A few days forced rest

Made it to Lukla earlier today and headed straight to the hospital where an X-ray confirmed I have fractured my L7 rib from coughing these last few weeks.

The doctor has prescribed painkillers, plenty of rest, food, liquids and lots of the thick, oxygenated air available down here. He said that technically there’s nothing to prevent me going back up the mountain from a mechanical perspective – it will all be down to if I can manage the pain if I attempt to climb with the broken rib.

Per Greg and the revised IMG schedule, I plan to rest here for the next 3 days along with several other folks with varying ailments, and hope to return to EBC Sunday and join with other climbers starting their third rotation to C3 next week. 

It’s time to settle into my new home and enjoy the rest – even if forced.

This fight is not over yet!!

Update Thursday AM:

Last night, after a hearty dinner that I actually had an appetite for, I slept like a baby with very little coughing and my ribs not too bad for once. Far from cured but far better than I have felt in days.

I woke up this morning, showered, had my first solid toilet trip in days (TMI most likely, but you are getting the full-on expedition report!!), had breakfast and am generally dedicating today to sitting on my behind and resting. I cannot say for sure but I would certainly like to think that three more days of this should go a long way towards helping me back up the mountain.

All going to plan, we will return to EBC Sunday and should start the third rotation to C3 on Monday. As the doctor stated – it is all down to containing the pain of the rib – and only one way to find out if this is possible – is to try for C3. That rotation will very clearly inform me if there is still a chance for the summit.

I want to also take this opportunity to say a huge “thank you” to everyone for the massive outpouring of concern and support – all your notes and messages, both here and throughout social media – were just the encouragement I needed – and don’t ever underestimate the value to me! The time came – I needed support, and you answered! If I don’t make it up this mountain, it won’t be for lack of well wishers! So thank you again.

Keep your fingers crossed for continued progress. And I’ll let you know how I get on. My next update should be upon my return to EBC at end of the week.

All the best, Justin

Back to square one – Lukla

So it’s 10AM Wednesday and I’ve just had a meeting with the senior IMG folks – western guides and Sherpas regarding the best course of action for me. This is where and why I choose to go with IMG… they know the mountain best and they have a wealth of situation management experience that puts them in a position to make the best call for me, even when I cannot.

The icepack on my ribs all day yesterday certainly helped but I could still feel significant pain and something pop slightly in my ribs every time I coughed. Add to that my overnight sleep, which was good – but during which the ribs seized up a little bit and once again the pain and lack of mobility were back with a vengeance this AM.

I desperately wanted to make the next rotation tomorrow AM – no matter how painful it would be to carry my backpack (not even sure how I would manage it without screaming) or how risky it would be without full mobility or use of my left arm. The logic of this desperate climber being to somehow make it to C1 tomorrow and on to C2, C3 (no idea how – but would worry about that then) over the following days, then somehow make it back to EBC and take stock of any damage done at that point.

This is where the wisdom of Greg, Jangbu, Jon, etc. comes in to play – they are of one mind on this – and that is: if I was to go back up tomorrow, I would likely end my trip – or at the very least, would not have exercised the best option available to me.

With my myopic view seeing no further than the next rotation tomorrow, I failed to count the fact that we still have another whole month to climb this mountain. With that in mind, I am advised to helicopter back down to Lukla (8k+ feet below with much thicker air – better to heal), get an X-ray of my ribs and give my body a chance to heal. The assumption being that once I am on the mend, to helicopter back up, and either rejoin Jon’s team or if that not possible due to scheduling, join another guide, Luke – who I have also climbed with before.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t sorely disappointed – but am just disappointed that my body has let me down, not at all at the expert advice of the IMG crew – which I am only too happy to follow. In my heart of hearts I know it is the right decision.

I can only hope that given the opportunity, my body can heal sufficiently – and in time – to get back up here and summit this mountain. Perhaps false bravado – but after what I have seen so far, I truly believe that with my health I can make the summit.

