2001 Everest Base Camp Trek Cybercast
May 10th, 2001. 8:20pm, Kathmandu
Well after that report this morning, I thought I should let you know how it all worked out here on May 10th. I know it sounded a bit crazy and up in the air and unorganized, but in fact a lot of real good effort was under way to get as many people as possible flown out of Lukla, given this unsettled weather we had, and we went in various helicopters to a couple of different airstrips this morning but as I really thought would be the case, we all ended up in Kathmandu by early afternoon. Min Badhur who I told you we put on that first helicopter, was flown down to Phaphlu where he ended up waiting most of the morning and he flew back with several of our group that got sent that way. The rest of us got to Kathmandu pretty early about ten o'clock and now we just finished a nice little, what we call, a "farewell dinner" at the Chimney Room, a really nice, comfortable, cozy restaurant that has excellent food at the Yak & Yeti. And I can report some bittersweet feelings tonight as we sit around, a little bit odd that we were removed so quickly from the Khumbu, certainly enjoying the amenities of a nice hotel and being back in town, but also thinking a lot about the wonderful people and country we left behind.
I'll continue to report to you from here in Kathmandu, I gotta say that I keep talking about Min and his quest to see his family: he went by the school where his son is in the first grade today, and surprised his son after not having seen him for two months. And the rest of us have I think through email and various other ways have had contact with family, and we're equally proud and happy to be back in touch with loved ones.
Great trek this time as I keep reporting, really good success on everyone's part and now we've got a couple of days to enjoy Kathmandu and the soft life of the city as well as the wonders of this unique marvelous, strange and fascinating city we call Kathmandu.
May 10th, 2001. 8:00am,
Okay I'm calling you at eight o'clock in the morning on the tenth with some very good news at least the good news is beginning to be under way. First of all I have to report that the party with the Sherpas last night was an outstanding success. This group, as was evident at the momo party the night before in Namche, is totally into Sherpa culture now and when the chang started flowing and the Sherpa dancing started, this was a group that was definitely way into it. All the same by ten o'clock things had wound down, we do keep pretty early schedules out here in the trekking world.
This morning started off really well, we had clear enough skies that some flying got under way, you know from the previous dispatches that the airport by the airstrip in Lukla is being totally redone and the asphalt is going down and I'm happy to report that it's almost finished, and Lukla's going to look very different next fall. But we're doing these helicopter shuttles this year and that makes the uncertainty of air travel in the Khumbu region even more up in the air and a little complicated, you've got to stay loose and just see what happens. So far this morning we were able to put our guide, Min Badhur, who as you know has been away from his wife and family for two months on the one helicopter, got him on his way to Kathmandu, then a little bit later myself and Luke and Susan got on a helicopter and came to this lovely little airstrip on a ridge top in a place called Limi Danda, where I've never been. It will be interesting to see if the rest of the group ends up at this same airstrip en route back to Katmandu. We fly down here to the middle hills in the Solu region in helicopters and then twin otters from Kathmandu eventually pick us up. It will be fun to see where we all end up today in my flying on the Alpine Ascents Base Camp Trek this season, we flew to Rum Jitar, nice opportunity to see some new parts of Nepal in our travel back to Kathmandu.
I'll report to you if we all get to Kathmandu today, and the next big event for us is to go out somewhere and have a really nice farewell dinner, kind of kick back in the comforts of civilization and city life, and to enjoy a little more time together and the accomplishments of this trek.
May 9th, 2001. 7:15pm, Lukla
Well I'm calling you from Lukla tonight, and I stepped outside, just as I did last night as I called you from Momo Night in Namche, and I want to report that there is a lot of festivity going on inside, we just acknowledged each of 21 different people who have been on this entire trek with us. Yak drivers from Tibet, Sherpas guides from Solu and from Thame, kitchen boys and girls from all over the place, and right now inside I am listening to a lot of music and merriment and dancing of the trekking members and this entire crew, celebrating hopefully our last night together.
I say hopefully our last night together because we woke to a hard rain in Namche this morning and in fact we have been walking through rain all day all the way down to Lukla. It doesn't necessarily look that good for flights out of Lukla tomorrow. That's okay, international flights from Kathmandu aren't for a couple of days, and we're with good friends and we'll just see what happens. We'll report to you whether we get back to Kathmandu tomorrow, but believe me tonight that's not really anyone's concern we're with people who we shared great adventures with and we're savoring our last hours or perhaps our last day or two in the Khumbu, whichever is the case.
May 8th, 2001. 6:50pm, Namche
Well I've just stepped outside for a few moments, We're in Namche, it's the eighth of May. Easy time and its been beautiful and warm down here, very different from when we trekked up and certainly very different from the weather on the first trek up. Namche will be getting very green soon as the monsoon approaches.
And this is Momo Night! Which I think folks know well as they follow cybercasts in the past, we're down at Ong Chu's house. Ong Chu and his wife Padoma , and the rest of the family have put on quite a feast and I wish you could see the entire group of us inside: the enthusiasm and the relaxed manner in which everybody is getting into a very traditional Nepalese meal, with a family in their home and not in a tea shop or trek shop, but in a real setting here with our friends in Namche.
The trek down from Gorak Shep through Pheriche went very well: strong legs after all these days trekking, we've put in some long days so we can have a full rest day here at Namche before we continue all the way to Lukla tomorrow. Great satisfaction and pride with a group, all of whom made it to base camp; all of whom held up very well physically and mentally on their trek through the Khumbu; and especially I would say all of whom made lasting friends and memories in a really special place. They're walking out of here knowing that they have people they are going to remember for the rest of their lives and certainly their great adventures up here as we head home. I will call you again from Lukla and not leave you hanging as I did with the last group and let you know whether we got out of town or not and how we do on our way back to Kathmandu. But for the time being we're going to savor our last hours and our last time here in the Khumbu with these Sherpa friends.
