Everyone has been so incredible this past week. I’ve been humbled and flattered by the well wishes I’ve been receiving in the run up to my departure to Katmandu and Mt. Everest.
In fact, I’ve been dealing with so much detail that it’s been almost impossible to get a full grip on the enormity of the trek until I’m doing something mind-numbing like counting out vitamins for 60 days.
One thing that has been ever-present, and a real bedrock to the entire effort, is the undying support of my wife, Dianne. No matter how hard I whine, she has always been there to slap me around and remind me what and why I’m doing. It must be why we’re celebrating our 12th anniversary on our deck drinking the sparkling wine (J’s Cuvee 20) that we served at our reception.
But, more about the trip!
A day over the International Dateline, and about 20+ hours of air travel get one to Katmandu from Boulder.
Folks have asked me, how long does it take to get there? Well, when you’re flying halfway around the world, it takes about 20+ hours and a day when flying west over the International Dateline when you’re going to K-k-k-k-katmandu.
From Katmandu, we take a short flight to Lukla on Friday, hike about five miles of the 40-mile trek to Everest Base Camp. Along the way we’ll be staying in tea houses, visiting monasteries, and acclimatizing. Lukla is at 9,000 feet.
A simple line-drawing of the 40-mile hike to Everest Base Camp.
On the way, will spend a few nights acclimatizing in the Lobuche Valley at 16,000. From there, we will make a trip or two up to Everest Base Camp at almost 18,000-feet in preparation for an acclimatization climb of Lobuche Peak, 20,000+.
The view from Lobuche Peak of the main camps on the Everest South Face route.
Once we’ve climbed Lobuche, we move up to Everest Base Camp and start working our way up the Big Hill.
The first challenge will be working our way through the Khumbu Ice Fall. I’ll post some photos as we work our way through, but this is the first place people begin to lose their shit. In order to move up through this huge jumble of glacier terminus, it requires some ice climbing skills, and being comfortable walking across ladders while wearing those spikes on one’s boots called crampons. Metal on metal, over huge open and seemingly bottomless crevasses. If you haven’t climbed anything in your life with significant exposure, this sort of climbing can create a “puckering” experience for some.
In the picture of the Khumbu, you’re looking at 2,000+ vertical feet of ice blocks the size of skyscrapers and boxcars.
A shot of the Khumbu that gives an idea of how many crevasses there are to cross.
The part that I’m dreading is the Lhotse face. From Camp 2, it’s about 2,500 feet of climbing up high-angle ice and snow to Camp 3 at 24,500 feet. Here we will be using a veritable hand-rail, or fixed rope, using ascender devices that allow you to slide them up the rope, but not slide down. The tedium here is like being in the early second quarter of a marathon. You’re just slugging it out, doing your best to breathe, and there is seemingly no end it sight. My second least favorite part of the climb. The other is climbing in the dark. Both require a lot of mental tenacity.
From Upper Camp 3 we will move up to Camp 4, or the South Col made famous in Jon Krakauer’s book, “Into Thin Air.” On oxygen, we’ll only be on the South Col long enough to hydrate, eat, nap and then make the last push to the summit. In order to get ahead of slower moving teams, we’ll start at 10 pm. I hate climbing at night, but it will allow us to stay ahead of any bottlenecks that can cause a lot of standing around and getting cold. Once again, if one isn’t accustomed to what climbers refer to as “exposure,” there will be a lot of standing around as one waits for those in front to gather their nerve. I should point out, once on the summit ridge of Everest, or what the Sherpas refer to as Chomolungma, there is a near vertical drop to the north of 10,000 feet into China, and a drop of about 8,000 vertical feet back into Nepal, as you try to negotiate a path less than the width of ones shoulders. But there are fixed lines in place.
2500 feet of boredom and terror.
As I was telling a friend of mine while climbing this weekend, you just look where you’re putting your feet. Never look down unless you’re looking out over the horizon!
Once on the summit, and a few flags have been flown and some satellite calls made, it is a boogie sprint back to Camp 2, almost 7,000 feet of descent. A full day by any climbing standard. Some minor celebration will be happening here.
From Camp 2, it’s back to Base Camp and some major celebration. After a few days rest, the 40 mile trek back to Lukla and our flight to Katmandu. After a a few more
According to our itinerary, we should be summiting on May 17 and back in Katmandu on the 24th where, I’ll be meeting up with that incredible woman I was speaking about earlier. Dianne will be meeting me at none other than the famous Yak and Yeti hotel. From there, we’ll go out and enjoy the sites that I was too uptight to enjoy when I was in Katmandu on the way in to meet the Goddess Mother Earth, Chomolungma. I hope to feel the Goddess’s love!
With near vertical drops of up to 10,000 feet on either side of a knife-edged ridge, some of the hardest climbing occurs on summit day.