April 21 Everest BC

Things have gotten very complicated here on Everest BC. The short version is most of the Sherpas are leaving or are thinking about leaving and they are forcing most expeditions to cancel.

Here is the long explanation if you want to know the details:

Without enough Sherpas to carry the gear and fix the ropes above camp two it will be impossible for anyone to summit.

Even if a group of us (the expeditions that are still here) wanted to climb Everest without Sherpa support it would prove impossible or extremely dangerous. We would have to carry tents, oxygen, food and fuel to stock 4 camps which would mean many, many trips over the dangerous icefall. Fixing 10,000 meters of rope would be impossible for just us. Climbing without fixed ropes would make the climb extremely dangerous as well as slow as roped and belayed climbing take a lot longer than ascending fixed ropes. There is simply no way for us to climb Everest without Sherpa support. Every major Everest expedition since the 1920’s has had Sherpa support for this reason.

The situation is complicated because now politics, superstition and mob mentality are starting to come into play in this situation.

Many of the Sherpas feel the mountain gods are angry and the mountain is not safe. The Sherpas from all camps have been having meetings and have been discussing what to do. One particular Sherpa from a company called Jagged Globe has been an instigator from the beginning telling all Sherpas that they should leave their expeditions. This person has been known in the past to cause a lot of trouble in a similar situation in Manaslu after an avalanche occurred where mainly westerners died.

The Sherpas have come up with a petition for the ministry of tourism of Nepal demanding some things, some of which somehow they don’t realize they already have: like doubling their rescue insurance (it was just doubled this year but they don’t seem to be aware of it). Guaranteeing helicopter rescues on the mountain (outfitters already have to have insurance for that for them. Sadly that is the only reason why they were all rescued with helicopters), $1,000,000 Nepali rupees (a little more than $10,000 dollars which even though is a lot for Nepal it seems a very reasonable petition to us) for each family of the deceased Sherpas, The right to cancel any expedition and be paid in full (this seems to me very unreasonable as it would encourage many Sherpas to not finish their job with full pay guaranteed) and one other petition having to do with taking some of the permit money from each climber for a fund for future Sherpa deaths (also very reasonable).

If they don’t get these things granted by the Nepali government they are threatening to all leave the mountain!

Here is where things are getting really messy!

Not all Sherpas want to leave but they are starting to be pressured by the rest, and a lot of it because of this one Sherpa who is always causing trouble.

The Nepali government,on the other hand, is a complete mess and a joke. They are corrupt, they are disorganized and they are completely inefficient! And they don’t care too much about the Buddhist Sherpas (most of the Nepali government as the rest of the country is Hindu) As an example of their inefficiency they told us there would be officers here at base camp enforcing all the new rules and we haven’t seen a single one. We paid, as required by law, thousands of dollars for a liaison officer who is supposed to be here with us and of course he never even showed up! And the examples go on and on and on.

This is a complete mess! If all the Sherpas leave everyone will lose! Including the Sherpas themselves!

We will all have spent 50k dollars and upwards and gotten no chance at all to climb anything. The international outfitters have threaten to sue the government if they don’t refund the climbing permits (if the mountain gets closed) These are the permits that each of us paid to be allowed to climb above base camp. Other than the rescuers (western guides) and Sherpas no one has been able to climb above base camp. Each permit for each one of us is $10,000 dollars and who knows where the corrupt government of Nepal ends up putting that money.

The country of Nepal makes a lot of money of Trekkers and climbers. If no one can climb this year this can seriously hurt their economy in the future.

The outfitters will be hit hard as a lot less people will want to pay 50,000-80,000 dollars to climb Everest after seeing the trend that’s started last year when Sherpas threaten to kill and tried stoning world class climbers Ueli Steck and Simone Moro and now this year when hundreds of climbers (including me) will not get a chance to climb at all even though they paid all that money.

The Sherpas will be hit hard if westerners stop coming or come less as the whole Khumbu valley, all its villages and Sherpas now depend economically on tourism more than anything else. These Everest expeditions provide a lot of work for the Sherpas and porters who bring everything up to base camp. Also for all the tea houses, lodges etc.

The problem is too many people reacting emotionally and completely irrationally too soon after the tragedy. They are making rash decisions without thinking things through and the masses are letting themselves be influenced by religion and superstition (believing the mountain has some sort of ill intention!) and by peer pressure. What’s new?!! History has shown over and over and over again that this is one favorite way for humans to complicate their existence and create so many unnecessary problems and conflicts!

We all respect any Sherpa’s decision to go home if he lost a friend or family on the avalanche or if he simply feels his job is too dangerous. But to try to intimidate other Sherpas that want to stay and be professional and earn their money on this job they have chosen, that seems very wrong to me.

Don’t forget that climbing Sherpas make very good money compared to any other people in the Khumbu region. If they all leave now they will be not only losing money this year but probably losing their jobs in the future.

We have been hearing mobs of Sherpas walking through base camp shouting. It’s like a lynching mob out there!

Our Sherpas have been very loyal to us as they appreciate their job because Phill pays them very well and has always treated them as family, and of course we respect them and treat them very well too, but they are feeling pressured to leave by other Sherpas. Dorje, the sirdar or top Sherpa has told them all to stay for a week for things to settle down before anyone thinks of leaving.

We are in limbo right now. We are waiting to see what the government says about their requests. We are also waiting to see how many more Sherpas and other expeditions leave in the mean time. And we are waiting for our Sherpas’ decision.

The famous NBC wingman that was going to do that stunt of trying to jump from the summit is now cancelled from what I heard. That is probably a good thing as many Sherpas would probably think it would be disrespectful for the mountain and we don’t need any more complications!

Many outfitters are being forced to cancel now as they have either lost too many Sherpas in the accident or are losing Sherpas that are leaving.

Many climbers have left too.

I have heard the argument that it would be disrespectful to the dead to climb after that tragedy. I suspect some people may be using that as an excuse to leave since they are intimidated by the mountain. Perhaps others are 100% sincere.

I, personally, believe the opposite is true. If nobody climbs then their deaths were all in vain. All their hard work was for nothing! We can honor them and their hard work by climbing the mountain. The Sherpas and us climbers accept a certain level of danger when we do what we do. They accept more danger than we do and that is why they get paid while we pay money. It’s the same when I guide. I accept a much higher level of risk than my clients (leading the technical sections, fixing ropes, working much harder than my clients when needed) but that’s because they are paying me. It’s a job we choose.

Of course it’s very tragic what happened and we are all very, very sad ( and I really do mean this) but to me the chaos that is happening now is getting way out of control because of irrational thinking and that tragedy could end up hurting many more people financially, politically and emotionally and that does not honor the dead in any way not help the families of the dead at all, on the contrary it could hurt them in the long run.

