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Prayer flags above Dingboche. Lhotse and Island Peak in the background.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

CANCELLED: Everest Closed for the Season

Hello Everyone,

As many of you suspected, the Mt. Everest climbing season is over.  I just got off the phone with Robert.  He had finished spending several hours with the Sherpa in respect and sympathy for their loss of family and friends and is now beginning to pack and arrange for helicopter transport out of EBC.

Robert is extremely disappointed but is moving forward quickly now that the decision has been made.  He is organizing and packing his gear, doing the same for a fellow climber who is not at EBC (medical emergency), and getting out.

"It is cold and miserable and there isn't a reason to be here longer."

It will take at least a week for his climbing gear bags to reach Kathmandu.  He will only take essentials on the helicopter and hopes to leave tomorrow. We will have a full report after he returns to Kathmandu. Right now he just wants to get out of a very unpleasant situation.

Thanks for your thoughts and prayers,
Patty Kay
Lincoln, NE

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Fluid Emotions at Everest Base Camp

I have received several calls from Robert over the past few days.  Emotions at EBC are very unsettled. Robert has asked that I wait for another 48 hours or so before commenting on the fate of this climbing season on Everest as it is difficult to say what is rumor and what is fact right now.

Any tragedy of this magnitude causes grief to set in with feelings that run the gambit from extreme sadness, to anger, to quiet reflection, remorse, and back through those strong feelings again. Anyone who has been through a sudden tragic loss knows those emotions seem to strike randomly and without warning.  Reaction to loss and tragedy is unique to the individual, therefore, the unexpected is the norm right now at EBC as individuals and groups works through the grieving process.  Some will move quickly through and others will linger for a very long time. There is no formula, no right or wrong for working through a loss, it is just the way it is. The healing has begun by the sharing of grief among the Sherpa, their families and the climbing groups, but how long it will take only God knows for sure.

We send our condolences to the Sherpa families, friends, colleagues, employers and others effected by this loss as we continue to pray for healing and peace for all those effected by the tragedy in the Khumbu.

Patty Kay
Lincoln, NE

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Robert's Text Messages from IceFall Event

Robert is at Everest Base Camp.  He sent several text messages which I am now forwarding to you. 3:58 A.M. Saturday CST (Saturday afternoon in Nepal)

Robert:  I can't efficiently get an email out so I'll text.  The confirmed fatality count is 17 Sherpa and many more injured.  The injuries range from cuts and bruises to broken limbs and internal injuries.  There is a glacier hanging above the icefall on the west shoulder of Everest and part of it broke off about 6:45 A.M. Friday.

We were on the trail that winds through camp (it's about 3/4 mile from one end to the other).  I heard the glacier ice break loose and watched it fall into the icefall. Immediately knew we had a big problem.  We saw people coming down and they looked quite shocked.  At the same time rescuers headed up, including Phil and six of our Sherpa.  Unfortunately very little could be done as the victims were all buried deeply.

Helicopters arrived after about two hours and took the injured down to base camp in several trips.  They began carrying the dead using a long line.  Base camp became a very somber place.  Rumors were flying around and no one know for certain what was true or not.  Our team joined the Sherpa in their tent after dinner to show our support and respect.  We were there for several hours.

Things seem a bit more normal today. Although many of the other team's Sherpa have gone home for a few days, our guys are staying here.  Phil says the place is safer now that the weak portion has fallen and I think he is right.  We will likely only have one rotation (into the ice fall) instead of the two that were originally scheduled which will  further lower our risk.

It is difficult to type a coherent longer message on this cheap phone plus my fingers are freezing so please resend the texts and copy them into the blog.

Patty: No worries.  I will do that.  Glad the icefall is now more stable.  I have been replying to many texts and emails from people sending encouragement and prayers.  Please pass along our condolences and tell everyone that there is a large group of folks praying for all of you.

Robert:  Thank you.  it was a terrible day but things will get better, and already are except for the very cold afternoon.


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Robert and Altitude Junkies Team All Safe

Robert just called to say there was a terrible accident at EBC and that their team is unharmed.
The mountain is in a state of confusion now so Robert asked that I not post any of the rumors floating around.  He just wanted us to know that they are safe.

The Sherpas & Misc Ramblings

Our phone conversation this morning was a rambling one.  Robert talked about the walk down to Gorak Shep to see if the internet was working. It wasn't so he ate some momos and then did another walk up Kala Patthar (18,514'). Since he was doing a lot of traveling in the area I asked about the trash on the mountain. He replied, " It's clean. Everywhere on the mountain is clean."     

He told me he is feeling "strong & fit" which has been the norm this trip. His appetite is good and so is the food. He talked about Australian steaks that were so tender that they could be cut with a fork.  At one point he interrupted himself... "There is a sherpa out there in flip flops!"  (Robert had all of his cold weather gear on...it is really cold at EBC right now.)   "The Sherpas are amazing.  "They are so tough, insanely tough. The Sherpa team carry loads of 35 pounds from EBC up to Camp 2 and then come back down...all in one long 14 hour day." (EBC is at 17,500 feet and Camp 2 is at 21,000 feet in elevation.) The Sherpas make these trips to prepare the higher camps and to bring in supplies ahead of time.

Tomorrow the team will take a hike up to the ice fall.  It's about 3 hours up and 2 hours back down.  Some of the team haven't had the opportunity to experience the ice fall area so the trip was planned with them in mind.

Hopefully the internet will be working again soon.  Robert will be able to give us many more details then.

Thanks for following!

Patty Kay
Lincoln, NE

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Everest Base Camp

Hello Everyone,

Robert was able to call from EBC this morning. The cell phone provider (NCell) has restored service.  The internet is expected to be working tomorrow. (That's Nepal time...so maybe, maybe not.) We have not spoken since April 6 but have kept in touch through email which are in the previous post. The internet went down and then there was nothing to report to you until this morning.

The weather at base camp is very cold.  Robert took a 5 hour hike today. He is well and fit so that is good.  His friend Scott left EBC last Saturday with his Sherpa guide, Ghumbu to climb Lobeshe East. Robert said he thinks Scott should be back down and hopes to receive a report from Scott soon.

I am hoping for a full report of the last week via email. As soon as I have it I will post here to keep you up to date on Robert's Quest for Everest.

Thanks for arm chair traveling with me.  It is nice to have the company.

:)Patty Kay
Lincoln, NE



Brian The Miracle Worker Everest 2014

Finally!

Brian Jackson figured out how I can access the main blog so I will now recap Robert's progress from the time of his last posting in Kathmandu. Thanks Brian. Your are the best. (I will no longer post to the  Everest 2014ClimbWithStar City2 blog.)


April 2

Robert left Kathmandu after visiting with extended family and friends.  He landed by helicopter in Luka.  This is much safer than flying in a fixed wing plane.  He was very enthusiastic about the helicopter transport and the fantastic scenery along the way.


April 8

"We have just arrived in Gokyo after a nice walk from Maccherma.  It is about 15,700' in elevation so it's high but not that big of a deal.  The scenery is breathtakingly beautiful. There are huge peaks all around us plus a nice lake (ice covered at the moment). We are staying at the very nice Namaste Lodge and they have pretty good wifi.

