Monday, May 29, 2017

Madison Mountaineering Recap

This was just posted on the Madison site:

Madison Mountaineering Everest 2017 Recap, “The Leader” on Everest
Success / Safety:
All of our climbers and Sherpas are off the mountain and now and preparing to head home! We have had a fantastically successful expedition, with all 8 of our clients reaching the summit of Everest, along with 4 American guides, and 15 Sherpas. We also had several of our climbers complete the Everest & Lhotse “peak to peak” combination, where they climbed Mount Lhotse (4th highest mountain) the day after reaching the summit of Mount Everest. This amazing and unmatched level of success among all the teams on Mount Everest is secondary to our number one priority, that all members (clients, guides, & Sherpas) made it safely off the peak.
Rope Fixing to the Summit:
Our team took the lead in partnership with the British – Nepal Gurkha team in fixing the ropes to the summit of Mount Everest on May 15th. This was not part of our original plan, as the rope-fixing project was taken upon by several other teams at the start of the season. Unfortunately, after several mishaps, the lead team had to abandon the rope-fixing project along with their partners. Without any clear consensus on how or when the lines would be put in to the summit, our team stepped up to finish the job. This “mission critical” project was necessary so that teams could begin their summit attempts on Mount Everest, with teams reaching the summit the following day on May 16th and continuing to reach the summit today. We are glad that our team had the capability and prowess to organize and execute such an important task, when no other teams on the mountain could summon such an effort, at such a critical stage in the climbing season.
Rescues:
Our team was at the South Col when several climbers who had pushed themselves very hard on summit day returned and needed critical medical attention. Our guides came to assist with medicine (dexamethasone, etc) and supplemental oxygen. However, what stands out the most is that one of our veteran guides, Brent Bishop, along with our Sherpas, rescued the Slovak Climber from the Balcony (27,500’), lowering him all the way down to the South Col high camp. Our Sherpas gave up their oxygen for him to use on the descent. This heroic effort by Brent and our Sherpas involved abandoning their own summit attempt, just hours away from the top, and spending the day giving their all in an effort to save a life.
We feel very fortunate that our expedition was a stunning success. We attribute this to our careful team selection and training, our top notch Everest guides and leadership, and of course our incredible Sherpa team who we invest heavily in year after year.
We are now going to relax and enjoy the post summit euphoria before returning to our friends, families, and loved ones, as well as our busy lives back home! Thanks for following along!

Seeing Anders in LA today!

Judy and I are about to fly out to spend a couple of days with Anders and hear all about all things Everest.  The five of us did a face time with him from the Jersey shore, so we heard some more of the details...


We'll update after we seem him and wrap up this most excellent adventure....

Friday, May 26, 2017

John's detail on the fateful Everest summit push

John, the other 31 YO client, who along with Anders and guides Geoff and Brent were the four person climbing team that we followed over the last two months, just posted his recollections of their summit push.  I wanted to wait until I had more of a chance to talk to Anders to post about his memories from the climb (and will do so).  John did a fantastic job of chronicling the events and his reactions to it that I thought I would just post a copy of it here--it is very well worth the time to read:


POSTED ONMAY 26, 2017
My Summit of Everest

It’s been a couple days since my descent from the upper mountain and I have yet to provide an account of my summit of Mount Everest. I’m going to skip to the evening before our ascent of the world’s tallest peak. For those parents who are having their children follow along, you may want to read the content before allowing them to do so. It was a challenging day and one that I will never forget…

Our speedy ascent from C3 (23,000′) to C4 (25,800′) was in jeopardy as we looked up at the Geneva Spur. The Spur is the large rise of rocks in the saddle that connects the Lhotse Face and the South Col (the saddle between the two mountains) where C4 sits. We looked up at a long line of climbers that were moving at a snails pace. It was 2:30 PM at the time and it would take us two hours to cover a distance that should have taken us only 30 minutes. The climbers that were causing the delay was a Chinese team that was overmatched for the task at hand. As we slowly passed them on the precarious terrain, each one of them looked like they had been to hell and back.

Anders and Brent traversing the Lhotse Face just before reaching the Geneva Spur:



Congestion on the Geneva Spur as Geoff looks back to our team:



When we finally walked onto the South Col at 4:30 PM, we found a camp that was windswept and looked up at the peak of Everest. We quickly took to searching for our tents, which had supposedly been set up by our Sherpas a day prior. Despite our best efforts, we could not find our tent, every single one was occupied. We continued to search but soon found ourselves cold and increasingly tired from the high altitude. After working with our basecamp team on the radio, we soon located a tent that was ours and found two Sherpas sleeping in it. They had sought refuge in it because they thought that it would not be needed since no one had claimed it so late in the afternoon. They were not with our team and we demanded that they move to another tent so that we could get some rest.

A pile of O2 bottles in the middle of C4 on the South Col:


Looking up from C4 at the foot of the Southeast Ridge of Everest:



Brent, Geoff, Anders and I crawled into the tent as soon as they had moved out and quickly got back on the radio for weather reports. We spent the next 30 minutes getting the other tent set up and discussing our options for our summit attempt. At this point it was 5:30 and we were exhausted. The weather forecasts came in from EBC and it appeared that our best weather window would in fact be the following day, which meant that we would be climbing that evening. My morale was dwindling and I was very apprehensive about the prospect of making a summit attempt on zero sleep, after just climbing almost 3,000 vertical feet.

As a team, we finally decided that we would need to make our attempt that evening. Geoff and I settled into the second tent and I expressed my concerns over pushing through 6,000′ vertical feet in a 24 hour period. Deep down, I knew that it was the correct decision but the exhaustion manifested itself in a rather negative outlook. Geoff understood but we knew what had to be done.

We would begin our push at 11 PM, which left just enough time for us to eat some dehydrated food and melt snow for two liters of water each, which would be all that we had for our summit attempt. By the time that we had eaten and filled our Nalgene bottles it was 8:30 PM. We spent the next couple of hours preparing our packs, prepping our gear and closed our eyes for a brief moment. It was impossible to sleep as the wind beat our tent and the sound of the winds passing over the Col sounded like a freight train. It seemed like only a few minutes had passed when our alarms went off and we sprung into action.

