Posts Tagged ‘mountaineering’

Everest – 2015 Movie

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015

As some of you may be aware, this month Universal Pictures released a new movie simply titled Everest. I’ve had a few people ask me what I think of it (before the movie even came out, based on just the trailer), and so I decided early on to go see the movie and see how it comes across to someone who has climbed Everest.

First of all, if you watch the trailer, you might expect the movie to be over the top dramatic and intense, too much so to be real. Well, I think the trailer does not do the movie justice; the movie itself is more down-to-earth. Don’t get me wrong, there are some very intense parts of the movie; in fact I found myself sweating and in suspense for a good part of the film. However, it’s based on more than just the intense visuals and music that the trailer shows.

The scenes where they actually show the mountain, or the hike to base camp, or the monasteries, they are all genuine. The shots of the mountain are absolutely accurate; I found myself thinking “yup, there’s the western cwm; there’s Lhotse; that does look like the view from the south summit”. Seen on the big IMAX screen, the mountain shots were quite spectacular. If anything, I think they didn’t have enough of these mountain shots.

Something you might want to know about this movie: it is based on real events that took place on Everest in 1996. There was a book written about all these events by Jon Krakauer, who was one of the climbers on the mountain that year. He is actually portrayed in the movie by House of Cards’ Michael Kelly. However, this movie is not based on his book. It is based on many other sources: people who were there, other people’s books of that expedition, tapes of radio transmissions, etc.

(In fact, I just read an article where Jon claims the movie is not very accurate, compared to his book. I would say the movie is accurate enough for portraying Everest itself, but not having been there in 1996, I can’t comment on the accuracy of all the events themselves. I’m sure there will always be differing stories about anything that happened on Everest, due to the fact that at such an altitude, people’s brains are affected so much that memories can’t really be trusted to be complete. Plus, I don’t think the movie ever attempted to be a documentary; some creative license was surely used.)

Speaking of accuracy in portraying the mountain itself, I think the movie does a good job of showing what it’s like to climb the mountain, without being overly dramatic about it. When they do get dramatic, it’s because things got a lot more interesting than on a normal climb like mine. So all in all, I think they do a good job of using film to show someone who knows nothing about Everest some of the smaller details of what climbers go through. As for the realness of the terrain, with snow, ice, rocks, tents, crevasses, for the most part that is also pretty solid. There are a couple of scenes where I could tell that they were using fake snow, but for the most part that was pretty well done.

If you’re undecided about going to see the film, I recommend going. It’s not quite a documentary, it is still Hollywood, but I think it’s a nice little story and it’s entertaining. I liked it enough that I will probably buy it once it comes out on home video (mostly for the behind-the-scenes and other bonus features).

If you do go see it let me know what you think, or let me know if you have any questions about Everest or my experience of it!

“Everest: Climbers Steck and Moro in fight with Sherpas”

Monday, April 29th, 2013

The BBC ran a story today with the headline “Climbers and guides fight on Everest”. Read about it here:

I will save my commentary on this until there is more known about the events, but looking at the cause, I think I can see where both parties could be coming from. Though of course having things turn violent is never good, especially on an already dangerous mountain.

I will add this comment, if I was to get in a fight in Camp 3, from my end it would be the sissiest fight in the world and I would get my butt kicked. :)

I guess this puts a damper into Ueli Steck’s attempt to para-glide all over the Himalaya, as per this video:

Confessions of a Modern Day Everest Climber

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

Some of you may have heard the recent news of the Canadian woman who died on Everest, Shriya Shah-Klorfine. If not you can read about it here; she died while descending from the top after taking 22 hours to reach the summit, on a day where there was a lot of people going up and traffic was a problem.

I wanted to share a few thoughts on this, but not on the immediate issues that you may hear about from others. I could talk about the traffic that is ever present on Everest during the most popular climbing season, and how some of those people maybe should not be there. I could talk about how it’s important to have a pre-determined turn-around time in mind (that was decided upon at lower elevations where critical thought is possible), and stick to it, thereby not letting oneself get into a situation where 22 hours go by before reaching the summit. I could talk about the effects of being above 8000m for too long, or how near impossible it is to rescue someone from high on Everest.