So – my apologies to anyone following if this blog goes a little quiet or dull for a few days – I will most certainly let folks know the outcome of my X-ray, etc. but I hope to quickly move from Himalayan ER back to our regular programming – i.e. Climbing this damn mountain!!

Thanks for you patience and continued support – I don’t plan on letting you down – and I hope to still make you all proud and yet make the summit.


Oxygen is my friend

Today is May 1st, start of a new month – and given we had another rest day today and the fact that on our next rotation we will be bringing oxygen masks up the hill in addition to our regular kit – Jon gave us a demo of how to use the masks and oxygen tanks – which are a critical part of our equipment above C3.

As a reminder – on our next rotation we will climb to C3 & stay the night – all without oxygen. I am told this overnight at 23k+ feet will be quite uncomfortable. After that – on our summit push – we will climb from C3 to C4 (high camp on the South Col) with oxygen, sleep at C4 with oxygen – and finally, make our way to the summit using oxygen.

For those of you that scuba dive, concept is somewhat similar – actually easier, if anything. We all received our masks and took turns hooking up to the ranks and using – trying our best not to do a lame Darth Vader (Starwars) or Bane (Batman) impression! Jon also instructed me to keep the mask on for a while to get extra oxygen – a great healer at this altitude – and sure enough, my ribs hurt just that bit less after – if only temporarily.

To pre-empt the question: All of our team are using oxygen. Some folks from other teams have opted to try without – and that is their decision. Statistically speaking, only a tiny fraction of people who have summited Everest have done so without using supplemental oxygen. The likelihood of success is so much less while the risk of injury or death is so much greater that there simply was no question for me.

To anticipate other questions: the oxygen tank itself weighs about 18lbs and I will carry one in my packpack at all times, switching out for a fresh tank later in the ascent on summit day, which will then stay with me until my return to C4. During that time, I expect to use an oxygen flow of 2-3L/min.

On a bright note – that’s yet another previously unknown variable now addressed – another piece of the puzzle in place, which is only a good thing! I suppose as with everything else – one thing to do a demo down here at EBC, a whole other thing to use in anger up high – but one thing is for sure… oxygen is my friend!

On an even lighter note – given it is Monday – I need to remember that a Monday in the mountains – even with sore ribs – is probably still better than a Monday back at work 🙂

A bad day all around

Since climbing to C2 I had been experiencing a pain in my left lung/ribs when coughing (I’ve been coughing since we made the summit of Lobuche, probably over 2 weeks now). By Sunday AM my overall health seemed to have gotten worse – with a combination of shortness of breath the night before, an increasingly nauseous and gassy stomach and when I got up Sunday AM to tell our guide Jon, something finally tweaked in my left rib region and all of a sudden I could barely cough or clear my throat without experiencing searing pain. Not a good start to the day!

Jon patiently listened to my varied symptoms and observed my movement and we decided it best to pay another visit back up to the doctors of the Himalayan Rescue Association (HRA) at the Everest ER.

Upon arrival, there already was quite a crowd milling around the HRA, but none appeared to be waiting to be seen by the doctors – rather, they were all concentrating on radio chatter from higher up the mountain where it seems there had been an accident and they were waiting for an update.

What we didn’t realize at the time but found out a little later – was that world-renowned Swiss climber Ueli Steck had fallen and died while climbing alone on Nuptse (peak above and to the right of C1) – where he was climbing as part of his acclimatization for a particularly aggressive and typically ambitious traverse he had planned of first Everest and then Lhotse. For those not aware, Ueli Steck was a master mountaineer. What the rest of us amateurs do in the hills cannot even be mentioned in the same sentence – simply no comparison. 