Brent and Anders were ready first, so they set off up the mountain, ahead of Geoff and I. Once we were ready, we began our slow pace through the dark night. The wind burned my eyes and cheeks as we crawled up the hill just outside of C4. We were the last team to break camp for a summit attempt and I looked up at a line of headlamps that stretched across the Southeast Ridge of Mount Everest. It was all that I could see, outside of the few feet ahead of me that were illuminated by my headlamp. I felt as if I were an astronaut in space, alone.

After about a couple hours of climbing, I noticed something to my left, a frozen body. I had come prepared to see death on the mountain but despite this anticipation, it gave me chills. I soon crawled through a chute of rocks and I noticed that the rest of the team had stopped. I will never forget what I saw next… Geoff was knelt down next to a man who was laying on his back. As I drew closer, I saw his face, frozen from exposure and his right hand naked and contorted with his fingers twisted in an unnatural manner. Judging by the rips in his down suit, he had fallen and been unable to recover. His eyes and mouth were frozen open and he moaned in pain. Geoff was scrambling for meds that are used to revive altitude victims as Anders, Brent and I did what we could to support, while also trying to get the man to gain consciousness. It was not enough, the man had been in the cold too long and it was clear that he would soon be dead. We tried to tuck his bare hand into his suit but his body was rigid and he was unresponsive, despite his flailing and moaning. We did everything that we could but knew that it had been too little too late. I looked down and noticed an ice axe that was lying next to him with his name on it.

As we stood next to him, another climber came to us and told us of a disoriented man who was just 50 feet above. We turned our attention to this man, who lay on the steep snow bank and had similar shreds in his down suit. He lay there, pleading for help to get down the mountain. His blonde mustache was frozen into an icicle but he was far more responsive than the man that we had just tried to help. We administered meds to him and urged him to get to his feet but he was unable. As he lay there, we discussed his condition and we knew what had to be done. Anders, Brent, Geoff and I decided that we had to take him down to C4, knowing full well that we would forego our summit of Everest. Geoff and Anders rigged a rope off the main fixed line, while Brent and I began to drag the man down the mountain. It was exhausting as we pushed and pulled him down, while Geoff let rope out. Within minutes of beginning our descent, one of our Sherpa’s Tashi, had climbed back down from the Balcony, a couple hundred feet above us. Tashi said that he would take the climber down and Brent agreed to assist him. Despite our apprehension, Brent encouraged Anders, Geoff and I to continue on to the summit and we eventually agreed to do so, knowing that the two of them would be able to get him down to a tent.

Neither man had an oxygen mask or canister with him. It dawned on me that both men had probably climbed on the 20th and descended late in the day, becoming disoriented from lack of oxygen and exhaustion. Being the last team to depart that evening, I knew that teams had begun ascending Everest at around 7 PM and that every single one of them had passed these men, fixated on the opportunity to summit. I felt nauseous knowing that so many had passed these men and had been unwilling to help them. One was too far gone to help, while the other was hanging onto his life by a thread. Perhaps, if we had arrived a couple hours earlier, we would have been able to save both of them. This was a moment in my life when I lost a little faith in humanity…

As the three of us pushed upward, conversation was limited to occasionally checking on one another to make sure that we were doing OK. I felt sick to my stomach and could not get the image of the man writhing on the ground with his face frozen from exposure to the elements. The darkness of the night made for a lonely ascent and I eagerly awaited the sunrise. When we finally reached the balcony, the sun slowly peeked over the horizon and we scrambled for cached O2 canisters. As we changed out our O2, we didn’t speak much. We were all in shock and our minds remained with the man who was being carried down by Brent and Tashi. Geoff did his best to get us to regain our focus but he knew that it was a feeble attempt.  With our O2 replenished, we pushed up the ridge. At this point, Siddhi and Anders were out front with Geoff and I following. The sun helped to warm us, after our bodies had cooled during the two hours that we had spent attempting to rescue these two men. I wish I could say that the sunlight on the face of Everest brought me some happiness but I was too exhausted from a lack of sleep and felt sickened by what we had just experienced. We pushed on, digging deep for energy…

The Summit Team: Me (bottom left), Anders (top left), Siddhi (top right), and Geoff (bottom right):



Climbing towards the South Summit after switching out O2 canisters:



Taking a rest at an anchor just before reaching the South Summit:



After a few hours, we had ascended the ridge and reached the South Summit, which lies at 28,500′. Before us was the famous Hillary Step, congested from climbers trying to weave through one another, some descending and others who were still ascending. Anders and Siddhi had maneuvered through some of the traffic, leaving Geoff and I behind. Geoff and I briefly became separated due to some climbers who were descending, causing me to wait to pass.

Geoff was about 150 feet ahead of me when I began climbing through the section of rock before the Hillary Step. This was the point when I realized that something was wrong. My footwork on the rock was sloppy and I couldn’t seem to gain my footing, despite my best efforts. I felt drunk and seemed to be losing consciousness. I was scared and didn’t know what was happening to me. When I was able to gain enough composure, I braced myself on a rock and checked my O2 gage, which read zero. I had been climbing at 28,500′ without oxygen and hadn’t heard the noise of my canister running out because of the loud winds.

Geoff had been watching as I uncharacteristically struggled with my normally sound footwork. I waved him over and he rushed to my side. As soon as I told him that I had run out of O2, he quickly removed his own canister and attached it to my regulator. This was one of the most selfless acts that I had ever witnessed and I could hardly believe as I regained my composure. After a couple of minutes, I came to and was able to begin moving again. Geoff was now out of O2 and we had to find Siddhi, who was carrying the extra canister. When we had sent Tashi down, he had gone with an extra O2 canister, so the only person carrying extra was Siddhi, who was already near the summit with Anders.

