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  Everest 2007:  Mountain Madness Everest Expedition: big move up the mountain tomorrow

ropes course

April 20, 2007: The whole camp is a-bustle with preparations for a big move up the mountain tomorrow. Scheduled departure time is around 7:00am, with Willie leading Eirik, Bjorn, Eric and Brian, and Jaime leading our final Khumbu climber, Henry. The entire team will stay at camp I tomorrow night, and will move to camp II the next day, where all but Jaime and Henry will be staying the night. They will stay again at camp I and return to Base Camp soon thereafter. The others will brave their first nights spent above 21,000 feet. The intention will be to take a rest day at camp II and climb to camp III the next day, but not spend the night up there just yet. So they are geared up for 4 or 5 days up high on the hill. We wish them warmth and safety from the relative comforts of base camp, and the far-away comforts of home.

We said goodbye to many of our friends today, some for good, and some for a week or so. Hopefully Casey and Mustafa will come back gangbusters to charge up the hill. Jaime and Willie got in some quality ice bouldering in a cave of the glacier this morning, while the rest of us enjoyed the typical sunny, warm morning on our own little deck. We didn't get the recent trend of afternoon snow flurries today, but the night chilled up on us so we're all huddled around the heater in the main tent watching movies. Last night's special feature was Top Gun, and Jaime will henceforth be finding inspiration through the icefall with the immortal wisdom of the Kenny Loggins band, a constant reel of Highway to the Danger Zone playing in his mind and pulsing through his veins. A big thanks to Maverick and Goose for giving these guys some extra motivation.

The rest of the guys are touching on their more sensitive side tonight with a group viewing of Broken Flowers. I haven't quite convinced anyone to dip into what they claim are the unknown waters of some super quality chick flicks, but for sure they will cave by the end of the month. So, for now, Mountain Madness base camp is about to quiet way down, and we will be well-informed by radio of their every move. Wish them well! We wish you all well at home.

April 19, 2007: Hello from Everest base camp, again. We've been very domestic, staying cozy and comfortable and each taking care of our own little jobs. Today the big task was to designate foods for higher camps, as the boys are planning to head up the mountain in a couple of days. They will spend four or five days up high, and this will be an important step in preparing high camps for future pushes to even higher camps, and for acclimatization. So we're getting all that sorted out now.

The local staff stay busy taking care of our most important need- eating good food. Our head cook at base camp is Kumar Gurung, and we are served every meal by his smiling assistant Raju Rai. Behind the scenes are the kitchen helpers Dambar Rai and Gopal Rai. These guys stay busy most of the day keeping the kitchen running, and they also know how to put on some music and have a good laugh. We also have tons of help with logisitics from these guys, especially as we start to stock the higher camps and arrange for porters to go down.

And that is also keeping us busy these days, as we have a lot of people heading down tomorrow. Erin has finished her adventure here on the Khumbu glacier and will spend three days hiking down to Lukla, beginning tomorrow. Joining her are Casey and Mustafa, both of whom have been feeling pretty sick. Casey will accompany Erin to Lukla, and Mustafa hopes that some time spent in Namche will restore him to good health. We hope so, too, and Namche is such a lovely town that it might just do the trick. Trond and John will also descend tomorrow. After much deliberation John is also on the homestretch, and we will miss his kind spirit and good nature. We're sure he'll enjoy the luxuries of the lower climes, slowly moving back down through life zones more lush and tropic in character. Trond will probably be resting in Namche as well, and with any luck, in a week or so we will have Casey, Trond and Mustafa all back with us in good health!

In the meantime we will entertain ourselves with the little things- minor misfortunes along the lines of Eric's busted fake-tooth-retainer. Fear not, faithful readers, for all has been made right again with the wonders of super glue. There is no substitute for the savvy nature of a 23 year old, though some of us will miss the opportunity for gentle mockery. But, alas, he is back in the (slender) company of we-of-full-sets again. Welcome back, Eric.

Further enlivening our expedition is the exiciting discovery that fate has brought two South Medford High School, Oregon graduates together on the same expedition- Teddy and Brian. It took us a month to figure this out. Perhaps this is a reflection of the caliber of student passed through those gates, but suffice it to say, Panther pride lives on!

