Wednesday, April 28, 2010

So many rest days...

Photo 1 – Me in our luxurious shower tent.

Photo 2 – Our very helpful Sherpas lending a hand in re-pitching a tent.

Today begins my third rest day at Everest Basecamp. From the current weather forecast it looks like another week or so before we will begin our assault upon the summit. The forecast calls for little precipitation up high but the wind is still too strong to safely climb in. This waiting period is completely expected and is not without good news. The route to the South Col at 26,000’ was opened yesterday. This is fantastic because the South Col is where we will have our high camp and is our final launching ground for the summit. I am pleased to confess that our climbing team has the best Sherpas on the mountain. Without their help we would be unable to climb Mount Everest. We now have 70 bottles of oxygen at Camp 2, enough food and gas, and enough tents for our final battle with the soaring heights of Mount Everest. Tomorrow the Sherpas move up to Camp 2 where they will begin the final two day transport of our supplies to the South Col. Once this feat is accomplished we will be 100% ready for the summit push. This will coincide nicely with the moving of the jet stream.

In the last dispatch I promised a little insight in to a “rest day” here at EBC. “Resting” at 17,500’ is tough. Even though I have been here for 3 weeks and am thoroughly acclimated, I still get out of breath just reaching for something to drink. Or even walking the 50 feet to my tent. Life here can be tough. We do have a few “luxuries” though. Today, for the first time in 10 days, I was able to take a shower. This was more for the team’s benefit than mine! Yesterday’s major event was cleaning the inside of my tent and re-pitching it upon solid ice. Since I am camped upon a glacier coupled with the intense sunrays here at high altitude, my tent platform has begun to melt. It is really interesting at night to be woken up several times with the loud “POP” of the underlying glacier moving, creaking, and splitting open. I love this! Tomorrow’s highlight will be a hike over to a neighboring mountain’s basecamp. I will provide pictures in the next update.

I am 100% committed to successfully finishing this expedition, however, I still long to be in the company of my wonderful family. So, I will now provide you with my top 10 list of things I miss about home. #1 – My beautiful, happy, smiling wife. #2 – tickle fights with my son – I love him so much. #3 – Our extended families. #4 – Our church family. #5 - Red Robin Restaurant. #6 – any bookstore. #7 – Magluba – my favorite Arabic dish. #8 – all of my friends, especially my R.O.M. buddies. #9 - Combat Calisthenics – Hi Sean, Nick, Ronno, Donna, Sharon, Jolene, and Beth. #10 – My job. With much gratitude – Thank you Dave and Lee for allowing me the time away. As well, mindless banter with Bryce and not to forget my P.E.C. neighbor – Kathy B.

Thank you everyone for your continued prayer.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Back from Camp 3 - 23,500'

 Photo 1 – Near vertical ice climbing at 23,000’. Ugggh.

Photo 2 – Yours truly on the Lhotse Face at 23,500’. The prominent bump in the background is the Geneva Spur. The last obstacle before Camp 4 at 26,000’ – my staging ground for the summit attempt. Notice Mount Everest still rising mightily to the left and still being pounded by the jet stream.

Photo 3 – View down the Western Cwm from Camp 3 at 23,500’. Many mountains that have been towering above me for weeks are now at eye level. Notice the “flatish” mountain in the far background. This mountain is Cho Oyu standing at 26,907’. I stood on top of this mountain on September 29, 2005. As you can imagine, I had the opposite view – staring at Mount Everest, Lhotse, and the Western Cwm. I wondered to myself if I would ever have the opportunity to climb there. Mission accomplished. I am so blessed!

