Saturday, June 12, 2010

Long walk down to Pangboche

May 10th

Tracey and I was up early in the morning for our long walk down to Pangboche. We were looking at about 7 hours but most of it was on the way down.

We started about 9 am as we left base camp, it was a very sad feeling but also a good feeling. I had been cold for 30 plus days and I was ready for some hot weather( BKK). As we pass by the many camps( mostly empty because everyone was down the mountain getting their body revived for the final push I couldn't help but wonder why I couldn't have just hung on a little little longer and tried to revive my body also but in my heart I knew I was finished. I had absolutely nothing left. I had pushed it as far as I could and it would just be a wasted effort to try to revive and go back up to the top. The camp had really changed as many people had gone home so it looked almost empty as now the camps had some space between themselves where everyone was on top of each other when I arrived.

We made our way out and passed so many people along the way that we had met when we were on the mountain. This was slowly turning out to be a pretty sad day for me so I was so ready to get down and away.

After about 5 hours we stopped in Pheriche and had a drink with some friends. We stopped to say good bye to Dr and we ran into Dave and Melissa Arnot the friend I meet up at camp 2. They looked so much better than when i saw them last and they were heading back up the mountain. We sat there an hour just chatting and wish them well( BTW they both made it but she did not do it without oxygen but this was here 3 rd summit in 3 attempts a monumental achievement and I believe it was 7th summit) and was on our last 2 hours of walking.

We met the oldest American who had summitted( 69 years old) on the way up with a large group of people and he was retracing his trail to base camp.

Anyway we finally made it back to Pheriche and it felt good. The walk was very long and actually was quite a chore for me. I kept thinking about the year before and the walk down and how easy it was for em to do it especially after your body is so acclimated but this year was so different but we did make it and I was taking the helicopter out and didn't really care about this anymore.

We stopped at Lama geshi's daughter's house for a few hours( ate and drank some) while the others made it down the mountain but they all began returning home.

We then made it back to Nima's house where w would be staying the night.

I had seen several of Wally's people on the way down so i knew he and Leila was down below us about 200 meters so I decide to walk down to see some old friends.

I went and visited them for while and it was good to see Leila and Wally for a few hours and the group of trekkers that they have. It was also god for me mentally as Wally and Leila treat me like their son and make me feel like a king especially in front of their other clients because I have traveled so much with them over the years and have been in many situations with them.

It was sad to leave but I wanted to get back up with my friends for dinner. We had a party and celebrated our time together and I mad ea promise that I would see all of them again in a few years as they were friends for life and definitely our paths would cross again

I laid down that night completely exhausted as the last few hours I had been going by my emotions and the feeling that this trip of a lifetime was finally over and while it was sad I knew my time would come again.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Personal Thanks and recognitions

Personal May 8, 2010
Friends, colleagues, family and friends of friends
This has been 1 of the most remarkable things I have ever done and seen. Without you as a supporter, I would not have experience what I have done over the past 35 days.
Climbing is one thing,( something I have been doing for almost 8 years now with little fanfare) but helping people understand what I did everyday when I climbed ( fun fast paced learning is what it is called), in a place that is the most unbelievable place on earth, is a feeling that I will never forget.
I was your lab rat and it was fun and exciting and I hope one day again, you can come along and learn even more in a another part of the world where I will be climbing. I have never done a blog. I have never even done a diary. I had always lived for the moment because this was a personal thing but this was the first for me. I opened myself up to the world on a mountain when all odds were against me, even though I had trained exceptionally hard for this for over 2 years. I was not comfortable in doing it at first due to the high success rate of failure in reaching the top but I would not trade this experience now for anything in the world as it shows me that if something is interesting and someone people know is doing it, it can be a learning experience for everyone even when the goal is not met. (I still have to tell you that I am so disappointed in the way it ended and I am sorry I was not able to give you even more)
Everest is a special place and I know each of you learned more about Mt Everest than you could have ever imagined. I know this because I got email, I got blog replies, I got phone calls and my family got more personal contact on a daily basis that ever before on any topic since I have been alive and that was 48 years ago. I heard from people on 6 of the 7 continents and a lot of them knew nothing about me climbing before much less Mt Everest. That is totally amazing!!!! I appreciated your prayers and support and it must have worked because I am coming home safely with everything attached and the mind is still good.
At this point (as I sit in this cold tent begging for some warm weather), I really am not interested in coming back to MT Everest but I also know time heals a lot of old wounds. (But it will have to be a lot of time) It still has a special place in my heart but it has taught me some very hard lessons with my physical body but also with my ego. I have my list to go back and reevaluate what happened, why? What could have been done different etc. I have quite a long list to go through but rest assured if I can conquer some of these things in a different day under different circumstances, I will make another run at this great mountain.
Again Thanks for all you have done for me. I hope that I will see some of the people that I have corresponding with in the last month before I have to climb this mountain again.

