Saturday, May 29, 2010

Back in Kathmandu

Hi friends! I have returned to Kathmandu. Wow! What a difference a day makes. I went to my favorite hotel last night and enjoyed a proper bed for the first time in 2 months. I also went and had 3 dinners at 3 different restaurants - all within 2 hours. I have lost about 25 pounds. I know weigh close to what I did in high school. Oh well. I will put the weight back on real quick. Plus, when I return, I start back up in Combat Calisthenics with all of my friends.
I will still offer a few different summit perspectives in the next few days. Thank you for your kind thoughts and prayers. I miss you all and can't wait to see you.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Packing up Base Camp

This is Diana again. The team spent the day packing up Base Camp, which includes the computers, modems and phones. They will leave in the morning to spend 3 days hiking 40 miles to Lukla where they will catch a flight back to Kathmandu. It has been snowing for the past several days. They will need clear weather to fly out of Lukla. If you were following the blog when Ben talked about flying into the Lukla airstrip, you will understand why prayers would be helpful for clear weather. When Ben returns to Kathmandu, he will post another blog. And then he will be on his way home!!!! Thank you all again for following along and for your prayers.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Everest summit photos

May 23, 2010 @ 8:15 a.m.
More detailed report to come. Thank you for your prayers.

Monday, May 24, 2010


Ben stood on top of the world May 23rd at 8:15 am. He is back at Camp 2, safe and completely healthy. His dream of climbing Mt. Everest has come true!! May God get all the glory!

Please continue to pray for the health and safety of the team as they all climb down the mountain to return home to their families safely.

Ben will post an update tomorrow with pictures from the top of the world!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

No News is Good News

This is Diana posting an update since I know there are many anxious to hear something! Anything! On Ben’s May 16ht blog post, he said he was not planning to have the ability to call home until he climbed down from Camp 4 to Camp 2 on the 24th. He will wake up in a few hours and it will be the 24th, but I don't expect him to be able to call me until tomorrow morning (MST) when he reaches Camp 2.

I have been anxious since last night because the team website said that they would take the phone to the summit and call if the weather permitted and batteries lasted. I didn't expect Ben to be able to call me, but rather the team organizer to call his home so that the team website could be updated. Those plans must not have worked out because their website has not been updated. If I received a call this afternoon, I would be concerned since Ben should be sleeping due to the time difference – not to mention the exhaustion he must be feeling.

Ben’s good climbing friend, Gavin, has been in contact with me letting me know about all the good signs. All other team websites are reporting that yesterday was a beautiful day to summit with low winds. Bad news travels fast and no one is reporting anything about rescues or incidents on the mountain. There were a lot of people planning to summit this weekend, I am choosing to believe Ben was one of them.

I hope this sets you at ease for a few more hours until Ben is able to call home. Thanks again for all your prayers! We have the greatest friends & family.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Quick Update from Camp 3

Ben surprised us with a call again this morning. The team has arrived at Camp 3 and the winds are low. When at Camp 2 I could hear the winds outside his tent. Today everything sounded calm. He sounded strong and excited. They will leave for Camp 4 tomorrow morning at 7 or 8 Everest time - about the same time we are in the midst of tonights evening activities (MST). Then they will stick to the plan and leave Camp 4 around 9 pm the following day (9 am MST, Saturday morning). YIPEE!

The important prayer concerns at this time of the trip are for strength, focus, mental health, and of course physical health. I will also be praying that they do not get stuck in any bottlenecks and are able to keep moving on the mountain and in order to stay warm.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

And he is off!!!

This is Diana again with today’s update. This morning’s call from Ben is probably the last one for several days. The team has finished their rest at Camp 2 and will leave for Camp 3 tomorrow morning. The cyclone has not impacted the weather on Everest and the weather continues to be consistent with the forecasts they have been following. They will be able to stick to the schedule Ben posted a few days ago. They have heard of many other teams making summit attempts the on the 21st and 22nd so they are planning their summit push for 1 day later to avoid the crowds and bottlenecks, which can be very dangerous. Ben sounds strong. Although, between the conversations of a chatty two-year old, Ben did mention something about his back which was a concern before he left for this trip. Once again, thank you all for your prayers. The next update will hopefully be good news of Ben’s summit and safe return down the mountain.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Safe & Sound at Camp 2. However?

