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  Everest 2007:  Mountain Madness Everest Base Camp 17,575 feet


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April 6, 2007: Everest Base Camp 17,575 feet

The team has made it to Everest base camp! A most unlikely place for a settlement of hundreds of people, we are camped on the Khumbu glacier itself, just at the base of the Khumbu icefall to the east. To our north is a steep talus slope at the base of the Lho La glacier, and this talus is consistently breaking away and creating impressive rockfall. To the west, off the east wall of Pumori, are regular serac fall and ice avalanches, all of it creating a soundtrack which some of us will be enjoying for several weeks to come! To our south the Khumbu glacier flows away to the warmer environs from whence we've come.

Our eldest team member, Laxman Kamath, has impressed us all with his perserverance. Today he chose to stay in Gorak Shep with his amazing Sherpa friend Ramesh to hike up Kala Patar. Tomorrow he will begin his descent to Lukla with Ramesh and Teddy. The rest of the trekkers will stay the day at base camp and head down the next day. Everyone has done so well, and many have broken personal altitude records! The trekkers will meet again a couple of days down the trail and come on home into Lukla together. We've been a great team.

Tomorrow the Khumbu climbers and Everest climbers will begin preparations for moving into the icefall. There are dozens of tents to be distributed to different camps, hundreds of pounds of food to organize, ropes, ladders, and all manner of climbing equipment to be sorted, and Willie somehow knows where everything is and where it all goes. Casey is a regular socialite here at base camp, aquainted with most of the Sherpas from previous expeditions, and is possibly planning a lot of high end functions in the weeks to come. With any luck he'll remember us, the little people, when these "cocktail parties" of sorts come around.

Base camp life is off to a good start with competitive rounds of Mountaineering Monopoly, and the magical appearance of yet more and more decadent meals. The climbing team has a long residency ahead of themselves here, though much of their time will be spent high on the mountain. The Khumbu climbers will spend the next week climbing to camp two and back, then returning to Lukla. The trekkers will begin descending tomorrow and the next day, and for another ten or so days Jaime will be writing the dispatches from base camp.

So on that note, this is Teddy signing off! I will return to Lukla with the trekkers, then hightail it back to base camp where I will spend the remainder of the expedition as base camp manager, writing daily dispatches and maintaining contact with the climbers on the mountain. We're staying warm and healthy, some of us looking forward to the oxygen rich air below, and all of us enjoying the many and great rewards of our efforts. Goodnight.

April 5, 2007: Gorak Shep 17,000 feet

Hello friends at home! The team has made it to Gorak Shep, the last stop before tomorrow's destination of Everest Base Camp. We headed north from Lobuche further along the moraine, toward the boxed end of the valley from which the Everest climb begins. We are in good view of the Khumbu icefall, and just over the Lho La pass to our north lies the country of Tibet. We are surrounded by the mighty peaks of Pumori, Lingtren, Khumbutse and Nuptse, and just out of view to the east are Everest and Lhotse. It's really quite spectacular.

The trekkers had an early morning start in Lobuche, arriving in Gorak Shep by 8am, in plenty of time to climb the 18,500 foot "hill" of Kala Patar. From Kala Patar all of the aforementioned mountains are in beautiful, clear view. It's summit provides one of the best-known panoramas of the glaciers and peaks that surround it. We were back for lunch and have been lounging around since then, with plenty of time for suckas gettin' schooled at more rounds of hearts. It's hard to declare a preliminary contender for the crown, but Grant has thus far been most consistent. However, be it known here-in that Erin plays a mean hand for someone so darn sweet, and gives the boys a run trying to keep up with her on the trail, too.

The climbers are busily engaged in cards at present, and the numbers suggest Mustafa will take this game. They are all healthy and strong, and Willie and Casey feel confident about the ability of their team as a whole. A lot of experience on this trip, with four of the clients having previous experience on 8,000 meter peaks. Good assembly of climbers!

Some of the trekkers are feeling the altitude and resting accordingly, but we have no major concerns. We're off to base camp tomorrow, for some of us a final destination, for others the start of a big climb on a big mountain. All's well here, goodnight.

 

Background

Mountain Madness will return to Everest in Spring 2007 with a commercial expedition led by Willie Benegas, The final commercial team will be announced soon... But they have several clients. They will again attempt from the South (Nepal) side of the mountain. Christine Boskoff, owner of Mountain Madness sadly passed away in 2006.