The Summit Ridge of Mount Everest. Notice climbers nearing the top:


Geoff and I moved slowly across the extremely exposed summit ridge. I was still somewhat woozy from overexerting myself without supplemental oxygen, so Geoff moved forward to try to find Siddhi as quickly as possible. Soon he came into sight, as he had come back to check on us. We quickly placed a fresh canister in Geoff’s pack and we took a few moments to catch our breath, before pushing to the summit just ahead.

At 10:45 AM, Geoff and I, side by side, walked onto the summit of Mount Everest. I shed a few tears of happiness and relief as we looked at the prayer flags that adorned the highest point in the world. I thought of the struggles of the past 24 hours but soon found myself reflecting on the events in my life that had led up to this point. I thought of my Mom and her unwavering love and support throughout my life. I thought of my Dad and his influence in helping me discover my passion for climbing. I knew that they were with me in spirit and my soul was warmed knowing that they were there with me, as well as a true friend who would risk his own life for me.

The Summit of Mount Everest:



After five minutes, we were in a hurry to descend.

Anders had already begun to descend but Geoff, Siddhi and I spent about five minutes on the summit, taking a few pictures before we decided it was time to descend. It was late in the day and we needed to move quickly before afternoon weather moved in. Still groggy from my incident on the South Summit, I focused on every step to move quickly and safely down the mountain. Unlike our ascent, the descent was smooth and without issue.

It took us four hours to make our descent to the South Col and throughout the entire time my mind wandered from thoughts of our accomplishment to the horrors that we had witnessed just hours earlier. I was exhausted from the effort and lack of sleep but found comfort in strength in my amazing team. As C4 came into view, we passed the body of the man that we had tried so hard to save. He lay on his back, frozen, while other descending climbers stopped to look. I couldn’t look at him but saw the ice axe with his name and I said a prayer for him and his family.

As we walked into C4 and the other members of our team surrounded us with hugs and congratulations, I once again found my mind wandering. While my summit of Mount Everest had included feelings of elation for accomplishing what I had worked so hard to do, I was disheartened. The man that Brent had carried down would die in a tent 24 hours later, after hours and hours of medical attention. I couldn’t help but wonder what had gone through the minds of all the people who had passed these two men on their way to the summit. What would posses someone to find more value in a summit of a pile of rocks than in helping to save the life of another human being? Why did it take the last team on the mountain to do something? I’m not sure that I will ever understand why but I do know that there is hope in the world, as long as there are people like Anders, Brent and Geoff. Life is far more valuable than a summit of Mount Everest and these brothers of mine are shining examples of the character that we should strive to uphold.

My summit of Mount Everest will forever be a bittersweet memory of one of the greatest accomplishments of my life but also the challenges that humanity faces. I hope that you will remember my story, always follow your dreams, and never turn a blind eye to those in need.

-John

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Anders back in the USA!

He survived a 25+ hour travel back to LA, landing shortly before 8 LA time this morning.  so awesome to have him back and not exposed to all of the risks of the high Himalaya.

Looks like Judy and I will probably go visit him in LA and celebrate both his amazing accomplishments and his May 1st birthday (when as he says, he migrated further into the late 20s/early 30s period of his life).

I plan to update this blog with the following:

1. details on the climb from C2 to the summit and back down to EBC, including the two rescue attempts.

2. more pics

3. Judy and my observations

4. anything else anders wants to add

5.  possibly a reunion of the team next week in Cali

After that it's back to how many yards I swam last week and how much my knee hurts--I expect that the 2000 of you that have been following will stay riveted....

Brent on CBS....

Anders is about an hour out from LA--can't wait to have him back on US soil!

Here is a CBS news cast with Brent in it (they interviewed Brent in Kathmandu):

http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/nepal-officials-doubtful-about-4-bodies-reported-on-everest/ar-BBBtiKL?ocid=se

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Quick turnaround--on plane from Kathmandu to Hong Kong and LA

Anders had a quick turnaround in Kathmandu--just there for a little more than 24 hours.  He enjoyed a nice shower, two separate pizzas, french fries, and some nice brew dogs.  He should be back in the states early Thursday.

Here is another pic from Anders time on the summit.  If you zoom in on his goggles--you can see the summit and several other people who have joined him there (note the sundog around the sun as well):


Here is a pic from the next day when he descended all the way from C4 to C2 in 90 degree heat and a down suit.  In addition to being pretty sweaty, you can see some of the effects of the weight loss he experienced there--20 to 30 pounds.  He says he looks pretty wimpy (but looks can be deceiving!):


Will update with more pics and details shortly.....

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Anders and Brent safe and sound in Kathmandu!

Just had a long Face Time Audio with Anders and heard a lot of the amazing details--we'll figure out with Anders how best to share the very, very amazing story of their day.

One piece of info we learned is that Anders had the Summit to himself--he stayed there for about 7 minutes and he was completely alone the whole time.  He ended up taking 3 selfies to document (he also has some video which he'll probably grab screen shots from).  Here are the selfies:




You can see him changing his gloves because his hands were so cold...

We heard more about the two rescue attempts as well.  What the four of them did was pretty heroic.  Well it was heroic for sure.  I'm not sure what the appropriate social media protocol for something like this is, so at least for the moment I'm going to refrain from posting any details.  I'd like to discuss further with Brent and Anders....

Anyways, I'm sure we'll be posting a bunch more info and pictures over the next week or so....

Anders flys home tomorrow!  We are beyond excited.  Its still hard to wrap our heads around the fact that our son climbed Everest.....




Safe and sound at Base Camp--now on to Kathmandu!

Just texted back and forth with Anders--Brent and he made it down safely through the Ice Fall from C2 this morning in Nepal--his 8th transit!  They quickly scrambled to throw everything in duffels and are hustling to the heli pad to catch a helicopter down to Kathmandu.  They should be at the hotel (Yak and Yeti) by dinner!




Good news all around from Madison Mountaineering.  Successful summits on Everest for 6 of their clients, 3 guides and 13 Sherpas plus John and Geoff summited Lhotse and are heading back down towards Camp 3.

Great day!

We can't wait to talk to Anders when he gets to Kathmandu!  He is on a flight tomorrow and should be in LA early Thursday...