We actually passed him twice this past week on our rotations – him going up the icefall both times as we came down. I only know what I read about him and what one can infer (if anything) from two “hellos” in passing – but he undoubtedly was a man at the pinnacle of his craft and needless to say news of his passing came as a great shock to everyone and really is all a bit surreal right now. It also offered a stark reminder that no matter who you are or what your skill level, there is always so much beyond your control in the mountains.

For probably the best article I have seen on his untimely death, click here for NY Times.

My health issues not quite so serious when viewed through this lens – but of course at altitude, everyone’s problems are big to themselves. General diagnosis was that I had a bacterial gut infection and while no sign of infection in the lungs, a distinct possibility that I had either pulled or torn a muscle around the ribs and/or fractured or otherwise damaged a rib from coughing so much over the last two weeks. The HRA doctor administered relevant drugs and I went on my way. Oddly nice to hear that the rib injury is more mechanical as my mind already going to potentially far worse places and imagining a clot on my lung; As I mentioned in a previous post – reality rarely proves worse than my imagined worst case scenario!

I am happy to report the drugs for my stomach seem to have worked and finishing the course of antibiotics tomorrow, the nausea has gone and my appetite is almost back. The ribs are another thing altogether and the painkillers not doing a whole lot (yet). One thing in my favor is the weather report I mentioned in my last entry – in that we are in no rush back up the hill, so I have some time to figure out pain management options that I hope will let me continue to climb.

More to come – watch this space… but just to say thanks to everyone for the well wishes on this day – from varied and unexpected quarters – made a huge difference and helped more than you know. Of course, there are going to be days like this on an expedition of this length – but even knowing that, they can still hit you hard and test your resiliency. This was my first real such day – and it did test me, for sure. Being able to check in with the world – admittedly to whine a little – helped greatly! A problem shared isn’t always a problem solved, but most definitely it is a problem eased – so thank you for that.

Second rotation done – C2

It’s Saturday April 29th and we are officially one month into the expedition as of yesterday. I am now longer into this trip by a week or more than my previous longest expeditions (Denali, Aconcagua). Normally by this time, I’d be flying home from Alaska or Argentina and quite glad of it too 🙂 This is where time management and keeping myself occupied between rotations is going to be crucial – to try and not lose my mind or go down dark rabbit holes of negative thoughts and doubts. Anyhow, after a well-needed shower and day of rest yesterday, here’s what’s being going on this pat week as we successfully completed our second rotation – first full trip through the icefall to C1 and on to C2.

After our false start on Sunday due to issues with ladders in the icefall, last Monday came our chance to finally climb to C1. With the usual early start, we trekked to crampon point where yet again, we donned crampons to the backdrop of a string of headlamps making their way up the icefall.

It turns out the icefall wasn’t simply going to let us pass this day either, and we were delayed for 1hr+ due to a collapse up near the football field. A Sherpa had been seriously injured and was being carried down – he ultimately was flown to Kathmandu for treatment but lived to tell the tale thankfully. With that, we finally started our ascent after 5am; When we reached the point of collapse the fixed ropes simply disappeared in a giant, eerie jumble of ice blocks – which required some navigation from our Sherpa to thread a path to where the lines reappeared again. This was a stark reminder that any confidence you have that you are entirely master of your own destiny up here is purely fiction; there is luck involved too – and you just try to limit the time you are exposed to that luck – in essence by limiting the time you are in the icefall, especially the more exposed areas.

The good news was that overall this felt better than our previous dry-run. However, our work was not done yet and there was more of a climb than expected from the football field (where we stopped on the dry run) to get to C1 @ 19,600 ft, especially as the day heated up and we became somewhat dehydrated. After another push, the IMG camp beckoned, perched at the head of the western cwm. We happily fell into our tents and rested for the afternoon before dinner (our first taste of MREs – military style boil in the bag meals – not too bad at all!) and bed later that eve.

