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

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Medical problems

 I went for my daily acclimatization hike on May 1 and immediately noticed that my heart was beating erratically and my breathing was quite labored. I returned to my tent and rested for a couple of hours but my breathing didn't return to normal. I visited the HRA docs and they recommended that I go to a hospital in Kathmandu for a proper examination. I flew there on May 2 and was seen at the CIWEC clinic. They diagnosed arrhythmia and advised that I return home for treatment.

I flew out on May 4, quite concerned about the international flight ban that seemed to be a moving target. 

I was seen by the local heart hospital and they recommended that I get a three wire pacemaker to correct the problem! This was not something that I was planning for!!

The surgery was done on May 12 and I am now at home doing my best to heal. One benefit of all of this (besides not possibly dying on my summit push!) is that there's a good chance that I will be faster in the future. My heart was not beating in time and this made it inefficient but the pacemaker will hopefully correct this. I certainly would enjoy that!

As everyone likes to say, the mountain will be there next year. 

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Base camp life

 We reached Everest base camp on day six and are now acclimatising. There’s not a lot happening as our main goal is to grow more red blood cells. But it is certainly beautiful. 

Friday, April 23, 2021

Trekking to Everest base camp

 We spent two nights in Namche Bazaar before walking to Pangboche. It started raining and eventually turned to snow while we walked. 

The next morning we walked in a snowstorm up to Dingboche and then today it was beautiful blue skies as we moved up to Lobuche. It is such a special place in this world. 

Monday, April 19, 2021

Day 1 - Flying to Namche Bazaar

 Today we flew from Kathmandu to Namche Bazaar in a helicopter and avoided two days of hiking it’s a little lazy but I’m not going to argue. 

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Trying it again on Lhotse

 I am cautiously happy to announce that I've decided to give Lhotse another try. My first attempt didn't end well when I had a problem with cerebral edema but I feel that if I tone down my speed and not sleep at C2 until three weeks vs two weeks that it might just work out. Fingers are certainly crossed!

Monday, May 20, 2019

Altitude problems

I've been a little busy lately with a lot of stuff happening very quickly. Our rotation to Camp 1 went well and I was able to move up through the icefall relatively easily, taking 5 1/2 hours. I spent a good night there and then moved to upper Camp 2 at about 21,300' the next morning. Again, I moved reasonably quickly and was able to eat a good lunch and dinner.

Unfortunately things then went downhill pretty fast. I crawled into my sleeping bag for a 13 hour sleep until breakfast and that's when my troubles started. I hallucinated all night long. I was seeing visions and hearing voices. And they weren't even interesting! Just lines of people in buildings and meaningless babbling that was supposed to be profound thoughts. I don't believe I ever actually fell asleep the whole night.

I also struggled to maintain an even body temperature moving from hot to cold every few minutes. I was moaning all night and in spite of my best efforts I couldn't stop. Finally the sun came up and the interminable night ended. I got up and found myself quite dizzy.

I mentioned all this at breakfast to Big Tendi, one of our guides, and he suggested that I might be having early symptoms from HACE, High Altitude Cerebral Edema. HACE is a potentially fatal result of being at high altitude. It is a swelling of the brain. This "blinding flash of the obvious", to quote an old friend, had me very concerned. After some quick consultation with the team leader it was agreed that I needed to descend quickly.

I dropped first to Camp 1 and then to base camp. I felt normal again at base camp and slept soundly that night. The following morning I consulted with the doctors in base camp at the HRA and they felt I would probably be okay in ascending again. I didn't like the word "probably". I had a series of long discussions with the team leader and two other guides and all said they would not go back up under these circumstances.

In spite of not wanting to hear this, I knew they were giving the correct advice. I have already personally experienced high altitude problems nearly becoming fatal and don't want to repeat it again. So I have abandoned my effort on Lhotse and caught a helicopter to Kathmandu. I feel quite disappointed with this turn of events but the risk/reward ratio just didn't make sense. No mountain is worth dying for.

