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 Everest 2009: Alpine Ascents Mt Everest Expedition : Vern checks in as 2 leave Everest for home

Doing the hang in Deboche
May 12, 2009    

May 12, 2009

Hello friends, family and loved ones,

It’s been snowing for 3 days now and that is quite unusual for Deboche. We have retreated all the way down valley to 11,000 feet for rest and relaxation. The new Rivendell Lodge here in Deboche has become our home away from the mountain. However, May should be a time of warm temperatures and flowers but sleet and snow abound. The bright side to all the inclement weather we are experiencing here is that it is much worse on the mountain. At camp two there are high winds and base camp has eight inches of snow. So we have picked a real good time to be away from Everest and someplace warm with good food. Speaking of food, we have been pigging out. Our appetites have come back with the oxygen and we are making up for lost time. Much of the team is eating double rations every meal. That is after all what we came down here to do….to prepare for our summit push. And it looks like we’ll be ready when the mountain is ready for us.

The team is now back together again. We are one big happy family, yet somewhat smaller. Our push up to camp three was really tough on Blue team members. None of us slept well in our 23,000 foot tent city, but Alex didn’t sleep at all. In the morning he was hurting so we helped him out by carrying his equipment for him as we descended to CII. Yet even with our help he moved slower as time went by. Our concern led us to seek medical help from the wonderful doctors at the Himalayan Rescue Association. They looked Alex over and told us he had to fly out as soon as possible because he had acute pulmonary edema. To complicate matters, while we were descending in the wind from Camp three, team member Kurt did not notice how cold his hands were. By the time we got to CII he had frostbitten his hands. The doctors said he would need to leave the mountain as well to heal safely. So, both were medivaced off the mountain by chopper. With them a big chunk of our team spirit left too. In those same two days, Kathy had an I. T. band flare up in her right leg. It became excruciating for her to climb. We had to decide what was best for her and the team’s safety. Ultimately she was able to down climb to CII and Base camp under her own power but was not able to reach CIII. Without CIII acclimatization under her belt she is not able to attempt the summit. She has been a delightful team member so her departure stunned us all the more. We miss you guys immensely and are sadden by your departure. May your travels home be safe and relatively easy. Please get well soon.

Namaste, Vern

Update: Blue Team: Checking in from Lower Altitude : Hello there friends, family and loved ones this is Vern Tejas reporting from Blue Team. We came down through the icefall yesterday underneath the threatening serac that was hanging above which caused that big avalanche the day before. None of us were in that and fortunately we were able to pass without any trauma. Our team of Sherpa came down the day before to help evacuate people out of the (…transmission break…), however we came down to basecamp and we celebrated with lots of oxygen all around and lots of appetites and hot showers. Today the team has moved down valley to get more acclimatization and more rest and recuperation. We are down in Pheriche right now about 14,000 feet so we have dropped about 9000 feet in the last three days. All team members are feeling the benefits of the oxygen and enjoying them. Stay tuned and we will tell you what happens tomorrow when we drop another several thousand feet, we are going almost all the way down to 11,000 tomorrow so follow us and see how we fair. Ciao for now from the Khumbu Valley

Earlier: Happy Mothers Day May 10, 2009     Deboche: Hello everyone, Team Red and Team Blue are all together in Deboche. We want to keep our update short, (we are great). Instead, we want to each take the opportunity to say Happy Mothers Day

Hi Mom, Hi Jodi, Hi Stella, it’s Jeff. I want to wish you a Happy Mother’s Day. Mom I know it has been a really tough year for you. Even though you have never climbed a mountain, you are the strongest climber in life I have ever met. If I only have half your strength I will do well on Everest. I love you – Jeffrey James Justman.

Hey Mom. This is Adam. Just wanted to wish you a Happy Mother’s Day. Mom, I know you are taking great care of Jenny right now. Heal up soon Roo! Happy Mother’s Day also to Allison – thanks for your love and support. Finally, miss you and love you M. Can’t wait to see everyone soon! – Adam

To the mother that let us make our own mistakes and picked us up when we fell; to the mother that gave us rules to be safe but never discouraged our fantastic adventures; to the most patient, brilliant, nurturer, provider, teacher, shoulder to cry on and hand to hold; I can’t express how much I love you but the wonderful thing is, you already know. To you, much love and a happy mother’s day. I will see you soon to make a deposit in the hug bank. Your little one. – Matthew

Hi Mum. A big Mother’s Day greeting from high on the mountain. Looking forward to seeing you and celebrating a safe return in Kathmandu – Stephen.

