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Dispatches are in reverse chronological order, with the most recent appearing first.
Wednesday, May 11 - Friday, May 13
The waiting game continues as we battle boredom and malaise, but this is part of the Everest puzzle. We recently had a meeting with a number of other teams and had pieced together a joint summit plan in which each team would contribute manpower, materiel and/or supplies for the summit push out of Camp Four to the Balcony and beyond. This was based on an early prediction that there would be a small and short clear spell - which never came, so the plan was pushed back.
Our syrup crises has been averted due to a very generous team that donated a bottle to us - we are once again maple syrup stocked. As for what the team members are up to, Chuck, Dan, John and I have been doing short hikes down valley to Gorak Shep and/or Pumori Base Camp/Camp One. We are trying to keep some assemblance of fitness but as more days tick off, we feel the lost acclimatization we once had to almost 24,000 feet.
Our Sherpas have completed all our large load carrying duties to Camp Four. This was an amazing feat once again, considering the other day 50+ Sherpas attempted to carry gear to Camp Four and only 18 made it, 13 from one team and the other 5 were ours (who by the way were carrying double loads once again to 26,000feet!). Many other teams left gear and packs tied off to the fixed ropes between Camps Three and Four since the winds and conditions were too brutal to complete the task that day.
With our Sherpas completing this monumental goal, means at least for our team, everything is in place at each camp for us to make our summit push.
Our summit push involves our team moving from Base Camp through the Khumbu Ice Fall (one last time) to Camp Two in one day, we then take a rest day at Camp Two (ie. spend two nights there). From Camp Two, we move up the Lhoste Face to Camp Three, spend one night at Camp Three. The next day the plan is to move to Camp Four, we spend the rest of the day/afternoon there, then head out around 8pm the same night for the summit.
We plan to summit mid-morning the next day, and upon the summit we return back to Camp 4. The next day we head to Camp 2, then the next day to Base Camp - and then the large process of breaking BC and heading home. This of course is based upon the many different weather forecasts we are getting here - and then choose a day we feel is going to be the best chance of good weather, and then reverse engineer the process knowing how many days it will take us to get in place to be at Camp 4 for the summit evening/day.
Being with Apa Sherpa definitely helps, in terms of his vast experience and summit record - but as we have learned, this is all part science, part art, part luck and part intuition. Not knowing the specific date when we plan to head up does at times wear on us - but anyone who is a veteran here, knows patience is just as important as anything else in terms of success.
As for using oxygen, yes our team, Sherpas included will be using oxygen out of Camp Three. Very few individuals don't use "gas" as we call it here in BC and there are a few here on the mountain who don't plan to use it. Debate aside, from a health and safety standpoint, our team has chosen to be on the positive side of things in terms of lessening the chances of high altitude sicknesses, frostbite, and being able to move a bit quicker on "gas". We asked Apa about people who come here for their first time with the goal of climbing without oxygen and asked when do they think they might have bit off more than they could chew when opting to go for it with out O's, and he answered, "when they get to 8000 meteres, then they know when they probably need gas....". O's definitely help, even if we do have to carry the extra weight in our packs.
We also recently visited some other camps to compare weather notes and our BC Manager Paula has been an active participant in keeping up to date on what other teams are thinking and planning. I was able to trade some of my teriyaki beef jerky for some canned lunch ham which was a great score.
Weather forecasts are like gold around here, though now there are numerous sources, from France, Switzerland, US, UK, Sudan and a few more, so its a filtering process to say the least, with of course, the practice of actually poking our heads out our tents and looking up at the mountain.
Other teams are up at Camps Two and Three completing there acclimatization pushes. We have been battling a technology bug of a sort with some problems with our email arrangement - so hopefully we can get this all ironed out before our summit bid - a great thanks to Damon Tribble at Tribble Designs for being our invaluable email help and tech support back at home!
As for the climbing Sherpas - they are down in Base Camp too. They find long coversations into the evenings an integral part of their day as well as the friendly dice and card games. We have had some time to show them how to use some video gear as well as show them some elements of organizing an expedition as well as improving their English reading and writing skills.