May 6th, 2001. 10:20am, Summit of Kala Pattar
Okay, it's the morning of May 6th and I'm calling you from 18,700 feet on the top of Kala Pattar. A few of us: Mike, Trent , The Alaska boys, Del and Cleve, Sherpas, Mingma Rita, and Conche, and myself got up really early this morning, we got in full mountaineering mode and just wolfed down some oatmeal and left the omelets and pancakes and all that stuff to the others and we were rewarded by getting up here to just an amazing view. Mingma Rita just commented to me a minute ago, "I've never seen it like this up here" It's absolutely still, we're looking across the top of the Lo La we're looking up at the South Col, the full summit pyramid of Everest and I'm looking right now down, all the way down the glacier, to the terminal moraine and Dugla and lower land below.
This entire group has done very well, the rest of the group started out just a bit ahead of us, we'll all meet down at Dugla, lower elevations, have some lunch, and we'll proceed on down to Pheriche. We need to get down lower we need to breathe that thicker air, but its been an exceptionally successful trip up high for all sixteen members of this trip.
We're just going to sit up here and savor this view a little bit longer, Might hear another rumble and roar, its pretty amazing how when you sleep at Gorak Shep you hear these active mountains all night, you hear avalanches and things moving all around, we saw one big avalanche as we walked up here this morning. So the power and majesty of this place is always evident and certainly we've got a group of people that feel really good about the effort they put in on this trip, and they should because they worked hard to get where they went and the payoff's been spectacular. Here on this clear day I'm going to say goodbye and we'll call you from down the valley and let you know how our visit with friends and the lower reaches of the Khumbu go as we head down.
May 5th, 2001. 11:30pm, Everest Base Camp
Okay its about 11:30 on the fifth of May, we laid in our tents last night and listened to the wind blow pretty hard: flapping nylon and we heard it snow pretty hard, with the snow sliding off the sides of the tent, woke up this morning to pretty high winds and a lot of clouds about, but we began trekking to Base Camp and I'm really pleased to report that about a quarter to eleven today all 16 members of this Alpine Ascents Everest Base Camp Trek walked into base camp along with myself (You can hear them cheering in the background now) along with myself and about eight Sherpas. So the whole crew is here, and what we're doing now we walked through Base Camp, we're up at the high end of it now, and in contrast to last night the wind is absolutely still and it's very sunny and we're laying here watching the Sherpas who've been higher on the mountain run down through the lower portion of the Ice Fall. We see 'em come up to the last ladder, spring across that, and then very quickly run down the fixed lines the last few hundred feet, they're heading into base camp for a cup of tea and a big lunch after a long time up high on the mountain, so that's kind of fun to watch.
So we're going to get our group photos here, hang out and take out time before we descend to Gorak Shep, enjoy being up here reaching our goal of Everest Base Camp, and we'll report to you tomorrow hopefully early in the morning from the summit of Kala Pattar, we'll see about that, but folks are looking good so we may make it up there.
May 4th, 2001. 4:33pm, Gorak Shep
Okay its still May 4th, but a lot of good things have been happening, so I want to report into you again. We're now all at 16,800 feet at Gorak Shep. The clouds and snow I mentioned earlier today have continued, we've occasionally gotten a glimpse up towards Everest and some of the other big peaks, but it was not really a Kala Pattar day, due to lack of views. All the same Stuart and Mike and Stacy and Brian went partway up Kala Pattar. The rest of us pretty much just took it easy down here. Good news in that Scott and Beth have rejoined us, they came in really happy from that extra night at Pheriche, talking about how great the hot showers were down there, and are feeling like they made the right decision to stay lower with Min their guide and acclimatize and then move on up.
Kami Sherpa has continued to cross our paths everywhere, we are here with Apa this afternoon, he's climbing with the Japanese this year and you may remember we keep running across him this season everywhere, its been great to visit with him and just catch up down here in the peace of Gorak Shep. Pretty funny, as Apa was looking up as Beth and Scott came in, and he said "Oh now you have family" he was really laughing because, a little family of those Tibetan dogs, those Mastiffs, I mention sometimes, those supposedly ferocious, but actually quite cute and loveable dogs you see so much in the Khumbu, a family of four of them, including two really adorable little puppies had followed Scott and Beth all the way up to Gorak Shep, and I suspect that they may be a part of our team now.
So we're a larger team than we were before, with the new Tibetan Mastiffs, and all our original members are back together, and we will definitely be starting off for Everest Base Camp with Apa and his team tomorrow morning, and I'll let you hear from us once we arrive at Base Camp.
May 4th, 2001. 9:20am, 8000 Meter Inn, Lobuche
Well on the morning of May 4th I'm calling you from the 8000m Inn at Lobuche and it's a beautiful and an exciting morning here for us here. We awoke here at the 8000m Inn this morning to a world of white, it snowed all night, it's still snowing now, quite beautiful actually. As Bill and I were talking about a few moments ago, as we walk up now up the moraine of the Khumbu Glacier, to Gorak Shep today, I think it's an exciting time for everyone here.
The geography of this place is something people read about and dream about forever, if you've been a mountaineer and you've read the literature of climbing on Everest. And all of a sudden today, here we are. We're walking up towards Lo La, we'll probably see it, we're right in the shadow of Pumori, and Nupste, and of course we are on the moraine of the Khumbu Glacier. So good day for us, it should be a short day, we'll be at Gorak Shep before noon I expect, and who knows, we'll see if its a good day to climb Kala Pattar. I'll give you a report from Gorak Shep later on.
May 3rd, 2001. 2:25pm, Dugla
I'm calling you from Dugla at 15,100 feet we're making a very slow ascent up to Lobuche today and of course the 8000 Meter Inn and those deluxe accommodations we use there. We want to make the most of our slow ascent here to allow our bodies to adjust to virtually 16,000 feet where we'll be tonight. And I'm calling you as its beginning to snow, it's been a really pretty walk up here today.
Scott and Beth decided to spend that second night, (since they got one day behind us) that second night down in Pheriche by the Himalayan Rescue Association Clinic, and of course their guide Min Badhur is still with them and they're pretty thrilled about spending another day sort of taking it easy behind the group with Min. Turns out, as Beth described to me a couple of times, Min's language lessons, his Nepali lessons are really good, I've seen that in the past too, he's a good Nepali instructor and he gets into that a lot.
