2000 Island Peak Cybercast

Preliminary email Dispatch:  10/19/00 5:17am, Kathmandu, Nepal

We had a really outstanding City Tour yesterday. We have a first rate guide; Climbers and Trekkers were very impressed with him and enjoyed the day. It is about 5:00 AM at the Yak & Yeti right now.... we should be out of here before  6:00. We have a really good group. The sat phone showed up with Patrick - we will get underway with dispatches from Lukla.

Dispatch #1:  10/19/00 8:56am, Lukla, Nepal

Alpine Ascents, this is Wally Berg.  I am calling you from Lukla on the morning of the 19th.  Patrick Cook and I had the good luck along with our Alpine Ascents Island Peak-Everest Base Camp group to get out of Kathmandu really early this morning:  we're actually here in Lukla, on the ground by 7:30 in the morning. (Transmission ends...)

Dispatch #2:  10/21/00 7:56am, Namché, Nepal

Hey Alpine Ascents, this is Wally,  I'm calling you from the National Park viewpoint, the overlook above Namché Bazaar.  We came up here this morning on a beautiful, absolutely clear morning for our first view of Everest and the big peaks above, for a group photo.  I could tell amongst various members of the group, with the expressions on their face, the excitement at 6 o'clock this morning when we took our bed tea and got started that this was a dream come true:  Being in this area seeing these big mountains being around the Sherpa people.  Those of us who love the mountains read about this area, its part of our lives our mythology if you will, always, and  I can see a number of members here have fulfilled a lifelong dream just by being here this morning.

Of course we are staying at the Panorama lodge, and its still very early in the morning, and today is Market Day in Namché, so we are going to go back down and have a breakfast and then we are going to walk down into town to the famous Namché market which takes place every Saturday morning.

Looks pretty interesting down in town today because I see as I look down there, that there's a lot of Tibetans in town as well.  They have, in addition to the normal market spot, there is a big camp full of Tibetan tents and traders who have come over the Nangpa-La, the glaciated pass  that connects the Khumbu with Tibet. And they've come over with Chinese goods to trade, probably sheep, wool, maybe salt and some other goods.  And there is an unusual number with their own area set up apart from the market, and I 'm looking forward to going down and checking that scene out today.

Today is our acclimatization day, our get familiar with Namché day and this afternoon Patrick and I will be doing a gear check for the equipment that the climbers are going to use on Island Peak.  Before we leave Namché we want to get all of this squared away because we know more gear is available if we need it, and we want to make sure we have the equipment ready before we move higher up into the Khumbu .

I will call you tomorrow from Tengboche the famous monastery, or else on the way.  Today we are going to get into renewing our friendships in Namché and enjoying the markets.

Dispatch #3:  10/24/00 11:06am, Pheriché, Nepal

Hey this Wally Berg, I'm calling you guys from Pheriché on the 24th.  I hope you got those dispatches from Lukla, and Namche, I'm not sure how well I had the phone working those days.

Here we are in Pheriché and things are continuing to go really well.  Beautiful sunlit morning here, absolutely clear. I'm looking at Cho-Oyu right now and Lobuche peak.  We've had a great time out here in the sun this morning the entire group is doing well.  Patrick and myself helped folks work on their rigging for their harness for the Island Peak climb that will be coming up in a few more days.  And we're acclimatizing of course here at 14,000 feet in Pheriché.

Tomorrow we'll move up to Lobuche and spend a few days in the Khumbu glacier region and we hope to visit base camp and climb Kala Pattar.  But our entourage is just enjoying being underway with trekking life, we are just getting into a groove right now.

We've got 35 Yaks supporting this Alpine Ascents group, and the friends we've had, you'll remember Kami from last spring, if you followed the dispatches. This is Kami who almost lost his eye to that yak horn up at Gorak Shep, he's back. We also have Lhakpa Rita's father.  Many of you know Lhakpa Rita from all of our Everest climbs and from guiding now in North America for Alpine Ascents.  Lhakpa Rita's father from Thame has come out with his yaks and he's helping us on this trip as well.

