Friday, September 25, 2015

Safety First

I received a text from Ben at 10:30 pm MT last night that he was back at Base Camp. Due to unsafe climbing conditions the team returned to Base Camp rather than proceeding to Camp 4. Earlier in the evening, I had read status on other teams also on Manaslu and saw that there had been some avalanches and concerns with Sherpas securing the ropes to Camp 4 due to a lot of snow. So when I received the text from Ben I was relieved to know he was safe.
He was able to call this morning and the kids and I were thrilled to hear his voice. On the phone he told me that the weather was warmer which caused the crevasses to open up. The route to Camp 4 was not clear and not safe.
When we talked the next steps were not yet figured out but it sounds like he was happy with his efforts and we are so proud of him. The fact that safety is always his #1 priority is why I am able to cheer him on and not spend too much time worrying. Thank you all for prayers and support. I expect the next update will be from Ben to sharing about his adventures.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Safe at Camp 3

If I piece all the information together, the team left base camp at 6 am on Wednesday morning, rather than 2:30 am as planned because of rain/snow at base camp. It was safe for them to climb because it was not snowing higher than Camp 1. Ben sent me a text on Wednesday afternoon (Nepal time) to say they had safely made it to Camp 2. He gained 5,250' elevation in a day. He was tired!
They left early Thursday morning (Nepal time) for Camp 3 and I received a text at 2:13 am last night (2 o'clock in the afternoon in Nepal) that he was safe at Camp 3. He said the weather is good, so thank you for everyone who prayed for the weather to clear up. Again he mentioned he was tired and trying to recover. Please continue to pray for strength, and a clear mind. They will be heading to Camp 4 on Friday.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Summit Push

We received a call from Ben this morning that we expect to be the last one for several days. The plan is to leave Base Camp (15,750’) at 2:30 am so they can climb to Camp 2 (21,000’). Because of weather, they are going to skip Camp 1. Ben said there are still some details to be worked out, but each day they will move to the next camp - Camp 2, 3, 4 and then Summit. Over the next few days they will have very little sleep and just enough food for the nourishment they need. Someone on the mountain has given Ben some strong muscle relaxers so his back pain is under control right now. Please be praying for strength, wisdom and safety for the team. He plans to send text messages, so I will update the blog as I receive more news. Thank you again for your prayers!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

More of the same... snow

On Saturday, there was a small break in the weather, so the team climbed to Camp 1. They are expecting a large snow storm on the 21st, so they took down their tents at Camp 1 so they would not collapse with the snow.
I think the activity of climbing to Camp 1 was good for Ben. We are more than half way through this trip, so we are all counting the days until he comes home. But until then, we are praying for Ben's mental strength and ultimately, for his safety.
A fellow climber sent me this picture of Ben from Base Camp. I think he looks pretty dang goooood.
Thanks for the prayers, Diana
photo credit: Sandi Wilson

Thursday, September 17, 2015

More Weather Delays

We expected a call from Ben this morning, but didn't receive one. He sent a text last night that stated that is was snowing again. I am speculating here, but my guess is the weather prevented him from getting a signal to the satellite phone or he walked down to Sama Goen for something to do. He said there is a possibility they will be stuck at base camp another 7 days. He said he is "going stir crazy." Those who know Ben, know he likes to be active, so I know this is really hard for him.
Several other teams on the mountain are still working on the acclimation climbs to Camps 1 & 2. Since Ben's team was able to accomplish this before the bad weather came in, they are ahead, but trying to find things to do. I know the team's main focus is safety so they will continue to wait for the weather to clear and for the mountain to be safe for climbing before making a summit push.
He is enjoying getting to know other people on the mountain. One of those people is Russell Brice, the leader of the expedition that was filmed a few years ago for a series on the Discovery Channel. Nick Cienski who is a director for Under Armour is also climbing Manaslu, with another team. His wife is traveling with him. Ben found out they are Christians and has enjoyed some encouraging fellowship with them.
He did mention in his text that his back was hurting and stretching wasn't helping. Please pray for this. We are doing well at home. Annie told me yesterday she "misses Daddy" and asked if God missed him too. I assured her God did not miss Daddy because God is with Daddy all the time taking care of him so he can come home to us. We are thankful for the prayers.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Successful Camp 1 & 2 Rotation

