Words from Wik

Sharing my Experiences

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Everest: 2015 Movie

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!

posted by Wiktor at 9:37  

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Two Years Later – Everest Day by Day

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!

posted by Wiktor at 14:00  

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

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

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!

posted by Wiktor at 22:32  

Monday, May 9, 2011

Everest 2011: Summits and Deaths

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 http://everestnews.com/, 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!

posted by Wiktor at 15:24  

Monday, February 14, 2011

Back on the Blog

Hello all, it’s been a while since I’ve written anything, and even longer since I’ve written anything meaningful. Now that my life has come into some sort of order post Everest I think it’s a good time to start putting thoughts on [digital] paper.

I have been thinking about this blog and my life and I asked myself what topics this blog should cover. I am definitely into climbing, but I am also into many other things, trying to fill my life and be useful wherever I can. So for now I think I will stick to the climbing theme, but don’t be surprised if once in a while I post on things completely on a different topic. FYI, other topics I am into: charity work, photography, computers, energy industry. Maybe when I post on these other topics I will try to tie them into the climbing / outdoor theme.

Mountains Around Namche

It is now February 2011; people that are going to attempt Everest this year are in their final weeks of preparation. I personally know three people that are heading there this year, and I’ve exchanged emails with another few. It’s an exciting time for them, and I know what it’s like to be nearing such a big adventurous expedition. In fact, I find myself being a little envious of the big journey they are about to embark on; I find myself thinking that I would also like to be a part of an experience like that again.

This makes me remember a little conversation I had at the Calgary Airport with Calgarian and Everest Summiteer Andrew Brash. It was the day I was leaving for my Everest trip, we were on the same flight to Vancouver. When I told him I was heading to Kathmandu to start my Everest journey, he said how nice it would be to go and do the same, head back to Everest and go climb there. I thought little of it at the time, but later on as I hated my life in Everest Basecamp, I wrote a blog post where I wondered about people like that:

We all discuss and wonder about those people that climb this mountain more than once, or those that hear about us going and say “Oh wow, I’m envious, you’ll have such a good time, I wish I was back on Everest!” Maybe it’s the fact that after a period of time all the hardships selectively leave our memory, and only the good memories remain. Well let me go on record while I still go through all the bad things and say those people can go knock themselves out and have this mountain when we’re done with it. There’s not much fun to be had in climbing Everest.

(link to full entry)

Well, isn’t it funny, what goes around comes around. I am now one of those crazy people that, knowing how much pain and suffering is involved in climbing Everest, I find myself missing it (or certain parts of it).

For those interested in following along with the latest Everest climbers, here are some links:

http://www.everestnews.com/ News items are posted along the right side of the main white column. Everest and associated climbing news.

http://www.weclimbforkids.com/ Two fellow climbers I met on Cho Oyu that have established their own charity to raise money for Greg Motenson’s Central Asia Institute with their Everest climb. Best of Luck Patch and Eric!

http://sethwolpin.blogspot.com/ Seth Wolpin from Seatlle, Washington area.

http://www.borgerpeakandpond.com/ Bill Borger from Calgary, who swam the English Channel in 2000, is attempting to climb Everest while raising money for Calgary Handibus.

http://gavinvickers.com/ Gavin Vickers, fellow climber from Cho Oyu, is not actually planning to go up Everest (he’s already done that), but is leading an expedition up Lhotse, which shares the same route as Everest from Nepal up to Camp 4, where it splits off.

posted by Wiktor at 22:21  

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Suffering and Hope

For those who may not have been reading my blog too much, I often talk about how much suffering is involved in mountain climbing. What we have to put our minds and bodies through in high altitude mountaineering is not easy; you can’t quite train away the suffering that will have to be endured while acclimatizing on the mountain. It is the main reason I did this climb for charity, it was my way of putting myself into the suffering of those most needy in the world. On that note, there is a quote I heard just today that might put that suffering into a bit of perspective, for why people do it:

“We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us.”

Maybe if you’re ever going through some tough times yourself (climbing your own internal Everest) keep the above in mind.