So good Sherpa friends all along the way.   The members, as we say, are doing great and enjoying being in this wonderful area of the Khumbu and we are going to give you dispatches now daily as we move up towards Everest Base Camp

Dispatch #4:  10/28/00 11:14am, Dingboché, Nepal

Hey Alpine Ascents its Wally Berg on the 28th from Dingboché.  Beautiful, absolutely clear midmorning here.  Sorry we've been out of touch, we've had some power issues with the satellite phone and then sometimes we are up against these great mountain walls here in the Khumbu and we just can't hit the satellite.

Just to update you, the entire group has continued very well with their acclimatization, as we trekked up the Khumbu.  We stayed of course at the Italian Center, "the 8000 meter Inn" above Lobuche like we always do, enjoyed the amenities there. And then yesterday Karen Heller Mason and Leila Caudwell and myself and Nawang the Sherpa guide, all went up to Everest Base Camp.  For Karen in particular this was a long held dream;  I know her friends, many of her friends at home know how dear this effort to get to Everest Base Camp has been to her for a while. We had a lovely hike up there, a very emotional time at base camp which is, as you might not realize, absolutely non-existent right now in terms of identifiable features.  The Autumn expeditions are gone, and believe it or not there is no trash up there (high altitude chuckle).  And even the tent platforms that were constructed for this season are beginning to kind of break apart.  But its a powerful place to be as you might expect, and to Karen it was a long held dream to get there and it was really rewarding.

The rest of the group continued after climbing Kala Pattar yesterday back around to Dingboché,  and we were reunited last night   Today we are moving up to Chukkung.  The Island Peak climbers are of course beginning to get very focused on that, we are going to go over some rope techniques and review some knots this afternoon.  Tomorrow morning we'll move to base camp and Patrick and I will do some fixed line practice, and with luck, the day after tomorrow we'll be making our Island Peak ascent.

I'll keep you posted on that;  just know that everyone in this group is doing great and the exceptionally good weather  we're experiencing this fall, which is not unheard of, but of course the Sherpa people, our old friends, and the grandest mountain scenery on Earth is a big part of that.  We're all doing really great.

Dispatch #5:  10/31/00 1:05pm, Chukkung, Nepal

This is Wally Berg, I'm checking in with you guys from Chukkung on the 31st of October.  Really great day for me because we have rejoined our trekkers, that's:  Karen, Barry and Angie here in Chukkung.  And I'm back down here with all the Island Peak climbers and I'm happy to report the really phenomenal success of their efforts yesterday; we had a great day on that Island Peak climb.

From Island Peak Base Camp, we began climbing through the darkness at about 3am.  We reached the glacier fairly early in the morning, and we went up that headwall which was, I think its fair to say, fairly intimidating for most of these climbers.  We had a crystal clear, beautiful morning in four rope teams we moved along that knife-edged ridge with amazing views of the south face of Lhotse and then Makalu and eventually of Cho-Oyu as well as we continued on up to the top of Island Peak.

There were some special things that went on up there;  things that were left for people that are dear to some of the climbers.  11 of us did reach the summit.  We returned quite late in the evening I'll have to say down low enough where we were met by our Sherpas and their compassion for rather exhausted climbers was something I think really made an impression on everyone.

Now as I said we are all back together and we are really psyched to have four more days in the Khumbu visiting friends more interesting places and in this crystal clear weather that continues to be with us each day looking around at the grandest mountains on Earth.  I'll try to give you reports as we continue our trek and get down to lower altitudes where our bodies are going to begin to recover  a little and we can savor our accomplishments and continue to enjoy trekking.

Dispatch #6:  11/2/00 9:25am, Tengboche, Nepal

Hi, this is Wally and this call is coming to you on the 2nd of November from Tengboche.  The amazingly good weather that we've had on this trip continues, it is getting to be almost boring now .  This is the way October is supposed to be in the Khumbu and in these mountains:  beautiful clear days every day, it's what we had on Island Peak and now as we are still savoring our accomplishments there walking back down the valley.  We're enjoying these beautiful days.