The entire team has returned safely from our 5 day trip up the mountain. As planned, we did climb up to the sight of our Camp 3, which will be at 23,500’. Along with this great accomplishment coupled with several more days at Camp 2 we are now sufficiently acclimated and ready to mount an attempt upon the summit. However, the jet stream is not ready for us to try for the summit. The current wind speed on the summit of Mount Everest is 55 m.p.h. Too strong to try and climb up there. So, as of now we are anticipating 10 – 14 days of rest at basecamp before we try for the summit. It very well could be sooner, but we must plan for the longer period of time. Currently, we receive daily weather forecasts for multiple elevations on Mount Everest, including the summit. Once we receive a favorable long term forecast we will stage an attempt upon the summit. So what will occupy our time while waiting for the summit window? Please keep following along. Thank you for your prayers.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Another Call from Camp 2

This is Diana again, with Ben’s update. Ben called again this morning from the safety of Camp 2. He had just returned from Camp 3, where he spent a spent some time. Tomorrow is another rest day at Camp 2 before heading back down to Base Camp. This time I could hear the excitement in his voice for his progress thus far and the anticipation of the summit. He is anxious to return to Base Camp to post a more detailed blog himself, including pictures. Look for this in a few more days.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Safe & Sound at Camp 2

This is Diana with Ben’s update for today. He called this morning on the satellite phone from Camp 2 at 21,000ft. Even in his superb physical condition he said it is exhausting, climbing from Base Camp to Camp 2. He still sounds strong, but I could hear the exhaustion in his voice. The entire team is safe and strong, but all team members were already sleeping (before 7pm Everest time). Tomorrow is a much needed rest day at Camp 2. It is cold there, so they are all bundled in their down suits.

Ben continues to be impressed with Phil as the organizer and the Sherpa team is excellent. They have 40 bottles of oxygen ready for the team.
Ben, Alexander & I all thank you for your prayers. God is answering them.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Moving back up...

So here is the schedule for the next 5 days:

Thursday, April 22, 2010 – Basecamp to Camp 2 @ 21,000’

Friday, April 23, 2010 – Rest at Camp 2

Saturday, April 24, 2010 – Climb to Camp 3 @ 23,900’ – Rest for a few hours and descend to Camp 2

Sunday, April 25, 2010 – Rest at Camp 2

Monday, April 26, 2010 – Descend to Basecamp

This will be my final rotation on Mount Everest before attempting the summit, hopefully sometime in early May. Above Camp 3 I will begin to use supplemental oxygen for the first time. In September of 2005 I climbed to the summit of the world’s sixth highest mountain, Cho Oyu @ 26,907’ without supplemental oxygen and felt fine. However, Mount Everest requires a much higher demand on the body. Although just 2,128’higher, the danger of climbing to the summit of Mount Everest without supplemental oxygen can be fatal. Climbing with supplemental oxygen is extremely safe. The supplemental oxygen will allow me to think more clearly, make better decisions, and feel warmer in my extremities. As I have stated from the beginning – safety first. If at any point I feel unsafe I will turn around pleased and content.

Please pray for safety and wisdom for the entire team. We are all doing really well. Our upcoming summit attempt is dependent entirely upon the jet stream. It must move north of the mountain to allow for safe passage to the summit and back. This happens each year in early to mid May. We have the best resources available providing us with up to the minute weather forecasts for Mount Everest. Theses forecasts will also give us an idea of potential wind speed; another determining factor in our summit attempt. I pray, I hope, I wish, for an early May summit attempt. Overall the weather has been fantastic and hopefully, this will continue. Thank you to everyone who is praying for the team and I. As well, thank you to everyone who leaves a comment. I truly enjoy reading them all.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Back safe fromCamp 2

I have safely returned from my 3 night stay on Mount Everest! On April15th I left basecamp at 5:00 a.m. and climbed through the Khumbu Icefall all the way to Camp 1. Phil and I climb at a similar pace so I never climbed alone. Always safety first! We were the first of our group to arrive at the sight for Camp 1. The views were fantastic. We pitched a few tents at the entrance to the Western Cwm (Welsh word meaning valley) as this was to be our home for the night. I truly felt like I was climbing Mount Everest. Throughout the morning we easily crossed any crevasse we faced and easily scaled every ice cliff. Although, proper thanks must be given to the Icefall Doctors who maintain the route, which is constantly changing with the flow of the Khumbu Glacier. This fact would be recognized on my way down because there was a massive collapse in the Icefall. Thankfully, every climber was safe and accounted for.

