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Dispatches are in reverse chronological order, with the most recent appearing first.
Monday, May 2
Invariably, Everest is a very dangerous venture, and as of recent, the occupants on Everest's slopes have escaped this season with a relatively low toll in terms of life an limb, until last night. A week ago, a Canadian passed away due to heart failure while self-evacuating off the mountain, and another Canadian had fallen into a crevasse and sustained several broken bones but was successfully extracted and repatriated to his homeland.
Last night, luck changed, and a team member from an American led team fell into a crevasse in early afternoon and perished during the ensuing rescue effort. All team members on the ECFACE team are ok, but are very contemplative as mountaineers -- any loss of life during an expedition is tragic- and everyone on the mountain is affected. We currently have refrained from specifically naming the expedition or members involved as this is being officially released from the specific team involved and we wish to respect the chain of information that is flowing from Base Camp.
Our team sends their full condolences to those involved and we have currently reviewed our safety practices as well as have had a meeting with our climbing Sherpa staff in regards to our climbing methods and elements of safety.
We will continue to climb in the full spirit of adventure that surrounds extreme mountaineering, forging a great sense of caution and awareness for our Sherpa and climbing teams in regards to the recent events.
Our current plans to rest and then push for a summit bid in the next 10 to 15 days are still and place and stay tuned for upcoming updates...
Sunday, May 1
It snowed all night and the forecast is for more snow til Tuesday. But we are all down and in Base Camp safe and recuperating. It gives us appreciation for being more than 6000 feet lower than our high point! Full meals, hot water, less cold, less blowing winds, finally some relief - well deserved.
Being down brings some appreciation for our Sherpa staff that has put in our camps, our Base Camp staff that has done a phenomenal job in every way
in keeping our climb going forward. The pause in the stress of climbing now brings the paradox of malaise at Base Camp as we sit out this storm.
We get a fair amount of news on what's going on in terms of other teams, the mountain and possible summit strategies. Paula Stout, our BC Manager has kept up on all this, our weather, as well as kept ongoing "public works" projects in Base Camp from building a stone table in our mess tent to seeing that our tents are in good order while we are high on the mountain.
She has maintained a constant inventory of our favorites including my Pringles, Fanta Orange drink (which I almost fried the PC with) and other goodies that make it all just a bit easier that our brought up from Namche. The trail just going from our team mess tent to my tent has changed 3 times while being here. Its nice to come down to a clean mess tent, condiments, drink mixes snacks all in place for the climbers. A tribute to our BC Manager's competency and attention to detail and care for our team.( Of course rumor has it, she has been teaching the Sherpa team card games and has been even been winning some rupees at some of their "local" card games after dinner time).
A few words about our "team". It is of course comprised of our four western climbers and two other Americans "sharing" our permit, but in the forefront, is of course Apa Sherpa and a group of highly dedicated climbing Sherpas that are really making this climb a reality. Without the help and leadership from our Sherpas, a climb on Everest is really only a dream. From carrying gear from Lukla to Base Camp, organizing food, cooking food at all camps, establishing camps, putting tents up, carrying member's gear and equipment, making sure each camp is stocked, etc.etc.etc., there are countless things and an endless list of dangerous and hazardous duties that the Sherpas on all the teams here perform on a daily basis. Kudos to them all.
It has been an amazing experience to have Apa as our Sirdar, and watch him organize and strategize our climb. He is such a humble, yet confident person, and being with this legend brings a calm even in the eye of our current adventures. Summit or no summit, its an honor to be on expedtion with such a great and revered person. Its funny, Apa never goes and visits other Sherpas or climbers, they come to our camp...a true sign of his status as a respected Everest fixture.
As for news on the mountain - while we were on our venture to Camp 3, a Sherpa was stricken with exhaustion and altitude related ailments and was quickly evacuated by a team of around 14 other Sherpas from high on the mountain all the way to Base Camp, a testament to their strength and commitment to those who dare to be on Everest.
