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  Everest 2007:  Mountain Madness Everest Expedition: Kathmandu


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

 

May 30, 2007 Kathmandu

Hello friends at home. The team is back in Kathmandu and our expedition is over. We took the easy way home, hiking from base camp to Pheriche, about a 5 hour walk, on the 27th. The next morning we went out by air, and were back in the comforts of the Yak and Yeti hotel by late morning. Most of the day was spent by the pool eating salads and fresh fruit. And for dinner we spoiled ourselves to some delicious Thai curry in downtown Thamel, the tourist district.

Our time since then has been spent shopping for the beautiful items offered on the streets of Kathmandu, eating more delicious food, and celebrating our safe return with the many friends we made up there, most of whom are also back in town. We think next year we will just meet at the Yak and Yeti and spend two months here sipping tropical drinks, and extending our tan lines beyond our hands and faces. But it's always true, these luxuries are better enjoyed when earned, and a little bit of time in the cold mountains is the best excuse to spoil yourself back in town. So the mountains just may beckon us again.

Thanks to all our many supporters, and we are very satisfied with the outcome of this trip. Not only did we have a huge summit success rate, but also we enjoyed eachothers' company and did a good job of working as a team. The greatest satisfaction to take home is the part that can't be explained to those back home: the jokes we made, the times we helped others, or others helped us, the beautiful sights and crisp air, and having spent two months with new friends. Being an Everest summitter is just the icing on the cake. Until our next Himalayan adventure, we say Namaste'.

Earlier: The group is back in base camp, and happy to be so. There has been a lot of action on the mountain lately, and today most of it seems to have wrapped up. Along with our boys coming come, and a couple other big groups, a couple of major rescue/recovery missions were completed today. We are very sorry for the loss of Pemba Doma Sherpa from Namche Bazar. She was killed in a fall in the Lhotse couloir four days ago, an unfortunate accident for such an accomplished climber. Fortunately, the other mass-effort was a rescue situation, a Nepali woman who had trouble above the south col three days ago, and was rescued by many competent climbers from other groups. She was brought down last night, and safely flown out by helicopter today. So a lot has been going on, the icefall has been a mess, and there are a lot of worn out climbers in base camp, relieved to be safely wrapping up their own climbs. Again we send out lots of support to the many Himalayan climbers and friends who were a part of Pemba Doma's life.

The boys tell an interesting summit night story. They left at 9:00 pm and arrived at the balcony at 10:20, an amazingly fast time. They made it to the south summit at 1:15, and huddled in a naturally protected cove to try to pass some time. Willie says that what might have been 10 or 20 minutes seemed more like an eternity, and both he and Brian were feeling the cold in their hands and toes. So they accepted their fate of a dark summit, and arrived up top just before 3:00 am. The same luminous half moon that you admire back home had, by that time, dropped below the surrounding peaks, so it was a dark and surreal experience. Brian took the lead for the last leg, and had a few minutes to himself on the summit with the understanding that he was higher in the sky than any other person on planet Earth for a short time. He felt so strong for the whole day, and impressed us all with his speed. Willie was amazed at the difference in the route from 8 days before, and apparently doesn't remember what it's like to not break trail. He has also recieved many compliments for setting the best route in years. Clearly it served him well his second time around.

On the way down they watched the sunrise, and got some pretty amazing photos of a cold, early morning sky. They arrived at the south col at 5:30 am, and crawled into the small tent to find a Sherpa from another team curled up in Willie's sleeping bag! No harm, no foul, so Willie, Tendi and Brian all curled up in there with him, in their down suits, and snoozed away a couple hours of the morning. They made it all the way back to camp II by 10:30 am, and slept all day. Today was a piece of cake, with the exception of lots of traffic in the icefall, and now back in camp they are living it up, and breathing relatively rich air, compared to where they've been.