Monday, May 22, 2017

Great News! Anders on his way home and safe at C2!

We just talked to Anders.  He and Brent made the call (correct one in my view) to head down.  They left C4 about 3pm and descended all the way down to C2 in just 3 hours.  C2 to remind you is at the bottom of the Lhotse Face--very good to have that behind them.  Anders said he was sweaty and he was also a bit out of breath.  They down climbed with oxygen, which no doubt helped them move quickly down the Lhotse Face.  They just took their masks off so their bodies were readjusting to breathing the thin air at 21,500 feet.

Brent was also doing well and the two of them were joking around.  Judy told Brent how impressed she was with him and Brent said that was because she hadn't met him yet.....

Anders shared with us a bit of what happened yesterday.  He described it as the most intense and extreme 24 hours of his life and he is very much looking forward to sitting down with us and going through it.

The Balcony was very challenging.  The four of them made the decision to scrap their summit push to help the guy (a Slovakian) get down.  It was clear he couldn't make it on his own and he wouldn't last long if he didn't get down.  They tried to secure some support from others there but were unable to do so and so the four of them decided to take him down.  Garrett Madison got on the phone and arranged for one of the Madison climbing Sherpas to pitch in and Brent made the call that they could safely and quickly get him down with just two people.  Brent decided it made the most sense for him to go with the Sherpa (he was the most experienced and had summited Everest before).  This is an extraordinary sacrifice on his part (thank god there are people in the world like Brent, Geoff, John and Anders that make the right call).

Brent and the Madison sherpa escorted (carried) this fellow down but unfortunately he later died at C4.  Heartbreaking.  Also, it's hard to imagine the physical effort necessary for Brent and the Sherpa to bring him down....

Meanwhile, Anders, Geoff and John, after having spent almost two hours at the Balcony started climbing up again.  They had started relatively late the night before (11pm) because they had anticipated being relatively fast.  Now the late start and the rescue effort at the Balcony put them behind many, many (slower) people climbing up.  Anders said they climbed aggressively and had to frequently unclip to pass folks.  During this process, Anders became separated from Geoff and John and ended up ultimately getting to the summit by himself, about 30 minutes ahead of John and Geoff.

However, a ways off from the summit Anders ran out of oxygen.  This had a profound physiological impact on him but he could see the summit and then HE PROCEEDED TO CLIMB ON HIS HANDS AND KNEES to the summit.  (As his parents we are thankful that we did not have real time coverage of this!).

Of-course he was exhausted when he arrived on top of the world and it was very cold (and he needed to find oxygen) so he only stayed for 2 minutes or so (its a crazy thing this mountaineering--50+ days of effort in Nepal plus literally years of training for that 2 minutes!)  As he headed down he crossed paths with one of the Madison Sherpas and was able to get another tank of Oxygen.

We'll share more of the details later when we talk with Anders at more length.

The plan is for Anders and Brent to get up early and head down through the Ice Fall (for the 8th time) and get to Base Camp early.  Judy and i are trying to arrange for there to be a helicopter there and have it fly the two of them down to Kathmandu tomorrow afternoon and from there, if all goes well, back to the states on Wednesday or Thursday.  I don't have any pics from his summit climb, but here are a couple to remind you of our Everest summiter and some of his journey:





















Sunday, May 21, 2017

Jersey Channeling Everest and Nepal--Anders you rock!

We are enjoying a beautiful day here at the Jersey Shore.  We are flying our Nepal prayer flags at the shore in honor of our son who climbed Everest!!!!

We just heard Anders and team are spending the night at C4 (sucking Os) and then heading down tomorrow.  Come on home Anders--let's start the party!



Just heard from Anders at C4--he did indeed successfully summit Everest!!!

Judy and I were just able to talk to Anders (5:30 am here on the East Coast and 3:15pm in Nepal).  We had a pretty good connection.  He was out of breath, dehydrated and in need of grabbing another O2 bottle but this is what we learned:

1. He climbed Mount Everest!  He was very happy about this.  He said the climbing was fantastic and that he felt very, very good throughout the climb.

2. The reason they spent so much time at the Balcony was they came across a "German or Scandinavian" who was not on O2 and who wasn't going to make it (survive).  They focused on rescuing him and Brent (Anders' guide) ended up bringing him down (we gather) and most likely saving his life.  Brent apparently is in a tent now at C4 and Anders was going to try to find out more.  They also came across another fellow they tried to save--Anders said his face was "completely frozen"--they injected him but apparently he was too far gone.  The Himalayan Times has confirmed the death of this man, an American, the 3rd death of this climbing season at Everest.

3. Anders ended up climbing a lot on his own.  High on the summit ridge he ran out of oxygen.  He waited for one of the climbing sherpas from Madison (I think there were two of them) and got a replacement.  We're not sure how long or how much climbing he did without oxygen.  But he did comment the being without oxygen "sucked".  (no pun intended)

4. The Hillary Step is definitely still there!  By this we guess he meant it was still very difficult to get past this challenging feature of the ridge, which is located between the South Summit and the true Summit.

5. He said it was a real mess (not the exact term he used) on the way down.  Lots of people struggling and short roped.  I'm sure this was a real challenge to move past them on the descent--with its steepness and exposure.

6. He said they climbed strong and ended up passing a lot of people both up and down(which entails a lot of unclipping from the fixed ropes).

7. The climb from C3 to C4 was amazing--especially climbing over the Yellow Band and the Geneva Spur.  When they arrived at C4 they found other people "squatting" in their tent.  He said they were able to sort it out and it was ultimately all good at C4.

8. He didn't call from the summit because it was really cold and he was worried about how cold his hands were (we told him we were very fine with this decision).

9.  He was definitely tired as they left at 11pm and it was after 3pm when he arrived back at C4--which means at least 16 hours door-to-door.

10. He was going to get together with his team now and see what the plan was (after getting some O2 and fluid).  We hope they will head a bit lower but they could certainly spend the night at C4 if necessary.

We may not hear from him until he is back down at Base Camp.  We'll feel a lot better when he gets there but we are relieved, proud and very excited about his accomplishment.  Last night was definitely pretty stressful (to say the least).

