Everest Home Home
DAY EIGHT Lobuche, 16,200 ft. to Everest Base Camp and Kala Pattar, 18,500
There's a knock on the tent,
hot coffee. My mind stirs. It seems extremely early. It IS early! 3 a.m.
This is the big day. At 4 a.m. we depart for Mt. Everest.
Talk about cold, I'm freezing. Well, no
wonder! The temperature is nine degrees below zero! After drinking the
coffee I begin to assemble my gear. I'm shocked to see that my water bottles
My contact lenses are frozen! My contact
lens solution is frozen! In fact, all my solutions are frozen, even my
shampoo! This is great, just great! And we leave in 45 minutes.
My most serious concern is my contact lenses and they're just blocks of
ice. At that moment one of the sherpas shows up with hot washing water
and I have a brilliant solution to a tough problem.
I soak the contact lens case and solution
bottle in the hot water to the point where they are finally thawed out.
Whew . . . that was close!
I get dressed as rapidly as I can, putting
every piece of clothing on that I have . . . two sets of long underwear,
one set of fleece pants, one set of Gore-tex outer pants, one fleece vest,
one full fleece jacket, my down jacket, a Gore-tex jacket on top of it,
and two pairs of gloves.
Now my boots . . . my boots which were
kept outside of the tent for purposes of cleanliness are frozen, completely
frozen. Unfortunately I can't put several additional pairs of socks on
to keep my feet warm, but I know if I keep wiggling my toes and taking
my shoes off periodically and rubbing my feet that I will avoid frostbite.
With headlamps pointing the way we depart
camp at 4 a.m. Little did I know that it would be over 15 hours before
I would see this frozen tent again. I grew up in western Pennsylvania
where the temperatures get down to twenty below zero. It was so cold you
had to take the battery out of your car to make sure it would start the
next day. That was cold . . . but nothing could compare with the cold
of today and, just two weeks ago as I left my home in Arizona, the daytime
temperature was 97 degrees. I am experiencing a 112 degree temperature
change in just two weeks!
After a hearty, hot bowl of porridge we
are on our way. At 4:00 a.m. that means headlamps. I feel like I'm going
to work in a coal mine.
We've all heard and seen stories about
mountain climbers who, in preparation for the climb, leave at 4 a.m. in
order to make the summit. I have always been impressed by that, and now
that I'm doing it I'm even more impressed.
Mike prepared us the night before and
just reminds us again . . . this will be our hardest day and if the first
20 minutes is any indication he is right on. We are stepping from
boulder to boulder, occasionally knee-deep in a snowdrift, just working
our way across the glacier, continually trying to find some sort of a
I think I see it . . . yes, I do . . .
it's the SUN! It is clearly in the sky, but is shining on the wrong side
of the valley in which we are walking. The other side of the valley is
bathed in sunshine -- and here we are freezing to death walking on the
opposite side. What's wrong with this picture?
When the sun finally hits us full force,
the feeling is indescribable. We stop and begin immediately peeling away
clothing that has been hindering us since 3:30 a.m. Ahhh, nothing ever
felt so good.
Our first objective is a small town called
Gorak Shep where we will have tea. This will be the final teahouse before
we see Everest Base Camp. Unfortunately, the snow at the base camp is
waist deep in places so we will climb Kala Pattar, an 18,500
ft. peak from which we will get an unparalleled view of the world's highest
mountains, including Mt. Everest and base camp.
We go up and up and up. Right now we
are at 17,200 ft.. When we reach the summit where we view all of this
we will be at 18,462 ft. I am moving VERRRRRRY slowly. I take five or
six steps and then rest for about a minute. Take another five or six steps
and then rest another minute. And so it goes. My lungs feel like they're
on fire. But I'm going to keep pressing on. I will not be denied this
As I rest my head and my hands on my hiking
poles I ask myself, "Is it really worth it?" to look at Everest and the
base camp. That's what I'm here for, that's what life's all about, setting
objectives, difficult objectives and then enduring unreasonable pain to
achieve them. I keep going.
I continue moving slowly, very slowly,
doing a "climber's blow." Essentially you breathe in deeply and then blow
the air out quickly. By doing this at several intervals you find it easier
to breathe and find yourself panting much less. The work is hard.
I look up to see Mike, Tom, Bert, and Jeannie standing on the top . .
. I push on. I stop, look up again . . . why don't I seem to be getting
any closer? Keep going. Keep pushing. One step at a time. Up, up, up.
No doubt this is our hardest day, but
I make it and feel a great swelling pride in doing so. I stand on the
summit, turn around, and there before me like a magnificent, overwhelming
giant stands the tallest mountain in the world -- Everest -- and all of
its 29,029 ft. I am mesmerized. I can't take my eyes away from it.
Out comes my camera, and I shoot over
50 pictures of the mountain and surrounding peaks. The photographs will
never begin to capture the true magnitude and emotion of this moment,
but it will remain alive in my mind and heart forever. No, that's not
a tear on my cheek . . . probably just blowing snow.
We spend an hour looking at the mountain,
eating our sack lunches, and then we begin the long, long trek back to
As we continue our walk I reflect upon
all the famous mountaineers who trekked to this point with a large number
of porters and sherpas loaded down with a lot more gear than we have,
and then spent two to three months climbing the mountain. I have just passed
over the exact same route they have for half a century. The experience
is very humbling.
It is late in the afternoon. We are all
beat so we stop at the teahouse to rejuvenate ourselves for the long trek
back to camp. I'm not looking forward to it. My legs feel like rubber.
I point them one way, they seem to want to go the other. Further, it is
all up and down hills with great exposure. One misstep and my next step
could be 12,000 ft. below.
All of the people have departed the teahouse
prior to me; however, I don't want to leave. I just want to sit here and
take in the view. Finally I leave at the concerned urging of Hari, the
trip sidar (lead sherpa).
The trek is long, it's hard and as the
sun begins to set behind the mountains, it becomes extremely cold. Just
as I had started the day wearing every piece of clothing I had, shedding
it bit by bit as the weather became warmer, now I have it all back on
But it seems colder than it had in the
morning because then we were on our way to the objective, on our way to
Mt. Everest. Now we are trudging back to camp facing a cold tent and a
cold sleeping bag.
The sun has now completely set and it
becomes necessary to use headlamps in order to follow the trail. Finally,
finally, 15 hours and 20 minutes after we started this morning
I crawl into my blue tent . . . or white tent since it now is completely
covered with frost.
Frost flies off the zipper of my duffel
bag as I open it, my contact lens solution is frozen again, my shampoo
bottle is hard as a rock, my thermometer reads 7 degrees below zero. I
climb into my sleeping bag fully clothed and fall into a deep sleep after
one of the most difficult, challenging, spectacular days of my life.