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  Everest 2007:  Mountain Madness Everest Expedition: Summits 11 !

One of our favorite pictures: a climber up high getting ready to go for it in 2004 ©EverestNews.com


May 16, 2007 - 7:45am- Summit of Mt. Everest- 29,030 feet, 8848 meters

The team has made it to the summit of Mt. Everest! At 7:45am we got the call at base camp that Willie, Eric, Eirik, Bjorn and 7 Sherpas: Chongba, Undi, Tendi, Lakpa, Tsering Wangchu, Ang Pemba, and our camp II cook Mila, all had reached the summit. We are the first team from the South side to reach the summit this year, and that is no easy feat, since it means doing the rope fixing while going for a summit. But we are such a very strong team, and they were all ecstatic to be at the top.

They spent a few minutes alone on the top, then turned around to return to their cozy tents at camp IV, at the south col. We estimate they will be there by early afternoon. They will stay on oxygen throughout the night, and tomorrow will return to camp II. While reaching the top is only half-way there, with time on their hands they should have no issues with safety. Moving slowly, clipping to every rope, and keeping your energy up are the keys to a safe descent, and under the capable guidance of our amazing Willie Benegas, we think the boys will be just fine.

The enormity of this accomplishment cannot be overestimated, not that it often is. Climbing Mt. Everest is an oft-used metaphor for accomplishing whatever ones biggest goals are in life. For some of our team, that goal is, indeed, climbing Mt. Everest. Climbing is rarely just climbing, anyway. In one day a climber can experience the whole range of human emotions, or at least a good chunk of them. The amount of resilience necessary to continue throughout a long, cold, dark night, high above the rest of the world, up at cruising altitude for an airplane, twice as high as anything in the U.S., with the safety and comfort of base camp almost in view from up there, but worlds away in terms of the work to get there, is something only a mountaineer can know. So, this morning there is a lot of cheering in base camp, and a lot of full hearts on the summit.

Base camp was a festive scene, as well. We slept from about 3:30-4:30 this morning, and after getting our call from Willie at the south summit, we couldn't get back to sleep. About five of us slept here in the dining tent, and around 6:00am our first visitors from the night before came back to wait for the call. There were about ten of us here when we got the call at 7:45am, and we were all surprised to hear from them so early, and overjoyed at the news. The Nepali folks in our camp spilled out from the kitchen, the folks from near-by camps gathered on our "front porch," and we all banged pots and pans and gongs stolen from other camps in the middle of the night last night (oops!) and made plenty of noise to bring in the good news. The calls have been coming in over the radio from the other camps, congratulating us and planning the party for the team's return. The energy in base camp is high, and many teams are probably thinking more and more about their upcoming summits, and hoping for the same success.

We will write again when the team reaches the south col tonight, but it may not be posted until morning for you guys at home. I'm sure the climbers are very much looking forward to contacting you, their supporters, but until then, we are all looking after them from below, and we know they will have some good nights of sleep ahead of them. Signing off for now from base camp.

May 16, 2007 - 2:00am- Balcony 27,500 feet

Hello back home! The team is making their way to the balcony, and while radio contact has been spotty, we have just heard that Willie is still out front fixing lines, and the team is following shortly behind. The weather got pretty rough at the south col, so it is a possibility that it is also rough up high, toward the summit. We hope they are maintaining decent visibility, and that not too much snow is falling. Yesterday evening at south col a little bit of snow fell, but at that time the winds were still low. We hope the winds are low on the way to the summit, too.

We at base camp have finished our game of mountaineering monopoly, and we are down to the last five party-goers, most of them party-sleepers at this point. The radio is on high and we are waiting for our next call. It is difficult for them to call frequently with all those layers of clothes, and plenty of technical climbing to contend with. They are now on the summit ridge, which is where it becomes more and more necessary to take precautions with exposure, as well.

We will check in again when we hear from them, and hope all is well at home.

May 15, 2007 - 9:30 pm- South Col 25,500 feet

The team has left the south col! They left camp III at 6:30 this morning and the first of them arrived by 11:00. They set up the tents and made camp, so that the entire team was cozied up at 25,500 feet by noon. A few other small teams were on their heels, so that in total, about 17 team members and 20 Sherpas will be leaving tonight for the summit. The boys all relaxed for the afternoon in preparation of the night's departure.

When climbing at these high altitudes, it is best to avoid travelling during the times of the day that are likely to bring the most turbulent weather, which is usually the afternoon and early evening. Also, if they can time a summit early in the morning, they have all day to get back down to camp in case of an emergency. With that in mind, they were all out of the tents and on the mountain by 9:30 pm, down suits and oxygen masks adorned. Willie left earlier than the rest of the team with three of our Sherpas. They will be out in front fixing all the lines, as they are the first team to move toward the summit this year. Word is a team attempted the summit last night and fixed some ropes, but didn't make it all the way. Willie anticipates having to fix lines for most of the climbing from the balcony on up. The balcony is at 27,500 feet, and he guesses his arrival time to be 12:30 in the morning. We should hear from them around that time, and we will report back to keep you posted! In the meantime, the base camp party is raging: competitive mountaineering monopoly, red vines, and coca-cola. We'll write again soon!

May 14, 2007 Camp III- 23,600 feet

The team is safe and warm at camp III, where they made it in great time today. They woke up at camp II early in the morning and left at about 7:00am, on up to the colder parts of the world, away from the relative comforts of camp II. We gave a route description from camp II to camp III in a previous dispatch. Briefly, they leave camp II and continue up the Khumbu glacier until reaching the base of the Lhotse face. From there the climbing becomes much steeper, and the fixed lines are a safety measure that get used from time to time for little slips, keeping one right in place instead of subjected to a bigger fall. Camp III is in the middle of the Lhotse face, the tent platforms carved into the ice and snow. Tonight the team is in their two separate tents, Eric and Willie in one, Bjorn and Eirik in the other.

