Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Snow and Celebration

It is hard to believe that the time has come to say goodbye to our 'home away from home.' The 25th of May brought the return of Summit Team 2 back to basecamp. Everyone from that team, including my good friend Chris Macklin (aka Grizzly Adams) from England, who made it to the South Col summited on May 23!

Russell Brice and Himalayan Experience Ltd put 58 people on top of the world this season. That number included 20 clients (David Taite in early May, 10 from Team 1 and 9 from Team 2), guides, sherpas, and film crew. Ellen Miller and her sherpa were also successsful in reaching the summit of Lhotse. All in all an amazing accomplishment to say the least.

Our exact departure from BC for the 3-day trek down the valley to Lukla has been a bit uncertain as we received 1 meter (just over 3 feet) of snow in the past 24 hours (see photo). The early part of the monsoon has arrived here in the Khumbu. Yet Russell informed us during his farewell speech today that the 40 head of yak he ordered to carry our gear will be here tomorrow (5/27) and that the weather will likely break overnight. So off we go tomorrow (unless Mother Nature says otherwise during the night) with daypacks towards Pengboche for the night. The following day will find us headed towards the busy village of Namche Bazaar. The 29th means we will finally end up in Lukla and if the weather cooperates (historically speaking, getting stuck here for days is possible, not to mention having to help shovel off the runway by hand!) we'll fly back to Kathmandu the morning of the 30th. From there some leave for home as early as the next day (like me) while others will remain for a few days to a week or more.

Celebrating the expedition's success started after lunch today and in fact is still going on within the Tiger Dome/White Pod as I lay here in the comfort and warmth of my sleeping bag while the wind outside my tent continues to blow snow around. A lot of emotions today. Happy because of the success we had on the mountain, not to mention there were no injuries and everyone walked away with all their fingers and toes intact. Sad because we go our separate ways in just days.

I cannot thank Russell Brice and Himalayan Experience enough for making my dream come true. I also want to again thank Alpharma Animal Health for its support and commitment to this "Quest for Success." Finally, I want to thank my family for allowing me to be gone for so long and for keeping the faith. I miss you and love you and will be home very soon now!

To those of you that have followed my dispatches and to those who have emailed, a very BIG thank you. Your words of encouragement as well as congratulations have meant so much to me. Once back home please feel free to contact me at my normal (i.e. non-mountain email) email address: lancesfox@gmail.com Namaste one last time from Himalayan Experience BC here at the foot of mighty Mount Everest.

May your dreams come true and God bless you!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

More From "On High"

5300m Himex BC - Since posting the success of standing at the top of the world and getting back down safely to BC I have received a lot of congratulatory emails. Thank you for taking the time to write. Unfortunately it sounds like at least some of you found that that at least one of the photos I posted did not show up.

All pictures are important to me yet the one that means a lot to me that may have failed is my father's ashes spreading into the heaven above Mt. Everest.Because my father was a great man whom I was privileged to know and learn from for the first 16 years of my life. I have decided to repost today with that picture along with a couple more new ones from atop the highest point on our planet. I hope they display properly!

After much needed rest last night the sun is shining today, May 24, 2009. A sunny Sunday morning here in the Himalayas. I'd like to think God may have ordered up such a beautiful day for my fellow teammates to descend from the South Col to Camp 2 today. The sun also means recharging batteries via solar power and doing much needed laundry. Yes, wearing the same clothes for a week means they start to walk on their own!

That's all for now from BC. I will dispatch again soon. Namaste!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Summit Success!

5300 m - Just after 9 o'clock in the morning Kathmandu time on the 21st of May, 2009 I stepped onto the planet's highest point, not able to go any higher.

I realize all of you have been patiently waiting to hear whether my dream became reality and I thank you for your enthusiasm. Not dispatching for the past week has been hard, but now that I am safely back in basecamp I am thrilled to share my excitement.

Out of 11 climbers on Summit Team 1, nine of us reached the top of the world on the morning of May 21, 2009. One of our Norwegian friends (Thomas) fell ill prior to ascending the Lhotse face and had to abandon his summit bid. He has recovered here in BC.

My dear friend and terrific tentmate Stuart Carder elected to stop at the south summit of Everest, the second highest point on our planet. I admire his wisdom in making that decision but that is what smart mountaineering is about, listening to your gut. I cannot thank Stuart enough for lending me his shoulder prior to the start of our summit bid from the South Col (Camp 4 perched just under 8000 meters or 26,000') as climbing Everest involves a mixed bag of emotions. Nevertheless we shared the joy of both the South Summit and Summit, respectively.

As I type this dispatch the afternoon of May 23 here in Nepal, we have learned that all of Summit Team 2 have successfully summited today and are now back at Camp 4 resting. They still have 2 days to descend to BC so we will keep them in our prayers as the climb is obviously not over.

Unfortunately the only person from Team 2 who could not make a summit bid was my friend Jim Holliday. Similar to Thomas, Jim was suddenly struck with illness prior to ascending the Lhotse face a second time. He has recovered completely here in BC which we are grateful for.

As you can imagine I took numerous photos, at least when I was in a safe position to do so. My website can only accept 3 per dispatch so I've chosen 3 for your viewing pleasure. Not sure if I should call The Guiness Book of World Records (haha) but I'd like to think the first photo might represent the world's highest cheese wedge!? Okay, I couldn't help but cram one of Wisconsin's pride and joy into my pack. The look on the sherpas' faces who were on the summit with me when I pulled it out of the stuff sack was priceless.

