Rob and friends from another team brought over their guitar as well. It was then we discovered our own "Brother James" has a gift for improvising blues lyrics. So with guitars and my own blues harmonica backing him James ripped off an amazing rendition of "Everest Blues". This was all captured on camera for French television, possibly several different channels. Cool. Even cooler the French broke out some fine French wine to go with their Foie gras. Fun was had by all and we were in our sacks before the moon came up.
Fortunately, we had already decided to not try to go to camp one. There was a massive serac fall this morning that not only obliterated part of the route but wrench two Sherpa off of a ladder and threw them into a crevasse. One brave man suffered a broken back while the other was severely shook. A team of rescue Sherpa evacuated the two men down through the towering seracs and debris to base camp where they were timely flown to Katmandu by helicopter. This drive home the point to all that Khumbu can be quite a risky passage and we will have to be on guard when the route is soon reestablished.
Patience is a virtue, and we hope that our waiting will bode well for us. Thank you for your warm thoughts and words of encouragement. You are in our thoughts as well. To our safe and successful climb, Vern Tejas
Sunday April 20th, 2003.
Everest Base Camp,
Good evening to everybody out there following this Alpine Ascents International 2003 50th anniversary expedition! This is Willi Prittie reporting from Base Camp. Yes, I am finally back at Base Camp, with Jeff, who has regained his health and we're both going to be raring to go here soon.
Base Camp has been a pretty entertaining place here the past couple of days. We've been having some nice ad-lib musical jam sessions, thanks to numerous musicians and the international groups around us. We're surrounded by a Belgian expedition, a French expedition, an Italian expedition and also an Indian and part Nepalese military expedition. So, we've been doing lots of DVD and music exchanges while we're putting in some acclimation time here at Base Camp. We're also getting in some ice climbing practice as well as a few other new things.
On the weather front we were actually glad we were not up on the mountain here yesterday, they had a low pressure trough go through with very high winds at Camp II, lots of tents blown away. I am however happy to announce that the tent that Lhakpa and I had custom made in Argentina, a very large, sturdy, Camp II cooking and dining tent for the Sherpas and dining tent for ourselves, was apparently unaffected by all the winds that were going on up there.
So, that's hardy news from above on the mountain, and for our part we're still waiting to see if we have this upper acclimatization and health... [satellite phone audio becomes garbled from here on out...]
Saturday April 19th, 2003.
Everest Base Camp,
gasp....pant....wheeze.....step. step. gasp.....pant....wheeze.....are we there yet? how hot can it get? These are some of the thoughts running through our heads as we headed up into the actual icefall today....heat, getting used to fixed lines..... and all the downhill traffic coming from camp 1. We arrived back in camp in time for lunch and to realize, that yes, a rest day, a true rest day, was is order for tomorrow. So that is exactly what we have planned. showers, shave, good food, music, and airing out the socks...so today was eventful, fun, and yes, a little scary going across those ladders....so more tomorrow, as we hopefully sit in the sun, and ignore the forecast for 3 feet of snow...till then, Luis.
Friday April 18th, 2003.
Everest Base Camp,
Hello this is Luis Benitez reporting from Mount Everest Base Camp. Today was a great day working in the ice fall. We huffed and puffed and wheezed through the heat, and across more rickety ladders to get some more practice and some more altitude experience under our belts. Everyone was in high spirits and fine form, we got back to Base Camp in time for a great lunch, rounds of showers, and lots of reading and cozying up in the tents.
The news today is that Willi and Jeff had finally joined us, and now we're waiting on Elle to come on up and join us after dropping the trekkers off in Lukla, and then well be a whole team again.
So, other than that, the bell just rang for soup, Base Camp is slowing down for the day, and the sun is setting nicely.
This is Luis wishing everyone back home a very pleasant evening.
Thursday April 17th, 2003.
Everest Base Camp,
Hello there cybernauts. We were able to refresh our rope skills today. The Khumbu glacier near our camp is a fabulous place to practice all the techniques that we are going to soon need. We strolled amongst the ice ships till we found a 30 foot wall with a flat top. We scrambled up and installed two anchor systems from which we hung two ropes over the ice cliff. We rappelled over the edge using several methods of descent. Then we climbed up with crampons and ascenders. Even I was a bit rusty at first but after several rounds there was marked improvement through out the team. The trick is to relax and use efficient technique. And the more one does it the smoother it gets. This will pay off high on the mountain.