Reflexion day and get travel plans home

Sat May 8th.
Planning to go home (logictics)
I was awaking by the sun from a long night of restless sleep around 730 am. I met Jim for breakfast (ate 6 sausage patties with Heinz %& and they were delicious along with some great scrambled eggs and to discuss “now How do it get out this place to get home?” and let me tell you that it is not that easy.
I had already told him that I wanted to take the helicopter out to save me from walking 3- 4 extra days so he had already checked on this potential situation. The other problem we have is that Katmandu was going through almost the identical situation that BKK had been going through with the “red shirts” It had caused a “strike” in town and the town was only operating on a 12 hour day (6am -6 pm) and things were getting pretty difficult to navigate. Restaurants were running out of food, business running out of fuel etc and the town is on the verge of major shutdown and I want to get back to bkk ASAP.
I think we now know I will walk down to Pangboche and catch a helicopter all the way to KAT now where we were looking at Luckla and then trying the plane ride. I just didn’t want to do this and chance another luggage deal and maybe a deal with bad weather than would keep me in Luckla an extra night.
I am trying now to be back in BKK on Thursday May 13th if all goes well and hopefully be in the US sometime the last part of the month.
I will continue the blog as I traveled home.

Decison Day and the second guessing

Friday May 7th
Decision Day on the future of the climb
I was awaked about 7 with the noise of the kitchen. I knew when I open my eyes I had no other choice but to go down so when Nima opened my tent I told him that I needed to go down. He wanted me to discuss with Jim and confirm our path. I chatted with Jim on other options but I knew in my heart, I had no other choice but to go down. The CLIMB WAS OVER FOR STEVE AND TEAM FOR EVEREST 2010.You could feel it in the tent when Nima was in there to make the judgment call with Jim and I, even though the group knew it already without understanding the conversation. Then they were scared to be around me and didn’t know what to say so the next 15 mins or so was very awkward.
Nawang, the only one who speaks good English, came up to talk for the group. He was a monk for 12 years and is a very soft spoken compassionate man. All he could do is hug me and tell me about his life of climbing Mt Everest. He started at 19 years old and it took him 6 times before he could summit. It was a nice feeling that almost made me cry as I know it was from his heart but he just didn’t know what to do in this situation. After this, it was time to move. Things had to get back down to base camp and I had a long day to get back to base comp back through the Ice Falls.
Ok enough of the soft stuff, Nima and I decided we needed to leave in the next 15 mins. This was around 9 am and with the heavy snow and me less than 100% we were planning on 6 hours where we had done it in less than 5 just a week ago.
We started walking to camp 1 and the weather was actually pretty good. A little hot with some sunshine but the fog was coming up from base camp which I thought would be good. We made it down to camp 1 in 1.5 hours and I still felt pretty good. We fought each other about crampons all the way down the mountain because I didn’t want to wear them due to the heavy snow. I knew at places it was a little more dangerous to be without them but the snow buildup would be time consuming along with fatiguing if we added this to the equations. I won the battle until we reached the last ladder before the Ice Falls. I was glad I did as the last 100 meters I walked with the crampons before we entered the Ice fall was pure hell with the snow build up but we had made it safely.
The first 2 places in the ice fall to me are the most dangerous. It is 3 vertical ladders hanging on the side of a mountain that has shifted several feet since this adventure has started. The ladders also were now about 10 feet below the top line of the wall. I have a picture but as usual it doesn’t show how I viewed it. I navigated the top to get on the ladder and made my way down it slowly. Finally I was at the bottom of the crevasse, now we had to go back up the other side with 3 different ladders. Now 1 hard one down and I more wall to scale down. This is another drop of some 100 foot down but without ladders. (I really don’t know which I prefer but I think without ladders is better) I made it down with a hitch and know I knew the worse was over. There was plenty more of downhill stuff to navigate but not the length of these too wall descents at 1 time.