Onto more serious matters. My sherpa, Tashi Tshering perfectly captured a wonderful moment for me on camera. I realize that for the web the resolution size is reduced but if you look closely, you can see my father's ashes being carried by the jet stream winds atop Mt. Everest. Truly a glorious moment for me to honor my late father. While crying at that moment seems reasonable, the chilly temps meant every drop of liquid outside the body instantly froze so I held the tears back. Still, a moment I will cherish forever.

And last but not least, this trip would not have been possible without the generous support of my employer and sponsor, Alpharma Animal Health. It was with a lot of pride that I held up the logo of this terrific company at the top of the world. The "Quest for Success" was completed on a beautiful day. Winds were mild, the temperature at the summit was somewhere between -10 to -20 F, and the sky was a brilliant blue.

I wish I could not only share all the photos with you now, but also the images that are forever burned in my memory. Like climbing between what is called "the balcony" and the South Summit on a moderate pitch and snow blown ridge when the sun first rises. Or the lightning show we witnessed far to the east while the moon and stars hovered above us during the 6-hour night time portion of our summit climb.

While we wait for our remaining teammates we will start the process of packing and preparing for the 3-day trek back to Lukla where we'll catch flights to Kathmandu, hopefully on the 30th. From there we will say goodbye and go our separate ways. I hope to dispatch a couple more times before that time.

I would again like to thank my family, friends, colleagues, and even those of you who took the time to write whom I don't know for all the wonderful words of encouragement. Every word meant a lot as they helped me to push myself to the top of the world and get back down safely. And in case you were wondering, the last week meant another 6 lbs so the grand total weight loss program here at Everest for me? 24 pounds Yep, looking forward to those cheeseburgers, pizzas, and ice cream desserts! :)

Friday, May 15, 2009

Time to Go: No Place But UP!

5300m - HimEx BC - The time has come to leave the comforts and relative warmth of BC on our 5 day journey to the top of the world where the summit temperature will likely be around -10 to -20 degrees F. We have been split into two teams, separated by two days climbing and I was fortunate enough to be selected for the first summit team. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity. Due to the fact that there are some 500+ westerners here in the Khumbu (add to that sherpa staff, etc.), all with the same goal, I cannot divulge the exact date of our departure from BC. All I can say is VERY SOON! We want to protect our teams' success while avoiding 'traffic jams' up high (Russell receives accurate weather reports, exclusive to HimEx to insure we have the best possible summit window).

I thought I would share with you now some facts about climbing Everest. Since the first successful summit of Mt. Everest in 1953, there have been less then 3,000 individual summits (about 50:50 westerner to Sherpa) prior to the 2009 climbing season. There have been some individuals to have summited multiple times (Ex. Ed Viesturs has 6 under his belt prior to 2009, Dave Hahn, another legendary American mountaineer has 10, the most by any westerner) so total summits sits just under 5,000.

With the advent of commercial expeditions, fixed ropes, and sherpa support the risk of dying on Everest is now less than 1.5% for every successful summit. Certainly a vital fact not to be overlooked.

A recap of our route (see the map on my site) here on the Nepalese or South side: From basecamp at ~17,500' (5300m) we will ascend to Camp 2 at 6400m or ~21,000' on Day 1, a climb of roughly 3600 vertical feet passing through the Khumbu Icefall and Western Cwm (pronounced coom) once again. We will rest here on Day 2. Day 3 will find us working our way up the final glaciel moraine above Camp 2 to the steep and icy Lhotse Face on our way to Camp 3 at ~7300 meters or roughly 24,000 feet. Higher than any point in the world outside the Himalayas.

Unlike the first time, we will sleep at Camp 3 on a low level of supplemental oxygen. This will not only help us stay a bit warmer but should help us sleep better, giving us more strength for the next day. Maintaining the use of a slightly higher level of oxygen for climbing, we will leave Camp 3 and travel into uncharted territory for many of us.

The route will take us across the Geneva Spur and the Yellow Band as we make our way to our high camp, Camp 4 located on the South Col at ~8000 meters or around 26,000 feet. This is the start of what's known as the 'death zone.' It is not a phrase that should condone fear. Rather, it is the height at which the body literally starts to deteriorate no matter what, even with supplemental oxygen . That is why we will keep our stay above 8000 meters to a minimum.

Our summit attempt will start under the stars late on the night of day 4/morning of day 5. Perhaps a 10-12 hour summit day with the majority of that travelling into the vertical world by headlamp. And if Sagarmatha (aka Chomolungma or "Mother Goddess of the World" on the Tibetan side) invites us, God blesses us, our bodies allow us, and our minds stay focused, we will stand at the top of the world at 8,850 meters or 29,035' sometime early on day 5. Success means not being able to climb any higher. This, after having scaled 3550 meters (~11,700') or what amounts to just over 2 vertical miles above BC! Back to Camp 4 for the night before descending to Camp 2 for our final night on the route down to BC. A total of 7 days roundtrip.

Obviously there is no guarantee of success as many have tried and many have failed. I am with one of, if not the best expedition on the mountain in my opinion.

Pictured with me are some of my teammates whom I will be travelling with on our voyage toward the heavens above. I am proud to climb with them, to know them, and to call them my friends (left to right): Moises Nava from Playa, Mexico, myself, Stuart Carder from Oxfordshire, England (will also be my tentmate), and John Black of Johannesburg, South Africa.