The afternoon was filled with showers, reading and exploration. It's a treat to live in such an international village. Fascinating people who love the outdoors all living together for many weeks. We are trying to create map of this highest town on earth. So going from tent to tent to ask where there from has proven to a great social activity. I spoke with folks from 15 different countries make this quite a cosmopolitan place.
The team is now sleeping well and headaches are a thing of the past. We are all looking forward to going into the base of the icefall tomorrow to try our luck on the crevasse ladders. So stay tune for further adventures.
Wednesday April 16th, 2003.
Everest Base Camp,
Off to work we go.... day by day, bit by bit, life here at chez Base Camp gets more and more settled. Last night Matthew and I went to have a pleasant dinner with his friends on the South African team. Amazing conversation and pizza. Today was all about review, review of rope systems, ice axe usage, how to hit someone on the move with a snowball, and lastly, how to practice crossing ladders in leather shoes, blindfolded, backwards...no joke!
As the snow fell this afternoon, we all challenged each other to see who could cross the ladders with the most style, Matthew did it with a rock on his shoulder, Vern did it 2 by 2, Bob ran, Paul crawled, I went blindfolded (thanks to all that work with Erik Wienmayer 2 years ago!) then the French team showed up to try to out-do us, Lhakpa our Sirdar, went across in Tevas...on and on. thank god this ladder is 3 feet off the ground and allowed us to play around.
Bruno found out that he will be in the New York Times as the 1st actual customer at the cyber cafe here at Base Camp...what is this world coming to. For myself, I spent the afternoon reading, drinking tang, catching up on my journal, and dreaming of Thailand. Whoops, too soon for that. So we are as set as we can be to begin our work on the mountain. Tomorrow perhaps might be yet another rest day, before heading up, up, and away.....till then, Luis
Tuesday April 15th, 2003.
Everest Base Camp,
Hello there cybernauts, We're all sitting around the dining hall this evening playing Scrabble, reading romance novels and generally enjoying each others company. I've been tormenting the team with my trying to learn to play my Martin guitar. Fortunately, they have so far remained extremely tolerant. This is remarkable considering the paces we guides put the team through earlier today.
Yes, today was Ladder Day. We lashed two ten foot ladders together to form a 18 foot bridge over a near by pond. This was to simulate one of the many typical crevasse crossings we will face in the days to come. After a brief demonstration of how to correctly walk across the bouncing narrow ladder we made everyone walk the plank. At first it was mellow, boots on the rungs and bare hands on the safety lines. All scrambled across with a fair amount of panache. Then we raised the bar. Now, with crampons and our first victim of the Ice pond. It should be said that balancing on a flimsy ladder over ice water while trying not to snag one of your ten spikes on a rung is a good challenge. We then added to this difficulty, gloves, mittens and for the ultimate test, a thirty pound pack. More victims for the pond. But as the day wore on there was a marked improvement in the teams ability to navigate the wobblly crossing. And of course this was our goal. Look out Icefall here we come.
Yesterdays base camp group photo may be viewed on everest-2003.org. So take a look and see us in the lower right corner of the group just behind the tea table.
Hey, Bruno just made history by being the first customer at the worlds highest cybercafe which just arrived by yak train today. Ciao for now Vern Tejas 143
Monday April 14th, 2003.
Everest Base Camp,
Puja. To the average person this word means nothing, a jumble of letters, symbolizing little more than perhaps a spell check mistake. To us climbers and the Sherpas that will work with us up the mountain, this name symbolizes the beginning, the blessing, and the hope. the hope above all for safety, teamwork, and a request to the powers that be, to watch over us closely as we make our way up the hill. The past day or so has been hectic to say the least. Arriving at close to 18,000ft. and trying to set up your bedroom, living room, communications room, storage room, kitchens, etc. Without our Sherpa staff, we would be lost in this process. Right about the time you feel like you have a handle on your own little world up here, then comes the puja, the time when we all come together as one. There is a lot of symbolism in this process. There is the tsampa flour spread across our faces to show our connection with the snows of the mountain, the copious amounts of beer and chang, the local brew, to purify our souls before we start up the mountain, the raising of the puja pole with the prayer flags strung out 5 different ways, to watch over our camp, and represent the 5 different color flags that stand for earth, fire, water, wind, and snow. Each time the wind blows our flags, the tung la, or spirit horse, carries our prayers written on the flags up to the heavens. I for one never feel like it is quite real until I can hear the soft flutter of the flags over camp. After all this, we retreat to the shade of our tents to sleep off the beverages, (the lucky ones only drank coca cola!) and continue to dream of the mountain, family, loved ones, and what the future holds.... till later, Luis.