We continued on and I felt pretty good but I also remembered that most of all of this section above the “football field” was all downhill so all I had to do is to hang on and point them down hill.
We had just called Jim and told them we had entered the “popcorn’ area and we should be down in about 2 hours. We continued to move pretty good when I came to a crevasse that was about 6 ft across and it struck me as being a little wide especially for Nima who is so short. Then a few more feet and I had another large one which was probably closer to 7 feet wide and I went on over because I had momentum but then I stopped Nima. The next step was about 14 feet down and the ladders were just hanging by the ropes. We had just had a collapse in the ice fall and we had entered the region. About that time Nima was yelling to me to clip into the safety rope and get back up the hill until we knew what was happening.
About that time Wally’s 3 Sherpa’s came upon us and wanted to take a look at what had happened. They clipped and took a look and we called the Ice Dr’s for their help.
During the next 1.5 hours, Nima and 1 of Wally’s guides tried to fine ways around this pass but found nothing. It was snowing, it was cold and it was getting late and the Ice Fall doctors were still an hour away from us so Nima took it upon himself to repel down to the area and retie the ladders well enough for us to get across. (This was a place of 4 ladders covering about 80 feet across various crevasses that had dropped about 14 feet from the original location. I have a picture) It was funny that Nima got in front of me and said let’s go and was moving quiet quickly. I later found out that this was because he didn’t want me to think about anything but following him so we could get out there without any issues. It really didn’t matter as I was cold, numb and tired due to sitting there 2 hours while we waited for it to be repaired and it was snowing like crazy. As I sat there I thought this was probably another sign for me to go home. We met the Ice Fall Dr’s about 30 mins later and Nima informed them to go up and repair the place as he had only done it temporarily to get past it. (Nice!!)
Now we were finally on our way home and we had called Wally to have the camp send us some lunch in the bottom of the falls. At about 30 mins from the end we were met by Tracy, Jetta and Dawa with drinks and grilled cheese sandwiches. This was very nice of them and it help ease the pain to the finish line.
This was the end of the day for me because I was finally out of the Ice falls and off that Mountain.
As we arrived home everyone was so nice and I just went to sit in the dining tent to talk to Jim. I was still struggling with the decisions that I had made earlier in the day and I just wanted confirmation that I had done the right thing and also for the right reasons. Climbing mountains are learning experiences and you have to be smarter and wiser every time you go up a mountain so I needed to discuss many issues with Jim. The People in the camp knew what was happening and was very accommodating to me with clean socks, new shoes, my jacket and all of this while this discussion plus a few personal phone calls to some of my friends and family.

We had dinner and I headed off to the tent for a nights’ sleep at a lower altitude and everyone had said how much better I already sounded vs that morning at 21000 ft.
The night would turn out to be another hard one as I began to question all the decision that I had made that morning as I was feeling better but at the end of the day it was still the right decision and one thing for sure the mountain is not going anywhere and I am so much smarter today than I was when I started this adventure 35 days ago. I have not giving up climbing I will just have to change some habits if I want to come back to Everest.