I am disappointed that I will not be climbing to the summit with my new friends Chris Macklin and Jim Holliday, among others on the Himex team too of course. During our first trip up the mountain together Chris suffered frostbite on the tip of one finger due to his glove liner getting accidentally torn. The medical staff has been treating it and felt it would be best to allow it to heal for a couple more days, hence Chris will be on the second summit team. He is a gifted athlete and strong climber and I know he will do well up high. I have affectionately nicknamed him "Grizz" after the actor/character Grizzly Adams. From the picture attached you will see why. He has been growing his 'face mane' since Kathmandu and will keep it until he retuns home to show off to his mates there.

I am also including a photo of me with my sherpa, Tashi Tshering as he will assist me as needed on our journey to the top of the world. All of us were introduced today to the sherpa who will accompany us on this climb up the mountain.

What is also exciting for Team 1 is that Phurba Tashi will once again attempt to summit, going for number 16. Even though he will be paired with one of my teammates, Chris Dovell of England, it will still be an honor to climb on the same team with him even if all I see is his backside from afar (he is amazingly fast)!

The last bit of trivia I have for you is more of an answer to a question I have fielded several times via email recently. Yes, I have lost weight since my arrival here in the Khumbu region of Nepal. A lot of us are in the same boat so to say, with much variation of course. How much? Just a little over 8 kg or 18 pounds to date. A little more to lose yet I'm afraid. Sadly, high altitude means losing muscle first verses fat as the body is more efficient at catabolizing protein at these heights.

Still, I have informed my wife that I will seek 3 food items upon my arrival back to the States: a large american cheeseburger with golden fries and a Coke, a Jolly Roger's (a great pizzeria in my home town of New London, Wisconsin) bacon cheeseburger pizza with thick crust, and finally a peanut buster parfait from our local Dairy Queen (ice cream parlor) for dessert! Yuuuum!

Okay, at some point I'll have to put some muscle back on, ha ha!

It is quite possible that my next dispatch won't be until I get back to the safety of BC. I have to mull this over but will apologize in advance if that ends up being the case. I will take my satellite phone and pda up with me, but the latter may only go as far as Camp 2 this time. I'm sure you will understand as my focus needs to be on the climb itself. We will also have limited time at Camps 3 and 4, not to mention the fact that feeling less than 100% is likely (i.e. exhaustion, lack of appetite, etc.).

To paraphrase a qoute Ed Viesturs once said, "The summit is optional, getting down safely is mandatory." Obviously I will dispatch again when I am down safely, regardless of whether or not I summit (but hopefully with photos from the highest point on our planet!). Please bare with me on this as I know there are a lot of people tracking the dispatches, all of whom will be eager for news of our teams' progress. Let me see how things go and how I feel as I will try to do my best for you.One last thing that I would like to say before I depart on my vertical journey is actually for the children/young adults (including my incredible son Jordan and beautiful daughter Bailee) who read this: Dream Big, Pursue Your Passion, Smile Often and Laugh A Lot! Life is short so live it to the fullest..

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Work and Play

5300m Himex BC - Recently I have fielded several emails asking, "what do you do to pass the time?" or "do you train while you wait?" To answer the first question a lot of us read books, some play cards, movies are shown inside the Tiger Dome/White Pod or some of us utilize our ipods for movies and music. One can only clean and reorganize his or her tent so much. Then there is the need to keep clean as we typically shower or "bird bathe" once per week. We are approaching week #2 of rest here in BC. Most of the guys that were growing beards started shaving them off recently. My buddy Chris Macklin is the exception as he his starting to look like Grizzly Adams! (I'll have to get a photo soon).

It has been fun bonding with certain individuals here in camp. My buddy Jim Holliday of Pittsburgh decided to shave his Santa Clause beard today so we had our picture taken together (see photo). As you can see, we ironically own the same sherpa hat, each of us having purchased them at the local REI store, respectively. Turns out Jim is at least 50% Polish like me so it has been fun trading Polish words and phrases.

I also asked Big Boss (Russell Brice's nickname) for a photo but on one condition: that we have another one taken after I get back from my summit attempt only then he has to wear my cheese wedge hat! He kindly laughed and agreed yet right after the photo today he put me to work with the ice pick to help him level one of the ice mounds in front of our dining tents. Makes me wonder what I'll have to do after the cheese wedge photo?! :)

So we really don't "train" down low but rather rest and recuperate, maybe taking short walks to either traditional Everest BC or even an hour walk down to Gorak Shep (local village that offers internet access). It looks like we will be in BC until the 15th/16th as the ideal summit window may open up shortly thereafter. Not too long now and we'll be climbing into the heavens once again. Each day the excitement grows...

Friday, May 8, 2009

O2 Day

5300m Himex BC - Today was "Oxygen Debriefing" day led by our terrific expedition leader Russell Brice. Within the comforts of the Tiger Dome, Russell overviewed the parts of the oxygen delivery system, how to assemble, as well as provided a nice plan for its use while high on the mountain.

Even though our summit window is at least a week or more away (?), it was great to spend the time now reviewing the use of oxygen, a critical element that will no doubt help us feel warmer and stronger as we ascend above 8000 meters on summit day.

Only a select few have been able to summit Mt. Everest without oxygen. Oxygen does not guarantee the summit, but it does increase the odds of success.

