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

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
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.


  1. Hi Robert, I first heard about you from a friend who is a fellow 14er enthusiast. She ordered a peak marker for me from your website after I tackled my first 14er last summer. My husband and I are fascinated/obsessed with anything related to mountain climbing, Everest, and the other 7 summits. In fact, our 5 year old son repeatedly says he will climb Mt. Everest someday! :) We live just a few hours down I-80 from you in North Platte. I'm also a 3rd grade teacher, and my class just finished reading a story about Mt. Everest. I told them about you, and they were excited to learn that you will be attempting Everest again this year, so we will be following you on your journey. We agree with you that the third time's the charm! Best of luck to you! We'll be cheering you on from back home in Nebraska!

    --Andrea Hayes

    1. Hi Andrea, thank you for your kind words. I remember you getting the peakmarker last year. I just finished reading Peak with my 8th grade daughter. (I think a lot of Nebraska 7th and 8th graders read it) She enjoyed it because she is Nepali and I enjoyed reading it with her. I've dreamed of climbing Everest since I was about 16 years old so I naturally wish your son all the best with following his dreams.