Everest Summit 2002

Monday, May 31, 2010

The Journey Through Pics

The expedition started with a trip from Kathmandu to Lukla. The day was foggy and the arrival to the Lukla airport was hair-raising. Visibility was not to standards recommended for low flying between high peaks.

The first stop was the town of Phakding for some trekking and conditioning. The town is located at 2850 meters. The bridge to get into town was used by everyone including yaks with large loads on their backs.

While trekking to Kongde the team arrived at the top of a ridge where there were spectacular views of Everest, Lhotse, Nutse, Ama Dablam, and Taweche.

Trailbreaking while descending to Thame. This steep snow field without fixed ropes was probably one of the most dangerous passages of our entire trip.

This is the beautiful town of Thame which is home to the internationally famous Apa Sherpa, 20 times Everest summiter.

The city of Namche Bazaar was the next stop. The team spent a few hours in the town with time to call home and have tea.

Time to leave Lukla Airport and go back to Kathmandu and from there to Tibet.

On the way to Tingri the team spent time at the Snow Land Hotel in Nyalam.

The Town of Nyalam

The cave and altar where Milarepa used to pray circa 1052. He was one of Tibet’s most famous yogis and a prominent figure of the Buddhist religion of Tibet.

Tibetan black-necked cranes. Extremely rare birds which fly over the Himalayas as part of their annual migration.

Chinese Base Camp with a view of Everest.

Puja ceremony in preparation for the climb.

After the ceremony the Lama leaves in his motorcycle. His cellular phone went off a couple of times during the ritual.

This was the team altar where the puja ceremony was performed and the prayer flags raised.

On the way to advanced base camp (ABC).

Fur Nuru prepares food.

The team at ABC.

Lhakpa Gelu

Tents in the North Col (Camp I)

Enroute to Camp II

View from Camp II. The blocks of snow were placed to function as protection from the high winds.

Summit Day!!! Here Lhakpa Gelu assists with the display of the Puerto Rican flag.

Apa Sherpa, Julio Bird, Jordan Romero, and Lhakpa Gelu; a total of 37 Everest summits between the four climbers and several new records. Apa completed 20 summits, Lhakpa Gelu his fourteenth, Julio becomes the oldest Westerner to have summitted both sides of the mountain and the only Puerto Rican to have climbed both sides of Mount Everest, and Jordan became the youngest summiter ever at the age of 13.

The Descent

I've got an hour before I have to board the plane out of LAX for Chicago, so I can write about our descent from the summit of Everest.

At the time of our summit, we shared the top with approximately twenty other people. There were fourteen Tibetan Sherpas and six Chinese clients, two climbers from the South Side and three of us: Lhakpa Gelu, Lopsang and myself. The sky was absolutely clear, with beautiful views all around, but it was moderately windy and cold.After about twenty minutes on top we decided it was time to descend, particularly since we had been on the move nonstop for nearly fifteen hours.

It was now daytime, so we were able to see our route as well as other details. We ran into at least five bodies on the way down, grim reminders of the heavy toll that can be paid on Everest (or any other mountain, for that matter).

The Second Step presented the greatest challenge for me, and this had to do with the difficulty seeing the top of the high ladder as the oxygen mask blocked my view. After some careful probing, Lhakpa Gelu reassured me my feet were on the top rung and the descent was straightforward. There was a feeling of significant exposure when negotiating the saddle-shaped rock, but quickly thereafter the Second Step was done.

On the First Step, I repeated my 2007 performance and once again ripped my down suit, so my descent was subsequently marked by a contrail of goose feathers!

By this time I was getting very tired, and I fixed my gaze on the tents at 8300m camp, which appeared tantalizingly close. I expected to rest there and get some water as well, since we had all run out sometime before summitting. The oxygen we were breathing is not humidified, so it has a marked drying effect on the mouth.

By the time we reached Camp III (8300m) I had this intense urge to lie down and take a nap. This area is not steep, and the sky was sunny and clear; it felt as if a was in a grassy meadow. I lay down to rwest and told Lopsang to please get me some water. I tried to sleep, but Lopsang kept pulling on the fixed line and waking me up. A little chagrined, I asked what the heck was going on, and he told me he thought that if I went to sleep I would never wake up again. Dutifully I got up, walked to the middle of Camp III, and drank some water with a much relieved Lopsang.

Subsequently I tried to negotiate staying at Camp III for the night in order to recoup some energy, again to no avail, so, very slowly, we began our descent to Camp II (7600m).