Happy Mother’s Day, I know that it has been a challenge to support the many challenges that this trip has presented, but you have blessed me with your support when you understood the ultimate goals that I am attempting to accomplish, for that I am forever grateful Your loving son, Frank H.

Bonjour mom! Je te souhaite une très bonne fête des mères. En attendant de te revoir, sache que je vais bien et que je suis en train de realiser un de mes rêves. Merci de tout mon coeur pour le soutien que tu m’as apporté dans cette aventure. Grosse bise – Phil

To the two best Mom’s – thanks for all your love, care and understanding! Words can’t express my true appreciation. Love and see ya’ll soon – Chris

Happy Mother’s Day Mom, Laura, Nana Helen. I love all of you. Hi Dillon. – Michael Horst

Today as we hiked down valley, I was reminded of my beautiful mother. Peeking out from behind the rocks, were tiny purple Iris, Mom’s favorite flower. I knew she’d be following me every step of the way. Miss you Mom, but you are always in my heart. –Lori

Happy Mother’s day moma, don’t forget to save me a seat at the movies... – Michael Morales

Isabella, Happy Mother’s day. Miss and love you. Hope you have a great day. Give Katrina a hug for me…. Frank Slachman

Happy Mother’s Day Mom, thank you for all your love and support. You have been an inspiration to me . It is not easy being a mom and you have done a
Wonderful job. Love Kathy

Happy Mother’s day Mom, thank you for the loving and supportive emails recently, you have been a wonderful influence on my life for the last 30 years! I hope you are having a great day! I look forward to talking with you soon! Hope you and Dad are well! Love Garrett Madison

Fred and Martha, tell Mom happy Mother’s Day. I know she’s not seeing the cybercasts, but you can pass it on to her. Also hugs to you both. Ellie

Mom, thank you for giving me a great love of the outdoors and respect for my body. Not a day goes by without me applying at least one of the many lessons you taught me. Please have a Happy Mother’s Day. Love, your son, Vern.

Earlier: For friends and family, The Red Team is now at 12000 feet resting and relaxing in the thick air. We plan to recuperate for a few days in the lowlands before we head back up to base camp and wait for a weather window. The Blue Team is back at base camp after their stint at 24000 feet. They too will be descending into the lowlands tomorrow for several days of recovery. You wouldn’t think that high altitude would be so taxing. But it is. And let me tell you, we are all glad to be down low recovering. It makes all the difference in the world. We all are getting even stronger, which will make a big difference when we go back for our summit push.

Take care everyone and we will send some more photos and video soon. – Jeffrey James Justman

May 6, 2009    
Camp Three
Hello everyone, this is Team Red Alpine Ascents. We are all safely back at base camp after a five day stint up high on Mount Everest. Our main objective was met as we climbed up to 24,000 feet and spent one night at Camp 3. The entire team did a great job at high altitude. The Lhotse Face as you will see in the video is very steep and it does not let up, even when you arrive at camp. With our objective of sleeping one night at Camp 3 accomplished, we descended back down to base camp. And let me tell you, it feels great to be back down to lower altitude. However, we are going to feel even better tomorrow. We are going to descend to 12,000 feet for a final rest and recovery. By going to that altitude we will allow our bodies to fully recover. This is important so when we return we will be fully charged up for our summit attempt. We still have a ways to go however. So first things first, we’re going to eat, sleep and drink, not necessarily in that order. But we are looking forward to some down time relaxing. Team Red will definitely stay in touch in the interim. – Jeffrey James Justman

Blue Team Report from Camp 3:
Hello there friends, family, and loved ones. This is Vern Tejas reporting for Team Blue. We’re up doing our acclimatization at 7,143 meters above sea level at Camp 3 in the middle of the Lhotse Face. Fortunately our Sherpas have secured the tents well here because the wind has come up. We just got into camp about an hour ago, and it’s taken us a while to get organized. We’re just getting through supper and we’re looking forward to trying to sleep tonight. We’ll see what happens, between the altitude and the wind it might be a tough one. But as long as you all are following along with us, we’re happy. Thanks a lot for staying tuned with us. Come back tomorrow for an update after we get back down to Camp 2.