Tomorrow we plan to walk up Gokyo Ri, the big hill next to Gokyo where we should have some amazing view of Cho Oyu, Everest and maybe Makalu.  We will likely take an extra night here so Scott can acclimatize a bit more."  (Scott is Robert's friend from Lincoln who will travel to base camp with Robert as part of his first trip to Nepal.)


April 9

"Today we took it easy.  We went for a short walk, chatted with some British medical students volunteering in this valley, ate a lot, and I did some work on my office computer. The internet is painfully slow. Tomorrow we are going up Gokyo Ri assuming the weather is good and then we move to the village of Dragnag.  We plan to cross Cho La the following day, again weather permitting.

Scott is feeling much better and I'm hungry all the time so that's a good sign.  We have a nice room here with corner windows.  The staff is very attentive and the food is good.  For lunch today I had chicken breast stuffed with ham and cheese plus gravy and rice.  I then ate momos (Nepali potstickers) with homemade cili sauce that was hot and tasty."


April 10

"We had a great day today.  In the morning we climbed Gokyo Ri and enjoyed phenomenal views of Cho Oyu, Changtse, Everest, Nuptse, Lhotse, Makalu, Cholatse and Ama Dablam plus dozens of other amazing peaks that I cannot name.  It's a good day when you can see four of the world's six highest peaks at the same time.  I only needed 1:16 to climb Gokyo Ri while the normal time is 2 - 3 hours.

We had lunch at the Namaste Gokyo Lodge and they gave us kata scarves when we left.  We then crossed a big glacier and are in Dragnag at the Cho La Resort Hotel.  We plan to cross the pass tomorrow.  It will be a tough day - 9 or more hours.  I feel strong but my shoulders are sore from my pack.  It's quite cold tonight and is snowing."






Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A hard day on my climb


Last Wednesday was one of the harder days of my climb and I was still in Nebraska. What? That's the day Patty and Caelen took me to the airport and I said goodbye for 10 weeks. I never enjoy that part of the climb and this time was no better. 

My flight took me from Omaha to Chicago to Abu Dhabi where I had an 18 hour layover (my choice). I enjoyed a nice sleep there and in the morning I walked for a couple of hours along the waterfront and also in the city. That afternoon (Friday by now) I flew to Kathamandu and went to the hotel. After a good night's sleep I awoke feeling ready to go. I gathered up our 8 kids plus some other friends and we went to the Hyatt for a nice lunch and an afternoon of swimming. Everyone had a fantastic time together. I love being with all of them.

Sunday through Tuesday have been a whirlwind of activities - last minute shopping (mostly foods), enjoying my favorite restaurants, seeing old friends, etc. One of the highlights was greeting Scott at the airport on Monday morning and showing him "my" town. He landed at 7 am and in spite of having virtually no sleep for 36+ hours, we hit the ground running. We ran all around Kathmandu and then in the afternoon were joined by another team member and went to see my kids for a couple of hours. Afterwards we went to one of the famous Bhuddist stupas (Bhodanath Stupa) and then enjoyed a great dinner. I don't know how Scott didn't fall asleep a dozen times!

On Tuesday we finished up our errands and then were required to meet with the Ministry of Tourism for a briefing on the new rules relating to garbage on the mountain. Finally we had a very nice group dinner and I finished packing my two oversized duffel bags and went to bed. 

Today I am playing tour guide and will be taking several of the team to see some of the sights and then I will spend the afternoon with my kids again. 

We leave early tomorrow morning for Lukla and then our trek begins. Stay tuned.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The third time's the charm (hopefully!)

I've been planning my third attempt on Everest beginning about 10 seconds after I turned around from my summit bid last year. Near obsession will do that to you. I am now 14 days away from leaving for Kathmandu to try again and couldn't be more excited to go. Our expedition last year was from the Tibetan side of the mountain which I found to be much colder and harder than the Nepalese side. It is windier, the shade lingers over your camp for more hours, the mix of rock and ice means you are frequently climbing with the wrong things on your feet (crampons on rock or no crampons on snow), good food is harder to get and rescue is all but impossible as the Chinese won't allow helicopters near the mountain. I decided that I would only try Everest again from the Nepal side but Phil (Crampton, owner of Altitude Junkies) was more or less committed to going via Tibet again in 2014. Phil and I had long conversations, he consulted with his Sherpa team, I cajoled and he eventually decided to shift his 2014 climb to the Nepal side. I was very grateful for this as Phil is hands down my first choice for a guide and guiding company. I like him, his wife, their Sherpa staff, their higher quality food, the attitude, the freedom he grants, the standards he insists upon and his choice of clients.
For 12 months now I have been researching and fussing over the smallest equipment details, meeting with two different trainers at our gym, studying different ideas for high altitude food, reading accounts of previous climbs and thinking and dreaming about Everest. I will admit that I'm more than a little OCD about this thing. I love Everest and climbing in Nepal but I don't want to fail a third time because I missed some subtle problem with my preparation. I failed to summit in 2013 largely due to extremely cold hands and feet that were well on their way to being frostbitten. (My toes tingled for three weeks after the climb) With this in mind, I've bought the latest-greatest boots two sizes larger than I normally wear so I have room for thicker socks plus a little foot swelling. I tracked down spare batteries for my boot warmers. I found insulating insoles made from a material developed by NASA. I have heated glove liners and better mittens. A very talented friend is enlarging my ascender (a handle-like device that attaches to the ropes for safety and to help you climb) so that the bigger glove combination can fit into it. I have saved 20 ounces by buying a new backpack, 32 ounces by bringing a 0 degree sleeping bag vs my normal -40 degree bag (a plan that may result in some uncomfortable nights at Camps 3 and 4 but it is hard to sleep there anyway). Short of quitting all work and family obligations and moving to Colorado to train all day at higher altitudes, I don't know what else to do to increase my chances.
I fly to Kathmandu via Abu Dhabi and will enjoy five full days there before we go to Lukla. During this time I will be hanging out with our 8 kids there, visiting old friends and enjoying the sights and culture of the world's funnest city (others may disagree with this assessment). From Lukla, our group with trek over two days to Namche Bazaar, the biggest village on the hike to base camp. It's located at 11,500' so most groups will spend an extra night or two here to acclimatize before going higher. At this point I become a contrarian and will leave the group which will be traveling on the traditional route to base camp. I've been up this route twice and descended on it once and want to see some different scenery so I will be using a less-traveled route and get there via Gokyo and the Cho La (pass), rejoining the group in Lubuche or possibly even at base camp.
Scott, an orthopedic surgeon friend from here in Lincoln will be joining me for the trek to base camp which will be fun. This is his first visit to Nepal and he's in for a real treat. He also plans to climb Lobuche, a 20,000' peak on his way from base camp back down to Lukla.
Patty will be updating my blog more than me as it is difficult to get internet at base camp. 
You can also find info about our team at here and very detailed info about all the teams, drama, weather, etc at alanarnette.com
Alan Arnette runs the most respected and thorough Everest website. Read this article  he wrote recently to get an idea of what it's like to leave your family to climb.
I will miss everyone but am super excited to try again at fulfilling my long time dream.

This is the view that awaits me at Camp 3.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Expedition summary

I am a little late in writing so I'll offer my apologies as a way of starting this update. After I left base camp and returned to Kathmandu life seemed to really accelerate. My Mom had flown to Kathmandu to welcome the conquering hero; unfortunately I was neither. We've had a great time here in Kathmandu doing some sightseeing, visiting all my favorite restaurants, introducing her to my many local friends and most importantly spending time with the eight kids who make up my Nepali family.