Rest Day ABC camp ( inspiring words from a new Friend

Thursday May 6th
Rest Day at Camp 2

We awoke at sunrise on the tent which is around 740am. It had snowed all night again so it was nice to have the sun get all the frost melted off the inside of my tent. It was really cold last night.
I didn’t feel that well when we woke up but I did want to get out and move around for the day. We had planned to go for a walk around 10 am maybe for an hour or so just up towards camp 3 (Nawang and me)
I could hear Dave Morgan and Melissa talking in the dining tent so I just stayed in the tent enjoying the morning until I heard them leave for their tents. We were sharing dining tents with them and it just happened that we overlapped one day as they had come down from camp 3 late last night. Dave is a good friend of Jim’s and an accomplished guide in his own right with multiple summits of Everest under his belt and he is guiding (filming for First Ascents (Eddie Bauer) for Melissa who is trying to become the first American woman to summit Everest without oxygen. She had tried last year with the First Accents Dream team but could ONLY summit with Oxygen. She is a very nice (early 30’s) woman and she later came back in the tent to talk to me while she waited on Dave to get ready to come back down to base camp. She was a very nice, compassionate woman and I enjoyed and appreciated her comments. Her occupation is a guide all over the world and she lives in Idaho but guides for RMI. She had heard about my problem and synthesized with me and was a very open and nice and offered some suggestions. Typically people like her are all about themselves and do not think much about us “weekend warriors” up in their territory but I can tell you that she was very nice and very nice looking also. They were heading down to the lower cities to breathe some heavier air and eat some different food because the high camp food is really bland. This really makes you feel bad when she has done this a couple of times and I am sitting there lumbering to make it to camp 3. Anyway you get the picture. All of us need to be humble at times to push us forward and she did this for me.
After I finished a good breakfast of pancakes, oatmeal and bacon, Nawang and I started out on our trek.
It was nice and sunny and we trekked up to the top of the campsites where all the big boys had their sites. Quite impressive and we then continued towards camp 3. After about 40 mins to a good pace walking I needed a drink of water. It was nice and I got a good education from Nawaang about the mountains and where all he had guided. He is a really nice guy and a good guide. We got up after a short bit and I told him that I had had enough. I wanted to get to the base of the Lhotse face but at that time I told myself to conserve energy for tomorrow climb. I felt ok and then we proceeded back down to the camp. Jim was happy that I made it past the upper tents and we would then plan for tomorrow’s run to the top of camp 3.

We returned home and had lunch then I headed to the tent to rest and thin about tomorrow. We had a talk scheduled wit Jim about 6 pm to discuss tomorrow.
When 6 came I talked to Jim about a couple of things. Could/should I stay another night to see if I could recover or just make the decision to come down? Nima stepped in and said let’s not decide tonight but wait until 8 am tomorrow. He really wanted me to go up but he was afraid I would be too weak to come back down and was concerned about my size if they had to get me back down. (I later found this out)
He brought me a good dinner (chicken, Hot dog wieners and boiled rice with butter) and I settled in for the night knowing that I had to make a major decision about tomorrow.
I rolled around for more than hours wrestling with the decision based on the way I felt and the magnitude of my decision. I can tell you it was not easy. I can tell you that the Lhotse face scared me in the condition I was in right then because with the conditions of the mountains one slipped and I could e hurt or even killed. But I also can tell you that I didn’t want to give up. I had never given up under these circumstances and I didn’t want to do it now. SO I can tell you May 6th at ABC was a long night for me to digest.