Ciao for Now.

May 4, 2009 : Blue Team Report: (Guides: Vern and Garrett. Climbers are Frank S., Kurt, Lori, Kay, Kathy, Alex, and Mike Morales)
Ok, here’s the official report straight from the mountain:
This is the Blue Team. Today we went from Camp 1 up to Camp 2. Everyone did great. We got a little snow in the afternoon. The Red Team is up at Camp 3 right now. We’re looking forward to a day of rest tomorrow, and then the following day we’ll be moving up to Camp 3. So everyone is eating big meals and resting up for the challenge ahead. We have a few individual messages to shout out to friends and family:

“Hi, this is Kay LeClair. I’m doing great up at Camp 2. I just wanted to say hi to family and friends everywhere. I hope you are all doing well and I look forward to getting up to Camp 3 soon. Bye”

“This is Frank Slachman here at Camp 2. I wanted to say hi to Joni, Kelley, Katy, Kipper and Kibo (I hope I got that right).”

“This is Kurt Gusinde up at Camp 2. I wanted to say hello to family and friends in Phoenix and Portland, Oregon.”

“Hi! Kathy Setian here, wishing my son Cameron a very happy sixteenth birthday on May 5 (maybe 6, I couldn’t quite hear it), and my love goes out to all my family. Bye.”

“Hi, it’s Lori Schneider. I wanted to send my love to my Dad and my family back in Jamesville, and to Jim and my family and friends in Bayfield, and everybody else out there who is in my heart. I love you all. Bye.”

And it looks like Alex and Michael have stepped out of the tent, so we’ll have to wait until later for messages from them. That’s all from the Blue Team.

Red Team moves to C 1 : May 1, 2009    

This morning our Red Team left Everest Base Camp at 4 AM to climb up through the icefall and arrived at Camp 1 after 5 hours time. They reported easy climbing through the icefall and were resting in their tents after a hot lunch around noon today. Tomorrow they plan to climb up to Camp 2.

Our Blue Team rested today in Base Camp and will take another day of rest tomorrow in preparation for our move to Camp 1 on May 3rd. All is well here in Base Camp!

April 30, 2009     Base Camp : Well, it was inevitable. I’m sitting at the computer in the communication tent with a hot cocoa and some Famous Amos cookies. That’s not inevitable but the snow sure is. Our team has been blessed with sunny weather from the start. And to be honest with you, it is rather nice to have a little snow. It’s not accumulating too much at least down here at base camp. What the weather is doing higher up on the mountain, well…that’s another story. And tomorrow, the Red Team will find out.

Mike Horst, Lakpa Rita and Jeffrey James will lead the Red Team on their second foray up the mountain. Our goal will be to climb up to Camp Three at 24,000 feet and spend one night there. We will then return to base camp around May 6 for our “big rest” before looking for our summit window. It is getting closer, however we still have some work to do. Speaking of work, our Sherpa team is working non-stop to stock and supply Camp Three and Camp Four. We have to give a big shout out to the boys who are putting in “hard time” up high to help prepare us for a summit attempt.

Meanwhile, the Blue Team will be enjoying a couple more days of rest in base camp. They will be heading up with Vern and Garrett in a couple of days and will swap camps with the Red Team as they are descending back to base camp.

One would think that splitting the group would create some competitiveness. And it has. So to settle the “turf” war we decided to have the teams compete in a “walk off” similar to the movie “Zoolander”. We made a cat walk and each team member strut their best poses. It even broke out into a break-dance fight. We have video but we are having a tough time editing the film, the moves were that fast! In the end, the Blue team got tired and pulled out an apple pie from the bakery and called a truce.

So we are still one big happy family here at Alpine Ascents base camp.

