Tonight the team finds peaceful slumbers at 21,000 feet. For
several days we have waited and watched the weather forecasts to find the right
window to start up the mountain, in hopes of this being the push to the summit.
The forecasts have been questionable, but are now showing a window of low winds
on the 16th and maybe into the 17th. Beyond that there may be a few more days of
bad weather, and based on that, the team decided last night to leave this
morning, with the intention of summiting on the 16th!
Yesterday was spent in careful preparation packing, and soaking up the last bits
of base camp's comforts for the next few days. The kitchen crew treated us well
last night, sending the boys off with a many-layered chocolate cake, shared with
some of our regular visitors. Everyone went to bed earlier than usual, yet some
of us not sleeping as well as we'd like. This is an exciting time around base
For the past few days we have had many little coffee and tea meetings with
members of other expeditions, everyone comparing notes on weather forecasts, and
putting together a plan for fixing ropes on summit day. This plan is mostly
based on who will be there initially, and for now Mountain Madness seems to be
among the first to start the push. So, many teams are supporting each other in
decision making, and trying to spread out the work for summit day. For the most
part, a plan has to be flexible, and the team's safety is top priority. The nice
part of starting a summit attempt so early in the season is that it leaves extra
time if this one can't happen. But all our energies are focused on bringing some
calm weather and keeping the team healthy and strong up there, and hoping this
trip is the ticket.
A cold, windy snowstorm brought in the morning today, and brave is the climber
who boots up in this weather to leave his warm tent and go higher. All our boys
faced it in good form, charging into the cloud engulfing the icefall, warming up
by moving, and doing the best with his gloves that he can to clip each rope. Not
an hour into it we received word from another group that their camp II tents had
been blown over, some of them destroyed. Apparently, the wind began blowing hard
this morning at the camp II level, and even with a few people up there from
various teams, was powerful enough to out-do their salvaging efforts and lift a
few loose flaps. Luckily, the teams whose camps were hit the hardest have some
extra supplies, and their camps should be put back together soon. Even more
luckily, the Mountain Madness tents were spared, with the exception of a little
snow finding its way through a few zippers. So, an hour into the icefall, and
with the information of this windstorm, Willie and the team were undecided as to
whether they should go up or down.
Willie chose up, and the team reconvened at camp I, above the icefall, where the
clouds were already lifting, and the winds were mild. After a short rest they
made excellent time to camp II, and decided upon arrival that they would spend
the night, and take a layover day tomorrow. They helped out with piecing
together some other camps, and took warm naps while the wind slowed down and the
sun set between the walls of the canyon that opens to the west of the western
cwm. This "canyon" is formed by the towering cliffs of Nuptse to the left, and
Everest's southern wall on the right, a warm sun dropping ahead into the cracks
and seracs of Pumori and Lingtren. What a place to watch a sunset!
The next matter of business was a nap. Reports are that everyone slept very
well, so they are off to a good start. After so many rest days the climbing was
sure to be a welcome change, and also brought the blanket of sleep over them
more heavily than a day of movie viewing will. Most of the climbing was through
about 4" of fresh snow, which is enough to soften the step, but not enough to
slow anyone down. After napping they were catered to as usual by Super-Mila, the
camp II cook, and back to bed before the cold night kicked in.
We know there are many supporters of these climbers out there, and be assured
you are in their thoughts, as well. As this is perhaps their summit attempt,
their fans (you) can be assured we will give regular daily updates. Summit night
might be coming very soon, indeed, so wish the boys all the best. Goodnight.
May 10, 2007 Everest Base Camp
We're racking up the rest days and waiting out the weather here at base camp.
Our original idea of leaving on May 9 to begin the summit climb has been pushed
back a couple of days, and now the team intends to leave on May 12. That makes
tomorrow their last day at base camp, unless the weather plays tricks on us
again. Some forecasts call for moderate winds, but it's hard to say with any
accuracy that far ahead. For now, everyone will spend tomorrow gearing up for
the big move! Hopefully this all runs smoothly.