So those two are having fun behind us and hopefully will meet us tomorrow at Gorak Shep, and we're going to continue to go slowly and enjoy this ascent up onto the terminal moraine of the Khumbu Glacier. A pretty thrilling thing for several of these folks to realize that here we are, actually walking up onto the Khumbu Glacier, which of course we're going to follow all the way up to Everest Base Camp.
May 2nd, 2001. 12:00pm, Pheriche
So acclimatization day at Pheriche, its been a cloudy quite cool windy day here we've been cozy are warm inside the fire at Ang Kanti's Himalayan lodge here in Pheriche where we always stay, reading books relaxing ,a few of us took a short hike this morning but it's been a very mellow day. As usual, seeing Pete Athans yesterday this is especially on my mind, as usual, a visit up the Khumbu is about people, its about old friends and the relationships and friendships that you have with Sherpa people and Western people in the shadow of these great mountains. that's very much been the case today, the Italian team that we know so well when they were doing their training climb on Ama Dablam and who we trekked in with last month are down resting after already having climbed up to the South Col to get ready for their summit attempt, they're down here recuperating and there's friends all over town.
Today we met a new friend, John Bean, who's from the UK, he's an engineer who helping do a lot of new work at the Himalayan rescue Association, they've got a wind generator now and they're building some new rooms on the back. Really delightful fellow and he spent a lot of time talking with us about the work he has been doing here, but its especially interesting to get Mingma Rita, who's as you know with the KBC, the electric cooperative that the Sherpas have in the Khumbu, talking with John about the power issues and the wind generator here, great time with these folks.
Jim Yen and Andrea have just joined us from spending an extra night down in Kunde, with Ang Kanti's, who I mentioned earlier, they had a delightful time down there, they just wanted to take a little more time to get acclimatized and healthy enough to come up so they stayed down there with their Sherpa guide, Koncha, and also Beth and Scott spent one extra night down lower with Min Badhur the Sherpa guide. But now we are all reunited here at Pheriche, enjoying the friendship of a lot of friends who are on their own adventures here, and we're getting ready to head up higher together tomorrow and I'll give you a call from Lobuje to tell you know how that's going.
May 1st, 2001. 2:10pm, Pheriche
Well we've made it to Pheriche at 14,000 feet. And I have to say that the news of the loss of Babu Chiri has cast a pall over the Sherpa people in this area and us as we trek up the valley. The news is still just sinking in and certainly it's on everyone's mind. In fact we saw helicopters overhead as we trekked through Pangboche this morning on our way to Pheriche and one of those helicopters had been to Base Camp to collect Babu Chiri's body and it set down here for a while in Pheriche and the Sherpas came out and put Khatas, or blessing scarves on Babu before his body was flown on to Kathmandu, where I'm sure there is going to be quite a sad and big ceremony for the loss of this famous Sherpa.
But here we are in a scene that's been, this place is in the shadow of Everest Base Camp, and it's been the sight of a lot of good news and bad news in the past as expeditions come and go and certainly its always a crossroads and meeting point for old and new friends. In particular I saw a familiar figure walking down the valley a few moments ago and it was Pete Athans with another familiar figure beside him, Dawa Sherpa, who has been the Alpine Ascents Camp II cook at Everest Base Camp season after season, he's a very dear friends of ours. We had a nice time visiting with Pete and the rest of the crew that was working on the National Geographic Explorer Film that's being made here this season, before they continue down the valley.
And now our group is over at the Himalayan Rescue Association Clinic with Alan Gianotti, the physician here, and they're getting their information about acclimatization and how to make the right decisions as you ascend up the Khumbu towards goals like base camp and other places like that. Hopefully they're going to hear from Alan that we've been doing well (I'm confident that they will) that we're making the right choices in our ascent and probably when they walk out of there they'll know more about this kind of fascinating and wild subject of altitude physiology that's on all of our minds as we go to the higher elevations beginning day after tomorrow.
I'll report to you tomorrow as we hike up and try to get views of Makalu and some of the other things in this area, but remember acclimatization is not conditioning and we are going to take it pretty easy.
April 30th, 2001. 3:30pm, Tengboche
Well we made it to Tengboche and that's pretty much two monasteries in two days for this trekking group, having of course been out at Thame just yesterday. It seems like a long time ago now we had a great trek to Kunde yesterday. And one thought I keep having in light of the last group that was with me just a few weeks ago on this trek, is how warm it is. I wish some members on that group could have seen Mike and others outside, shaving with their shirts off, at the very first light this morning: extremely mild weather in the Khumbu right now and we are enjoying that as we trek up. We got to Tengboche and I suppose its fitting in a way in this spot, that as climbers, we've said our prayers for years as we approach base camp and we've stopped and remembered those we've lost on the mountain and for decades climbers have stopped at this spot, Everest climbers have stopped at this spot, done their Puja, and proceeded reverently towards the mountain. I suppose it's fitting that it's here the news came down to us that I'm sure is well known in the states by now, or will be soon, that Babu Chiri was lost yesterday on the South Col Route near Camp II.
It gives us all pause especially perhaps looking up towards the mountain thinking about Babu and the others, and being reminded that the greatest can be taken by the mountain when it's time or for any reason. Its especially a moving day here for the Sherpas. This guy had done a lot for Sherpa people, explaining why they climb, his accomplishments were known to the world, becoming known to the world, and his motivation and his love for the people, his people, was a message that he had gotten out very clearly and we are all sad about that today.
We have our trekkers ailments of course, you know rumbling stomachs and still trying to acclimatize and that sort of thing, but with that big mountain sitting up there, and the reminders of the effort sacrifice and loss that's gone on kind of puts it all in perspective. It's still an extremely beautiful place, wonderful people and the peace around us is something that this group is just beginning to savor and I know in the days to come as we get closer to Base Camp that feeling will be savored more and more as we continue our trek.
