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! :)