If our Sherpas want to continue to work we want a chance to climb Everest and Lhotse but it will require more than just our Sherpas to be able to pull this off. There has to be at least a few more teams to share the work load of fixing ropes to make this a go for everyone.

As the expedition leaders talk between them and with the Sherpas and as we wait to hear from the ministry of tourism we wait anxiously to see what happens.

This could be the end of my one and only chance I will ever have to climb Mt. Everest or maybe we will get a chance to try it once all this settles.

I don’t know at this point. We have to wait here at base camp to see what happens.

I will keep you posted!


April 19, 2014 Everest base camp

As you can all imagine yesterday’s tragedy here on Everest affected us all!

We left our base camp at 6:30 am with the objective of going to the icefall and getting to some of the tricky sections where we have to use ladders to cross big crevasses and to climb up large ice blocks. It wasn’t set how far between base camp and camp 1 we would get. The goal was to get some practice on the ladders and tricky terrain, gain some altitude and get to some exercise to further our acclimatization to prepare us for our first rotation. Our first rotation will be an ascent of the icefall to camp one which is about 19,700′ high. After a night there we will continue through the icefall to camp two at roughly 21,300′. The icefall, as I said earlier is that section where the Khumbu glacier falls over steep rock steps forming a giant frozen and broken waterfall of giant ice blocks that shift and move as the massive glacier gets pulled down by gravity. The icefall begins between camp 2 and camp 1 and ends next to base camp. Base camp is set on a not so active section of the glacier, though every night in my tent I hear how the ice under me cracks loudly and shifts ever so slightly. This is a very active glacier and the icefall is the most dramatic example of it’s activity.

Deaths on the icefall usually occur when people don’t clip in to the rope and lose their balance crossing those ladders with crampons on, or when those giant ice blocks shift when a person is crossing causing them to either fall in a crevasse or to be crushed by an ice block. To put things in perspective every year hundreds of people cross and the Sherpas cross many times each season without incidents. Once in a while collapses happen which require the route to be maintained and of course the most unlucky times collapses happen when people are crossing. That is of course what we all fear and how people usually die in the ice fall (Sherpas more often other climbers because they spend a lot more time crossing the ice fall doing carries). What happened yesterday was not that. It was a much more unlucky and rare event! A part of a hanging glacier on Everest’s west shoulder (a serac) collapsed due to gravity’s constant pull and triggered an avalanche over the icefall! I did mention in an earlier dispatch that this was also a danger at the ice fall but this is a pretty rare occurrence. Last time an avalanche happened there, was 2009 and I don’t think anyone was passing that section while it happened (I am not sure about this) So this is what we experienced:

As we were headed to the icefall, at about 6:45am, we heard the loud thunder-like sound of a serac collapse and an avalanche. We were facing the icefall so it was easy for me to identify where the sound came from and immediately saw the avalanche coming down the west shoulder of Everest and hitting the Khumbu icefall, roughly about 200 meters below camp ONE (it’s been mistakenly reported that it was just below camp 2).

My immediate thought of course was:  “I hope nobody is there right now or this will be deadly!”

It was a pretty impressive avalanche but most of us hoped and assumed nobody was there at the time. We started wondering if the route would need repair because it obviously had a lot of force and mass. Minutes later  as we kept walking towards the Icefall I remember a Sherpa running down the trail saying something in Sherpa (Sherpas speak in Sherpa among them and not in Nepalese) and looking stressed! My team mate Peter who was a bit behind said that the Sherpa told him: “many Sherpas up there!” That’s when I started seriously worrying if people were dead or injured. We had no idea that unfortunately at the time of the avalanche more than 40 Sherpas were spread out over that section of the route. These Sherpas were carrying loads to camp 2 (not setting up fixed ropes as some reports indicated. They may have included rope in their carries to fix later up the Lhotse face and perhaps that’s where the confusion comes from) but we know they were going to camp 2 carrying loads or returning from camp 2 after having drop them. Luckily our Sherpas had done their carries the day before and were not going to do further carries yesterday but on later days.

Base camp began to get noisy with people shouting things, Sherpas running, camera people taking their cameras out and aiming them at the ice fall and a general sense of commotion as we reached the beginning of the icefall. Phil, our expedition leader decided we should wait before going in too deep in the icefall to find out what had happened. He got on the radio with his Sherpas and we started listening in the radio.

At least some of the Sherpas in the accident site had radios so the ones that were not affected started calling down and the news started spreading around base camp that many Sherpas had been caught in the avalanche!

This is when we began to realize how serious this event had been. We did not want to get too deep in the icefall because we would get in the way of the Sherpas who were beginning to go help. Because they live at altitude and have spent more time at base camp than us the Sherpas are much better acclimatized than we are and are able to move much faster. Also even though our team has a lot of experience mountaineering only Phil and I are professional guides and have experience doing rescues. I, personally was not in a position to go up there and help because I am not familiar with the icefall and I am just getting acclimatized as I have mentioned in my earlier dispatches which means I would move slowly and potentially get in the way of Sherpas on those fixed ropes and this expedition is being led by Phil so I followed his lead. I told Phil: tell me if it can help you with anything. Phil called his Sherpas on the radio and told them to get here ASAP. Most of the Sherpas were understandably tired from their carry to camp TWO (!) the day before but four of the strongest Sherpas showed up at the ice fall ready in about 20 minutes time. Some of the icefall doctors (the Sherpas responsible for fixing the ropes and ladders on the icefall) showed up with two ladder sections also and went to the site.

Phil and his Sherpas took off to go help. The Sherpas moved very fast and reached the accident site  which was about 1500 vertical feet higher than us in an impressive time of just one hour. Phil without as much acclimatization as them reached the site in an hour and 20 minutes ( also pretty impressive, though not surprising as he is a very fit climber with a natural ability to acclimatize fast).

The rest of the team stayed waiting in case we could help Sherpas coming down. We saw early in the morning a helicopter do a reconnoissance flight but no landing and then we saw no more helicopters for a few hours.

We watched the glacier and saw tiny black dots, many Sherpas, all concentrated at the accident site and we also saw other dots coming down. A few other western guides also went up to help.

We knew at that point, based on radio communications that there were deaths but they weren’t sure how many. Perhaps 4 or 6 they thought at the time, though nobody knew how many were missing. The Sherpas were working for different companies so they were not all working together or knew exactly who was missing.

