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  Everest 2007:  Mountain Madness Everest Expedition: Last night in base camp


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

 

May 19, 2007- Base Camp: Tonight is the team's last night in base camp. The day was spent getting everything together for our departure, from group tents to leftover personal food that the climbers brought in two months ago. It's all coming out of the woodworks, and we're getting it all organized and packed. There are a lot of congratulations and goodbyes going around; the mood in our camp is high, and we're all gathered in the dining tent telling stories and enjoying our last night together!

As a goodbye from the climbers, we will get a little story from each, telling of their adventures on the top of the world. We have formed such a great team, and we will all appreciate and remember this time with each other for all our lives.

First Eric.....The climb was great! A good adventure, first having to break trail in 20 to 30 knot winds up to the balcony with all of us wondering... will we ever finish this climb? Around two in the morning the wind stopped, making the climb just that much better all the way to the summit! I thank all of our Sherpas for their hard work, and hope to have more great climbs with them in the future. I will always remember my first Everest climb!

From Eirik: It has been a great trip! I first met Willie Benegas in 2005, although I was part of another team. In that year, with such bad weather on Everest, I reached the South Summit, 100m from the true summit. Seeing Willie in action trying to organize the different teams in base camp and the fixing of ropes to the summit impressed me so much that when deciding who to go with in 2007, it had to be Willie and Mountain Madness. This year we have not been disappointed. Willie Benegas must be one of the best mountain guides in the world: enormous strength, organizational skills, and looking very well after his clients! The summit day was very good for me. I felt strong and enjoyed the whole day, although the night was long and windy. We spent almost 50 minutes on top of the world. A good view and almost no wind. Really, a day to remember for the rest of my life! Thanks to everyone, especially Willie and our strong Sherpa team!

From Bjorn: Sitting in the cooking tent on the last evening in base camp, it is only natural to reflect on the last 8 weeks. Mount Everest has been a dream of mine for many years and tomorrow morning, it kind of all becomes "history." It is a little bit strange that something so dominant and important in life soon will be memories; I have had a fantastic couple of months in base camp and on the mountain under the superb leadership of Willie Benegas. Willie is the complete (mountain) guide and I would go anywhere in the world with him. His experience, his leadership style, his relationship to the mountains and his relationship/attitude to the people of Nepal/ the Sherpas... I realize that there is A LOT to learn. Reaching the top of the world was just fantastic - a dream coming true!!! We had 50 minutes in fantastic weather with the most magnificent views there is! In order to be successful on an expedition like this, the team must work. Our base camp manager, Teddy, will also be deeply missed when we leave the mountain tomorrow morning. I want to thank all the team for their contribution to making this trip an adventure of a lifetime! All the best from Bjorn (Norway).

May 18, 2007- Base Camp

The team is back together again in base camp, filing in throughout the morning and early afternoon, as everyone made their way down from camp II. Returning from base camp is met with applause and hugs and handshakes from teams all over camp. Bjorn reports that all the way down from camp II today, every Sherpa he met in the icefall asked if he'd made the summit, and warmly congratulated him that he had. His account of summit night held us spellbound. The weather was rough enough for the first six hours that he had big doubts about how it would go. They called Willie on the radio in the wee morning hours and he told them definitively to continue upward. The weather started to improve, and Bjorn says that by the time they were approaching the south summit, and the sun was starting to come up, he knew they were going to make it all the way. Reports are that he was strong as an ox, or that he might have cheated by strapping a self-propelling rocket to his pack. I will try to rope him, and the other climbers, into giving a firsthand account of summit night for tomorrow's dispatch.

Our Sherpa team enjoyed a warm reception, though regretfully one of the team, Chongba, has a bit of frostbite on his toes. We spent a good bit of the day helping him with medical care, and since hiking would be too difficult with such an injury, he will be out on a helicopter tomorrow. He will recieve top care in Kathmandu, as he already is here at base camp, in hopes of full recovery. We're all wishing him the best in this, he is one of Nepal's finest!

In other news, we have started to piece together a plan for getting Brian on the summit! He is excited about the opportunity to give it a shot, after having fairly serious lung problems, beginning when he first arrived in base camp several weeks ago. But he has taken such good care of himself, and spent enough time down-valley, that he has been given a good bill of health from the doctors here. If the plan continues to fall into place, Willie will guide the mountain again next week! Tonight Brian is at camp II, and it's probably a bit lonely up there without the rest of the team. But he has worked so hard that I'm sure the time alone at camp II is not among the most difficult of his endeavors. Though the first wave of our climbers is down, it looks like we will keep shop set up, and keep writing dispatches, for a little while to come while Brian makes his bid. Stay tuned! And for now, goodnight

Maest. 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...

Background

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

The Climber: Willie Benegas

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

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

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

FILMS:

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

HIGHLIGHTS:

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

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

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

 

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