Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Safely Back At Base Camp

The dress rehearsal, our third acclimatization climb, was a quiet, uncomplicated success for Team I.  No muss.  No fuss.  Everything went pretty much according to plan, although Erik Ravenstein from Holland dropped out the last minute citing health concerns to stay behind another day and climb with Team II.  That meant it was just me and the Russians.  We climbed yet again through the Khumbu ice fall, spent a night at Camp I, ascended the Western Cwn the next day to arrive at Camp II, climbed the surprisingly steep and icy Lhotse face the next day to spend a night at Camp III, dug into the side of the Lhotse face at around 24,000 feet.  I spent the night with one of the Sherpa, a delightful young man of 20 named Zangbu who despite his age has already been to the summit of Everest twice.  We got along very well, exploring the differences in our cultures, and I'm optimistic that when it comes time for my own summit push he'll be assigned to help me.  The next day, even though a weather front was advancing, we spent three hours or so climbing further up the Lhotse face toward the Geneva Spur and the Yellow Band.  We gained another 1,000 feet before the weather made us retreat.  We climbed all the way back down to Camp II, spent the night and then made it back down through the Western Cwn and the Khumbu ice fall to base camp by 10:00 o'clock the next morning.  We're learning that the less time you spend in the Khumbu ice fall the better your chances are of surviving an Everest expedition.  Today in the late morning there have been several huge avalanche events that appear to have affected climbers descending through the fall.  Rescue parties have been sent and we're waiting for word about injuries or worse.  Personally I'm relieved that I've only got to go through the Khumbu ice fall two more times, once up and once down, and then I'll be happy never to return.

Now that we're back at base camp the plan is to rest and recover for 5-6 days until May 9, when we'll have a look at the weather and plan our summit push.  There's a full moon about that time, which would help with the visibility while we're climbing though the night along the summit ridge.

This dress rehearsal to 25,000 feet without oxygen was a huge confidence builder for me.  Next time I get to Camp III at 24,000 feet there will be a bottle of oxygen waiting for me.  Everything I do at or above that level will be with the help of supplemental oxygen.  There are still a million things that can go wrong, but now I'm really beginning to feel like this might actually go according to plan.

Now all I need to do is stay healthy.  It seems like literally everyone else on the expedition is suffering to a greater or lesser extent from some kind of upper respiratory distress, and few of them learned how to cover their mouths when they cough.  Some of the expedition members are going to descend lower down through the Khumbu valley to help with the recovery process.  I'm planning to stay here at base camp to keep all of the benefits of acclimatization for which I've worked so hard.  I trust the food and water here a lot more than what I experienced coming up here.  We've also got a primitive shower facility and the occasional low-band width internet connection, so I'll just stay put, rest, relax, recover, and hope for good climbing weather from May 9-15.  I wouldn't mind getting to the summit of Everest and getting home sooner rather than later.  This has been an ordeal the likes of which I could not have imagined before I got here and experienced it.

Thank you as always for all of your positive thoughts and prayers.  They make a HUGE difference.


  1. I'm glad to hear you so positive and hopeful about this. You've worked so hard to prepare for this, and you're doing a fantastic job of fulfilling your dreams. Keep it up, you can do it, our thoughts and prayers are with you.

  2. Michael,

    I got to wondering about your Everest expedition and just discovered your blog. It sounds like you have done everything possible to prepare for a successful outcome and if the wheel of karma is any indication you should have good weather and a glorious experience in the next few days. I'd love to hear about in person when you return home. Good fortune to you and all the Everest climbers this season.