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Everest 2003: Charlie Wittmack
Dispatch 8


Yesterday was an exciting day here. I finally had three entire meals! I've been a little nervous with the local cuisine as I am trying to stay as healthy as possible before the expedition. My meals of Pringles and Cokes were just not cutting it in this city that smells very strongly of delicious curry! Now my new policy is to eat up, but stick to foods that are peeled or well cooked.

Last night I enjoyed dinner at the Rum Doodle restaurant. People familiar with Everest climbing know that this is the hub of the city excitement. A special wall of the restaurant features the signatures of "the Everest Club" members, comprised of people who have reached the summit. The wall is so famous now that the restaurant had to actually, I'm not kidding about this, encase the wall behind glass! It looks like the Mona Lisa back there!

After talking with the waiter about the verification process, he produced the book that goes with the wall. The tradition is that after you sign the wall, you sign the book and include any wisdom you see fit. It was absolutely fascinating reading. Babu Chiri Sherpa talked about his speed ascent (16 hours), Eric Alexander on guiding the blind climber, Erik Weihenmayer, to the summit, Reinhold Messner on climbing without supplemental oxygen, ext, ext. It was incredible. Lots of stories of missing fingers and toes too! (Don't worry Catie- I got the GOOD boots!)

What was especially interesting was the variety of significance found in different cultures. All the Sherpas included their photograph and only the number of times they have summited. It was sort of a who's-who guide. Western climbers seemed primarily concerned with "firsts"- "First blind guy" (as Eric put it), First married couple, first father and son, first to record HD video on the summit (I'm not kidding, that one was my favorite). In the last 10 years or so Everest has become such an achievable destination that so many people are looking for the most interesting ways to make it a big event again. Just look at my own team- first on Viagra without Oxygen, First Belgian to parachute from the summit, First Roosevelt High School Graduate (go Riders!).

Everest is such a curious mountain because it has the uncanny ability to attract the sport's few extroverted individuals. Most climbers enjoy the mountains because of the lack of attention and the need to get off the cultural radar screen. Everest is the opposite of that- more like a three ring circus. When a site like EverestNews.com brings in a half-million page views a day we have the opportunity to take a long look at ourselves and determine why it is we play this game.

"Why climb?" or "Why climb Everest?"

Stay tuned to find out.

-Charlie

Dispatches

 





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