Saturday, April 29, 2017

Heading home

RC here.  Just about to leave my hotel and head to the airport here in Kathmandu!  I went out at five this morning and walked around the Singha Durban (I think the current seat of the Nepalese government).  This turned out to be about 2.5 miles.

Anyways, just 21 hours of transit time in front of me before I land in LA.

Anders should be on the Lhotse Face as we speak....Judy will update blog while I'm flying home!

Summary of my 22 hikes/treks

The focus of this blog is about to shift entirely to Anders' continuing adventures as he nears a summit attempt on Everest.  On that topic, I heard from base camp that he and his team had a rest day today at Camp 2 to further develop their acclimatization to altitude.  Tomorrow will be the day they go up and visit Camp 3 (around 24,000 feet). Hopefully, Judy will hear something from them as I will be winging my way across the Pacific tomorrow....

Find below a summary of my 22 hikes on this trip (I didn't include any of the photography oriented trips around Base Camp).  In it you'll see (among other things) that I covered 124 liner miles and ascended nearly 40,000 feet (all above 10,000 feet and the majority above 15,000 feet):


Quick update on RC status

I left Everest Base Camp via an incredible helicopter ride down the Khumbu valley to Lukla.  It was quite stunning to the see the valley that we walked up in 10 days pass by in just 20 minutes.  I have some great video of the trip.

I spent about an hour in Lukla, as the heli had another run to make, and then I was flown the rest of the way down to Kathmandu.  Madison had arranged for my transfer from the airport to the hotel and it all went very smoothly.

After checking in at the Yak and Yeti hotel, i ventured over to Thamel and did a little gift shopping for the gang back home.  I hit the hotel gym to start the process of rebuilding the muscle mass I lost up at altitude and then went to Mezzi, a restaurant near by for some penne pasta.

I slept like a log last night and this morning Face Timed with Judy, Alex, Kara and Rachel back in NYC, where they were celebrating Alex and Rachel's birthdays.  They were amused by my beard and called me things like "Santa" and "Captain Ahab".

This morning I ventured back into Thamel (my brother had requested a "singing bowl") and then over to Durban Square in Chheratrapi, where I did a little sight seeing at the former Nepalese palace.  I ended up walking over 6 miles through the dusty (and pretty grim) streets of Kathmandu.  Apparently, the "Living Goddess" was in town and there was quite a big to-do outside the Palace proper.  Quite the scene.

Anyways, back at the Y&Y, where I plan to get a workout in and maybe lounge outside by the pool for a bit....quite a change from life at Base Camp!

Still no word from Anders on his trip up the Lhotse Face today but I'll post as soon as i hear.

I'm heading back to the States tomorrow!  Picture of Garrett and i below:



more later

Friday, April 28, 2017

More Ice Fall Pictures...

I'm down in Kathmandu (what a change!).  I'll post an update later today (I leave for the States tomorrow).  I haven't heard anything from Anders on his rest day, but hope to later on today.  In the meantime, some more pictures from his first rotation....

Anders (blue hoodie top) negotiating a tricky part of the Ice Fall--on fixed line.....


Anders waiting to down climb one of the many ladders in the Ice Fall....


 There be crevasses!


Life at Camp One...Anders in blue.  Notice how slanted the tent platforms are.....that's the "toilet" in the foreground....

Anders "at home" on Everest.....

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Talked to Anders last night at C2....i prepare to leave ebc

Garrett arranged a nice surprise last night as i was able to talk via radio to Anders up at C2, around 21,500 feet.  He sounded in great spirits and his voice was clear and strong.  We chatted for a while and he told me about his trip from ebc to C2 yesterday.  It took about 10, 10 and a half hours as it was a bit more crowded early, in the lower Ice Fall.  They were delayed a bit and it was quite cold.  They were prepared for the cold of course and things eventually got moving more quickly.

Overall, a pretty smooth trip through the Ice Fall (their third of six, but who's counting?).  It was a lot of work of course and all four of them took naps up at C2.  When I talked to them last night (about 7:30 pm local) they were about to get a quick bite to eat and go back to sleep for the night.  Today will be an easy day for them, with probably a short (2 hours) hike up by C2 and then tomorrow they will climb the Lhotse Face for the first time and do a short visit to C3 before returning to C2 for the night.  They rest up at C2 and then return to ebc on My 1st, Anders' 31st birthday....not your typical celebration for sure!

Anders will get our sat phone today so hopefully we can get some updates from him over the next few days as well....

Meanwhile back at ebc, i got up about 6 and packed up all my belongings in my two big duffels.  i put my big puffy jacket and sleeping pad in Anders tent as he had brought his with him up to Camp 2 and this way he could leave them there for the next rotation.  I had a little bittersweet reaction as the reality of my imminent departure became more starkly real.  I'm going to miss my "little" buddy!

Anyways, breakfast here shortly and then I'm off on what will no doubt be a memorable helicopter ride down the Khumbu.  Hopefully, my next update will be from Katmandu.

Onward and Upward (or Downward in my case)!

This pic from their first rotation:


This is from yesterday morning as they prepared to leave for C2 around 3:30 am:


Anders and team successfully transit to Camp Two

I haven't heard any of the details yet, but I did just hear that Anders and team successfully made it all the way from EBC to Camp Two and that they had done so by our lunch (1 pm) or perhaps earlier.  I'll update with more details when i hear them.

My helicopter to Katmandu is scheduled for about 9am in the morning.  I'll probably get there a little after noon as we have to take on a fuel a couple of times on the way down--the helicopter needs to be really light to get this high so it will have limited fuel when it picks me up.  My flight out to the states is scheduled for 4/30 so with any luck, I'll have a day in Katmandu on the 29th.