We know there is probably a lot more to this story--and we probably have some of the details wrong-- but we'll update more as soon he's able to call back.

Whew!  Our son climbed Everest!

Onward and Upward!

Saturday, May 20, 2017

yes--they all made it and are coming down now....

Details are sketchy and we did not get a call from the summit but it looks like they made it....

We hear they all made it together but again, we're dying to hear any details but Madison Base Camp has confirmed....

Apparently windy up top and hard to get a lot of details....

Anders on final steps to the summit...we hear....


very close

Just heard they are close

very near the South Summit

My guess is they are at or very near the South Summit.  This means they will have a descent before they begin the final push up to the summit.  It means they should be able to see the whole path ahead, which is a real positive when you are strung out after a long climb, like they no doubt are.

My guess is we are 60 to 90 minutes away.....

8718 meters

They are now higher than any other mountain in the world besides the one they are on.

Look at that sentence.  Pretty cool in my view.

This is less than 100 feet from the South Summit.

I'm projecting right around midnight here on the East Coast.

The guys are doing great.  Slower than projected.  We just heard about a climber evac both we don't know who, where, when or why (how was probably a helicopter)--perhaps this has slowed them down a bit.  It could be crowds, weather or any other factor.  We don't know.

That said, my view is they are doing great and should be on the final approach from the South Summit to the true Summit very shortly.

Go guys!  Onward and upward!

Adventure Consultant team summits

Ang Dorjee and his private client just reached the summit.  they left a little over 2 hours before our boys.  They reported that they were experiencing some wind, but evidently not enough to stop them.

Our guys seem to be moving well and the 11:30 East Coast arrival time (9:15 am in Nepal has been holding pretty steady as of late).

It's all about execution at this point.  They worked so hard to get ready for this moment....now it's time to bring it home!

Onward and Upward!

8560--more than 2/3rds!

The team has been moving quite quickly over the last hour and the estimated duration of the C4/summit transit has fallen by over two hours during the last hour.  This is probably a function of them moving and normalizing out the extended rest they had at the Balcony.  Also, they may have had some crowds that slowed them down for a while and now are moving a bit more quickly.

In any event, we have them at 8,560 meters (28,380 feet).  In any event, they are only 300 feet below the South Summit and once there, they should be able to see the true summit.  That plus I'm sure it's light out now.  They are shortly to reach an altitude that only K2 and Everest itself are higher than....

My model is predicting 11:32 on the East coast--less than 3 hours....

8379 meters--almost half-way

Latest update has them at 8379 meters, which higher than all but the following five mountains:

1. Everest
2. K2
3. Kangchenjunga
4. Lhotse
5. Makalu

I show them reaching the summit around 9:30am/11:45 on the East Coast.  If this is true, it is slower than expected but not a huge concern.  I expect their average pace has been impacted a fair amount by an expected rest at the Balcony.  Perhaps we'll see the estimated summit time trend earlier.

In any event, they are just about half-way there from a vertical ascent perspective....

Here is what it looks like--looking up the SE ridge:

 

At the Balcony--moving up as a group

Just received a text from Andrew at EBC that our group of 4 was at the Balcony and moving up together.  Looking at the live tracking data, they clearly spent some time there.  They could have been resting (very likely), maybe changing O2 tanks.

Andrew also just told us that it didn't appear to be that crowded and that the team was moving well.  They (at EBC) are estimating a 7:30 summit, which would be a bit before 10 here on the East Coast.  My handy-dandy spreadsheet has it a couple of hours later--but this could be impacted by a relatively long rest at the Balcony.  We'll know more in the next 20-30 minutes.

The good news is weather does not appear to be a problem at this point.....

Here is the path up from the Balcony:

 

Current Status

Sorry about the delay--I went out for a walk....back tracking Anders' progress.

Here is a spreadsheet that tracks his progress so far:

 They above tells you that they are coming up on 3 hours in elapsed climb time.  They have climbed 314 vertical meters, which is 36% of the vertical distance to the summit from C4.  At this pace it will take them a total of 7 hours to reach the summit--which put them there at a little past 9 tonight--a bit more than 4 hours from now....

Good progress.  A critical point will be whether or not they get past the Balcony, which is at 8380 meters.  Here is where, if the wind is bad, we might expect them to have to make a call about whether to proceed or not....

They are on their way

We have them starting the track at 11:03pm (7,897 meters).  This is 25,908 feet at 1:18pm our time.  At 11:53 (2:08 our time) they were at 7,977 meters or 26,171 feet.  In the screen shot below, you can see the purple "pins" marking their progress from the South Col:


And just a few minutes ago they are just under 8,000 meters (they have progressed 20 meters vertically in the last 10 minutes or so--this is about 400 vertical feet/hour):

May have ability to track their progress Live....

We may be able to follow Anders' climbing partner's Spot positional tracker.  For example we know that yesterday they climbed from 7,180 meters (23,556 feet) up to 7,891 meters (25,889 feet).  We also had them at the South Col as late as 5:04pm Nepal time (6 hours ago)--which is probably when the tracker was turned off.  If it's turned on again we'll follow it live....

A new data point just popped on at 10:53pm their time--this is 1:08pm our time and this probably indicates they are leaving for the summit very soon.....

Weather looks good enough for a go

Madison Mountaineering posted that the weather looks good for a summit attempt.  Adventure Consultants reported that there was some wind at the South Col but conditions were good enough for a small team to go for the Summit.  They left at 9:45pm local, which was about 45 minutes ago--noon on the East Coast.

No news on our team yet, although our assumption is that their departure for the summit is imminent.

Alan Arnette update on Everest status

Alan Arnette, an American mountaineer who blogs extensively on all things Everest.  He just posted an update that thought I'd selectively quote:

On the unpredictability of the weather:

I have been forecasting here since 2003 and never seen a season like this with forecast model runs changing every 12 hours.  (Michael Fagan with Everest Weather)

Another trusted weather advisor, meteorologist Chris Tomer agreed and suggested that there will be a few days each on either side of 22 May: 18-21 or 23-25. He further suggest a “wind plume” arriving quickly on the 22nd so climbers need to be down or not headed up during that period.