Our final excitement of the evening, then, is the scrabble game being played on a stolen board, right here in the confined environs of the very tent from which I write. A note to the Brits, should you read this page: it was Erin. But rest assured- in your honor we are allowing only British spellings of certain suspect words, ie: colour, flavour, and favour. With that, we sign off for another cozy evening of tent life, and warm thoughts to our homies from the block.

Earlier: April 15, 2007 Everest Base Camp

Hello again folks! This is Casey reporting from B.C. The 13th and 14th were rest days for most. This usually consists of doing laundry, taking showers, visiting other teams, watching movies, playing cards and just laying around. Unfortunately these days seem to go by fairly fast! I ended up taking one of our icefall folks, Henry, into the ice-fall for his first foray. He did great and is doing various medical studies during his stay here at the mountain.

Today, the 15th, was another climbing day. We rose early for breakfast and left for the ice-fall. Most folks were headed to C1 for the next 2 nights and a short trip up to C2. Congrats to the Khumbu Extension folks for making it up there! The rest of us turned around at the top of the ice-fall and descended for another rest day. Many people are dealing with the "khumbu cough" at the moment and climbing is just making things worse. Teddy should be joining us in the next couple days and the dispatches should then improve dramatically! Thanks for tuning in and we all send our love back home to those near and dear to us.

Cheers, Casey

April 12, 2007 Everest Base Camp - Climber's Dispatch

Howdy folks!

Today has been a really long day for most of the group as they headed through the icefall all the way to Camp 1 and back. Many of you know this already but the route through the ice-fall is a winding path of fixed ropes over, around and through seracs and crevasses. It includes many ladder climbs and crossings that add to the excitement! While travelling through the steep Khumbu glacier you can hear it creaking, cracking and settling...quite unnerving for most!

Unfortunately, a few folks were still feeling tired and sick so they needed to turn around part way up. The effects of the "khumbu cough" are starting to take affect on a few people too. The very dry air and the hard breathing you do while performing even the most meaningless tasks create an irritation that starts in your throat and eventually moves to your chest. If it continues to get worse it can become quite debilitating. The worry of contracting "the cough" has people wearing bandanas and balaclavas while sleeping (not fun when you already cannot breathe) and walking. There are "Banditos" everywhere in this high-altitude wild west scene! Another preventative measure is to always be sucking on a hard candy or chewing gum. Let's hope we keep working hard at fighting the cough.

Our incredible sherpa team continues to travel up and down the mountain at incredible speeds. They are in the process of stocking Camps 1 and 2. They leave early in morning and get back for lunch. Yeesh!

The next couple days will be rest days before moving up to sleep at Camp 1. That's it for today! I know everyone will sleep well tonight. Cheers, Casey

April 12, 2007 - Trekkers Final Dispatch

The trekkers have landed safely in Kathmandu, the satisfaction of a completed trip, and of the comforts of town. Our final night on the trail was spent in Monjo, in what turned out to be one of the more upscale tea houses. It felt tropical back down so low, below the 10,000 foot mark. We have all enjoyed the rich, warm air in our lungs and good nights of sleep.

The next day's trek was a short one back to Lukla. We had our last lunch just an hour short of our destination, with one final hill to climb on the home stretch. Lukla sits higher than many of the towns upriver to which we travelled, making it a conducive location for an airstrip. With enough time in town to look around, buy some souvenirs, and clean up, we were all feeling refreshed by dinner time.

Dinner was a most memorable one, as we brought in all of our local staff one by one, from porters to kitchen staff to Sherpa guides, and gave them each tokens of our thanks. The people of the Khumbu are so friendly and giving of themselves, we are lucky to have shared this small part of our lives with so many wonderful new friends. So we were able to thank them and celebrate with toasts around the house.

Some of the more daring trekkers went out on the town in Lukla following dinner, but reports are everyone made their 7:00 am flights this morning. They are warm and clean in Kathmandu, with plenty of memories running the spectrum from being exhausted, to laughing over games of cards. It is now time for my return to Base Camp over the next few days, to settle in for the weeks to come. All for now, Teddy.

April 10 Namche Bazar- trekking group

The trekkers are reunited in Namche Bazar and everyone is feeling well back in the thick air at 11,300 feet. We dodged base camp just in time for a storm cycle to move in, but not depriving ourselves of at least one morning of brushing the snow off the tent. The trekkers left base camp and made a big push to an area just above Pheriche, where they camped for the night in and around some rock wall structures.