April 29th, 2001. 11:20am, Thame
Okay I'm calling this dispatch in late in the morning beautiful clear day on the 29th here in Thame. We had a nice walk up to the monastery this morning, quiet up there as the Rinpoche is in Kathmandu but we still had a very peaceful time looking around the monastery one monk was praying and on the way up we stopped and got fantastic views of Cho-Oyu. In coming down we stopped at the Chorten that was built for Ong Gyalgen, who I mentioned before in these dispatches was that pilot who was killed in that flying accident in 1998. And we stood around and looked back up at Cho-Oyu myself and Clive and Del, and Don Dalton and Mingma Rita and Pasang Rita had a conversation about Sherpas from this village, and the legacy of climbing that they've left behind them in the 50 years that the people have climbing in the Khumbu.
Of course this village is where Tenzing Norgay is from, you know about Apa and a lot of other famous climbing Sherpas from this village. Of course Lhakpa Rita's from here. Just this morning Mingma Tsering's mother came to see me. Mingma Tsering has summitted Everest probably three times now and first summitted in 1997. Climbing has been a big part of the Sherpa's life in this village for a long time now. Pasang mentioned to me that his father had been on both the the 1952 Swiss expedition, and the following year, 1953 of course, in which Tenzing Norgay and Hilary finally stood on the summit of Everest. So we stood up there and talked for a while and we remembered that there were a lot of Sherpa, for every Sherpa that becomes famous, there are probably several, like Kami Rita in 1997, that are on our expeditions from Thame who don't make it, maybe even on their first trip, these guys are lost. And the success notoriety fame and wealth and income that comes to a small remote village like this is impressive, but then on the other hand the loss is always present , you look around at the old people in this village and you know that the mountains have been a big part of their life always, they work there, they send their loved ones there, and since western people have begun showing up here, that's been a big part of this community. The best climbing Sherpas and my best Sherpa friends are from Thame and we always love coming out here. Now we are going to head back down the village out to the valley to Kunde and on up to Tengboche and in a few days time we'll be approaching Base Camp, and I'll keep you posted.
April 28th, 2001. 2:30pm, Thame
Okay I'm sitting out at Thame, I'm sitting in a Yak pasture listening to the Yak bells tinkle behind me and looking at beautiful sights all around. If you've followed these cybercasts in the past, you know I often describe Thame as my favorite Sherpa Village. It's certainly peaceful and relaxing out here to be in a more traditional village away from the commerce of Namche Bazaar and of course we've got a lot of good friends out here.
We stopped in Thamo for lunch at our sirdar, Pasang Rita's house, and Thamo of course, is the location of the hydro project that serves the Khumbu. And if I haven't mentioned on the other dispatches I really should mention Mingma Rita who owns the lodge we're staying at here in Thame, is also one of our guides on this trip. And Mingma has thirty days off from the KBC, the electric cooperative, that serves the Khumbu area, the entire area we will be in on this trek. And it's been really interesting for us to talk to him about the small hydro project that serves the Sherpa people up here. This project was turned overt to Sherpa management scarcely two years ago in January 1999, by the Austrians who developed it. It's great having an electrician, a Sherpa electrician and businessman as well as a guide along to help us understand how these people live and some of the ways they've been able to improve their lives. Del Larue, one of the Alaskans on our trip, has been in Alaska for years and years and was involved through his business in bringing some of the electricity to native Inuit villages in Alaska for the first time. And its a pretty interesting perspective talking about something as simple as electricity that we all take for granted, in these harsh mountain environments.
Anyway tomorrow is our visit to the Thame monastery which you remember from other trips is a pretty special time. I've discovered that the Rinpoche, the reincarnate lama who's up at the monastery has taken some time to go up to Kathmandu, so we'll not actually see a reincarnate lama tomorrow, as we often do at Thame but were going to love looking around this classic Himalayan retreat, classic Himalayan monastery sitting up here on the hillside above Thame.
I'll probably report to you from up there, but in the meantime, just know that all 16 members of this trek are doing well as they acclimatize to12,500 feet and everything's going great.
April 27th, 2001. 4:20pm, Namche Bazaar
Well on Friday afternoon the 27th, I'm calling you from Namche. This morning we did walk up to the park headquarters overlook very early in the morning, and we were treated to really wonderful clear views of Everest, Lhotse, Ama Dablam, the other big peaks, and I can speak for the entire group several of them made comments, being here in Namche Bazaar is one of those "pinch me" type experiences for this group I think. Most of them are visiting an area they've dreamed about and read about for years. Susan in particular said yesterday "I've read about and thought about Namche Bazaar for as long as I can remember and now I am finally here."
For me personally, Namche is a crossroads of friends, old friends new friends, Sherpas, western climbers, travelers, and every time I'm here I probably see more people that I know than anywhere else in the world. Usually a surprise, someone I haven't thought about or expected to see. A lot of that's been going on. Familiar old friends show up too. In particular today, it was nice to see Llama Zhambu an old very good friend of myself, Todd Burleson, Pete Athans and many others who have spent a lot of time here. Llama Zhambu is a simple man, a monk who lives in a monastery high above the village of Thamo where we will have lunch tomorrow. And he came into Namche to say hi. He recently spent time with another good friend, Pete Athans. Pete went back up to Lama Zhambu's monastery and did some filming there with him as part of a project he is working on here in the Khumbu this season. I haven't seen Pete yet, I haven't seen Pete in a long time, but I'll probably run into him somewhere up here.
So networks, groups of old friends kind of come back together, just kind of casually as we are all fortunate to do. Llama Zhambu is a painter of Tankas, which this group learned something about in Kathmandu as I described a few days ago, and he brought some of this work that he does up there in his monastery for the group to see here. So that's life in Namche today, the afternoon clouds have rolled in we're enjoying resting and acclimatizing and tomorrow we'll be, after a visit to the Saturday Morning Market in Namche, we'll be off to Thame, see friends out there that way.
April 26th, 2001. 12:36pm, Namche Bazaar
Well we're back at the panorama lodge our home base here at Namche that you probably know well from dispatches from expedition and treks in the past. All 16 members of this Alpine Ascents Everest Base Camp Trek looked good in my opinion walking up that infamous Namche Hill today. They certainly felt it, as they came to a pretty significant altitude for the first time on this trip, now we're at 11,400 feet, but I think it was a very good trip and it's great to be back home in Namche Bazaar.