For the most part life is very slow on a high mountain expedition. This is due to the need to acclimatize, a process that cannot be hurried. This requires weeks of sitting around eating, resting and going for day climbs up nearby mountains. I try to be an "active rester". It's a balancing act between the need to stay fit and really encourage your body to acclimatize vs not overtaxing yourself and getting worn down or even sick. Base Camp is at 17,000' and Advanced Base Camp is at 21,000'. At these extreme elevations you heal very slowly so you can't really allow yourself to get sick. At home I don't even think about getting sick and I'm not particularly fussy but at BC and ABC I get a little paranoid. Most days at BC I would hike 1,000' to 3,000' vertical feet up the mountain next to camp and return in time for lunch. The views were beautiful and it would get me working pretty hard in the thin air.


Acclimatizing is an amazing thing. When I first arrived at BC I found going for a walk on flat ground would leave me quite short of breath. After a few weeks of adjustment I could climb almost as fast as I could in Colorado a mile or more lower in elevation. Initially it's hard to eat and sleep but this also changes with time. Our bodies are absolutely amazing machines!

All this idle time changes when the summit push begins and you find yourself going day and night. A lot of big mountain climbing is done at night, and for some very good reasons. First, you need to consider the weather. If a few hours after you start climbing the weather changes for the worse, a night start gives you lots of daylight to deal with the problem. Second, more falls occur on the way down and they tend to have higher consequences than a fall on your way up. (Think falling down a staircase compared with falling up a staircase). This makes descending in daylight quite critical vs doing it in the dark after a long day. Finally, big mountains, by their very size, require very long days. You're better off doing the end of an exhausting day in the light.

Our first trip to ABC was on April 21/22. Due to the elevation and distance it was split into two days with an overnight at Interim Base Camp. IBC is a horrible place at 19,000'. There are yaks everywhere and every one of them is leaving a deposit. Phil told us to spend every moment of our time there inside our tent to minimize the odds of getting sick. I complied quite happily. We carried on to ABC the following morning and I took a little over nine hours for the total trip. We spent six nights at ABC and then returned to BC to recover as most of us found life there very hard. I couldn't eat much at all until the last two days and sleeping was very hard. It's also a cold and boring place.

After enjoying BC for 13 days we returned to ABC. This second trip took me 7 1/2 hours and was made in one day instead of two, more proof of the benefits of acclimatizing. Two days later (May 13) we thought we were heading off to the summit and climbed to the North Col at 23,000'. This was my favorite part of the climb. It's very scenic, all snow and ice, steep enough to require some skill and caution and to make it interesting while still feeling quite safe. The elevation is high but I could manage it quite well. We were carrying a lot of gear so this slowed us down and then the weather fell apart towards the top with cold temps, high winds and snow. Nine of our party of ten clients made it there.

The next morning was beautiful until Phil announced that he'd tricked us into this rotation because he wanted us to all sleep on the Col (a Welsh word for "pass") before our real summit push. GROAN!! We left most of our gear in a tent and returned to ABC.

Back at ABC we closely watched the daily forecast and finally everyone agreed to a predicted weather window. Our real climb to the summit began on May 18. With a lot less to carry, my trip to Camp 1 on the North Col went much faster. I shared a tent with Ed, an Englishman with whom I'd climbed in Indonesia last year, and Sangee Sherpa my fantastic Sherpa guide. We were quite cramped and I was very hot all night as I volunteered for the worst spot in the tent (the middle guy).


After a fitful sleep we packed up and headed for Camp 2. I quickly decided my load was too heavy and returned to the tent to drop what I could. My pack was still heavy but I had no choice so I plodded up quite slowly. I spend a large amount of time choosing the lightest gear I can find but you need so much stuff at high elevations that your pack still ends up very heavy.

One of the culprits was my food selection. I find it hard to eat when I'm very high up on the mountain so I brought a good selection of things in hopes that I could find something palatable. Chief among these was my Mom's fruit cake. I realize that fruit cake is very low on most people's list but Mom makes a great one and it is very dense and loaded with calories which is exactly what I needed. I ended up becoming a good resource for several other members of our team because they hadn't brought enough food due to some misunderstandings.

The climb to C2 takes you up a very long snow-covered ridge with one false summit after another. After the endless snow ramp finally does end, you then climb on rock and scree (similar to gravel) for several more hundred feet to the tents. I know climbing a few hundred feet sounds like a five- or ten-minute proposition but at these heights people tend to move at about 300 to 400 feet per hour. Walking the length of a car can take five minutes.



Our tents were on tiny, sloping bits of platforms built by stacking rocks. They were too small for the tents so all the tents looked they were collapsing. I was helped to my tent by the ever-kind and strong Sangee. He took my boots off for me, melted snow and just looked after me. The winds picked up during the night and I realized we wouldn't be leaving as scheduled for C3 so I turned off my oxygen to conserve it.

Sure enough, the next morning Phil put us on hold so we spent an unscheduled day sitting in our tents. This is when my extra food became quite valuable and I was happy to share it with my teammates. Sangee and I chatted much of the day and listened to music on my iPod. In the afternoon he disappeared with another Sherpa and they made more platforms and put up more tents. We'd been using a contracted tent and now more climbers were coming so we needed to vacate our home. One of our team decided he'd had enough during this unplanned and unwanted rest day and returned to ABC.

The winds died down during our second night and we packed up in the cold early morning and I started for C3 while Sangee took our tent down and stashed it in his enormous backpack. My feet were painfully cold and I held out hope that they'd warm up with movement. I was wrong. After about 30 minutes I knew I was in trouble so I sought permission from another group to use one of their tents and try to warm my feet.

Ang Gelu Sherpa, who was a personal Sherpa for Margaret, was nearby and offered to help me. I put my feet inside his down suit under his arms and this helped quite a lot. Not too much later, Sangee arrived on scene and relieved Ang Gelu. He rubbed my feet for a long time, put them inside his coat and was so helpful and kind. I seem to always be surrounded by amazing Sherpas. We eventually succeeded in warming my feet up, but I was in real danger of serious frostbite for quite a while. I then made a fatal error. My boots have heated insoles with a remote control. I turned them on for about ten minutes just to make certain I'd be okay. I remembered to turn them off, or so I thought.

The climb to C3 was longer than it should have been for two reasons. First, we'd camped lower at C2 than normal because others had used our traditional tent sites. Second, I just had a tough day. I needed 11 1/2 hours counting my foot-warming time to get to C3. I was so tired that Sangee, together with Kami Neru (aka Mad Dog) Sherpa, came down a fair distance to help me and another of our team who was struggling.

I suspect that I might not have made it to the tent had they not come so I was very happy to have the help. Sangee took all my gear and swapped oxygen bottles with me, allowing me to go to a higher oxygen flow rate than my depleted bottle could deliver. We climbed for two more hours to the tents. Along the way we had to step around Namgyal Sherpa, aged 35 and a friend of Phil's and our Sherpa team. He died descending from the summit a few days prior, likely from a heart condition. It was a very sad and sobering moment.