I think my whole team felt terrible as we really care for the Sherpas and know fully well that if it wasn’t for them none of us would have a chance to summit. The Sherpas are the foundation to all Everest expeditions. I don’t know if any western climber has actually summited Everest without any Sherpa or porter help at all (and I am talking from Kathmandu to the summit and back). Even famous solo and alpine style ascents on Everest have had porters bring supplies to base camp.

I think my team members, like me, felt helpless, not being able to help at all as the tragedy was unfolding.

As the rest of the team went back to our base camp to wait for Phil, I decided to go to the medical tent that serves the whole Everest base camp and offer my help. By the time I arrived, helicopters were flying once again and they were beginning rescue operations. As I arrived I saw the medical tent was full of people with many radio conversations going on at the same time and lots going on!

I did not want to get in the way in this chaos so I went through the many people standing around right to the medical tent and asked for Susy, the doctor in charge of base camp who I had seen a few days earlier for the sleep apnea I was suffering from. She was busy inside the tent but a tall man with a beard told me he was not a doctor but he was with the company Jagged globe and was coordinating this whole rescue operation. He had a very nice, humble, friendly but effective way of leading this complicated effort. I told him my name and I said I was a mountain guide and that I was certified as a wilderness first responder. I said: “can I help you guys with anything?”. He said: yes, we may need your help, do you mind sticking around? I said: no problem.

Soon the helicopters began bringing the injured as many conversations continued in radios, some in Sherpa, some in English.

Several doctors and an anesthesiologist arrived also, offering their help. These were clients/climbers that came to try Everest too.

As the critically wounded arrived Susy who is a young doctor, probably not as experienced as the older volunteer doctors but none the less the person in charge at base camp, did an excellent job as a leader doing triage and assigning patients to these doctors asking them who knew more about this or that. I ended up helping a general doctor who got assigned two Sherpas who were not so seriously injured. They were both bleeding from lacerations in their heads. I helped her clean their heads and one of these poor guys got his head literally stapled to close his cut as it was more efficient than suturing. The stapler is one used by doctors in ERs and other situations (but it’s essentially a stapler!). I remember this poor Sherpas, this tough mountain guy, in tears with pain. It must hurt like hell to have your skull stapled without anesthesia! The scene was surreal! It was like a MASH unit! Just two tents with barely room for three or four patients and doctors! I was providing water from my water bottles to clean these wounds. The doctor, the patient and I were sitting on the floor of one of the smaller tents while we worked on him. We did have gloves, which was helpful as some of these poor guys were bleeding quite a bit. No running water, very little room to work and a tricky place to keep things sterile!

The surgeons were taking care of the more severely injured patients as they arrived. One with a broken femur and internal damage and the other one with internal damage I believe. Both were brought by helicopter. Phil and our Sherpas as well as other Sherpas helped get them in helicopters up by the “football field”, a section of the ice fall before camp 1.

As the hours went by I found myself helping in different ways, going to the helipad to see if they needed more help carrying the stretchers, helping with keeping people and cameras at a distance from the medical tent and then finally helping putting two of the critically wounded in the rescue litters to be evacuated in helicopters. It made a strong impression on me to look at this poor Sherpa with a broken femur, probably some internal damage, a bloody face with an oxygen mask and his eyes full of tears and a look of fear. I felt so sad to see him like that, the poor guy was just doing his job a few hours ago and this avalanche comes and almost kills him! One of the other rescuers was comforting him as I was helping buckle up the belts of the litter. When the helicopter landed we moved him out of the tent and it became a bit awkward as other people tried to help besides the six of us that had been assigned to carry the litter. We had to carry him carefully to not cause more damage to his injuries, we also had to carry the oxygen tank, all of this over the very uneven rocks on the glacier and towards the helicopter which landed in a very small improvised mini landing pad next to the medical tent. The helicopter at this altitude of 17,500′ cannot turn it’s engines off as it risks not being able to get them going again. So as we moved up and down this moraine/ glacier we had to be careful of the helicopter  blade as we were tripping over each other, slipping on the ice and rocks and trying at all cost to keep the Sherpa safe. It was tricky but we got him to the helicopter with one of the doctors or rescue crew and finally the helicopter took off slowly. These take offs are also a bit delicate at these altitudes because of how thin the air is and how hard it is for them to generate the lift needed to fly.

Once the some of the critical patients were evacuated and the rest  stabilized and waiting for the helicopter to come back, things calmed down a bit and I asked if they needed my help anymore or if I could take a break and go eat.  It was almost 1 pm by then. They said I could go now and to please come to a debriefing the next day (today). They thanked me and I left. As I walked down to our camp (a 20 minute walk) I saw several helicopters bringing down the bodies of the dead Sherpas. It was a very, very sad sight to see the helicopters with a tow cable and the body at the end of the cable. And to see helicopter after helicopter all day brought home the magnitude of this tragedy!

13 were confirmed dead and four were still missing yesterday. Today, I hear, the 17 Sherpas are confirmed dead and I believe the four remaining bodies are now down. I am basing this on what I am hearing here through Phil and what I saw and heard while helping.

A very, very sad day for Everest, for the Sherpas and for the family and loved ones of the deceased.

I really hope all the living injured Sherpas make a full recovery!

Last night we got together with our Sherpas and had some drinks: beer. Scotch and rum in their mess tent.

 It was a good opportunity for us all to bond more and process this experience. Our Sherpas and us have had a very nice relationship throughout this expedition. It really feels like a team, which is a great thing as that is not always the case with many expeditions here on Everest.

April 17 Everest base camp

After two horrible nights suffering sleep apnea I finally have had two nights sleeping well thanks to the wonderful drug called Acetazolamide (known as Diamox) and to spending more days at this altitude!

What a pleasure to be able to sleep and not feel like I am asphyxiating!

That was horrible!

So after a good night sleep, I and several of the other team members went for an acclimatization hike yesterday.

We left after breakfast and we headed down to Gorakshep which is a little more than 2 miles from here. Don’t forget that it is two miles all above 17,000′ (5100m)! From there we hiked up Kala Patthar which requires a hike of about another mile or two and 1600′ vertical feet in elevation gain (about 480m). The hike is short and simple but because we are so high it is very tiring and at the summit it was extremely windy and cold!

The altitude at the summit according to the map is 5550m or 18,204′ my altimeter was reading 18,600. Either way this “small” peak in the Himalaya is roughly as high as the highest peak in Mexico which is the third highest peak in the North American continent: El Pico de Orizaba!

So it feels good to say I have now summited a 5000m or 18,000′ peak in the Himalaya! I feel like I am beginning to be productive now!

Your money at work! 🙂

All in all the hike yesterday required round trip a distance of 6 to 8 miles and something like 2000 vertical feet and all done above 5000m or 17,000′ which made it a good acclimatization hike and workout to stay in shape while we give time to let our bodies acclimatize to living at these extreme altitudes.

