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Dispatches are in reverse chronological order, with the most recent appearing first.
Thursday, April 21
We all take a rest day, including our climbing Sherpa staff. Its a time of listening to your music on your mp3 player, wash the clothing that neither soap nor water has seen for almost 15 days, and of course - to wash our bodies which haven't seen a shower for the same period of time. Don't be disillusioned though, my shower consisted of a 3 gallon soft bucket of boiled water that I poured over my body with an 12 oz. tin coffee cup, in between lathering up with baby shampoo, all parts covered of course, and then rinsed- at 12 oz. at time. This all done after the 20ths light snow storm with some residue snow on ground. The shower tent this exercise is performed in is a aluminum pole structure that is around 6 feet tall, has four sides-(3ft. by3ft.by3ft.by 3ft.) enclosed by a dark blue nylon tarp material on all four sides, with a zipper for entry and exit. Situated on top of some stones that are flat, and without a roof, the warm sun at 17,000+ feet makes a comforting beam upon one's body parts between pouring 12. oz. of water at a time on a section, scrubbing and washing and soaping, and then hopefully through judicious usage of water, there is enough to have left over to have a rinse cycle to insure you don't exit out of this situation still half soaped and freezing. All the while I had local climbing Sherpa game of dice going on around 15 feet away. A very memorable and peculiar "shower".
Our BC Manager and others head down valley to go shopping in the small outpost of Gorak Shep. The usual list of missing items are on the "shopping list". A bottle of Everest Whiskey, Fanta Orange Drink, non-dairy soup packets for me, and Coke and other small psychological "keepers" that bring some trinket of relief or relaxation during our upcoming rest period.
I speak to Apa Sherpa, our head Sirdar of our team, we are excited about the recent news about an article about him in the New York Times, just like team member Chuck Huss's - hopefully during our summit push, our climbing project to promote cancer awareness will be up on the radar, as tomorrow, the 22nd, will be the 4 th anniversary of my sister Marie's succumbing to cancer. Apa, fellow team members and I plan to have a small memorial at our chorten to commemorate my sister, her spirit and to remember why I am so motivated to be here and integrate our cancer and health message upon our return home. It will be a solemn and contemplative day for me, my friends, and my family some 11,000 + miles apart. My thoughts of sorrow are only forged by the greatness of the opportunity to be here on the world's highest mountain with such a great group of people.
Wednesday, April 20
The strain of altitude has been good enough for us the acclimatize, but also a definite additive to making us feel like we need to be at a lower, more oxygen filled place called Base Camp. We decide to head back down to BC, having successfully accomplished our first foray onto intermediately high places on Everest. We leave early and all make it safely down to BC where a light snow greets us as we make our last steps back to what seemingly appears to be an oxygen rich environment at 17,6000 feet. We get the news that indeed a helicopter made it in the morning to take out the injured climber. I for the last few days have battled a bout of lactose intolerance, at times, injesting things that have this small substance that upsets my stomach, and other parts, very badly, making my climbing all the much more difficult - but we sort things out and I should be back on track soon enough.
Tuesday, April 19
We decide to rest, which is needed badly. we receive some disturbing news that there has been an accident in the Ice Fall and there is an ongoing rescue in place. As our day of rest - if there is such a thing at 21,400 feet, passes by, we learn a climber has fallen into a crevasse high in the Ice Fall
and sustained some serious injuries (broken bones). He is brought down by a team of Sherpas and climbers and treated at a medical tent here in Base Camp. A helicopter is called in but it won't be here the same day, he must be in BC for at least one night. It forges any thoughts of being non-challant about the Ice Fall and is an exclamation point of how things can go so wrong, real quick, real high.