On the docket Tuesday was a short enough trek (maybe 1hr) above C1 making our way up the gradual steps of the glacier into the Western Cwm proper, to eventually look down on C1. Happy to report that any fatigue from the day before had vanished and everyone appeared strong. For those unfamiliar with the term (most people), “Cwm” is a Welsh word meaning a “rounded or glaciated valley” – hence rather apt for the bowl that is formed above C1. We enjoyed the views, acclimated that bit more, and made our way back to C1 to rest for the remainder of the day.

Wednesday morning came with wind battering our tent. As always in a tent, this sounded worse than it was, but it still sounded bad enough to make me more than a little reluctant to leave my sleeping bag (inertia is a terrible thing!). We had breakfast and hit the trail up the western Cwm towards C2 – with the cold & wind quickly freezing my hands (after NH two months ago where I got frostnip I am very wary of this) – even with the best planned glove system, some mornings just get you regardless. Finally after much swinging of my arms to get the blood flow going again, and a brief period of screaming with pain as the blood returned to my fingers, I was good to go. 

We gradually climbed the same terrain as the day before, and then beyond, crossing some of our largest crevasses to date – some more hairy than others (one in particular where my Sherpa was audibly praying as I crossed!!) Once done with this final rope and ladder work we faced a very long, gradual uphill trek to C2. This is usually a sweltering affair with the Cwm acting as a huge sun reflector – thankfully on this day, the somewhat adverse conditions meant that we didn’t roast as many other climbers have in the past. The thing about the Cwm is that you can see your ultimate goal – C2 – from miles (and hours) away. Distance and perspective are hard things to gauge in this environment. After several hours we finally had C2 nearby and just remained to plod through the various other team camps to make it to IMG, near the back of C2 @ 21,225 ft. We fell into camp – as usual slugging back mugs of tang and Sherpa tea upon arrival. 

I did notice that my chest cough seemed to have worsened for the travel to C2, in that I now had a mild pain in the area of my left ribs / lung whenever I coughed. My stomach was once again making very odd noises too. Not sure what to make of that yet but all sorts of worries enter ones mind – and one thing is very clear on this mountain from what I have seen of other climbers that have had to descend – it is a war of attrition… your most important – and most difficult – task is to stay healthy long enough to give yourself a shot at the summit. In and of itself, that is turning out to be no small feat.

After a fairly poor sleep I rose Thursday AM and while feeling pretty crappy, joined the team for another relatively short acclimatization trek above C2. This is where we got our first good look at the Lhotse face, the bergschrund (crevasse formed where the moving glacier in the Cwm separates from stagnant ice above – i.e. from the Lhotse face), C3 perched precariously above @ 23,500 ft, and on to the yellow band, Geneva Spur and C4 on the South Col. Funny thing (not so much) with Everest – no sooner are you over the challenge of the icefall, crevasses and ladders but you are then confronted with the far more intimidating Lhotse face. 

For now however, I chose to concentrate on the task at hand for this rotation – and that was to make it to C2, stay awhile and return to EBC – and by that measure, this has been a success. I will worry about the Lhotse face on our next rotation – one thing at a time.

Friday morning we awoke and prepared for the trip back to EBC. It was once again a cold start but with a quick descent to C1 which warmed us up and then on back down through the icefall before the midday heat. I stopped by the Himalayan Rescue Association (HRA) for a check-up after my few health issues had flared up in C2 above – the doctors found no sign of a chest infection, and suggested I carry on and comeback if things worsened… good enough for now. We got back to EBC camp proper for a great lunch, dinner, warm shower and contact with the world at large to replenish my spirits.

I have to admit that I am still daunted by this challenge, particularly after seeing the Lhotse face and beyond – and maybe not enjoying it as much as I should? In boxing you are never supposed to afford your opponent too much respect – but this isn’t boxing and I don’t think there is such a thing as too much respect for this particular mountain. Only time will prove me right or wrong. Either way, we now have 4+ days at EBC to rest and rehabilitate. I am quite sure cabin fever will have hit by then and we will be well ready to go back up the hill again. Current weather reports are hindering other teams advances, but given we are not planning a move for some days yet – our timing may be perfect. Next move likely towards the end of next week – but I’ll update before then as things become clearer.