After breakfast, I went out for a solo hike as all the guides/climbers were resting from their rotations and the sherpas were moving loads up the mountain.  I elected to climb up on the lower slopes of Pumori and did a modest rock scramble along with some normal trekking.  I was on the trail for a total of 2:41 and traveled 2.3 miles, climbing and descending a modest 630 feet.  I was just interested in getting a little exercise after two rest days and was also quite careful in the scramble.  The climb gave me some outstanding views of the SouthEast Ridge of Everest as well as the South Summit and the Summit proper.  Looks pretty steep....(I'll post some more pictures later).

more later.....

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Anders starts 2nd Rotation

Anders and i had a nice afternoon yesterday.  We hung out, exchanged pictures and videos from our trip so far, and attended to some organizing activities for his next rotation.  I prepared a little camera kit so the he could take over use of my Sony a7rii for his 2nd and Summit rotations.  I'm also going to leave a couple pieces of my gear to help with his management of gear at multiple locations on the mountain.

He and the other three climbers in his group were up about 2:30 am and i got up and joined them for a little bit.  i had trouble sleeping, probably due to his rotation and also thinking about my logistics as i prepare to leave Everest.  We could see the lights of other climbers already up on the Ice Fall, even at that early hour.  We said good byes and I hugged the guys.  They went off to breakfast and started climbing around 3:30, and with any luck they should be to Camp 2 by noon (about 5 hours from the time of this post).

It's a beautiful morning to climb.  Clear, quite cold (which is good for Ice Fall stability), and light wind.  I'll update on their progress as I hear about it.

I'm also going to attend to my travel plans this morning.  Hopefully, I'll helicopter down to Katmandu tomorrow morning and travel back to the US on Sunday the 30th.

More later!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Morning Constitutional to Gawk at the Ice Fall

Our lazy day at Base Camp continues.  After a nice breakfast, i spent a little time organizing my tent and duffels (getting ready to leave) and then went for a 90 minute (round trip) walk up to the very beginning of the Ice Fall.  It's a crisp, cool and a bit breezy day.  I took a bunch of pictures with my 10mm and my telezoom.  Here are several of them:

Here is a telephoto view of the top of the Ice Fall with Everest proper peeking around the West Shoulder: 


Same picture but zoomed out to give a little perspective:


And further zoomed out (note the smoother "white space" just to the left and lower than the center point--just over the ridge in the foreground--I'll zoom to it in the picture below):


Here is a 300mm close-up on the "white space" in the above picture--you can see quite a few climbers negotiating an easier section of the Ice Fall (re-look at the above pictures and this should give you some sense of the huge scale we are talking about here):


 Some other climbers a little higher up:


And finally a pulled back panoramic shot:


Onward and upward!

Midnight at Base Camp

Before I update you on yesterday afternoon, I thought I'd share with you a couple of the pics I took last night.  I wanted to shoot EBC under the stars after dinner but a big cloud bank rolled in.  I went to bed and awoke about 12:15 am and peeked out of the tent and saw a clear sky so I scrambled out of the tent and shot a bunch of pics.  There was a lot of light pollution at the camp but I was able to get some good pictures.  Here's a couple:




Back to yesterday.  We really had a nice time hanging around yesterday.  I really like our team and we sat around cracking jokes, telling stories and mostly laughing.

The 2nd climbing team came down and I spent some time talking to Passang Padowa who is Tsewang's father.  He is a quite accomplished climber having summited Everest 19 times.  His brother-in-law, and Tsewang's uncle, Ang Dorje came over and we talked about the Everest route this year and Tsewang's and my walk-about.  Ang is a renowned climber.  He was the lead Sherpa for Rob Hall and Adventure Consultants back in 1996 (Into Thin Air).  He undertook a heroic effort to try to save Rob in the teeth of the storm--ultimately unsuccessful.

Ang has summited Everest 18 times as well.  Pretty heady stuff talking to the two of them!

Anyways, another rest day today for Anders and I.  Anders and team will leave for their second rotation early tomorrow morning (around 3) with the intent of going all the way to Camp 2.  I'll leave here Friday morning for Katmandu unless the weather dictates that I leave tomorrow....

more later! 

Some pictures from Anders' first rotation


Here are a few pictures from Anders and his teammates' first rotation up to Camp Two:

Here Anders puts tension on the two safety ropes as Geoff crosses a crevasse on one of the many ladders on the route:


John crossing a double ladder:


These are the "bread loaves" that stretch for about a mile before the team's arrival at Camp One.  to get past these, the team has to climb down and up about 40 feet.  Very challenging:


More of the bread loaves with the Lhotse Face leading to Camp three in the distance:



Anders eye view of one of his crevasse crossings:


Anders weaving his way through the Ice Fall:


Monday, April 24, 2017

Easy day at Base Camp

An absolutely stunner of a day here at Base Camp.  Brilliant blue skies and you can actually sit outside with just a t-shirt.

Today was another rest day for Anders and team.  Also for me.  I got up around 6am and went to the main tent around 7 and spent my time organizing and charging my various electronic devices.  We had a "lazy" breakfast, just hanging around chatting.  About 10, I went out for an easy hour walk on into the Khumbu Glacier and took some vids/pics for the folks back home.  I also took advantage of the great weather to get a delightful shower in.

I'm just hanging with Anders in the main tent before lunch...easy day, recharging the physical batteries

Anders is going back up on Rotation Two on the 27th and I'm taking a helicopter out on the 28th...

