Been at base camp for four days now. We have had snow about every afternoon. It is cold at night and not too bad during the day when the sun is out. We have been doing a series of training for both crossing of the icefalls, and our new home at camp 1 19,500ft. We trained on ice; climbing with crampons and ice axes, climbing with a Jumar, and both self-belay with figure 8 and hand descend. We also worked on the aluminum ladders that we will use to get up vertically and span crevasses – something that is very tricky with 8000-meter boots and crampons on. We climbed to Pumori ABC at 19,000ft to get used to the altitude at Camp 1. It also has the best view of Everest. We then descended back to Everest base camp. Pumori ABC was the camp that radioed Hall and Fischer teams in 1996 telling them there were people still on the top.
We had our final Puja ceremony in which a monk blessed our climbing gear. The two hour ceremony was kind of like a food fight; we would throw flowers, rice, a rice beer called Chang, and rice whiskey on our gear and each other. I just changed into new clothes and had a shower. The Sherpa took it very seriously just like the blessing in Pangboche. The monk didn’t offer us any guidance like the first one did, he told us we would have a bad storm, but go left and go right and we will be okay.
I am learning the dos and don’ts, like never walk over a prayer flag, always walk around Gupas or Stupas to the right and the prayer wheels are spun up the mountain. Yangie would correct me if I was doing it wrong, but she will not be going to higher camps. She got altitude sickness on the climb up Pumori and the leader pulled her from going any higher. She was looking forward to working with her dad in high camps. Too bad, as she was strong. She will continue to serve meals and work in the kitchen, which she did on top of her guiding role. The senior leadership of the Sherpas is very good with lots of experience starting with Dan Mazure, who’s not a Sherpa but the leader. He has more experience than anyone up here, and he plans to go to the summit with us. The boss Sherpa is Jumba. He has two lead Sherpa, Mingma and Lockba. The camp boss is Kenzie. They also have a group of younger Sherpas that we see very little because they are crossing the ice flows every night carrying supplies to high camps and back early in the morning.
Our crossing will start at 1 a.m., and unlike Sherpas that do it in three hours our crossing will take around eight. We have bags packed and will be in harnesses, helmets, and ice gear. We should arrive at Camp 1 around 10 a.m., and will be zombies. We will then have two rest days before going higher. Dan respects the icefalls, and once we get above them, we will stay a week going all the way to Camp 3 at 23,500ft. Once at Camp 3, we will then spend one night there and return to base camp to rest for the summit push.
I will not be able to communicate too much, and will be sharing a tent at high camps with a guy from Phoenix that I have met and got along with well. He is stopping at Camp 3 and not going for the summit. He is a very strong climber, and I will hate to see him and three others leave after Camp 3. We have another team doing Lhotse, which is a sister peak to Everest only a few hundred meters shorter.
There is still a lot to the climb and we are already taking on some illness. George, who is probably the strongest climber, has a fever and chills and has been in his tent for two days unable to go on. He is hoping for recovery and seeing the doctor daily and will join us later. A lot of people have the Khumbu cough that you get from breathing cold, dry air. The key to keep from getting infected is filtering the air when you sleep and covering your mouth when you climb. I can’t do it; I need all the air intake I can get, so I sleep like a turtle in my bag with just my face exposed, and walk slowly so I don’t breathe deeply through my mouth to prevent exposing my lungs to cold air. Roger from Australia fractured his rib from a bad cough on his last attempt, and had to stop short. He has been giving me good tips to stay healthy.
There is a lot of excitement about this season because the last two have been disasters and the mountain was closed. Climbers are down sixty percent, but many from this team have returned for second and third tries; Many of them going deep into debt to chase their dream. Every step I take is somewhere or something new, and it’s absolutely thrilling. Last night was a full moon; wind calmed and the fresh snow glowed. I got up at 1 a.m. and couldn’t go back to sleep until after 2:30 a.m. even though it was -2F.
I hate that my family and friends worry about me here, but if they could see the things that I have seen and will see they would understand better. I am feeling good, and surrounded by good experienced people. I will have dark days. Mountaineering is a miserable hobby, and part of the beauty is overcoming those days to look for nights like last night. I think life is a lot like climbing a mountain – it is overcoming fears, bad days, constant preparation, and dedication to the goal or summit.
My next post will be a week to ten days away and will be about the higher camps. See you then.
My college wrestling teammate, Fraternity brother, and fellow Central Missouri State University alum Les Gatrel was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis a few years ago, and a group of friends has reunited to help. The past year we have seen him push back the effects of MS in his words “without drugs, but with a bike and friends”. We created a fundraiser that has raised over 40,000 dollars for the wrestling program and MS Society, rode several trips on the Katy trail, rekindled old friendships, and even changed some people’s lives. I am climbing these mountains everyone thinks is hard, but it is easy compared to the mountain that Les and people with MS have to climb every day. Every time I start listening to the pain or the cold I think to myself how blessed I am to be able to do this and how people with MS would trade me spots any day.
Follow this link to go to the fundraising page at https://www.fundraise.com/everest2016#donate