We're also really happy for Jaime's success. Being such an accomplished skier, we have to take his word for it when he reports this to be some of the most difficult skiing possible, especially without oxygen at that altitude, and in the dark at that. There were a lot of sighs of relief when he returned to camp II, and then rolled into base camp with the rest of them today, all of them as skinny as beanpoles. Time to seek out life's luxuries for awhile; a tropical beach is sounding pretty good to most of us.

As a last thought for our time on the mountain, a quote by Ralph Emerson: "Courage charms us because it indicates that a man loves an idea better than all things in the world, that he is thinking neither of his bed, nor his dinner, nor his money, but will venture all to put in act the invisible thought of his mind." Perhaps this epitomizes the mountaineer's experience, and to complement that, a quote from an unknown source: "You never conquer a mountain. You stand on the summit for a few moments, then the wind blows your footprints away." That is the relationship we have with mountains, and we have counted ourselves as lucky to spend the last two months with this mountain rising above us to the east. Tomorrow we finish packing up, and the next day we head home. We will give a last dispatch from Kathmandu in about three days time. For now it's time for the climbers to relax and enjoy their great accomplishment, and dream about the food we will eat, the shorts we will wear, and the baths we will take in the city. Goodbye for now.


May 24, 2007 Summit of Mt. Everest-Base Camp Mgr's Dispatch

At 3:00 am this morning Brian Smith, Willie Benegas, and Tendi Sherpa reached the summit of Mt. Everest! For Brian, this was his first summit of Mt. Everest, and he made an amazing comeback after a bout with Pulmonary Edema only 3 weeks ago. He was amazingly strong and made excellent time, and we're all so happy he was able to have this second chance at the mountain. For Willie, this was his 7th summit of Mt. Everest, the 6th one being only 8 days ago. For Tendi, his fifth. They were a great team, and probably made it look easy. They reached the south col from camp III yesterday morning at 10:00 am, which was a good indication that they would be fast for the summit. They rested for most of the day on oxygen, eating and hydrating and sleeping.

At 9:00 pm they set out for the summit, perhaps not expecting to be quite so fast, or for the trail to be so much easier than it was 8 days ago, when they were the first climbers of the season. But indeed we got the call at 1:00 am that they were at the south summit, and trying to stall as to not summit in the dark. But the effort was futile, it was too cold to stall too much, and they were on the summit at 3:00 am! It might have been a different view than they expected, but probably just as beautiful, with the stars and silhouettes of surrounding peaks.

They were back down to the south col and 6:00 am, and left a couple of hours later toward camp II. This is a big push, but worth it to sleep in the comforts of an advanced base camp, rather than high and exposed at 25,500 feet. On last reports, they have arrived at camp II, and it's time to rest up for the last leg of their journey tomorrow, past camp I, through the icefall, and back home to base camp!

Jaime Laidlaw was on his own adventure last night. He also had a quick trip yesterday morning, to camp IV of Lhotse, the mountain just to the south of Everest. From camp IV, on the Lhotse face, the climbing route up the mountain steers into a narrow couloir, perhaps 2,000 feet in length. Jaime set out from camp at 10:00 pm, climbing alone on a route with a few fixed lines, but for the most part unprotected. He quickly made it 2/3 to 3/4 of the way up the couloir, but had to stop when his oxygen mask malfunctioned while changing to a fresh bottle. He wisely chose to turn around, and strapped on his skis, as was the purpose of his mission. He skied the couloir by headlamp, probably with more effort than he wished, having no oxygen, but safely made it to camp IV by 4:00 am. This is some of the world's hardest skiing, especially at this altitude, and it is a great accomplishment. After several hours of rest and boiling water, he suited up this morning for another descent of the Lhotse face. Hopefully there will be a photo record of this descent, as his last one, on the more northern edge of the Lhotse face, lives on only as legend in the minds of more than one hundred on-lookers.

So with everyone safe at camp II, tomorrow marks the final day of climbing for this expedition. Big kudos to Willie and Tendi for an amazing two ascents in 8 days, and to Brian for being so tenacious, and such a nice person to be around, to boot. Tomorrow we will be happy to report everyone's safe return to base camp. For now, it is time for everyone to catch up on sleep. Goodnight.
 