Day 2 found me wandering up the Western Cwm all the way to Camp 2 at 21,000’. The view of the Lhotse Face was everything I had imagined, absolutely fantastic. From this vantage point I could just see Everest’s south summit and the famed Hillary Step. I rested for the afternoon and tried to make myself at home and it was home that was on my mind. Even though our food is top notch, nothing compares to my wife’s wonderful cooking and smiling face.

Day 3 was meant to be a rest day so we could further acclimate to the altitude. Camp 2, or Advanced Basecamp is a large area and is actually quite rocky. The constant rock fall from the upper reaches of Mount Everest have thoroughly littered this area. So why camp at this particular spot? Remember we are camped on a glacier that is constantly moving. The actual portion of the glacier that receives the rock fall is safely out of reach. One of the attached pictures is me in my fluffy down suit at Camp 2. Take notice of the rocks at my feet all while on snow and ice. A few of us spent the morning wandering around Camp 2 and tried to breathe in the mountaineering history this sight represents. As soon as the sun dipped behind the beautiful North Face of Nuptse the temperature quickly plummeted to zero degrees and I quickly put on my Mountain Hardwear Absolute Zero down suit. Ahhh, warm again.

Day 4 - This morning was a chilly morning to get out of the sleeping bag and the tent at 21,000’ but I did not want to wait until the sun would hit and warm things up. I had to make my way all the way to basecamp and I wanted to do so before the intense sun prompted the Icefall in to action. So now I sit typing away on the laptop knowing that the entire team has safely descended to basecamp.

A few days of rest and relaxation are on order before we head back up the mountain and try to touch Camp 3. More details on this climbing sortie later. I know that this update may seem to indicate that every step is a dangerous one on Everest. Please remember that for me attaining the summit of Everest is the bonus and not the only reason I came here. I came here to enjoy God’s beautiful creation and to do so as safely as possible. If at any time I feel unsafe or that I am unnecessarily jeopardizing my life I will gladly and willingly retreat. My wife and son are far too important for me to be needlessly reckless. You may wonder, isn’t climbing Mount Everest in the first place needlessly reckless? Well, those thoughts and contemplations are for another time. Thank you all for your continued prayers.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Rest complete! Leaving for Camp 1 and 2.

Today ends our 3 day rest cycle. Tomorrow we will leave basecamp at 5:00a.m. and travel the entire Khumbu Icefall all the way to Camp 1 which is at an elevation of 19,680’. We will stay only 1 night at this camp because it is just a temporary refuge. We will then leave one tent at Camp 1 and some oxygen which will be for emergencies only. The following morning we will then enter the Western Cwm, rope together because of the enormous crevasses, and climb to Camp 2. This camp is also known as Advanced Basecamp (ABC) and is at an elevation of 21,000’. This camp will be our future staging area when preparing for our summit attempt and Camp 1 will be bypassed completely. The plan is to stay at this camp for 2 nights and then return all the way to basecamp for a 5 – 7 day period of rest. Why so long of a period of rest? There are several reasons. Number 1 is that just living at this altitude is extremely arduous, demanding, and tiresome. The body needs this time of rest in order to function “properly” at the higher elevations on Mount Everest. As well, it is extremely difficult to eat sufficiently at altitude so in returning to basecamp we can try and eat enough to replenish what has been lost on the mountain. Number 2 is that we need to wait for the Lhotse Face to be fixed with rope and for Camp 3 to be established at an elevation of 23,900’. I will provide more information on this camp in a later dispatch. Please remember that nobody would be able to climb Mount Everest without the help of Sherpas. There are personal Sherpas and group Sherpas. I will also provide more information on these hardworking people at a later time. Look for more to come as well as some pictures in 3 – 4 days. Thank you for your continued prayers of safety. Also, please keep my lovely wife and awesome son in your prayers as I am away. Thank you.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Today I started climbing Mount Everest! Since I have been at basecamp for 3 days, it is now time to begin acclimating to the higher elevations. A climb of Mount Everest generally takes 4-6 weeks upon arrival at basecamp. The reason for this is that I have to allow the body time to create more red blood cells. These are the body’s cells that carry oxygen. As you can imagine the higher in elevation one goes there is less oxygen to breath. Therefore, to overcome this, I can further my acclimatization by climbing high and sleeping low. So today I ventured onto the lower portions of Everest, at around 18,200’, and have returned to basecamp for 2 days of rest.