As we left Phakding this morning down along the Dudh Kosi River, Trent said to me "What's the most important thing you've ever had anyone forget before they came on a trip?" And I knew immediately what he had done, he had in fact left his sleeping bag at the Yak & Yeti, and it wasn't the first time that it has ever happened. But people who have trekked with me and climbed with me in the Khumbu in the past always remember how I say "Well let's just don't worry about this gear stuff, we'll get it all figured out in Namche, because Namche is in my opinion one of the best places in the world to buy rent borrow or acquire by any other means, equipment that you need. There is good gear left from all over the world here. So Trent did fine last night down in Phakding, borrowed some stuff didn't get too cold down there of course, and when we got to Namche he quickly went down into the middle of town to see friends of ours about renting a bag. It looked like a really nice bag he got for a 70 rupee a day rental fee. He's all set and, as usual, you can get what you need at Namche Bazaar.
I'll report too you about how the rest of our acclimatization time goes here if you remember or if you've trekked with me in the past you know what I say, that acclimatization is not conditioning: in other words we are going to take it pretty easy tomorrow but our day will begin with a short hike up to the National Park Viewpoint and hopefully a good clear view of Everest, Ama Dablam and the other big peaks for the first time for this trip.
April 25th, 2001. 5:30pm, Phakding, Nepal. via Rum Jitar and Lukla
Hi it's Wally Berg and I'm calling you from Phakding at about 8,800 feet, right along the Dudh Kosi River. What do you do when you're excited about flying around the world to do your Everest Base Camp Trip trip in Nepal, you're stimulated by all of the strange sights in Kathmandu, anxious about how you are going to perform on your trip, but also you're very jet-lagged. Well one thing you can do if you're lucky like our group who got flown into Lukla very early this morning, (we were actually out of there just after 8 o'clock) is you can walk down in the morning hours, downhill to the Dudh Kosi River, and you can lay around and take naps in the soft afternoon rain as just as we've been doing today.
Things are picking up a little bit right now, I am seeing a Frisbee being thrown around amongst some of the Sherpas and some of the trekking members out by our tents and we'll be having dinner here in a little bit. But a very lucky and wonderful beginning to our trek. Everyone is excited to be out here. I am especially excited to see all of the Sherpas that I hadn't seen for about twelve to thirteen days since the last trip. And those trekking members from the last group that got organized enough to send photos immediately back to these Sherpas would have been thrilled to see the beaming faces and excitement as I passed around the photos from the last trek. Min Badhur, Ong Chu, Pasang, Mingma Rita, several of the other Sherpa guides and of course the kitchen girls, those bright smiling young Sherpani faces.
Anyway, we are very happy to be out here, still jet-lagged as I mentioned, but we're where we want to be and the adventures to come are going to happen one day at a time, but we're really pleased to be underway.
April 24th, 2001. 8:20am, Kathmandu, Nepal.
Okay on the 24th of April, Wally Berg here. I'm calling you from Kathmandu and the entire group, the Everest Base Camp II Alpine Ascents trip. We're all together, there's seventeen of us on this trip. We actually all met in Thailand yesterday at the airport in Bangkok, and came up here together. A few folks had been to Kathmandu years and years before in this group, but for all of us as we drove through town it was the usual stimulating and exciting experience, seeing the busy cluttered streets of Kathmandu.
Today we got up very early and went up to Swayambhu, that 2,500 year-old "monkey temple" as we call it and enjoyed the peace as well as the stimulation of being up there with all of those new sights and sounds for this group, as the Kathmandu valley woke up before us. Then we went down to that Kathmandu institution Mike's breakfast and had a nice American style breakfast. And my friend James Gambrone met us: this fellow James has lived in Kathmandu basically since 1970 he left for about four years in the 70-'s but has been back ever since, and know more about Newari art and the creation of a lot of these wonderful artworks that we marvel at when we come to Kathmandu , probably than anyone.
James gave us a lecture on some of the metal techniques as well as some of the Tanka paintings this morning and then we were off to the usual big three temple tour having already been to Swayambhu we went to Pashupatineth the Hindu temple and Bodnath. The group is back at the Yak & Yeti Hotel enjoying the air-conditioning, (it's quite hot in Kathmandu this season) and the comforts of the Hotel. We're going to meet here in a few minutes, go over some more packing details, and we're going to walk down to Thamel, that well known budget travelers trekking district in Kathmandu and kind of take in the sights down there
Tomorrow we're off to Lukla and I'll get my satellite phone back and I will give you a report when we're out underway and our trek has begun from Lukla.
April 24th, 2001. 8:15am, Kathmandu, Nepal.
(Group I, final dispatch)
Hi its Wally Berg I'm calling you from Kathmandu on the 24th of April. I'm sorry for leaving you hanging after that wonderful momo fest that we had at Ong Chu's house in Namche way back on must have been the 10th or 11th of April or something like that. At any rate our group did get down to Lukla after that. I put the satellite phone into storage so didn't call you back, but our trip home was, well I won't say it was uneventful because it was too enjoyable and rich and full of experience to be uneventful by any means, but it was certainly without mishap and it was full of good times with our Sherpa friends as the entire group of nine of us said goodbye to them
Today a couple of weeks later I have photographs (especially from Karen Kilian and Dan Fink) and a care package as well, from several members of the group who got home (jet-lagged of course) sent around their tokens of appreciation: the photographs of all their friends in the Khumbu and the Sherpas who work for us. And I have already gotten to dispense some of that around Kathmandu, and as I head up into the Khumbu tomorrow with the next group I will be handing out those memories along the way from folks who will remember their friends from the Khumbu for the rest of their lives.
The Everest season has progressed in the weeks that I have been away from the Khumbu, and those folks have returned home and now the second Everest Base Camp trip of the season is here in Kathmandu and I will pick it up and tell you their stories as we move along on their adventures.
April 10th, 2001. 3:23pm, Namche Bazaar, Nepal.