Here are a couple of pics from my stroll today:




Base Camp Reunion

I made in back to Everest Base Camp today and Anders and the rest of the team (not up in the Ice Fall) welcomed me back.  It was great to see everybody, especially Anders!  We swapped stories about our respective adventures (Anders' is cooler!) and he showed me some of his pictures and videos from the Ice Fall.  I'm going to see if we can't get some of the pics up on the blog in the near term.  Pretty awesome stuff!

I'll give a short recap of my trek in from Dingboche to EBC.  I awoke at 5 am, packed up (I'm pretty fast at it now) and had coffee and an egg at 5:30.  Tsewang joined me about 5:50 (he had slept at his home in Dingboche).  We rolled at 5:57 and immediately climbed the 500 or so foot hill above the village.  It was a beautiful morning, about 25 degrees, no wind and mostly clear skies--great trekking weather.

We made very, very good time.  I elected to use my iPod and an EDM mix Kara had made for me (thanks Kara!) and it was really enjoyable to cruise to toons, enjoying the beautiful scenery!  Tsewang had predicted it would take us 9-10 hours but we reached Lobuche in just over 3 hours, so it was clear we would beat that.  This was a challenging hike overall, as we were trying to do in one day what we did in three days, a couple of weeks ago.  Of course, I have the benefit of acclimatization at this point so it was a reasonable objective.  The hike featured pretty good linear distance, vertical ascending and high altitude--a good test.

I found that I began to tire a bit (as did Tsweang) between Lobuche and Gorak Shep--no doubt the early quick pace and the cumulative toll of the six day walkabout were impacting us.  The weather deteriorated a bit as well as the wind picked up and it snowed lightly.  We just ground it out and arrived around 1:30, in time for a late lunch, and the aforementioned reunion.

Stats for today were 10.8 linear miles over the course of 7 hours and 32 minutes.  We ascended 3,385 vertical feet and descended 597 feet.  We are now at about 17,350 feet.

I'm settling back in and looking forward to kicking back and hanging with Anders.  Tomorrow is a complete rest day for both of us and I hope to provide you some details on Anders amazing first rotation up through the Ice Fall.  It great to be back at Madison Mountaineering Base Camp and the good food and company that can be found here!

Looking back, I really enjoyed my six-day walk-about.  52 very interesting miles and it was fun to spend that time with Tsewang and get to know him and a little more about Sherpa culture as well.

Finally---Happy Birthday Alex!  I look forward to celebrating with you in person in the near future!

Onward and Upward!


Sunday, April 23, 2017

Anders Safely Back at Everest Base Camp: Successful First Rotation

Judy reporting in. I seem to be on Nepal time because I wake up around 4am (2pm Nepal time) to check if I have any update texts from the guys.  I knew Randy was fine because I had spoken to him last night, and he had a pretty straightforward hike today, well within his capabilities. But we were both hoping to have a text from Anders that he was back through the Ice Fall and at Base Camp. The plan had been to for Anders and the other 3 in his group to leave Camp 2 (21,500 ft) early AM and descend all the way down through the Khumbu Ice Fall to Base Camp, arriving by lunchtime. I knew it had been snowing a ton and therefore I was concerned about the route back. There were no texts from Anders so I did what any nervous Mom would do and checked all the newsfeed and blogs that I follow re: conditions at Everest, the Ice fall, reports from the guiding companies, etc. Sort of like when you have a pain in your leg and go on the Internet, you suddenly think you need to have your leg amputated. So of course, I read that the route had collapsed in the Khumbu Ice Fall and that climbing was suspended till Monday while the "Ice Doctors" (i.e., the Sherpas) fixed it.  Ugh....

So then I texted Randy and told him what I read about the Khumbu Ice Fall. He had arrived in Dingboche and was charging his computer so we could Face Time audio, in the meantime we started texting back and forth about what this might mean for Anders.  We both messaged guides from Madison Mountaineering, and were waiting to hear back.

Then I get this wonderful text:

"Hi Team!  Anders here. Just back to Everest Base Camp. Great first rotation. No worries at all. I had a hard day from Camp 1 - Camp 2 but we moved VERY fast and felt good sleeping at 21K."

Me back:  "Anders SO glad to hear from you. I had read on one blog that the route collapsed today in the Icefall so I'm so glad to hear you're back at EBC. I love you very much!"

Anders: A few ladders collapsed but they fixed some of it up and we could rappel beyond the other stuff. Totally cool! We made it from Camp 2 to EBC in 4 hours. We're moving really well. It's hard climbing but feeling great. It snowed every day. It was really cool camping at the bottom of Lhotse face. It's so incredible; so amazing here."

During this texting, Randy was finally able to call me and I told him Anders was back, so he was VERY relieved and started texting Anders as well. Technology is amazing: here I was in Delaware at 5Am, talking to Randy in some random village in Nepal on Face Time Audio, while both texting Anders on our family text from Everest Base Camp (3pm Nepal time, the next day).  We texted back and forth and Anders filled us in more. I look forward to talking to him later because I am not really sure how he and his elite little team managed to sneak through the ice fall. For example, what did he mean by this?

There were hardly any other climbers in the icefall today so we could really fly. It was great. I know a few teams around us tried to go this morning but got turned around. It's all good, felt very safe to me. Very happy to not be sleeping at 21,500 feet tonight. Will be awesome to recover a few days."

Anyway, it's great news that this First Rotation is successfully over, and Anders, Brent, John and Geoff are so strong and doing amazingly well.  They will rest a few days and, after a few days of dehydrated meals up on the mountain, eat a lot of great food at Base Camp, When Anders texted he said he was still in all his heavy gear and huge boots, but was already in the food tent eating a ton of food.  We will get Anders to tell us more about his last few days and hopefully share some of his pictures from this first big climb.







Laptop charged...some pics from last two days!