The next day put some miles on the feet, as well, taking them all the way to Teshinga Losasa, a very small village of little more than a couple of tea houses. They camped again for the night and awoke early thismorning for the short trek to Namche Bazar, where we now all find ourselves together again! Everyone is milling about town enjoying its attendant luxuries: bakeries, outdoor equipment, souvenirs, and something close to modern plumbing! We leave shortly for our trek down many a steep hill, and along several suspension bridges over the now familiar Dudh Khosi river. A reverse wind-up of our journey in, it is somehow so much easier on the way out! We have had a grand time and will do a final check-in when we reach Lukla tomorrow evening. Everyone sends love back home, and best wishes to our friends on the mountain, gearing up for some amazing climbing. All is well here

April 9, 2007: Today was a big day for the Mountain Madness team. This morning was our Puja thus allowing the team to enter the Ice Fall. Several days of preparation went into the ceremony. All of the climbers and the climbing staff sat in the morning air around an altar constructed of stone. Adorning the altar were pictures of high lamas, katas, and food and drink of all sorts. Incense and burning juniper filled the air as a Buddhist Monk chanted, periodically throwing rice towards the altar. After a large amount of tea was consumed a pole was erected at the center of the altar with prayer flags radiating outward like the spokes of a wheel to the far ends of the Madness camp. The Puja concluded with each of the climbers and climbing staff being blessed by the monk and with song and dance. It was a ceremony to be remembered.

As soon as the ceremony came to a conclusion the climbing team prepared to make its first venture into the Ice Fall. The team was excited to stretch their legs and put their skills refreshed in the ropes course to use. The training paid off as the climbers crossed several crevasses with the largest being three ladders wide and over 100' deep. Everyone was pretty tired upon their return to Base Camp and excited to rest in their tents. The next venture into the Ice Fall should take the team to the top and across many more crevasses.

April 8, 2007: Happy Easter! Today we awoke to beautiful skies and warm temperatures. Breakfast was the last meal for the trekkers in Base Camp before beginning their descent back to Lukla. Most were sad to leave and begin their journey home but were excited to get thicker air in their lungs and leave the physical ailments caused by high altitude behind. After goodbyes were exchanged the climbers ventured to the ropes course to sharpen their skills. The course was complete with rappels, 20' high ladder crossings, and ascents using jumars. After several laps through the course everyone was feeling confident and refreshed. Erin added a little Easter charm to the outing by wearing ribbons with rabbits in her hair.

Tomorrow we have a puja blessing the climbers and climbing staff allowing us to begin our ascent of the mountain. After the puja the climbers will enter the lower portion of the Ice Fall for the first time. Rumor has it that Camp 1 was reached by the ice fall doctors (a group of Sherpas employed by the national park who fix all of the ropes and ladders in the Ice Fall) today and Camp 1 is now open. With any luck we should be making our way to the top of the Ice Fall in the next couple of days.

April 7, 2007: Today was the team's first full day in Base Camp. Temperatures have been cold, but not as cold as normal and the Ice Fall remains active. The route through the Ice Fall is still being fixed and all are excited to see what is in store for them. In preparation for the obstacles to come Willie, Eric, and Brian spent much of the day fixing ropes and ladders creating a practice course. The Ice Fall climbers spent the day navigating the Khumbu Glacier and practicing rappelling and ascending fixed lines. Tomorrow all of the climbers will spend the entire day perfecting their fixed rope skills on the ropes course. Everyone was excited to get crampons on their feet and scramble around the ice.

Away from the glacier the dining tent has become the social epicenter of camp. Mountaineering Monopoly and Cribbage seem to be the games of choice. The climbers have gravitated towards Monopoly, building their confidence by buying the worlds most demanding climbs. Meanwhile, Mark, Patricia, Dave, and Lisa play round after round of Cribbage flaunting their victories as if they had summitted themselves. Sadly, tomorrow the trekkers begin their journey back to Lukla while the climbers continue with their preparations. We will all miss the trekkers as they have become an integral part of the expedition. The climbers will be busy over the next few days but camp won't be the same.


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.  

wil3g.jpg (12288 bytes)

© 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


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


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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