International Mountain Guides Everest 2002 Expedition

Expedition Leader Eric Simonson reports from Base Camp April 15, 2002

"The IMG Everest 2002 Expedition is fully under way and everything is going well. This is the twelfth Everest expedition organized by me and International Mountain Guides (www.mountainguides.com) .  Assisting me this year as Deputy Climbing Leader is Mark Tucker, an Everest summitter and long-time mountain guide.  It's great for me to be back in the mountains again with Mark.

Our trip to the mountain this year was especially enjoyable, as we took a more circuitous trek route to base camp.  Leaving Kathmandu on March 24, we flew to Lukla, hiked to Namche, then went up to Gokyo for a couple of days of sightseeing and acclimatization.  We returned to the main trail via Phortse, where we visited the homes of several of our Sherpa team members.  We enjoyed the hike in to Base Camp with trekkers Thomas Furlonger, Geoffrey Furlonger, Ken Ossian, Philip Jackson, and Dennis Tyree. In addition to our trekking group, Island Peak climbers Nathan Brundage, Tracy Purcell, Scott Shriver, and Bill Taylor accompanied us to Base Camp and then went down to climb Island Peak with Mark Tucker. Another climber, Richard Aharonian, joined me on one of our initial forays into the famous Khumbu Icefall.  Now they have all headed back home, leaving only Mark and I, the Sherpa staff and the summit climbers at Base Camp. 

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After months of planning and preparation, punctuated by the political and economic uncertainty of the past year, we are now in position to climb Mt. Everest.  This yearís program (like the successful 2001 climb) is a non-guided summit climb.  I'd like to explain this shift in Everest guiding philosophy for us. IMG ran many guided Everest climbs in the 1991-2000 period, but I made the decision in year 2000 to be in the business of providing logistics, but not guiding, for Mt. Everest.  While IMG successfully guides dozens of other mountains around the world, including Himalayan peaks like Cho Oyu (where we have run 10 successful guided climbs), I have to put Everest in a different category. It is a mountain where the relationship and expectations between climber and guide is very specialized and not one we see realistically sold 'off the rack.' Some climbers want to hire guides and should, and we know great Everest guides who can be hired directly. I think that format is best applied here on the world's highest mountain, with the detailed understanding customized between guide and client and established directly between those parties rather than with IMG as the middleman. IMG will continue to organize and put together a first class logistical package, with the best food, tents, Sherpas, oxygen, communications, Base Camp staff, leadership and consultation available for the climbers on the team. 

This year our IMG summit team is composed of Kevin Flynn, Ted Wheeler, Stuart Smith, Phil Ershler, Susan Ershler, and Dr. Lee Meyers, in addition to leaders Eric Simonson and Mark Tucker. IMG is also providing logistics support to the Ford No Boundaries Expedition on Everest, a team of 5 American women and 3 professional coaches organized by my wife, Erin. The Ford group is a completely separate climbing team ...

This year we sent Sherpas and stone masons from Pangboche to Base Camp in early March to claim a good site and to start building the stone shelters we use for kitchens.  The remaining members of the Sherpa team reported to Base Camp on April 1 to finish building the tent sites.  We arrived April 4.  For the gear, we had two helicopter charters to Shyangboche (3500 kg each) and two fixed wing charters (1000 kg each) to Lukla.  All total about 9000 kg of food, fuel, and gear was transported to Base Camp by yaks.  Additional personal gear was brought in with the climbers. Once again our IMG sponsors (Lowe Alpine, Vasque, SMC and Eureka!) have supplied us with outstanding gear in support of our climb. Thanks!!

This year IMG hired a Nepalese staff of 24 persons (18 climbing Sherpas and 6 cooks) to support the expedition.  Our Sirdar is Ang Passang from Pangboche and Asst Sirdar is Panuru from Phortse.  Many of our Sherpa team members are from either Pangboche or Phortse.  Our  Chief Cook is Pemba Tshering, here on his 15th IMG Himalayan Expedition.  I like his food and his sincerely happy approach to life and his work. As we have since 1993 as their first client, IMG is again working with Great Escapes Trekking in Kathmandu.  Ang Jangbu and his staff did a great job setting up our trek to Base, helping to organize permits and gear, and helping us hire our terrific Sherpa team.

We have now set up a beautiful Base Camp with 2 complete kitchens, several dining facilities, communication facilities with satellite phones and radios, storage tents, medical tent (with Expedition Doctor Lee Meyers on call), private Eureka! sleeping tents for all team members, shower tents, and three latrines (with the poo carried out weekly at the rate of 1 dollar per kg!).  All garbage is sorted for recycling. 

We have established Camp 1 (above the Icefall) and Camp 2 which serves as Advance Base Camp from here on in. We've sent up many Eureka! tents and supplies for these camps, including 55 sleeping bags and pads for all the upper camps so people donít have to carry their bags up and down.  The Sherpa team is now in the process of stocking Camp 2 with oxygen, rope, tents, food, and equipment for the push to Camp 3 and Camp 4 over the next two weeks.  Soon we'll start fixing the route up the Lhotse Face, working in coordination with some of the other expeditions. Don't get me started on the politics there, Everest is Everest. Year in and year out, some teams contribute to the progress of the overall climbing community here while others prefer to freeride on the backs of those doing all the work and incurring all the costs. Business as usual.

Now it's up to the climbers to do their jobs Ö. initially climbing to Camp 1 and 2 for acclimatization, then subsequently to Camp 3. So far Ted, Kevin, and Stuart have all spent several nights at Camp 1 and Camp 2 and have returned for rest.  Phil, Susan, and Mark Tucker are en route to Camp 2 for several nights. The route is in good shape and the Icefall has been straightforward so far this year.  The Sherpas have now carried five times to Camp 2 and cooks Mingma and Phurba are occupying that camp and working on making it better.  In summary, we are rolling!"

Eric Simonson

Everest Base Camp

April 15, 2002

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