-Jeffrey James Justman

Team Red & Blue Back Together
April 28, 2009     Base Camp :
Hello Everyone! This is The Blue Team. We are happily all back at Base Camp, reunited with The Red Team. As you may have heard the last few days, we had our first go around up high. The Blue Team did great through the icefall. We spent two days at Camp One. After a meal or two of Spam we headed up to Camp Two, which serves as an Advanced Base Camp. It was a windy day traveling to Two. At Camp Two we were treated to great food and all the hot drinks we could stomach. And let me tell you, hots were in order seeing how cold it was. Luckily everyone had their down suits to keep them warm. And speaking of warm, you should have heard the team members shouting as the hot water in the showers at Base Camp hit dirty skin. As I am writing this in Base Camp, one of the team members is still in the shower, refusing to leave even though the hot water ran out. Everyone is doing great and Garrett and I are really proud at how well The Blue Team did for their first foray up to Camp Two. Our next go around will only be that more comfortable. – Jeffrey James Justman

Namaste friends, family and gloved ones,

Team Red had quite a bonding day. Frank Hutchinson shared details of his checkered past as an Olympic Bobsled racer. He kept us enthralled for over an hour with tails 100 MPH crashes and his role in opening the sport African Americans. He also shared his passion and project advocating better treatment for our more than 2 million men and women that have served our country bravely in our two on going wars. When he finished the whole team was behind his effort and agreed to help him with his mission. Then we went for a morning hike and found a cool boulder to test our rock climbing skills on. With Nupste and the West shoulder of Everest as a backdrop we couldn't resist taken a photo to share with you.

Team Blue down climbed the Khumbu Icefall to join us for lunch. It is great to have us all back together, one big happy family. All members are in good health and appreciative of some time off to relax and recuperate from the demands of climbing with so little oxygen. A few days here in Base Camp and we should be ready for our next foray into near space, to stress our bodies further. This will hopefully cause our bodies to respond by building billions of new blood cells which will allow us to adapt to higher altitude. Come join the fun!

All our best, Vern Tejas
Congratulations to Nikko on becoming an Eagle Scout

Blue team Climbs towards Lhotse Face : April 27, 2009    
Camp II April 27, 2009

Blue Team Reporting: This is Team Blue, up at Camp 2 at 21,500 or so feet. We spent today, our second day here at Camp 2, taking a foray toward the Lhotse Face. The team got a better look at it, and it’s actually looking very good. Some other teams, including our sherpas, went up and we can now see tents up at Camp 3 at 24,000 ft. So a lot of teams are doing hard work, and we are doing hard work as well just acclimatizing and taking it easy. Everyone is doing great and we’re very proud of the team. We’re looking forward to another great dinner here at Camp 2, Advanced Base Camp. The sherpas have been working very hard for us, and it’s much appreciated. We’re eating very well and drinking as much fluid as we can put in. Tomorrow we’re looking forward to heading back down to Base Camp. We’ll be getting up early in the morning and making our way down. We should be down to Base Camp in the thick air right about noon. So we have some photos and videos that we’ve been working on and will be sending your way very soon. Everyone says hello to family and friends and we’re looking forward to jumping on the sat phone and making a few calls.

Jeffrey Justman for the Blue Team

Rest Day for Red April 27, 2009    
Base Camp April 27, 2009

Red Team Reporting:
If you are reading this, the first thing you should do is Purell your hands. We were very lucky today: Vern introduced us to the pleasure of wearing the Top Out oxygen mask unfortunately without oxygen! Enjoying dinner with a little Citizen Cope. Our guides informed us that dinner is not a democracy.For those who know me, will appreciate that I found apple pie at the highest bakery on earth. Chris is off duty. Most of us had a restful day reading, one took an unintentional swim. Rice! Rice! Rice! (from Phuri our cookboy)

And even though the satellite internet connection fails when it senses us coming, this is Team Red signing off from Base Camp!

*If this seems a little disjointed, it is! It is a compilation of sentences and phrases contributed from each of the team members

April 26,2009 - Blue Team to Camp 2 : Blue Team Report:
Hello friends and family, this is Blue Team up at Camp 2, at 21,500 ft. plus. Today was an interesting day, we had a little bit of less than ideal weather, a little bit of wind and a little cold and cloud. We did a good job getting up to Camp 2 from Camp 1. We settled into new tents, had a good dinner this evening, and now we’re swapping stories at the dinner table, so that’s always a good sign. You can’t hear it as you’re reading this, but it’s probably blowing a good 30 or 40 miles per hour. It sure is nice to be in Advanced Base Camp. We have good food, all the water and “hots” we can drink, and everyone right now is just focusing on taking care of themselves, which they’re doing very well. We’re going to spend two nights here, tomorrow we’ll do a little foray towards the Lhotse Face where we can get a better look at it. Then we’ll come back to camp, enjoy more good food, and keep hydrating. Then the next day we’ll head back down to Base Camp, where we’ll be able to send some video and photos for everyone to see.