Earlier: May 24, 2007 6:00 a.m. South Col

Willie, Tendi and Brian have returned safely to the South Col. Willie called in with some more details from the climb. The team left for their summit push at 9:00 p.m. They made it to the South Summit at around 1:00 a.m. and realized they were moving too fast to have daylight on the summit without an extended wait. They found a bit of shelter in a feature in the snow and tried to wait it out for some daylight but soon became too cold and needed to get moving again to warm up.

At this point the winds had died down and they could not waste a good window of weather for continuing the ascent. All three of them arrived at the summit at exactly 2:50 a.m. in calm, but dark conditions. After a brief stay on the summit, they began their descent and arrived back at the South Col at 6:00 a.m. They will rest for a few hours and then clean up camp before continuing down to Camp II. The boys are tired, but are all feeling strong and very happy about their successful summit.


May 24, 2007 3:00 a.m. Everest Summit

A short message relayed via satellite phone confirmed that Willie, Tendi and Brian successfully summitted at 3:00 a.m.! They are all reported to be feeling strong and healthy and expect to be back at the South Col by mid-morning and continuing on to Camp II later today. We will have a more detailed report when they are back to the South Col.


May 23, 2007 9:00 p.m. Summit Push

A satellite phone call was relayed into the Mountain Madness Seattle office. Willie, Tendi Sherpa, and Brian began moving up and were feeling strong. Conditions are somewhat windy, but Willie had a good feeling that it would calm down. We will post more details when the next call comes in.


May 23, 2007 Camp III

Tonight Brian, Jaime and Willie are at camp III, hopefully sleeping well and holding up with energy for their climb. They plan to start moving at 6:00am, suited up and with the oxygen flowing on their trip to south col. Everyone seemed to move at a consistent pace today, and they were all in camp by 1:00pm.

This is just a short report to keep everyone informed. Details of the climbing route have been outlined in previous dispatches. The difference is, this time Willie and Tendi don't have to fix ropes! More tomorrow as the boys start moving into committing ground. Peace to you back home.

May 23, 2007 Camp III: Tonight Brian, Jaime and Willie are at camp III, hopefully sleeping well and holding up with energy for their climb. They plan to start moving at 6:00am, suited up and with the oxygen flowing on their trip to south col. Everyone seemed to move at a consistent pace today, and they were all in camp by 1:00pm.

This is just a short report to keep everyone informed. Details of the climbing route have been outlined in previous dispatches. The difference is, this time Willie and Tendi don't have to fix ropes! More tomorrow as the boys start moving into committing ground. Peace to you back home.

Earlier: May 21, 2007 Camp II: It's back on the mountain again for Willie and Tendi! This morning they left with Jaime to head back up to camp II, where they will meet Brian, and move up to camp III together tomorrow. Willie and Tendi Sherpa had about three days rest in base camp, during which time Brian was acclimatizing at camp II, with a day trip up to camp III. Brian's health is holding up so well that we have faith he will have a good shot at the summit in 2 days time. These days there is a lot of traffic up there, so we are hoping Willie finds the route much easier this time, not having to break trail. As for Tendi, he was Willie's partner on their last summit day, fixing lines together all night, out in front of everyone, even spooning with each other for two hours while waiting for more rope, at one point. That's a strong foundation to a trusting climbing relationship, so we know the two of them will be a good team for Brian on this attempt.

As for Jaime, he will be climbing Lhotse, if all goes well, and his amazing ski turns of last week have become legendary around base camp. We are hoping he is able to make a ski descent of all of Lhotse on the same night as our Everest summitters. We will stay posted on him for the next few days, too.

All is well in base camp, as groups are leaving daily, rocks are falling out from beneath tents, and it is downright pleasant weather most of the time. Tomorrow we hope to report a timely arrival at camp III, where the climbers will start oxygen and indeed, the ball will be rolling. We are sure Brian is very excited for this monumental step in progress up the mountain, and until then, standing by.....

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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