But rather than look at those points, I wanted to delve a little deeper. Maybe I can shine some light on the thoughts that might be going through someone’s head on an expedition like this. I remember when I was on Everest in 2010, the atmosphere at base camp and of other climbers was different than any other mountain I had ever been on. People (mainly other “clients” that had paid to be there, mainly on other teams) were a bit less social, a bit less friendly. They were not like most mountaineers I had met in the past, that have been free spirited, easy going, open minded. Somehow, things were a little different. People seemed to be very focused on themselves and on their trip to the top.

One of the things I love about mountaineering is that, in general, it’s not a competitive sport (perhaps excluding those people that establish new routes). I can summit with my team and so can you, we give each other tips, and we compare stories about it in the tent later. That camaraderie very much appeals to me, as in true competitive sports I have sometimes let the competitiveness get in the way of the fun.

But this atmosphere at Everest was almost that, a competitive one. I don’t know if I dare say that it was so competitive that people were thinking “If I summit and you don’t, it’s better than if we both summit”. In a way a ridiculous notion, but I felt it around me. More than that, I think some of that thought rubbed off on me as well (or maybe I have to admit that I brought it with me?) I am not sure why, but unlike before I was very much feeling that I had something to prove, that I wanted and deserved the summit as much as, if not more than, anyone else.

Luckily, by the time it came to go for the summit, I didn’t want to be there anymore. I didn’t want to climb Everest; I just wanted to go home. But I had no excuse, so I went along as far as I could, waiting for an excuse to come up. Next thing I know I was at the summit.

But what about the people that don’t lose that drive to get to the top? What about people like Shriya, who give it all they have to get to the top? Because they also have something to prove. They have to prove that they have a right to be there. They have to prove that they have what it takes to not be an also ran. Of the hundreds of people who have a permit to climb Everest, roughly a quarter of them will summit. Do I have what it takes to be one of them?

Wrong or right, those thought are present in the modern day Everest climber. Luckily, most people realize when they are in too deep and turn around. However, there will always be those that give it a little too much. There are fatalities on Everest every year, expect nothing diffrent without drastic changes in the way expeditions are run.

As was mentioned in the article, there will be another rush of people to the summit this weekend. Pray things will be different, but expect more of the same.

Two Years Later – Everest Day by Day

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

Today is the two-year anniversary since I stood on the top of the world. What I was doing last year at about this time was posting on Twitter every day what my thoughts and emotions were while I was on the expedition. For those that found that a difficult way of following along, I thought I would post it all in one post here on my blog. Not sure if it has the same effect as seeing it day-by-day, so let me know any feedback you might have. Otherwise enjoy!

Mar 31 2010, Everest Day 0: Breakfast meeting with entire group, going over final prep and details. Nice to finally meet everyone!

31mar2010: Last item to buy in Kathmandu: big comfy foam mattress. Was kinda pricey but how much is 2 months comfort in base camp worth?

1Apr2010: Early start this morning, heading to the airport for flight to Lukla, where hiking begins. Hope it’s no April Fool’s Joke!

Made it to Lukla, got on a flight before the afternoon weather came in. Funny landing on an uphill airstrip pointing into the mountain!

1apr2010: Hiked almost 3 hours to Phakding,spending night.But our duffels are still in KTM,how long will I have to live with no fresh socks?

2apr2010: almost 6 hours going from Phakding to Namche.Still no bags! But Namche seems like a nice place, everyone talks about the bakery…

3apr2010: rest day in Namche.some people are hiking to Everest View Hotel, I’ll just rest, 3400m already!

4apr2010: Today again rested in Namche, but bags are finally here! So sleeping in tents tonight. See pic of namche

Pic of Namche

6apr2010:yesterday tough day,spent 7 hours hiking from Namche to Pangboche.Though I am one of the slowest in the group,a little demoralizing

On the way to Pangboche, stopped to rest in Tengboche and visited this monastery. Unfortunately it was closed.

Tengboche Monastery

6apr2010: woke up in Pangboche, see pic. Short day, walked 3 hours to Pheriche, 4200m!

View of Ama Dablam from Pangboche

7apr2010:another short day,2 hours to Dhugla.Filling time by getting to know some of the people on summitclimb’s other expeditions. #everest

8apr2010: woke up in Dhugla (see pic), short day to Lobuche.Even though short hikes, altitude is tiring, need rest

View from Dhugla

9apr2010: Made it to #Everest Base Camp! I am spent, I could rest for a week. 5 straight days hiking to 5300m.