Jeff Justman for the Blue Team

Team Red camp II round trip
April 26, 2009     : Base Camp
Hello friends, family and loved ones,

Vern here reporting on Red team’s progress. The jet stream hovering near Everest has made fro some real windy weather. Our tents rattled all night long making sleep difficult. When we drug out this morning several nearby tents had been flattened. We were lucky that only our outhouse tent needed to be erected. Lakpa whipped up a bunch of hotcakes for breakfast and we were off by 7:30. We met Ed Viesters on our decent, he being the most celebrated North American mountaineer our team was delighted to be climbing along side him on Everest. We ran into Blue team just as they were leaving C1 and had a great time getting caught up on their going ons. Then we plunged down into the Khumbu Icefall. We moved with alacrity, jumping from one block of ice to another, crossing ladders and arm rappelling. In less than 3 hours we were in base camp enjoying Gopal's cooking and taking hot showers. The team is doing well and in great spirits. Join us tomorrow for a well deserved rest day.


April 24 Team make up and miscellaneous News from Base Camp

This is a catch-up cybercast coming from Base Camp. Things have been rather busy, so here are some miscellaneous news items:

First, it seems our intrepid guides neglected to tell you who is on the Red Team and who is on the Blue Team. So here you are:
Red Team guides are Vern, Lakpa, and Michael. Climbers are Stephen, Adam, Tom, Phillipe, Chris, Matt, and Frank H. The Red Team has just completed two nights at Camp 1 and today moved up to Camp 2, where they will spend another two nights before returning to Base Camp. Blue Team guides are JJ, Lakpa, and Garrett. Climbers are Frank S., Kurt, Lori, Kay, Kathy, Alex, and Mike Morales. The Blue Team just moved up to Camp 1 today, moving into the tents just vacated by the Red Team. They will be on the same schedule as the Red Team only two days later. These teams are for the first trip up the mountain. There may be some moving around in the future depending on health of the climbers, etc.

Vern was a little busy last night so I volunteered to send in a report for him. Vern was taking care of Ang Tsering, our Camp 2 cook, who was developing a lung infection. Ang Tsering came down from Camp 2 to Camp 1 yesterday evening, and continued on down to Base Camp today. The doctors at the Himalayan Rescue Association (HRA) clinic here in Base Camp checked him out and determined that he did indeed have pneumonia. Some antibiotics and a few days rest in the thicker air down the valley should put him back in action in a few days. We look forward to him re-joining the team.

In the meantime, Vern wanted me to tell you that the Red Team had a wonderful day yesterday exploring up the valley of the Western Cwm. We have had bright sunshine with a little wind to keep things cool, so the Red Team spent about four hours hiking up the valley to better acclimatize for their move up to Camp 2 today. I’m expecting that we’ll get a report directly from them this evening.

We should also get a report from the Blue Team this evening regaling us with tales of their adventures moving up through the icefall to Camp 1 today.

So even though the Tibetan Snow Cocks fly back to Tibet whenever they hear me say it, this is Ellie signing off for the Alpine Ascents International Mt. Everest Expedition

Earlier: April 22, 2009 Blue Team Update

Today the Blue Team took a rest in base camp and organized gear for the planned ascent to Camp 1 on Friday Morning. The weather has been great so we all took showers, did our laundry and tidied up our camp. We had a surprise visit from Dr. Torrey who came to say hi and see how we are doing, she is from the HRA clinic (the Himalayan Rescue Association) in base camp. Since our camp is a bit removed from Everest base camp proper, we don’t get many visitors, but we certainly enjoy our privacy. Everyone is enjoying our rest day and look forward to our next day of rest tomorrow. Our Sherpa staff made a carry to camp 2 and have now stocked the camp for both our Red and Blue teams that will be spending time there over the next few days. Special message for Lori’s 2nd graders: We really did have pizza tonight!

