| Mt Everest attempt
This report is only about nine months late!
As a teenager in the 1970s I read Maurice Herzog's Annapurna and have dreamed of climbing Mt Everest ever since, but for a long time the dream was no more realistic than going to the moon. Then along came the guide companies and I realized that I had a chance to fulfill this dream. I felt the responsible thing to do was wait until my young kids were grown before embarking on what could be a dangerous endeavor, so I put off this adventure for another few years. By 2008 I felt that it was time to get serious about this goal but I realized I needed some expedition and big mountain experience so I decided to climb the Seven Summits as my training.
I used a variety of guiding companies to get a taste of the different styles and methods and to find out what I was capable of. My first trip was to Nepal for a trek to Everest Base Camp and an ascent of Island Peak in the fall of 2008. This trip was unbelievably enjoyable and eye-opening. I'd been to Nepal many times over the years; in fact my daughter is Nepali (we adopted her in 1994 when she was two years old), but I did not have anywhere near enough appreciation for the strength and character of the Nepali people. Upon returning home I realized that people first go to Nepal for the scenery, adventures and challenge, but leave even more impressed with the culture and people. Growing up in Colorado I felt like I was quite familiar with mountains, but when you first go to Nepal you need to "re calibrate" your neck because they tower so high above. As an aside, my daughter is from a small village on the north side of Annapurna. The big valley below her village sits at 9,000' with 26,000' Dhaulagiri on the west and 23,000' Nilgiri on the east. I estimate that the two peaks are separated by perhaps 10 to 15 miles. The place is awe inspiring if you are a lover of mountains.
From January 2009 to January 2010 I climbed Aconcagua, Denali, Elbrus (ski descent), Kilimanjaro and Vinson. I will put up some reports on these trips as time allows. I joined the IMG trip to Everest in the spring of 2010 and left home (Lincoln, Nebraska) on March 28 and arrived in Kathmandu on March 30. On April 1 we flew to the village of Lukla
Lukla airport and then spent the next 12 days hiking, resting, eating and acclimating our way to base camp at 17,500'.
Memorials to Sir Edmund Hillary and his family
Porter carrying a huge load
Lobuche East from Pheriche
View of Everest from Kala Patar
World's highest internet cafe at Gorak Shep It was here that I met Nima Nuru, the phenomenal Sherpa guide who would be my partner for the next six weeks.
Meeting Nima Nuru for the first time
My tent at Everest Base Camp. I had the only property with a front lawn!
Inside our dining tent at EBC.
Our Puja ceremony
After two days at EBC we walked back down the Khumbu valley to Lobuche East's base camp. IMG uses this almost 20,000' peak for the first acclimatization trip to cut down on the number of journeys through the very dangerous Khumbu Ice Fall above base camp. The following day we climbed to a higher camp on Lobuche, went to bed early and then left for the summit at about 3 am.
Climbing Lobuche East with Ama Dablam in the background We were blessed with perfect weather - mild temps as soon as the sun came up and no wind.
Nearing the summit of Lobuche East
Enjoying a perfect day on Lobuche East It seems crazy that a mountain almost the same height as Denali is considered a "trekking peak" in Nepal and is simply a useful tool for a day climb to help acclimatizing. We returned the same day to the Lobuche base camp and the following day we hiked back to Everest Base Camp.
Over the next three weeks we climbed through the Ice Fall
Two Ice Fall doctors heading to work. True heroes!
Looking down into the Ice Fall
Gaining the final big crevasse at the top of the Ice Fall to Camp 1 at 20,000'
Hanging out at Camp 1 above the Ice Fall and Camp 2 at 21,000'
Camp 2, below the Lhotse Face and a second climb to Camp 3 at 24,000',
Nima Nuru ascending the Lhotse Face
The Western Cwm, Camp 2 and Cho Oyu from Camp 3 a new personal record altitude for me. By May 8 we were back in base camp with our acclimatizing efforts essentially complete and now we were at the mercy of the weather. We occupied our days with short hikes and climbs to nearby view points, to the small village of Gorak Shep for different foods and the world's highest internet cafe, doing laundry, writing and resting. The days always started off with beautiful blue skies and pleasant weather, but frequently turned cold and snowy by mid afternoon. Up high there was a lot of very strong wind.
Everest, Ice Fall, Lhotse, Nuptse and Base Camp from Pumori Camp 1
We received our weather window forecast and set off for the four day journey to the summit on May 19.