Food has been good in BC, though our Sherpa Cook Birbal has been testy with our picky appetites at times. I am lactose intolerant with our BC Manager - ie. no dairy, a few others can't have garlic or onions in their food due to severe gastric issues that will arise later after the meal, so we aren't exactly the easiest bunch to cook for in the land of yak butter/milk - and a haven for onion and garlic garnishment - but our cook staff has been very creative.
We recently had pizza and beer night (limited beer for sure) and it was a fun, flavorful evening. Under the supervision of our BC manager, we also had a new desert called Choco Pucks, made from a Texas biscuit recipe, with chocolate thrown in, and of course, steamed versus fried according to one of our Sherpa cook staff. The creation came out quite good, a cross between fudge and a brownie - but probably not going to be on a Mrs. Fields menu any time soon.
As for me, my 150 pound frame is now down to about 130 pounds. I am trying to supplement all my meals with a tube of Pringles, candy bars, and even some of the Sherpa meals that are left over. I have a liking for their Sherpa stew with Yak meat and of course, a stew which has some Tibetan goat meat in it -protein is key for trying to maintain some weight (sorry if any offense to non-meat eaters).
The weather has cleared abit but with high winds above. Updated weather reports are due in the next couple days, and so this new information can possibly start the process for many teams summit bids- ours included soo stay tuned as we feel our summit push is near......
Monday, May 9 - Tuesday, May 10As we sit here in BC, we are hearing a possible rumor of a weather clearing early next week, but it is just a rumor. As for our team, our Sherpas are still running loads up to our higher camps (2,3 and 4) and it is absolutely amazing. Many of them have carried double loads and more. One carried 6, 4 liter and 2, 3 liter oxygen bottles to high camp in one load -which is over a 30 kilo load (over 65 pounds not counting his own gear) an amazing feat to 26,000 feet.
As for our morale, we had a bit of a crisis this morning, at 8:55 am, Nepali time, we ran out of maple syrup for our breakfast meals. This small item is a rather rare commodity up here and we are now in serach/scavenge/trade mode to find more. My hidden supply of rice crispy treats may have to come into play.
Team members have been hiking out of BC as high as 19,000 by near by Pumori and we recently watched a helicopter ferry in food supplies and evac climbers and gear from last weeks incidents. Its always a tense event to watch a huge machine strain at this altitude and to land so close to tents and climbers standing around - but it went off with out a hitch.
On the gear front, we are happy to report that the majority of our sponsored equipment has been working well. Our Sherpa Adventure Gear down parkas and jackets are doing well and keep us snug and warm during the cold nights.
Headlamps, waterbottles, hats and all our featured gear at our website has been a great success for our team members to use. A great thanks to all the organizations that have supported our endeavor (including EverestNews.com/EverestGear.com for technical and communication support).
One piece of gear I can not say kudos enough about is my CWX long underwear/active wear. These are designed with specific support zones on the legs especially the hamstrings, knees and calves. I have had issues for the past few years with my knees during my extended trips and I have used my CWX literally from the start of the trek, from Lukla all the way up to Camp 3 (23,700 ft.), and I have not had to use my knee brace yet ( knock on wood) for extra support. I of course have washed these things numerous times on the down time and they have stood up the test of wear and tear so far. Thermally, they've done a great job keeping me cool when its hot out, and warm when its cool. The only flaw so far has been that I did not bring spare pairs - but the set I do have will be on me during my summit push.
Our team is set for our summit push and we thank all those well wishers and those who have contacted us about the past events that included the accidents.
Sunday, May 8
From Everest Base Camp, back to home, we would like to wish all moms a happy Mother's Day. I hope my mom, Fay, has a wonderful day, as we are still in BC awaiting better weather and are doing minor tasks around BC here for the next week. Everyone's health is good, still have a few coughs around BC but Chuck, Paula, Dan, John and I are well.
Most teams are down valley or are on standby in BC as we are due to have estimated high winds of 130mph + at the summit over the next week or so. Things are settling down after all the incidents high up last week and next week, I am going to try to rally an all BC juniper burning, where all the teams, on one day, at one time, burn juniper at their puja chortens for good luck for all the teams. So far people have been receptive, I am just trying to iron out the date and time and how to inform everyone. It appears a little good karma would be nice for all the teams here after all the excitement.