Everest Base Camp!

10apr2010: rest day in base camp.But more importantly,on this day happened the Smolensk air disaster, killing Polish President and 95 others

Smolensk air disaster occured before a planned commemoration of the massacre of 22000 Polish intellectuals/officials by Russians in WW2.

Being isolated at EverestBaseCamp, I wouldn’t know of this for days. Results of crash are still disputed.

11apr2010: Base Camp. I feel like shit. Last night my stomach started acting up, I could barely drink water during dinner, let alone eat.

11apr2010:this morning I skipped breakfast.People tell me I lost 10 pounds overnight.Not surprising,not being able to drink or eat this high

11apr2010: Missing one meal is bad. At this altitude, missing two is serious trouble. I wanna go home…

11apr2010: stopped feeling sorry for myself, took some stomach antibiotics, and got lunch down… Let’s hope it keep getting better!

12apr2010: Still sick,but others want to acclimatize;not wanting to be left behind I join them.Pic from Pumori ABC

View from Pumori ABC

13apr2010: 7 hour hike yesterday, good to have a rest today. It snowed overnight, here’s how BC looks all white:

Base Camp after a snow fall

14apr2010: Rest Day in #everest Base Camp. Highlights: Breakfast, Laundry, Lunch, Dinner.

15apr2010: Training how to walk on ladders and rappel down ropes, in preparation for Khumbu Ice Fall ahead

Training walking on ladders

16apr2010: First hike through the Khumbu Ice Fall. Falling seracs, most I’ve ever been scared in my life.

17apr2010: Rest day. Everest Quote: MV:”13 Hours in the Ice Fall.” Me:”How much water did you have to drink?” MV:”Two Sprites [cans]!”

18apr2010: sad day in Base Camp. Two members took a chopper to Kathmandu, going home. It’s too quiet now…

19apr2010: a few of us head to camp 1 to stash some gear and continue acclimatizing by sleeping there.Quicker through the ice fall this time

20apr2010: Woke up in Camp 1(see pic),not feeling good but happy to go down.First night sleeping high always tough

Camp 1

21apr2010: Rest day in #Everest BC. Someone mentioned something about an oil spill in the GOM. I guess another ship crashed or something…

22apr2010: Rest Day. #Everest Quote: “I’m only happy when I’m complaining.”

23apr2010: Base Camp to Camp 1, 7 hours. Then, as if the day was not hard enough, 3.5 hours moving to Camp 2, carrying a big load.

24apr2010: rest day in C2, 6400m. Some went to explore the camp/area, I was too tired from carrying my load. Night was not fun either.

25apr2010: return to BC,had to go through the Ice Fall again (pic).Good to be “home”,BC seems great in comparison!

Khumbu Ice Fall

26apr2010: Rest day in BC.Getting a little boring here and there.See the attached pic,view of BC from the ice fall

Everest Base Camp as seen from Khumbu Ice Fall

27apr2010: Semi Rest day. Walk one hour each way to nearest town, Gorak Shep, for lunch (MEAT! Yak Steak!) and some internet access.

28apr2010: Rest day,day 2 of playing cards.Playing at altitude a card game that requires thinking is ‘interesting’

Looking at Khumbu Ice Fall

29apr2010:Rest day in BC.Discussions about summit push possibilities.It’s on everyones mind and lips.But one more acclimatization push first

30apr2010: Leaving early to Camp 2, hoping to sleep in C3 and make it our last acclimatization. 3 of us go today, rest will follow tomorrow.

1may2010: While we wait for other 3 to join us,take a rest day in C2.Quote: “I didn’t bring a book to C2,can you read yours out loud to me?”

2may2010:Planned to go to C3 but weather was bad,no go.Forecast says it will stay bad for days,some peeps went down.I almost went too but…

2may2010: … but when was the mountain forecast ever accurate? They’re wrong as often as they are right. Let’s wait one day and see!