Below, a couple more pictures from the summit, holding flags of the Knights of Columbus. My fellow Knights supported me on this climb both in moral support and donations, so much thanks to them all!

KofC Summit

KofC Summit

posted by Wiktor at 21:32  

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

News from Kathmandu

Just a quick update on how things have been going since arriving in Kathmandu. It’s much better to come here and already know the place, as well as some people, and mostly I have been catching up with people that I met on my last expedition to Cho Oyu. Otherwise we’re all getting those last minute things, packing our bags, and hoping everything goes well on the way to basecamp. For us going to the South we hope the flights are going and there’s no weather issues that might delay them. For the guys going to the North they hope that Tibetan visa and permit issues are all cleared up for their departure. In this part of the world, those little things can end up taking a lot of time and effort and energy, but luckily we got some good people helping us and taking care of those details!

Mount Everest permit

Permission to climb Mount Everest

This morning we had a breakfast meeting with all the people that will be climbing Everst South, and there’s 8 of us on the permit, as you can see above. It was good to finally meet everyone, and it seems like we got a good group of people, energetic is one word I would use to describe everybody. There’s also two Finnish guys coming with us that are climbing Lhotse, the 4th tallest mountain in the world, which is done via the same route all the way to camp 4, then we split up and go to our respective mountains. But they’ll be a part of our group all the way!

That’s about it for now. The plan for tomorrow is to head to the airport at 5:00 am and get ourselves on a flight to Lukla, where the hiking begins.

Take care everybody, and until next time!

Chuck, Wiktor, Dan at breakfast briefing

Chuck, myself, and big boss Dan Mazur at today's breakfast briefing

posted by Mike at 19:38  

Friday, March 19, 2010

I’m on Twitter

TwitterI just recently signed up for Twitter, if you want to follow me on it you can find me under wik2010, or you can see my updates at http://twitter.com/wik2010. I think it just might be my best way to keep people updated with what’s going on on Everest. As long as I am able to have some kind of internet or SMS connection while on Everest (and apparently there is cell service at least in base camp), I will try and update what I’m up to with Twitter. So check there first if you want to know what I’m up to!

That’s all you really need to know. But I’m also going to say a few words about Twitter. As long as I have known about it I thought it was one of the stupidest things on the internet. I had no idea why it was becoming popular! And I don’t think I am quite convinced yet, but I can see some potential in it. I think for everyday people it’s not that much use, if what people are sharing is what they’re up to. But for people like celebrities or artists or athletes or anybody that has fans, I can see how hearing from your star and knowing what they’re up to can make people think they’re that much closer. And without having to stalk them.

My reason for using Twitter is to capture those instantaneous emotions as I’m going through the ups and downs both literally and emotionally. It would be good to be able to stop for a water break, whip out my phone, and tell you how much I hate my life at that particular moment. We’ll see how good the connectivity is, but that’s the idea. Usually by the time I get a chance to sit down, rest, and compose my thoughts on paper or blog entry, I have averaged out some of those emotions, and it doesn’t come across in quite the same way.

So keep your eyes on that, hopefully it will be of some use. One week until I leave for Everest, emotions are a mix of many, including excitement and nervousness!

posted by Wiktor at 11:52  

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

I made another video

CIRA contest logoI made a little video clip that I posted on youtube to enter a contest; this contest was organized by the the people who run .ca domains. It was meant to answer the question: how does your .ca domain benefit you? So I took that as an opportunity to show off my worldpeak.ca site, maybe I can get the word out a little better and get some traffic to the site, maybe leading to some donations! Anyways, have a look at it if you want, I show some footage from my Cho Oyu climb along with some new footage of what I’m doing to train for Everest. I thought the video was not too bad, but when I look at it on a new day I realize it is still pretty amateurish, but oh well!