I don't know what the future holds for me and 8,000 meter peaks. It is quite possible that I'm not really built for this extreme elevation and it's also possible that I over reacted and could have gone back up. I am committed to trying Ama Dablam with Altitude Junkies in the late fall and that will give me an idea. It is actually almost 1,000 feet higher than C2 on Everest/Lhotse but I won't be sleeping at this height. Honestly I am more concerned with whether I can handle the steep, technical and exposed nature of the climb more than I'm concerned with the elevation.

The photos are from within the Khumbu Icefall, the Western Cwm/Camp 1 and 2 and my Sherpa guide Furba who was assigned to climb with me. He was fantastic!

Monday, April 22, 2019

Moving to Camp 1

Things will start to get serious tomorrow. I will be packing my backpack today and hopefully getting a good sleep tonight. I should be up at 3:30 tomorrow morning, eating breakfast by 4 and moving into the infamous Khumbu Icefall by 4:30 am.

The hope is to reach Camp 1 in six hours and then spend one night there before moving to Camp 2 for another 2-3 nights. More is better, but not too much more. At this elevation (about 21,500’) you are obviously forced to acclimate but you are also rapidly deteriorating. Eating and sleeping is difficult and of course it can be really cold.

I will be joining the last of our team on this journey as more than half moved up yesterday and today. The reports are that the icefall is in good condition with only two horizontal ladders. Everyone always has mixed emotions at this point, especially those who have never gone through this obstacle course. There has been a lot of tragedy and death here and only a fool wouldn’t take it seriously.

 But there’s also excitement to get going and make some real progress in moving up higher and seeing all the famous landmarks for yourself. It has an eerie beauty to it and the Western Cwm is an otherworldly place that alternates between stifling heat and serious cold. 

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Base camp

I’ve been in base camp for three days now and am settling into expedition life. I am with Climbing the Seven Summits and am very impressed with their camp. Our team seems very good and our Sherpa staff is fantastic.

We had our puja on the 18th. Several helicopters circled above us during the ceremony and I imagine it had something to do with the five year anniversary of the avalanche that claimed 16 lives. For me it brought back many sad memories and I felt quite emotional.

Our internet is currently hopelessly slow so I can’t post any pictures. 

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Enjoying a little solitude in the Khumbu

Due to some changes in plans by others on our team I find myself trekking to Everest Base Camp (EBC) by myself. I’ve been here many times and am actually enjoying not needing to worry about anyone else’s schedule.

It was time to hit the trail after two relaxing days in Namche allowing my body to start acclimatizing. I walked first to Tengboche at 12,500’ and had a good lunch in their famous bakery. It was then a quick 20 minute walk down to Debuche. I slept there then walked the following day to Pheriche at 14,000’.

I decided to play it safe and sleep two nights here. This is the downside of traveling alone as the downtime can be a little boring. I have been lucky to meet some nice people and had dinner with two interesting people from New Zealand.

There is one piece of sad news. This morning a fixed wing plane was taking off from the Lukla airport when something went wrong and it veered into a helicopter preparing to take off. Surprisingly only three people were killed when it could have been five times that amount. There are always tons of people hanging around this extremely busy airport/heliport, not to mention the passengers and crews. By a stroke of good fortune there were no passengers on the plane. My condolences to everyone involved in this tragedy.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Flying to Namche Bazar

I spent a wonderful week in Kathmandu with Patty and our eight awesome kids. We played games, went on a nice walk, did a little shopping and had a fun brunch at the Hyatt Hotel. Mostly we just hung out and enjoyed each other’s company. They are growing up fast but have not lost their sweet dispositions. They are excelling in school and two of the girls are well on their way to becoming nurses. We couldn’t be happier or more proud of them.