Of course – my customary plea on behalf of the American Kidney Fund... Together, we have just broken $24k raised along the way to my total fundraising goal of $25k! So, if anyone reading who has not yet donated – and interested in helping me reach my goal, please click here. Many thanks for your continued support – honestly, this is what really matters, and your donations will be put to incredibly good use by the AKF.

Cheers, Justin

Hurry up and wait

It’s 3:55AM here at EBC and just a quick note to give you an idea of how things work around here and who sets the schedule… i.e. The mountain does!

So when we last spoke yesterday, our plan was to get up at 2am today and depart at 3 for camp 1. Well, plans change…

I had set my alarm for 1:55 to give me a few extra minutes to get my stuff together and get over to the dining tent by 2:30. Somehow either my alarm didn’t go off or I slept through it – not a great start! That said, was only by 5 mins so I wasn’t late, just more that my planned routine was broken.

I quickly jumped out of bed and finished packing, made it over to the dining tent for breakfast. My stomach doing a little better for sure but still a bit all over the place more from nervous energy and being up at 2:30AM. Just like ironman race morning every time, a hasty trip to the bathroom helped rectify that 🙂

So, ready to do this – I think – when we get word from our guide that part of the icefall near the very top (beyond the football field where we stopped Friday) had collapsed and so requires the icefall doctors to re-rope the route during daylight later today. Nothing to be done except return to bed and with luck we will try again tomorrow.

Mountain life. Just one of many examples of even when you show up prepared, there are so many variables in the equation (training, fitness, health, weather, ice conditions, other climbers and just blind luck) – and more beyond your control than not – that just maybe, if everything lines up, may eventually equal a summit.

Anyway, we have plenty contingency days in the plan so this is nothing more than a minor inconvenience. For now, I’ll simply  relish an opportunity to get some more sleep in my warm sleeping bag.


Update to this post (Sunday 3:50pm):

We just got word that the section in question has been re-roped, so we leave for camp 1 @ 3am tomorrow (Monday). All going to plan, we then stay Mon/Tues @ camp 1, Weds/Thurs @ camp 2 and return to EBC Fri.

Dry-run into the icefall

One of the unique challenges of Everest and one of the things keeping me up at night in the run-up to this expedition was the Khumbu Icefall. So it was with some trepidation that I ventured into the icefall for our team dry-run early Friday AM – a 6 hour round trip, stopping short of camp 1 – in order to familiarize ourselves with the terrain.

My chest cough has been lingering (no better, no worse) and I have also been dealing with mild stomach issues – so needless to say, I wasn’t overly excited when 2AM rolled around and I had to get up. With my backpack ready from the night before, I only had to get out of my sleeping bag, put on my boots and make my way to the dining tent and try to force down some breakfast before we hit the road at 3. Sounds simple – but at 17,300 feet – not always!

Of course – as always, a huge thank you has to go to our Sherpa guides – who even at this time of the morning were cheery and funny – their good nature is infectious.

That said, my stomach was rolling in concert with the trail out of EBC and about 30 mins later we arrived at crampon point, where – no surprise – we donned crampons and made our way into the icefall proper. This was like walking on to the set of a sci-fi movie, with each step taking me further into a living, moving, groaning jumble of ice blocks, each bigger than a building – one of the most surreal places I have ever been. Thankfully, just about all the groaning was done during the day, while we were not in the icefall, as that usually accompanies an avalanche. Happy to report not the slightest movement during our time within. 

We started off in darkness, only able to see the small area illuminated by our headlamps – the immediate slope in front of me, the rope, the steps kicked into the ice – literally following my Sherpa Sonam in front of me, step by step through a tunnel of darkness. Gradually, over time, the darkness lifted and I could make out more of the incredible surrounding landscape, beyond the immediate focus of my next few steps.