It started to blow and snow as I arrived in the camp at 6:30. I was exhausted and very cold. The ever helpful and kind Sangee took my crampons and boots off and helped me into the tent. I sat down and vomited. He melted more snow, I drank and ate and then Markus and I agreed to delay our summit departure until midnight so we could recover a bit more from the day's efforts.

It was a very cold and uncomfortable evening. Camp 3 is perched on a steep slope - think a black diamond ski slope in steepness. I sat cross-legged sliding down against the downhill wall of the tent. I could lie down on my back, but needed to keep my legs crossed due to the narrowness and steepness. My feet again got very cold. It was during this time that I discovered I had not fully turned off my electric insoles some 12 hours earlier and now my only batteries were essentially depleted. This would eventually cost me my summit.



I did as much as I could to warm my feet but they were still very cold and putting them into frozen boots certainly didn't help matters. Eventually I emerged from our tent a little after midnight and Sangee helped me with my crampons. I had some chemical handwarmers but they're not very effective up high since they need oxygen. Markus and I started our summit bid at 12:25 am.

My hands were cold but I was slowly making some progress in warming them as I climbed. However I was rapidly losing control of my feet. I suffered a little frostbite when I skied Manaslu (26,781') 18 months ago so I know exactly what it feels like. I began thinking about the famous Everest climber George Mallory. He once said that he'd be willing to lose a toe to frostbite to gain the summit. I decided that 1.) You don't get to decide which toe and I'd likely lose all of them and 2.) I wasn't willing to make such a bargain with the devil. After 45 minutes of doing my best to warm my tender feet I decided I had no options left and I must return right now to my tent.

I made my announcement to Sangee, Markus and Kami Neru. Markus said he was having the same problems so we all turned around and scrambled back to C3. I reached the tent at 1:22 am, my summit bid over with for 2013. Mortals such as me simply don't have enough strength to linger too long up high and make a second attempt. I gave everything I had to give and a second attempt would fail if I was lucky, or likely end with me remaining up there for all time.

I was extremely disappointed but life is much bigger than even the world's biggest mountain. I have so much to live for and be grateful for. I'm blessed with a wonderful, caring wife, three amazing kids, mother, brother (and family), lifelong friends, the world's freest and best country and a huge, growing family in Nepal (currently eight kids). I love my home, business, community, church and just being in mountains all around the world. There are very few people on earth that have been blessed like I have. I have no regrets, but do plan to try again to achieve my Everest dream next year.

I left C3 a little after 8 am as I waited for the sun to hit my tent before leaving. Once again my feet were super cold but between the sun and my movement they eventually warmed up. It got very windy descending to C2 but then the wind almost stopped a bit lower as I moved off the rock and onto the long snow ramp that leads to C1. I went from freezing to boiling in my down suit in only a few minutes. It seems to be hard to be comfortable on this mountain!


Once I reached C1 I took my down suit off and put on normal softshell pants and jacket. I drank, ate, repacked all my gear and set off for ABC. There are lots of steep sections and I took things safely and rappelled them instead of just doing a hand wrap (a technique that involves wrapping the rope around your hands to control your speed going down steep sections). I finally reached ABC after about eight hours of effort. I was extremely dehydrated and drank eight cups of tea that evening yet never needed to use the bathroom.


The following morning I, along with three other team members, walked 6 1/2 hours down to BC. I took a sorely needed bucket bath, packed my gear, ate and drank gallons of water and Fanta and had a great night's sleep. The following morning seven of us loaded into two Toyota LandCruisers and drove to Xangmu on the Nepal border. We crossed into Nepal the following morning and were at the Hotel Courtyard by 2:30 pm. It was wonderful to be home!


I would be remiss if I failed to acknowledge the Herculean efforts of the three summiting members of our team. Ole Nielsen, Margaret Watroba and Edita Nichols all summited with Phil and seven of the Sherpas the same day that I turned back. You can read more details at: http://altitudejunkies.com/dispatcheverest13.html
Margaret enjoyed her second summit of Everest in four attempts. Ole isn't actually human. He descended from C3 all the way to BC in one epic day. He's also run seven marathons in seven days on seven continents and swum the Straits of Gibraltar. He is currently considering repeating the marathon project again but doing two per day for a total of 14 in a week on all seven continents.That's beyond comprehension.

Our team of Sherpas were amazing (an overused but accurate descriptor). They are highly skilled, always smiling and happy, strong beyond my ability to understand and a joy to be around. Phil runs the finest expedition on Everest and now my challenge is to convince him to do the South side next year.



Friday, May 24, 2013

Tibet/Nepal Border

May 23, 2013

Robert called to report that he was fine and that the team was back at BC.  They have a jeep ready to take them back to Kathmandu tomorrow. They will travel as far as the border, spend the night in a small town and then cross over to Nepal in the morning.

I am sure he will have many details to record on this blog as soon as he has a chance to get to a computer. Until then...

Signing off from the flatland,
Patty Kay
Lincoln, NE

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

News from ABC

May 22, 2013 8:30 a.m. CDT

The communication is back.  A dispatch from Altitude Junkies appeared sometime after 7 a.m.   Just as I was finishing reading and digesting that report at 8 a.m. I received a call from Robert. Some of the information below is directly from him.

Altitude Junkies confirmed that only 3 of the team plus Phil (expedition leader) and 7 Sherpas made it to the summit. Robert was among the 6 team members that turned back because of imminent danger of frost bite.  I had been concerned about Robert's toes freezing as they were pretty badly frost bitten on his ski descent of Manaslu. Once one has had that problem there is the danger of re-injury.

I received a satellite phone call at 8:10 a.m. from Robert and not only his toes but his fingers had been in danger of serious frost bite.  Fingers and toes or a possible Everest summit?  He chose wisely. We only had 2 minutes to speak on a borrowed satellite phone so here are some details, not many, sorry.

It took Robert 11 and 1/2 hours to climb from Camp 2 at 25,590' (7,800m) to Camp 3 at 27,230' (8,300m). Robert couldn't feel his fingers most of that time and his toes were worse.  At Camp 3, his wonderful Sherpa tried to warm up his feet but was unsuccessful. I don't know how close to the summit Robert climbed before deciding to turn back.

Robert is now at ABC and sounded very good. The team will leave for BC tomorrow and I know Robert will be sending a report as soon as he is able.

Patty Kay
Lincoln, NE


The Re-entry Zone

5 a.m. CDT May 22, 2013

The news of summit success or not is still a mystery. It is great to know that everyone is descending safely. The team is most likely resting at a lower elevation now.  I have checked through the night and there are no new dispatches posted on the Altitude Junkies website. This is not surprising as the descent to safer elevation would take some time.

This period of waiting without communication reminds me of a time in my early years when I would be watching and waiting for another group of adventurers to return home safely. I am going to date myself, but here goes anyway. Back in the 1960's when the space program was in full swing, I would watch TV coverage of the event waiting for the manned space capsule to splashdown safely in the ocean.  There was a period of time that communication was lost between mission control and the space craft as the ship descended through earth's atmosphere. This communication void was called "The Re-entry Zone".  That is where we are now, patiently waiting for news.

Back then, when communication was restored, there were big cheers at the control center confirming that the crew was safely back on earth. Let us hope that we hear some news soon to bring us out of "The Re-entry Zone" and into restored communication with Robert and the other Altitude Junkies.  When the facts are confirmed, we can then cheer the efforts made by Robert and the team to reach the summit of the world's highest mountain, not quite outer space but most surely as close as one can travel without some kind of winged craft fitted with a pressurized cabin.