Yesterday was another day well-spent with training for the Sherpas. We walked to
a steep ice pinnacle on the edge of base camp to set up crevasse rescue
scenarios. Willie led the charge by making Jaime his first victim of a mock
crevasse fall. He set up an anchor up top and lowered himself down into the
"crevasse" to get to Jaime. He then rigged Jaime to the rope, jumarred back up
the rope, and set up a 3:1 hauling system to pull Jaime up, which worked
marvellously. Covering a few days of material in about 20 minutes (building
anchors, several knots, systems, and tricks) you would think the Sherpas heads
would be spinning. But they are amazingly fast learners, and splitting into two
groups, spending about three hours doing several more scenarios, they were all
able to do it on their own, and quite quickly. We were very impressed; the boys
are very keen to pick up on new skills to make them even better at what they do.
A big thanks to Willie for choosing to spend his rest days with Sherpas from
many teams, and teaching them what might save a life one day.
After that there was a lot more socializing and some afternoon naps. Bjorn,
Eirik and Eric hiked to Gorak Shep and were back in time for lunch. There's not
a lot to do in Gorak Shep, but, relatively speaking, it is the big city, with
interior plumbing, permanent structures, and purchasable wares for the taking.
We've become regulars at entertaining dinner guests, which keeps our days so
much more interesting. We've got a regular little group going for sharing
stories and whatever good food any of us can dig up from our barrels. These are
sometimes the difficult days of a climbing trip- the waiting. Most of our time
here is spent acclimatizing, with little waiting games being played out in the
later part of May. But it actually gets much worse in other areas of the world
where the weather is even more volatile, and many such a story is told of
spending an entire month in a tent (not a base camp dining tent, a tent,)
without a single bit of climbing to speak of. So we don't have it so bad here.
It is important that the climbers stay active to keep their bodies healthy and
muscles working, and they are doing well with that. But be assured, every member
of the team is ready to plant his body on top of the biggest rock on earth, then
return safely home to his family. Some of them are asking themselves the age old
question: Um, what am I doing here again? Tonight we watched a surfing movie,
and more than a few minds were wondering if beach sports might not be a good
outlet for our athletic energy. But like it or not, we are mostly burdened with
the same affliction- a bad memory, and the love of big mountains. That is what
sets the mind to planning the next adventure, often only minutes after returning
safely from the present one. It's silly enough to laugh at, the way our memories
elude us. But here we all are, and for most of us this isn't the end of it.
So for now, wish the boys luck on keeping their heads in the game and their
bodies healthy. Goodnight
May 10, 2007: Hi folks!
This is Casey reporting in from Kathmandu. Last time you heard from us Mostafa
and I were headed back up to B.C. to give the climb another shot. We had a good
rest in Namche and spent 3 days walking back to the mountain. We were ready to
give it another shot after doing "laps" on the trekking route!
Once back at the mountain we rested for a couple days before waking up early in
the morning to try and go up to C1 and C2.
Mostafa's cough came back once we returned to the thin, dry, cold air at B.C.
The morning we were to go to C1/C2 he couldn't raise his arm and his side (ribs)
hurt quite a bit. Just taking deep breaths was a chore (which isn't good when
exerting energy above 6000m!). He had been coughing all night. If we were to try
and get through the ice-fall one more time there is a good chance that Mostafa's
condition would get really bad at C1 or C2 and his condition would make just
getting him down quite dangerous.
It is a shame to plan so much and to prepare/train so hard and have these things
happen, but with the length of the trip and the high altitude of even basecamp,
anything can happen. Your body is always struggling to deal with different
variables. Such is the nature of big mountain expedition climbing...
He now has his arm in a sling to help his ribs recover and the return to lower,
more humid environs will aid in his recovery. The doctors say he has probably
cracked or separated some ribs as a result of his cough. The peak will not be an
option this year. He is dissapointed in not getting a second attempt this year
but excited to see his sweetie and their 3-month old son!
It has been a great group to hang out with. As the trip started we all discussed
that the biggest focus on a trip such as this is the need to connect as a group,
have fun and to be as safe as possible on an 8000m. peak. We definitely
accomplished this and hopefully we all get a chance to climb together again
sometime soon! We wish the rest of the group the best of luck and to climb safe.
-due to my lack of acclimatization in the schedule (being so far behind -weeks-
in the rest of the group's schedule at this stage of the expedition) I will also
be calling it quits...