This is Diana, posting an update for Ben. He has arrived at Camp 2 safely where the team will rest for a few days. How long will be determined by the weather, once again. There is a cyclone in the Bay of Bengal that may hit Mt. Everest or change the weather on the mountain. The team has the computer and modem at Camp 2 for the purpose of checking the weather updates. Your prayers are greatly appreciated.

Finally, Ben would like to wish his nephew, Joey, a very Happy 13th Birthday!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Summit push is on!


Wow! After 21 days of waiting at E.B.C. and 14 years of constant dreaming, it is now time for me to begin my summit attempt of Mount Everest. I am so excited, thrilled, anxious, scared and more. I take comfort in my favorite Bible verse of all time: Philippians 4:13. The verse states, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” For me, this 8 day endeavor to stand on the roof of the world and return safely will be the most physically demanding thing I have ever done. When the word ‘strength’ is mentioned, it is not only physical strength that will be required of me to stand on top of Mount Everest. Mental strength will also be paramount. The mental strength to keep pushing even though I will be exhausted. The mental strength to constantly reassure myself that I really do have what it takes to summit and that I truly have earned the privilege to climb Mount Everest. Perhaps, most importantly, the mental strength and clarity of thought to determine whether or not to continue up or turn around and be able to climb another day. I do not know, and I often ponder what I will face while high on the slopes of Mount Everest. Unsafe weather conditions, extreme cold, snow/avalanche conditions, the frozen corpses of past climbers, and a host of other factors will weigh heavily on my mind as I travel heavenward. As I have stated many times in the past, climbing safely and returning home to my family is much more important than any accolades I might receive from a summit of Everest.

Here is my anticipated climbing schedule for the next 8 days.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010 – leave E.B.C. at 5:00 a.m. and climb directly to Camp 2.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010 – Rest day at Camp 2.

Thursday, May 20, 2010- Rest day at Camp 2.

Friday, May 21, 2010- Climb from Camp 2 to Camp 3.

Saturday, May 22, 2010 – Climb from Camp 3 to Camp 4 arriving no later than 1:00 p.m.

Saturday, May 22, 2010 – leave Camp 4 at 9:00 p.m. for the rooftop of the world.

Sunday, May 23, 2010 – God willing, I will summit Mount Everest around 7:00 a.m. and return to Camp 4.

Monday, May 24, 2010 – Climb down from Camp 4 to Camp 2. Call home, update blog.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010 – Climb down from Camp 2 to E.B.C. Call home, update blog.

For those who are interested, the time difference between Denver, Colorado and Mount Everest is 11hrs 45min, with Denver being behind. This may help in determining where I am on the mountain in real time. If possible, I will call my wife and she will update this blog as information becomes available so please check in daily.

I am humbly amazed that I have so many people all across the world praying specifically for the team and I. Thank you! May God richly bless your life as He has mine.

Summits of Everest. At what cost?

I sit here at E.B.C. typing away on the computer knowing that right now, at this very moment, there are many people either standing on the summit of Mount Everest or are closing in on the final, few, hard won meters. I salute their courage and tenacity. However, the summit is only halfway. What good is standing on top if you can’t make it down? From the several radio transmissions we have heard a few of these people have been climbing toward the summit for more than 12 hours. They have been climbing through wind gusts in excess of 50 m.p.h. Their oxygen supply must be getting dangerously low. Their chance of severe frostbite is almost certain. Of course the latter observations are pure conjecture. Either way the conditions that these climbers are enduring are outside of our team’s realm of safety. I understand the possibility of trying for the summit if there was no acceptable weather window in sight. I understand trying if your remaining days on the mountain were limited. From what our team can determine a very suitable weather window is developing in just a week’s time. The winds are forecasted to diminish to a more suitable level, the chance of precipitation is dwindling, and the summit temperatures are expected to rise to a very balmy –13F. I do not know what leads one climber to accept certain conditions and another climber to whole-heartedly disagree and reject them as unsafe. I do know that we all have the same goal in mind and that is to stand on top of the world and return home safely. And safety is what I am hoping for for these few brave souls who are presently enduring extreme conditions. No mountain in the world is worth a person’s life. No mountain is worth not returning home to the loving arms of family and friends. For now we will continue to analyze the data presented to us in the hope that we will soon receive our chance of scaling the upper reaches of Mount Everest.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

C.S.I. Everest?