On a different note, my brother Chris sent me an email after reading yesterday's dispatch about Christophe's dog Leopold. It turns out that he and his wife Abby's dog Cassie is recovering at the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine (my alma mater) after having open chest surgery to remove and drain what sounds like an aggressive infection. Dr. Dale Bjorling, one of my former professors at the school is leading the case so Cassie is certainly in great hands. That being said however, I would kindly ask that you include Cassie in your prayers please.

Thanks again to everyone who has sent me emails over the past days and weeks. Your kind words have been inspirational as we prepare ourselves both physically and mentally for the tough days that lie just around the corner.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Goodbyes and Prayers

5300m Himex BC - Another emotional day here in basecamp as we said goodbye to a couple more members of our climbing family.

Gilad Stern headed back to South Africa to rejoin his wife Michelle whom actually had visited our BC as a member of our first group of trekkers several weeks ago when we first arrived here in the Khumbu. A wonderful couple as I wish Gillard a safe journey home as his intellect and straightforward thinking will be missed.

My climbing and tentmate from our first trip up the mountain, Eugene Constant of France, also headed home to his family today. Eugene and I labeled ourselves "the dads" on our team. I admire his decision to return home early to his family. I immensely enjoyed our conversations while on the mountain and will miss him very much. My best to Eugene and his family.

Lastly, I learned last night that my friend and teammate Christophe Vandaele's dog Leopold is fighting for his life back in NYC. A 7-year old Weimereiner, he recently collapsed and had to have emergency surgery to remove a benign tumor discovered near his heart. As a veterinarian I have a lot of compassion for animals and I know how much Leopold means to Christophe. Leopold is his family, just like my dogs are part of my family and yours are part of your family. Christophe shared with me his life story and how he has been living the American dream for the past 15 years after arriving in NYC from Belgium with no money in his pocket. Today he is a very successful businessman. I was humbled to listen and am honored to know him. It will be fun to look him up the next time I am in NYC. I can see the love he has for his companion Leopold and by this dispatch I am asking for your prayers for Leopold's timely recovery.Back to resting!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Waiting on the Weather

5300m Himex BC - It was with a lot of joy being able to welcome 'home' several of my new friends as they returned safely from high on the mountain today. Several more, including my Japanese teammates are due into camp tomorrow. It was great to greet each one of them as they strolled into BC this morning.

Pictured is me hugging "Big Jim" Holliday of Pittsburgh as well as having a little fun with Stuart Carder of England. And last but not least we all cheered for David Tait after his successsful summit of the highest mountain in the world yesterday, May 5, 2009. Accompanying David were multiple Sherpas, including Phurba Tashi, his 15th successsful summit.

The good news is that the ropes are fixed to the top. We now have to be patient for the ideal weather window. Some other teams are heading up the mountain now yet we may not see our first team ascend for several days if not a week or more. Unless something changes significantly in the next week my next dispatch may be delayed a bit. Time to rest, read, draw, throw the football, and maybe even have a brew or two. Hard days are just ahead so please stay tuned. Remember, patience is a virtue (yes, I am reminding myself of that as well).

Monday, May 4, 2009

Back to BC, Meeting an Icon

5300m Himex Everest BC - I am lying here back in my BC tent safe and sound after descending this morning from Camp 2 through the Khumbu Icefall. This time we traveled through the danger zone in full light, stopping for brief moments to snap photos (see what one of the vertical multi-ladder crossings looks like). I was traveling with teammates Valerio Massimo and Chris Macklin and as we exited the icefall a couple of avalanches let loose, one of which "dusted" a few of our teammates moments behind us. Whew!!

After removing the crampons and drinking some water I was off on my next mission: to meet Ed Viesturs. I saw Ed descending the glacier just below the Lhotse face when we were on our way up. No place or time for a greeting. This time however I was very lucky to find him in his RMI/First Ascent tent. What an extremely nice man. What most people know is that he was the first American to summit all fourteen 8000 meter+ peaks without oxygen. What some do not know is that Ed is a Midwest US "boy" from Illinois and actually earned his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree prior to becoming a professional mountaineer. No, I am no professional mountaineer but like Ed am from the US Midwest and still carry my D.V.M. degree. Ed graciously agreed to a couple photos (see one attached). Beyond getting through the icefall safely (now 50% done) this was the highlight of my day for sure.

We also said goodbye today to another team member, Jon Hansen of Wisconsin. Jon and I traveled to Everest together with the hope of standing on the summit together yet Jon has been having difficulty acclimatizing. Having only climbed Lobuche once to just under the summit and recently turning around after reaching Camp 1 above the icefall, Jon's earlier physical ailments have taken its toll on him mentally so he decided it was not his time to climb Everest. We wish him a safe return back to the states.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

First Trip up Everest

7300 m Camp 3 Lhotse Face - The past 30 hours has taken us from Camp 2 at ~6400 meters to Camp 3 high on the Lhotse face, ~7300 m, and back down again to Camp 2. A vertical climb of close to 3,000 feet! A mild headache at that elevation was no surprise. Nor was the fatigue as we crawled into our tents so carefully perched on an ice shelf created by our wonderful sherpas. Unfortunately the weather brought in snow showers and gusty winds throughout the afternoon and evening so I was only able to take this one photo from the tent vestibule during a short weather break (you can see Everest's south summit tantalizingly close yet so far away, along with the well known Geneva Spur or rocky ridge with the yellow band to the right).