The Climber: Willie Benegas

Born and raised in the wild heart of Patagonia, Willie Benegas, along with his twin brother Damien, have pursued a long apprenticeship in the mountains.  As one of the "young bucks" of the world-class North Face team, Willie has pushed his craft on the big-walls of Yosemite, the airy summits of South America, and the loftiest peaks of the Himalaya.

The boundless duo, now hailing from Berkeley California, completed their first major new ascent with a route up Patagonia's West Face of Pilquitron (VI, 5.9, A3) which is still unrepeated.  

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© David Keaton

 At 20, they climbed Fitz Roy's impressive Supercouloir as well as routes on Guillaumet and Poincenot.  In the following years, Willie has ticked off the South Face of Aconcagua, a new route on the North Face of Pakistan's Nameless Tower (VII), record speed ascents in Yosemite valley, and attempted major new routes on the legendary North Faces of Thalay Sagar and Jannu.

But simply overcoming technical routes or highest summits is not enough for this 30 year old climber.   He gathers equal satisfaction by introducing others to the wide-world of mountain experience.  To help fulfill this goal, Willie and Damien established Patagonian Brothers Expeditions specializing in South American guided climbs and treks.  They also lead expeditions for Out There Trekking (UK, OTT) in Africa, South America,  and on Himalayan giants such as Cho Oyu.

Willie has many plans for the future, but he often gets the same question; why do you climb?  When asked about the draw of high places, he says "a mountain  adventure will carry over into many facets of your life, teaching about yourself, your co-existence with nature, and respect for other people's cultures." 

Willie's Brief Resume below

FILMS:

2001 OLN "Outlaws of the Aconcagua Trail"
1991 "Swimming with whales" discovery channel

HIGHLIGHTS:

Nameless Tower "Book of Shadows" VII 5.10+ A4 WI4, 1995
Mt Kenya all massif towers in 16 hrs, 2002
Mt Cuerno 17.600ft South Face First Ascent 5.7 WI 3 4640ft in 4.36hrs R/ trip solo, 2000
Fitzroy Super Canaleta VI 5.10b A1 WI 3,1987
Atensoraju 19.328ft. new route North ridge/face "The Pandora Box of Artensoraju:" 5.9 WI 3, 1998
Oshapalca new route South face "My Message" 5.7 WI 4/5 2.400ft., 2000
Aconcagua World record ascent/descent 54miles 13500ft elevation gain, 2000
First Ascent Argentina Andes "Welcome to a Dream" V 5.11 A4+.,1999
Patagonia Exploration, first ascent "Swept by the Wind" 5.13a, 1,000ft.
Patagonia 62.5miles endurance run first place 9.35hrs., 1986
The Nose VI 5.11 A1 16 ascents, ten one day ascents.
South Seas (VI 5.10 A5)
Sea of Dreams (VI 5.10 A5)
Regular Route (VI 5.10 A1) twenty times. Fastest time was 3:30
20/20 Classics Climb's in twenty days of the 50 Classic's Climbs of North America Book. Ascended 60,080ft, traveled 137 miles on foot, 2hrs in canoe, and climbed 241 pitches. 1993

ABOUT WILLIE: Born and raised in the wild heart of Patagonia, Willie Benegas has pursued a long apprenticeship in the mountains. Willie has pushed his craft on the big walls of Yosemite, the airy summits of South America, and the loftiest peaks of the Himalayas. Willie completed his first major ascent in the winter of 1987 with a route up Patagonia's West Face of Pitriquitron (VI, 5.9 A3 W2/3), which has still not been repeated. At age 20, he climbed Aconcagua's impressive South Face, as well as Fitzroy. In the following years, Willie "ticked off" the first ascent of the North Face of Pakistan's Nameless Tower "Book of Shadows" (VII, 5.10+ A4 W14), made record speed ascents in Yosemite Valley, and attempted major new routes on the legendary North Faces of Thalay Sagar and Jannu. In 2001, he set the world record speed ascent/descent of the highest mountain in the Western Hemisphere, Aconcagua (22,831 ft.), summited Everest for a second time, and ran the legendary Leadville Ultra 100-mile Race. In the spring of 2002, Willie reached the Top of the World yet a third time. However, simply overcoming technical routes and conquering summits around the world is not enough for this 34-year-old climber. He gathers equal satisfaction by introducing others to the world of mountain experiences and exploration.

Willie has many plans for the future, but he often gets the same question, why do you climb? To this he simply says, "A mountain adventure will carry over into the many facets of life, teaching yourself about yourself, your co-existence with nature, and the respect for people's cultures."

 

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