The great thing about Kala Patthar and the reason why so many Trekkers attempt it (though they do it from Gorakshep which saves them 4 miles!) is the spectacular views we get of Everest! I snapped some photos on my way up because I saw it was starting to get cloudy. Everest looks very impressive! I was very excited to recognize that this view is the one from the photo I use on my gofundme page. I obviously didn’t take that photo since I had never been here! And I didn’t know exactly where that photo was taken from but I recognized the view immediately once I started getting high on Kala Patthar. It’s that photo I saw every time I posted my Facebook posts asking for donations! I can now tell you that photo was taken most likely at a sunset as seen from the summit of Kala Patthar.

I am glad I took some photos on my way up because by the time I summited I could not see Everest as the summit of Kala Patthar was receiving snow and high winds and Everest was completely blocked by clouds and snow!

I’ll probably do another ascent of Kala Patthar later to train and acclimatize more before our summit push and hopefully I will get better weather to get more shots of Everest from this wonderful vantage point!

Last night I had another great night of sleep and today I had the pleasure of taking my third shower of my trip! It’s tricky showering up here with the weather being so cold! You have to wait until the warmest hours of the day and it has to be a sunny day so the bathroom tent will be warm. Also the shower is not set up yet so it has to be a bucket shower. This means I get one bucket of hot water and a little bowl and I used a little bottle of liquid soap. For those of you that are curious how we do this. The floor of this large tent is the rocks that cover the glacier where we are camping. They flatten this section of the glacier as best as they can before they pitch the tent, then they put a rubber mat with holes over the rocks so it doesn’t hurt as much to stand there barefooted and so it doesn’t feel as cold either and that’s where you shower. Once they get the propane shower set up we will be able to use a hand held shower instead of the bucket.

This big tent has three subdivisions: one where you shower, another where the toilet is and the third where they have a sink with a large cooler with hot water to wash your hands and teeth and where you can get dry and dressed after the shower before you get out to the cold.

The toilet consists of a blue barrel with a toilet seat lined with a plastic bag. When the bag gets full it gets changed and some poor soul carries another barrel full of these bags out of base camp to a disposal place off the glacier. Just in case any of you thought you had a shitty job!! Try carrying shit literally! for a few miles, at 17,000′ above sea level!! Hopefully this helps us all appreciate our jobs a little more!!

And yes, this is one of the many places your money and mine are going! This is one of the many reasons this is such an expensive expedition!

I also enjoyed a great shave in the vestibule of my tent with my American razor and shaving cream and hot water!!! Wow! What a difference!!! This didn’t hurt at all!

So I feel like a new man!! Clean, shaved and able to take in enough oxygen to sleep and function at this altitude!

Tomorrow we go for the first time on the famous Khumbu icefall. If you are not familiar with the Khumbu icefall do a google search for it and look at the photos! It’s a spectacular section of the climb of Everest and a dangerous one though it sounds like it’s not as dangerous as they have made it sound especially now a days when global warming has reduced the size of these seracs or giant ice blocks we have to negotiate through.

Tomorrow we will only venture part of the way to recon the start of the route and cross a few ladders. Two days ago we practiced crossing some ladders with our boots and crampons on and using fixed lines for safety. We did this here in camp to get used to doing it. But we weren’t really far off the ground. Tomorrow we will be crossing large crevasses when we cross ladders so the exposure will add a whole new dimension to it! We also practiced climbing vertical ladders on ice walls which requires managing the ropes, ascenders and sometime exiting the ladders sideways onto ice with your crampon points to get onto stable ground. Everest and Mt. Rainier are the only mountains I know where metal ladders are used on a regular basis and while they make the ascent easier they bring an interesting new element to climbing. It can be very intimidating to some people to walk with crampons placing the points carefully between the rungs of the ladders while seeing a precipice of 20 meters or more under the ladder, even if you are clipped into a safety rope. Sherpas often cross without clipping in and some have died falling off a ladder into a crevasse.

Tomorrow we will get onto the glacier and cross a few ladders and come back. The purpose is to gain some elevation to further our acclimatization and to get some practice on crossing these ladders. Also to familiarize ourselves with the route and get some exercise to maintain our fitness. This way when we make our rotation to camp 1 and 2 we can move efficiently through this dangerous section and minimize the danger. Though there is less danger now than before there still exist the danger of seracs falling on you while you are crossing this section so speed and efficiency are essential to minimize the danger.

I am excited to at last see and experience this section! Also glad to start to explore the route that will hopefully lead me to the summit of Everest!

Good night everyone!


April 15 Everest BC

We continue our process of acclimatization at this extreme altitude of 17,400′. I am discovering that it is one thing to summit a peak of this altitude, such as Iztaccihuatl or El Pico de Orizaba, or to spend two or three nights at a high camp at this altitude as we do on Aconcagua and it is quite a different thing to arrive at this altitude and stay here (or higher) for 45 days! To my surprise by the 4th and 5th day here I have experienced discomforts that are new to me. Last night I had the most miserable case of sleep apnea I have ever experienced. I was not able to sleep at all all night! As soon as I relaxed and started to fall asleep I would wake up feeling asphyxiated and having to breath fast to catch my breath. It is a horrible feeling to spend the whole night like that! It was a very cold night at base camp. The temperature inside my tent just outside my sleeping bag was 14 degrees Farenheit (or close to -10 celsius) which meant I had to close my sleeping bag around my face and create a small tunnel to breath through. This, with the sleep apnea added a feeling of claustrophobia that was very disturbing! Being so cold I couldn’t really do anything but stay in that sleeping bag for 10 hours watching the minutes tick by, dying to get some sleep and instead being semi awake suffering from these symptoms all night.

Needless to say this was very disturbing! The thought of me being sick at base camp and having to abandon the whole expedition only added to the stress. How humiliating would be to have to do that with my maximum height reached on this expedition being only 5300m and not having even began the real climbing! My $1000 high altitude down suit laying next to me only reminded me how horrible it would feel to go back to the US in total defeat, having spent $50,000 dollars, without even using my high altitude gear, only to spend some miserable nights at base camp and abandon the whole expedition.

Of course these were just nightmarish thoughts that crossed my mind in the stress of not being able to sleep and feeling like I couldn’t breath every 4 or 5 minutes!

I knew I had to check this and make sure it was not a symptom of something serious because if it was I WOULD abandon the expedition. I am not doing stupid things here if I have the bad luck of having a health issue. My top priority continues to be safety first even if it means an embarrassing return. I also thought of different scenarios like going down to a lower village to spend a few more acclimatization nights before trying again. I am not going to give up easy here!