Monday, April 18
We awaken to powerful winds and cold temperatures but head off through the Western CWM. After navigating through a short maze of crevasses, we enter into what is known as the valley of silence. Here a human is a small, inconsequential thing, to the right is Nuptse, a 25,000 foot mountain that presents itself with its massive walls of light gray stone and many couloirs and ice covered features that triggers daily avalanches. To the left, the West Shoulder of Everest, a dark gray, almost "bluenssence" feature of stone, rock, ice and snow that presents its overwhelming mass to its terminus of the South Col, and of course, the summit of Mount Everest. We all go different paces in this broad and vast field of ice and snow. Slowly lugging along, my short steps only bring another 100 feet of progress at a time, towards what seems to be an insurmountable place, a distant place that seems to never get closer. One has time to think about many things during this process - truly the valley of silence. Finally we all pull into our Camp Two at 21,400 feet. We get our tents up - our strong Sherpa staff does most the heavy labor and we settle in for our first night above 21,000 feet.
Saturday, April 16 - Sunday, April 17
At above 19,000 feet, our lungs feel the strain of even thinner air, we decide to rest up a couple days, take a few short hikes around the glacier in the Western CWM to stay active, but the winds are cold and very powerful here and one is not really inclined to stay here for any relatively long period of time. At some parts at Camp One it can be unbearable, one moment the sun radiates onto the tent, heating up the insides (us the climbers) like the contents of a small dumpling, making us open up the venting and trying to cool off, then the next moment a very powerful cold breeze of wind comes chilling us to the bone - making the occupants, ( us the climbers) closing everything up and dawning our down clothing designed for extreme freezing. The process can become comical, if not maddening if observed by a casual person - almost like mice in a test environment. We decide its time to move on to Camp Two to acclimatize even higher.
Friday, April 15
Tax day! I hope all fellow Americans did your duty before you left on your Himalaya excursion as being on expedition is not considered a reasonable exemption for filing. Its also my sister Sue's birthday and I wish her the best from a far and high place. Aside from those lighter notes, we head up to Camp One for a serious acclimatization push. This is one of the most dangerous parts of Everest, as we go completely through the famed Khumbu Ice Fall where a large percentage of those lost on Everest perish. This is on our minds and we make our way out early in the morning to avoid the early afternoon thaw of the giant ice chunks and labyrinths that balance above us. The ladders get longer, the crevasses deeper, the air thinner and the maze through this part of the mountain takes a mental toll on one as well as a physical one --- being in such a perilous place for many hours. We finally surpass the distinctive zones, the lowlands, the mids, the popcorn field all the way up to the top where we are greeted by 5 ladders all spanned together near vertical to span a gaping crevasse and over a 50 foot ice wall. We make it over, and after a long enduring experience, we make it to our Camp One, where we settle in for the night - a very chilly and windy night.
Tuesday, April 12 - Wednesday, April 13
On the 12 and 13th we have rested up and organized our Base Camp into a nice place to exist, if there is such a thing at the toe of a huge glacier at 17,400 feet. Our Base Camp Manager Paula Stout has been working like a busy bee to get things in order, even as far at to pick-up up a shovel and do some "public works" activity in improving our entry way to our mess tent and to alleviate some of our glacial melt issues in camp that have made some puddles around my tent. Climbers Chuck and Dan arrived on the 13th with trekking group entow (all 19!) and now our climbing team is whole - the trekkers have gone back down valley having stayed only a few hours visit to see the grand view of the Khumbu Ice Fall.
Our meals have been great and we celebrated Paula's B-day with a grand cake that our cook made (which took 3 hrs. to bake). It was a fun filled evening.
There are around a confirmed 22 expeditions here in Base Camp and it shows. Some of the camps are very elaborate with huge mess tents and multi shower type facilities, yet ours is one of more rustic proportions, though we do have a shower tent and have a mens and ladies bathrooms to some extent. We are situated in a good spot, on the high ground compared to other camps so we don't have a lot of intrusive neighbors nor other team's outhouses nearby to fill our air with foul smell.
We all have been making good contact with fellow teams and plan to make some moves on the mountain in the next week or so to acclimatize better for higher trips to Camps One and Two. Our team is doing well and are in good spirits.
Monday, April 11
On the 11th, we headed up the ice fall for some training and had a good time going over the first four ladders. Finally getting our gear out and using our crampons and real equipment has transitioned our team from trekkers to climbers. The thin air and high winds kept our pace to a modest one, but we did indeed enjoy being in the climbing mode. Our Sherpas have been carrying loads up higher to Camps One and Two.