Sean Swarner takes on Everest: A Cancer's Survivors Journey
to the World's highest Summit
is 1 :30 on Sunday the 5th of May. I just got back
from the National Geographic Team's site. Before that
I tried reaching my brother on the radio. They
answered and said they had a package for me. See,
National Geographic and I both are organized by Peak
Promotion, so if we need something, they are more than
helpful in doing what they can. Every now and then we
get mail delivered from Kathmandu. Excellent huh? So I
went to pick up my package. It contained some cards
from my folks and an aunt from Seattle. It was also
dried/instant potatoes. But beyond that, there were,
in a box what used to be cookies and brownies. Granted
no one expects cookies or brownies to make it this far
with out falling apart, but that's not the point. The
point is that someone went to the trouble of baking
things and spending roughly 45 bucks to send the
crumbs on over to one of the most in hospital places
in the world. And besides that, I can eat more than
one cookie at a time with only a handful!!!!
anyhow, a girl by the name of Diane sent a package to
remind me of home. Right now she's in New York City
with my best friend Brendan, whom I'm sure is making
fun of me, telling Diane everything she SHOULDN'T know
about her boyfriend. Yea, Diane is my girlfriend. The
same person I dream about holding back in the Denver
airport. The time cannot come soon enough.
as I sit here sifting through the rubble of what used
to be good cookies (I have to say that), brownies, and
some great candy from home, I realize I miss Diane
more than I thought. Over a month of sleeping on a
huge glacier can make you think some pretty funky
things. It can also tear at your heart making you miss
your loved ones more than you'd like to admit. So as
I'm sitting here, I'd like to say I miss not only
Diane, but my family as well. I love each and every
one of you!!!! And while my brother deals with his
battery problem, I'm dealing with emotional challenges
as well as physical ones. One's I'll describe for you
let's say this mountain isn't a mountain. It's about 4
of them put on top of one another. It's friggen huge!!
The most amazing part is, even though it's so huge,
you only get to see it a couple of times trekking into
Base Camp. I would think that because of how enormous
this hunk of rock is, that I'd be able to see it a
lot. However that's not the case in this massive
mountain range. Words CANNOT do justice to this part
of the world. Words CANNOT even begin to describe this
mountain range. If someone tried, they would be doing
the Himalayas a great injustice!! But for the sake of
trying… take the Rockies and put them on steroids…
A LOT of steroids!!!
just got back from a nice rest down in Debuche. It's a
wonderful little 3-lodge village. Apparently it's
where Tolkein got his idea for The Hobbit…rumor??
Anyhow, 2 nights there at 12,500 feet (sorry, I'm
American and still use feet). Ate like a pig every day
all day. Left the Rhododendron lodge after being
blessed and headed up to Pheriche. Ran into some of my
friends from France and Canada. Had a good night there
and left for Lobuche the next day. Had breakfast in
Tukla. Slept in Lobuche. Another nice night. Slept
like a baby. I must say, I wasn't too thrilled to get
back into Base Camp. Back in the cold, rocky area I've
called "home" for a while. Left Lobuche and
had breakfast in Gorak Shep. Then took my good 'ol
time getting into base camp. Like I said, no hurry!
Got "home" around 11 AM and found my site
vacant. The Sherpas went up to establish Camp 4 - so I
heard. My cook's brother was there and we cooked
of the time, going to Debuche and back up, I was
hiking with a fellow named Randy from northern CA. He
was Peter's climbing/tent partner. Peter is the
English fellow who did not make it safely back from
Camp 3. He was the first death on Everest. And on that
note, I would like to extend my sincerest warmth and
condolences to his mother, brother and sister. Peter
was a great individual and we shared a number of
laughs. I remember seeing him on the Lhotse Face and
wishing him well… God Bless…
like this reinforce how dangerous this mountain is.
I'll admit I cried when I heard about Peter. I was
fortunate enough to reach mom and dad and Diane to let
them know I was ok. I did all I could to hold tears
back. Tears unlike those I shed at each camp I
first time to Camp 1, I got tears in my eyes.
Streaming down my face knowing I made it that far!!
This is a very emotional climb for me. Every time I
make it higher, I think of what I'm doing and I'm that
much closer to the ultimate goal. However at the same
time, I realize that what I've done so far is
incredible!! I hope that other cancer patients and
survivors catch wind of what I'm trying to do and they
go after their own dreams. They set their own goals
and chase after them. Every time I set foot at another
camp, I tear up thinking of how this can help inspire
and motivate others. Climbing this mountain in one
I've been to Camp 1, Camp 2, and slept at Camp 3, I'm
acclimated and ready to go. Waiting for the weather is
going to be the tough part. I'm anxious to get
underway and up this hunk 'o rock. BUT not too anxious
as I know those who rush are sometimes those who don't
make it alive. With all I've been through, a mountain
is NOT worth my life and if there's any reason to turn
around, I'll do it to stay alive. I'm doing everything
I can to ensure a safe trip up AND down this mountain.
quick review: Camp 1… top of the Icefall in a
snowfield. Our tent was on the edge of a small
crevasse and my pee didn't help matters any. Every
time I went in the same spot and created my own
crevasse… I slept pretty well there. No funky dreams
or anything. From Camp 1 I climbed to Camp 2 and down
to Base Camp.