As my post below indicates I'm now back in Dingboche, on my way to EBC tomorrow.  I'm staying at Tsewang cousin's Tea House and I ran into a friend of Mike Hamill (Anders and my lead guide on Elbrus (Russia) and Vinson (Antartica) and she let me use her laptop charger, so I thought I'd post a couple pics from the last two days:

This is yesterday morning in Gokyo when we awoke to brilliant skies and a fresh coat of white paint on everything:


Looking North, mighty Cho Oyo lorded over the valley:


Tsewang, decked in his sweaties and Nikes, leads the way on our long walk down to Phortse:


I blew the framing and focal length of this pic--one of the downsides of literally shooting from the hip as opposed to composing my photos as I walk--but I think it gives you a sense how incredible the scene was on this morning...serene and quiet and of such beauty!


Nothing but an empty trail for 11+ miles in front of Tsewang and I:


Yes, this is a big cliff to our left but if Tsewang can do it in tennis shoes, then its not really that tough:


Arriving in Phortse we are greeted by a day or two old Yak and her Mom:


This morning, Tsewang's cousin, his aunt (our as he calls her, his "big mother"), and his uncle.  His uncle was an amazing climbing sherpa on Everest and now works closely with Conrad Anker on the Khumbu climbing school for sherpas.  The new headquarters in being built next door on land that Tsewang's uncle donated.  Tsewang's uncle calls Conrad the "Big Boss":


This is what the living quarters of a Tea House looks like.  It's essentially their home.  Note the stove in the center, which is used to burn Yak dung at night.  Last night we all sat around it and Tsewang's uncle told us old stories about climbing Everest.  I also talked a lot to a fellow named Brendan who is an American who has been in Phortse for 15 months (and will stay for two more years) who is helping Conrad build the climbing school's new HQ.  He essentially lives in this Tea House:


This morning climbing up through the mist and rain:


Looking across the valley to the Tengboche, where we had tea with Tinley and paid tribute to Brent's dad so many days before:


Back to the Future: In Dingboche Again!

RC reporting in from Dingboche, once again.  Tsewang and I woke up in Phortse this morning and after another cheese omelette, this time with Tsewang's family, we headed out at 8 am, heading back to the Khumbu valley.

The climb out of Phortse was quite steep right away.  Additionally, it was cool, misty and drizzling when we left.  The climbing was straightforward and the rain really wasn't a bother.  To be fully forthcoming, the first couple of miles were on the side slope of a mountain that descended down (way down) into the river at the bottom of the Imja Khola valley (which leads to the Khumbu).  Lots of exposure here.  But let me explain.  The path was very nice and quite wide, 4-5 feet wide in most places.  So in this case, exposure really means cool views.  As long as you can walk down a sidewalk without falling off, you'd have no problems here.  And we didn't either.

It stopped raining after about 45 minutes and cleared a bit and we could see the beautiful Tengboche Monastery across the valley (we were climbing on the opposite side of the valley that we came up a couple of weeks ago).  I really enjoyed this part of the climb as the shifting mists provided compelling views.

After about 2 hours, in Pangboche, the main Everest trail crossed over the river and joined our trail.  I was now back on the same trail we first climbed many days ago.  We went past the Pangboche Monastery where the High Lama had blessed us many days ago.

Tsewang and I decided to just take short rests as the clouds/mist became very thick and it was spitting rain again and quite cold.  Quite a contrast to the beautiful weather we had on our first trip up.  It was pretty steady uphill and we just kept on keeping on in the white mist.  I kept adjusting my layers to get my temp right but by and large, an uneventful climb with not much to report on.

We rolled into Dingboche a little after 1.  Stats for the climb: 7.7 linear miles over 5:01. 3,132 vertical feet of ascent and 1,105 feet of descent.  We are at about 14,450 feet now, so we'll need to gain another 3,000 feet of net elevation tomorrow.  The plan is to leave about 6am tomorrow so we can get to EBC in time for a late lunch.

We're also waiting to hear about Anders and whether or not the weather and the route allowed him to descend to Base Camp.  Can't wait to hear from him!

More later, rc

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Anders good at Camp Two. Returning to Base Tomorrow

I learned from Judy, just now that Anders is doing great at Camp Two, and it's a magnificent place.  By this I assume he means the views and not the lack of oxygen at 21,000 feet.  They plan to return to Base Camp tomorrow, so he'll beat me back there.

We're excited for him and relieved he is doing well.  I can't wait to hear the details.  Maybe he can even share some pictures!

Safe journey down through the Ice Fall tomorrow Anders!

RC here: Another change of plans--all good!

Late yesterday afternoon up in Gokyo it really started snowing--we would get about 6 inches in 90 minutes.  That combined with a forecast of two more days of heavy snow, caused me (in discussion with Judy on Face Time Audio) to consider what the best way for Tsewang and I to return to EBC.

(Btw, if you're wondering how I'm getting these posts out, I made friends with the owner at the Fitzroy in Gokyo and he let me use his iPad charger.  I also had a little juice left in my lap top so I was able to get the pictures from yesterday out...next pics will have to wait until I get back to EBC)

Anyways, as I am Tsewang's first client (and to be fair, he is my first Sherpa) he really didn't know first hand any way back except over Cho La pass, I was able to get several other Sherpa's to convene a "Sherpa's Council" to give us some advice on how best to get back.  I was also concerned about the snow depth up at 18,000 feet, where Cho La pass is and whether or not it was safe to go back there (especially with the forecast) for me and Tsewang (he only has with him tennis shoes, a light jacket and sweat pants).  One option would have been for us to helicopter back to Base Camp if the weather was clear.