Earlier: Base Camp: Another rest day at base camp, though today
everyone seemed to be antsy enough to get up and move. There is plenty to do
within a short walk of base camp, and off the glacier, which is about twenty
minutes of walking along ice, topped by granite boulders and gravel of all
sizes. The weather seems to have warmed considerably, since everything is
melting, and in many places the rocks are like ball bearings in water running
over ice. Usually there are one or two good wipe-outs per day. In some parts of
the glacier the water is running in streams which, with eyes closed and ears
alert, call to mind the grassy, green organic streams of home. Straight off the
glacier the trail is gained along the moraine, and the walking gets considerably
easier. The whole team left base camp today, with Eirik, Bjorn and Trond hiking
up toward the mountain Pu Mori. Eric, Willie and Teddy went with a friend to
some bouldering rocks just a few minutes walk beyond the moraine. Some did more
bouldering than others (Willie), and we were all lulled into a nap by the
mid-morning sun. For the truly adventurous, another hour's hike will take you to
the town of Gorak Shep for lunch, but for the most part our recreation is in the
Yesterday Willie, Teddy and Jaime did some more ice bouldering in a cave under
the glacier. The cave is about eight feet tall and twenty feet long, and the
overhung walls slope upward to meet at the top. The walls are sheer glassy ice
with a couple of rocks suspended within them, making for welcome footholds along
the traverse. Plenty of light comes in through the opening, and in the warm
mid-mornings it is quite a nice private little gathering place.
The path home from the bouldering rocks and the ice cave fortuitously passes by,
believe it or not, the Everest Base Camp Bakery. Dawa Sherpa and Tsira Sherpa
have found a magical way to cook banana bread, pumpkin bread, cookies and apple
pie, at 17,500 feet, that calls to mind nothing less than Christmas at
Grandma's. They have no shortage of fans, and the Mountain Madness team may be
their latest captives.
As can naturally be expected, there is a lot of socializing at base camp.
Eight-hundred people living on one glacier must have something in common, and
more often than not that is climbing, and a sense of humor. There are a few
alluring haunts about town where we catch up with our friends, drink coffee, and
sun ourselves before the snow starts falling, usually beginning between noon and
2:00pm. It's pretty easy living, with every meal prepared for us, no bills to
pay or gas-tank to fill, no alarm clock or housecleaning, just the basics:
waking up, getting dressed, eating, staying healthy, and sleeping. This is
especially well-deserved after several nights spent in cold, high camps on the
Tomorrow is another rest day at base camp. With any luck we will get an early
weather window and the team can get on top of the mountain soon! In the meantime
we will keep looking for fun at base camp.
Earlier: May 4, 2007 Everest Base Camp
We are all here enjoying rest day upon rest day at base camp, and for the most
part we are strong and healthy. While climbing days entail big goals, ie:
avoiding rock fall, crevasses, staying warm, breathing, and paying attention to
every move... rest days command a different set of goals, along the lines of:
eating as much as possible, and taking afternoon naps in between movie viewing.
Everyone earned top points in these today and yesterday.
Brian's cough has hung on pretty tenaciously, and he will have to drop
down-valley tomorrow in hopes of quick recovery. Staying healthy is the name of
the game up here, and sometimes, when something grabs you early on, it just
doesn't relent in this thin air. We don't yet know what this means for Brian's
summit possibilities, but of course all of us here, and the hundreds who send
him emails from home, wish him the very best recovery and safe proceedings.
The team, being all acclimatized, would like an early summit window, but can not
yet predict when that will be, based on the big storm patterns that have
returned the past couple of days. Yesterday and today we received six inches of
snow at base camp in the afternoons, which then melts away fast in the sunny
mornings. The white blanket makes for a nice change of scenery, and also gives a
perfect reason (excuse) for the boys to stay inside with movies. So, when the
weather stabilizes a bit, we might be able to make some summit plans. Since it
is not snowing quite so much up high, the Sherpas have been able to make good
progress in fixing lines and stocking food and supplies to camp IV. Once this is
done, everything is in place for a summit push, with the lines being fixed to
the summit on summit day itself, by whichever team is the first to make that
move. So for now, we wait to see how mother nature treats us.