2: since we stayed at Camp 1, we bypass it now and go
directly to Camp 2. it's a long drudge uphill across
the Western Cwm to Camp 2. C2 is situated up against a
nice rock wall and is 2 tents facing each other with
walls enclosing them. Between the tents and under the
tarp over the rock walls is our "kitchen".
Really safe and cozy spot. We managed to make it
through the storm with only some snow in our
"kitchen". I say some snow, but it was
probably at least a foot of wind-blown snow. The storm
I talk about was the one that ripped through a while
ago and devastated a few tents. I was pretty lucky.
3 is situated high on the Lhotse Face. The first part
isn't too bad, but after a while the nice compact snow
turns into plastic ice. Plastic ice is veers hard,
compact ice. Ice where crampons really don't sink
into, but just chip off ice blocks. VERY dangerous. My
tent was situated on a chipped-out campsite. Sleeping
here was a wonderful experience, let me tell you…
EXACTLY like a 5 star hotel. I recommend it to
everyone young and old. Both my Sherpa and I spent
most of the night up and down. First of all, our site
was pitched on an angle. Every 5 minutes I had to move
myself from the bottom of the tent back to the top. I
also kept pulling my pants from my armpits because
they kept riding up. I considered putting in an ice
screw and tethering myself to it keep me from sliding
down!!! So up and down and peeing and peeing. Altitude
has a bad habit of dehydrating people and making them
go to the bathroom more and more. I was no exception.
BUT to top off the wonderful sleep-sliding experience,
I woke up and saw what I had for dinner the night
before. Yea…2 cups of instant coffee and …. YUK…
there's a pea, there's a carrot, and hey, there's some
noodles clumped together. Yea, I succumbed to the high
altitude puke. Tasted great too.
up our stuff and headed down to C2. Then to Base Camp.
That was a long day, but I still felt pretty good.
Right till I got to the edge of the icefall and BC.
Seth said he saw me cock back like a hammer on a gun,
whip my neck and wammo!!!! Full-on yak!!!! Nothing but
stomach acid. Boy that tasted great!!! Next day….
Felt like a million bucks.
there you have it. C1, C2, and C3. I'd describe the
icefall, but it literally changes every day. Last time
I came down, it didn't even look like the same place.
There was one spot where a Volkswagen beetle-sized
hunk of ice had fallen right on the fixed line. I
could see the rope come out of one side, disappear
under the ice chunk, then come out the other side.
Thank God no one was there when it happened!!! To be
quite honest, the Khumbu Icefall is literally falling
apart. The route needs another 2 people to get up
there and fix it. There are spots where it gets more
dangerous every day. A ladder is sitting on a small
chunk of ice ready to fall at any minute. The entire
top of the icefall fell as well. Take the Empire State
Building on its side and push it over an 1/8 of a mile
wall and that's about what happened. Thank God I only
have to go up one more time!!! I hope…
than that, I'm feeling pretty good. Waiting for the
weather to clear up. I heard maybe a few days then
it's good. We'll see. Either way, I already consider
this expedition a success. How can I not? I've made it
to Base Camp. I climbed through the Khumbu Icefall to
Camp 1. I made it through the Western Cwm to Camp 2.
I've made it through the Lhotse Face to sleep at Camp
3. I made it back to Base Camp from every height I've
climbed. THAT is success. Every time coming back to BC
with a smile on my face knowing I'm still alive is
success. Climbing to any height with my background and
coming "home" safely IS success. AND I've
been doing this without 2 fully functioning lungs. The
intense treatments I was put through now limit my
lungs' ability. So like I said… every time I make it
higher and to a new camp, it's an accomplishment in
its own right and is very emotional.
hope you reading this right now find some inspiration
in my words to make your own goals. Go after your own
dreams. Challenge yourself!!! Remember life is not a
time-trial. There are no second chances, and you may
never be offered an opportunity again. Take advantage
of what you've been given. When you do something, do
it passionately. Do it as though it were your last
time ever. Because you never know… it just may be!!!
could rattle on and on about life and give you example
after example of taking full advantage of life, but
I'll save you that agony…
now about 5:45 PM. I've been writing this dispatch off
and on all day. I apologize to those who expected more
and to those who wanted less:
from BC to C1 to C2 to BC.
from BC to C2 … 2 nights…then to 7000M to BC.
from BC to C2…2 nights…to C3…1 night… to BC.
to Debuche to BC….4 nights down.
in closing, I want to say that my feet are cold, I
want a REAL beer, a REAL bed, central heating (no a
yak dung fire in the center of a room doesn't count),
a hamburger made from cow not yak or buffalo, a pizza
with pepperoni not carrots and cabbage, I want to be
able to walk 50 feet in less than 10 minutes because
of all the rocks and boulders, and I want to be able
to sit down with out worrying about sitting in yak
joking aside…. Attitude is great, I feel pretty
good, appetite is voracious just waiting for the
weather! I DO miss family and loved ones and I really
hope at least some people feel inspired by what I'm
trying to do. Regardless of the outcome, I consider
this a successful expedition in its own rights. I also
want to thank every single person who helped out and
who has faith in what I'm doing. Please keep me in
your thoughts and prayers when I go back on the
mountain, and hopefully the next dispatch will include
a summit success!!