Photo 1 – Taken from Camp 1 on Pumori – Ama Dablam in background.

Photo 2 – Taken from Camp 1 on Pumori – North & South side of Everest, West Shoulder of Everest, Lhotse, Nuptse.

Photo 3 – Why do yaks always stare at me? (Steph, still staring. It never ends.)

A good friend of mine and fellow climber (2x Everest summit), Tunc Findik of Ankara, Turkey gave me the following advice when preparing for this Everest climb. “Stay out of the base camp drama. Keep your mind clear and stay focused on your own climb.” I figured that should be an easy thing to do but never imagined the amount of drama that would actually occur.

Death on Everest is a fact. It is a huge risk that both my wife and I considered when preparing for this climb. However, in life, I believe there are certain risks that cannot be avoided but can be managed. Yes, accidents do happen. Nonetheless, human error is a big part of most deaths on Everest. These errors and subsequent deaths on Everest can be managed by proper education on current conditions for the chosen mountain, safe climbing practices, proper attitude and mental outlook, and more. So far there have been 3 climbing related deaths on Everest this season. This is tragic but it is not unexpected. What has been unexpected is that even with the cool weather on Everest the Khumbu Glacier is melting out at an alarming rate. Along with the melting, the glacier reveals events of the past. This now leads to the drama. In the last week there has been 4 bodies melt out of the glacier and several more are expected because of the knowledge and location of past climbing accidents. After some investigation it has been determined that a few bodies are as recent as 2006 and a few others may be older than 15 years. This sobering reminder of what we as climbers are undertaking suggests a moment for pause and reflection.

Currently, other drama on Everest is a race to be the first Finnish woman to summit Everest. One of these Finnish women is on our team. I believe that climbing should not be about who is first and who is not. What does it really matter? Can anyone name the first American woman to summit Mount Everest? Probably not. Simply climbing at this level is an achievement in its own right, personal accolades aside. The drama in this situation is that the weather up high is terrible and not conducive for a safe climb. However, both women in an attempt to be the first have started their summit push. Right now they are both climbing through very strong wind and subsequent extreme cold. This has led to some multi-hour intensive radio communication on the upper mountain. Down here in the relative comfort of base camp it is hard to imagine that some of the events of the next couple of days will not end in bodily harm. Along with these 2 ladies there are several other teams pushing for the summit. I am concerned because the weather forecast is not supportive of a safe summit push. I do wish everyone absolute safety and personal success.

There is more drama on Everest but I will spare everyone the details. For now I am trying to maintain a positive attitude and keep a clear mind. Today is rest day #18 at E.B.C. There seems to be a weather window developing for a summit attempt somewhere around May 23 – 27. I am focused and determined to give the summit my best shot. However, everything I do here on Mount Everest is encompassed by the thoughts, concerns, and actions of safety. I appreciate your continued prayers for the team and I. As well, please remember my wife and son in your prayers. They have been 100% supportive of my efforts and deserve all my respect.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Weather rules on Everest!

The weather on this mountain sucks. I am getting really frustrated by the continued poor weather and we are running out of time. We have been pinned down by extreme wind here at E.B.C. for 3 days. It is also still very cold here. By May of each year we should be able to walk around base camp in just a fleece long sleeve shirt and pants. However, we are still bundled up in our down jackets and heavy clothing. The conditions on the upper mountain are even worse. We have had 4 tents (mine included) damaged (broken poles) by the wind here at base camp, several more at Camp 2 as well as Camp 3. Our Camp 4 supplies are hopefully safe but no one knows because we have been unable to climb up and see.

The weather forecast is not any better. Actually, the 2 main weather forecasting services are in complete agreement, which is rare. Extreme wind conditions are forecasted on the upper reaches of Everest until May 21st at the earliest. This can change but I am beginning to lose confidence. I have now been at E.B.C. waiting for the weather to improve for 16 days.