First, let me say thank you to everyone that is following along and praying. I know my posts aren't as exciting as Ben's, but if they were, the stories would be made up. :) Ben does such a great job of writing so we can picture where he is.
The schedule I posted earlier this week was accelerated. He sent me a text on Thursday from Camp 2 saying there was a storm coming in so they bumped up their plans. In order to beat the storm, they skipped the rest day on Wednesday and climbed to Camp 1 and then on Thursday continued to Camp 2.
Ben called from Base Camp this morning and it was raining when we were talking. They are ready for a summit push, but they will use the next few bad weather days to rest and recuperate at Base Camp. The summit push will be 5 days, round trip. I don't know when that will start because it will be based on the weather but I know Ben is anxious and ready.
Please continue to pray for mental strength over the next few rest days, for wisdom on when to proceed and for favorable conditions on the mountain for the summit push. Thank you, Diana.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Ups and Downs of High Altitude Climbing

We had a quick call from Ben this morning. Everything went well on the overnight trip to Camp 1. Wednesday is another rest day. These are the hardest days for him because of all the idle time. Thursday they will go to Camp 1 and stay overnight, and Friday they will go to Camp 2 and stay overnight. Saturday they will return to Base Camp. It feels like "one step forward, two steps back" to me but this is the way they acclimate. He sounds strong, so we are just praying he will continue to stay strong. Thank you all for your prayers.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Ben's Weekend Plans

Thank everyone for the comments. I am able to make mention of them to Ben when we get a few minutes to chat.
He is feeling strong after the climb to Camp 1 today. Tomorrow they will have a rest day and the following day they will climb to Camp 1 and potentially sleep there. How does that compare to your weekend plans? I promised the kids we would try to go miniature golfing. Not nearly as exciting.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Let the Climbing Begin

Yesterday the team climbed to 17,000 ft, which is about halfway to Camp 1 from Base Camp. Tomorrow they will climb to Camp 1 and return to Base Camp to sleep. For those new to climbing, this is how they acclimate to the altitude -climb high, sleep low.

Ben has been unable to send any pictures for me to include in his posts. It sounds like Ben is enjoying the time with the team. Please continue to pray for safety and good weather. Diana

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Base Camp

We heard from Ben again this morning. He has arrived at Base Camp. He is 12 hours ahead of us in Denver, so he had just had Happy Hour and was getting ready for dinner. Filet Mignon was on the menu for tonight. I love the pictures of the food from previous trips. What those cooks can do at Base Camp is amazing! Based on the schedule he posted earlier, climbing should begin soon. Thanks for your prayers. Diana

Monday, August 31, 2015

Acclimating in Sama Goen

Happy Monday. This is Diana with an update. Ben safely arrived in Sama Goen a few days ago with the team. They will be leaving tomorrow for Base Camp. Everything is going well.
We had an opportunity to video chat with him once while he was in Kathmandu and he has sent daily text messages and called a few times in the past week. It is always good to hear from him.
He will be sending me blog updates, including pictures while he is on the mountain and I will be posting the updates. Please continue to leave comments and I will pass the on. Thank you all for your prayers!


Friday, August 28, 2015

Shake, Rattle and Roll

Photo #1 - Displaced Nepalese temporary shelters
Photo #2 - Part of the Monkey Temple
Photo #3 - Devastation in Durbar Square
Photo #4 - More Durbar Square
Photo #5 - Typical scene around Kathmandu
Photo #6 - Boudhanath Stupa damage

The pain and suffering endured on a daily basis by the victims of this past April's earthquake is tough to see. The simple things of life that are so often taken for granted like a roof over our head, food to eat, clean water to drink and a shirt to wear are distant memories for many of the Nepalese.
Within minutes of taking photo #2 the scaffold surrounding the monument began to shake violently. Yes, even to this day, earthquake after shocks and tremors are a part of reality. While the tremor was mild compared to April's large earthquake, it was apparent what was happening. Kind of crazy to be a part of such an event.
The trails leading to the standard approach of Manaslu base camp are completely gone and landslides have rendered the entire area impassable. This has created some logistical headaches for our expedition, but so far it seems we have been able to put together back-up plans. Tomorrow morning we are scheduled to take a helicopter into Sama Goen. After 3 days there we will journey the final distance to base camp on foot. I may be out of touch for a few days. No news is good news and I covet your prayers. Thank you.  