This morning, after breakfast I went to the doctor again. My vital signs are ok. No high blood pressure, my blood oxygenation is ok for this altitude being today only my 5th day at this altitude and my lungs are clear (no pulmonary edema, which is a great thing as that would end my expedition with no option to continue whatsoever. Don’t forget a sherpa died of pulmonary edema a few weeks ago for staying here too long without enough acclimatization and prompt evacuation). Every day there has been several evacuations by helicopter here at base camp. Many people are not able to tolerate these altitudes and have to be brought down to Kathmandu). So this is a serious game and I am not taking chances. This is why I prefer to go see the doctor and check everything to make sure nothing serious is going on. Many people in base camp have coughs and/or are suffering from stomach infections. There are a lot of sick people here! My cold feels like its gone now but a minor cough remains which is most like just due to the dry cold air.

The doctor said it happens that some people suffer from sleep apnea and she recommended a full dosage of Diamox now to allow me to sleep better. I will try that now. This should get better in the next few days. Phil, our expedition leader, has a full week scheduled here at base camp to let the body adapt to this extreme altitude. After that we will begin our rotations going to camp 1 and 2 and staying a few days up there to further acclimate before returning to base camp to rest and recover. We will have plenty of rest days and/or days where we will do ascents near by to Pumori base camp or camp one to gain acclimatization and not lose fitness while we live above 5000 meters.

Other than the sleep apnea I feel ok during the day, so I am hoping as my body adapts that will disappear and I won’t have to worry about this anymore!

A lot of people are sick at base camp. There is lots of nasty coughing in a lot of camps, people with stomach illnesses and of course all the people being evacuated because of altitude sickness! Imagine! Their expedition is over already!!! It doesn’t matter if they spent $100,000 in gear and expedition costs! It’s over for them! (we all follow roughly the same schedule because we are all trying to take advantage of the good weather weeks in May to summit). The main doctor Eric Simmons (I think that’s his name) left in a helicopter a few days ago because he is sick!!!

I think this is the same Eric that appears on the documentary I Am Alive.

That tells you something about living at this altitude!

It is truly amazing to think most of these people pay between $50,000 and – $100,000 dollars to be here, isn’t it? Crazy?…Yes! I am not going to argue with you, but nobody said climbing to the highest point on Earth was going to be easy and doable by everyone. It is definitely not for everyone!

Why do I do this? In the words of the famous polar explorer Ernest Shackleton:

“To touch greatness!”

I don’t know why everyone else is here, but it may be a similar reason…maybe not.

I know I have the physical conditioning to do it. I have been hiking with 5 members of our expedition (who are doing Lhotse) and who have summited Everest before, and I can see these are strong mountaineers and with mental strength but I don’t feel any less strong than they are (I tend to move faster than several of them. I have not been the first one to arrive in all our treks because I have been doing a lot more photography than them but even then I tend to arrive in the front side of the group). It is also interesting that even though they have more experience on 8000m peaks than I do (I’ve never been above 8000m and they’ve all done several 8000m peaks) they don’t have as much experience as I do doing unguided mountaineering (or guiding, themselves, of course as I am the only professional mountain guide of the groups except for Phil).

But of course none of this guarantees me that my body can tolerate these extreme altitudes we are going to go to. If my body cannot, I will not force anything and I will return satisfied that I had a chance to find out, as most people in the world don’t even get that chance. Don’t get me wrong, I am not leaving here until I know I have given it all I can give without killing myself or until I get that summit. I am just emphasizing and reminding you all and myself that the most important part of this adventure for me is to come back alive. Health issues only turn worse at 6000,7000 and above 8000 meters; that’s why it’s called the death zone up there! This is why it is important to monitor very carefully all health issues “down” here.

So far my sleep apnea can be a normal (though very stressful and tiring) part of the acclimatization. I had an afternoon nap Today for two hours without any sleep apnea which felt great and I hope this means my body is finally adjusting. We’ll see tonight with the higher dosage of Diamox.

If it’s a good weather day tomorrow and I am feeling better, I will go do an acclimatization hike up to Pumori base camp.

I am also hoping we will start having some access to internet so I can send these dispatches. All of Everest base camp has been completely disconnected since the wifi, satellite and 3g have not been working at all. I heard the wifi place may now have some sketchy internet. I will try send it today!

I send you all a big hug from Everest base camp.


PS: to all my family and loved ones: don’t worry, I will take good care of myself. I will not do anything crazy. I will not attempt the summit unless I am healthy enough and in my eagerness to accomplish this goal I will not neglect to recognize and address any serious health issues.

April 14 Everest base camp

Sleeping at base camp has been a bit rough for me. Night 2 and night 3 at BC I have suffered from sleep apnea which is a very uncomfortable condition where your body constantly wakes you up feeling like you are suffocating. Your breathing slows down (or it actually stops at times) until your brain wakes you up so you breath more! It feels horrible! But it sometimes is a part of acclimatization. I went to the doctor today to check my blood pressure, just to make sure it wasn’t my pressure getting too high but it seems to be normal so the doctor just recommended to take acetazolamide (commonly known as Diamox) before going to sleep to allow me to get some rest. Diamox essentially makes you breathe more which helps with acclimatization and it should help with that horrible sleep apnea condition. Acclimatizing to 5300m (17,500′) is no trivial matter! There is a reason no human beings live permanently anywhere in the world at this altitude. The highest permanent settlements on earth are all below 16,000′ and they are here in the Himalayas and in the Andes in Bolivia and Peru.

This is obviously no place for a human to live. There is only rock, ice, and snow around here and I suspect the only reason there are crows and a few other birds is because of human presence at Base camp and the food leftovers the sherpas leave for the birds.

Yesterday, we had the Puja ceremony. This is a very important religious ceremony for the Sherpas to bless the expedition and keep everyone safe. Many westerners think of Buddhism as a philosophy and not as a religion but it is very clear to me in places like Nepal where the population is largely Buddhist this is truly a religion and not just a philosophy of life. The Puja is a perfect example where the sherpas ask their gods (such as the goddess of Everest, which has many names including Chomolungma) and presumably Buddha himself to keep them safe during their expedition. They obvioulsy believe there are gods who can control what happens to us during this expedition.

The ceremony is very colorful and interesting. A very high lama travelled all the way from Tyanboche where we were on April 7 to perform this Puja and two more for two other Everest expeditions here on base camp.

All sherpas and expedition members are “encouraged” to make a payment for the Lama from their bottom of their hearts (with a suggested minimum of $1000 rupees or $10 dollars). Our expedition has 14 members and 30 sherpas so we were quite the profitable Puja! And then he had two others so obviously it was very worth it for the Lama to walk all the way the way from Tyanboche and back.

