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Dhaulagiri Expedition 2002

Dispatches from Dan Bridges, Bela Kogler before departing from the group
back to Kathmandu.

Namaste!: This is my first expedition and I can tell you it is more than I imagined. Nepal is very beautiful, the mountains are breathtaking, and the Nepali people are wonderful.  One interesting thing I have observed about the expedition is the group that makes up this incredible team.  Here are my thoughts on this courageous group of individuals:

Robert Link (a.k.a. Robo) - He is a born leader.  Members of the expedition look to him on a daily basis for advice and direction.  The thing I don't understand is every time a question is posed; he won't answer it until he consults Lhawang.

Lhawang - A true mountaineer and a Nepali native.  He has been our saving grace when it comes to the language and customs of Nepal.  Always a smile on his face and a laugh in his heart, especially when we are fed anything with yak in it!  He loves to watch our faces when we taste that lovely local delicacy.

Andy Mondry - Also known as the "producer," he is the catalyst of the expedition.  He is the one who created this magical group.  Andy is also a human garbage can, constantly scoping the mess tent for any morsel that is left on a plate.  He often squirrels food away to eat later for one of his many snacks.  Andy is a Gemini and loves taking video.  In his spare time he enjoys chess and working out with the thigh master.

Dave Nickamin - Dave is my bunkmate and a very special friend.  He is the sole reason I am here.  He worked the deal with my wife and smoothed waters for the trip.  I go shopping with Dave he is an unbelievable haggler.  Dave has a unique communications pattern with the Nepali.  He mumbles a bit, throws a bit of Spanish and Yiddish and some how I get a great deal. 

Adam Nickamin - Adam is very spiritual and really enjoys learning and participating in the local Nepali customs.  So much that when a local Dhaulagiri Expedition Historian came to bless the group and offer a toast with some local apple spirits, I caught Adam putting the glass to his lips not even getting them wet when dumping the beverage in his empty fruit bowl. Thinking he was free, he fell upon another Nepali custom that the glass should never be empty and he was back in the game.  Adam also has a problem doing laundry.  He says it affects his acclimatization process.  Adam also coined the phrase, "welcome to my willage."

Ben Clark - Ben is a unique individual full of energy and excitement.  He too can consume the food.  Before I got to know Ben I thought he was a little off.  All he did all day and night was take photos of himself: Ben in the tent, Ben on the mountain, Ben tying on his boots.  Then I found out he has his own website and a goal to be the youngest American to summit Everest.  He may be one of the smartest climbers as well, because he brought his girlfriend.  I have not yet to see those photos. 

Mike Lindaas (a.k.a. Lindy) - Mike is the true reality check and businessman of this expedition.  Mike has every answer for any technical question, be it working on the mountain or working the computer.  He has such a dry sense of humor you never know if you should believe him.  Mike also has a very unique laugh that would make anybody smile.  Sometimes his jokes aren't that funny, but his laugh makes you laugh and then he thinks he is funny again.

Mike Olson (a.k.a. Ole) - I link Ole to the character James Gardener played in The Great Escape, "the Scrounger."  Ole is our Scrounger.  Any town, village or hamlet we visit, Ole has a friend, business acquaintance or relative.  He can get anything we need.  He has a wealth of knowledge and great Nepali communication, especially when speaking to the opposite sex.  In fact he got us a great deal at the Shangri-La in Kathmandu for hours talking to a female hotel clerk.  I think she hung out with him for so long because she thought he was Gene Wilder.

Jeff Justman (a.k.a. JJ) - All I can say is total badass.  The first day in Pokhara he shaved his head.  All the Nepali kids thought he was Stone Cold Steve Austin.  Everything about JJ is climbing.  He is dedicated, intense and powerful.   I think I can take JJ.

Mike Styllas (a.k.a. The Greek) - "The Greek" is the ultimate human specimen.  He lives on raw garlic and olive oil.  Just the other day we found out a pass was snow covered and The Greek offered to shovel a one-mile path up the mountain.  Before joining the expedition the Greek ran in the Annapurna Race, drinking from a local hose (total no-no), he became ill, yet still finished the race.  My favorite Greek quote after he finished is, "It's OK.  It's fine.  Doesn't matter what happens, It's OK.  It's Fine."

Gary Meggs - Our southern comedian.  He somehow related everything to the south.  When he was offered some music for his CD player, if he didn't like it, his response was "this dog don't hunt."  Oftentimes we enjoyed sitting around the campfire listening to Gary talk about growing up in the south and eating Spam.  He tells us he is thinking about writing a Spam cookbook.

Dan Bridges (Dano) - My favorite thing about Dan is watching him hike up the mountain playing air guitar.  Dano is our resident equipment specialist. Does not matter what gear you put on, Dan will start rattling off specs and stored where you can buy them.  Not sure why, but he always ends up plugging Mountain Hardwear gear in the end.

Cari Link - Cari is a wonderful person. She has taken the Nepali children under her wing.  She will stop to play with them no matter what.  She has also single handedly increased the Nepali economy by buying something from every street vendor and shop owner on the trek.

Lindsay Rinehart - Lindsay is our Communications Specialist and Ben's girlfriend.  She has her own work cut out for her.  Ben showers first and uses all the hot water, he blew up the computer and expects her to fix it and then he lost the digital camera cord and asked her if she packed it in her own sleeping bag.  Yet, she still manages to keep his website up and running.  A real trouper.

Tommy Heinrich - Tommy is our cameraman and crew all in one.  He is capturing every moment for the history books.  If it's Robert spilling tea on the expensive computer system or the team being blessed at a local temple, Tommy is there.  Tommy is a seasoned climber and captures every Kodak moment.

As you can see every member of this team contributes in their own special way and I am honored and happy to be a part of this expedition.  Thank you Andy, David, and Adam for including me in this great adventure.

I close with one of the greatest quotes from a great band... "At least I'm enjoying the ride."

Pictures from Jeff Justman: Adam, Andy, and Dave going over the pass...

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(photo credit: Jeff Justman)

porters carrying to Dhaulagiri: (photo credit: Jeff Justman)

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