Well the team has made it back to Namche Bazaar today, on the tenth. We pushed hard yesterday to come all the way from Pheriche into Namche Bazaar specifically so we could have a full day here to, as I mentioned earlier, visit old friends and partake of all the commercial and culinary delights in this town. The nine trekking members of this Everest Base Camp Trek could tell you in a minute that Namche Bazaar is basically all the civilization you would ever need: this place looks bright and wonderful to them after the trip up high to Base Camp.
And tonight something that, if you followed our cybercasts of previous expeditions and treks, something you know about is going to happen, kind of a big traditional event: Tonight is 'Momo Night' down at Ong Chu's house. Ong Chu and his wife Padoma put on a big momo fest for us traditionally. Momos as you may know are those wonderful Tibetan, you might call them stuffed dumplings. And Padoma makes the best ones in Namche Bazaar and that is saying a lot because there are a lot of good momos in this town So we will be down there tonight to enjoy the friendship and satisfaction together of having completed a really successful trip, being back home you might say in Namche Bazaar and of course tomorrow we are moving on down to Lukla to begin our journey home and Ill continue to report as we follow that along.
April 8th, 2001. 8:00am, Gorak Shep, Nepal.
Okay its the eighth, and I hope you can hear this okay. It's a little bit windy up here still, but I want to report to you that we are on our way down from Gorak Shep back to Pheriche; which at this point of the game will be relatively speaking, the lowlands for us. It's a beautiful day other than some wind. I'm really proud of this group: as a matter of fact I should tell you that as they trekked into Base Camp yesterday, more than one of the teams that they had gotten to know trekking up, commented, "you guys look better than most of these groups that walk in here." And I'm pleased to say that our slow ascent rate, the excellent care from Ong; Chu and his Sherpa staff in the kitchen, and the prepared people that came on this Alpine Ascents Trek, they looked really good walking into Base Camp. They will be able to report to you when they get home however, that it's no joke walking up to that elevation for a visit even, and as I said yesterday, I think that they have a new found respect for those people who are staying o to climb.
Yesterday we were tired walking back down the glacier, but several people took time to do various that they wanted to to remember others. In particular I ought to tell you that Mary did put out her five prayer flags for Lansing Middle School. Mary is the principal of that Middle school. There's four grade levels there, and four of those grade levels took one of the colors of the flag and the faculty took another, and Mary did put that in a really special spot off the shoulder on Pumori yesterday. The rest of us are just kind of reveling in the views, and the satisfaction of a great trip up to one of the most wonderful spots a mountain person can visit, That is: Everest Base Camp and the beginning of a climbing community. A lot of tradition, lore, memories of old friends, and excitement. It's important for those folks who are off on their adventures this year.
We got a trip down the Khumbu coming up, and in particular beginning tomorrow afternoon, a reunion with all our friends in that wonderful and bustling city of Namche which to us seems like all the civilization we could want at this point. I'll report to you from down valley as that gets closer.
April 7th, 2001. 1:00pm, Mount Everest Base Camp, Nepal.
Okay its about one in the afternoon on the seventh and I'm happy to report that all nine members of this first Everest Base Camp Trek of the season along with myself and five sherpas are at Everest Base Camp. It's beautiful, very warm still afternoon right now. We're sitting around on the moraine that's above most of the camps. We've been watching for climbers coming through the icefall, we've enjoyed a nice lunch And I think I'm speaking for all nine of these trekking members when I say that there is a new found appreciation with this group for the demands and the challenges of all these people around them that are going to be spending the next maybe six or seven weeks at this base camp trying to climb this mountain.
You feel the altitude walking into this place, I guarantee you. I'm looking around at some faces I see some smiles: Holly is smiling at me saying "yeah you feel it. And Brian's doing the same thing. And these folks had to really dig down and push just to get to this altitude today. We found out all about changing layers with changing conditions we left Gorak Shep in a very cold brisk wind, wearing all our clothes and by the time we got to base camp we were very stripped down.
We're going to enjoy a few more moments of this golden afternoon here and then we're going to walk back down to Gorak Shep, back to slightly thicker air, where we belong. And by tomorrow well be back down in Pheriche in what for us will be the really really thick atmosphere down at 14,000 feet. I'll give you a call from down there.
April 6th, 2001. 3:30pm, Summit of Kala Pattar, Nepal.
Okay its about three thirty in the afternoon on the 6th and man what a day we've had. We woke up this morning down in Lobuche to completely cloudy skies and soon there was a soft snow coming down. We walked up to Gorak Shep in that snow, had our lunch, took tea, and then we decided: well the sky looks like it might clear a little, we might as well start trying to climb Kala Pattar.
Now I'm looking down the way, we are over 18,000 feet. Pat just walked up onto the summit and here comes Holly. I'm looking down just below and I'm seeing that very determined, confident, face that Mary always has, she's almost up here, and Mike's almost here as well. Dan, John and the biggest grin of all in Mike, and myself got up here just a few minutes before the others. Karen, my flight nurse who has probably been the best medical help I've had on the trip in a long time, measured her pulse ox at 68% before we left Gorak Shep and decided she's just as soon do a little more acclimatizing before we head to base camp tomorrow. And Brian who I mentioned a couple of days ago as having that great sense of appreciation, on the hike between Tengboche and Pangboche, also has our strongest case of the Khumbu cough and he's taking it easy for the base camp trek tomorrow as well.
So that's the report from 18,000 feet plus, from the top of Kala Pattar. Beautiful day, although not a very clear day up here right now, and a little bit windy. We'll call you from Base Camp tomorrow.
April 5th, 2001. 12:02pm, Lobuje, Nepal.
Well we made it to 16,100 feet. We have the Khumbu cough has shown up and some of us are doing a little hacking, not surprising, kind of business as usual as you approach base camp. You've probably heard many accounts of that: the dry irritated cough that some people get up here in these altitudes. The scene here is spectacular I'm looking up at Lobuje Peak and the Lobuje glacier actually an icefall of the Lobuje glacier, spilling down towards me. And I am at that infamous Italian Pyramid, its called the 8000 Meter Inn now, by far the most deluxe accommodations since we left the Yak and Yeti in Kathmandu. Bit of a strange situation given the altitude we're at here, but were not complaining.