Sunday April 13th, 2003.
Everest Base Camp,
Hello everyone. Well, we finally made it to base camp. A very beautiful stroll up the Khumbu valley on a unusually clear day gave us our first glimpse of this multi-colored encampment that we now call home. We are nestled close to the base of the Khumbu Icefall at 17,526 feet. We explored base camp today which is one of the most high tech yet backward little villages in Nepal. It is an international fraternity of mountaineers. And though we may have our subtle differences, we over look those for our higher common goal. Drawn from the four corners of earth, this highly motivated and focused group casts politics and persuasions aside to share the camaraderie of climbers. Indeed we have left the cares and concerns of the world behind.
The team is doing well dealing with the mundane trials of altitude. A few light headaches and restless sleep, but all are happy to be here. We are looking forward to our coming Puja ceremony when we'll pray for the safety and success of our endeavor. We are missing our loved ones back home and appreciate all the good thoughts you've been sending our way. Know we are thinking of you now that we are soon to begin the actual climb.
To a safe climb, Vern Tejas
P.S. We will send photos when power considerations allow. I can see 143 tents from here, it'll make a great shot.
Friday April 11th, 2003.
Greetings cybernauts, this is Vern Tejas with Alpine Ascents' Mt. Everest 2003. Today is a rest day in the big town of Lobuche, there are about 5 maybe 6 buildings here. We are at an altitude of 16,143 feet above sea level. Today we parted trails with our trekkers. They went on to Gorak Shep where they are going prepare themselves to go to Base Camp and then return down valley. We're taking another day here just to make sure that we are acclimatized. We went out a did a little exploring in the general vicinity and were treated to some fabulous views of the upper Khumbu Valley, we could see mountains all the way into China, it was quite a nice hike.
Now we are taking the rest of the day off and just kind of recuperating and resting and getting acclimatized. A couple of our members are a little under the weather seems to be with colds, but everyone is psyched that we are heading to Base Camp tomorrow. So stay tuned when you can catch the next updates from Base Camp at Mt Everest. Bye for now.
Thursday April 10th, 2003.
Greetings everyone from Lobuche at an altitude of over 16,000ft. The team is in high spirits and looking forward to some rest here in town, if you want to call 4 lodges, 3 yak huts, and assorted tent cities a town. Tomorrow the teams will separate for a few days as the trekkers make their way higher to a village called Gorak Shep, (even smaller than here, the last outpost on the way to base camp), and the climbers will stay in Lobuche, resting, eating, and preparing for the final move up to what will be our home for the next few months.
Sad and disturbing news is making its way down the hill to us from base camp. word of a French climber already perishing from high altitude sickness, as well as a cook from another team, has us all contemplative and thoughtful, this is why we take so much time to travel to base camp at a safe pace, to allow our bodies to adjust. With the crowds this year to celebrate the 50th anniversary, trouble like this is to be expected, however, we have all made a pact with each other and ourselves to avoid the craziness at all costs. I for one, coming over the hill towards the memorials above Tugla today, reflected on just how respectful you need to be of this place and these mountains. When you stop paying attention, or honoring exactly where you are, is when things go wrong.
But for now, Vern is on the fiddle, Willi is still desperately trying to hold his own with James at chess, Bob just finished the last of the smoked salmon (damn!) and I am content to be up here back among friends, and among these mountains that I hold so dear, so until later, this is Luis and Ellie who just walked in to help me send this off, wishing everyone back home a pleasant day, (and a warm night, considering the dropping temps here!) Luis
Wednesday April 9th, 2003.
Hello there Cybernauts, This is Vern Tejas with the Alpine Ascents Everest team.