Anyways,  we poured over the map I brought and there was much animated discussion in Nepalese that would occasionally have the Sherpas stop and look at me--and then translate.  I wasn't sure I was getting all the nuances but after about 25 minutes we concluded:

1. Cho La pass was too risky given the snow (which at that point had not stopped) and so was a no go.

2. They thought the weather would be fine in the morning (they predicted the snow would stop shortly) and that we should go the long way around to EBC.  This involved going South down the Ngozumba Glacier Valley on the west side of the Western lateral moraine through Longpongo, Phang, Machherma, Luza, Dole and ultimately reaching Phortse Tenga, where we would cross the Dude Koshi River and climb up to Phortse, where we could spend the night.  They said the trail would be safe and straight forward, even with our snow fall.

So this is what we decided to do.  The upshot of this decision is essentially we would be doing the two long sides of a narrow angle triangle as opposed to the short side.  We were in effect replacing what was about a 7 mile trek over Cho La pass with somewhere around 25 miles to go the long way around the mountains.  This, at least so far, was a great decision!

We awoke at 5:30 and hit the trail around 7.  As advertised, the skies dawned sunny and clear with no wind, about 30 degrees....prime trekking weather.  The views were once again stunning as everything was now dressed in a fresh white coat.  Up valley, Cho Oyo was magnificent!

The trail was great and we made rapid progress down the valley passing two more (of the six major) lakes that are a calling card of this region.  I have some great pics and some video to share later.  We put the hammer down, as we were told it would likely take us 10-11 hours to reach Phortse.  In fact we had an intermediate check point (Thare) we were supposed to stop at if we didn't get past it by 1 pm.

As it turned out we made Thare by 10 and rolled into Dole by 11:30 where we both had some fried veggie rice.  I brought my map out and suggested we might want to push on up the Khumbu to Pangboche. Tsewang resisted and as I probed, I realized that the Tea House in Phortse he wanted us to go to was owned by his "big mother" (with a little digging, I learned this was the older sister of his mother).  She called to inquire of his progress shortly thereafter and I realized we were going to stop in Phortse this day.

This was probably a good thing because by the time we climbed the 700 foot climb up to Phortse, it had taken us 6:46 to cover the 11.4 linear miles.  In total we had climbed 1381 feet and had descended a whopping 4,209 feet.  In fact we are now all the way down to 12,500 feet, almost 5,000 feet below EBC (which, we'll need to climb in the next two days).  As an aside, the richer atmosphere definitely makes it a lot easier to move and no doubt contributed to how great we felt today.

When we reached the Namaste Tea House we were warmly welcomed.  After some tea, I grabbed a guitar and tried to teach Tsewang "The Numbers" by Radiohead but he said he preferred Nepalese music (probably more a function of me than Radiohead).  Although, he did confess he liked Drop D tuning...

So tonight, it's hanging at big mother's Tea House and if all goes according to plan, we reach Dingboche tomorrow and Base Camp on the 24th, where I'll be reunited with Anders and team.  BTW, due to the miracles of acclimatization, we'll essentially be covering in 2 days, what took us 5 on the way in.

That's it for now.  Can't wait to see Anders and here the details of his voyage up to Camp Two.  I'll hang with him and the rest of the team at Base Camp for a few days and then he'll head up for rotation two and I'll head back home.

All good here in Nepal!


Thursday, April 20, 2017

Reporting in from Gokyo: incredible views from Gokyo-Ri!

Good morning!  RC here sitting in my room at the Fitzroy in the tiny village of Gokyo.

Before an update on my doings, I wanted to let you know we heard last night from Madison EBC that Anders is doing well up at Camp One on Everest.  It was cloudy/snowy yesterday afternoon/evening so he wasn't able to get a sat phone call out.  Brent was able to radio down to EBC that all was well and the foursome was resting comfortably at 20,000 feet.  There plan is move across the Western Cum and on up to Camp 2 at 21,000 feet.  Hopefully, Anders will be able to get a call out to Judy today so we can have details on their progress.

Back here at lower altitude in the next valley over things are going really well.  I had a quiet evening reading and went to bed around 9.  I had a good night's sleep and awoke at 5 to prepare for our climb of Gokyo-Ri this morning.  I woke up not particularly sore from the big day yesterday but I could definitely feel the effort in my legs.  Truth is I burned a few matches during the climb yesterday.  Later, during the climb I definitely felt I like I hadn't recovered and while it wasn't a problem on today's climb, I decided to change my plans yet again.  I'm going to spend another night in Gokyo and rest up this afternoon.  This will lead to an easy Saturday, which will put in me good position to bring my A game to the recrossing of Cho La on Sunday.  Here's the new plan:

4/21 (today). Climb Gokyo-Ri in morning, rest in afternoon
4/22.  Cross glacier and travel down to Dragnag...should take 3 hours or so.  Overnight there
4/23.  Big day.  Early departure and cross over Chhugyuma (Cho La) and either stay at Dzonglha (7 hours) or push on to Lobuche (9 hours)
4/24.  3-6 hour hike to EBC depending on starting point...should arrive mid day

Back to this morning's climb.  I had a delish cheese omelette and Tsewang and I were climbing shortly after 6:30.  Gokyo-Ri is very straight-forward, basically a "walk up" and we made steady progress, although as I mentioned I was definitely tired and a bit underpowered.  The views were incredible as we climbed up above the lake and looked back and down to Gokyo.  To the south is range of mountains that are reflected in the lake and to the west high above is Renjo Pass.  To the north stands mighty Cho Oyo, the 6th largest mountain in the world.  It's part of a massive range of snow covered mountains that are simply stunning.  As we climbed higher the massive pyramid of Everest increasingly came into view to the East with Nuptse standing guard to the South.  By the time we reached the summit, Everest, Nuptse, Pumori, Aba Dablam, Cho Oyo, Chamar, Chakung, Chumbu, and Ngozumba (among many other peaks) were all clearly visible.