3may2010: Good weather in C2,we should go to C3, but only Sherpas go, to check if no ‘snow hazard’ exists. I say if they go we should go >:(

4may2010:finally we can go up to C3.But wait,nobody else wants to sleep there,just touch it?No way,I want my acclimatization,I’ll stay alone

4may2010: in C3,all alone,7000m,no oxygen.My radio can receive but not send.I can hear them calling me from C2 [, worried I’m not responding].This is gonna be a long night

5may2010:C3,what a night,cold and some hallucinating dreams.Nature calls,might be interesting on a 45 deg slope,holding to rope for security

5may2010: Back in C2 safely, should be a relaxing rest of day. Ice fall tomorrow. Wait, sherpas want us all to go down to BC now? Why?

5may2010: Snow storm, so best get to BC today. Good idea. Except now we’re stuck in a white out, crevasses around, no rope. Bad situation…

6may2010: Everyone else goes to Pheriche (4200m) to build energy for summit push.I need a rest in BC (5300m).Highlights:Laundry and shaving.

7may2010: I go down to Pheriche to join the others. Doesn’t feel right to go backwards when I’ve already been so close. 4600m away from top.

Back in 2010 Mother’s day was on May 9th, so I called my mom from my Everest expedition. #HappyMothersDay to all Moms! Go call your Mom!

11may2011: long day,gaining 1100m back to BC.Plan is,we’re trying for weather window May 16th.Let’s hope its real, I don’t want to try twice

12may2010: rest day in BC.Weather window for 16th not looking that good with new forecast, but still doable.So we’re still leaving tomorrow.

13may2010: 7 hours from BC to C2. 5 of us trying to summit on this push.Weather is not great,but hopefully it will be in a few days! On Top!

14may2010: going from C2 to C3. Got blood gushing when I clean my nose or spit, hope that’s not coming from my lungs… #everest 2010

15may2010: what a bad night at C3,I maybe slept 1 hour.Windy,uncomfy (3 people per tent).Now I’m the last of our group to leave, alone to C4

15may2010: on the ‘yellow band’, as I go up some sherpas lower a body. Sobering thought. I am also getting sun burned. How bad can it be?

15may2010 19:00: arrive C4 after 10 hours, now I have 2 hours to rest before, literally, climbing mount everest? You gotta be shitting me…

16may2010: weather window never happened yesterday, windy all night. I feel stronger today but what’s the point if weather stays bad?

16may2010: one eternal debate among mountaineers: when going poo at 8000m and -25C, do you wear gloves when you wipe or risk frost bite? :-)

16may2010 9pm: wow,the wind stopped and people are going for the summit.I’m surprised!Let’s go,but they say higher the weather is unpassable

17may2010: #everest summit! I didn’t expect that. Only problem: now I have to walk all the way back down! Huge inconvenience!

17may2010:10 hours from summit to C2,I broke down mentally.That wasn’t worth it.And I was alone,sherpa left me.Words can’t describe tirednes

17may2010: What did I do at the summit exactly one year ago? I wrote a blog post about it, see here:

18may2010: woke up in C2, not sure if the tears all night were real or a dream. Now my vision is foggy, my face is swollen. Snow blindness.

18may2010: shoved some contacts in my swollen eyes and headed (for the last time) through the ice fall to BC. Left alone, sherpas caught up.

18may2010: any uphill portion in the ice fall was soo hard! But now in BC, I’m home safe! No more danger, going home! Woohoo! #everest

19may2010: rest in BC, packing to leave the next day. Giving away remainder of my food and some equipment to sherpas and remaining clients.

20may2010: heading down home! Stopping at kala pathar on the way, nice view but sure is windy! Sleeping in pheriche.

21may2010: long day,pheriche to namche.So hungry after weeks of losing weight,I want to eat!But have to ration remaining cash, no ATMs here.

22may2010: Last long 6h walk,Namche to Lukla.First time near motorized transport in 2 months!Let’s hope the weather is good to fly tomorrow.

23may2010:Fly to Kathmandu!After paying for extra luggage,I am left with 5 rupees(7 cents).rationing money not easy when hungry post everest

23may2010: in Kathmandu, cashless, just climbed #everest and hungry beyond words, went to an ATM to get money and it ate my card. #FML

24may2010: That’s the end of my #everest adventure lookback, hope you enjoyed it! Keep an eye on for more of my writing.

Having read through that myself, I think it definitely paints a nice picture of how things went down! It’s funny how much can be passed along in 140 characters (or less) per day!