The icefall doctors (expert Sherpa that set the route each year) had already threaded their way through this 3D maze of ice and set the fixed ropes up & down, left & right, back & forth through the ice, employing ladders where necessary to bridge various horizontal and vertical spans. Relatively speaking, all we had to do was to play join-the-dots and just follow the ropes – but on our first trip into the icefall – still no small accomplishment.

After about 3 hours in we arrived at the end of our upward motion for the day – a location called the “football field” – approx 1,500 feet above EBC – a large and relatively stable section of ice. Here we took our bearings, enjoyed the view – as it was now daylight – and eventually turned around and headed back down to EBC.

My Sherpa for the day – Sonam (Jangbu) was just as good as Mingma was on Lobuche. He motored up the icefall, all the while paying attention to my every move, providing advice on each section and offering encouragement at every turn. Seriously – these guys have the patience of saints! He set a pace just on the edge of comfort that had my thought process fluctuate from “ok I can do this” to “shit, I am not sure how long I can keep this up” and then back to “thank god, caught my breath – ok to go for another bit”!! Sonam tells me that I was strong for my first time in the icefall – I know these guys aren’t much for BS – but I still don’t know whether to believe him! I didn’t feel very strong. Let’s see how next time goes.

By this point however, I was quite excited – all the weeks of trekking, our summit of Lobuche – all behind us now and we were actually, finally climbing the foothills of Everest. Add to that we were in one of the most unique landscapes on the planet. Between the excitement and probably a reduction in anxiety, having now made our way over half way through the icefall, my guts started relaxing too – and for the first time that day I didn’t feel nauseous. Result all round!

Make no mistake, I was working hard the whole way – between the terrain, contemplating the unknown and my nausea. I have no doubt that proceeding above the football field to camp 1 will be an exhausting effort. I am also informed that on previous years at least, the truly monster crevasses and cliffs requiring 3-5 ladders to bridge, came after the football field – so it remains to be seen if there are some jaw-clenching crossings still in store for us. 

So, first impressions of the icefall – definitely as unique an experience as I was led to believe from friends who have been here before. Thankfully, not quite as daunting as I expected – although given my imagination, reality is rarely worse than my imagined worst case scenario! We did have some spans utilizing ladders – several horizontal (1 ladder wide) and one vertical (2 ladders high) – but none particularly hair-raising. We traveled through the icefall during the night as with the cold temperatures, the frozen bonds keeping the icefall together are more intact than during the day, hence there is less chance of an avalanche. Happy to report this proved the case for us, but there were definitely more than a few spots where the Sherpa advised us to traverse quickly due to increased exposure to potential objective hazard.

The good news however – until now an unknown quantity, the icefall is no longer so. I am confident in returning through it the three remaining times we have on the expedition – and hopefully my speed will increase as I continue to acclimate.

Tomorrow (early Sunday AM) we will once again head into the icefall, this time making our way to camp 1 (somewhere close to 20,000 feet) where we will stay Sun/Mon and then move up through what is known as the “western cwm” to camp 2 (above 22.000 feet), staying there Tues/Weds and finally returning back to EBC Thurs, completing our next rotation. As before, I will be off the grid during this time, so next update will be toward the end of next week upon my return- at that point, hitting the notable milestone of being one full month into the expedition.

Before I go – one more reminder to anyone wanting to donate to the American Kidney Fund (the reason for this whole expedition), please click here. We are north of $23k – so every little helps in reaching the final goal of $25k.

Cheers, Justin

First rotation done – Lobuche

Firstly, I want to wish everyone reading a belated happy Easter and also to thank you for your very generous donations so far – as collectively, we have just broken $23k raised for the American Kidney Fund! Still very much hoping to hit the final target of $25k before this climb is all over, so if anyone is reading this and still thinking of donating please click here.