After intermittent sleep, mainly due the fact that gravity kept sucking me into my wonderful tent partner Eugene Constant, and not so much due to the minor headache and/or flapping tent walls, we once again strapped on the harnesses over our downsuits, tightened the crampons over our high altitude boots, and set off down the fixed ropes leading us towards Camp 2. At times we were in white-out conditions, along with the occasional bottleneck of climbers either coming up the fixed lines or sherpas wanting to pass on the way down. For a brief moment while standing near an anchor I was able to take a picture to give you a sense of what climbing the Lhotse face was like. Let's just say I am glad to be typing this dispatch on my pda vs. still arm wrapping or rappelling down the face at 45 degrees or greater at times.

I carry my Father's ashes with me everyday along with some other personal effects from family and friends. I also carry an Alpharma Animal Health flag so thought an additional photo would be appropriate to post (note the south summit high above) Tomorrow our team will descend all the way to Everest BC for much needed rest. Some of Team 2 will be on their way up the Lhotse face to Camp 3.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Camp 2 Everest 6400 Meters

6400 m Camp 2 Everest - After a chilly 6 a.m. start out Camp 1 yesterday we arrived at Camp 2 around 8:30-9:00 a.m. This camp is perched to the side of the glacier streaming off of the Lhotse face (see photo of the face and with good eyes, due to the web size display, you can see Camp 3 another 1000 meters (~3300 ') higher perched along the hanging ice field just to the right of center). That is where my team is headed tomorrow (May 2) for one night.

I'm happy to report that team 2 (The Yeti Team) made it safely through the Khumbu icefall today and are now settled in to Camp 1 for the night. We will cross paths with them here at Camp 2 the night of the 3rd as we rest before descending to BC and they head up the Lhotse face.

Another spectacular aspect of where Camp 2 sits is that we can look up and see the plume off Everest's summit and also get a great look at the south summit and distinctive yellow band of rock high on the mountain. Please see the photo which shows the south summit just right of center and the small snow plume blowing off our ultimate goal, 2450 meters above us.

Tomorrow will prove to be one of the most difficult days yet as our bodies will crave for more oxygen, something that will become less and less, as we put one foot in front of the other. 6-7-8 steps, pause and breath, repeat. The climb tomorrow will likely take 5-7 hours and some, if not all of us, will be greated with headaches, nausea, and pure exhaustion. Fun, fun! So today's rest day has been very welcomed. In fact, the film crew for The Discovery Channel asked several of us to practice wearing a chest-mounted camera. See the photo as we used this time to blow off some steam vs. staring at the hard work ahead, that being the Lhotse face and a night a Camp 3. What's the saying? "No pain, no gain." Living the dream is reality now for sure and I hope to dispatch more about this dream/reality after a successsful "run" up to Camp 3 and all the way back to BC for much needed rest (oh yeah, a shower and shave too).

Namaste from Camp 2 Everest!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Made it to Everest Camp 1!

6000 m - Camp 1, Khumbu Glacier - After a 1:45 a.m. wake-up call from our BC staff, a 2 a.m. breakfast, and last minute donning of our helmets/headlamps, harnesses and backpacks, we were on the trail to "crampon point" at the base of the Khumbu icefall. My supposed 'fresh' headlamp batteries weren't so fresh as they died just as I arrived at the icefall. Thank goodness for carrying a backup set of lithiums! Off we went into and up the icefall in the dark of night. Other then headlamps, the only other light was high in the heavens as the stars were numerous and brilliant.

The climb to Camp 1 was harder than I thought it would be. Not only did my body crave oxygen, something that continually becomes less abundant with each step up, but my intestinal tract decided to act up as well. Lucky me! We had over 20 ladder crossings, some spanning the well known dark chasms called crevasses while others were placed vertically when steep ice walls needed to be surmounted. At one point I was in a relatively safe spot to stop for a moment to adjust my pack and harness so I snapped a couple photos to give you an idea of what part of the icefall route looked like.

In the one photo you can see the colored tents of the standard Everest BC low and to the right with Pumori (peak to the left) starting to feel the sun's rays. The biggest concern (falling in a crevasse is not a welcome idea of course yet at least we are attached to fixed rope when crossing) when crossing through this dangerous place is serac fall. Seracs are large ice blocks (bigger than most homes) that can fall at any moment yet traveling through this amazing infrastructure at night increases our safety net as the temps are the coldest which decreases the flow of the icefall and therefore reduces this type of situation. Yet after about 5 hours I made it to Camp 1. 25% of traveling through the icefall is complete!

Following closely behind me was my partner for this entire climb, Eugene Constant. Eugene hails from and lives in France with his wife and 3 wonderful children, two of whom are similar in age to my own. It is nice for us to talk about our respective families during the down time. Even though we are living our dream of climbing up Everest nothing means more than getting back to them safely and as soon as possible. The real goal for sure.

We will rest here tonight before leaving early in the morning for Camp 2, approximately 400 vertical meters higher above the head of the glacier which you can see in the picture of Eugene and I. Immediately behind that you see Lhotse and the steep/icy Lhotse face. Due to the picture size you cannot see it but from here at Camp 1 we can see our route to Camp 3 perched midway up that wall. A thousand vertical meters lies between Camps 2 & 3. After a couple nights rest at camp 2 we will test both our physical and mental capacities on that section. One night at Camp 3 and we'll begin the process of down climbing.

