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Everest South Side Expedition: American Commemorative Expedition

 Current Nepal Time

Dispatch Group One: THE EXPEDITION BEGINS! March 28, 2003

After months of planning, purchasing, packing, Expedition Leader Bob Hoffman is on his way to Nepal - the long awaited Everest 2003, An American Commemorative expedition has begun! Upon arrival in Kathmandu, Bob will continue shopping for foodstuffs and equipment that are available there and start getting the gear shipped up the mountain. By the time he meets the rest of the team at the Kathmandu airport next Monday, everything will be ready. In the meantime - back in Belmont, team members Bob Boice and Tom Burch will help Sue Hoffman finish the last of the equipment packing and load everything into a rented U-Haul truck for transport to Los Angeles where the team and support trekkers will meet on Saturday and depart for Nepal. This team equipment, packed into 28 large duffel bags and sturdy plastic barrels, consists of 41 tents for use by the team members and Sherpas at various camps on the mountain, tarps, stoves, a UV water filtration system, cooking utensils, ropes, batteries - everything needed for the 30 plus days the team will spend on Mt. Everest. The containers can weigh no more than 70 pounds each, and every one has been carefully packed to hold the most equipment possible without wasting weight. A large, and very important item in the inventory, is an American Honda Company generator that will supply power for the base camp cook and mess tents. Honda generators use less fossil fuel than lanterns and run cleaner. While operating the quiet, environmentally friendly generator in the evenings, batteries are being charged for power during daylight hours.


Team members and trekkers were sent off with style at LAX with a spread of In and Out burgers, courtesy of Ian Mclagan. Ian was a team member who unfortunately couldn't make the climb. Thank you Ian, you are with us every day. The sights and sounds of Kathmandu were enjoyed by all. The spirituality and warmth of Nepal and its people was overwhelming. Team member Brian O'Connor was particularly moved upon meeting some of his primate relatives at the stupa of Swayambhuhath (the Monkey Temple), one of the most recognized and popular temples in Nepal, which in addition to the monks that pray there, is home to a large family of monkeys running about.

Lukla in the morning: The twin otter landing at Lukla was nerve wrecking not only for the four skydivers of the group, but also to the trekker and US Airways pilot Courtney Brye. A 1600' runway with a rising mountain cliff on one end and a cliff to the valley below on the other end. Our hike to Namche Bazaar has already given us a sampling of the extremities of Everest. In just two days we've encountered sweltering heat, rain, and even snow in Namche, very unusual for this time of year.

Our first glimpse of Everest was clear and unobstructed- a good omen according to our fearless expedition leader Bob Hoffman. Upon reaching Namanche by 1:oopm, Chuck Huss noted that of all his trips, this was his earliest arrival at Namanche and that we had a strong group of hikers. There is a sense of cohesiveness as we proceed to base camp, and we are anxious for the arrival of remaining team members Mimi Vasdaz and Robert Rowley. Previous expedition team member, Sherman Bull (oldest climber to summit Everest), will be happy to know the bad humor and heckling baton has been passed and happily received as we keep Bob in check with a barrage of verbal abuse. Thank goodness trekker Kate Brye is with us to keep the conduct at a respectable level. The war, world economy, terrorism concerns and now sars epidemic have limited the number of travelers and trekkers to a trickle--nice for the group, but very hard times for the locals. Onward we go. -Brian O'Connor

Khumbu Ice Fall April 18, 2003: The prayer flags, Nepal and U.S. flags were raised over base camp on April 17th during our Puja ceremony, a tradition before formally beginning the climb. The Lama blessed the climbers' and Sherpas' ice axes and crampons along with dobbing them with yak butter for good luck. Some personal items were also blessed in anticipation of taking them to the summit. By the end of the ceremony, we were all covered in brown flour, a Buddhist offering thrown in the air, but also thrown on each other with good fun - Sherpas and climbers alike. After the ceremony, we all enjoyed some music, a cold drink, a little dancing and some spectacular weather.

April 18th marked the team's first trip through the ice fall (also known as the Khumbu) and to Camp I. We arose at 4 am, had a little breakfast and were on our way by 5 am. The full moon allowed us to move to the base of the Khumbu without headlamps. We are all hopeful that our summit bid will coincide with he next full moon! Twilight was upon us as we strapped on our crampons and into the ice fall we went. In addition to summit day, the Khumbu is the most dangerous part of the climb. The anticipation of the beauty and the danger of the Khumbu was fresh in our minds.

Bob Hoffman had pointed out that on rest days, one could hunt for the remains of less fortunate climbers, helicopters and other expedition remnants at the chewed-out end and base of the ice fall. An early start is a must because as the day wears on, the exasperating heat and direct sunlight can cause huge blocks of ice the size of small houses to fall, snow bridges across crevasses to collapse and rope anchors to pull free. This twisted maze of crevasses and ice keeps you moving with no rest for fear that you could be devoured at any moment. There were no less than twenty ladders of varying patches and lengths to cross crevasses too wide to jump. Now these are not your nice normal Home Depot aluminum ladders. These are used, very narrow, and about as stiff as the shaft on a gratite driver. In some spots, several are lashed together end-to-end, and as you cross with each step they wiggle from side to side.

Upon reaching the top of the ice fall, the reward was the stunning views of the glacier below, a chance to catch your breath, and first glimpse of the expansive western cum above. After dropping gear at Camp I, everyone returned safely to base camp in the afternoon. As a first timer through the ice fall as spectacular as it is, there's a sense of relief upon retuning safely... one down, two round trips to go. You can't help but know in the back of your mind that a month from now, the ice fall will be entirely different. The route we took on the 18th will change ten times between now and then as the ice does what it's called - fall. Three-length ladders will become five, fixed ropes will snap and new anchors set a hundred times over. The group is ready to move up higher on the mountain, but a massive snow storm may be upon us... stay tuned

Update and Photos from Team April 20, 2003
2003 Team, 20 April 03: Back Row, from left: Brian O'Connor, Robert Boice, Bob Hoffman, Tom Burch. Front Row: Chuck Huss, Mimi Vadasz, Dan Smith, Robert Rowley, Brett Shepard

We have rested for a couple of days now and will probably head up the mountain tomorrow to acclimatize for the next 7-10 days. All team members are fit and healthy. Weather has turned a little cooler and cloudy the past couple of days. The big snow storm that was rumored to drop 3 feet on Sunday only put down 2 inches and cleared up nicely in the afternoon. High winds did cause some teams to lose a couple of tents at camp 2. -Dan Smith

Team Member Heads Home April 23, 2003: Team member Robert Rowley left base camp today and is heading down the mountain accompanied by one of the team Sherpas. He was having trouble acclimatizing to the altitude and cold, and decided to leave so as not to jeopardize the team's chance for a successful climb. Robert, along with his music, will be greatly missed by the team, and we wish him a safe journey home. -Bob Hoffman



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