:)Patty Kay
Lincoln, NE

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Descending

May 21, 2013

The Altitude Junkies hub in Kathmandu posted a brief dispatch sometime between 9 and 9:45 p.m.  The team is now descending from the summit.  Some of the members did not reach the top due to very cold conditions.  We don't know who made it and who didn't but details will be added when the team reaches a safe elevation.

Camp 3

May 21, 2013

The Altitude Junkies team is safe and resting at Camp 3 in preparation for their summit bid tonight.
They will probably leave for the summit before midnight and climb through the night to reach the summit on the morning of the 22nd.

For those of you in the USA Daylight Savings Central Time Zone, the summit push will happen tonight. It is presently 5:30 pm on May 21 over there. They are about 11 and 1/2 hours ahead of us.


Monday, May 20, 2013

Delay at Camp 2

May 20, 2013

The high winds with the potential of frostbite has kept Robert and the team at Camp 2.  They will proceed to Camp 3 tomorrow and plan a bid for the summit on May 22, 2013.  Twenty-two is Robert's favorite number so a successful summit on the 22nd would be great!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

A Sunshine Day Camp 2

May 19, 2013

The Altitude Junkies team and Sherpas have reached Camp 2 which is at an elevation of 25,590 feet.  They had a beautiful day with no wind and temperatures that were almost too warm for comfort.

I received this information through the Altitude Junkies dispatches link.  You may want to check in at www.altitudejunkies.com  as this site has many photos including a few of Robert.


Posted by Patty Kay
Lincoln, NE


Saturday, May 18, 2013

Safe at Camp 1


Robert called before he left and said that he was well and very pleased to get moving up to Camp 1.  The plan remains the same. The summit attempt is planned for May 21.


I just checked the Junkies Everest dispatches and the team reached Camp 1 safely.  One member did go back to Kathmandu but they didn't say why.  There are now 9 team members and 13 Sherpas.

We will probably have a few more very brief postings.  Robert could be back in Kathmandu by the 25th or 26th if all goes well.


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Date for Summit Attempt Set

May 16, 2013

This is what I learned from the Altitude Junkies website.  The team decided, based on the weather forecast, to leave ABC on the 18th.  They will move to the North Col and then on to Camp 2 and 3.  They hope to reach the summit on the 21st of May in the morning.

The site also mentioned that other teams are moving into position to make their attempts. The Altitude Junkies team chose the dates that have the lowest wind predictions.

This is all the information I have for now.  I will keep you informed as news on their progress it is posted.

Thanks,
Patty
Lincoln, Nebraska

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A Night at the North Col

May 14, 2013

The weather did not cooperate so after spending the night at the North Col,  Robert and the team returned to Advanced Base Camp.  A bid for the summit was deemed too dangerous due to high winds, cold temps, with the possibility of frost bite.  Instead this effort is considered a second rotation in preparation for the main event. The team will now call ABC home where they will rest and recover for the next few days and wait for a weather window.  This information was posted on the Altitude Junkies site early this morning.

I don't expect to hear directly from Robert but will monitor the main information sites for Everest and keep this blog up to date. Patience is a virtue that climbers must have in abundance! I am hoping and praying for a weather window to arrive very soon.

It is windy and 100 degrees here in Nebraska. Summer arrived today!

Best of Travels,
Patty

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Moving Up to ABC

May 11, 2013

It is just before midnight, May 11 here in Lincoln. A dispatch was posted a few minutes ago on the Altitude Junkies web site. I don't often burn the midnight oil but it's Saturday so I stayed up a little later than normal.  While we were sleeping last night an eventful day was unfolding for the 2013 Everst Tibet Altitude Junkies team. Read on for the latest news...

The team left BC for ABC at 5 a.m. on May 11 with most of the members making the trip in 5 to 8 hours.  No firm plans for a summit bid have been made. The weather is being watched closely for a window of opportunity.

There probably won't be any specifics from Robert as they no longer have access to email. Please check in more often as events may happen more quickly and also check the Altitude Junkies site and Alan Arnette's Everest 2013 coverage.

Patty


Mom's Fruit Cake

May 11, 2013

Our  expedition leader, Phil Crampton has been receiving daily weather forecasts from Seattle and from Switzerland.  The two forecasts have been differing pretty significantly but now they seem to be in more agreement.  The weather (up high on the mountain) now appears to be improving faster than previously thought.  This is a good sign.  The pattern now seems to be that things are very quiet in the night and early morning and then the winds pick up around 10 a.m. It is definitely warmer than when we first arrived which is obviously a good thing.

The Tibetans have finished fixing the ropes to the summit today and our Sherpa team has already stocked all three high camps with everything we need.  We have a fantastic group leader and very strong Sherpas. I have Mom's fruit cake packed so we are all set to go.  Just waiting on the weather now…Happy Mother's Day Mom!

Posted by Patty
 in Lincoln, NE

Friday, May 10, 2013

Weather Factor

May 9, 2013

The weather here seems to be getting a little better every day.  I thought I would describe what will (hopefully) happen on the summit push once we get going.  We will walk from BC at 17,000' to ABC at 21,000'.  The 10.4 mile walk is much harder than it first appears due to the elevation change.  I expect the walk will take me 8 hours.

Once at ABC we will spend two nights there. This gives us the best chance to recover from this uphill walk without spending unnecessary time at extreme altitude.  After the second night we will then climb 2,000' to Camp 1 on the North Col where we will sleep.  Phil has warned us that this will be a terrible night because of the extreme elevation and the fact that we won't be on oxygen.

The following morning we climb about 3,000' feet up the Northeast Ridge to Camp 2.  Our Sherpas will be watching us and will turn on our oxygen when they feel we need it.  This will be a big day and fortunately we will be sleeping with oxygen so we should get some sleep at C2. We will be three to a tent here and at C3 to stay warmer and reduce the amount of stuff the Sherpas need to carry up for us.  There will be at least one Sherpa in every tent. He will melt snow and do all the little things that need to be done when trying to camp at 26,000'

Day three will be a shorter day as we only climb about 1,200' to C3. This is the highest campsite in the world and is on a steep slope.  Even the Sherpas are at their limit so they don't try to build flat platforms for us; we just deal with it.  We should arrive here some time in the middle of the day. Sleep is pretty much impossible at this elevation so we just lounge around and rest as much as we can.

Later that same evening (maybe 11 pm) we emerge from the tents and head for the summit.  I am planning on this last 1,800 vertical feet taking me around 8 hours.  We will hopefully summit in beautiful conditions and then quickly return to C3 taking another 4 to 6 hours to go down.

Phil says to plan on spending a second night there as not many people have the strength to keep on descending.  (There will be not be a C2 as those tents had been moved up to C3.)  We either stay at C3 or drop another 4,200' to C1. The next morning we then downhill all the way to ABC where Phil mandates a full rest day before going down to BC.

While these rest stops are taking place, yak handlers and their yaks are summoned to come to ABC. When we are finished with ABC they will pack the equipment and head down to BC. The drivers with a fleet of trucks and Land Cruisers are requested to drive up to BC so that we can load gear and equipment for travel back to Kathmandu.