My last update was from our first arrival to EBC. Since then, all the trekkers have returned home, including Stef – and while I loved having her here, and it was great she saw where I am climbing and who I am climbing with, thereby removing some doubts for her (I think!) – I have to admit our parting proved far harder than I expected and left me quite lonely and introspective for a few days.

That said, we climbers had a specific job to do – i.e. complete our first acclimatization rotation and summit Lobuche peak @ ~20,000 feet. With that in mind, we said farewell to the trekkers at Lobuche village and returned back to Lobuche BC as they headed back down the valley to Pheriche and closer to home. 

We got settled into BC @ ~15,500 feet Thursday eve and Friday we moved up to high camp @ ~17,000 feet with a view to heading up very early Saturday AM and summit. 3AM Saturday came and as my alarm went off, I felt all the usual urges in the dark of the tent to stay in my sleeping bag and not go anywhere – but resisted and was happy enough once we got out of our bags and pulled on our boots. As with many things, that first motion to break the inertia is critical.

We headed out in light snow and made our way up about 500 feet before having to turn around due to what would have been treacherous conditions coming back down due to very slippy rock slabs covered with fresh powder and a lack of fixed ropes to prevent a bad slip and fall for someone. We decided to turn around and try again on Sunday with the Sherpas putting in some additional fixed lines in the mean time to support our revised plan.

The rest of Saturday (i.e. from about 8am on) was spent lounging in our tents (in my case reading and sleeping) as it was too cold to sit outside and we had no actual work to do. This is where (I believe) mountaineering is often won or lost – as it can be where you gain much needed rest – or – where your mind can wander to places it best not. Thankfully at this early stage of the expedition it was more the former – but was also a good first taste of the waiting game that is inevitable on an expedition of this length.

3AM Sunday arrived and we repeated the same preparation and departure process. This time, the weather was a little windy but overall fine for our ascent. As I looked below on a rest break I could see a few lights following us up the mountainside. We made the summit around 9AM in more difficult conditions than expected but a welcome relief from sitting in our tents, and a good first test of our skills with fixed ropes and crampons. And the view that rewarded us at the top was worth the effort. You could see the whole Khumbu valley and a veritable who’s who of Himalayan peaks – with Everest looming a whole 9,000 feet higher still – and the inevitable question… given the effort to top out on Lobuche, how the hell am I going to make it all the way to the top of Everest? One day at a time, as my guides remind me. I did what I had to do today.

As an aside – and to comment not just on this summit but Everest also – none of this would be possible without our Sherpa companions – I think a better term might be “babysitters”. These guys are strong as bulls and so incredibly humble – it is simply an honor to climb with them. On this day, my Sherpa was Mingma Tenzing, who powered his way to the summit and I merely followed in his wake. This guy is only 30 years old, has summited Everest 9 times, and his first summit was when he was 16! In the US, this guy would have his own line of sneakers – in the Khumbu valley, he is nothing unusual. When not guiding me, Mingma was also part of the crew feeding us before and after our climbs! You never met a more humble super-hero in your life. Even in my brief time with him, I learned a lot from this man.

Summit made, we all returned to high camp and shortly after, back down to base camp to get some rest, where I noticed I’m already getting the first signs of a good set of raccoon eyes! Yesterday (Monday) we made the return trek to EBC, which will be our base going forward until the expedition is over. There is a welcome finality to this – it has taken three full weeks since the expedition started to today – and we are finally facing the mountain – and our first real challenge – the Khumbu Icefall.

A minor health note – I have a small chest cough which is a result from the cold air during our summit morning on Lobuche, but seems to be receding and is a far cry from the possible GI issues that all too frequently ravage climbers en route to EBC.

Today was our first real rest day in some time and has so far comprised of breakfast, shower, shave (both well needed!!), moving into my “home” tent for the next 5+ weeks, a little laundry and now some blogging. Again, I have to admit that I found the last few days hard emotionally and even at this early stage, feel somewhat daunted at the length and magnitude of the task ahead – so this rest day to recharge came just at the right time. 