Clearly the next week will be tricky. I don’t want to add anxiety to any friends and family but this is the reality of climbing Everest for those back home: nervousness, sleepless nights, no news, mixed messages – all culminating with that call or message that everything is fine, coming home soon.

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South Summits Began

On the South it was a mixed bag once again as the weather continued to play with the climbers. As I have detailed ad nauseum, the weather forecasters are as frustrated as the climbers this season on the south side.

It appears that high pressure was playing favorites this year by keeping the clouds, wind and moisture sequestered on the Nepal side while occasionally leaking over to the Tibet side just to keep teams honest.

The end result has been a steady stream of summits on the north and occasional summits on the south – sometimes with a bold gamble by leaders on both sides. Again, thus far this has been a relatively safe season.

Perhaps the lessons from last year, or the last 50 years have sunk in with new expedition leaders. On 19 May, a few teams took off from the South Col intending to summit in difficult weather. Thankfully, they turned back to try another day.

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Hard to Turn Back

One of the more poignant post came from Larry Daugherty climbing with Adventure Ascents who turned back at the South Summit due to winds. Also with him was Thomas Wilkinson and Brandon Fisher.  Larry posted:

Mountain clearly in charge  Our team turned around at the south summit due to building wind – disappointed but safe at C4

However, one of their members, David Snow stayed back for another attempt. Not willing to give up, David found that elusive balance between giving it everything he could without giving himself to the mountain. Well done, well done David.

He posted early Saturday morning:

After being in Nepal for over a month I’ve discovered a few things.

For years, you can plan, ponder, prepare every last detail, and stand where no other mountain is higher and still not reach your goal. After 7 hours of climbing in the wind our guides made a choice to turn us around at the South Summit. Disappointment and discouragement were higher than we were. But we were also reminded just a few feet off our route why this is the world’s highest graveyard and why there’s wisdom in listening to those who have been where you have not.

Refusing to be done with the climb, I discovered mother nature controls summiting big mountains and not once but twice was crushed by attempts that would not happen.

I witnessed strength and determination in my climbing buddies Thomas Wilkinson Larry Daugherty Brandon Fisher who could have summited a peak twice as high as Everest.

The majesty of the Himalaya has changed my DNA.

I’ve made eternal friendships from the trek to base camp and with mountain guides that could have formed in no other way. My wife continues to elevate her rock star status. I’ve realized once again across all 7 continents and all the experiences this wonderful world affords, what really matters is
what’s back home.

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Summits

Ascent Himalayas aka Ireland to Everest had a big week with 17 total summits including several first. See this post for details. Adventures Global put two on Everest from Nepal. Horia Colibasanu summited without Os.

Just In

Satori Adventures put 5 members and 5 Sherpas on the summit early Saturday morning, 20 May. This is one of the teams that tried the earlier day but bad weather forced them to stay at the South Col and extra night. They had prepared for this contingency with extra oxygen.

Kuntal Joisher reported in for their team:

When they started from South col it was quite windy. However once they were on the mountain the winds subsided and 5 of the climbers reached summit at 6.45 nepali time. One japanese climber reached at 7.15. They all descended together. They reported of a very cold summit day. But as far as I know all climbers are in good condition.

Mega Adventures turned back on their summit push. Summit Climb posted they hit high winds but was unclear on their exact status.

The large Indian Navy team was supposed to start their summit push late Friday night but reports are in that they have returned to the South Col citing high winds at 100kph/60mph.

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Big Changes at the Hillary Step!

Tim Mosedale confirmed what was rumored last year – that the rock formation that defined the legendary feature called the Hillary Step had changed either by the 2015 earthquake or by the way mountains have forever- wind, rain and erosion.

He posted:

It’s official – The Hillary Step is no more. Not sure what’s going to happen when the snow ridge doesn’t form because there’s some huge blocks randomly perched hither and thither which will be quite tricky to negotiate.

As regular readers may remember in 2016, it was reported the Hillary Step was “gone”. Speculation ranged from the rocks that defined the 50 foot high crack had collapsed in the earthquake to it was just covered in snow. Now we know.

It does appear the a large boulder to the clibmers left is missing. But you and count on thousands of suggests on which rock, how far, when, by whom 🙂 ..  If you want to explore this further a good start is with Mark Horrell‘s investigative report on his blog from last year.

Regardless of the what, how and when we can see the one of the most famous features in mountaineering has changed. Time will tell what impact this has on climbing to and from the summit.




Finally a couple of recent pictures:

Our team of four (Anders, Brent, Geoff and John) at 2:15 am as they set off for their summit rotation:


The night before, celebrating with the Gurkhas after their successful summit:


Going for the summit in a few hours!

Judy received a text from Andrew, the Base Camp manager, that Anders and team had a successful climb up from Camp 3 to the South Col, where they are resting in their sleeping bags and breathing bottled oxygen.  We expect them to leave for the summit, some time in our early afternoon today--a little before or near midnight of the 20th in Nepal.

First off, I think it's appropriate to stop and reflect that Anders and his team have now successfully climbed to 26,000 feet, which is higher than all but 17 mountains in the world.  If he reaches the Balcony tomorrow, which should take 2-3 hours, just 3 will be higher.  Of course, his objective is to reduce that list to zero.  Still it's remarkable what he has accomplished, as a high altitude mountaineer, already!  That, and executing a demanding regime of climbing, eating, sleeping, staying healthy and focused for the last 50 days, in some pretty challenging circumstances.  Anders is a remarkable young man.  We are very proud of him.

That said, the next 12-18 hours will be some of the most important and consequential that Anders will face in his life.  As you might expect, we are on "lock down" and will have our phones ready and waiting for updates from Andrew, who will be sleeping in the Comm. tent at Base Camp, and from the team itself via Sat phone.  We'll share as soon as we get it.

We're worried of course, but very confident in his and his team's fitness, preparation, skill, and most importantly, judgement.  If the weather permits, we believe he will get there, and most importantly back again (under any circumstance).