Earlier: First Glimpse into The Icefall : April 21, 2009   : Base Camp

Today the entire team booted up with ice axes and ascenders in hand and ventured into the Khumbu Icefall. All of the training this past week was well worth it as everyone did a great job. We made it about a third of the way through. Along the way we went up and down; steep and mellow and even crossed an occasional ladder or two.

The real big news is...with 14 climbers and 5 guides, we are a rather big team. To make everything from mountain logistics to personal enjoyment we have decided to split into two teams. Team Red and Team Blue. I am not personally happy being in Team Blue seeing that all my clothing is red. But I am searching Base Camp for a swap.

Everyone is excited, being in a smaller team will allow us to move smoother, especially in the icefall. Tomorrow, Team Red will be moving up to Camp One. They plan to stay there two nights and then head up to Camp Two for two nights.

Meanwhile, Team Blue will have two more days at Base Camp and then we will head up to Camp One. Everyone is doing great and w
e are all itching to see new scenery.

Earlier: More training : April 19, 2009 : base camp : Today we spent 4 hours out on the ice practicing skills such as fixed line travel involving ascending a vertical line, descending a vertical line, ladder crossing, and using the "arm wrap" to descend quickly down moderate slopes, building upon the concept we reviewed yesterday. We had beautiful weather and accomplished a lot in terms of preparing ourselves for our future foray into the Khumbe Icefall in a few days time! Tomorrow we look forward to more training! Stay tuned....

Earlier: Team ladder practice : April 15, 2009 

Base Camp : I’ll be honest with you, it has been a tough couple of days, me included. The news spread fast as we arrived at base camp. There is a lot of little “sick” bugs floating around. And quite a few of us have been battling with the three demons. They are: The G.I. Demon, The Head Congestion Demon, and The Fever Demon. I will spare you the descriptions of what the Demons provide you with. However, I can say, everyone is taking appropriate action to nurse themselves back to health. And it is slowly working. So don’t worry to much even though a few of us would love our Mom’s chicken noodle soup and popsicles as we get tucked into bed watching cartoons. That ain’t gonna happen! But we do have Vern!

Today, the team worked on a knot tying course. Everyone now knows how to tie their shoelaces as well as a few essential mountaineering knots. Another highlight was we started to work on crossing ladders. Vern set up a course with every imaginable scenario. Some ladders were flat, some were ascending, descending and some were set “kittiwampis” (if you’re wondering what kittiwampis means, it means all crooked and lopsided). Vern even made an ultimate challenge by tying several ladders together and placed it over a moat. Don’t worry, no one fell in except me but Mike Horst had his lifeguard tube and pulled me out.

As you can tell by this dispatch we are all still in great spirits despite not feeling as healthy as we should. We are recovering, eating, drinking and most importantly and Patch Adams would be proud, we are all laughing. And that is the best medicine.

That is all for now, I need to go and wipe down this keyboard with a disinfectant wipe! – Jeffrey James Justman

Earlier: arriving base camp!

Greetings friends and family! Today we arrived in base camp after a 5 hour hike from our lodge in Lobuche to find our tents already set up and food on the table. The hike took us past Kala Pattar where we stopped in the last outpost known as Gorak Shep to have a nice lunch before moving on. We got a great view of the summit of Everest during the last hour of our hike (see photo) so we stopped and took a quick break to eat a bit and snap a few pictures. The summit is the black pyramid in the middle of the photo. A few members of our team remained in the lodge in Lobuche with guide Michael Horst to take one more day of rest before moving up here our to base camp tomorrow at 17,600’ where the air is a little thinner. The rest of us are here and setting up our communication tent, eating a few snacks, and having a few hot drinks as the sun has gone behind a cloud and we are all wearing our down jackets to stay warm. We passed our trekking group upon arriving base camp, they had inspected our camp before heading back down to Gorak Shep where they will spend the night and descend the following day. All is well here and we look forward to taking a rest day tomorrow! Bye for now!