I will try to dispatch again from Camp 2 and/or 3 soon and once again send a couple photos of our location and what we see. All my best to my family, friends and colleagues back home.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A Happy Yak is a Healthy Yak

5300 m - Today I was able to fulfill my personal goal of giving back to Himalayan Experience Ltd. as we started the process of deworming yaks here in the Khumbu valley.

A small yak 'train' owned by Phurba Tashi’s sister came into camp early this morning. As you may recall from my earlier dispatches, Phurba is our #1 Sirdar or head Sherpa. He organizes the Sherpa staff at base camp when loads needs to be carried high on the mountain and he also climbs with us on the mountain (reminder: he has stood on the summit of Everest 14 times). The majority of the yaks used on our expedition come from Phurba's family.

Thanks to the generosity of Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health, we administered the first dose of Safe-Guardâ, a liquid suspension dewormer designed to effectively treat lung worms, stomach worms and intestinal worms. My goal has simply been to provide some rudimentary veterinary care for the yaks that have carried most of the supplies which have made our lives a little bit easier here at Everest BC. I treated the first 3 head of yak using the automatic dosing syringe that came with the dewormer (see photos). Then I taught Phurba to do the same because ideally the yak will need to be treated again in approximately 6 weeks. Logistically and hopefully I will be back in the States at that time. Phurba and his family own a couple hundred head of yak so he will be able to adequately treat all of them not only this Spring with the two doses, but also administer a dose this Fall. Because of Intervet/Schering-Plough’s help, Phurba and his family should have enough dewormer for next year’s climbing season as well.

Phurba did an excellent job administering Safe-Guard and the yaks (the few we did today were actually crossbreds) could not have been more cooperative. Please see the photos attached as well as the video I created under the "Healthy Yak" page.

With the “deworming of the yaks” underway it is now time to climb on the flanks of mighty Mount Everest. We have been broken up into two climbing teams. I will be on the first team (appropriately called the Yaks) which actually leaves at 2:30 in the morning on the 29th of April. The second team (called the Yetis) will leave on May 1st . The climbing plan is as follows: Climb through the Khumbu icefall and provided all goes well, both in terms of feeling well and timing {need to be through it by 7 a.m. at the latest as the next section of climbing in what is called the Western Cwm (pronounced coom) can get extremely hot}, we will either stop for a night at Camp 1 or more than likely ascend to Camp 2 at 6400 meters. If the latter, we will stay at Camp 2 for two nights before breaking into two more teams to ascend the steep (~45 degrees) and icy Lhotse face on our way up to Camp 3 for a night.

Camp 3 is high on the face with the tents being anchored into platforms chopped out of the ice by our Sherpa staff. Camp 3 sits at about 7400 meters so clearly the day from Camp 2 to Camp 3 will be one of the hardest on Everest. This is the day we will wear our down suits for the first time. Can anyone say Ho, Ho, Ho? (yep, mine is red).

After a night at Camp 3 we will descend to Camp 2 for a night and the following day descend all the way back down to our BC for a few days rest. This should put Team 1 into BC on May 4, give or take a day. Team 2 will likely be back down to BC around the 6th give or take a day. Depending on the weather, we will then head back up Everest for one last push, this time for the summit! To say the excitement (and a bit of anxiety/anxiousness/nervousness all rolled into one) is growing would be an understatement. I will try my best to dispatch from the mountain when possible yet realize this is a very busy and serious time for us. I will be in touch when I can. Namaste from HimEx Everest BC!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Lobuche Round 2 Success!

5300m Himex Everest BC - We're back (we did the math today as we have now walked 35 miles or 60 kilometers between Everest BC and Lobuche BC, 2.5 roundtrips)! Two tough days since my last dispatch yet another successsful summit of Lobuche (20,192'). This time we slept on the summit ridge at approximately 6,000 meters. What a view (see photo of Everest as seen from our tent door, along with Makalu to the right, another 8,000 meter+ giant which looks like a shark's fin).

Our team was extremely efficient on round two of Lobuche as we left Lobuche BC at 7:30 in the morning and arrived at our high camp at 12:30, tucked carefully on the snow ledge not too far below the summit itself (see photo of our red and yellow tents as seen from the summit). The Sherpas did a great job digging out the tent platforms, not to mention anchoring our tents into the side of the mountain. Another 30 minutes vertically and I was back on top of Lobuche. This time was very special as I was joined at the top by Ellen Miller of Vail, Colorado. Ellen is the first American woman to summit Everest from both sides. She is training with us as she will attempt to climb Lhotse, Everest's "sister peak" and hopefully become one of only a handful of women in the world to have done so. I truly wish her the best for a safe and successsful climb.

Between David Tait and Ellen Miller, along with several of our guides who have stood at the top of the world multiple times, and of course our Big Boss" Mr. Russell Brice, I am in some outstanding mountaineering company. Humbled doesn't even begin to describe how I feel.

