Posts Tagged ‘summit’

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 http://twitpic.com/4h2r4v

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. http://twitpic.com/4hl778

Tengboche Monastery

6apr2010: woke up in Pangboche, see pic. Short day, walked 3 hours to Pheriche, 4200m! http://twitpic.com/4hta4g

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 http://twitpic.com/4ijunc

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. http://twitpic.com/4itaz5

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. http://bit.ly/eWQq8R#smolensk

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 http://twitpic.com/4k5qan

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: http://twitpic.com/4kjk00

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 http://twitpic.com/4lauha

Training walking on ladders

16apr2010: First hike through the Khumbu Ice Fall. Falling seracs, most I’ve ever been scared in my life. http://bit.ly/fS1xRH

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 http://twitpic.com/4ng6zc

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! http://twitpic.com/4pmeca

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 http://twitpic.com/4pzutm

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’ http://twitpic.com/4qs1x0

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: http://bit.ly/mzxIJW

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 blog.mazurw.com 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!

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!

Looking Back at Cho Oyu

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

Now that I’m back in Calgary I have some time to write down things I wanted to pass along before. One of the things I found interesting was the type of people that were in our group, to maybe illustrate how diverse we were, let me list the professions of all the clients attempting the summit: Lawyer, Farmer, Engineer, Military man, Ex-Bouncer, Diving Instructor, School Teacher, Trainer/Public Speaker, Unemployed.

One of the best moments of the trip for me, other than the summit, was when we were leaving for the summit. Coming out of my tent to a sky full of stars that almost lit the way, walking in the absolutely still air to the path, then starting my journey up with my headlamp lighting the way, oxygen on my face and flowing, giving me the life and energy that I need. It was a very cool experience that made me smile, though it was full of many unknowns: first time on oxygen, first time on this path, and the unknown of what the night’s hard work will bring.

Summit day for me was very long. At about 1:34 am I started my stop watch, and stopped it seven hours and six minutes later on the summit. About 50 minutes I spent on the summit, and then it took me 3h10m to get back down to Camp 3 where the day started. Here some people rested, laid in the tents, made some water. I still had half a liter of water left of the two liters I started with, so I just spent 50 minutes packing all my stuff, and continued down to Camp 2. From Camp 3 to Camp 2 took me 30 minutes (compare that with 4h15m on the way up!) as it is a pretty short distance, plus I slid down half the way on my bum! Reason being was I still had my down suit on and I started getting hot, so rather than stop on the semi-steep slope and start undressing, I decided to slide the rest of the way down! Best idea I ever had!

Packing the rest of my stuff at Camp 2 took an hour, after which I was the first one to set off for Camp 1. This part of the trip took two and a half hours, at which point the walking part of my day was over.

Add all that up and it means in 16 hours of hard work, breathing some of the driest air possible, I drank less than two liters of water. (For comparison, when resting at ABC I would easily drink 5 or 6+ liters of water in a day.) What this means is that upon reaching Camp 1 was the point where I had lost the most weight. My estimate is about 10% of my body weight, so 20 lbs or 9 kilos (most others on the trip estimated similar percentages). I would say 5 pounds of that came back with simply hydrating over the next few days. Another 5 came back after eating big back in Kathmandu. The other 10 I am still missing and working at getting back, and since most of that is probably muscle it will take some time.

It was nice to get back to Kathmandu where there are enough places that serve western food that you can really get whatever you may want. After losing as much weight as we had, everyone eats quite big on every meal. For me, a lover of food, it is one of the fun parts of mountaineering! I remember one breakfast I had a big plate of eggs, beans, cheese and salsa, prepared as Huevos Rancheros. Then I had dessert of apple pie with ice cream. Dessert after breakfast! It was absolutely lovely.

Now I’m back in Calgary and I am slowly trying to get back into the groove here. But it’s tough. For some reason I feel a little bit weird here. People ask me about my trip and I have a hard time just talking about my trip, there’s so much to say. Then they ask what’s next, while honestly I’m just trying to let this trip sink in, which I don’t think has happened yet. But I’m sure after a couple of weeks it’ll all be back to normal, as is always the case with life, so I’m not too worried.

That’s about all I wanted to get off my mind. I posted some more pictures, bigger than Facebook allows, you can find them here. Take care!

Cho Oyu Summit Reached – 8200m

Friday, October 2nd, 2009

The summit was reached on September 27 by our group, at 8:40 am Tibetan time by me! We are now safely back in Kathmandu, have a look at the few pictures I posted on facebook by clicking here. See you all back home soon!