A clear calm dawn broke on our new day. The night at the famed Ama Dablam Garden lodge was wonderfully restful. Well, that is if one was able to sleep through Matt's falling out of bed at two in the morning. As part of our acclimatization process our cook Ong Chu (the best cook in the Khumbu) is trying to fatten us up for the ordeal that lies ahead. Despite the fact that everyone has a healthy appetite, there have been several protests of too much food. Is it really possible to gain weight at 14,143 feet above sea level. This will be an interesting experiment.
A handful of team members dropped in on the Deboche Nunnery for morning chants and a hot cup of Tibetan salt tea. This is definitely an acquired taste. Then it was lighting of ceremonial candles and some Rupees in the collection box before we were all on our way up the beautiful Ija Khola river valley. An attack by an insane snarling Yak added a bit of excitement to our trek and hurried us along the trail. Lunch was ushered in by the trekkers marching and singing in unison for their food. " We're the best trekking bunch, now we're ready for some lunch" You get the idea, we had to feed them to make the singing stop.
A leisurely five hours on the trail brought us to the fair mountain village of Dingboche. The Sonam Friendship Lodge shall be our home for the next two nights as we acclimatize to this new elevation. The team is adapting well to the thinner air yet it is prudent not to push to hard early in the game. It'll be challenging enough in days to come so the best thing for us is to work on building a sound foundation. To that end we will plan an altitude seminar and a light day hike for tomorrow.
Thinking of our loved ones back home we thank you for joining us.
Team member Dr. Paul Obert wishes the best to Birmingham and all the Alabama supporters of "Kid One Transport". As the Kid One banner progresses toward the summit of Everest we thank you for helping these needy children.
Monday April 7th, 2003.
Hello to family and friends and other interested persons out there following this 2003 Everest climb. This is Willi Prittie reporting for the Alpine Ascents program from Deboche in Nepal. We did our hike from Namche to Deboche today and we're staying at the Ama Dablam Garden Lodge. We had an absolutely beautiful spectacular weather day, this is becoming the norm for us here it seems on this trip. It's amazing to be walking through the Khumbu and having 360 degrees almost every place we go, the beautiful views.
We've had some minor intestinal upsets and a few snuffles but thanks to modern chemistry and cipro, sudaphedrine, and Echinacea, we've been able to keep all those under control and everybody seems fine at this point. Our high point physically today was Tengboche at about 3860m or 12,680 feet. Perhaps also the high point spiritually was at Tengboche visiting the Gompa or monastery there, the very famous Tengboche monastery. We were able to observe Buddhist Monks and Lamas performing a pm chanting accompanied by Tibetan horns and drums and cymbals. It was quite a show for us and just sitting quietly with closed eyes during one of these sessions can be a very, very peaceful thing in its own right for one. I for one certainly enjoyed it and I know that many of the other expedition members did as well.
A few other things going on here. We've met a few of the Outdoor Life Network cameramen here in Namche acclimatizing. It seems as though they have a problem going on, the expedition team is on its way to Base Camp however the filming permits were not in order from the Chinese so they are not allowed to enter the country as of yet. I'm sure there's going to be some very unhappy editors for the Outdoor Life Network when they try to put this whole thing together for their television extravaganza. So we're hoping that all clears itself up for them pretty soon.
Also an emerging pattern with us, vicious hearts games, bloody chess matches, and quick wits crossing swords with other quick wits. In short, what can I say, we're all having a great time here in the Khumbu on the way to Everest Base Camp. That's all for now from Deboche in Nepal.
Sunday April 6th, 2003. Namche,
Greetings all from yes, still Namche. So we have returned to the land of email, doughnuts, and hot showers after a night going 1k higher and spending the night in Thame, home to our Sirdar, Lhakpa Rita Sherpa. The morning was filled with wonderful views, bountiful blessings from the Rinpoche Lama at the Gompa above Thame, and copious cups of dudh chai or milk tea. As the sun softly entered my room this morning, and I sat up gently easing into the day with my 1st cup of tea, I watched my roommate, Vern, complete his last set of crunches, (sit-ups at 6am, the man is a truly dedicated athlete)
After breakfast we headed up the hill to the Gompa, or small monastery for our expedition blessing, this one was a sort of pre-game show to the big puja, or blessing we do at Base Camp with the climbers. The Rinpoche, curiously peered at us over his tinted glasses and asked our Sherpa escort where we were off to, after being told Everest, he calmly looked us all over, smiled from ear to ear, and said, in so many words, be careful! After promising we would, we hit the trail back to Namche.