There is a small weather window developing for the 22nd – 25th. We are not sure but maybe that is when the jet stream will move off of Everest. We need at least 4 consecutive days of descent weather and manageable wind conditions to approach the summit and descend safely. The entire summit push will take 7 days but we can ascend/descend the lower mountain in less than ideal conditions.

All said and done the weather is out of our control. We just have to deal with what is given to us and stay safe. Thanks for following along. Hopefully, some good news to report in the coming days.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Still waiting...

Photo 1 – Another nice view of our 2 Mountain Hardwear dome tents at night. In the background is Pumori (23,357’) and a few Buddhist prayer flags blowing in the breeze.

Photo 2 – I attempted to climb this peak, Ama Dablam (22,551’), in 2006. We were constantly pounded by heavy snowfall and the potential avalanche conditions were too high for a safe climb. I retreated happy, confident, and safe, knowing I could attempt this peak again some other time. As you can tell, the mountain is still there and I am still safe.

Patiently waiting is the name of the game here at EBC. The jet stream is still hovering over the mountain and the winds are high. I am trying to stay occupied by going on small hikes. Even in this beautiful setting I am getting bored. I have now been at EBC, resting, for 14 days. Imagine, in the real world, sitting down and doing nothing for 2 weeks! Hard for me to imagine. Honestly, according to the weather forecast, we may be here another 10 days before attempting the summit. Ugghh! As always, your prayers are coveted and much appreciated.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Maoists call for end to strike.

Photo 1- The much heralded picture of me doing laundry.

Photo 2 – After the clouds have cleared the view down valley from my tent at EBC.

Photo 3 – Pumori (23,357’) peeking through the clouds.

I have now been at EBC or higher for 1 month and I want to thank everyone for their continued prayers for the team and I. “The prayers of a righteous man (woman, people) availeth much.” The good news is we just heard that the Maoists have actually called off their own strike. This will immediately help the people of Nepal return to a “normal” life. Food can begin to flow back into the capital, people can return to work and earn money for their families, and a plethora of other things that most of us take for granted. As for us at EBC the Maoists have left and are no longer a threat. This news coupled with a second day of sunshine has brought a renewed hope that our summit attempt can begin shortly.

So what does the jet stream say about this? Hold on, not so fast! The jet stream is still blowing at over 80 M.P.H. on the summit. These strong winds are expected to continue until at least the 16th. Although, this can change very quickly. I still remain patient that the weather will improve and soon I will drink the cold, thin, crisp air of 29,035’ A.S.L.

I want to also send out a special thank you to all of the moms out there. Happy Mother’s Day! I hope your special day is fun and relaxing. To the #1 mom out there, my wife, Diana. Alexander is blessed to have you as his mom and I am blessed to call you my wife. A special thank you to my mom, Cheryl. Your steadfastness and perseverance is amazing. Last but not least I thank Ruth, Diana’s mom. You’ve set a tremendous example of what a mom truly is. Happy Mother’s Day!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Bad weather, Everest summits, & Maoists

Today is day 5 of our little Mount Everest snowstorm. As you can see by the pictures it is gray, cloudy, cold, and snowy. We haven’t had much accumulation of snow, just a light and steady downfall. For 5 days! Mainly, it has just been completely void of sunlight and that is the discouraging part for me. However, I am reminded of a verse in the Bible: “This is the day that the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it.” In deed the Lord has made this gray, snowy day so why not be glad? It definitely makes for a much more enjoyable day. So my days have been filled with snowball fights, rock tipping (very fun), and reading.

I believe there is always good news around if you are just willing to look for it. Yesterday, 6 rope fixing Sherpas stood on top of Mount Everest. This was the last crucial step before we can mount a safe and successful summit assault. Our safety ropes and lifelines are now installed from the bottom to the top of Mount Everest. You may be wondering how they made it up there with all of this terrible weather? I do too. Although, this awesome feat of strength is not unheard of. It happens every year. First off, our weather forecast did predict a 2 day window of relatively low wind speed (30-50 m.p.h) and warm summit temperatures (-30 F). This has allowed the Sherpas to sneak up there and back down quickly. The jet stream usually moves off of Mount Everest for a 2 to 3 day period at the beginning of May every year. This is just enough of a safety window for the mighty Sherpas, but not enough for us regular folk. The jet stream is now firmly parked back on top of Mount Everest and the summit winds are now over 120 m.p.h. as predicted by our weather forecasts. So, as I now sit out day 10 of my rest period before the summit attempt, I continue to be patient. For those who know me well, patience is a struggle of mine. However, I am open and willing to learn and be refined more into our Maker’s image.

