Monday, March 30, 2009

Last Day of Warmth

~1300m - Hi everyone. We are spending our last full day in the warmth of Kathmandu doing final gear checks and packing. Tomorrow we leave for Lukla and begin the long trek towards Everest basecamp.

Yesterday we were fortunate enough to take in some of the local culture. Our day started out by visiting the Monkey Palace where the oldest known estupa stands with the eyes of the buddha always watching (see photo). It is believed to have been built around 2500 B.(C).

From there we toured Durbar Square and Palace where I got to communicate with some of my favorite locals (see photo). Another highlight of the day was visiting the famous Rum Doodle Restaurant and Bar. This is the place where those who have successfully summited Everest sign their own 'yeti footprint' for all to see.

I could not help but take a picture of Sir Edmund Hillary's footprint (attached), the first to have summited in 1953, alongside Tenzing Norgay. To say we are walking in the footsteps of legends would be an understatement.

Provided the communication gear I have along cooperates, I hope to send my next dispatch sometime during the trek into BC. For those of you that have sent emails I cannot tell you how much I appreciate your kind words and support.

Thank you and Namaste from Kathmandu, Nepal.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

On the Ground in Kathmandu

After 40 hours of travel and only 2 hours of sleep the final plane landed in Kathmandu, Nepal yesterday the 27th of March at ~10 a.m. local time (10.5 hours ahead of US Central Time).

Two incredible events happened for me in route: 1) Seeing the Himalayas for the first time through the window of the airplane on the approach into KTM and 2) finally shaking the hand of a mountaineering legend and our expedition leader, Mr. Russel Brice.

There are no words to describe the sense of awe I felt when my eyes gazed upon the mighty peaks of the snow-capped Himalaya Mountains. Truly a magical range of 'steps' reaching high into the sky. After a brief introduction to our guides and several of our climbing mates that have also arrived early, we tasted the local cuisine and then grabbed some much needed rest.

Today the sun is shining in this subtropical valley. The last bit of warmth our bodies will feel again until June. A bit hazy (see picture attached) as I sit on the veranda at the top of the Hotel Tibet yet nevertheless, the views of the city are magnificent. Today we will sort gear, meet additional teammates as they arrive and over the next 48hours make final preparations for the 9-day journey on foot to Everest basecamp (BC).

I hope to be able to send a dispatch at some point during this trek in, provided the technology allows. Russell informed me over dinner last night that we will begin to deworm the yak along the trail after we reach Khumjung. The plan: deworm a set number of head daily during each stop between Khumjung and Everest BC. Truly a blessing to be here...

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Oh Gear

224m - Less than 72 hours now until take-off. The gear is all packed and ready to go. To give you a sense of the amount of supplies needed for an adventure of this magnitude I am including two photos with this final dispatch from the U.S. The first shows all my gear laid out on the garage/shop floor and the second with it 'crammed' into the expedition duffels. In all, just over 200 lbs (91 kg) and that doesn't include the food (other than some "comfy" food of course:-) supplied by our expedition leader as well as the tents and cookware. One must remember that there are no convenience stores or gear shops on the mountain! Next stop, Kathmandu...

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


224m - I have been repeatedly asked, "How long does it take to climb Mount Everest?" The answer is complex. Not only do we spend a lot of time on the mountain itself, just getting to and from it will prove to be an adventure.

The itinerary that follows is a rough guideline and may fluctuate by a day or two: Depart Appleton, Wisconsin (~230m) March 25 traveling through the cities of Detroit, Amsterdam, Delhi with arrival into Kathmandu, Nepal (1,317m) on March 27.

After meeting my teammates and reorganizing the gear once more, we will depart Kathmandu March 31 on a flight to Lukla (2,840m). We will stay in Phakding (2,610m) that night. The trek towards Everest base camp continues for the next 8+ days as we encounter the villages of Namche Bazar (3,440m) on April 1, Khumjung (3,780m) April 2, Tengboche (3,860m) April 4, Dingboche (4,410m) April 5, Lobuche (4,910m) April 6-8, and finally Everest BC (5,140m) on April 10. Everest climbing will occur between April 11 - May 29.

The trek to BC along with the month and a half of climbing up and down Everest's flanks is part of the acclimatization process. Simply put, the body needs to slowly adapt to the thinner air at high altitude. Each step higher means the generation of more red blood cells. This in turn allows us to more efficiently carry oxygen, an increasingly scarce commodity the higher we go.

Sagarmatha (i.e. the name of Mount Everest used by the Sherpa of Nepal. "Sagar" meaning sky and "matha" meaning forehead so when one stands at the top of Everest, you stand with your "head above the clouds.") will ultimately dictate whether we summit or not. The summit is only half the goal as getting home safely to family and friends is truly the prize. Our departure from BC will take place around May 30 following the aforementioned route in reverse. ~76 days and a lot of meters later I will arrive into the Appleton, Wisconsin airport on June 8, 2009. Home sweet home!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Train, Train, Train - The Little Engine That Could

260 m - 24 days and counting! The training for Everest continues both physically and mentally. In regards to the latter, a significant challenge that awaits all climbers headed up Everest via the South Col route in Nepal is the Icefall of the Khumbu Glacier. Crossing the Icefall occurs very early in the climb yet the task is daunting. Glaciers are notorious for hosting crevasses, openings in the ice flow of variable size, both in width and depth. In order to make our way through this particular icefall, multiple ladder crossings will be present spanning these dark chasms. The ladders are maintained on a daily basis by several Sherpas known appropriately as "The Icefall Doctors." Without their due diligence and expertise, the odds of success for any expedition, not to mention the level of safety, would dramatically decrease.

To practice for this upcoming challenge I have been crossing my twenty foot aluminum extension ladder stretched across snowdrifts in my backyard. Ten foot aluminum ladder sections will be used in the Khumbu. It may sound easy yet these ladder crossings will be at all angles and at variable lengths, sometimes having multiple ladders lashed together with rope to span a large crevasse. Add to this the fact that we'll be wearing crampons which makes walking on the ladders a bit more 'fun.' With barely 3 weeks left until departure the logistics of reviewing gear continues as the packing will soon commence.