The biggest challenges during all this time are to eat (virtually impossible), sleep (ditto), to stay warm and hopefully be out of the wind.  The mountain can make its own weather so in spite of all the latest high-tech weather forecasting,  one can be surprised by a storm while up high.

Note:  I am well. Today I climbed 2,800' up the big hill next to camp, reaching 19,800'.  It is crazy - a day hike here takes one to almost the summit of Denali and higher than Kilimanjaro.  I am going quite fast and feel very strong.  My weight is holding steady.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

A Note from Nebraska

Hello Everyone,

This is just a note to inform you that all of Robert's posts since leaving Nepal are generated here at home base in Lincoln, Nebraska USA.

Many of you know that China blocks access to all blogs along with Facebook, Twitter and most social networking websites. Robert will not have access to his blog until he is back in Kathmandu. Until he is back you will be hearing from me as I receive updates.

Signing off from the flat land,
:) Patty Kay
Armchair traveler

BC Has An Exciting Moment

May 8, 2013



 I've been staying active by going for a 2 to 4 hour walk/climb each day.  The weather is slowly improving and we are all healthy.  The boredom is a problem but so far no one has had any big arguments or issues.

We are making the best of the waiting game. The cook, Da Pasang, made momos for us today.  Momos are similar to pot stickers and were quite a treat.  Also, I  took a bucket bath and put on clean clothes for the first time in almost ten days so I feel good.

The big excitement was yesterday when a gust of wind picked up our toilet/shower tent and blew it away.  A bunch of people chased after it,  rescued the tent and secured it.  I was not around at the time so I missed it all.



Everest Photos North Cole

North Cole, bottom of the climb


On the climb up the North Cole

Everest Photos Base Camp

"BC" Base Camp



Robert's view of Everest from his tent




Monday, May 6, 2013

Charging Batteries

May 6, 2013

The weather at BC has improved over the last 48 hours.  The winds that were pounding us for days on end have eased tremendously and in fact at night it is now mostly dead calm.  I walked around camp yesterday in only a t-shirt for much of the afternoon.  This is a huge improvement as I was wearing two down jackets and insulated pants consistently. Yesterday I went to a cave above the BC area with Ole and today we are all just hanging out, enjoying the weather and charging batteries.

Batteries are an ongoing problem and topic of conversation.  Almost everyone has a smart phone, iPad and/or computer to charge, along with camera batteries and Phil's four group computers, etc. We have two small Honda generators (which are putting out perhaps half their rated power due to the elevation) plus a ton of solar panels.  I'm able to keep most of my stuff going by using my own small solar panel.

I am feeling very well and everyone from Phil on down is anxious to get this expedition completed. I am trying to stay active every day and keep my conditioning up.  We get 12 hours in bed each night which is too long so I read, watch movies, or do puzzles for a couple of hours before going to sleep.


Sunday, May 5, 2013

Sherpas Assigned

May 4, 2013

We are still sitting around waiting for good weather. This morning I went for a scramble up the mountain next to camp and made it to 18,200' (1,200' above camp). It took me 55 minutes which was quite fast so I am pleased with my acclimatizing.

The weather is supposed to remain windy for another week or more.

Phil has assigned each of us our Sherpa for the summit push.  I will be climbing with Sangee Sherpa.  He pronounces it "Sanghee".  He is the strongest Sherpa on the team, is probably in his mid-forties, is super friendly and happy-go-lucky.  I like him a lot and am very pleased with the assignment.


And You Thought Nebraska Was Windy...

May 3, 2013

The weather at Base Camp and above has been so windy that the expedition had to abort plans to make another rotation to the higher elevations.  Robert has these comments from Everest Tibet Base Camp.

"The weather here at BC is super windy day and night. Phil (Altitude Junkies expedition leader) says he has never seen it like this.  It makes being outside quite miserable. The cold goes right through you.  I huddle inside one of the tents and read, do puzzles and watch movies, along with some conversation with other team members.  Eventually we run out of things to say and do and retire to our individual tents. I am sleeping and eating well.  My sleeping bag is warm so I am comfortable at night."




Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Tough Trek to ABC

April 30, 2013

Our rotation to to Advanced Base Camp was tough.  We left on April 21 for Interim Base Camp which  at 19,000' is two thousand feet higher than Base Camp. This was a six mile walk.  It is a horrible place filled with yak leavings.  In fact there is a small pond of nothing but the stuff and the poor thirsty beasts were drinking from it. We were told to remain in our tents 100% of the time to minimize the chances of getting sick.  I didn't need to be told twice!

We left early the following morning for ABC and spend six days and nights at 21,000'.  I found life difficult as I lost most of my appetite and could only sleep very fitfully for 2 to 4 hours per night.  This made for terrible boredom as we would retire to our tents by 7 p.m. and typically not emerge until 8 a.m. the following day.  

The team made one climb up the North Col (Welsh for "pass") at 23,000'.  It was a cold and windy climb and I'm very happy to say that among the ten clients I made it the furthest, along with a 38 year old British guy. Phil turned us around about 100' short of the top due to the very real danger of frostbite or even being physically blown off the mountain.  Of course Phil, the owner and lead guide of Altitude Junkies, and the Sherpas made it to the top.  Mere mortals can't compete with them.

The rest of the time was spent fighting boredom.  It would be very warm in the tents from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and then freezing the rest of the time.

Yesterday we walked the 10.4 miles down to BC. We are reveling in the luxury of baths, clean clothes, wonderful food to satisfy our huge appetites and restful sleep at this lower altitude.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Packing Yaks

April 17, 2013

We just finished breakfast and the Tibetan yak herders are busy weighing our loads and arguing over who gets what and presumably payment. The arguing is all in Tibetan.  We are all doing well, me in particular.  I am eating very well and sleeping well too.  It is quite cold at night but my bag is warm so I am okay.

We leave for interim base camp (IBC) on the 21st, will spend a night there and then walk the rest of the way to advance base camp (ABC) the next day.  The elevation jump is about 4,000' so it is safer to do it in two days verses one the first time. We will then spend about a week at ABC doing one or two "touch and goes" to camp 1 at 23,000' after which we return to BC for a week or so to rebuild our strength. Then, depending on the weather, we will either go for the summit or make another rotation to ABC.  

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Puja Ceremony with Rongbuk Lamas

Today we had our puja ceremony and I must be honest - I don't enjoy them.  There's lots of chanting and praying from a trio of lamas.  Sherpas then put up a puja pole in a rock base that they had previously built.  Then prayer flags are are suspended from the top of the pole.  After this the lamas smear barley flour on each climber's face. This ritual is done to signify that the recipient of these ministrations will grow old.  Lastly they drink great quantities of beer and whiskey and everyone gets pretty silly.  I just stand off to the side and shake my head a lot.  The only interesting thing is that the lamas came from the very famous Rongbuk Monastery. (in Everest history)

Yesterday I went for a walk up the valley and then onto the toe of the glacier to investigate a weather station.  Today I think I will just walk further up the valley in the direction we will be going in about four days when we make our first trip to advanced base camp.  ABC is a little over 21,000' and will be quite cold.  Once there we will spend four to seven days and climb once or twice to the north col at 23,000' for acclimatization.  Phil says there is no need to sleep there like people used to do; the effort to stay only drain one's strength.