I'm calling you from Mingma Yangzi's lodge in Tengboche, the Himalayan View.   Mingma is an old friend of mine and as you probably know is one of the Sherpani women who attempted Everest on the women's expedition last Spring that I told you about form those dispatches.

We'll be leaving Tengboche here soon, and be arriving back at the Panorama lodge in Namche for two nights as we head back down the Khumbu, again savoring our accomplishments.  We are going to also savor the opportunity to walk around these hills, visit people, do a little shopping of course, and visit friends that we've made, and that we've had for years in this area.  I'm going to post you again on just how all of this has been going;  health is good of course it is better daily as we walk down hill.  The Sherpa staff has continued to do a great job and back home in Namche over the next couple of days, we will be doing a bunch of organizing and getting ready to eventually fly out of this place.  But it's going to be with bittersweet feelings because its been a great trip and continues to be.

Dispatch #7  11/6/00 4:18pm, Kathmandu, Nepal

Well, we've made it back to the Yak & Yeti from Tengboche where I last reported to you.  We had a pleasant walk into Namche and a very satisfying two nights spent there with old friends.  We actually rolled out of Namche on a market day:  yet another market day, yet another Saturday for quite a long walk into Lukla.  The traditional farewell party and Sherpa dancing festivities took place that evening in Lukla and we had two early morning flights for our group that had us all back in Kathmandu bright and early in the morning.

As I look back on this climb and this trek I can report my own feelings as being quite bittersweet. The culture shock of Kathmandu is always enticing and satisfying but in some way a bit of a let down.  And I know the other members of the group feel this way.  We're really enjoying our last hours here together, of course shopping gets done.  But I know were all full of memories and feeling from our accomplishments on this trek.  Too numerous to even go into in a cybercast, but as people go home, their eyes are going to be beaming as they begin to recount stories to their friends.  In particular, I am reminded of Karen Heller-Mason's trip to Base Camp and her long-standing and heartfelt goal and how rewarding that was.  

And I reported to you the other day that is was 11 (who summited Island Peak) Actually including Patrick Cook and myself and I must also count Shawang Nima and Mingma, the Sherpa guides, our Everest guides from past trips who also led rope teams.  On the four rope teams there were 13 of us Westerners and two Sherpa guides who reached the summit of Island Peak.  This is a fantastic climbing day that I am still full of memories of, really a great day.

(Second Call) The main thing about the Island Peak climb that I would like to finish with, is this little story and it may kind of show you what it's like, the teamwork, the community we have, all the Sherpas as well as the Western climbers and guides.  The entire time we were climbing on Island Peak from about 1am in the morning when we first got up, till in some cases after dark that same evening when a couple of rope teams got back down into base camp exhausted but happy.  Throughout all those long hours, Pemba our cook and the other Sherpas at base camp were burning a Juniper fire, a sacred fire, offering to the gods to secure our blessing on the climb, on Island Peak.  It's a scene that we are really familiar with from Everest: the smells are really fragrant and nice and we walk around the fire three times of course before we head on the climb, even in those early morning dark hours when we are still half-awake, and knowing those fires are burning through the day is really reassuring to me.

Gary came up with the idea of going to Pemba and asking for ashes from that fire and distributed those as keepsakes for those climbers that went on Island Peak that day.  As we descended back down the Khumbu we all carried those and I know that everyone is flying home with those few little bits of Juniper ashes that the Sherpas maintained for us with the fire that day.

As I said it's bittersweet; Kathmandu is a world of culinary delights:  pizzas ice cream beer, and all of the other things we are enjoying back in civilization.  But as we get on the plane, most of us tomorrow, to return to the US, it will be with some sad feelings, leaving behind wonderful people and experiences in Nepal.

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