Alas all good things must end. Patty flew home on midday Wednesday and I jumped in a helicopter earlier that morning and flew directly to Namche Bazar with a brief stop in Lukla. The flight was breathtaking with perfect weather and indescribable views of high peaks. The video is a time lapse flying from Lukla to Namche.

 I’m staying in Namche for 48 hours to give my body a chance to catch up a bit with the necessary acclimatizing. It’s at almost 11,500’ which is quite a jump from Kathmandu at roughly 4,000’. From here I plan to move to Deboche and then to Pheriche or Dingboche spending (hopefully) only one night at each stop.

 The Panorama Lodge is my home in Namche. This family run lodge is clean and sunny with electric blankets and good food. Best of all is the genuine hospitality. I enjoyed a nice meal and conversation with Lhakpa Doma and her son Mingma, the owners of the lodge. I’ve known this family for 11 years now. I’d never met Mingma until this trip but was pleasantly surprised to learn that he graduated from CU Denver, the same university that Patty and I graduated from. What a small world! More interesting than this is the fact that both of Mingma’s grandfathers were climbing Sherpas on the 1953 British expedition to Everest that put Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay on top. Further, his uncle is the only member from that group that is still living.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Waiting in Istanbul

The big day finally arrived and I somehow got everything done in time to catch my flight. The last week has been very hectic with organizing equipment, finishing up stuff at work and getting in my final workouts. I also found time to spend with family and friends which was great. I must admit I am pretty tired from lack of sleep but I did manage to catch six hours of solid sleep on my flight from Chicago to Istanbul. 

I am currently waiting for my final flight, the one to Kathmandu. The layover is about 8 hours - too short to bother with a hotel but too long to be pleasant. I should land in Nepal in the morning and then there will be a big rush. I left my -40 degree sleeping bag there and so I go directly from the airport to our kids' house to pick it up. I hope to be able to get my motorcycle at the same time and then I will head to the grocery store for some cheese. 

Next up will be a stop at the Yak & Yeti hotel to drop off my two duffle bags and then to the Hotel Ambassador for eight nights. My duffles are going up with the main (Everest) contingent of our team on April 3but I'm not leaving until the 10th. It's a long story that got a little messed up with some schedule and client changes that I wasn't aware of. The net result is I will be trekking to base camp by myself. I'm quite happy with this as I don't mind some alone time and I know the way there. I plan to go a little quicker than the rest of the team and may even meet them in Lobuche. Time will tell.

I also want to give out a link to the official Climbing The Seven Summits blog which will no doubt be updated more frequently than my blog. 

It's getting real now!

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Heading back for more high altitude abuse

I clearly remember saying that I was finished with high altitude mountaineering after my near death experience on Everest in 2016. But, they say the best mountaineers have the worst memories, and I am the first to admit that my memory is not the best. 

Therefore, I am heading back to Kathmandu in early April to take a shot at climbing 27,940' high Lhotse. It's the fourth highest peak in the world and is on the same ridge as Everest. This ridgeline is horseshoe shaped and has Everest on the left, Lhotse in the middle and Nuptse on the right as you are looking up at it from base camp.

The route is a repeat of what you use to summit Everest until a bit above Camp 3. Between C3 and C4 the routes split with Everest's route going up and to the left in a climbing traverse and Lhotse going more or less straight up. It is a more technical climb that Everest but isn't crazy steep and in fact was skied for the first time last fall.

I am climbing with Mike Hamill, owner of Climbing The Seven Summits. He's a good guy and his company does a great job. Wish me luck!

Back in business

After a two year radio silence, I am going to start blogging again. The last two years have been busy with climbs of smaller peaks in Nepal (some successful, others not so much) and a lot of skiing. The highlight was a week of skiing in Antarctica with my friends Dan and Scott. We joined IceAxe Expeditions and had an absolutely amazing experience. The beauty and remoteness were awe inspiring and the people on the trip were very interesting with some tremendous accomplishments under their belt. You have to go!