Our internet is limited.  It is very cold when the sun goes down and it is windy most of the time but not as bad as I'd feared.  I am doing very well, sleeping fine and eating like a horse

I have good news about the woman who was bitten by the dog.  She was able to get the medication  needed without going back to Kathmandu.  The rabies meds were brought to the border and carried over.  She has medical training so was able to self-administer the medications. She is now back with her team.

Monday, April 15, 2013



Direct from Base Camp

April 15, 2013

We arrived in base camp yesterday and after a little effort we now have a (somewhat) working internet connection.  We left Kathmandu on a bus on the 9th and drove to Kodari (Godari) (Tatopani) where we spent the night. As you know from my previous post, we crossed the border into Tibet without problems.  There was a little waiting while border security checked all our luggage for contraband. We spent two nights in Nyalam which is at 12,000 feet in elevation, for safe acclimatizing.  Nyalam is a depressing little town with dreary weather.  It is dirty and smelly and the food was not good.

After the second night, we got up very early to drive to Tingri at 14,000'.  We left early because Phil, the expedition leader,  knows the hotel there and wanted us in the new, nice side instead of the very old side with mud walls and floors.  Another group left about thirty minutes prior to us but we passed them along the way when the clutch in their bus failed.  This was good for us, but not them!  Our room was quite nice but the food was really bad.  I hardly ate anything and think I've lost four or five pounds as a result.

Tingri is located on a broad plain and is quite sunny but it is also very dirty.  There are lots of wild dogs and one of them bit a woman from another group forcing her to retreat to Kathmandu for rabies shots.  Her trip is most likely over.   I stayed within the hotel compound almost all of the time, although I did walk up a small hill and had some beautiful views of Everest and Cho Oyu. Two dogs came at me but I was able to fend them off by kicking at them.

Two nights in Tingri was enough so we left at 3:45 a.m. for base camp.  It was a 4 1/2 hour drive on a rough dirt road but the views of Everest were stunning as we drew near.  Our base camp is by far the best one here.  We have two bathroom tents, two large dome tents equipped with reclining chairs for relaxing, a very comfortable dining tent, spotless kitchen tent, a dining tent for the Sherpas, technology tent with laptops and a movie projector and storage tents.  Each client has a three-man tent for themselves. It was good to finally unpack and get my clothing and gear organized.  Last night we enjoyed sizzler steaks plus fries.  I am not hungry for the first time in four days.

Everest is incredibly beautiful but also quite intimidating to look at.  We are camped at 17,000' and Everest rises another 12,000' above us.  It is about 10 to 12 miles further up the Rongbuk Valley.  We are literally in the shadow of George Mallory and all those famous English expeditions.  The history is very cool.

I feel 100% and am really enjoying myself.  We have a great team of very different people and our Sherpa staff is the best.  Phil is a great leader and hasn't lost his sharp wit.

Robert




Thursday, April 11, 2013

I'm in Tibet!
April 10, 2013

We arrived in Nyalam yesterday with minimal troubles.  They confiscated some canned vegetables but everything else eventually made it. We ate lunch in Xangmu and drove on a nice paved road in a comfortable bus to Nyalam.   This is quite a change from the pot holes, mud and gravel roads I experienced on a trip in 1987.

I plan on doing a hike up a small hill next to town and then tomorrow we drive to Tingri and stay for two nights before heading up to base camp.

I am healthy and doing fine.

Robert


Monday, April 8, 2013

Meet our team

Here is a professionally made video of our team:  Meet our team

Family time in Nepal

It's no secret that I love being in Nepal and one of the primary reasons is the time I spend with our Nepali family. On Friday I visited some friends and then we all went to the home where "our" kids now live. The house is very nice, large and clean. It is on the edge of town so it's quieter. There is a nice walled in yard with grass, flowers and a vegetable garden. There's a swing set for the kids to enjoy and they have nice bedrooms. It is a great arrangement and I couldn't be happier with it.







I've since visited the kids two more times, muddled through a one-day nationwide strike called by the Maoist (Communist) Party, had some great meals and enjoyed life in Kathmandu while waiting for our permission to head to Tibet. We leave mid-day on Tuesday and will spend the night on the border and then officially cross over early on Wednesday morning.



This evening I said goodbye to Pasang, Karseng and all the kids plus Laxmi and it was tough. They are all so nice and I really enjoy their company. I'm really getting excited now as it started becoming even more real when I did my final packing and hauled my duffel bags down to the lobby so they are ready when the truck arrives to haul them to base camp. I will only have my backpack for the next five days. I need a sleeping bag and warm coats and don't want to be separated from my electronics or Mom's fruit cake that I've carried all the way here so I don't have much room for clothing. It is quite dirty and dusty in Tibet and will be 90 degrees in Kathmandu tomorrow so I imagine I will be a little ripe by the time we finally reach our camp!


Thursday, April 4, 2013

Safe in Kathmandu

I left home on Tuesday the 2nd and had a very pleasant journey to Nepal. Maybe it's just me, but Kathmandu seems cleaner and a little less crazy this trip. We'll see if this opinion holds.  We were originally scheduled to leave on Saturday morning for Tibet but there is some holdup on crossing the border so now we expect to cross some time between the 8th and 10th.

I'm going to visit our Nepali family later today and will post an update afterwards.

It is nice to be back in my adopted home away from home.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Ready, Set, Go!!

I am 100% ready for Everest. I had my last workout on Saturday, washed the cars, cleaned the garage, finished up my paperwork at the dealership and relaxed with my family and some friends over Easter weekend. I'm all packed, the last errands are finished and now all I need to do is wait. I feel more ready and confident for this climb than any big climb I've done before.

I'm excited to get to Kathmandu, my home away from home, and reunite with all my good friends there. I am also looking forward to eating at my favorite restaurants (The Third Eye, Thamel House, Pujan's steaks, etc) and walking around Thamel looking at thangkas (a Tibetan and Nepalese art that I love). On top of this, I am really excited to see how Pasang's kids are all doing in Kathmandu at their new home. There is a lot of stuff to fit into the two days I have in Kathmandu before we drive to Tibet for the real start of our adventure.

I am not looking forward to the goodbyes that also come with a long trip. It is tough to not see your family for two months.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

My 15 minutes of fame

Lately I have found myself in an unfamiliar world; TV, radio, newspaper and news websites. I have been interviewed by two TV stations, a radio station, the Lincoln Journal Star and perhaps most significantly by Alan Arnette, the undisputed heavy weight champion of Mt Everest coverage. For a brief while last week I was on the top of the MSN.com home page and also made it onto AOL.com news.

Here are the links in case you are interested:

Channel 10/11 interview on "First At Four"

Channel 7 interview

Alan Arnette interview




Sunday, March 24, 2013

Training hard

Today I decided to do a two hour session on the Stairmaster which would be the longest I had ever done. Somewhere along the way I changed my goal to 1,000 flights of stairs and then I realized that I would be close to a marathon at that point. (The Stairmaster has a display that includes not only the number of floors climbed but also how many miles you have gone. I don't know how the comparison is made so all I can do is assume they know what they are doing over at Stairmaster's HQ)

With that in mind I decided to tough it out and go the full 26.2 miles. I have never run a marathon in my life so today is kind of a big deal for me. I went the distance and it equaled 1,257 floors or 12,570' of climbing. For comparison, the Empire State Building has 102 floors. It took me 3:48:51 and I burned almost 3,400 calories. I feel reasonably good considering what I just did - just my legs are tired. I started at 1:30 pm and hadn't had lunch yet so it was on an empty stomach and following a hard workout the previous day. Hopefully this means I'm ready for a long summit day on Everest.