Jerzy Kukuczka – My Vertical World

Monday, December 19th, 2011

I just finished reading the book “My Vertical World” by Polish alpinist Jerzy Kukuczka. For those of you not in the know, Jerzy was the second person in the world to climb all 14 8000m peaks. They are the 14 tallest mountains in the world, a sought after prize by mountaineers to this day.

Being Polish, I heard a lot about him from other Polish people. They mentioned how he had done most of his ascents either by new routes, or in the winter, and did it in much less time than Reinhold Messner. He also had much less funding and sponsorship, worse equipment, etc., and he still did it. Now, when I heard all this, I thought, “right, typical Polish thing of talking up our own ‘brothers’ and all they did, showing national pride and all that”. And I didn’t give it much thought.

Then on one of my Himalayan expeditions I was talking to an American who told me “but Kukuczka, now that guy was intense. You should read his book, the stuff he had to go through.” Hmmm, I started looking for his book.

And I just finished reading it. I must say, the book is incredible. The things this guy did. Even if you know very little about mountain climbing, you’ll appreciate it. If you understand what was going on in Poland at the time (Communism), it will amaze you even more. I often tell people after I’ve done my Everest presentation, “and I had all this adventure on one normal Everest expedition, where nothing really went wrong. Imagine what some of the people went through that had a lot more things happen than they wanted.” Well, this book is all that and more. 14 8000m peaks packed into one book.

I said before that Ueli Steck was my Hero. Well, I think Kukuczka has become my new Hero!

I have to add that I read the book in Polish, which is readily available in Polish book stores. There is an English translation, which was published by The Mountaineers in 1992. However, it seems the book is now out of print and VERY hard to come by. lists 2 used starting at $249! Now while the book was good, not sure it’s worth that price for most people (it might be for me). However, this gives you a reason to browse used book stores wherever you happen to be and maybe find the gem! If you do, consider sending me the copy when you’re done… 😉 But in seriousness, if you happen to know of a decent way to get a hold of a copy, or have an IN with the publisher, let me know!

Wishing everyone out there a Merry Christmas and many blessings in the New Year!

Blog Writing – An Interview

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

I was recently asked to contribute to an article published by the Writers Guild of Alberta about my adventure writing. I was asked a couple of questions about my blog writing and thought I would share the answers here:

Q: What did you learn about blog writing while you blogged about your Everest attempt?

A: One thing I got really positive feedback on was the brutal honesty with which I wrote my blog entries. I really stressed the hardships that are involved with high-altitude climbing, to give people a view of what life is really like on an expedition, maybe dispel some myths or romantic thoughts that people have. And I tried to do it in such a way that readers can relate, which is not always easy, but I think I managed to accomplish that for the most part.

Something else worth mentioning is that I wrote my blog entries as soon as the events happened. It allowed me to share all the emotions and feelings that I felt, because sometimes if I let a few days pass, those feelings calmed down a little. That helped me in passing along things the way I experienced them and the way I reacted to them. However, one thing I have learned is that you can never really pass along what it’s like to be in certain situations, not by writing or talking or anything, that only people who have been through the same can relate. But that’s just life!

Q: What is one of your favourite magazine articles, books, or films about outdoor adventure?

A: I would have to say Joe Simpson’s book, Touching the Void. A great writer puts into words what it’s like to give all you have to survive.

The article was published in the magazine WestWord for July/Aug 2011. If you have any feedback on my writing just comment below!

Desktop Wallpaper – For You

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

I just added a page to my blog where you can download some pictures to use as desktop backgrounds on your computer. I won’t repeat what it says so just head on over there:


17 May 2010 – What did I do at the Summit?

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

Today is the one year anniversary of me standing on the top of the world, and I thought I would share with you what I did during my time on the summit. When I read things like “First Tweet Sent From Top of Mount Everest” and people’s reactions, or what they think they would do at the summit, it makes me think back to when I was up there.

First Picture from Summit

So here goes. I think we got up to just below the summit at around 7:40 am. First thing I did was take off my backpack, kneel down, take a breath. Then I start thinking, OK, what did I want to do up here again?