We’ll see if it makes it to the final round, but either way I hope it can generate some interest. 9 days to Everest, and Happy St. Patrick’s Day to everyone!

posted by Wiktor at 21:29  

Friday, March 12, 2010

North vs. South

I will be attempting to climb Mt. Everest via the southern col route, or southeast ridge route, which is in the country of Nepal. The other main route is the northeast col route, via the northeast ridge, which lies in Tibet (or China). You’ll generally hear people talk about them as either the North route and Chinese side, or South route and Nepali side. There are of course other ways up the mountain, you can go up whichever way you like, but if you’re not going up either of these two routes it’s because you want more of a challenge.

Everest Routes as seen from space

The first step in climbing Everest is deciding you want to go. The second step is deciding which route you want to take. I just thought I would go over some of the pros and cons of each side, and why I chose the side I did. Know that this is based on what I have heard and read (and I have asked a lot of questions about this of our leader Arnold, who has climbed on both sides), but obviously I haven’t yet been on either route.

Getting to the base camp on the North side means driving in. A while back when the Chinese were trying to put some of their own people to the top they made a road that goes all the way into base camp, and then paved it to put the Olympic torch onto the summit. Getting to base camp on the south means hiking in through the Khumbu Valley, which is supposed to be a very beautiful hike in, and worth the trip by itself just to hike into base camp. This takes about 10 days because of the need to stop and take rest days to acclimatize to the altitude. The Nepalis have made a national park of this area so roads are not going to be constructed anytime soon.

The North side is generally considered colder, as it sees less sun, whereas the South side can get decently warm when the sun is out. It’s a major consideration for some, especially those more susceptible to getting cold in their extremities.

The route itself is considered easier on the North side up to camp 4, where you sleep before summit day, but above camp 4 there are three technical sections (known by their imaginative names as the First, Second, and Third Steps) that catch a lot of people unprepared. This then creates the opportunity for people with limited technical competence to get quite high, then have trouble on the toughest sections, on the toughest day, and create traffic jams for everyone else. On the South the route apparently gets a bit more involved early on, and while it also has it’s technical section on summit day called the Hillary Step that can cause traffic jams, if you’ve gotten there already you have a decent chance of making it over without causing too many problems for others.

Then there’s the location of Camp 4, the highest camp before the summit. On the North side it’s at 8300m, which is the highest camp on earth! This means you have to spend a night at this altitude before trying for the summit. On the south side the camp is a little lower at 8000m, where you still need to sleep on oxygen, but it’s that much lower. However, that also means that you have 850m to climb to the summit from the South, and only 550m from the North; therefore summit day takes significantly longer from the South, but as stated above it is technically not as involved.

Another consideration is the famed Khumbu Ice Fall on the South, where you have to cross large bottomless crevasses via ladders strapped together end to end. It is the most dangerous part of the ascent via either side, and it’s for this reason alone that some people choose to climb from the North. The problem is that the ice fall is continuously moving, and while navigating through it there are chances that pieces will break off, onto people or break ladders that people are on. To me it’s the kind of risk you can do almost nothing about (other than avoid it by going the North route), as it becomes a lottery for who might or might not be affected.

Khumbu Icefall, Photograph by Olaf Rieck

One last difference is price. The Northern route is generally cheaper. This is because of logistics and getting people and supplies to base camp is done all by car. On the South, people and supplies are first flown from Kathmandu to Lukla, then people hike and supplies are taken by Yak to base camp. All this takes time and money. There might be a slight difference in permit price too, but I am not exactly sure.

So why did I choose the South side? Several reasons. I have heard such good things about the hike to base camp through the Khumbu Valley that I wanted to experience that myself. Getting to base camp from the North involves a drive that I have already done, as it’s almost the exact same approach as getting to Cho Oyu base camp. Another reason is that I would like if the people that are climbing around me on summit day have earned their place, and are not going to be caught off guard by the technical sections and cause traffic jams.

But the main reason is a difference that I only slightly touched on above, and that’s the attitude of the countries in which these two approaches lie. China made a road. Nepal made a national park. China has been known to limit access across the border when things in Tibet start heating up. If I can help it I will put my money into the country that is doing things the way I support, and not politically oppressing the region I am climbing in. But that’s a whole other story that I won’t get into.

So, what side would you choose? 🙂

posted by Wiktor at 11:39  
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