For our next steps --- WE ARE CURRENTLY RESTING FOR THE NEXT WEEK OR SO - BUT OUR NEXT PUSH WILL HOPEFULLY BE OUR SUMMIT PUSH!
We are excited but a bit uneasy about not knowing exact weather, dates, etc. Waiting out the weather, staying healthy, and keeping mentally sharp while losing great amounts of weight are all small things that bear on us right now. But we are planning to move up the mountain in the next 5 to 10 days to start our summit push that may coincide for a summit date between the 10th to the 15 of May, weather, health and gear in place all falling into the right order......Our Everest Climbing For A Cure Expedition summit flags are all ready and waiting for that summit..so stay tuned...
Saturday, April 30
We awake early to winds and huge lenticular clouds that are forming on Everest and a few other peaks from a far. A definite sign of bad weather and a big motivator for us to move quickly. Its cold, once again, and we all head out for Base Camp. On the way down, I am stopped for 25 minutes as I watch some Sharps fix a double ladder that had come loose. Chuck, John and Julie cruise. It's a long day but once what seemed like a bad place (Base Camp) is now looking like our oasis in the desert.
It starts to snow as I finally make it out of the Khumbu Ice Fall without incident. Our Base Camp Manager, Paula Stout once again is there, waiting with snacks and hot drink - for us ragged and weary climbers. For me, what seemed just 6 days, put 6 months wear on my body. I look even skinnier, lips chapped, face sunburned, knees sore, ahhh, mountaineering, always was what I called a character development exercise.
Friday, April 29
W e awake, as if we slept, to high winds and we pack hastily and make it out of Camp 3. I have a handful of Wheat Thins for breakfast, gulp down some Gatorade and off we go. I am glad to head down though it is still cold and fraught with the hazards of small rocks and ice chunks falling on our heads. We make it all back to Camp 2. Here we fuel up with a meal and will head all the way down to Base Camp (skipping Camp One) the next morning, making it our longest and hardest journey up onto the mountain so far.
Back at Camp 2, we are a tired group, but are safe and sound. One more day and we will be at the comfort at Base Camp.
Thursday, April 28
The big push...
Rob, John and Chuck (with another fellow American climber named Julie Smith) ascend to Camp 3. The Lhoste face is as enormous as it presents itself. the first 800 feet in gain is a gradual glacial approach. Then, it abruptly goes up, not quite vertical, but close enough to make carrying my small 30 pound backpack feel like a hundred pound load. I struggle every 4 to 5 steps up the fixed lines - there is not that many climbers present and the thin air strains and burns at our lungs. A good way up, a series of steep steps appear and benches with other teams tents are present. Chuck and John make it higher and finally into our camp. As I am numerous rope pitches below, what would seem a mere 1/2 hour away on regular rock/ice climbing ground back at home in Yosemite or Lee Vining Canyon, takes me what appears hours. At that time, a huge wind and snow maelstrom hits us.
Chuck and John just make it into camp, as I still have to fight for another hour or so. The snow fills in the back of my hood as sheets of vertical snow reinforced with winds of around 30 to 60 miles per hour blast each of my positions. Visibility drops to a few feet and at times I can barely see a foot in front of me. It becomes very difficult to see and all the previous steps kicked into the ice, are filled in with snow, making each step up, one step up, but three sinking moves back down. It is absolutely physically draining. I start to shiver and realize that I must dawn my down jacket over my 2 layers of long underwear, my fleece and Gore-Tex. I clip into an anchor, unclip my pack and attempt to pull my gear out. In the process, due to the high winds, my pack is almost 1/2 filled with snow in a short amount of time. My goggles are now useless being fogged up and covered with frozen snow. I end up ripping them off and then pulling my balaclava and hood super tight , just enough so that there is a crack of about 1 centimeter to peak out of. Each time I decide to move, I peak up and down, eyeing my objective footholds and upward direction through my peepholes, then just put my head down as the wind blasts and snow drops I make a mental picture of what I looked at and make my moves. It takes great focus to keep it together and move in such a mechanical and inefficient manner, but it gets me the progress I need.