One of the first things I did was take out my cell phone, which I had been keeping warm in a pocket close to my body. I turned on my Nokia E51 hoping to get a signal so that I could send a text message home. I had had limited success sending texts from Base Camp thanks to the new tower close by, and I hoped either that or the Chinese tower that was supposed to be nearby could give me a connection. I started typing the message, but I got a little cold in my fingers, and seeing that the phone wasn’t catching a signal I put it away.

One of the next things I did was check my watch for the absolute barometric pressure. People always say “the pressure on the top of mount Everest is 1/3 of sea level”, and I just wanted to see if that was true, and how close to 1/3 it was! Anyways, I checked, but didn’t write the number down, and the way altitude works is you easily forget. So I didn’t write down the exact number, but later wrote it down as what I remembered it to be approximately, and it was indeed right at the 335 hPa mark.

Next I took out my camera and checked to see if it was working. Unfortunately the battery was dead (due to the extreme cold), but I had one (or maybe even two?) spare batteries nice and warm in the same pocket I kept my phone (it was a crowded pocket). I popped that in and it worked! Pictures started to be taken at 7:45 am.

One of the things I did, it probably wasn’t next but sometime earlier, was disconnect my oxygen mask from the bottle. That way I could move around without needing my backpack on my bag. I had promised myself I wouldn’t do this after seeing the effect it had on me on the summit of Cho Oyu, but at this altitude it’s difficult to think logically. I guess I wanted to not carry my backpack, or maybe Lhakpa, my Sherpa, encouraged me to leave my pack on the ground. Whatever the reason, I disconnected it, but left my mask on my face (to keep it warm and prevent freezing of inlet and outlet ports).

Next comes all the picture taking. I took some pictures, first in the direction that the sun was shining on, then in the direction we came from, and kinda all around. Then I gave the camera to Lhakpa and he took some pictures of me holding the World Vision flag. This was all with me sitting just below the summit, and only at about 8:00 am I have pictures of myself on the actual peak. (Remember, Everest summit doesn’t count unless you get to that very point!)

Last Picture from Summit

We kept taking pictures and videos, swapping cameras, and the pictures stop at about 8:15 am. That’s when it seemed like there was nothing else left to do, or more accurately, I felt like I should get the hell out of there because it was impossible to knock the thought out of my mind that we still had a long way to go down; we started packing up. I took my second pair of goggles out of my bag so that I would have an unfogged set. I put everything in my bag, put a little bandanna around my face to cover the sun burn (I would later have to stop and have Lhakpa help me cut a hole in that bandanna with my ice axe so that I could breathe the oxygen more freely). When we were about to set off I remembered it would be cool to have a 360 degree panorama from the summit, so I filmed that, and kept my camera on me so that I could take pictures as we were going down. That last video was taken at about 8:33 am. So, I guess we spent just over 45 minutes on the summit.

That’s about it! Seems like a lot to write for a pretty uneventful stay on the top of the world. I didn’t quite get into what my thoughts were but that was all just altitude induced stupidity and not much else.

Best of luck to all the people heading up the mountain this year. Take care!

Everest 2011: Summits and Deaths

Monday, May 9th, 2011

Just a quick update on the things happening on Everest this year. May 6 saw the first Sherpa team reach the summit from the south (Nepal) side, fixing ropes to the summit as they went. This now opens the doors for any and all teams to follow and try reaching the summit when the next weather windows come.

Also, there have been two deaths already reported on Everest this year, both on the south side. One of them was an American, and you can see a story on him here. When I read a story like that it definitely brings things into perspective again of what can happen out there, and my thoughts and prayers go out to the family.

Anyways, now is a time to be staying on top of Everest action, as more and more teams plan for the summit, and more news should be hitting the streets as people do and don’t make it. For some of the latest news keep an eye on, they usually have the latest.

Hope everyone is enjoying their May so far! For those coming to my presentation at the CPL this Saturday, see you there! That will be three days away from my one-year Everest summit anniversary.

Take care!

