Hi to all my friends and family,
I am safely back in Kathmandu today after an early morning heli ride from base camp to Lukla and a plane ride from Lukla to Kathmandu. In 120 minutes I was transported from a land of thin air, ice, snow, and rock, with overnight temps of perhaps 15 degrees, to a bustling city, green plants, and warm temps. It was so nice to take my first proper bath in 56 days and to truly enjoy food again.
As most of you know by now, I was unsuccessful in my thirty-plus year dream of climbing Mt Everest. I gave it everything I had, but was not willing to sacrifice my life nor my Sherpas' eyesight to stand on top. Our highly paid (but not worth it) weather forecaster in Washington State gave us the green light to make a summit bid. We left Camp 4 at 8 pm in cold temps, light snow, and light winds. The forecast was for the snow and wind to stop by 10 pm.
I reached a landmark called The Balcony at 27,600 feet by 2 am in a full-on blizzard. The temps were well below zero. The winds were 30-40 mph and gusting higher. The wind-driven swirling snow and ice pellet mix, along with traveling at night, made the going very difficult. My goggles iced up on the inside and I was unable to clear them. Neither Nima Nuru, my guide for the trip, nor Ungalay, my porter, had goggles. Their eyes were freezing up.
I was virtually blind from the iced goggles and fell, three times, off a narrow ridge line about 200 feet higher than The Balcony. Thank God, I fell off its safer left side. That is the point when I decided it was too risky. There was a cornice on the right. The drop off, of unknown distance, was in the area that is perhaps 10,000 feet to 11,000, feet almost straight down to the bottom into Tibet. That's when I made the decision to turn around.
Although I failed to summit, it was still a fantastic trip. We had a great group of extremely strong climbers and very strong, capable guides. We saw unimaginably beautiful scenery, met fantastic people, and went to places most people can't even imagine. We suffered, ate horrible food, looked terrible, and smelled even worse. I have only dressed while lying down in my tent for six weeks, and have worn the same clothes for weeks on end. I've had days of waiting in boredom followed by days of working as hard as I am physically capable. I missed my family and friends terribly, but still it was all worth it. At this point I don't think I will attempt Everest again, although that thought will no doubt be a challenged as time goes by.
My primary guide was a Sherpa, Nima Nuru. He was one of the most patient, kind, helpful, and hard working people I think I have ever met. He would do anything I asked of him and tons of things I never even dreamed of asking him to do. Even on our last day coming down from Camp 2 to Base Camp, he insisted on carrying a bunch of my gear. My pack was perhaps 35 pounds, his was at least 75 pounds. I was so tired I could hardly walk down the mountain. He would stop at every single rope (and there were dozens and dozens of them) and pick them up for me to clip into. By the way, he is probably 5'6" and 130 pounds. When we reached camp, I learned that I probably had 2 hours to pack before the heli arrived. Nima came to my tent and helped me pack. The heli didn't arrive until the next morning, but Nima was still willing to help no matter what.
I guess that is enough for now. I need to meet some of the team members for dinner and I need to eat! I lost at least 20 pounds and don't recognize myself in the mirror. I'll send some pictures tomorrow.
P.S. This letter was sent via e-mail to Patty on May 26 at 7 a.m. The posting time is about 27 hours later. Robert has probably eaten several tasty meals and is ready for a good night's rest. It is Thursday night in Kathmandu.