The sherpas erected a stone altar with several multicolored decorations. The Lama had one of the sherpas as a helper to read with him the phrases spoken by them. These phrases are hundreds of years old and are used in Pujas all over the Khumbu region and possibly in Tibet (don’t forget many of the sherpas of the Nepal side of the Himalayas are the same people as many of the Tibetans. The Dalai Lama is their highest figure). Incenses is burned during the ceremony. Prayer flags are erected from a wooden pole in the middle of the stone altar and then stretched in the four directions (north, south, east and west) with very long ropes that cover part of base camp and stretch to the Khumbu glacier which is right next to our camp. The setting of Everest and the 7000 meter peaks around us, the ice fall and these colorful prayer flags waving in the wind, with the sounds of these buddhist chants, the incense and the bell that the lama uses during the ceremony plus the rice wine being served to everyone in generous quantities (don’t forget we are at 5300m or 17,500′ high where your tolerance to alcohol on the second day there is minimal!)create a very surreal atmosphere! It is truly the most spectacular setting for a religious ceremony I have ever seen!

The ceremony includes lots more alcohol beverages. They then bring you a bottle of Rum where each person has to do a ceremonial three cap-shots. Snacks are passed around along with Tuborgbeers and the rice wine starts flowing and they do not let you finish your cup before someone keeps topping it off. As you can imagine all the sherpas and us low landers ended up very, very drunk! As far as religious ceremonies go I gotta give it to these Khumbu Buddhist for having the most fun! And that is the ceremony itself! Not counting the after party! We were pretty drunk by 10 am! The sherpas kept drinking all day!

The Lama continued on to his other Pujas while the drinks flowed!

Sure enough so much alcohol facilitated a fight between two sherpas later that evening (from different groups that are now working together) but amazingly enough by 2 am the next morning these sherpas were all business and all friends as they crossed (now blessed by the Puja) the infamous Khumbu ice fall and made their way to camp 2 to drop tons of gear to establish our camp. The sherpas are a lot better acclimatized than we are since they have been here for a month establishing base camp and doing work, and of course these are famous people for living high and having a very superior ability to handle the extreme altitude.

I took lots of photos of the Puja which I look forward to sharing with you all!

April 13 Everest base camp 17,400′

After two days on Lobuche we made our move to Everest base camp. The hike up here follows the Khumbu glacier and passes by the last outpost called Gorakshep which is at 16,860′ (5140m). From what I hear Gorakshep was a staging site for the 1953 British expedition, that would put the first two people, Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, on the summit of Everest.

Gorakshep is essentially three buildings that serve as lodges and tea houses providing meals, some provisions, and “internet” (in lucky times! None when we passed).

From Gorakshep there is a trail going up a point called Kala Patthar which is, in reality part of a ridge that connects to the very technical and dangerous 7165m peak called Pumori. But Kala Patthar is a very popular viewing point to get great classic views of Everest as you cannot see the summit from base camp.

 Kala Patthar may be a simple hike up from Gorakshep but it is 5550m

(18,205′) high! So the altitude makes it a challenging ascent for trekkers.

I plan on going to Gorakshep and hiking up Kala Patthar on one of my many acclimatization days before our summit push in May.

Gorakshep is the final sleeping stop for trekkers doing the Basecamp trek. They normally spend a night there and then either hike up Kala Patthar or they visit base camp and return to Gorakshep. We continued our hike passed Gorakshep to base camp. Views of the Khumbu glacier, Pumori and Nuptse are spectacular. These peaks have incredible steep rock faces and giant hanging glaciers which routinely break off large ice chunks we call seracs and create avalanches that run down hundreds of meters down the mountain. As I began writing this dispatch. I heard the large, powerful characteristic sound of one of these avalanches off Nuptse just a few hundred meters away from where we are.

Between Gorakshep and base camp we got to see the summit of Everest between the west ridge and Nuptse. It looks impossibly high and remote even though it’s not that far from us. It’s hard to believe climbers actually stand on that amazing summit every year!

I have to take things one step at a time! As we reached base camp at 5300m or 17,500′ (our camp is a little lower than the rest of BC. We are at 17,400′) every step felt tiring. You can definitely feel the altitude here! At this point it is hard to fathom attempting the summit at 8,849m (29,035′)! But that is why we are going to spend weeks here getting our bodies acclimatized to this extreme altitude, and finally when we go for the summit from camp 3 (passing camp 4) we will be using oxygen.

How I see the danger of climbing Everest:

There is no question climbing Everest is dangerous but there is a very distorted view from the general public of how dangerous mountaineering is in general and a lot of confusion regarding Everest.

Mountaineering can be a very, very safe sport or a deadly activity and it really depends on who is doing it, what he/she is doing and how he/she is doing it.

I have never had any accidents climbing in more than 20 years of doing mountaineering. This is, I think, because of the type of climbing I do (I don’t really do hard core, world record breaking type of ascents. The first ascents I have to my name in the Andes are relatively easy semi-technical ascents that no one had done because they hadn’t explored the area, not because they were too difficult for world class climbers to do) also because of how safe I like to be when climbing and a bit of luck too.

A lot of the deaths on Everest are due to individuals making a long series of mistakes that culminate invariably in their deaths. Many of the plaques said: “so and so from such place summited Everest and died on the descent”. Many deaths on Everest are due to inexperience, bad judgement and incompetence. It’s a sad but true fact. These deaths are tragic because they could have been avoided had the person been better trained, more experienced, and/or had made better decisions, in many cases turning around and going down, instead of succumbing to summit fever or having that mentality of “failure is not an option” or some other deadly mistaken positive thinking type of attitude like “if you believe it, it will happen”. Or another favorite myth!: it’s 90% mental! Phil, our expedition leader says that but he is wise enough to follow it with the very important disclaimer: “if you have the preparation”. That IF is the part everyone loves to ignore so they can believe they can do anything they want. Everest is a perfect example of the cruel reality. You can believe whatever you want to believe but if you make enough mistakes you can end up in that cemetery, positive thinking and all.

A different type of tragedy is the death of competent climbers like Scott Fischer, who was an expert, strong, and very experienced. In his attempt to save some of his clients’ lives he got caught way too high on the mountain, in a horrible storm and due more to unfortunate circumstances than mistakes ended up dying with his client. Or the death of many world class climbers doing incredible feats by mastering the skills of their sport and dying by an unfortunate event like an avalanche on their descent route. These deaths are a lot sadder, in my opinion, because these alpinists had respect for the mountain, and the sport and were competent and dedicated and their death is more due to bad luck.