Thursday, August 27, 2015

And the Nepalese national song is...

...the car/motorcycle horn! I found out today that Kathmandu now proudly boasts over five million motorcycles. Couple that with all of the car and truck traffic, the general absence of sidewalks and all of the people walking around and you have a symphony of many different horn sounds as all the people go in a myriad of directions. I am certain that people honk just because everyone else is and not because they are trying to make their presence known. I specifically make a mental note of my general feelings toward the endless honking. I remember from past trips to Nepal that the first day or two in Kathmandu I am accepting of this sound and even smile inside as I am so glad to be back here. I also remember how at the end of each trip, with a strong desire to get home, how the sounds of all the honking is nothing more than a big nuisance.
My first full day in Kathmandu has been a busy one. I started the day off with breakfast and then walked into Thamel to get a shave. I love getting a straight razor shave in each and every country I visit. I then walked back to my hotel for breakfast number two. I met my first two team mates and we enjoyed swapping climbing stories over a freshly prepared omelette. Jon, whom I remember from Everest in 2010, is back again and is giving Manaslu an attempt. After breakfast I went to Durbar Square to survey some of the harder hit earthquake areas. Wow! What a difference from last time I was here. The historic area has been almost completely leveled. Evidence of the recent earthquake is visible all over Kathmandu. Over 9,000 people died and it is amazing that there was not more casualties.
After walking around some more, having lunch #1, I went back to my hotel for lunch #2. It is extremely exhausting walking around all day! :)
This evening the entire team is to meet and then enjoy a team dinner. All of our climbing gear will make its way to Arugat tomorrow and then on to Manaslu basecamp. We have one more day in Kathmandu and then early on the morning of the 29th we take a helicopter to Sama Goen where we stay for three days to acclimate and then it is onto basecamp.
I promise pictures will be coming soon. I'm off to have dinner #1...

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Safe arrival in Kathmandu!

It is great to be back in Kathmandu! I arrived last night after 3 flights that went smoothly. My luggage also arrived in tact. It is mow early morning and I am super hungry. I will send more of an update as the day progresses. I need to find my team mates first.
Thank you for your prayers. They are appreciated.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Training Complete!

After 10 months of specific, physical effort, I can now say my training for Manaslu is complete. Today I went on a mountain bike ride. I covered 32 (instead of the planned 48) miles in 2 hours flat. Pedestrian by road bike standards, but not bad for a mountain bike.
This evening and tomorrow will be spent finishing up the last minute details required to travel out of the country for 7 weeks. The list is indeed getting smaller and my excitement is growing with every passing minute. Until my next update...Namaste!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Great training run!

I leave for Nepal in just a few days. There are so many things to do and I figured a great way to start the day was to spend some time in the mountains. I drove up to Boulder this morning for an ascent of Bear and South Boulder Peaks. It was so beautiful and peaceful to be the only one on the trail. I figured I would try to go as fast as I can in order to keep the heart rate up. In the end I covered 8 miles, gained 3,425' of elevation in 3 hours flat. Not bad I suppose.
Tomorrow morning I will go on a fantastic 48 mile bike ride and the rest of the day will be spent with my family. I will start packing my bags on Monday and then it's off to the airport super early Tuesday morning.
I ask for your prayers as I embark on this challenge. Prayers for my family's safety as well as mine. I'll provide updates as soon as I get to Kathmandu.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Anticipated Manaslu Itinerary