We reached the summit after two hours and given yesterday's effort, I'm glad it didn't take any longer.  Round trip the climb was just 2.9 linear miles but involved 1,866 feet of altitude gain and just over 2,000 feet of climbing and descending.  Not counting time on the top, door to door in took three hours. The peak was right at about 17,400 feet, about the same as EBC.  We stayed on the summit for about an hour.  It was a nice morning and the views were incredible.  I'm going to try to update this post with a few pictures shortly.

The clouds began to climb up the valley and we headed down.  It was a truly memorable and special morning.  I'll report back later today and hopefully, we'll get some news from Anders!

Early into the climb, looking back down on Gokyo:


Mighty Everest with Nuptse to the right.  You can clearly see the ridge Anders will take on summit morning, rising from the right.  The South Summit is where the angle changes from 45 degrees to about 15-20%.  The South Summit of Everest is higher than any other mountain in the world--except for Everest of course:


Cho Oyo to the north--a stunning mountain:


Me with Everest over my right shoulder in the distance:


A panorama with Cho Oyo on far left (North) and Eversest/Nuptse to the right (East):


One more in front of Everest:


Admiring the views.....



Onward and upward!

RC reporting in: Epic Day to Gokyo!

April 20, 2017

RC reporting in from Gokyo after what I can only call a pretty Epic day!

Let me back up first.  As you know I was finally able to get a small post out late last night and more importantly IM a bit with Judy and the kids.  I heard the good news about Anders at Camp One and this led to a great sleep for me!

Tsewang (pronounced Chewong) wanted to get going early today because he said it would be a long tough one.  I awoke at 5:30 and we were rolling right at 6:30 after a breakfast of fried eggs and potatoes.

The first mile or so was easy as we descended from Dzonglha to the base of the climb to Chhugyuma, more commonly know as Cho La pass.  The Cho La pass stands some 2,000 feet above Dzonglha.  After the first mile the trail pitched up appreciably.  We were travelling well together and passing groups who left earlier then us.

Then we came to the beginning of a full-on Class III rock scramble that ascended a pitch that varied between 30 and 50+ degrees.  This was all hands and feet scrambling.  At 16,000+ feet this was very demanding.  I felt comfortable and not intimidated but it was really, really tough from a physical point of view.  This pitch took over an hour and finally we emerged at a plateau where we could rest and eat some snacks.

We weren’t at the pass by any means however, and the next section required us to traverse a very steep mixed snow and rock side slope that paralleled a massive, beautiful glacier that stretched out on our right.  This section required intense concentration (well, at least for me), as it was slippery in places with quite a bit of exposure.  Crampons would not have been out of place here, though nobody used them.  Slow and careful did make it feel very controlled and safe.

This section lasted just 5-10 minutes and then we crossed the glacier proper.  This section of the glacier is quite flat so there were no crevasses apparent.  To our left and rising several thousand feet above us was the top of the glacier with several large overhanging chunks.  We moved quickly through this area—no sweat.

We had one last, challenging rock scramble up another 40+ degree pitch and soon enough we were standing on top of the pass.  It took us a good 3+ hours to cover just over 2 miles at this point.  After a few pictures—I’ll try to post one below.  We headed down the other side.  This was less steep but was a very long descent.  It took us several more hours to reach Dragnag (passing a herd of Himalayan wild deer on the way), on the East side of the mighty Ngozumba Glacier—a glacier that’s even larger than the Khumbu.

Here we stopped and had lunch (Macaroni and Cheese)—we were 6 hours in and had covered about 5.5 miles at this point.

We soon left and travelled north paralleling the glacier for a while and then began the demanding process of traversing the glacier.  The Ngozumba doesn’t look like a classic glacier, in fact a looks like a giant titling rock pile, with many hills on it—some reaching several hundred feet in the air.  Every now and then we’d come across a section where the ice was cleaved and a steady stream of rocks and ice were falling into giant glacial pools of emerald green water.

The clouds rolled in, very misty and visibility was reduced to less than a few hundred feet.  All around us we could here rock fall and the occasional creak and moan of the glacial river of ice.  The ground was very rocky here and once again this demanded a lot of concentration.  Tsewang warned me to be alert to rock fall and indeed every couple of minutes we could hear (and not always see) rock fall around us.  It was spooky but the rock fall danger seemed quite modest.

At this point I was pretty tired as we hit the nine-hour mark of our climb and we had one last obstacle—a very steep 10-minute climb up above the lateral moraine until we reached the plateau where Gokyo resides.  I felt very relieved to finally be here—this was one tough challenge today!

I found a room at the Fitzroy Inn, which is hands down the best place I’ve stayed at since the trek began.  I even have a hot shower in my room, which I used for a good 15 minutes.

I’m waiting for dinner and then an early bed as I write this.  Tsewang and I have decided to modify our plans going forward a bit.  Originally, we were going to climb a mountain here called Gokyo-Ri, which has some of the most fantastic views of Everest and the surrounding mountains.  However, we didn’t get here to almost four and there were no views to be had anyways.  Therefore, tomorrow we plan to get up early, climb Gokyo-Ri with very little weight, and return here to the lodge and gather up our stuff.  We’ll have lunch here and then head back across the glacier to Dranag.

