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  Autumn Everest 2001: The American-Canadian Expedition

Dispatch 19: We Have to Believe

Advanced Basecamp Rongbuk Glacier October 1, 2001

The entire team is back at Advanced Basecamp. Yesterday, Dan, Scotty and I completed our journey to camp at 7,000m where Brian and Pemba were waiting.

Yesterday was a beautiful day and evening — absolutely bright sunshine all day and a near full moon reflecting off Mt. Everest and the surrounding peaks. To be one of only five people on the mountain last night is an experience that I know I’m going to carry with me for many years to come.

I must admit that yesterday was not without a little bit of trial on my part. I was really anxious to leave camp in the morning and didn’t drink enough fluids prior to leaving. By the time I was halfway up the fixed line on the North Col, I was starting to bottom out on both of my prosthetic legs due to being dehydrated and losing volume in my residual limbs.

By the time I arrived in Camp 1 a little over two hours later, I was in a lot of pain and really moving quite slowly. Brian immediately started the stove and began melting snow for hot drinks. After two quarts of hot liquids, I began to feel a lot better.

Upon inspecting the ends of my residual limbs, I discovered that I did have some tissue damage and bleeding on my right residual limb. There was a lot of attention to detail when engaged in activities at this level as an amputee, and my momentary lapse is going to cost me the next couple of days. It won’t happen again. Pain is sometimes an excellent teacher. The descent back down to Advance Basecamp this morning was a long lesson along those lines.

We woke this morning to falling snow and really, really poor visibility. The decision was made that all of us would descend and that Karl, Kelly and Gopal would remain in Advance Basecamp.

It is still snowing rather hard at Advanced Basecamp with about six inches of snow covering the rocks. It’s hard to say how much snow has fallen higher up the mountain. Our concern now is avalanche danger on the route and how our summit attempt date will be affected.

All of us are feeling kind of down about that right now. This is a small, almost unsupported team, and it took us a solid month to push the route to 7,800m, which is within striking distance of the summit.

We chose at this point to not believe the unthinkable. We’ve had so much support from our backers and sponsors. We’ve had weeks of hard work at altitudes where breathing at times seemed to be our greatest challenge.

Our ultimate goal to stand at the top of the world is within reach. It could be taken away from us by a storm lasting a couple days. That thought could be disheartening. However, we’re not going to give up hope by any means. All of us are dedicated and focused on success. We still have a few days left and many things are possible.

We have to believe that it can be done. I know for myself that this is a simple truth. Had I not clenched my fists, centered my resolve and believed that things could be done — almost impossible things as sometimes viewed by others — I would just be climbing those dark inner walls of my mind, alone, really going no where, rather than being on the magnificent slopes of Mt. Everest with a team of mountaineers who also believe that it can be done.

We’ll have an update on Oct. 2 to let you know how the weather is unfolding and how things are going in general. We are really concerned about avalanche danger, the length of this storm and what its effects are going to be. Good night from Everest, and we’ll be checking back in within the next 24 to 36 hours. Take care, and we send our greetings to all.

--Ed Hommer

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