Quick prayer request, as you may have heard on the nightly World News, Kathmandu is under a “bandh” or stike and complete lock down. The Maoists have completely shut down the city and no one is allowed on the streets. They may make an exception for emergency services. However, the word is that the Maoists are now at base camp and are asking for “donations”. This is not voluntary and must be complied with or else trouble will ensue. The team is safe and from harm, for now. Google “Maoist” for more information. Please pray diligently.

Thanks a million for your continued prayers and kind thoughts. Is that the sun trying to poke through? I hope so.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

You guess the summit date contest!

I am surprised at how many people are actually following my blog. I really enjoy reading all of the comments that are posted and the many words of encouragement. Therefore, I thought I would show my appreciation by holding a little contest. The contest is to see who can correctly guess my upcoming summit date AND time. For example, May 4, 2010 @ 8:45 a.m. The contest will end on May 10th. I will not say what the prize will be just yet because it will be determined by who wins it. Although, believe me, it will be amazing.

Now, I do not want to be so presumptuous, arrogant, or proud as to assume that I will definitely stand on the summit of Mount Everest. There are many things that still need to line up for that to happen. If I do not make the summit then I will use the guess that most closely estimates the time and date of my turn around.

And now for a bit of help in estimating the summit date. It will not be before May 10th because of the current position of the jet stream. It will be no later than May 27th because the Khumbu Icefall will become too dangerous and completely impassable. I will leave for the summit at 9:00 p.m. the previous evening hoping to summit early in the morning of the next day. I will only have 16 hours of supplemental oxygen with me (2 bottles at 2 L.P.M.) to go to the summit and return to my high camp. Once there I will have more supplemental oxygen. That should be enough to keep you guessing.

There can only one guess per person. Please tell your friends and let’s see who gets the closest.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Questions & Answers

Photo 1 – Our 2 luxurious Mountain Hardwear Space Station Dome Tents at night. The one on the right is our communication dome where we have 7 computers, 3 Thuraya DSL modems, 23 radios for communication on the mountain and a lot more. The dome on the left is where we eat and eat and eat.

Photo 2 – Partial camp view at night. I hope these photos turn out. Before I compressed them they were absolutely fantastic.

To your great dismay I will not be attaching a photo of me doing laundry. Late in the evening of May 1st, there was a snowstorm here at base camp and we received about 12” of snow and it has just stopped snowing. Therefore, my laundry duties have been postponed. Why won’t anyone hang out with me?

However, for those of you who post comments to my dispatches, thank you. I really enjoy them. Some of you have asked questions and I will use this update to answer those questions.

Stephy-lu-lu – Jerry’s vegetarian comment was a huge hit. I broke out that little gem when we first discussed climbing the Lhotse Face and apparent ice fall dangers.

I have not seen any marmots here but they can definitely be heard at all hours! Crazy how those little fellas hide so no one can see them. The look on people’s face is priceless.

The yaks still stare at me ominously. I had quite the stare down contest a few weeks back. I did take another picture of the offender in your honor.

Our group Sherpas are just that – group Sherpas. We have a total of 8 group Sherpas and 2 personal Sherpas for the 2 members who require them. While on the mountain we are expected to be self-sufficient. Therefore, I usually climb alone. However, I am always roped in and within earshot of other team members.

I have sung How Great Thou Art to myself from the beginning of this trip. It is hard to imagine any other place where God’s great handi-work is more properly on display. For the sake of other people’s hearing, I keep the singing to a minimum.

Congratulations to you and the other R.O.M. instructors on a safe spring climbing school. I am so happy to hear of the great turnout. I look forward to meeting the students this summer during Wednesday night rock climbing.

Josie – I corresponded, via email, with Brandon and Christine Chalk before the climb. We were meant to do some training climbs together but never had the chance with our conflicting schedules.