Tomorrow is a much needed rest day so laundry is high on the priority list, followed closely by a shave. A new game plan will likely unfold after the third climbing team arrives back here in Everest BC late tomorrow. Soon we'll head up through the Khumbu icefall on our way to Camps 1, 2, and eventually 3 on the steep Lhotse face. Lastly, I wanted to let you know that I managed to NOT lose my camera this time on Lobuche! Take care family, friends, and colleagues.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Back to Lobuche

5300m Himex Everest BC - Shortly after arriving back to our 'home away from home' yesterday, we were blessed with delicious pizza and jello for lunch. Afterwards it was a bird bath and shave, both of which felt great. Post-dinner we had another team meeting, this time in the Tiger Dome (aka White Dome). Not only were new climbing teams made but the next 5-6 days were laid out as well. Due to some recent avalanche and serac fall activity in the icefall Russell and our guides have agreed that we will head back down to Lobuche to climb again, yet this time we will go straight from Lobuche BC (4850 m) all the way to just above 6,000 meters where we will sleep for a night in two-man tents secured into snow platforms high on the summit ridge. This trip will condition us further, help improve our technical skills, and of course advance our acclimatization process. The goal: become fast and efficient when we finally step foot on Everest's flanks.

The first team is preparing to leave any minute for Lobuche BC. Tomorrow the team I am on will make the 12 K (~7 mile) trek back to Lobuche BC. The final team will leave on the 24th. If all goes as planned I will be back to Everest BC on the 25th followed by my remaining Everest teammates on the 26th. So we'll be out of touch again for a couple of days. This time I vow NOT to lose my camera! :) As expected, guide Hiro is making good on the 5 beers I owe him for finding it on the first Lobuche climb. A great guy who fully deserves each beer.

Speaking of my camera, I have included a photo taken today of David Tait and myself. Who is David? He is a gifted athlete and climber from England who has summited Everest twice. In fact, in 2007 (with Himalayan Experience) he did a complete traverse of the mountain going up the north side and down the south (this was televised by The Discovery Channel for their series, Everest-Beyond The Limit). He is back to try and summit without supplemental oxygen. Ironically David has assisted me with some hardware for my PDA which has allowed me to share photos with you from the start of this expedition. A big thank you to him as I am truly honored to be on the same team as him.

As I promised after our Puja ceremony on Easter Sunday, I am including a photo of our Sherpa staff. Over the past week they have carried up the mountain almost 2 ton of gear. All to make us more comfortable at camps 1 and 2 to start. The true power horses of the expedition. Without their support the degree of difficulty would be astronomical. Lucky for us, we'll each be partnered uup with these incredible young men. Today Phurba Tashi handed each one of us some barley/rice and a small tied nylon cord, all of which was blessed by a holy lama. The cord is now around my neck and the barley/rice is inside my backpack as both are meant for safe passage through the Khumbu Icefall. Very soon we will make that voyage on our way to camp 2 here on Everest.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Lobuche Success!

4850m Lobuche BC - We arrived back in Lobuche BC the afternoon of April 18th. It was great to see our teammates again as some had just come down from the summit of Lobuche while others (Team 2) were at Camp 1 about 500 meters above us on the eve of their own summit bid. The 19th found us making our way up towards Camp 1 which sits on a fairly smooth rocky terrace.We woke at 4:30 this morning and after boiling some water for a Ramen Noodle breakfast (carb load) we were on our way up the 700 meter vertical that would put us on top of Lobuche (6119 m or 20,192'). Only 50 meters into the climb and we donned crampons and ice axes. Another 200 meters (+/-) and we were clipped into fixed rope. Thank you to Phurba and the Sherpa staff for a great fixed line all the way to the summit.The climb itself was steep. 4 hours after leaving camp and a small crevasse to jump across on the final traverse/summit ridge I was standing on top of Lobuche! I had the honor of climbing with my Japanese colleagues (see summit photo) for the majority of the climb as we stayed pretty well in the middle of the pack. Our guides, Hiro and Shinji (see photo of Shinji and I on the summit) were wonderful. In fact, after leaving the summit my camera dislodged from its pouch which I did not discover until about 100 meters into the descent. On his way up Guide Hiro found it just prior to the crevasse! I told him down at base camp that he was my "Hero." We agreed that I would buy him at least 5 beers when we get back to our Everest base camp. A small price indeed. :) The views were breathtaking (see photo of Everest, another 2731 meters or 9,012 feet higher). And the icing on the cake? We all made it back down to Lobuche base camp safe and sound where we feasted on anything with sugar, along with french fries and Coke. Yummy! Tomorrow we will make the 3 hour trek back to our home away from home. Perhaps a shower and a shave awaits.I would like to say hi to my loved ones and friends back home. Imiss you and think of you often. From Lobuche BC, Namaste

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Stretching the Legs.. and Arm

5300 m 5300 m - HimEx Everest Base Camp - Since the Puja Ceremony and my last dispatch we have had a couple of interesting yet fun days. On April 14 Russell Brice led our first team meeting here at base camp. Other than basic camp logistics he laid out plans for the next couple of weeks. We have been divided into 3 climbing teams for Lobuche (6119 m). The first team left today and will begin climbing tomorrow with summit day on the 18th, the day I will leave here for my own summit attempt on Lobuche. Tomorrow we will be training on ladders with crampons as well as steep ice climbing here in the Khumbu ice flow. We will likely repeat this process a second time.

All of this training is essential so that we are as fit and ready as possible to enter the Khumbu icefall on our way to Camp 1 and ultimately into the Western Cwm (pronounced Coom) and Camp 2.. The latter process will be repeated with the addition of Camp 3 up the steep Lhotse Face. A lot of climbing to come! I will obviously provide you more details in future dispatches.