This should be a much easier day than today.  Maybe 6 hours max and more downhill than uphill.  We plan to sleep in Dranag tomorrow night and then will get up early to cross back over Cho La pass—this time it should take just 6 hours (because we are starting at Dranag as opposed to Gokyo) or so to get back to Dzonglha, where depending on how we feel and the weather we can sleep there or push on a bit more to Loboche.  In either case, we would go for Everest Base Camp on the 23rd and we should complete our five-day trek mid day that day.

Stats for today: we covered 8.97 linear miles over the course of nine hours and 16 minutes (including 30 minutes for lunch).  We ascended just over 2,400 feet and descended 3,100 feet.

I’m a bit tired but feel very good about today.  It’s not like a major summit day at Aconcagua or Kilimanjaro, but I’d have to rate this is one of the most demanding and ultimately satisfying climbs of my life.  It certainly threw a wide variety of challenges our way!

Of course, throughout the day and certainly tonight my thoughts are with Anders up at Camp One—I can’t wait to hear of his status and safety.  And also of course of my family and friends back home.

This is an experience of a lifetime for sure but I’m beginning to think more and more about returning to the life I left back home some 21 days ago.

Onward and Upward.

Tsewang and i at the summit--18,000 feet or so:


Heading down (carefully!);



Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Everest First Rotation: Anders Made it Safely to Camp One

Judy (Randy's wife/Anders' mom) here with an update from the guys:

Last night my kids and I were chatting on our family text with Anders, wishing him luck and sending our love as he was preparing to head off for the first very significant part of climbing Mt. Everest. It was 4:00 am Nepal time (6pm ours) and Anders was leaving for what is known as the "First Rotation".  Basically this First Rotation entails an extremely challenging climb up to Camp One (20,000 ft) and staying for 2 nights. Then, if the weather holds and the team is doing well, they will advance up to Camp Two (21,000) for 2 nights, then descend back to Base Camp (18,000).  All this is an effort to further acclimatize so they can handle the extreme altitude of this monster 29,000 foot mountain.  Once back at Base Camp they will recover a few days, then head up for Rotation Two to get even higher up the mountain. There are only two "prep" rotations, the next ascent will be game time, time to try to summit. But one day at a time....

You can see Camp 1, and their next goal of Camp II. Amazing how much higher the summit is!
Anders is traveling in a very impressive team of four: his guide Brent, the other climber John, and John's guide Geoff.  As usual Anders sounded optimistic and upbeat as he was getting ready to take on this initial challenge. He texted us that he loves us, thanks us for all the positive vibes, and ended with,  "It's a beautiful night, perfect for a stroll through the ice fall."  Their small team left Base Camp in the wee hours so they could tackle the Khumbu Ice Fall in the dark, while the terrain was more stable. In the daylight the ice shifts. The Khumbu Ice Fall is a steep, intimidating section of Everest, with lots of crevasses, ice pinnacles, seracs, and challenging icy ascents.

We weren't sure Anders' satlellite phone would work on the moutain, and needless to say,  we were all a bit worried overnight. I was VERY relieved this morning to get a call from him that they were safely at Camp One!  In Anders' understated way, he described this climb as a lot more "interesting" than most climbs. On some of his prior expeditions they end up "slugging along for hours" on an unvarying trail, whereas the ice fall in comparison is "exciting and very cool".  This "exciting" ascent entailed climbing up 2000 feet carrying 30 pound packs -- using crampons, ice axes, and fixed ropes, and climbing or crossing 15 ladders, some fixed horizontally over deep crevasses, some completely vertical to scale up steep ice faces using ice axes to haul themselves up. It's tough work. One of the biggest objective dangers in the Ice Fall is overhanging ice ledges that might dislodge; Anders said there was only one sketchy sector with an overhang and they hustled through in 10 minutes.  I'm sure that's supposed to make me feel reassured!  I asked Anders if today was scary, and he said, "Well, Mom, you wouldn't like it, but I felt safe the whole time."  It took them 6 hours to climb up to Camp One which is very fast.  Usually the first ascent through Khumba Ice Fall with some other climbing traffic and without being acclimatized can take from 10 - 12 hours. But Anders said his small team is very strong and can move quickly: the guides Brent and Geoff are unbelievable, John is super strong and I know Anders is speedy.  This is reassuring because then they can move swiftly through the danger zones.

The sherpas had climbed up earlier and set up a couple tents at Camp One, and their team of four carried up extra food, gear, and sleeping bags. So they are set up as well as anyone can be at this very remote camp. For a couple days they will be mostly hanging out, reading (Anders brought his Kindle), and trying to stay warm as their bodies adjust to the altitude. Weather today was fairly pleasant for Everest, with clouds rolling in as I spoke to Anders and a bit of snow predicted for overnight.  Hope they stay warm and safe up there!

Meanwhile, as Randy had reported on the previous blog, he is off on 4-day trek to pass the time while Anders is climbing and to explore some of the surrounding beauty with a young Sherpa as a guide. He forgot to bring along his chargers for his iPad and computer, so he will be a bit more out of touch than usual. However he did manage to text a bit this afternoon, so I was able to let him know Anders and team had made it safely to Camp One. Phew! Randy is heading to Goyko tomorrow which is a slightly bigger remote small village, but may have wifi. He has to cross a high pass and two glaciers, so I will be glad to hear from both my guys again tomorrow and know they are safe and doing well.

More tomorrow and we appreciate your prayers and good wishes for these (somewhat crazy) guys, and for the rest of the family trying to stay calm and positive at home!




In Dzongla

April 19, 2017

RC reporting in from somewhere in Nepal!