They arrived at camp III in early afternoon, and without the comfort of a main dining tent, most time that high is spent curled up in a sleeping bag. The biggest responsibilities are to stay clipped to the fixed lines when outside the tent, and to eat as much as you can. Often times, you can't eat anything, and the best bet is to plan ahead to bring the food you love the most. Chocolate, jerky, peanut butter, whatever it is, if you have it on hand and can eat a bunch of it, it is the best bet for giving yourself energy to climb higher. The boys report that they all had decent appetites, and they went to bed with the sun, before their bones were chilled by the night air.

Tonight they will start using oxygen, and will continue until they are back at camp III after their summit. The flow of oxygen used is based on the climber's needs, but it is best to start with a flow of 2 liters per minute. If, higher up, the climber's breathing becomes labored, the flow can be increased, so it's a good ace in the hole if a respiratory problem arises.

Tomorrow they will leave by 6:00 or 7:00am, and will hopefully arrive at the south col by early afternoon. If all goes well, and the weather holds up, they will spend a few hours resting, then start out for their summit bid around 9:00pm! Willie reports that today the weather was the best he has ever seen up there, so we hope for more of that for the next two days, and on up to the summit. But tomorrow morning they are likely to be feeling the chill in the early hours, starting out in their down suits and oxygen masks.

Everyone in camp is excited and supportive of their move on up the mountain, and tomorrow night, which is Tuesday morning for you at home, we will begin regular dispatches to keep everyone updated of their progress throughout the night, as they climb to the summit. Here in base camp tomorrow night Mountain Madness is hosting a summit night party, complete with movies and games and good food. We will stay tuned to the radio all night to check the climbers' progress, and make a big bed for the party-goers to sleep in the main tent! We seriously know how to party, and if we had a beer we might split it, but we don't. So coca-cola and red vines it will be, and we will be sending all our extra energy out to the climbers to keep it up, up top.

Stay tuned, this is an exciting time!
May 13, 2007 Camp II

The team took a rest day at camp II today, their afternoon naps spoiling them for a good night of sleep. This is a minor complaint, and they are all happy to be there with our tents intact, and getting necessary rest. A few groups met them up there today, and it is as yet unknown whether those groups will be getting on Mountain Madness's schedule, or staying a day or two behind. At this point, most of our decisions hang on the weather forecasts. Being social is a good asset in this business, and as such we are able to gather lots of information by comparing our weather forecasts with several other groups'. All forecasts are calling for a decrease in summit wind speed from the 15th through 17th of May, and the team is setting up for a summit on the 16th. This would mean leaving on the night of the 15th around 9:00pm, and it's hard to believe that is less than 48 hours away. We are using every little clue in the forecasts to decide whether or not to push through now; tomorrow morning is essentially decision time. If the team moves to camp III they will begin using oxygen that night, which is a committing move. Not irreversible, but also not a decision made impulsively.

So all eyes and ears in base camp are alert with a view to gathering any information to help us make a decision. This is also a time of a lot of secrecy, each team wanting to keep its plans only in the hands of our co-conspirators. But secrecy here is a silly notion, so everyone has a pretty good idea what other teams are doing. That being said, it looks to us that Mountain Madness has the first intended summit date for the South side this season. Sources tell us that over 15 people have summitted on the North side so far, which is usually the case, the North side putting people up there much earlier. But a May 16th summit is plenty early for us, and we hope it works out.

Today Brian returned to base camp, after a nice rest down valley for about a week. The thicker air down there does wonders, and his cough seems to have found something else to do, as it has left him for a different, unknown host. We are so happy to have him back, and we are working on a separate set of plans as to how he might still be able to summit. We will keep posting on this, as for now it hangs on a few, unknown factors. Luckily for us all, he seems to have given up on the emaciated beanpole look. He got plenty of exercise down valley, ate a lot of dahl baht, treated himself to mid-morning pastries at the Namche bakery, and made some friends along the way. Some of us are jealous of his little vacation.

The boys at camp II are all reporting excellent health. The familiar grounds of camp II are a comfort to them now that they are well-acclimatized to 21,000 feet. Pretty amazing to think about, especially for those of us used to the scale in the States. But here they are- strong and competent, confident climbers having laughs and fried chicken at such a height. Imagine looking at the tallest mountain in the United States, then stacking another one on top of it. The mountains here never start looking small, and the numerous daily avalanches and massive rock-fall never become blase'. We have come to identify their source from within our tents: this one was Pu Mori, the icefall, Lho La pass going big, Nuptse, or rockfall from the rear moraine wall at base camp.

So we can rest assured our boys have holed up for the night in comfort, and will be up early, hopefully to a calm, warm day, to make a big move in something they have been working on for 2 months, if not several years

Earlier: 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 camp.

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.

Cheers, Casey

-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 immediate vicinity.

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 mountain.

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 complete.

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 Eric.

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 us...

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 lines.

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 solidarity.

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 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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A cold weather, high altitude double boot for extreme conditions The Olympus Mons is the perfect choice for 8000-meter peaks. This super lightweight double boot has a PE thermal insulating inner boot that is coupled with a thermo-reflective outer boot with an integrated gaiter. We used a super insulating lightweight PE outsole to keep the weight down and the TPU midsole is excellent for crampon compatibility and stability on steep terrain. WEIGHT: 39.86 oz • 1130 g LAST: Olympus Mons CONSTRUCTION: Inner: Slip lasted Outer: Board Lasted OUTER BOOT: Cordura® upper lined with dual-density PE micro-cellular thermal insulating closed cell foam and thermo-reflective aluminium facing/ Insulated removable footbed/ Vibram® rubber rand See more here.




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