I got my Wisconsin Cheese Wedge Hat out and had the team, including the sherpas and base camp staff sign them. As you can see by the photo attached, the staff has enjoyed the new UV protection! I have also been working with Phurba Tashi, our lead Sirdar or Sherpa (14 successful Everest summits) regarding the logistics of deforming the yaks (likely to start down at Lobuche) and checking on their overall health (see picture, Phurba Tashi is assisting). I know my friend and colleague Denny Hausmann, D.V.M. with Alpharma Animal Health will appreciate that picture!

I took a short trek up to around 18,000’ (5500m) on a nearby peak. From there the views of Everest and the neighboring peaks were incredible. Everest towers over everything nearby, a daunting but inviting task at hand.

I’m not sure when the next dispatch will be due to the hectic schedule over the next 5 days but I will try my best to keep all of you posted on our progress. Take Care.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Puja on Easter

5300m - Himex Everest BC - Puja A belated Happy Easter from Nepal. I would also not be able to forgive myself if I failed to wish my wife Katherine a Happy Birthday. I will be home to celebrate it in person, albeit late, but better late than never :)

It has been several days since my last dispatch yet between some sick days and technical problems (laptop died, satellite modem not working well, etc.) we will learn to cope. I am slowly starting to feel better and as far as the IT issues, I hope they improve too. I will try my best to continue with text and picture dispatches as long as my satellite phone-pda combination stays afloat. Knock on wood please as it is mostly rock and ice here! Please keep in mind the dispatch frequency will be less given we will be climbing soon on Lobuche and then into the Khumbu icefall on our way up the flanks of Mt. Everest.

All that being said, we had a wonderful Puja ceremony here at our basecamp on April 12/Easter. I have attached a couple photos, one showing the centerpiece of the ceremony and one I had taken of me with several of our western guides & our high altitude medical expert, Dr. Monica Piris. It was a great ceremony as the gods were asked for our success and safety while climbing on Sagarmatha. I intend to include more photos of our sherpa staff and of the amazing scenery in future dispatches. Please note that all photos on the site are intended to be small due to upload time and cost. Some can be enlarged by clicking on them if you desire although the quality will be greatly reduced. Namaste from cozy Himex BC!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Himex Everest base Camp - How Sweet it is!

5300m (~17,500') - HimEx Everest Basecamp We made it to our 'home away from home' here near the Khumbu icefall (you can see the icefall to the right with the traditional BC located closer to the foot of the icefall and our camp in the foregroun) on the 9th as planned. As we crested the last ridge the clouds lifted providing us a stunning view of Everest. Despite the terrific last minute photographs AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) set in just as I arrived into camp. AMS has hit a number of us in a variety of ways throughout the trek in. No pain no gain gain! Fluids, rest, and the occasional med and I'm almost back to normal. Today and tomorrow are rest days to allow the acclimatization process to continue. Perhaps a visit to the traditional Everest basecamp (mentioned above) will be in order as rumor has it there is a bakery there. Yum! A shave (and maybe a shower) is on the list too.

We have settled into our tents unpacking all of our gear that the yaks carried up here all the way from Tengboche. Awesome creatures to say the least. Some of us have been taking advantage of the midday sun to do laundry (no, no wash machine here so back to the basics of hand washing). The white dome in our camp picture is a "relaxation dome" which includes reclining chairs, a mini-bar and even surround sound connected to the flat screen TV for watching movies. Okay, who ever said we were roughing it? :) Russell does an outstanding job of trying to bring some of the comforts of home to the mountain. Really great to be a part of this group as there will be plenty of tough days ahead. It is amazing how one gets so easily out of breath by just walking from point A to point B here, and that is on relatively flat ground! On the 12th the Buddhist monks will come to our camp to hold a Puja ceremony. They will ask the Gods for our safe passage up and down the mountain and bless our catas (silk scarves) and ice axes. This will be an incredible part of history to participate in for sure. I hope to send my dispatch after the ceremony with pictures for sure. Thanks again for all your terrific emails.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Lovely Lobuche Camp!

4850m-HimEx Lobuche Camp - After a fresh blanket of snow overnight and a fuel packed breakfast we departed for our camp at the base of the Lobuche peaks. After 3+ hours of trekking and a vertical gain of roughly 500 meters (1650') we were welcomed into a wonderful HimEx camp, all of us getting individual tents. At ~16,000' we are now living higher than any point in the lower 48 States. Attached is a photo of me with my teammates (L to R) Moises Nava from Mexico and Stuart Carder of the UK with Lobuche BC in the background. Towering above us is Lobuche East at around 6,000 meters high or 20,080 feet, close to the height of Denali or "the great one" (aka Mt. McKinley, 20,320') in Alaska, North America's highest point. As mentioned previously we will use the Lobuche peaks for training on fixed ropes to the top and for further acclimatization. This will occur sometime after we get settled into our HimEx Everest basecamp the day after tomorrow. Four hours after arriving in camp, as if by standard afternoon Himalayan clock work, the snow began to fall (see photo). It was even accompanied by the occasional boom of thunder. Amazing how quickly the weather can change here.Tomorrow is our rest day as quite a few of us need it. The standard GI 'bugs' as well as respiratory viruses have been making their way through the team. Not abnormal given the size of our group. It is amazing to think how our bodies are undergoing tremendous physiological changes in order to adapt to the ever increasing thinner air. Despite this thinner air our excitement grows as we inch closer to Everest! Stay tuned and Namaste from Lobuche.