I am very aware of the inherit danger of climbing to the highest mountain in the world but I am also aware that I have more experience and better judgement than a lot of people that have died on Everest (at least that is my impression from reading accident accounts and these climbers’ past experience). I have a lot of respect for Everest and I will be approaching this climb very seriously. I will not have any problem coming back home without the summit knowing I made the right decision to turn around if summiting would require me to climb with a lot smaller safety margin that I deem minimum.

I will definitely give it my absolute best based on all my training, fitness, experience and judgement so I can come home satisfied with or without the summit. I know too well that a mountain like Everest can have weather and/or conditions that can kill even the best mountaineers in the world. I am also very aware that I have to have enough health and acclimatization to do this climb safely and that is not dependent on how badly I want that summit.

I will not fail because of mental weakness. There I have confidence in myself after 20 years and more than 300 ascents I have made in my career. There, is where I will give it my all. I will also try to climb this the most intelligently way possible maximizing my chances to summit and minimizing my chances of things getting out of control and spiraling down to a situation where I may end up injured or dead.

Of course I can die on this expedition but I really don’t think climbing Everest for me is as dangerous as the general public perceives Everest to be. The media, with their typical incompetence on subjects they know nothing about has painted a completely distorted picture of what Everest is like. It is not a mountain that is full of trash and bodies and it is not a deadly suicide endeavor to attempt it, especially not for an experienced, intelligent climber using the services of a competent logistics outfitter. This is why I feel comfortable here in Everest and I do accept there is an element of risk I cannot control. I feel that if conditions are good and I have health, I should have a good chance to reach that summit and come back down safely.

April 9, Lobuche 16,110′ (4910m)

After two days in Dingboche we hiked up to Lobuche this morning. The views continue to be incredible! We turned into the valley that leads to Everest base camp with Ama Dablam behind us. We hiked up with the very impressive Cholatse (6335m, 20,778′) to our left and we reached the moraine below the Khumbu glacier.

As we made our way past the little village (more of a seasonal post really) of Thukla we came around a spectacular corner with prayer flags and the incredible and steep north face of Cholatse. I began shooting some footage with the GoPro camera as I turned the corner and I came to the climbers cemetery. It is set at a truly spectacular place at 4830m (15,842′) with awe-inspiring glaciated peaks all around. The cemetery consists of rock mounts (or chortens, which are essentially large rock cairns) with prayer flags and inscribed plaques. One of the first obvious ones is Scott Fisher’s who is now world famous because of the book Into thin Air that chronicles the tragedy of 2006 on Everest. There are dozens and dozens of tombstones from people from all over the world. I filmed all this, and the incredible natural setting, in silence until the end, when I shared some of my views on this subject which If some of you are interested I am sharing here at the end of my dispatch.

That place has to be the most beautiful setting for a cemetery I have ever seen. It is truly inspiring. Out of all the ways I can imagine dying, climbing Everest is not the worst one. Having said that I have no intention of risking my life for that summit. My goal is to summit Everest if possible while maintaining a safety margin that I am comfortable with. Read my postscript for a lot more on this.

As I climbed past the cemetery I reached the Khumbu glacier which extends something like 10 to 15 miles all the way into the heart of the Western Cwm (pronounced “Coom”) at the base of the Lhotse face and the summits of Everest and Lhotse. I could not see the actual glacier because of the huge moraine between me and the glacier. A moraine is the mount of debris a glacier leaves on its sides as its mass of ice grinds the rocks it moves over. In this case the glacier is (and has been in the past) so huge that the moraine here is about 80 meters ( or about 270′ high).

As I progressed my way to Lobuche I saw the incredible 7165m (23,501′) peak known as “the K2 of Nepal”: the giant pyramid of Pumori which is the west neighbor (along with two 6000m peaks) of Everest.

I don’t want to sound redundant but I don’t have the words to describe to you all the incredibly majestic views of these giant mountains! They are unreal! You will have to see the photos and video I am shooting for you all!

I am writing now from Lobuche which is at 4910m (16,105′). Being at almost 5000 meters we can really feel the altitude now any time we walk or go up the stairs to our rooms. The rooms are very cold so we hang at the main dining room of the lodge where they have a stove to warm the room. It is cold up here!

Lobuche is not a permanent settlement anymore. It’s too high and too cold. These buildings are used on the seasons that climbers and trekkers come. There is almost no vegetation anymore, we are now surrounded by glaciers, rock, snow and ice.

Lobuche lacks the beauty of the lower villages but the scenery around is amazing.

Lobuche has just 4 or 5 buildings and it’s a stop for trekkers, climbers,porters and yaks going to and from Everest base camp. The stove that now is starting to warm this cold room burns yak dung since there is nothing else to burn. They bring up some fuel like kerosene for other uses. Possibly (hopefully!) for cooking.

We are now all antsy to move to base camp because there we will have all our gear that was sent on April 2 including clean clothes and other things we miss but more importantly because our set up in base camp will be pretty luxurious compared to these, now spartan and primitive lodges. We will each have our own tent. base camp will have a heated mess tent, as well as a heated bathroom, and a hot water shower! The food will be luxurious compared to these high lodges. And the environment will be much safer since we have to be careful not to get sick here with a lot of trekkers around that could potentially bring viruses and with yak dung in the air! Looking forward to base camp,

Also I am dying to finally see Everest base camp and the famous view of The Khumbu ice fall from base camp. To be in that historic place where so many everest expeditions were based out of. The most famous base camp in the world!

But we have to be patient! We need to be here at 16,100′ two nights before moving up to 17,500′ to let our bodies acclimatize to the now extreme altitude. We are now higher than all the mountains in the US (not counting Alaska), and higher than all mountains in Mexico except Orizaba, Popo and Izta (we’ll be LIVING higher than Izta’s summit at base camp!) and for my South American friends we are now higher than Aconcagua’s base camp. Almost the same altitude as camp 1 on Aconcagua.

Patience is the name of this game…

I took a walk from the lodge to the top of the moraine which proved to be 5000m high or 16,500′. It was very cold up there but the Khumbu glacier looked impressive!

I hear one of the lodges here has wifi for $2 per 10 mins. I hope it works and I hope it doesn’t take me half an hour to send this dispatch today or tomorrow.

My best to you all!


April 7, Dingboche

Internet in Deboche was non-existent. They advertise Wi-Fi but it did not work at all, so we’ll see when I get to send these dispatches.

Once again I slept a lot of hours which has probably helped my body fight this cold I have. This morning I definitely felt better than in the last two days.

I was glad to climb today carrying my pack all the way and felt like I am on my way to recovery. We are now at 14,460′ so I hope in the next two days I get over this cold before we get any higher.