It is now less than one week until I leave for my attempt to climb Manaslu, the 8th highest mountain in the world. I am so very excited! What an awesome adventure I am about to embark upon. I realize how truly blessed I am to be able to pursue my passion like I do. I do not take a single day for granted.
I have had several people ask me for an expedition itinerary. The dates shown below are a best case scenario. As anyone who has traveled to a third world country knows, rarely do things go entirely to plan. Ahhh the joys of travel! Honestly, I am addicted. I believe God created this beautiful world and I am so  eager to see every square inch.
Tuesday, August 25-27, 2015 – Depart Denver – Chicago – Abu Dhabi – Kathman
Friday, August 28, 2015 – Kathmandu
Saturday, August 29, 2015 – Helicopter flight to Sama Goen (11,565’)
Sunday, August 30-31, 2015 – Rest / Acclimitization in Sama Goen
Tuesday, September 1, 2015 – Hike to basecamp (15,750’)
Wednesday, September 2, 2015 – Rest at basecamp
Thursday, September 3, 2015 – Climbing begins
                          Camp 1 – 18,700’
Camp 2 – 21,000’
Camp 3 – 22,310’
Camp 4 – 24,445’
Summit – 26,775’ 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015 – Climbing ends
Wednesday, October 7, 2015 – Hike from basecamp to Sama Goen
Thursday, October 8, 2015 – Helicopter flight from Sama Goen to Kathmandu
Friday, October 9, 2015 – Leave Kathmandu
Saturday, October 10, 2015 – Return Home

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Happy Anniversary!

Twelve years ago today I became a married man! I not only gained a "wife", I gained a best friend, a help mate and someone who makes me a better person. I love you Diana. Happy Anniversary!

In a little more than 3 weeks I leave for Nepal. Training is going well and I am so excited. I can hardly wait.

Monday, June 22, 2015

A Wife's Perspective

Hi blog readers. It is Diana. Ben has frequently mentioned my support for his climbing in his blog entries, but I thought it might be helpful for those who care about him and our family to hear my thoughts directly.
When Ben & I met, he was a climber. In fact, one of the first emails he sent me before we started dating was after an abandoned attempt at Denali. The conditions that year were unsafe, as he would also find in years to follow. Ben made several trips to Denali before he was able to summit.
I grew up with a dad who was a dreamer. He was the happiest when he was dreaming or pursuing his dreams. My mom is very practical but also a very supportive wife. I am also very practical and try to follow my mom’s example as a supportive wife. Being supportive has become much easier for me over the years. In fact, as I have listened to countless stories about other mountain climbers, Ben’s dreams have become my dreams.
There are risks with pursuing dreams, especially with dreams as big as Ben’s. In my job, I work in a very risk-adverse field and I weigh and manage risk every day. For example, Ben knows I REALLY don’t want him to climb K2. That is a risk I am not willing to take.
Ben has always had safety in mind. He has abandoned several summit attempts because of bad weather or physical or mental health of teammates or himself. “The mountain will always be there” and “going up is optional, coming down is mandatory,” he tells me. There are many stories he could tell that prove these are more than just words to him.
In 2007, Ben made his first trip to Mt Everest. While he was gone, we found out I was pregnant with Alexander. When Ben called off his first Everest attempt, which was his Big Dream, I was so overwhelmed by his love for me and our baby, whom he had not even met! He was willing to put a long time dream on hold to support my dream of having children. I know that he now thinks of Alexander & Annelyse constantly and would not intentionally do anything to leave them fatherless. I trust Ben’s climbing skills and his judgment. I know he puts himself through mental tests while climbing at high altitudes to ensure he is still thinking straight. (If he can remember our anniversary at 20,000 feet, then he will never have an excuse for forgetting it at home!)
So what about accidents? What about avalanches or other situations out of his control? My response to that is... first, situations happen every day that are outside of our control. We all come across situations every day where we are 30 seconds away from an accident. I can’t worry about these. I can only pray. Which brings me to my final response. My trust is in God. God controls Ben’s life and my life and the lives of our kids. If God’s plan is for our children to be fatherless, I only have the option to trust that there is a reason for that. I know it sounds morbid. But it doesn’t feel morbid to me. If feels like complete trust.
So for those that have asked questions and voiced concern, thank you. Thank you for caring for our family enough to be concerned. And thank you for joining me in prayer as Ben continues to pursue his climbing dreams this fall.
Climb on Ben! Your biggest fans are supporting you! We love you!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

The Manitou Springs Incline

One of the more awesome aspects of training for an 8000 meter peak is the variety of lung busting options that can be found in Colorado. Going to the gym Monday through Friday is nice, but by the time the weekend arrives I want to get outside.
Today's challenge was the Manitou Incline near Manitou Springs, Colorado. This beauty of a trail is an old rail bed that hauled pipeline supplies directly up the lower portion of Pike's Peak many, many years ago. The rails have since been removed and a lot of work has gone into reconstructing the trail to ward of the inevitable erosion that is sure to happen on a trail this steep. The Incline has become a training ground for runners, climbers, mountaineers or simply anyone wanting a great workout. The Incline itself is only .87 miles long but it rises almost 2,000'.