Stopping at Lhakpa's house to meet his mom on the way down valley, we had yet another cup of tea, sat around discussing just how special the Buddhist religion is, and how much the mountains mean to them. You can see this here as anywhere you look, you are gazing at peaks people only dream of touching, letting alone climbing to the summit. I myself stumbled over my feet numerous times on the way down valley looking up at the numerous undone routes, unnamed peaks, and simple awe-inspiring beauty. We rolled back into Namche this afternoon under building clouds and driblets of rain, making it down in time to beat the weather, and get on the list for the showers. (quite a struggle with a group of 16!)
So we are now spending the evening huddled around the wood / yak dung stove (yes, they burn yak dung for fuel here to save some of the trees, burns hot, and long. We won't talk about the smell) and planned for our move up valley tomorrow to Tengboche. where one of the biggest Buddhist monasteries in the country, let alone the world sits perched on a high hill. I personally am looking forward to staying there as it holds a very special place in my heart. So till then, keep joining us on our journey as we make our way slowly to base camp. But for now this is Luis, wishing everyone back home a pleasant day.
Saturday April 5th, 2003. Thame,
Hello cybernauts this is Vern Tejas with Alpine Ascents Mount Everest Expedition. Today was a day of acclimatization. We left our hotel in Namche Bazaar and dropped down to see the market that goes into effect every Saturday. Sherpas from all over the Khumbu and surrounding areas come down to the big city of Namche where they have a market which is know as 'the Bazaar,' if that isn't bizarre enough. They sell everything from rice to salt to brushes to combs to toothpaste to paper, it's amazing. Folks even come all the way over from the southern reaches of Tibet, it's takes about a week of yak driving to get here but they trade for rice and they bring their salt down and everybody's happy. It's a hustle and bustle of humanity and to walk through it was just amazing, people dickering in three or four different languages.
After a short visit at the market we hiked right through the center of town and out the other side and we went straight west up the Bochi Kosi Valley a beautiful clear water river that runs down from the mountains that form a chain of fantastic peaks up on the border of China. You hike down through a forest of pine and birch trees and got to see a couple of different kinds of indigenous animals; the tar which is like a mountain goat, a couple of those, and also the Ibinian pheasant, which is also known as the Danzig which is the national bird here.
We went all the way up valley to the town on Thame. Thame is the home of our Sirdar and good friend Lhakpa Rita Sherpa, and it's also the home of Apa Sherpa, the man who has the most ascents of Everest, I think 11 or 12 at this count. We've had a wonderful meal and are settling down to playing cards and I'm looking at the stars that are just filling the night sky and it's one of the more remote areas of our trip, it's off the beaten track that the trekkers take and it's just wonderful to get out of the hustle and bustle of the little looming village of Namche and spend it up in the hills.
Tomorrow we're planning on going to the Monastery above town and we're looking forward to that. So we're looking at the stars tonight and from here in Thame at a n elevation of 12,140 feet above sea level, we wish you a good evening and are thinking of you. Stay tuned for further adventures, ciao.
Saturday April 5th, 2003. Namche Bazaar,
Good morning everyone out there in cyberland, this is Luis Benitez reporting for Alpine Ascents International. It's a beautiful morning here in Namche Bazaar after a brilliant light display of thunder and lightning which lasted through the evening. This morning we are changing our scenery and heading to Thame, the town where our climbing Sirdar, Lhakpa Rita is from. We're going to visit his family and visit a beautiful monastery up there, spend the night, eat some good food and continue our acclimatization. We'll give you a call tonight, That's all for now.
Thursday April 3rd, 2003. Namche Bazaar,
Greetings everyone this is Willi Prittie reporting for the Alpine Ascents International Mount Everest Expedition. We are currently at 3,600m or 12,000 feet where we are enjoying a spectacular acclimatization hike today. I just wanted to take a little time and mention that all of our team members both trek and climbing expedition are all here and in good health and enjoying the day.
