Hi Again Everyone,
Back at Base Camp again. I swear that by the time
Im done, Ill have climbed this mountain ten times. I think that since
Jiri, we have a cumulative gain of over 60,000 that Ive just finished my fourth
round trip through the Kumbu Ice Fall and my second trip up the Lhotse Face to Camp 3.
And still, I have the hardest part yet to come
.our summit bid, which we
finally seem to be ready and acclimated for. So we are back in Base Camp
.for a couple of days and as soon as it looks like we have a weather window of 3-4
days, we will push higher on the mountain and target a summit bid within that 3-4 day
window. Right now our plan is to leave Base Camp on the 7th for Camp 2,
rest one day then move to Camp 3 and Camp 4 and attempt the summit on the 11th
weather permitting. Our first team tried summiting two nights ago, but got the
tar kicked out of them by the winds. They got beaten up so bad, they descended all
the way back to Base Camp to recover. Its unclear as of yet whether they will
try to summit with our bid. The first teams on the mountain actually summitted this
morning (a British team and an American team (National Geographic team)) in hellucicious
winds. Im really surprised they made it. As I am writing this, they are
still descending from the summit in high winds. So, our prayers are with them for a
As I was saying, I just returned from a night at
Camp 3 with a push a little higher towards the South Col. I was hoping to spend two
nights there, but during our first night, Everest showed her true colors and we got
pounded by the weather. It was a long night. I thought that our tent was going
to pull a Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz and get blown half way into China. Thank God
for the NorthFace VE25
.the strongest tent in the world. I dont think we
would have made it in any other tent. It was a pretty wild night. The Lhotse
Face is not a place to try to withstand a storm. It is an extremely steep, bullet
proof ice face in which you literally have to carve out a ledge in which to put your
tents. You dont leave your tent unless you are roped up and clipped in. To
take a pee, you literally have to put your harness on inside the tent, tie into the ropes,
clip in outside the tent, swing out onto the face and hang your ass out over the edge.
Not too unlike from big wall climbing. Not a lot of fun.
In 1997, a Taiwanese climber stepped out of his
tent to take a pee, slipped and died in the resulting fall down the face. Not a
place to screw around. Anyway, as I said, we got pounded all night and well into the next
morning. Worried that the tents would not hold out forever, we decided to try and
retreat at midmorning in gale force winds and unbelievable cold. Getting out of the
tent and onto the first rappel was a little touch and go at best. It was so cold,
that by the 3rd rappel, my hands had already gone numb and I was beginning to
worry at the possibility of losing some fingers. There was no choice as getting down
was the only option. We got lucky though. About 1000 feet below Camp 3
we actually climbed below the wind stream and were able to make the rest of the retreat to
Camp 2 in relative calm. Its an amazing mountain. One minute it can be
calm and warm and next, the wind could sandblast the paint off your car with such cold
that your pee will freeze before it hits the ground. So, two days in Camp 2 getting
our senses back and then back to Base Camp where we are now preparing for our final summit
I dont mind telling anyone that Im
damn tired. Ive never been so tired, both physically and mentally.
Ive now spent 14 nights over 21,000 feet and over a month over 17,000 feet.
You cant imagine the toll this takes on ones person and spirit. I would
contemplate that most of you would not even recognize me right now as I am merely a
fraction of my former self in many ways. This is a painful mountain
by far the
hardest thing I have ever done in my life, and there is still a long way to go. To
be perfectly honest with you, Im not entirely convinced that Ive got it in me,
but Im going to give it a hell of a shot. The name of the game on this
mountain is conserving strength. You have to save enough fuel to finally get to the
top (and of course back). That's a lot harder than you may think living at these
altitudes, for this length of time. And, the game is as much or more mental as
physical. The challenge of keeping your head in the game for two and a half months
is nothing less than intense. It would be so easy to throw in the towel at any time,
in fact, several already have. Staying in the hunt is the challenge. And, even
keeping your head focused, staying healthy and strong, getting the weather and some luck,
the odds are still against you getting to the top. Let me explain by giving you a
description of some of our team and its history.