I finally fell asleep and waited for the 8 am call in the morning

Hard lonely day on the way to ABC camp

Wednesday May 5th
Trip from Camp 1 to Camp 2
We got up at 8 am about the time the guys arrived from the base camp. They had left about 4 am on their way to camp 2 with Nima and me. I got out of the tent and knew we were in for a hot day so I double checked to make sure I had full water bottles and some sweets to help me along the trial which should be no more than 4- 5 hours. Jim and I had done it in 3.5 hours the last trip but the snow was about 15 inches deep and this would make it slower with crampons and even slower without so we chose crampons until we go finished with the ladders.
I was doing well about the first hour and was moving up but I was sweating faster than I could get water in my body. I continued on up until we got to the last steep ladder and I told Nima he had to help me with my backpack. I was out of gas. I finally made it over the last ladder and was out of water, couldn’t pick up my backpack and quite frankly couldn’t go anywhere. I told Nima to go ahead and get me some water that I would keep moving if I could and I would meet one of the other guys but please bring me more to drink. He didn’t want to leave me but we had cleared all the ladders and I could see the trail even though visibility was only about 15 feet. We finally called Jim and Jim told Nima to go on up and get some help (water etc) and Jim and I decided it was best if I could to camp 2 and I agreed.
I sat there almost 45 mins. I was completely dehydrated for some reason. I had been drinking on the trail, I had drunk almost 2 liters during the night in the tent but I was out of gas. It was later determined that I was out of “protein” I had nothing left to give and it was now just living off my muscle and it just took me down. I would get up and just fall over. I was beginning to think that I couldn’t go up or down and I was halfway up. I had never in my life been in this kind of condition but I just couldn’t go nay where. Finally after about 30 mins it started to snow pretty hard and get colder. This cooled my body down and I had eaten a few candy bars and I was finally was able to move again. While the viability has worsened to about 5 feet I could still see the trail. I began moving (very slowly) and in about 30 mins I was welcomed by Mata and he had a litter of pineapple juice and a coke. I sat down and drank ¾ liter of the pineapple juice and then about ½ of the coke. He picked up my backpack and we proceeded up the mountain in a slow but steady pace. After 5 mins, Nawang showed up with some water and I drank about ½ liter of it. I was beginning to feel better and we all got in step and finished off the last 1.5 hours before we arrived at camp 2.We had to be slow and steady because we could barely see the trail and we could barely each person in front of us. The cold weather and snow felt good on me and the 3 Sherpa’s gave me the confidence to make it home.
Even with the 45 mins I was still able to make it to camp 2 in 4:45 so not too bad with the heavy snow.
I was ready for bed and the weather was bad so Nima brought me my dinner in my tent and I was actually hungry as I ate and went to bed.

Back to Camp 1 and the ICE FALL

Tuesday May 4th
We get up early (3:30am) and Nima and I head for the Ice Fall. The weather is cold but no snow and w began our accent. Nima is a bit quicker than I like for my pace but we are doing well and making progress. Not too many people in the ice Fall as most people are still at camp 2 and camp 3 for the last time.

It is always amazing to me what has changed in the Ice Fall just in the last few days since I was there last. In this case, on the lower end (The popcorn) I think the changes are better. They might be a little steeper but it also cut off some ups and downs that to me are the killers.
We made it to top of the Popcorn to an area called the “Football Field” and area that at some point collapsed and it looks like a football field, and we were there in about 3 hours, my best time yet and I was feeling pretty good.
Then the sun came out and really started slowing me down along with the steep ups we have to climb to the rims with the 3 vertical ladders and the 2 straight up faces we have to climb to complete the Ice Fall. They continue to evolve but after slugging my way up these faces I had been on my feet for almost 6 hours, again my best time but I was beat and I still had almost 1.5 miles left ‘zig zagging” the ice field. This should have taking about 30 mins or so but it took me 1.5 hrs as I told Nima to go to the camp and I would be there when I go there. After all was said and done I was there in 7:30 mins total or about 30 mins quicker than the last time. I was happy about this but disappointed after such a good start to the “football field” area. I was dead tired and ready for bed. Since Camp 1 is only a tent site there is nothing to do other than sit in the tent. Nima gave me some food and I went to sleep we had to move up to camp 2 the next morning and I needed the rest.
I did talk to Jim and Wally by radio which made me feel good about the day but I knew my time was still too slow. I still didn’t understand why I just couldn’t sustain any stamina over the long haul but hopefully tomorrow would be better.
Weather was cold as we continued to get hammered by the snow in the Western Cwm, more than what they have seen in the past years.