You hear a lot these days about the posh living and even about the parties and wild life at Everest Base Camp, in nine seasons of climbing there I actually never saw any of that: we were usually too tired. But I guess it does go on. I'm not going to kid you we live pretty well here at the Italian Pyramid. Our group showed up in the middle of the afternoon, having trekked very slowly into the pyramid as we get to these higher altitudes. We had tea of course, and the fellow who runs this place put Led Zeppelin on his stereo and Ong Chu's staff, those wonderful Sherpanis, we call them the "kitchen girls" served a smoked salmon that Patrick Cook had packed up for us back in Seattle and sent over which we've been carrying along with us and having it at certain occasions along the way. So its a serious world up here at 16,100 feet were trying to take good care of ourselves were excited about our approach to Everest Base Camp and Kala Pattar. We hope we make it, but we're enjoying the soft life as much as it can exist at the 8000 Meter Inn as well.
April 4th, 2001. 3:28pm, Pheriche, Nepal.
OK, this call is coming to you on the afternoon of the 4th from Pheriche. We are taking yet another acclimatization day. This group is really evenly matched in terms of trekking: when we walk up the trails we are always right together, our ages are from 36 to 67, but we seem to be very compatible hikers.
We went right through Tengboche the rinpoche was down in Kathmandu this time and of course as I have already described to you we had a wonderful experience out in a much more peaceful an secluded setting at the Thame monastery visiting with Nawang the reincarnate Llama out there. Here in Pheriche we continue to enjoy just hanging out with some of the expeditions that are approaching the mountain. In particular today here in Pheriche at the Himalayan lodge where I have stayed personally since 1989 first time I came to Everest, we're hanging out with the Italian team. We got to know these folks last year, the same climbers as when my Island Peak team was here, and these same climbers were attempting Ama Dablam in preparation for their South Col expedition this season. So we're enjoying the peace of Pheriche and rest day activities. We took a little walk up the hill to see Makalu from the top of the hill between Dingboché and Pheriche. And we've enjoyed a lot of the sunshine, still the afternoon clouds are starting to build, I don't know if we'll have the snow today that we've been having.
But I can report that the entire crew, Brian, John, Mary, George, Dan, Karen, Holly, Mike, and Pat all of this Alpine Ascents Everest Base Camp crew is doing very well in terms of their health, extremely well in terms of their spirit and we're right in the midst of what's going to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It was Brian who commented to me as we walked that fabulous walk from Tengboche up to Pangboche yesterday, he was just beside himself and looking up at Ama Dablam before him and the huge imposing south face of Lhotse right up there in front of him. He said "You know this has to be the greatest mountain walk in the world" and I totally agree. I can't imagine a better setting.
April 2nd, 2001. 9:18am, Tengboche, Nepal.
Okay its about 20 minutes after nine on Monday morning and I can report to you that life does not get much better than this: We are on the back deck of the Everest View Hotel in brilliant sunlight drinking tea from this nice china that they have here, and we're looking up the valley at brilliant views of all the places that lie before us on this trek. I'm looking across at the Tengboche Monastery, where we will be later today and beyond that of course a great view of the summit of Everest in really still blue skies today, Lhotse Ama Dablam and I could go on and on about all these other big peaks around here.
So we're feeling pretty good, we have this pattern of weather that's really fine with us: it snows every afternoon and then during the night as people get up to relieve themselves during the long night they notice that the brilliant stars have come out usually by the middle of the night, and we have absolutely clear skies in the morning. So that pattern's been just fine with us.
Each day is an adventure, meeting folks. I ought to report that yesterday at lunch after I last talked to you, (we run across friends all the time up here and) we were really fortunate to run across my old friend Apa Sherpa. He was heading back to his village with his wife and we spent some time talking and it was really a neat time to run into Apa because I had read in the paper, I knew that two days before, that he and Babu Chiri Sherpa had been awarded medals by the King of Nepal. This is a big deal you might not know just how uncommon that it is for the royal family to acknowledge the Sherpas in Nepal in this manner and certainly Apa for his eleven summits on Mt. Everest really had that coming. He's still the humble gentle, unassuming man that we've always known him to be and it was really a treat to be able to spend a little time with him yesterday.
We will report to you from somewhere up the valley. With good luck today we'll be in the Tengboche monastery. Who knows what we'll run across, what we'll learn, what adventure we'll encounter what experiences we'll have there, but we will let you know.
April 1st, 2001. 9:56am, Thame, Nepal.
OK today's cybercast is coming to you from the Thame monastery. It's about ten o'clock in the morning, beautiful clear sky I'm looking up at the prayer flags at the huge peaks around here the giant glaciers coming off these big mountain walls around here and the beautiful colors of the monastery. I'm standing here with Migma Rita, who's home we stayed at last night in Namche. Migma Rita is Lakpa Rita's brother-in-law and along with a lot of other people in Thame he has made us feel really at home and welcome here.
Today was really special because we walked up to the monastery and we found the Rinpoche was praying in his upper sanctum as we were down below in the main part of the monastery. And he, Nawang, the Rinpoche here, did agree to give us an audience. We went up into his upper chamber and we were received by him. We gave him the silk Khata blessing scarves and he returned each of those to us as a blessing around our necks. So now we are outside the monastery. I have to say it was a very moving and peaceful experience: I saw some teary eyes as this group walked out of the monastery back into the sunlight and the beauty of the mountains around today. There is a really peaceful strong powerful feeling here at this monastery as we continue on with our trek.
So that's today's story were going back to Pasang Rita's house for lunch and on to the village of Kunde tonight, and well report to you sometime tomorrow along our trek
March 31st, 2001. 2:44pm, Thame, Nepal.
OK, on the afternoon of March 31st, I'm sitting here at Thame. This team the Alpine Ascents Everest Base Camp team, they call themselves the "Pagan Baby Team." The Pagan Baby Team arrived at Thame a little while ago. I'm watching a soft very beautiful snow come down. Thame's about yak pastures, potato fields, big open spaces, with really nice Sherpa homes kind of spaced broadly in a big flat area with big mountain walls around and of course the Thame monastery just above town. And we will go to the Thame monastery tomorrow early tomorrow morning, hopefully see the Rinpoche and definitely if its clear at all see the view north to Cho-Oyu.