I have heard of and met Eric Weihenmeyer. Actually my good climbing buddy was heavily involved in Eric’s Everest attempt and Eric’s Everest North Side climb to benefit blind Tibetan teenagers. I am glad Eric is following along.

Tell Randy there is no way my vending machine is empty. I have a top vending machine re-fill person looking after my affairs. Thanks a million BHH.

Marcus – I did not make it very far up Everest on my last attempt, from the North or Tibetan side. Really, I only made it to the first camp, very low on the mountain. It was on my approach to Everest Base Camp, while crossing the Tibetan Plateau that I found out my wife was pregnant with our son, Alexander. I knew the proper thing to do was to come home and leave Everest for another attempt at a later time.

Our summit attempt will be sometime in May. Sorry to be so vague but we are now totally dependent upon the jet stream. Ideally we would like to attempt the summit as soon as possible. However, “His Ways are not Our Ways.” Therefore, we will wait and be patient. If it happens it happens. If not, the mountain will always be here should I be blessed enough for another attempt. Although, not likely.

Kimmy Squeeze – Thanks for the matcha shot. I received it in no time at all. BTW I will be stopping by your place of employment on my way home. I’m jonesing for a Gulf Stream.

Doug – Congratulations on your own Everest – a new Harley Davidson. Ride safe and responsibly. Don’t take the corners on Lookout Mountain to fast anymore.

B double D – I enjoyed your comment. Thank you for the Scripture verses. However, the altitude is playing tricks on my memory. Who are you? Damron?

Biggin’ – Do I know what I am doing? Absolutely not! I need to be sent back to Justin for re-training.

Anonymous – I do not have any contact with the 13 year old on Everest. He is on the North side and I am on the South. Nepal, or the South side, hold the record for the youngest person to summit Mount Everest – 16 years old. Therefore, the Nepalese will no longer allow anyone younger than 17 to attempt Everest from their side.

Please fill in your name when posting comments. I like to know who sent them.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Help! I need oxygen.

Photo 1 – Group shot at Pumori Advanced Base Camp.

Photo 2 – Yours truly at Pumori Advanced Base Camp. Everest is the dark pyramid in the back left side. Nuptse is on the right. Everest Basecamp down below.
Photo 3 – Me trying on the Poisk oxygen mask and the 4 liter (960 liters compressed) oxygen bottle I will use on the summit push. At a 2 liter per minute flow rate (while climbing), one bottle will last for 8 hours. I will have a total of 5 oxygen bottles for my personal use. I will sleep on a ½ liter per minute flow rate. Therefore, one bottle will last for 32 hours. As you can calculate, I have a considerable safety margin built in with my oxygen system.
Another 2 glorious days have passed and I have tried to fill them with fun, time consuming things. Things such as – drinking tea, eating, sudoku, reading books, calling home, walking to and from my tent, making squeaking noises and then hiding from the unsuspecting, small hikes, and laundry. Oh yes. These are the days in which you do not hear about when told of exciting Himalayan adventures. However, these days are necessary. Each day my strength is returning little by little and my appetite is getting bigger (hard to imagine). I am able to mentally focus and, further, keep my mind focused on the looming objective.

The jet stream is still parked over Everest at the moment and the team continues to exercise patience. Our entire expedition is focused upon safety first. No need to be a hero. Our wonderful team of Sherpas carried 20 bottles of oxygen and some tents to our high camp on the South Col (26,000’) today. One more load up to the Col and we are 100% staged for the summit push. The Sherpas will then return to base camp and rest up for the magic day. Our weather forecasts continue to be a bit mixed at the moment. Although, Phil, with all of his Himalayan experience, assures us that positive things are happening concerning the jet stream. It is his job to interpret the weather graphs, charts, and satellite imagery we receive twice daily from our trusty weather source. Therefore, we can see a few more days resting at base camp before the final push. Patiently we will wait and go when we feel the time is right, not when other teams may decide to go and push the limits of safety. It does happen.

Again, thank you so much for keeping my family and I in your prayers. We greatly appreciate it. Please stay tuned as the next, exciting, thrilling, awe-inspiring dispatch will include a photo of me doing laundry.