Thursday, March 14, 2013

Training and Preparing for Everest

People often ask what it takes to get ready for climbing Everest so I thought I would try to answer this by telling what I have done. Please don't come away from this blog believing I am some sort of super athlete. The truth is there are tons of people in better shape than me. I do the best that I can and then just gut it out once I'm on the mountain. Someone once said that just being in the best shape of your life is not enough; you need to be in what he called Everest shape. The summit push on Everest lasts five to six very hard days so I train six days in a row then take Fridays off to teach my body to handle the stress. Since eating and drinking up high and in very cold temps is so hard, I try to not eat or drink while exercising to develop a tolerance for it.

A year or so ago I partially borrowed an idea from a great friend of mine named John Dahlem. I have established an imaginary bank I call the Mt Everest Bank of Strength. In this bank I have a savings account and I try to make some sort of a deposit every day because for the two months on Everest I will be making withdrawals, and the summit push will entail some very large ones. I want my balance to be big enough to cover the checks I'm about to write! I had some stickers made and put them on everything I use to keep in shape as a little reminder of what I need to do.



For many years I have worked out as follows to be in good shape for my climbs: On Saturdays, Mondays and Wednesdays I lift weights for 45 to 60 minutes focusing more on my leg and core strength than upper body strength.


After lifting I hop on the Stairmaster and climb 300 flights of stairs as fast as I can; it typically takes around 45 minutes. On Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays I do just the Stairmaster but go 400 flights of stairs which takes 60 minutes. In addition to this I try to do something bigger as frequently as time allows. I will go for a long bike ride, do some long ski days, go backcountry skiing (this involves climbing up using climbing skins) or climb 600 flights on the Stairmaster.





In the final few weeks before a big climb such as Everest I have a machine at my office that really works me hard. It's called a Jacob's Ladder and I use it two or three mornings each week for 20 or 30 minutes in addition to my regular workouts. It is essentially a ladder on an endless belt and works my legs harder than almost anything I've done. It also gives you a very hard cardio workout. It isn't fun but is definitely effective.




This week I'm in Colorado skiing. I will try to ski every run non-stop and then at the end of each day I try to skin up about 1,500 feet and then ski back down. This makes for some sore legs the next day.

Everest, like any big mountain, is also a huge mental challenge. You need to be willing to push yourself to the edge all day every day and do it in difficult conditions. It is intimidating to be climbing up a mountain at midnight, in a storm and essentially by yourself. Factor in very cold temps, huge drop-offs and very low levels of oxygen and it can be downright scary. With this in mind I needed to gain experience with this sort of thing so I have climbed lots of other mountains, often in bad weather and/or alone, to help me on Everest.

Everest also makes big demands on your "mental endurance". Being away from family, friends and your normal routine is difficult. Not knowing much of what is happening in the world is hard. You are at such a high elevation that there is essentially nothing growing. I didn't think much of that until I'd been up high for many weeks and returned to the real world and was amazed at how alive and green everything was. I found myself needing to soak it all up. I now bring a small piece of green outdoor carpet for the front of my tent which I call my front lawn.

You also need a lot of skills that you don't naturally have. Cramponing, self-arrest with an ice-axe on steep slopes, rope handling, rappelling with a big backpack, winter camping, looking after your own health when it almost seems obsessively selfish and trying to eat and drink when your body says "no" are all things I've had to learn.



All of these challenges are compounded by the elevation. It is hard to explain to people how hard it is up high but here is one way I recently thought of. I was flying over Colorado and gazing down on the mountains as I always do. It occurred to me that the plane was at roughly the elevation of Everest's summit and the 14,000' peaks below looked tiny. In other words, if you could somehow transplant Everest to Colorado those 14,000' peaks would look like insignificant foothills. The lack of oxygen (there is only about 1/3 the amount of oxygen on the summit compared with sea level) makes even the simplest task such as putting on your boots an aerobic event. On my last attempt I needed to stop after the first boot to catch my breath before putting on the second one. If you took the world's fittest athlete and magically transported him directly to the summit and put him on a couch in a heated room, he'd be dead in 30 minutes. This is why climbers spend the better part of two months acclimatizing before they head for the top.

For a more detailed account of high elevations, read the following:  Physiology of high elevations

Everyone has their own personal altitude limit and this is a genetic limitation. Some very fit athletes may find their limit is significantly lower than a person who can't perform anywhere near their high standards at sea level. This is an important reason why people should work their way up in elevation over several different climbs; you don't want to discover you have a problem with elevation while high on the side of Everest with no hope for rescue.

Finally, here is a link to Alpine Ascents' guide to preparing for an Everest climb: Training for Everest



Friday, March 1, 2013

2013 Everest Expedition soon to start


It's almost show time again for me. My attempt on Everest in 2010 got me close to the summit but close doesn't count so I'm signed up again for a second shot at reaching the top of the world's highest peak. I leave for Kathmandu on April 2 and arrive on the 4th. After two days in this fantastic city I leave with the rest of the Altitude Junkies (AJ) team for Tibet. You can read more about our itinerary and expedition details at   http://altitudejunkies.com/.

I chose AJ because of the wonderful experiences I've enjoyed with Phil and his crew on Manaslu and Ganesh Himal. Every guiding company makes similar claims on their websites - best Sherpas, best cooks, etc - but Phil backs it up. Our base camp will have heated showers, a heated dining tent, a recreational tent with a projector for watching movies and truly the best food. Phil is famous for his 4pm happy hour that frequently features sushi. In a past life he and his fantastic wife Trish owned and ran several bars and restaurants and his emphasis on eating well is genuine. This may sound like the ramblings of an old, soft wannabe from Nebraska, but after being at high elevations for long periods of time I can say without hesitation that eating well is not only difficult but also key to a successful and safe climb.

Beyond the great food, Phil also has a fantastic team of Sherpa guides. His guys are a little older - typically in their 30's and 40's - and I feel that this age brings a little wisdom when conditions turn bad. A young Sherpa might push a little too far in bad conditions in trying to summit as it's great for his resume and future. The downside is that while they're strong enough to get away with it, most Westerner's probably aren't.

Finally, I really enjoy spending time with Phil and Trish. They are extremely nice and also interesting people and when you are on a long trip in relatively close confinement with a small group of people it is nice if you enjoy their company. Phil won't accept just anyone on his trips and does a little vetting of potential clients to ensure they will be a good fit for the team and I appreciate this.

Anyway, enough about all of this stuff. I'm working hard at my conditioning and believe I have 99.9% of my gear organized. I started doing two-a-days this week to be as strong as I can be when I leave. I climb my Jacob's Ladder machine   (http://www.jacobsladderexercise.com/) in the mornings and then spend about two hours each evening at the gym. I also am trying to add in some big days outside on my bike or skis as time allows. I feel like I'm prepared physically and just as importantly I'm mentally ready.

We will follow the north ridge route up Everest, walking in the footsteps of Mallory and Irvine plus dozens of other famous climbers. I know two of the team members from prior climbs and like them a lot and I'm sure that the others will be great also.