Good news, Tsewong and I made great time today getting from EBC down through Gorek Shep in 70 minutes and Loboche in 3 hours before exiting the main Everest trail and heading west to Dzongla where we are now.  Our total travel time, including a half-hour at lunch, was 5:29 and during which we travelled 9.8 linear miles, climbing about 1,000 feet and descending about 2,300 feet.  We are now at around 16,000 feet of elevation.  The weather deteriorated during our hike and the last couple of hours we had a persistent 20+ mph wind, 30-degree temps, overcast skies and light flurries.  Still, this was pretty good trekking weather given how quickly we were moving—no complaints here weather-wise.

Let me get the bad news out of the way.  I left the chargers for both my laptop and iPad back at EBC.  These are the only two ways I have to communicate with the outside world as there is no cell service here and Anders has our Sat Phone.  I have about 90% charge on the laptop and 80% on the iPad.  Once they are done, I’ll be completely off the grid.  Further, it doesn’t appear that there is any Wi-Fi here.  So there you go—this is what you get when you venture into the wilderness!

Lots of good news however.  Tsewong and I made very good time.  We alternated leads and at one point I put down a 21:20 mile.  I have about 30 pounds on my back—a lot of it soon to be less than useful electronics.  Tsewong is carrying 40 pounds.  I felt very, very strong today, in complete contrast to yesterday on Pumori, when I was really draggy.

Tsewong is a positive, upbeat travelling companion.  A classic Sherpa!  By the way, he is just 17 years old.  He has pretty good English, but I have pretty bad ears so sometimes he has to repeat himself several times before I understand, but we get by.  He knows the area really well and I must confess without him, I would have gotten lost several times.  I recall a conversation with Judy where I mentioned I was considering going solo.  Her response was: “that seems like a really bad idea.”  She was right.

I’m  supposed to report back to Madison Mountaineering and I’d like to get this post out.  We’ll see if I can do so.  Also, I’d really like to know if Anders is OK and up at Camp One.  I’d also like to at least IM Judy and the family.  Not sure that any of this will happen tonight.  Could be an interesting period of time!

More later.



Tuesday, April 18, 2017

It's on!

I must have been subconsciously listening for Anders this morning, and as i heard them going through final prep/packing at 4:30 am this morning i got up to say goodbye.  He was in very good spirits and quite energized.  They had already had breakfast.  We looked up into the Ice Fall above Base Camp and you could clearly see the path illuminated by many climbers who were already making their way up through the Ice Fall--quite an amazing sight--these long squiggly lines of light and the inky black sky above with the myriad of stars.

We said good bye.  Hugged.  I told him I loved him.  He told me he loved me.  It's only been three hours and I miss him already.....

Just (7:50am) heard via radio that they are at 18,400 feet and all systems are go.  They started at 17,350 here around 5am so very good progress.  Their objective, Camp 1 is right at 20,000 feet

The four climbers plan is to get to Camp 1 this morning, or early afternoon and rest.  Two nights at Camp 1 and 2-3 nights at Camp Two, with acclimatization hikes thrown in.  This will be a big step forward in Anders' quest to climb Everest.

I'm preparing to leave with Tsewang, my Sherpa companion, a little later this morning.  we plan to hike down valley to Loboche and then head west and then a little north, hopefully getting to the village of Dzonglha, where I hope to find tea house that Tsewang and i can stay at for the night.  We plan to leave between 9:30 and 10 and i expect to take about 7-8 hours hiking.

Hopefully i can update later today on both Anders and my progress....

Pumori and final preparations.....

Hi folks.  This will be a quick update and it may be without pictures (at least for now) as our internet is not cooperating here at Base Camp.

After breakfast, Anders, Brent, John, and Drew (another member of our team) went for a climb up towards Pumori Base Camp.  After crossing over and upward from where our tents are to the lateral moraine, we began a very arduous (at least for me) climb up through a jumbled mess of rocks.  It was challenging climbing, really scrambling, for sure.  Delaware and New Jersey friends should think of the rock scramble on Old Rag.  Except this was between 17,400 and 18,000 feet.  And very steep!

I've had a couple nights of mediocre sleep and this plus the inherent challenge of the climb led to difficult goings for me.  Anders lagged back and helped me navigate some of the tougher sections.  After quite a while, we emerged from the rock scramble up around 18,000 feet.  I decided that was enough for today and Brent and I stopped and had an enjoyable conversation while the three younger men continued upward all the way to the base camp at 18,700 feet or so.  In total I covered just 2.25 miles over 2:38 with about 660 feet of ascent and descent.

After returning to camp and enjoying lunch, we both set about preparing for the next phase of our adventure.  Anders and team are leaving at 4am to begin their first rotation.  They plan to climb through the whole Ice Fall and spend a couple of nights at Camp 1.  They will do an acclimatization hike from there on the day after tomorrow.  Then they will climb up to Camp 2 for two nights and also climb up close to the bottom of the Lhotse Face if all goes according to plan.

Meanwhile, I plan to begin a five day trek that ultimately will take me to Gokyo Peak and then on up to Cho Oyo Base Camp.  One of our head climbing sherpas' (he has summited Everest 19 times) son will trek with me over the five days.  He looks to be in his late teens and in addition to knowing the general lay of the land, he also will carry about 20 pounds of stuff for me.

This will be a pretty interesting period for both of us (especially for Anders).  Anders will try to provide updates via Sat Phone to Judy, who will post some blogs to keep you informed.  I'll try to get internet access to update on my progress.

here are some pics--sorry for the low res:

Looking up to Pumori Base Camp, which is on a ledge at the top of the grey pointy area--about 18,700 feet--tough climb:


Looking back at Everest, which you can now see peeking above the West Shoulder, impossibly higher:


Anders at the base of the scramble:


Pretty sweet hiking!


Me, Everest and Nuptse:


Brent pitching his whiskey sponsor:



Here we go!