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.