How to Train for Mount Everest

Sunday, March 6th, 2011

As the next batch of adventurers get ready for their own attempts at Mt. Everest, I find myself asking them how they train for “the big E” (as some people call it). When I was preparing and training I did all the research I could, asked all the people that might know, so that I would be as prepared as possible. Looking back on it almost one year later I thought I would list the things that I thought helped me the most, and in general they can be applied to other circumstances also. In order if decreasing importance they are:

1. Listen to people that have done it before.

The fact is Everest has been climbed by thousands of people. Chances are if you are at all entertaining the idea of climbing Everest you’ve met someone who has done it. Hopefully you’ve climbed with them. Ask them all they know and take it seriously. I attribute a lot of my success to picking the brains of Ryan Waters at Mountain Professionals, who I climbed Aconcagua with, and Arnold Coster, who I climbed Cho Oyu with.


2. Climb an 8000m mountain before attempting Everest

One of the things I learned from point (1) above is this point. The company I climbed Aconcagua with stated that climbing Aconcagua was enough to qualify for Everest. However I was convinced by others it would be better to climb Cho Oyu first, and I’m glad I did. Aconcagua to Cho Oyu was a step up, a predictable one to be honest. And Cho Oyu to Everest was of course a step up also, but more that I thought it would be.

I have since developed my own reason for recommending that people climb Cho Oyu first. The straight fact is that nobody knows how their body will react to elevations of 8000m. And to put it bluntly, it’s much easier for others to drag your unconscious or otherwise disabled body from or near the summit of Cho Oyu than from most points on Everest. So as you learn how your body reacts to 8000m, do it in a place that has more room for ‘self discovery’ than Everest.

Another, less important reason, is to prepare one’s mind to long expeditions. Going from a three-week expedition like Aconcagua or Denali to an eight-week Everest expedition is a big jump. Most people that don’t summit Everest are not turned back by bad weather or from being too tired or not having enough technical experience. They choose to go home early because they don’t know how miserable an Everest expedition is, how taxing on the mind and body, how much they’ll miss their families (keep all family contact to a minimum when on the expedition to help with this point).

I have met a bunch of people, from marathon runners in tremendous shape to true Alpiniste mountaineers who make first ascents in the Alps and Andes, decide to go home early. And there’s nothing wrong with that, I also wanted to go home early at various points. But there is a way to be prepared for it.

Climbing Stairs with Pack

3. Train Mentally

I could write a lot about this but I think it has been said better by Ice and Mixed Climber extraordinaire, fellow Canadian Will Gadd on his own blog Gravsports. An excerpt is below:

Nobody wants to think about mental fitness. It’s a lot easier to keep track of physical improvement than mental improvement. To become stronger mentally you have to look inside yourself and realize that, even if you can do a one-arm pullup with an engine block in the other hand, the ultimate limiting factor is your head. And most people are simply too weak mentally to actually get stronger mentally. For many people the area between their ears is completely dark, off-limits and filled with soul-twisting demons that just can’t be faced much less slain. But, unless you know how to hit your ideal mental performance state, all your training is quite literally a waste…

How did I train mentally? By climbing Cho Oyu first (see point above). By going (several years in a row) on a ski trip with friends, which involved a profane amount of drinking all night, followed by extreme hangover pain the next morning, but going skiing anyways when I felt like dying, feeling that nauseating sting of yesterday’s alcohol still in my system course through my veins as my heart rate climbed as we skied. By following a strict diet in my training, eating things that were good for me but rarely good tasting, often the same thing day after day.

(Just to elaborate on a couple of those points above, my training specifically for Everest involved a strict diet and no alcohol at all, with the exception of that New Year’s ski trip I mention above. I jokingly called it part of my mental training as I took those few days off, but there was a lot of truth to it. Also, the discipline I learned from my diet of eating the same thing day in and day out helped me to eat whatever was available on Everest, to wolf down that tasteless bowl of Dal Bhat in Camp 2 and ask for another as I watched my companions play with their first serving even though I was sick of eating it as much as they were. I lost 25 pounds on Everest so eating all you can plays a big role.)

Ice Climbing

4. Everything Else

After those three points above comes the thing that most people focus on, the physical training, technical climbing ability, mountain experience, etc. I think they are still quite important, but there are enough other people that have written about them that I will defer to them. I say quite often, you have to come to Everest prepared physically. But once you show up physically trained, climbing the mountain is 90% mental.

That’s all for this post, I think it came out a little longer than expected. But I cannot finish before saying that this is just my experience and opinion. Your mileage may vary. Because honestly, what do I know; I have only summited Everest once, and I consider myself lucky to have done that. So chances are I might have no idea what I’m talking about.