The most notorious portion of the climbing route on the South side of Everest is the Khumbu Icefall. This is a two-mile long maze of jumbled ice blocks, crevasses, and seracs as big as a house. These crevasses, sometimes 20 feet wide and 150 feet deep, are overcome by aluminum ladders lashed end to end and then placed horizontal to span the enormous openings in the glacier. The Icefall is the first obstacle that must be overcome if I am to attain the higher reaches of Mount Everest.

The object of today’s little climb was to get to the first couple of ladders and work on the skills necessary to cross these frightening fissures with confidence and speed. The confidence needed to cross these wide gaps is easily understandable but why the speed? The Khumbu Icefall moves downhill at around 3 – 4 feet per day. The crevasses instantly get wider, and the enormous blocks of ice can collapse without warning. Once the sun hits the icefall the glacial movement accelerates. Since I will need to cross through the icefall 6 times in total, I must be fast and efficient. So most of the climbing on this portion of Everest is done at night for obvious reasons.

Please enjoy the pictures taken of me crossing a few of the crevasses in the lower icefall. Again, thank you to everyone who has remembered me in prayer. Words cannot express my gratitude.

In a few days I will venture all the way through the icefall and sleep at Camp 1. This will begin my first of several rotations up the mountain. Hopefully, if all goes well I will also push on to Camp 2 located at approximately 21,500’. I may be out of contact for a few days because carrying the computer, DSL modem and other technology stuff higher on the mountain is just too cumbersome. However, I will be able to call my wife via satellite phone and she can post an update on our progress. Thanks for following along as I attempt to stand on the highest point on Earth.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Safe arrival at Everest Basecamp!

I have safely arrived at Everest Basecamp. How cool is this? I am presently sitting at 17,500’ A.S.L. typing away on our fantastically reliable GD8000 computer. The weather has been absolutely fantastic. Not one cloud in the sky every single day and very warm temperatures. As well, there has been a slight breeze to keep the trekking to basecamp manageable.

Actually, we are one day ahead of schedule. Since the team is all very strong and healthy we decided to skip the last village of Gorak Shep and trek all the way to basecamp. I am positively dumbfounded at the facilities and amenities we have here. I will elaborate more on these luxuries at a later time.

So what is in store for the next couple of days? I need to acclimate to this altitude so the name of the game is rest, rest, and more rest, at least for a couple of days. Tomorrow we will have our puja ceremony. This is another Buddhist ceremony in which a local lama will come to our basecamp. The sherpas have built a chorten or alter and will string out 5 strands of prayer flags. A little rice throwing, some prayers, dancing and drinking will be just enough for the sherpas to feel safe and secure. The following day they will begin carrying loads of gear up the mountain in order to help us build and supply our camps. Of course I will be respectful but will chose to sit this ceremony out. In a few days we will begin to wander into the icefall. This is the most spectacular portion of the Southside route on Mount Everest. We will come back to rest a few more days and then make our first foray all the way through the icefall and sleep at Camp 1.

Since my computer and satellite connection are much more reliable now I will be able to provide updates much more frequently. Thank you to everyone who has kept the team and I in your prayers. A special measure of thanks to those who have prayed specifically for my back. So far, no problems. My back is feeling fine.

Thanks for following along. More to come later. Is that fresh bread I smell?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Heading for Lobuche

Well, our rest day is finished here in Dingboche. Tomorrow we head further up the Khumbu Valley for the even more desolate village of Lobuche - elevation 16,100'. We are all doing well as a team and feeling healthy, therefore, we will go straight to Everest Basecamp on the 8th and skip Gorak Shep. This will be nice as our basecamp facilities are second to no other team on the mountain. I will be able to start sending pictures again from there as our satellite/modem/DSL connections are more reliable.