As for Chomolungma, the mountain mother, we can guess that over the millennia
she has persisted unperturbed whether there are climbers on her flanks, or not.
Chomolungma is the beautiful Tibetan name for Mt. Everest, and it literally
means Mother Goddess of the Earth- a more expansive moniker cannot be imagined.
According to Bhuddist lore, Guru Rinpoche first ascended Chomolungma on a ray of
sunlight when he introduced Bhuddism to Tibet in the ninth century. The name
Everest was applied in 1865 for Sir George Everest, head of the
British-controlled Indian survey that first determined the mountain's height.
The 1920's marked an era of several attempts at climbing the mountain, via the
northern/ Tibetan side. The most fateful of these is the famed Mallory-Irvine
expedition in which both men died. Nepal was opened to visitors in the early
1950's, and this allowed for the British expedition led by J. Hunt to put Sir
Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa on the summit in 1953. As is the case
with all exploration and technology, the vast improvements in equipment, and
increased knowledge base, have advanced this past-time considerably in the past
fifty years. To date over 1,000 people have summitted Mt. Everest.
We are all here for our own reasons, probably representing a broad spectrum
indeed. But while we are here we are a cohesive unit, everyone looking out for
each other and learning about ourselves. This is one of the gifts of an
expedition, removal from the usual distractions of another world, and a lot of
time alone with one's thoughts. If there happens to be stunning scenery,
challenging climbing, and a good dose of practical skills learned to go with the
laughs and the teamwork, why, all the more complete an experience can an
expedition be. With that in mind, we assure everyone at home that the climbers
are well-looked after by the guides, Sherpas, and each other, and that we have
plenty of good laughs and stories to fill in the lulls between suffering away on
the mountain. Good night.
Earlier: May 2, 2007 Everest Base Camp
Hello from base camp, where the team has rejoined just in time for Eric's 24th
birthday party! Eric, Eirik, Bjorn and Willie descended all the way from camp
III today, and they report having slept well up there, which is pretty
impressive. Willie said it is the best night of sleep he's ever had there! Brian
did not sleep so well at camp II, still having problems with his lungs, so he
came down thismorning with Undi Sherpa, one of Nepal's finest. We visited the
doctors at the HRA clinic, and hopefully we'll have him fixed up enough to get
back on track for a summit push, which will be any time between a week from now,
and three weeks from now. For most of the team, the acclimatization process is
Last night it snowed about six inches in base camp, and the snow started again
this afternoon as the climbers were descending through the icefall. A huge
avalanche released off of Pumori this afternoon, across the valley from the
icefall, and those guys got a great view of it, as we did from below. It dusted
that side of base camp, and the boom brought everyone out from their caves to
see. The climbers made it down safely and in good time. We settled into the warm
tent for lots of movies and food, and the luxury of coke and sprite that Willie
bought from some porters travelling through town.
After dinner the entire kitchen staff came into the dining tent with a huge
platter- lined on the perimeter with candles, and in the middle a soft, rich
chocolate cake reading "Happy Birthday Eric!" We sang, of course, and in three
breaths the candles were out. Who can guess what he wished for? Kumar then
called us outside to see the moon rising right inside the crease between
Khumbutse and Nuptse. The moon is full, and it was more radiant here than any of
us remembers seeing anywhere. What a great night to be in the mountains with a
group of nice people, and lucky are we to rush outside to a just-clearing sky,
presenting us with such a moon, then to huddle back inside a warm tent with
chocolate cake. All is well, and we think it will be a memorable birthday for
We will be taking some rest days here and will keep everyone posted on our time
well spent. Cheers to all of you back home, and please eat some ice cream for
Earlier: May 1, 2007- Camp III- 24,000
feet: Well tonight our team is enduring a major step in their acclimatization
process. Eirik, Bjorn, Eric and Willie are spending the night at camp III. Brian
climbed to camp III today and returned to camp II to spend the night. He will
spend a rest day at camp II tomorrow, then go up to camp III again, hopefully to
spend the night with the Sherpa team. Brian's cough hangs on a little, which
puts him just a small bit behind the others in acclimatization, but this should
catch him up. As for the climbers at camp III, everyone reports feeling strong,
and we hope they do catch a few winks tonight. The simple act of regular
breathing at that altitude can be a chore, and an accomplishment, especially at
night when the body reverts to what it has always known as a regular breathing
pattern, say around 10 or 12 breaths per minute. However, the amount of oxygen
the body gets with that number of breaths is significantly lower at such an
altitude, so sometimes an irregular night breathing pattern results, a sort of
sleep apnia. Usually this just wakes a person up to catch his breath, but can be
a hindrance to a good night's sleep. This will be the only night spent at camp
III without oxygen. When the team heads back up for their summit push, they will
use oxygen from camp III and above.
