2003 Everest Base Camp Trek Cybercast

Saturday May 3rd, 2003.  Everest Base Camp, Nepal.   
Hello at Mountainzone,

Ellie Henke, Base Camp Manager and Trek Descent Leader, here. I'm finally getting a chance at our base camp computer to report the final days of the AAI 2003 Everest Base Camp Trek. I think the last dispatch from the trek reported that all the trekkers had reached Everest Base Camp and spent several hours marveling at the Khumbu icefall and the luxuries of base camp. They were definitely impressed at the spaciousness of the big dining tent, the coziness of the Sherpa kitchens, and the deliciousness of the lunch served up by Gopal. The trekkers actually arrived at base camp before the climbing team, and were leaving base camp to return to Gorak Shep just as the climbers arrived to spend the night at base camp. Final hugs were given as we said good-bye to the climbing team for the last time and wished them well with their expedition. Everyone will definitely be following their endeavors on the website.

The second night at Gorak Shep will long be remembered for the lack of sanitary "sanitary facilities" and for the restless yak that kept ringing it's neck bell for hours and hours and hours throughout the night right next to our sleeping tents. But morning finally came and Willi and the trekkers set out for the "summit" of Kala Pattar while Ellie stayed in the teahouse sunroom trying to recover from worsening laryngitis. Not only did they see the spectacular morning views of Everest, the Khumbu icefall, Pumori, Nuptse, and other surrounding mountains, but Willi also taught the trekkers a thing or two about how to move efficiently and speedily when coming down a steep slope.

After a lunch of hot RaRa noodles in Gorak Shep everyone said good-bye to Willi, who was returning to base camp to lead the climbing expedition, and set out with Ellie for the thick air and luxurious accommodations of the Himalaya Lodge in Pheriche. I set a fairly rapid pace so we would reach Pheriche before dark after the morning adventures on Kala Pattar, and imagine my astonishment to discover that our non-climbing trekkers could now really move going down a hill. Willi, what did you do to them up there? The champion was Larry, who was right on my heels the whole way down. And yes, we did make it before dark, although it was a little late for the long-anticipated showers. Shower stalls in the Khumbu are unheated, and although the water is warm the air temperatures can be a bit chilly. Best is to shower during the day in the full warmth of the sun. Unfortunately for me but maybe fortunately for the trekkers, by the time we reached Pheriche my voice had completely locked up and I couldn't say anything louder than a whisper. The group gave me strict orders not to even try to talk (yeah, right guys), and Pasang and one of his sherpa friends plied me with homeopathics to try to make it better.

The next morning (April 14) Ang Kante fed us an early breakfast and we set out through beautiful snow dusted hills for the "big city" of Namche Bazar. But along the way we were required to stop in Pangboche for the delights of highly recommended cinnamon rolls. When we arrived I asked to make sure cinnamon rolls were actually available, and when I was assured that they were we seated ourselves in the beautiful sunroom with views of all the surrounding mountains. We enjoyed the view. . .we continued to enjoy the view. . .we read the stack of magazines. . .we enjoyed the view. It turned out that they were making the cinnamon rolls from scratch. Eventually we smelled delicious cooking smells, and they really were good an hour later when they were finally served to us. By that time we were well past mid-morning snack and decided to stay for lunch as well.

Following lunch we cruised by Debuche, crested the hill at Tengboche (we had visited the monastery on the way up so this time we kept on going), and once again the group showed their expertise with the long descent down the Tengboche hill, arriving at the bottom in an hour or so. Then the bad news: the climb up the hill on the other side of the river in order to reach Namche Bazar. I set a nice steady pace and we eventually reached the upper section that traversed over to Namche. But what was that we heard? Could that be thunder? Was the sky really getting that dark? Yup, sure enough the wet white stuff was soon coming down. Pasang and I stopped to put on our coats. I told the group they could keep walking, figuring we would quickly catch up. Wrong! Seems the group was suddenly REALLY motivated to reach Namche. When I glanced up they were already heading up the trail on the next ravine over. We never did catch them, but at least they had tea ordered when we all arrived at the Panorama Lodge in Namche. Some folks even got those long-awaited showers as well.

Our final time in Namche was spent enjoying the delicious Nepalese buffet put on by Lakpa Doma and Sherup Zombu, and admiring (and purchasing) the beautiful yak wool items knitted by Lakpa Doma herself. The following morning we all did a final prowl of the Namche souvenir booths before heading down the Namche hill to the town of Monjo. At least that's one spelling. We've also seen it as Monju, Monzo, Manjo, Manzu, etc. This delightful town is located on the border of Sagarmatha National Park, and spending a night there allowed us to enjoy the blooming flowers and thick vegetation of the lower valley.