A lot of friends in this town: the other things besides yaks and potatoes that Thame is famous for is very strong climbing Sherpas as you probably know. We stopped to see a few friends along the way and especially we stopped just before we got into Thame proper today, and had lunch with our Sirdar, Pasang Rita's family. His son Nima Tsering has joined us now as a junior guide you might say and we have a bright smiling eight-year old Sherpa face walking along the trail with us along with the rest of the crew most of whom are from this area.
Great to be in Thame, the Pagan Babies are looking like they're showing a little bit of signs of the altitude now that were at 12,500 feet but they're very happy and having some tea right now and relaxing inside the lodge, the tea house, and our tents are just going up and were looking forward to a beautiful evening here and a visit to the monastery tomorrow morning.
March 30th, 2001. 9:11am, Namche Bazaar, Nepal.
Well we made it to Namché Bazaar and we did something this morning early morning on the 30th that I like to do with the Everest Base Camp trekking groups, the island peak groups: From the Panorama Lodge we got up early, had our bed tea and we hiked five minutes up to the national park overlook just above Namché Bazaar and we were rewarded with crystal clear skies amazing views of Everest of course, Lhotse, Ama Dablam the other great peaks in this area. I think people in the group were pretty astounded they were almost speechless to finally be looking up at Everest. We didn't see Everest in a couple of little spots on the trail where you can sometimes see it as we trekked into Namché yesterday, because it was raining really hard as we approached Namché. We got in here fairly soggy and cold from hiking in the rain and of course the warmth of the Panorama Lodge felt great after that.
Here we are getting to know Namché Bazaar today this will be our home base really as we explore the Khumbu and do our trek to Everest Base Camp. Tomorrow is the Namché market and I'll call you and let you know some of the impressions we have of that the famous Saturday Namché Market and of course tomorrow we'll be heading out to Thame as well. The entire group, all ten of us, are doing great. The Sherpas are happy to be back under way, its great to see old friends as the expeditions all approach Everest Base Camp. We're right in the middle of all that commerce at this point; the yak traffic is very heavy on the trails this week as the expeditions for the season are approaching Everest Base Camp. I'll give you a report tomorrow from the market and we're going to enjoy the sun the rest of the morning here in Namché and have a good time being in one place.
March 28th, 2001. 2:28pm, Lukla, Nepal.
Okay it's Wally Berg calling in from Lukla, we're definitely underway now, its about 2:30 in the afternoon on the 28th. And we, as some of you may know, we're getting out here under the new system that's temporarily in place based on the improvements to the runway that have been going on here in Lukla for some time and will be going on for a while. I'm sitting here looking at the tarmac believe it or not, the hard pavement on the Lukla runway here a very different scene than those people who have come to Lukla over the years remember.
Fixed wing aircraft are not flying in here this season; we actually flew to that beautiful village called Phaphlu down lower in Solu today in the twin otter, kind of the normal way we leave Kathmandu and then we were shuttled up to Lukla in Japanese Kawasaki helicopters. So two legs of the flight today. It was a hazy day and one that caused some concern about whether the visibility would allow us all to get out here together. In fact those are nine-seater helicopters and the expeditions are all approaching base camp, so we are right in the midst of that. So we got mixed up a bit as we knew we would, and we came finally into Lukla on two different helicopters but we got all our bags here we were met by Pasang Rita, Sirdar, Ong Chu, who Alpine Ascents climbers and trekkers know well from years of Everest Base Camp, cooking and trekking working as a cook on treks as well. These guy's smiling faces were standing there when the helicopter landed and we've been welcomed by these guys and here we go. We're off to Phakding tonight on the Dudh Kosi River.
I'm looking at a lot of wonder and awe and excitement on each of these trekking members faces today. In particular, I am hearing comments about the wonderful building here: the dry wall, chinked rock walls in the buildings here in Lukla. These folks are going to see a lot more of that as we trek up the Khumbu Valley and enjoy being in the home of the Sherpas. I'll report to you from Namché Bazaar where believe it or not well already be tomorrow. Namché has been our home base for the Everest region for all these years and for this trekking group as well Namché as you will see over the next few days and next period of time Namché will be our home base and we will spend two nights there and acclimatize as we get ready to go higher up into the Khumbu
March 27th, 2001. 10:20am, Kathmandu, Nepal.
Wally Berg Here, underway here. We're underway with ten members including myself, this first Alpine Ascents International Everest Base Camp Trek of the season. We're all together and what better place to begin this than where I am right now: I am at Swayambhu, "the monkey temple" we sometimes know it as, overlooking the Kathmandu Valley. We're standing here in this place that is older than actually anyone knows; Chinese Pilgrims mentioned it more than 2,000 years ago. It is known as the 'self-existed' or 'self-existing' Stupa because it is really without history. And in this storied and legendary place it probably epitomizes the mystery of this valley and the history and richness of it.
We're of course here to go Trekking and beginning tomorrow, I'll describe our flight out to the mountains and being underway with our Sherpas and our journey to Everest Base Camp. But it does always begin here in Kathmandu. I'm with Krishna Dhakel who for sometime we've used as our city guide here. Krishna is retired, and probably the most experienced and learned and scholarly certainly, of the guides who work in this valley helping people understand the religion and culture. A wonderful man, Alpine Ascents trekkers who have been with me in past years remember him dearly and the insights and knowledge he gives us of this wonderful fascinating place today will stay with us as we go trekking out in to the mountains and then of course eventually return to the Kathmandu Valley at the end of our trip.
We left the Yak & Yeti Hotel about nine o'clock this morning, drove through the narrow, busy, bustling streets of Kathmandu, and are now enjoying the peaceful view out across the city from here at Swayambhu. And before the day is over we're going to see a lot more sights, and in a very weary and jet-lagged state we're going to drag ourselves back to the Yak & Yeti and pack for the flight out to the mountains tomorrow. And I will call you once we're out in the mountains and let you know how our flight went and what it feels like to be actually on our way trekking to Everest Base Camp