Costa Mesa, California
June 17, 2009
Dear Family & Friends:
Here is the recap I promised.
My Performance on the Mountain
Alex Lowe, the late, great mountaineer, always said that the best climbers are the ones that are having the most fun. Judged solely by this standard, I was one of the best climbers on Mt. Everest in 2009.
The trip was a dream come true. From the standpoint of my performance on the mountain, I would not change a thing. I felt healthy and strong the whole trip. Never once did I have any symptom of altitude sickness–not even the slightest headache. My appetite was good, and I only lost 10 pounds, as opposed to the 30 pounds that I lost in 2007.
When I was climbing the steepest sections of the route, e.g., the Lhotse Face and the Southeast Ridge on summit day, my breathing was always under control and I never felt tired. Not once did I doubt that I would reach the summit. Well, I take that back. I had some serious doubts on May 22 when I was parked in my tent at the South Col hoping and praying that the wind would abate so we could make our summit attempt. See discussion below. My time from the South Col (26,000 feet) to the summit (29,035) on May 22-23 was really good. We left the Col at 10 pm and arrived at the summit between 8:30 and 9 am, well ahead of the 2 pm turn-around time. By way of contrast, in 2007, I left the Col at 9 pm and did not arrive at the South Summit (28,750) until noon the next day. That is where I called it quits because I was totally wasted physically. My decision to take the rest day at the South Col was a huge factor in my success this year.
The year was also filled with drama and tragedy. The loss of our beloved Sherpa, Lhakpa Nuru Sherpa, in the avalanche in the Khumbu Icefall was a blow to our entire team. His body was never found, despite 4 search attempts. He has a
wife and 2 children. As soon as I have information about donations to his family, I will let you know in case you would like to help. As discussed below, two of our team members were evacuated by helicopter from Base Camp. Our team took their departure really hard because they were both strong climbers and total team players.
On the subject of the Eco-Everest 2009 Team, we had what can only be described as a “Dream Team.” As pointed out in my trip report, we bonded immediately and functioned as a cohesive team the entire time we were on the mountain. Everyone really liked each other. There was never once even the slightest of arguments or disputes among team members. However, every personal foible was exploited in good fun in the dining tent. Our leaders at Base Camp–Dawa Steven Sherpa, Pertemba Sherpa and Apa Sherpa (who summitted this year for a record setting 19th time) were terrific and joined in the fun.
As promised, here is an accounting of how each team member performed on the mountain:
—Bud Allen from Columbus, Georgia. Bud made it to the South Col and left for the summit around 11 pm. He was moving strong towards the Balcony (27,700) when he encountered a problem with his oxygen system. He attributed the problem to the regulator that is attached to the oxygen bottle. When he could not resolve the problem, he descended to the South Col and ended his summit bid. In his tent at the South Col, he discovered that the problem was simply ice build-up inside his oxygen mask. This issue could have been solved easily by breaking the ice loose so the oxygen would resume flowing into the mask. There is no doubt Bud would have made it to the summit had he not encountered this problem.
He will be back in 2010 or 2011.
—Jesse Easterling from Seattle, Washington. Jesse was taking the wrong medicine while trekking to Base Camp, resting
at Base Camp and moving up the mountain. The details are set forth in my reports. The doctors at Base Camp ordered his immediate evacuation by helicopter. Good thing, as he spent several weeks in the hospital in Kathmandu, including 4 days in the Intensive Care Unit. He suffered from internal bleeding and other ailments. Given his condition, he is lucky to be alive. After I arrived back in Kathmandu, I visited him twice in the hospital. He is now home with his family recovering well. Jesse is a strong climber who easily reached Camp 3 on the Lhotse Face before he became ill and was evacuated from Base Camp. He will undoubtedly be back and will summit in the future.
—Yury Pritzker from Chicago, Illinois. Yury is a very strong and motivated climber who summitted on May 21. He was the first person on our team to summit. In fact, he reached the summit so fast and so early that he had to wait for the sun to come up so he could take pictures and shoot some video. He was lucky to summit on a clear, sunny day. I am lucky too, because I can now use his photos and video for the movie I am preparing for family and friends. At 54, Yury was the second oldest member of our team.
—Henry Voight from Germany. Henry was the strongest member of our team. He had to delay his first rotation up the mountain to have a wisdom tooth extracted at Namche Bazaar. Then, at Camp 2, he suffered a concussion when he fell on the rocks in front of his tent. No one saw him fall; and we assume he fainted because he fell directly on his face and made no effort to break his fall. On the way back to Base Camp after the fall, he collapsed. At that point, he was carried down from Camp 2 to Base Camp in a sled. He was evacuated from Base Camp by helicopter on the same day as Jesse’s evacuation. Henry will reach the summit of Mt. Everest on his next attempt.
—Mogens Jensen from Denmark. Mogens, who suffers from asthma, had been on Mt. Everest 3 times before this trip, and he summitted from the North side in 2008. He was featured in the Discovery Channel program on Mt. Everest last year. His plan this year was to summit from the South side of the mountain without oxygen. He was carrying a United Nations flag on human rights. Needless to say, Mogens is an accomplished and experienced mountaineer. He is also a really nice and genuine person. I particularly appreciated the wonderful way Mogens treated Jesse when Jesse fell ill at Base Camp and was later admitted to the hospital in Kathmandu. Mogens was using oxygen when he turned around at the Yellow Band, which is between Camp 3 and Camp 4. He had problems with his lungs, most likely related to the asthma. I do not know if he plans to return in 2010, but, if he does, he will make it to the top for the second time.
—Will Cross from Pittsburgh. Will is an accomplished mountaineer and adventure enthusiast who has previously climbed Mt. Everest and trekked to the North and South Poles. He has type 1 diabetes. He is also a great guy and a terrific
motivational speaker. After the avalanche at Base Camp that took the life of our Sherpa, Will decided that conditions were not right for his climb and he opted, for safety reasons, to terminate his Mt. Everest expedition. Instead, he decided to climb Cho Oyu in China, which he had not previously climbed. At 26,906 feet, Cho Oyu is the 6th highest mountain in the world. Will was