Wednesday, April 16, was our last full day together as we enjoyed a leisurely hike up the long hill to Lukla. In Lukla we met Jiban Ghimire, who came up from Kathmandu to deliver our expedition oxygen and to escort the trekkers "home" to Kathmandu while Ellie and Pasang returned to base camp. Jiban looks like such a polite, proper person, but he was the one who kept buying the beer, and made sure we had enough empty cans to complete the "beeramid" - a beer can re-creation of Mt. Everest, complete with base camp, camps 1 through 4, and yours truely had the honor of placing the empty bottle of Mt. Everest whisky at the summit. (Everyone kept insisting the Mt. Everest would be good for my still ailing throat, and who was I to protest?)

The following morning I gave final hugs to Marg, Pam,.Nichole, Bob, and Larry at the Lukla airstrip and turned around to retrace my steps back up the mountain to base camp. We'd had a wonderful time and I was going to miss these folks. However, I also wished good luck to Jiban, who would now host this bunch through the perils of Kathmandu. They have specifically asked to go shopping in Thamel, which could get really ugly. So Jiban, good luck! I hope you survive!

Respectfully submitted,

Ellie Henke, Base Camp Manager

Postscript: Several days later I received an e-mail from Jiban. Yes indeed, the trekkers did go shopping in Thamel. They thought their shopping was finished in Namche, but word has it they were out for the most part of a day to the tune of carpets, pashmina shawls, clothing, carvings, etc. etc. etc. Sounds like they had a wonderful end to a wonderful trek.

Thursday April 17th, 2003.  Kathmandu, Nepal.   
Greetings everyone from Jiban Ghimire, Alpine Ascents Trekking agent.  We had farewell dinner at Rum Doodle after that the girls decided to break dance in Thamel.

The group has given me the following words for the cybercast:

------------------- In case you've been wondering what happened to the trekkers:

Nicole refused to get on the plane at Lukla. She was last seen on the yak riding into the sunset mumbling something about some guy at base camp.

Pam & Margaret: retreated to their natural skydiver instincts and exited the plane somewhere to Jiri.

As usual Larry was using the photo op as an excuse to rest, and Bob saw his opportunity.... Larry was last spotted, kicking madly and screaming.

Bob spotted Pam's hat on a Nepali Twin otter pilot's head and was last heard still trying to negotiate a fair price ->30 rupees (US$ 0.25). 

Jiban, after barley surviving the Mt. Everest beers-a-mid (which Ellie summited with Mt. Everest Whiskey), returned safely to Kathmandu.

All kidding aside, we are all safe (not quite so sound) at the Yak n Yeti. Venturing out to Rum Doodle for our farewell dinner gala tonight & starting the long journey home tomorrow.

In conclusion, all of the trekkers leave Nepal and the Himalayas with new friendships & this thought:

"You can't walk a mountain with expectations or you will not see where you are, and the mountains will not see you" Gretel Ehrlich, Questions of Heaven: The Chinese Journey of an American Buddhist

Peace, love, Namaste! The 2003 Alpine Ascents Everest Base Camp Trekkers.

Saturday April 12th, 2003.  Gorak Shep, Nepal.   
Good morning to everyone out there or actually for all of you it's probably good afternoon or good evening, this is the Alpine Ascents International 2003 trekking party reporting in.  We had a beautiful morning's hike up to Gorak Shep yesterday and kind of just chilled and spent some rest time acclimatizing for our big day to walk to Base Camp and back today.  We have an absolutely stellar morning, one of those mornings in the mountains where you an see for a hundred miles and it seems like you can reach out and touch that far.

So we're going to be walking to Base Camp and reuniting with the climbing team as well today, we split up yesterday so we could fulfill our own agenda here for a couple of days and we are back here at Gorak Shep this evening for another night at 16,900 feet.  Everybody passed a very good night here largely due to everyone taking our advice very seriously about gaining altitude and walking very slowly so that we can maximize the whole acclimatization process.  So in short we are feeling great, we are raring to go and we arte going to be seeing Base Camp and the Khumbu Icefall today.  That's all for now, this is Willi Prittie signing out.

Friday April 11th, 2003.  Lobuche, Nepal.   
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.  Lobuche, Nepal.   
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.  Dingboche, Nepal.   
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.  Deboche, Nepal.   
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, sudephedrine, 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, Nepal.   
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, Nepal.   
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, Nepal.   
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, Nepal.   
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 Charles, Bruno Rodi, 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 2nd, 2003.  Namche Bazaar, Nepal.   
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.

April 1st, 2002, Kathmandu, Nepal
Greetings this is Todd Burleson from Alpine Ascents with and update about our trekking group. All is going as scheduled, as we completed our whirlwind tour of Kathmandu including Swayambunath temple ( monkey temple) Pashupatinath, the Hindu cremation grounds and the great Buddhist Stupa of Bodnath. It's a busy full-day tour and we all bedded down early as we plan to chopper to Syangboche (just above Namche) and stay in this hub of the Khumbu for 2-3 days.

It looks like the climbers and the trekkers will spend much time together, walking up to Base Camp and visiting sites along the way. Willi, the lead trekking guide, will send a report tomorrow after the group arrives.


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