Alpine 8000 Everest 2002 Expedition

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Alpine 8000 Everest 2002 Expedition

Expedition: Leader: Willie Benegas
Members:
   * Robert Geier  -  Australia
   * Maria Maccecchini  - USA
   * Louis Strik  -  Holland

   * Pingui, a small stuffed Penguin, the only penguin to summit 2 times. Our team mascot

Sherpas:  After two summits together, I consider them my best friends in Nepal.
   * Phenden Sherpa 3 times to the summit.
   * Pemba Ringi Sherpa     3 times to the summit.
   * Mingma Sherpa            1 summit.
   * Dalengi Sherpa cook
   * Dorgi Sherpa C2 cook
   * Migma chiri Sherpa    South Col.

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23rd April climb to Camp 2: This season the fluctuations between hot and cold weather are considerable. For a few days, due to the heat the icefall was like a sleeping dragon, waking occasionally to inflict great damage. One section of the icefall fell onto a ladder. Everyone complains that the icefall isn’t fixed well enough, but they never stop to try and fix it up and those who can are doing everything possible to fix it as well as possible. A long line of climbers is trying to make their way through this section.

When I arrived, it was just a question of fixing an ice-screw and a rope to pass the crevasse. It took me a while to do, but in the end it was safe. Nobody stopped for a moment to fix anything and it seems that the easiest way to fix it is to get back to base and complain that the icefall is not safe enough.

Another small problem is that due to heat, before entering the Khumbu, I decided to clean some of the clothes I was wearing. The cleanest clothes I then had were some old trousers that unfortunately had a 2-inch hole in the seat. If you only knew what burns I have got on my right buttock right now! 

24th April – resting at Camp 3: Maria has persevered and succeeded in reaching Camp 3. It is fantastic to have the group together. It is very hot and impossible to rest inside the tent, because it is like an oven at 6,400 meters. One of the problems we have at the moment is that we still don’t have Camp 3 stocked. (Luckily, because the next day the ‘Dragon’ [the wind on Everest] woke up with a great fury!)

25th April – after 6 days at high altitude, Robert has decided to go back to BC. Maria is resting. With Jumbi, one of the sherpas, I went up towards Camp 3.

I did it in 2hrs 45 minutes – not bad for an old man like me. People who think that bad weather doesn’t exist on Everest have got too much faith. After looking for an appropriate place for our camp, we came across a problem. Because the Lhotse face has a 35-degree incline, we need to make tent platforms. Considering there is ice instead of snow on the face, it is a Herculean task to make platforms for 3 North Face Evolution 3 tents. The only feasible site was on the site of the old Russian Camp from the Lhotse expedition from last year. With great sadness, when we started to excavate the site, we found many remnants of their expedition. It appears that they abandoned the whole camp, including food, oxygen cylinders, rubbish, human waste, tents etc. It took us nearly 4 hrs to clean just half the camp and trust me when I tell you that at 7400 meters, that’s not easy.

It was a complete disgrace, especially when you consider that if you respect the mountain, the mountain respects you back. The first thing Jumbi said was that we should throw it all down a crevasse, but I explained my idea to him and together we took down 40 kilos of Russian rubbish. What I would really like is for the whole community, climbers and non-climbers, to know that the Russian Spring 2001 expedition members are pigs and they should be forbidden from taking part in any other expedition to Nepal or any other country, until they take responsibility for their rubbish.

At 12.30pm, back at Camp 2 I had a premonition that the fine weather would change. I told the Sherpas that it would be a good idea to secure the tents, given that bad weather was just around the corner. That night, the dragon began to stir and by morning it was awake with a strong wind blowing and destroying what was in its path. The sherpas only got as far as the foot of the Lhotse face. I suggested to Maria that now was a good time to return to Camp 2. It was 9.30am. We had some liquid and some of Dorje’s marvelous pancakes. We told ourselves that there was a tasty Yak steak at BC and we began our trek there. At 10.15 the dragon [the wind on Everest]  attacked in earnest. I asked myself if it was due to the Russian’s rubbish. The wind broke everything. We got to Camp 1 in an hour, of course with the wind behind us!

Many expeditions suffered great damage at Camp 2. As far as we were concerned the kitchen and mess tent were partially destroyed. 5 sherpas stayed at Camp 2, Phended, Nimgma, Dorje, Jumbi and Pasang. They valiantly succeeded in ensuring that our camp wasn’t completely destroyed. When we arrived at BC the news wasn’t very cheerful. It was lucky that Camp 3 wasn’t stocked, given that many of the tents were destroyed. It snowed and snowed and snowed.

27th April: Everest is like a great conflicting love affair. When things are good, you fall in love with her more. Today the morning dawned with an incredible sun over a BC covered in a white blanket. Beautiful. Of course, when things go badly, you want a divorce as quickly as possible. Yesterday the wind and snow was unforgiving. Willie

Dispatches