Our team is lead by Jon Tinker, a Brit and a
professional climber, climbing for the North Face. Jon summited via the North Ridge
several years back and is trying to be the first Brit in history to summit from both the
North and South. He is competing for this destination with two other Brits currently
on the mountain. I hope that this isnt clouding his judgement in terms of
decisions and timing. Jons wife had their first child three weeks ago (no, Jon
wasnt there for the delivery).
Mike Smith is another Brit on the team currently
living in Chamonix. Mike is what is referred to as a Corporate Mercenary, providing
security and consulting for oil companies doing business in hotspots like Algeria, Libya,
Iran, etc.,. He lives a pretty risky life style, so for him, Everest is a relaxing
vacation. This is his third attempt on Everest. Hes tried both the North
Ridge as well as the South Col in the winter in which his entire team nearly perished in a
Nick Kekus is another Brit, of Serbian descent
(which provides an interesting perspective on Kosovo). This is Nicks third
attempt as well, having summited once before on the south side in 1997.
Denis Brown is a doctor from Canada testing out a
new asthma drug for Merck Pharmaceuticals and attempting to climb without oxygen to prove
the effectiveness of the drug. This will be Denis fourth attempt of Everest.
Twice from the North and this is his second try from the South.
Dave Rodney is a school teacher and motivational
speaker, also from Canada. Dave who is quite a number with the ladies, is here to
film Denis. This is Daves second attempt of Everest.
Enrique from Spain is quite an accomplished
climber. He has completed six of the worlds seven summits and has been to the
North Pole. He has attempted Everest once before and if he gets it this time, that
will make seven of seven. Enrique has been a blessing on this trip with his good
humor, always positive attitude, and excellent Spanish food that he brought along.
Chris Brown (farmer Brown)is a potato farmer from
the UK and by all accounts, quite successful one. Chris has also summited six of the
worlds seven summits, but this is his third attempt at Everest. As he puts it,
hes been training solidly for 94 weeks, which is the amount of time since he
finished his last failed Everest attempt.
There is another climber, Mike Truman, who
although not part of our team, sure spends a lot of time with us. His is a Brit
living in Hong Kong, who is part of the Elite Military Force, the Ghurkas. Mike is
attempting to climb the world's 14 highest 8000 meter peaks and this is his third
try at Everest.
Kim Man Chaung, from Hong Kong, is another with
six of the worlds seven summits under his belt. This is his second attempt at
The rest of us, Peter Shin (my climbing partner),
Willie Benegas, Martin Doyle, Katja Staarges, Mike Mathews, Mike Richardson, Jack and
myself are all first timers. I point out the detail in some of our team to
illustrate a purpose, and that is to show how few actually make the summit on their first
attempt. The odds are heavily stacked against you with only a 25% success ratio.
This also illustrates another fact, and that is to show just how obsessed with this
mountain one can become with nearly half our team having attempted this mountain two,
three and even four times. This mountain has the ability to totally and completely
consume ones life and inadvertently destroy it in the process of doing so.
Regardless of the huge financial outlay to climb the mountain, the time commitment to
prepare for it is massive. I took an entire year to prepare for my attempt and I
couldnt possibly imagine doing it again, let alone three or four attempts.
Hell, Eileen would kill me!!! But seriously, unless youre a professional
climber, then you really only have one shot in life at a mountain like this. You
prepare the best you can, you take your best shot and when its over, you get on with
your life before the mountain becomes your life. Believe me, Ive seen it here,
its too easy for it to happen. If you make it, then you have that for the rest
of your life
..if you dont, you have the experience and believe me, so far
its been an awesome one. One that I will cherish forever. But either
way, when its all over, there is a whole life ahead of you which must be lived to
its fullest. Whichever way this goes in the end, I look forward to coming home
to family and friends.
So, this is it
.the gauntlet is has been
.the line is drawn in the sand. My summit bid awaits me. My
final test, my final challenge, the final chapter in this great adventure.
Im excited and thrilled, apprehensive and damn scared. Its an emotional
whirlwind as I look up toward the summit and my unknown future. I could easily turn
around right now and never look back without a second through, but that would not be right
for me. Fate and destiny await me. For those of you who are religious, please
keep us in your prayers the 10th-14th. For those of you who
are not, please wish us luck. This is it.