Crossing a crevasse on day one of summit push We were held back an extra day at Camp 2 due to high winds,
Sherpas chilling at Camp 2 on summit push but moved up to Camp 3 on the morning of May 22. This was my strongest day on the mountain (I wish I could have peaked - no pun intended - the following night) and I made the climb in 4 hours and 15 minutes, arriving at 7:15 am. My first climb to Camp 3 took nine hours; this shows the benefit of acclimatizing. We left at 4 am on the 23rd for Camp 4 on the South Col. It was wonderful to finally see first hand all the famous landmarks that I had read about over the years. Besides the Lhotse Face, we crossed the Yellow Band, the Geneva Spur and camped on the South Col.
Looking down onto the Yellow Band and Camp 3, just below the Geneva Spur This was also our first time climbing with oxygen. I found the oxygen helpful, although it only lowers your effective altitude perhaps by 3,000 feet. The whole setup weighs about 17 pounds and the face mask inhibits your ability to draw big deep breaths. I struggled in to Camp 4 at 26,000' at about 11:30 am and was missing all the strength I had the previous day.
Staggering into Camp 4 on day 3 of summit push
The summit pyramid from Camp 4
The idea was to eat, drink and sleep until early evening and start climbing at 8 pm that night. I found drinking difficult, eating even more so and sleep impossible. Between the wind shaking the tent, the excitement and anticipation, my tent-mate moving around and just the altitude, the best I could do was rest a bit. By 7:45 pm I was dressed and ready to go. We started climbing at 8 in light wind and snow with temps of perhaps minus 10 F. The forecast called for the weather to clear up, but the forecaster couldn't have been more wrong. A cyclone was bumping into the region and the storm intensified through the night. There was a lot of lightning, the winds picked up to around 30 mph and it was snowing very hard.
After six hours we reached the Balcony where we quickly changed oxygen bottles, ate a candy bar and drank some slushy water. By this point a number of people had turned around, the storm being too much. Nima and I continued onwards, but my goggles iced up and I couldn't see. There was a fixed rope and the snow along the rope was packed firm from other people ahead of me and from the previous day's climbers, but I couldn't see this "trail" and fell off it three times. After the third fall, I sat down to reconsider my situation. I removed my goggles and could see much better, but my eyes immediately felt like they were going to freeze. I thought of the storm described in Krakauer's "Into Thin Air" and felt like this could be a repeat. I made the decision that it would be foolish to continue up, so I announced to Nima that we should go back down. He agreed and we headed back down. Within ten minutes of this decision I began second guessing myself, but decided to not go back up.
I was back in my tent at Camp 4 by 5:30 am on May 24 feeling very tired and hungry. I was also quite distraught at not reaching the top.
Back in the tent at Camp 4 after failed summit bid I rested and ate for two hours and then we descended back down to Camp 2. I was pretty well used up by that point. The following morning we left early for base camp and were there before lunch time.
Nima and me at the base of the Ice Fall on our last day After lunch, Nima helped me pack and I arranged a ride on a helicopter for the following morning. I flew from Everest Base Camp on May 26, landing in Pheriche at 14,000'. This was my first time below 17,000' in about seven weeks and I was amazed at how thick and warm the air felt. We waited there for about thirty minutes until another heli arrived to take us back to Lukla. We weren't on the ground in Lukla for more than 15 minutes before we boarded a Twin Otter and left for Kathmandu. In almost exactly 120 minutes I went from the cold Khumbu Glacier of Everest Base Camp to the warm, lush, bustling city of Kathamandu. It was surreal.
Part of our team celebrating at the Rum Doodle in Kathmandu
I need to mention more of Nima Nuru. Like most Sherpas, he is not a big man, coming up just past my shoulders and probably weighing 50 pounds less than me but his strength is absolutely unbelievable. I would feel loaded down with a 30 pound pack and he would carry 75 pounds. It was impossible for me to walk and climb at anything like the speeds he could maintain. He never seemed to tire and he was always in a good mood. He was helpful, selfless and great company. I remember one time in the Ice Fall where things looked particularly dangerous. I asked him to please go ahead of me and wait where it is safe, but he refused saying we were a team and would stick together. There is a fixed rope all the way through the Ice Fall with an anchor about every 50 yards. Nima would stop at every anchor, reach down and pick up the rope on the other side and hand it to me to clip into, thus saving me extra effort. I don't think there was anything Nima could have done to help me that he didn't cheerfully do.
The trip was all that I had hoped for, minus not summiting. We had a very fun team assembled from all over the world. Our guides were helpful, competent, safe and encouraging. Our camps were all first rate and everything ran like a well oiled machine. Other groups struggled and on three separate occasions our guides rescued people in trouble who belonged to other groups. Two of those times their own group's guides provided no assistance! I intend to return to Everest again, probably in 2012 for another attempt. I maintained a blog of the trip with my wife doing much of it when I had no internet access. You can read the entire blog at: http://climbwithstarcity.blogspot.com/
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):