I am also reminded from my comments at the top as to why I am here. Yes – to pursue a dream and climb a mountain. But also to honor Dad, and indeed the many folks suffering presently from kidney disease – brave folks like Steve Winfree and his wife Heather that I met in D.C. while advocating for the AKF. I am going through some discomfort and apprehension right now – but I brought all this on myself, and it is part and parcel of trying to climb this mountain. Through no fault of their own, Steve & Heather have had a daily mountain to climb coping with his kidney disease – for years. I take strength from their strength and remind myself to “buck up” as Dad would say. I also need to remember to enjoy this adventure for the incredible journey it is… while sitting at the puja ceremony a few days back when we were last at EBC I was left thinking how incredibly lucky we all were to share in this  adventure of a lifetime… I need to constantly remind myself of that – and, at the risk of being corny, hopefully this blog gives you some small insight into that also.

Anyway, nap-time calling so I am going to check out for now. We practice on ladders tomorrow – where hopefully my time spent in NH practicing with CJ should hold me in good stead – and a day or two later we hit the icefall for the first time, after which I will report back.

All the best,


Everest Base Camp

Lots been going on since I last posted and wanted to catch you up before we move on again. The trekkers, including Stef, leave tomorrow – which will be hard. It has been so nice to have her here until now and will be a difficult goodbye for both of us. We climbers also leave EBC tomorrow and head back to Lobuche base camp, location of my last post – and we will conduct our first acclimatzation climb to the summit of Lobuche over the weekend.

It’s been a whirlwind since arriving here – between Paul Oakenfold concert, exploring basecamp itself (bearing in mind when I was last here in 2010 it wasn’t climbing season and hence no one was here), getting first up close look at the Khumbu icefall, having our puja ceremony to ask for safe passage during our expedition, getting some practice in on the fixed ropes, along with just getting used to life at 17,300 feet including the not infrequent booms of avalanches (mostly small, quite normal, and far away from the strategically placed IMG camp). EBC is a strikingly beautiful place but also hard and unforgiving.

As you can see, the further up the valley we go, the more it looks like another planet… with base camp barely visible in the distance. It took hours navigating the rocks and boulders of the glacial moraine to finally get to base camp itself, nestled in a bowl with the Khumbu icefall and the path to Everest proper to the right.

The entry point into base camp itself and a shot from the most unexpected Paul Oakenfold concert…

Spectacular views from our tent this AM, first good look at the Khumbu icefall yesterday, and some practice on the fixed ropes earlier today…

The puja ceremony from earlier today where our team made offerings, had our equipment blessed and asked for safe passage for our expedition… and the IMG 2017 Hybrid team & guides

Still not quite hit home the reality of all of this and just taking it day by day for now – as the enormity of the whole thing still a bit overwhelming – but – I am here, I am feeling good, and looking forward to getting into the real work over the coming days and weeks. I’ll be off the grid for the next few days as we try to summit Lobuche but will be in touch when I get back to EBC for a few days rest after. Speak then.

Made it to Lobuche base camp

We left Pheriche and pulled into Lobuche base camp yesterday where we will remain for the next 3 days before moving up the valley to our final destination – EBC.

Our climbing team will accompany the trekkers back down a few days later and will say farewell as they return to Lukla while we do our first acclimatization rotation to the summit of Lobuche (20,075 feet).

On our way up the valley we ran into DJ Paul Oakenfold who is also winding his way to EBC to perform a concert there on the 11th… we are all looking forward to that unexpected entertainment.

Speaking of celebrities, I have encountered 5 great guys from Mexico on our trekking team – and they agreed to give me a “Menudo” snapshot en route… hope to see them all again in Mexico to defrost once this is all over!

We plan to head up to Lobuche high camp tomorrow and then move on to EBC the following day. Next update from there!