Here we go! (Send good Karma his way!)


On the way to the South Col/Camp 4

We heard from Anders just before 10pm last night (East Coast time).  He called us via Brent's Sat Phone from C3.  They were preparing for an 8am (Nepal)/10:15pm (ET) departure from C3 to move up to the South Col.

He said their move up to C3 from C2 was great--a really good day.  It only took them 3 hours and Anders said that the O2 they were all using helped a lot.  He said there were quite a few people there at C3 but that they hoped to move up in front of them on this move.

We haven't heard an update this morning but would expect Anders and team to already have arrived at C4/South Col.  We anticipated about a 6-7 hour trip up to C4, which would have put them into the South Col sometime around 5am ET this morning.  We would expect them to have a lot to do at C4, melting water being the first task--both to rehydrate and to make sure they enough for the summit push.  Boiling water at 26,000 feet and 10 degrees below zero is an arduous process at best.  Hopefully as time permits we'll here from the team.

The picture below depicts the whole SE Ridge route from Base Camp to the Summit and it gives you a good view of how far they have come to get in position for the summit--remember, it took us 10 days just to get to Base Camp in the first place:


We believe that they are trying to set up for a summit push in a few hours.  Normally, teams upon arriving at Camp 4, will rest for a few hours (5-8 typically) and then leave late on the evening they arrived at Camp 4 and climb through the night to get to the summit in the early morning of the next day.  What that means for Anders and team is they would probably depart around 1pm this afternoon East Coast time with a potential summit around 7-10pm tonight.

The picture below (which is shot from Lhotse) depicts the upper mountain that they will have to navigate during their night of the 20th.  We've heard there is quite a bit of snow on the Triangular Face, which will help a bit in that section.  Once they reach the Balcony the route is very steep--probably 45 degrees plus on a narrow ridge.  At the South Summit (which is higher than any other mountain in the world), the slope lessens but climbing at nearly 29,000 feet of course presents it's own challenges.  We've also heard that the topography of the Hillary Step has changed a bit since the earthquake of 2015 and apparently it is a bit easier to navigate now--which would be great if true because the Step is frequently a bottle neck on summit day.


Here is a picture from the net showing the SE Ridge climbing up towards the summit (which is behind you in the picture) from the South Col:


It's a bit hard to tell if Anders and team are timing their push optimally.  It seems like a lot of teams are targeting more the 22nd-26th for a summit, so they are a day ahead of a bunch of other people.  However, we heard there were high (60+mph) winds up on the summit later in the morning on Friday (yesterday).  We heard that a number of folks had to turn around before the Balcony--probably missing their chance.  There were also reports of frostbite.

However the most recent weather reports seem to indicate that winds will pick up on the 22nd so maybe, (we need to stress maybe) the 21st will be a nice window when the team will have a good shot.

At this point we are for the most part putting our lives on hold and waiting for further news--we'll update when we get it.

Climb strong and safe, Anders!


Friday, May 19, 2017

Locked and loaded, sleeping at Camp 3

We don't have a lot of info but we know Anders, Geoff, John and Brent did successfully transit up to Camp 3 on the 19th (Nepal time).  Andrew, the Base Camp manager for Madison, confirmed this and we had a very brief exchange with Anders via sat phone as well.  It was too short to get any of the details and frankly, given that Camp 3 is cut into the side of a 50 degree slope, we prefer that he stays inside the tent and focus on the task at hand.

I imagine they used O2 and that the trip took them about 3 hours or so.  But I can't confirm either.  I do know that Anders is now sleeping higher (24,000 feet) then he ever has before (the O2 will help) and this is his high altitude record as well (he was also at Camp 3 for about 20 minutes during his 2nd rotation).

Here is a depiction of the route up the Lhotse Face.  They are likely somewhere between the lower and upper camp 3 locations indicated on this picture.  Tomorrow, the plan would be to progress up to the South Col, where Camp 4 is located, rest there for a half-day or so and then go for the summit:


Up above, we know some climbers did successfully summit Lhotse on the 19th and that at least some folks who tried to summit Everest yesterday, had to turn around due to high winds.  How this will impact Anders and indeed what the weather will look like over the next couple of days are of course big and potentially important unknowns.

The forecasts I have access to continue to look good for the next few days:


We'll post any further news when we receive it.

All good!  Onward and Upward!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

On track--resting at Camp 2!

We heard from Anders this morning, at what was about dinner time in Nepal on Thursday 5/18.

They had a successful trip once again through the Ice Fall (7th transit).  They left at 2:15am local time and it took them just 5 hours or so to make it through the Ice Fall--which is very fast.  Anders said they had ideal weather.  Further, he said the Ice Fall had changed quite a bit from the last time they went through it.  It seemed more stable and avoided one area of potential rock fall--he pronounced it as "much safer and more stable" now.

When they advanced up into the Western Cwm, he said they ran into quite a bit more crowding and borderline, unbearable heat (from the reflected sun).  Anders said it felt like it was above 100 degrees and they had to wait a bit in a bunch of sections.  Anders does not do particularly well in the heat (a Christofferson trait) but they stayed on it and arrived at Camp 2 without incident, a little after 10--Base Camp to Camp 2 in 8 hours, which is their fastest trip so far and speaks to their team's fitness and acclimatization.

Anders spent the next 6 hours focused on resting and hydration and was in good shape and spirits when Judy talked to him this morning, our time.  The immediate plan was to get some dinner.  Tomorrow, they plan to wait until a bit later in the day and then head up to C3--hoping to by-pass any crowding on the Lhotse Face.  Anders says that they can see a lot of folks up at Camp 3 (we believe a large Chinese team is there).  He says there are still quite a few folks back at Base Camp and further that the majority of teams who reached C2 today would probably take a rest day tomorrow at C2.  with their plan, they hope to be in between two larger groups--hopefully this will play our for them, but many factors could impact that plan, the weather being at the top of the list--so we'll see.