Earlier: April 12, 2009   Lobuche : Hello everyone from the 2009 Alpine Ascents Everest Team. We are in Lobuche, which is our last stop before base camp. As we get higher in altitude, we are paying even more attention to acclimatizing properly. Vern is emphasizing positive pressure breathing, rest stepping, and drinking enough fluids. The team we have is doing really well and they are taking all the tips and techniques to heart.

Tonight here in Lobuche we are having another great dinner and we are surrounded by even more trekkers and climbers as they are either going or coming back from base camp. Everyone is thinking of family, especially this week-end. So we thought we would make a little video greeting from our team. Hopefully, if all goes well, our next communication will be from base camp. And we will save you the joy we will all have in reaching our destination to unload all our gear. We’ll save that for the next Everest Team Dispatch..

P.S. Stephen's segment had technical difficulty. He says hello to family and friends

Earlier: Pheriche : My Friends, family and loved ones,

Brilliant weather woke us early. Phereche is surrounded by towering peaks and these were dreamlike due to last night's fresh snowfall. The team was eager to trek up the hill behind town for acclimatization and photos. We climbed to 4449 meters and were treated delightful views of the mountain hamlet of Dingboche.

Our team is strong and one of the most pleasant I have had the honor to lead. We are adjusting well to an abbreviated trek to base camp. If all's well in the morning we will head up valley to scenic Loboche. Please join us. Namaste, Vern Tejas

Earlier: April 5, 2009 : Phakding : The entire ream flew to Lukla today. The flights in were more than adventurous. We flew between periods of total white out and striking views of the Himalaya. After loads of tea and a brief lunch the long awaited trekking began. Perfect hiking weather was with us all the way to Phakding where we settled for the afternoon and bedded up for the night. Everyone is healthy and in good spirits.

April 1, 2009 : Kathmandu : We are spending our second day as a team here in Kathmandu putting the final preparations together. The team had a great city tour and are now relaxing and taking it easy. Tonight we will visit The Rumdoodle Restaurant and enjoy a final evening before we depart to Lukla tomorrow.

March 29, 2009 : Kathmandu : Lakpa's big day!

Today, reading The Rising Nepal, one of the Nepali newspapers we were reminded of how great last evening was and how important Lakpa Rita’s accomplishments are to the Nepali people. Lakpa became the first Nepali to summit the highest mountains on each continent, the seven summits. During the award ceremony many officials were on hand and spoke of Lakpa’s contributions not only to mountaineering and tourism but to the socio-economic support of Sherpa children. There was an incredible slideshow of Lakpa on all seven summits and the entire crowd on hand congratulated him on his accomplishment. For more on Lakpa Rita Sherpa please visit his guide bio. Jeff Justman

Everest from the South Side in Nepal

Base Camp - 17,500 feet (5350 meters)

This is a picture of the popular South Col Route up Mt. Everest.  Base camp is located at 17,500 feet.   This is where climbers begin their true trip up the mountain.  This is also where support staff often remain to monitor the expeditions and provide medical assistance when necessary.  Many organizations offer hiking trips which just go to base camp as the trip is not technically challenging (though you must be very fit). 

From base camp, climbers typically train and acclimate (permitting the body to adjust to the decreased oxygen in the air) by traveling and bringing supplies back and forth through the often treacherous Khumbu Icefall.    This training and recuperation continues throughout the climb, with the final summit push often being the only time to climbers do not go back and forth between camps to train, bring supplies, and recuperate for the next push. 

The Icefall is in constant motion.  It contains enormous ice seracs, often larger than houses, which dangle precariously over the climbers heads, threatening to fall at any moment without warning, as the climbers cross endless crevasses and listen to continuous ice creaking below.  This often acts as a testing ground to judge if less experienced climbers will be capable of continuing.   The Icefall is located between 17,500 and 19,500 feet.

Camp I - 5900 meters

After the Icefall, the climbers arrive at Camp I, which is located at 19,500 feet.  Depending on the type of expedition, Camp I will either be stocked by the climbers as they ascend and descend the Icefall, or by Sherpas in advance.

The area between Camp I and Camp II is known as the Western Cwm.  As the climbers reach Camp II at 21,000 feet, they may be temporarily out of sight of their support at Base camp.  Nonetheless, modern communication devises permit the parties to stay in contact.