About 500m down the mountain we stopped briefly in an open area and were suddenly peppered with small rocks. Lhakpa gelu was hit in the face by two of them, Lopsang and I in the arm and back. I thought Lhakpa may have been badly hurt, but his oxygen mask and sunglasses bore the brunt of the impact and he was unhurt. He looked at me and said: "Karma".

We slowly continued on our way, and finally reached Camp II around 8:30 PM, after a total of nearly 28 hours since we had left. My cough lasted all night, but I woke up completely relaxed and re-energized (don't know if I can say the same for the other two). After some milk tea, we descended in beautiful weather to Camp I and then ABC. Every few steps I would look back and say my goodbyes to the Mother Goddess of the Earth.

Upon our arrival to ABC everyone seemed to be aware of our early summit, and it was a very happy trio that arrived at our tents and began celebrating the successful outcome of our adventure.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Summit push

After a few days of R&R in Kathmandu it's time to deliver on the promised update, so I'll write on our summit push.
As stated before, it's been a very windy and relatively inhospitable year on the North Side. We had decided as a team to take advantage of the first reasonable weather window, using meteorological forecasts as a general guide but recognizing that the likelihood of a long window was low. We had heard that the winds would abate slightly on May 17-18 so we targeted those days for the summit attempt.
On the 14th we left ABC for Camp I on the North Col. This was a nice climbing day marred only by the fact that we found ourselves behind the Chinese team, and were severely slowed down by their frequent documentary filming and photography (on the other hand, it made for a relaxed climb).
The 15th was an entirely different. For approximately six hours, as we made our way to Camp II, we were buffeted by 60-70 mph crosswinds that did not relent. Our cache site for Camp II was hard-packed snow, which added significantly to the work of setting up a tent site. Appropriately, I was asked to be the dead weight inside the tent to anchor it while lines were secured!
The winds had been so severe that Lopsang was not able to reach a cache site in Camp III (8300m), therefore we either attempted the summit from Camp II (7600m) or lost our window.
We chose to go from Camp II, somewhat concerning because of the very long summit day, but the only option if we wanted to take advantage of the weather window.
On May 16th we slept in. rested and ate well. We left our tent at 5:00 PM with plans to climb throughout the evening and night. Just before 10:00 PM we reached the Camp III site and found that the Chinese team had not left! After a lot of scrambling they managed to get their team out. Of course, no pleasantries were exchanged, and no hot tea was offered.
We continued on, negotiated the exit cracks without difficulty and soon found ourselves on the summit ridge.
After a short break, we continued, with Lhakpa Gelu going into tour guide mode: "now First Step", "now Mushroom Rock", "now Second Step", etc. Regarding the Second Step, the Chinese have modified it by adding two short ladders to the first rock slab and bolted a beautiful aluminum ladder to the top of the Step. If only Mallory could have used those!
After reaching the base of the summit pyramid I decided to take my time and attempt to take in all that was happening (a tall order in a hypoxic state!) At 7:00 AM we stepped on the summit (I found out later that I was the first Westerner to summit from the North Side this year...I've always said it: better to be lucky than good!)
Next entry will be on the descent.
I want to take the opportunity to thank Maribel, my wonderful and very understanding wife, for the great blog she ran based on my phone updates. She did such a much better job than I would have! Also thanks to all of you for your caring, your messages of support and, yes, your daily jokes! Lastly, I dedicate my climb to my dear friend Ants Palm-Leis (may he rest in peace), who taught me by his example the meaning of courage and grace under fire.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Back in Kathmandu

I am in Kathmandu waiting for the opportunity to change my tickets and go home. I have pictures and many stories to share. Thanks to all of you for your words of encouragement and your prayers. I look forward to being home soon.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Summit Update

Julio is now resting at ABC. They are waiting for the yaks to get up there to pick up their stuff. Lhakpa Gelu, Lopsang, and Julio are actually celebrities at ABC. They were the first to get to the summit from the North side this year. Julio was the first Westerner to reach the top. He is looking forward to return to BC and eventually home. Hopefully he will have time to read your comments from Kathmandu and write some of the details of the summit day.


Monday, May 17, 2010


Julio and the Sherpas left Camp 2 and took 14 hours to reach the summit. They reached the summit on the 17 of May at 7:00 in the morning. He was not able to call because of battery problems. He is now resting at Camp 2 and will move to Base Camp soon. He was very happy and can’t wait to be home.


No News

I have not talked to Julio since my last post. I have contacted several people including Alan Arnette, and two other individuals he suggested that are climbing on the North side. They all seem to agree that phones and spot-check are not reliable. The good news is that no incidents have been reported.

I will update this Blog the minute I hear anything at all. For now we can only wait.