As far as the weather goes, Anders reported calm winds at C2 but they could see wind up closer to the summit of Lhotse, which is consistent with the recent forecasts.  How this effects teams currently at C3/C4 is hard to predict--but it could delay them.

In any event, they are still on track to reach C3 tomorrow, the 19th (should be early on the 19th on the East Coast).  Move to C4 at the South Col on their 20th (probably late the 19th and early the 20th over here) and then go for the Summit at some point late on the 20th/early on the 21st.  They'd currently like to be on the Summit, early on the morning of the 21st (late the 20th our time).

More news as we hear it....

All good for now!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

it's on!

We talked to Anders just before his dinner on Wednesday night in Nepal and learned that he and his team are departing for the summit early tomorrow.  Their target for a summit attempt is in the 21st-23rd time period, depending on how the weather develops between now and then.   Tomorrow, the plan will be to progress up through the Ice Fall all the way up to Camp 2.  Here's the latest forecast:

 
The numbers in the circles are wind speed (mph).  Red numbers are snowfall in inches.  Negative numbers in the pink are hi/low temps in F.  Bottom numbers are wind chill forecasts....



We'll of course be updating as events unfold.

Onward and upward!

Monday, May 15, 2017

South side has first summits

Some very good news out of Nepal.  Asian Trekking announced that 14 people reached the Summit of Everest at 1:15pm local after fixing lines from the Balcony all the way to the summit.  It looks like 11 of the 14 where Sherpas and I'm guessing the others were affiliated with Asian atrekking in some way.

In any event, a key bottleneck has been removed and the prepared climbing teams just need a weather window to take their shot.  We obviously don't have access to the forecasting resources the Everest teams do, but web based forecasts look pretty favorable, especially early next week.

Anders is waiting at EBC for his teammates to return from Pangboche, which should be tomorrow.  I'm not sure what their plans will be but one scenario would have them leave around the 18th for a 21st/22nd summit attempt.  I'm just speculating here, as I'm sure there is plenty of discussion among the team leaders on how to best manage a lot of climbers who've been waiting for a window.

More as we hear more!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Light at the end of the tunnel?

The waiting game continues for Anders at Base Camp and the rest of his team down in Pangboche.

Two pieces of good news: 1. we've heard that the line fixing sherpas are up at the South Col and presumably with descent weather over the next two days, they'll have a good shot at getting lines fixed to the summit. There does seem to be some optimism that s short window will open up, hopefully enough to get the lines to the summit.  2. It looks like a decent window might open up a week or so from now.  Here is a snapshot of that window:


Anders sent along a couple of pics.  First, he climbed up to Pumori's Base Camp yesterday--this is above 19,000 feet and he did the climb from Base Camp in two hours door-to-door (this is very fast). In this picture, you can see Base Camp some 1,500 feet below:


 Here is pic from the same place he took back when I hiked with him.  The black triangle of Everest proper is peaking over the West shoulder on the left.  The upper part of Lhotse, and it's big Face is dead center--you can see the South Col between Lhotse and Everest.  Nuptse on the right in the foreground:


Finally a picture of a bit of a traffic jam from their last passage through the Ice Fall.  Crowds and how to avoid them will be a major challenge with the late window--more on that later:



Saturday, May 13, 2017

Waiting game....

The next viable summit window on the South side appears to be at least a week out....the 22nd is showing promise.

There is also some hope that a small window may exist in the15-17th time frame when potentially the final ropes from the Balcony to the summit might get put in.

Brent, Geoff, and John elected hike the 6 or so hours, and 5,000 vertical down to Pangboche, to see if it helps their respiratory niggles.  Anders has elected to stay at Base Camp, as his cold seems ok and he didn't want the risk of being exposed to new germs down below.

Anders is of course spending a lot of time hanging in his tent, surfing the net, playing hearts, watching Homeland, reading and basically waiting for his shot at the summit.  He said he might take a "hike" up to Pumori Base Camp for a little exercise.  Having climbed there a couple of times, I can tell you it's anything but little, and the rock scramble is no walk in the park, but given Anders' fitness and acclimatization I'm sure he will make short work of it.

It's hard to wait.  And wait.  And wait, but Anders knows the drill and is patient and focused on taking his shot if and when it comes.  Hopefully, he'll be on his way back to the summit before the week is out....


Friday, May 12, 2017

Weather news discouraging

The weather gods are not really cooperating on the South side of Everest.  There was some hope of potentially trying to summit around the 16th/17th but the latest forecast shows the jet stream oscillating back to the South and encompassing Everest again--which means very high winds and no chance to summit while its there.  At this point this looks to be the case out until at least 5/20.  So at this point, if South side summits are going to happen, it will be in the later part of May.

Anders and team are of-course disappointed, especially since it seemed like there was a good window to climb over the last couple of days.  However, for whatever reason, the Sherpas weren't able to get the lines fixed to the summit, so no one could take advantage of that window.

The guys are now assessing what the best course of action going forward will be.  I'm hopeful they take a helicopter down to Namche and recharge for a few days at a lower altitude.  In any event, the game is to wait patiently now and hope a window opens up.  Its tough work, but if I know one thing for sure, Anders is well prepared for this and comfortable doing so--this is not his first big mountain rodeo.

We'll update when we hear more definitive news...Anders may send us some pics from Nepal in the interim....

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Latest pictures from Anders!

Anders sent us from pictures from Rotation 3 and from EBC:

I'm not sure exactly where this one is from, but my guess is it's up near the base of Lhotse Face (which would be behind us in this picture) looking down towards where EBC is.  If so, that's Nuptse on the left and Everest (west shoulder) on the right:


I'm guessing this is a snowy Camp 2:


This is a look over Brent's shoulder down to Camp 1.  Pumori stands prominently to the left:


More of Camp 1, with a cloud bank hanging over the Upper Ice Fall:


Our four heroes heading down after learning the summit push would have to wait:


Having to navigate the Ice Fall after dusk was an extra challenge for them:


Back at Base Camp in the Long Tent (Brent, Geoff and John):


Anders sharing a little bit of "tent life" at EBC:



Anders shared with us a bit of the plan going forward.  We'll update on that in the near future....