Camp II - 6500 meters

As the climbers leave Camp II, they travel towards the Lhotse face (Lhotse is a 27,920 foot mountain bordering Everest).  The Lhotse face is a steep, shiny icy wall.  Though not technically extremely difficult, one misstep or slip could mean a climber's life.  Indeed, many climbers have lost their lives through such mishaps. 

Camp III - 23,700 feet (7200 meters)

To reach Camp III, climbers must negotiate the Lhotse Face. Climbing a sheer wall of ice demands skill, strength and stamina. It is so steep and treacherous that many  Sherpas move directly from Camp II to Camp IV on the South Col, refusing to stay on the Lhotse Face.

Camp IV - 26,300 feet (8000 meters)

As you’re leaving C4…it’s a little bit of a down slope, with the uphill side to the left. There are typically snow on the ledges to walk down on, interspersed with rock, along with some fixed rope. The problem with the rope is that the anchors are bad, and there’s not much holding the rope and a fall could be serious. Fortunately it’s not too steep, but there is a ton of exposure and people are usually tired when walking down from camp. The rock is a little down sloping to the right as well, and with crampons on, it can be bit tricky with any kind of wind. There’s a little short slope on reliable snow which leads to the top of the Geneva Spur, and the wind pressure gradient across the spur can increase there as you’re getting set up for the rappel. Wearing an oxygen mask here can create some footing issues during the rappel, because it’s impossible to see over the mask and down to the feet. For that reason, some people choose to leave Camp 4 without gas, as it’s easier to keep moving down the Spur when it’s important to see all the small rock steps and where the old feet are going. Navigating down through all of the spaghetti of fixed ropes is a bit of a challenge, especially with mush for brains at that point. One lands on some lower ledges which aren’t so steep, where fixed ropes through here are solid. At this point, it’s just a matter of staying upright, and usually, the wind has died significantly after dropping off the Spur. The route turns hard to the left onto the snowfield that leads to the top of the Yellow Bands.

Camp IV, which is at 26,300 on the Lhotse face, is typically the climbers' first overnight stay in the Death Zone.  The Death Zone is above 26,000 feet.  Though there is nothing magical about that altitude, it is at this altitude that most human bodies lose all ability to acclimate. Accordingly, the body slowly begins to deteriorate and die - thus, the name "Death Zone."  The longer a climber stays at this altitude, the more likely illness (HACE - high altitude cerebral edema - or HAPE - high altitude pulmonary edema) or death will occur.  Most climbers will use oxygen to climb and sleep at this altitude and above.  Generally, Sherpas refuse to sleep on the Lhotse face and will travel to either Camp II or Camp IV.

Camp IV is located at 26,300 feet. This is the final major camp for the summit push.  It is at this point that the climbers make their final preparations.  It is also a haven for worn-out climbers on their exhausting descent from summit attempts (both successful and not).  Sherpas or other climbers will often wait here with supplies and hot tea for returning climbers.

From Camp IV, climbers will push through the Balcony, at 27,500 feet, to the Hillary Step at 28,800 feet.  The Hillary Step, an over 70 foot rock step, is named after Sir. Edmond Hillary, who in 1953, along with Tenzing Norgay, became the first people to summit Everest.  The Hillary Step, which is climbed with fixed ropes, often becomes a bottleneck as only one climber can climb at a time.  Though the Hillary Step would not be difficult at sea level for experienced climbers, at Everest's altitude, it is considered the most technically challenging aspect of the climb.

Summit - 29,028 feet (8848 meters)

Once the climbers ascend the Hillary Step, they slowly and laboriously proceed to the summit at 29,028 feet.  The summit sits at the top of the world.  Though not the closest place to the sun due to the earth's curve, it is the highest peak on earth.  Due to the decreased air pressure, the summit contains less than one third the oxygen as at sea level.  If dropped off on the summit directly from sea level (impossible in reality), a person would die within minutes.  Typically, climbers achieving the great summit will take pictures, gain their composure, briefly enjoy the view, then return to Camp IV as quickly as possible.   The risk of staying at the summit and the exhaustion from achieving the summit is too great to permit climbers to fully enjoy the great accomplishment at that moment.  

As most readers of this page know, the return trip can be even more dangerous than the climb to the summit.


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