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Everest 2003: Charlie Wittmack
Dispatch 24


(Transcribed from satellite phone voice message received April 29, 2003 at 12:18 AM) 

Base Camp 17,600 feet April 29, 2003

Having received a dubious weather report today, Chris and I opted to delay our trip until tomorrow. We also wanted to meet with the Sherpas who were returning this morning from Camp Four in order to finalize the timing for the summit event.

Following along with a calendar, the next couple of weeks look like this:

On the 30th we will go to Camp Two; the 1st to Camp Three; the 2nd up to the “Yellow Band” returning to Camp Two to sleep; the 3rd to Base Camp. The 4th, 5th, 6th will be rest days.

On the 7th we will begin our summit attempts, moving directly to Camp Two;  the 8th Camp Three; on the 9th Camp Four. On the 10th we will attempt the summit and return to Base Camp on the 11th or 12th.

The only concern that we have is that our Sirdar has asked Chris and I to separate on the summit attempt: one of us attempting on the 10th and one of us attempting on the 12th. It is an interesting math problem and the details follow.

Our group includes five members and six Sherpas. Sean has hired two Sherpas; Chris, Charlie, Robert and Rudy have hired one Sherpa each. There are three tents in Camp Four which hold two climbers each. Rudy is acting as Robert’s guide, so those two must climb together. As you can see, Chris and I must split up. [These climbers are sharing Sherpas.]

My present solution is to pack Sean, Chris and I into one tent and to make the first summit party seven people. The tents are technically three person tents, but with down suits, 40-below bags, oxygen bottles and stoves, it is a tight fit with two. We are all frustrated with the situation as it was discussed in Kathmandu with the agency that we would all be able to summit together.

The second frustration is an apparent lack of oxygen bottles. Two of our members intended to climb without oxygen.  Each assumed, since they paid full price, that the standard number of bottles would be available if they changed their minds.  I planned to use oxygen from Camp Three and paid an additional $800 for two extra bottles. Now as the summit approaches, everyone wants oxygen available.

It appears we have enough bottles if everyone uses oxygen from Camp Four. It is a bit more risk than I wanted, and I am irritated with everyone, although the blame is difficult to assign. I feel strong and have had fast times between the camps on the mountain so far, but as mountain climbing is just my hobby and not my life’s ambition, I am among the most conservative. It is frustrating to spend so much time and money to face planning problems like these that are such a detriment to a successful expedition.

My anxiety has also been peaked after making two new friends here. One, who is incredibly fit, has attempted Everest six times without any success; the other, whose brother attempted three times without a summit. I am learning every day that this is not a rookie’s mountain.

With all of that aside, lets us focus on the positive as with the “final show” approaching, I will need all the positive support I can get! We have been able to secure fairly accurate weather forecasts and have made many friends. Our Sherpas are now resting this week and their work has given me every indication that they are the strongest on the mountain.

That is all for now, I’ll dispatch in the next few days from Camp Two and Camp Three. Charlie

Dispatches

 





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