As my down parka is now on, the winds increase, and I feel highly isolated, not realizing where our camp is and screaming at the top of my lungs at each tent I pass, I pray for some reply from my team mates. At one point, another climber comes up from behind me and asks (while yelling at the top of our lungs) "is there something wrong with my eye????!!!! In looking at him, it is quite obvious, his entire face is encrusted with frozen water/ice, and a small icicle has formed over his left eye, from the top of his brow down to his cheek of the same side- effectively freezing his eye shut. I quickly help him remove the encrustment watching with some discomfort in seeing the pain this causes. He is lucky, half a rope further, he finds his tent and turns into the comfort and safety of shelter. I am almost angry that our camp wasn't there.
Finally, I climb up to a series of two benches where I see John come up out and wave me in. I get into the tent completely soaked, covered with snow, with snow down my clothing and shivering. I make quick work in unpacking my pack attempting to find some shed of clothing that is dry. I find a top and bottom, midweight underwear, that I had packed the night before "just in case". The weight of it paid off in gold, as I scrambled to get into dry clothing, get my sleeping bag out and stop the shivering. Chuck, John and a Sherpa named Dorjee who climbed to Camp 3 with us had already thankfully had a stove going with hot water on the way. Our friend Julie, who found similar circumstances as I did, pulled into Camp 3 and had to get warmed up as I did.
John and I shared a tent which was situated on an ice ledge chipped out at around 23,700 feet. It was on a down angle and leaning toward the wrong direction for us to actually make any real type of comfortable sleeping platform. Underneath were bumpy protrusions of rock, frozen snow and ice that in some areas, rose as high as 4 to 6 inches. I use every piece of gear, pack, clothing, harness to try to make it flat to no avail. If it were not for being in such a perilous perch, it would almost be a comical thing. It quickly reminded me of one of the rooms at a sideshow attraction by my home in California called the Mystery Spot that features what appears to be mystical or aberrations of natural science that show deviations of physical buildings, roofs, floors that seemingly appear to be off kilter, out of balance or just not aligned to the laws of physics within this spot in the Santa Cruz mountains. Our tent is definitely misaligned and not in balance - and this really gets to us.
I got around one hour of sleep between the severe winds and snow battering the tent and the incessant snow and frozen frost that had condensated inside our tent that fell on our faces or the fact that our heads were slanted slightly downward, adding to my already altitude stretching headache. After 17 years of climbing, this could qualify as the one most miserable nights in a tent ever.
Wednesday, April 27
We rest up one more day, Camp 2 once again drains us. We are getting high winds, light snows, I feel that my weight is going down. I must be down at least 15 pounds from my 150 pound frame. Other teams are struggling around us as well and there is now quite a development at Camp 2 of teams that are vying for an earlier summit window. Our Sirdar, Apa, believes the monsoon season (storming season) may come earlier and that our team should be poised for an early summit. This goal to be ready early on puts a strain on all of us.
Tuesday, April 26
We all join up at Camp Two, At 21,300 feet, the cold, the dry wind and low air pressure takes it toll on all members, it is a misery to be here and one of our members goes down due to a bad stomach ailment. We all look forward to tagging Camp Three and getting down. The weather is very frigid.
Sleep is very difficult, I have had many nights of barely 2 to 4 hours of sleep, making it very difficult to operate while climbing during the daylite hours.
Monday, April 25
The second group of climbers move to Camp One as the first group of climbers move to Camp Two. The temps are cold, winds high in the evening but we enjoy the movement through the Ice Fall. I (Rob Chang) like everyone else, cut some hours off on both times in making my way to Camp One and to Camp Two, acclimatization is taking hold finally.
Sunday, April 24
Our team after a long rest decides to split due to differing levels of health and acclimatization. A couple members go up to Camp One and then on the 24th move to Camp Two. We are all a bit restless with so much time without activity and it is hard to spend so much down time without doing much physical activity. There are options to go hiking out of Base Camp, but to stay at such a altitude is a drag on one's psyche.