More coming real soon. Thankyou for your continued prayer and encouragement.

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Voice of Truth?

The last 2 days have been filled with some of the most breathtaking (no pun intended) scenery on the planet. i am now sitting in the tiny, dusty, windswept village of Dingboche - elevation 14,465' - and I ponder not the beauty around me but something even more beautiful.
Nepal and its people are grounded firmly in Buddhism. It is apparent everywhere. A stupa here, a "sacred" mani stone there, countless prayer flags, and the distant hum of a local lama chanting daily prayers surround me constantly. One of the "highlights" of any trek to Everest Basecamp and for the expedition member is a visit to Lama Geshe. He is the reigning holiest of holy Buddhist spiritual advisors, 2nd only to the Dalai Lama. For a small donation you can enter his monastery high in the mountains, bow to him, and receive a blessing of safety for your expedition as he throws rice all over you. Yesterday, around the snack table this visit became our groups topic of conversation. Everyone became so excited with the prospect of receiving this special blessing.
Backtrack 5 minutes. As this conversation began to develope I turned on my I-pod shuffle. For those not familiar, you load your I-pod with hundreds of songs from many different artists. In listening to the music, one option you have is to shuffle the music inventory so that there is a true mix of music. The VERY 1st song that came on was by Casting Crowns - The Voice of Truth. One of the lines of this song is "With all the voices calling out to me, I will choose to listen and believe the Voice of Truth".
With excitement in the air we went around the table and everyone began to give their approval of this "sacred" visit. All eyes turned to me awaiting my response. With Casting Crowns playing in the background and with all the voices calling out to me, I chose to listen and believe the Voice of Truth. In the Bible book of John, the 14th chapter, and 6th verse, Jesus says " I am the Way, the TRUTH, and the Life, no man comes to the Father except through Me.
I believe any and all blessings, past, present, and future come from Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ alone. If I achieve the summit of Mount Everest, I rest assured knowing that that blessing came from above and not from some "blessing" received by a Buddhist holy man.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

First views of Everest!

Today was meant to be a "rest" day. We are camped at 11,200' above sea level and this is the point in elevation where some people begin to feel headaches and nausea. We are a fortunate team as none of our members are suffering from any apparent altitude related issues. For those who know me the act of taking a "rest" day is hard for me to do. Therefore, Margaret, Raphael, Mike and I decided to go on a little acclimatization sortie to 12,800'. We ended up at the Everest View Hotel (loose term) and the views of the mighty Himalaya were amazing. We were treated with our first view of Mount Everest. In the pictures above, Everest is the "smaller" peak in the distance with its trademark cloud plume blowing off to the right. You see, Mount Everest is so high in altitude that it pierces the jet stream. That is why the clouds and moisture are blowing off the top and not off of other mountains you see. Each year around mid-May, as the monsoon season is approaching, the jet stream moves north of Mount Everest and the winds die down. This will allow for safe passage to the summit and back.
Well, tomorrow is Easter and our plan is to move to the tiny village of Deboche. This will be a beautiful trek and will provide a few challenges. Mainly the constant up and down of the trail making for a tiring day. Oh well, it doesn't get any better than this. This may be the last post for a few days. I am not sure yet. Thanks for following along and for all of your prayers. Happy Easter everyone and remember "He is Risen - He is Risen Indeed!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Made it to Namche Bazaar

This place is beautiful! Day 2 of our 9 day journey to Everest Basecamp found us trekking to Namche Bazaar. We covered a total of 13.1 kilometers. I am at 11,200' above sea level and will take a rest day tomorrow in order to acclimate to this elevation. This place sure has changed since the last time I was here (4 yrs). There is now running water, hot showers at select places, and hi-speed (ish) internet access.
After our rest day we will trek to Deboche which will begin to provide us with the most beautiful views imaginable. Another high light will be the Tengboche Monastery.
Thank you for your prayers. Until next time.