I'd like to introduce everybody very briefly. As Trekking Team we have: Robert Jones, Margaret Cruzal, Pam Coleman Nicole Haberstich and Larry Shore. And for our Climbing team members we have Jeff Mathy (Take 2) Paul Jean-Michel Valette, Bob Murphy, Bob Charles, Bruno Rodi, Paul Obert, James Clarke, Matt Holt and last but not least, our wonderful Alex Bright.
So we're up here eating being in the Khumbu, and starting the whole acclimatization process so that we can get higher on this thing. And that is the latest from the Khumbu.
And here's a word from Luis: Another year, one filled with amazing potential and possibility as we go up and up and up....yet again, hopefully to the roof of the world. Each year I am amazed at the cast of characters that this place and especially this mountain attracts. Being the 50 year anniversary of the 1st ascent, all the luminaries are coming out of the woodwork, and what a season it promises to be. Among our own little family, we are spending the days up here getting to know one another, getting to know how our bodies do at altitude, and laying all our hopes, fears and dreams on the table. An added benefit to us climbers is that we have a delightful trekking group joining us for the approach to base camp, giving us other faces to see and stories to hear, knowing full well that in a week or so, it will be down to business and getting started with our work on the mountain.
For right now, our time is spent roaming around Namche Bazaar eating doughnuts and scrambled eggs by morning, and taking small hikes in the afternoon, back to the tea house to read, relax and slowly allow our bodies to adjust to life at 11,000ft. This may seem lazy to the average bystander, however, the name of the game up here is not how fast you can move, but how much energy you can store up for those eventful days come late May. Even at this point every little bit helps. We will try to keep all of you back home up to speed as we make our way up the valley towards base camp, and then on up the mountain towards the summit. So till then, this is the Alpine Ascents International Everest 2003 Expedition wishing everyone back home, a very pleasant day, Luis.
Tuesday April 1st, 2003. Namche Bazaar,
Greetings cybernauts this is Vern Tejas with Alpine Ascents' 2003 Mt Everest ascent. Well some of us got in today, flying in from Kathmandu, all the way to Namche Bazaar. Some of us flew in, part of the climbing team and myself. Willi and Ellie and Luis flew into Lukla and Luis has since then ascended to Namche and there are eight of us here starting on our acclimatization. We started a day early just to get a jump on building those red blood cells that are so important at altitude.
The big activity today was watching them unload the helicopter and coming down the hill from Syangboche, you drop down about 500 feet to a beautiful Panoramic Lodge overlooking downtown Namche Bazaar. This afternoon we dropped down to visit some of the shops and eat some apple strudel in the local bakery and drank cocoa until our eyes popped out.
So we're getting started and we'd like you to stick with us for the next couple of months as we work high into the Khumbu and ultimately to Base Camp, we're looking at a couple of weeks before we get there, and then up Mount Everest to the top of the world. So ciao for now and drop us a line.
Friday March 21st, 2003. Seattle,
Greetings everyone, this is Todd Burleson, reporting from the Alpine Ascents Offices in Seattle. It's quite a scene right now, we are packing up food and equipment for the trip which leaves next week. We generally send over two tons of gear and food, about 40 boxes of food, from the States to supplement the fresh food that we get directly in Nepal. It's hard to stay interested in food when you're up that high, and an 8000 meter climber especially needs to eat a lot more than usual, and we make sure to have a wide variety of tasty snacks drinks and meals that will interest the appetite while at altitude. We have a fabulous cooking staff at Base Camp and up on the mountain which helps as well.
We have to get all this food and gear up to Base Camp and then on up the mountain, it's one of the most important areas of preparation for a trip like this. This stuff will travel by van, plane, bus, plane, yak, back and by hand across the world to Everest.
I also just found out today that one of my yaks up in Alaska, Annie, just gave birth to a healthy 40lb. boy, so congratulations to Annie and of course Ruth who assisted in the delivery.
Vern or Willie will probably send one more dispatches before heading over to Nepal next week and regular dispatches will begin once they have hit the trail up the Khumbu, the first week of April. Here's Todd and the rest of the office staff wishing everyone a peaceful weekend.Return to Top of Page