There are some portions that rise to a 60% incline - thus the name. Going down the same way you come up is discouraged and so a nice scenic trail option starts from the top and quickly descends to the Barr Trail on Pike's Peak. The way down is almost 3 miles and it is a nice  and easy run. A perfect cap to a sweet workout.
The time required to ascend 2,000' varies from person to person. An old rule of thumb used in hiking is 1,000' per hour. That makes the current record of close to 18 minutes attainable by only a few. A more normal time is anywhere from 1-2 hours depending on fitness level and acclimation abilities to altitude.

Today my time was just over 40 minutes. Not too bad, but I know I can do better. I will push myself this summer and I hope to be in the mid-thirties by the time I leave for Manaslu. Speaking of Manaslu, I leave in 72 days and I am so excited! What an awesome and spectacular challenge I am about to embark upon. With the unwavering support of my wonderful wife, I take time to pause every day and remind myself how truly blessed I am.

Monday, May 18, 2015

100 Day Countdown is Underway!

Time is flying by so quickly. I am now at my 100 day countdown before leaving again for Nepal and my attempt on climbing Manaslu, the 8th highest mountain in the world. So much has happened  in Nepal over the last few weeks that I am often asked if I still plan on returning so soon considering the 2  recent, devastating earthquakes and subsequent aftershocks that have rattled this Himalayan country. The short answer is yes, I still plan on visiting this great country again and I leave in late August. The long answer on why I look forward to returning is a bit harder to explain to the non-climber. With the never-ending support of my wife, Diana, we have discussed the risks of returning and at this time we deem those risks acceptable.

I’m often times asked, why climb? Why take such great risk and threaten the very make-up of my wonderful family? Why risk frostbite, avalanches and crevasse falls? My reply is, “why not”? An answer that surely is not acceptable to many and understood by very few. All of us dream about one thing or another. At some time all of us wonder what if? What if I had taken that chance? What if I had made that career move? What if I nurtured that relationship further? What if?

I often times wonder what I am physically and mentally capable of. High altitude climbing affords me the forum to answer that question. As with all of my climbing expeditions, I prioritize safety at the top of my list. Second is fun and third is summit. My trip will be 100% successful upon my safe return to my family regardless of whether I stand on top or not. If I am fortunate enough to stand on the very pinnacle of Manaslu it will just serve as another reminder of how truly blessed I am.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Still dreaming...Still climbing!

Wow! It's hard for me to fathom that it has been more than 4 years since my last post. Much as happened in the last 4 years. Our family has grown by one more member. Our daughter Annelyse Joy was born on May 16, 2011. Diana and I have continued to travel the world and I have continued to climb when possible.
Expeditions to Kilimanjaro in Africa and Denali in Alaska coupled with local climbs around Colorado have kept me active and yet I continue to dream of the Earth's highest mountains. The siren call of the high Himalaya beacon me. While I have continued to dream of one day returning to Nepal, life in general has dictated otherwise. With the continued, unwavering support of my wonderful wife, we have decided that 2015 is an appropriate time to give another Himalayan giant a shot.
In late August I will once again leave for Kathmandu, Nepal and eventually on to attempt the 8th highest mountain in the world, Manaslu. Standing at 26,781' this mountain is one of the 14 mountains in the world over 8000 meters or 26,240'. I will be attempting this peak without the aid of supplemental oxygen. The challenge of doing so is daunting and the task at hand requires enormous amounts of physical and mental strength.
I continue to build physical strength and endurance by going to the gym, running and climbing whenever possible. I continue to work on improving mental strength by focusing on how blessed I am and my favorite Bible verse. "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." - Phillipians 4:13
These next 6 months will fly by in a flash. I will prepare to the best of my ability. Will you keep me in your prayers? I hope so.