Yesterday’s lodge, the Rivendell, was very nice! Clean carpeted rooms with comfortable beds, clean bathrooms (no hot water or showers) and a great restaurant.

I actually liked it better than our lodge in Namche (The Nest) which had hot water and a good restaurant. I took a shower yesterday and that will probably be my last chance to shower until the shower gets set up at Everest base camp.

Today’s trek was truly spectacular! The views are getting better and better! We hiked with Ama Dablam on our right side all day. Lhotse and Everest were in front of us. As we got closer to them, the Nuptse-Lhotse ridge hid Everest. Both Everest and Lhotse had a huge plume extending to the right as its common this time a year. That plume indicates these summits are hitting the jet stream. The high winds of the jet stream are creating conditions that would make a summit attempt on Everest or Lhotse deadly or simply impossible. Typically the jet streams shifts in the beginning of May and for a few weeks summiting Everest becomes possible. By the end of may or beginning of June the monsoon season begins which means precipitation and snow storms. The only other window of opportunity to attempt Everest is the post monsoon season (Sept-Oct) but its typically not as good climbing weather and so the mountain sees a lot less ascents. Having said that I should mention that some world class climbers have made winter ascents of Everest!

Our trek today took us from 12,530′ (3820m) to 14,465′ (4410m). All around were spectacular glaciated peaks ranging from 20,000′ to 29,035′ (Everest).

The hike did not feel hard as it was nice and gradual. I can tell I am not 100% with my aerobic capacity because of this cold but it was definitely a huge improvement from yesterday. Our trek today covered 6.2 miles (10Kms) and a little under 2000 vertical feet (610m). We don’t cover greater distances on our trek to everest base camp because we need to acclimatize. The key to acclimatizing to extreme altitudes is to raise your sleeping altitude slowly, ideally averaging a gain of 1000 vertical feet per day. This is why tomorrow we are taking a day off before moving higher after our 2000 vertical gain today.

We are now, here at Mount Paradise Lodge in Dingboche, as high as the summits of the three highest peaks in the continental US (Mt. Whitney in California, Mt. Elbert and Mt. Massive in Colorado) and looking at how high Everest, Lhotse, and even Ama Dablam appear from here (at 14,465′) really drives it home just how enormous these mountains are! We are now almost exactly half way between sea level and the summit of Everest at 29,035′.

Once again the view from my room is unbelievable! The 22,477′ (6856m) Ama Dablam is literally in front of us and so it towers right above my bedroom window with its imposing north ridge. The massive tower of rock and ice fills up my whole window!

I am taking photos of these incredible views to share with you all in my final trip report.

Looking at all these giant mountains, the famous Himalayas, that I have dreamed of all my life, it is mind blowing to think that I have a chance to climb the highest of all mountains! I have to pinch myself to make sure I am not dreaming! I am really going to Everest!


April 6, 2014 Deboche

Yesterday was a rough day for me as I was pretty sick in Namche. Feverish all day, weak and cold! I was able to stay warm with my 0 F sleeping bag, but every time I got up to go to the bathroom I would freeze! Namche can be a cold place. Of course, nothing compared to what’s coming for us!

I slept a lot yesterday and I slept a lot last night. This morning I still felt feverish and very weak when we started. I took some pain killers and started feeling better after we finished the initial big hill and the trail flattened at about 11,800′. 

The views are incredible. These mountains are so steep and so huge it is hard to imagine the scale of these giants from the photographs.

Today, finally, we got our first view of Everest! It is incredible to be here and look at that giant mass of rock, ice and snow that comprises the summits of Nuptse, Lhotse and Everest! All my life I have dreamed of seeing Everest with my own eyes and today it happened!….and it did not disappoint!

What’s more, I had no idea there were any places in this world where you could have a view of Everest from your room window!! Turns out there are!! And I am in one of them here in Deboche!! It’s incredible!

Today we hiked 6 miles with a vertical gain of about 2500′. Since I was sick, I went slow. Somewhere about half way to Deboche the team offered to help me carry my gear. I have never had anyone help me with my backpack in my whole mountaineering career but given that It is extremely important that I get better as soon as possible so I don’t arrive at Everest base camp sick or this could turn into a serious problem, I decided to let the team help me. Ian, Peter, and Jay took some of the heavy items in my pack and Dia helped me with the pack, so for a while I was not carrying anything! Quite the luxury! But a good thing to help me get rid of this cold asap.

Later on, on a steep and long section of the trail up to Tengboche monastery I ran into an old friend from Aconcagua who is working on an Everest expedition. LUCKILY I had asked Dia to take turns up the steep hill and I happened to be carrying my pack and she was just carrying her water bottle. I would have never heard the end of it if my friend (who’s a guide on Aconcagua) would have seen me hiking with no pack and with a trekker carrying my gear!!! It’s the kind of story that will go around the internet and will probably have no mention of my fever or sickness! After we passed them I told Dia about my incredible luck and we laughed and laughed! The truth is Dia, may only be trekking to base camp and back but she is very strong and she would have had no problem carrying my pack all the way. Her husband Louis got ill on Phakding and hired a sherpa which left Dia and Louis with just one pack to carry. Today I benefitted greatly from this. I ended up carrying the pack up to 12,000′ and then Dia insisted on helping me saying: “you have a big mountain to climb, I don’t”. I figured it could only help me to take it easy today so she carried it to 12,700′ to Tengboche and down the hill to Deboche where we are staying now. I owe her and the team big time after today!

Tengboche is an amazing place! The monks picked an incredible setting for their monastery! You have incredible views of Everest and Lhotse! Ama Dablam is right in front of you with its steep slopes and hanging glacier that makes it look like it can’t be real! Like it’s out of a fantasy movie with computer generated images!

Tomorrow we climb up to the village of Dingboche which is 14,466′ which is just about as high as the highest mountain in the lower 48 states of the USA.

We will spend two nights there to let our bodies acclimatize to the now high altitude. It may be no big deal to go up to 14K foot peaks in the US, spend less than 2 hours above 14K and get back down with no problem but it’s a whole different thing to stay at 14k, sleep there and then go higher! Many people get pulmonary or cerebral edema at these altitudes when they don’t spend enough nights at intermediate altitudes before they sleep above 14K. The thing is we will spend more than month and a half above 14K. Most of it above 17,000′ since base camp is at 17,500′.

I can tell, in spite of my cold, that I am acclimatizing just fine as I have not really felt the altitude yet.

It is great to be here! 

Thank you all for making this possible for me! Every day, I am here I remember how lucky I am to be the recipient of your generosity!




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