The team reports safe climbing all the way to camp III, which is great to hear.
They left camp II at 7:30 this morning and arrived at noon, in excellent time.
They froze in the early morning hours, hands burning from getting too cold then
warming back up. But by the time they started climbing the sun was hot, and even
that high, in calm weather, the heat can be oppressive. So they shed layer after
layer and let the sun's rays on the reflective snow erase the morning's memories
of shivering blue-lipped cold.
Eric Dalzell gave us a good
report of the climbing route today. From camp II the route heads along a
crevasse field in the glacier, gaining about 1,000 feet elevation before
reaching the Lhotse face. The Lhotse face marks the transition from the Khumbu
glacier, and onto the steep ice-covered rock of the west side of Lhotse. Once on
the face, the climbing is sustained steep ice and rock of up to 70 degrees.
Within the ice, along the climbing route, bits of old tents and oxygen bottles
from expeditions past are frozen in place. The fixed lines are anchored with
v-threads, ice screws, and ice pickets according to the thickness and quality of
ice in a given place, with usually about 150 feet of rope between placements.
The climbing ranges from little blue-ice steps in places, to snow in other
places, with some front-pointing with the crampons employed in the steepest
parts. Rather than using an ice axe, one hand stays on the jumar, a one-way
locking device which is always clipped to the rope. Moving the jumar up the rope
creates a solid, consistent handhold, while it does rely strongly on good fixed
In the middle of the Lhotse
face is the "yellow band" of loose rock and ice, which the climbers traverse
along toward the north. Amid the ice and rock of the Lhotse face are plenty of
hanging seracs, and after about 2,000 feet more vertical gain, camp III is
established amid the steep snow and ice. Being right on the face, the camp
consists of little more than a few small tent platforms chipped into the ice.
Leaving the tent to use the bathroom, or for any purpose, means clipping in to
the rope that runs through camp and beyond. The camp is about half-way up the
face, at the top of which, another 3,000 feet up, is the south col. Today the
first team of Sherpas reached and fixed lines to the south col, which is where
camp IV will go up. This is also a big move in the progress of getting people up
the mountain. In a best case scenario, after the team descends in the next
couple of days, thier next move up the mountain could be a summit push. Also
possible, of course, is a little waiting game with the weather throughout the
month of May.
The team was unpleasantly
surprised to find that, upon arriving at camp III, their tent platforms were too
small for the tents. They spent two hours chipping them out to make them bigger,
and everyone still had energy to spare. Once inside the tents, Willie quickly
put that energy to use in a devastating defeat over Eric in the medium of gin
rummy. While Eric tried to down play this, Willie's exuberance suggests either a
truly piteous defeat, or the first stages of altitude-related loss of reason. To
add insult to injury, Willie claims that Eric's ramen noodle masterpiece was
nothing to brag about. But all seems to have been resolved over their mutual
efforts to coax some Norwegian chocolates from the other tent, occupied by Bjorn
and Eirik. Be assured that their good karma is intact, the chocolate being
enjoyed by Norwegians, an American, and a crazy Argentinian all together in
Eric misses his friends and
family, and probably especially his particular female friend, and sends love
back home. Willie misses Thankgar, his Kashmiri pup/ heating blanket. Everyone
misses that elusive luxury of a hot shower, but all of us count ourselves as
among the most fortunate in the world to be witnesses to these mountains and
skies, and to use the gift of a healthy body to explore them. On that note, warm
thoughts back to you at home, and if you have warmth and comfort to spare, enjoy
a bit for us. Goodnight.
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
The Climber: Willie Benegas
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.
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
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
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.
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
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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