Friday, May 6
I finally make it back into Base Camp and its good to see all the team members again. John Gray is a bit sick to the stomach but everyone for the most part is back and ready for action. We are all now sitting out some bad weather and snow that has crusted over the Lhoste Face, making any progress for any teams pretty much impossible for the next few days. Our forecast doesn't look any better and though our short trip down valley was a great success in terms of getting morale back up and getting our fitness back a bit, the forecast bears on us as we may have to wait a good deal of time before moving again for our summit push. This is the part of the expedition where the team members, Sherpas and other expeditions are all on hold and mold mode, and it can get a bit monotonous. Hopefully it clears and we are at least glad that there were no fatalities in the avalanche.
Thursday, May 5
Most of the team members trek from Lobuche to Base Camp, I decide to stop off and stay a night in Gorak Shep for sleep. There is news trickling down from Base Camp that Camp One has been wiped out and there are injuries. I get more details and indeed, Camp One was hit by an avalanche with 6 injuries, one person had to be brought down in a litter while the other were rescued and were able to self-evacuate down the ice-fall with the assistance with a multi-team effort of Sherpas and climbers. Thankfully none of our team members were affected, but we did lose three tents, food supplies and some personal gear. Our camp used to be in the glacial depressions at the top of the ice fall, news has it, these are filled in and we can now just walk accross them for the most part. There is a new debris area and to say the least, the events of the last week have been a bit harrowing for all of those here.
Wednesday, May 4
We have another rest day down in Lobuche, some of us hike (Chuck and Dan) others rest and read and eat and eat. I have scrambled eggs and french toast for breakfast, eat two tubes of Pringles, 4 candy bars, a plate of chowmein noodles, soup, have fried rice and veggie dumblings and a piece of cake for all the day's foods. John G. eats as much and my sleep improves to almost a solid 5 hours at a time. There are are rumors that there has been a large avalanche at Camp One or Two. We are a bit apprehensive but know sometimes things get exaggerated.
Tuesday, May 3
After all the emotional issues involving the incidents in the Ice Fall, our team decided to take a break and head down to lower terra ferma. John, Chuck, Dan, and I (Rob) decide to go down to Lobuche to rest up and eat some food in a heated tea house.
We find a release being around other people (mostly trekkers) and befriend a few along the way. Lobuche, use to be known as Dustbowlche, for its locale in a windy and dry and mostly remote area, now hosts around 4-5 tea houses and the one we stay in is pretty nice. I get a shower and am clean for another few days. The shower is almost a real one, the water is hot there is a real water system, and its a nice departure from our more spartan arrangement up in Base Camp. We have some good meals and some good conversation with the people we meet.
first, just to put all worries at rest, all members of the Climbing For A Cure Team are safe. Chuck Huss, Dan Smith, Rob Chang, John Gray and Julie Smith are all "down valley" taking a couple of R&R days at Lobuche. (Indoor shower and toilet...i'm so jealous!). Our sixth member, Will Cross, is on the mountain, but he is safe at Camp 2 and awaiting an acclimatization trip tomorrow to Camp 3.
As some of you may have already heard reported on US television, this morning around 8am local time, an avalanche hit Camp 1, above the icefall. Unfortunately, several teams were affected by the avalanche. The whole of base camp went into action to get rescue and medical personnel on site as soon as possible. (Camp 1 is approx 3-5 hours from base camp depending on the strength of the climber.) The most recent report is that 6 people were injured in the avalanche. One sherpa's back was seriously injured and, while i am writing this, he is being carried down the mountain on a stretcher. The other five injuries varied from a severely sprained ankle to cuts and bruises. All of these climbers are walking down the icefall under their own power with assistance.
Contrary to reports from the US, there were no known fatalities. At this time, all climbing teams have reported that their members and sherpas are accounted for.
I know that each of you are praying every day for the safe return of our team. I would ask that you also include the family of Mike O'Brien and all of those who were injured in today's events.
When the sun returns to Base Camp, I'll be sure to write again. Until then, know that all is well with our team and we're just all missing our family and friends, but we're having a good time. take care. paula.