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The North Face of Nuptse: Willie and Damian Benegas

Dispatch Six


Dispatch Six: April 29, 2003 Everest BC

Laundry time!  Now, where's that ironing board?

6 a.m. I open my eyes, and realize that there is complete silence all around me, as well silence coming from the kitchen tent.  Damian and I had a plan to be awake at 4:30 this morning. We were to have breakfast, and then start the trip through the icefall and beyond.  It seems I'm not the only one who slept in.  "Ang Dawa, GOOD MORNING!", I scream.  "Good morning Willie", I hear him reply. "Hey Damian!", I scream from my tent again.  "Yes Willie, I'm awake!" comes back.  After a little yawning and stretching, I move to the kitchen tent, where Dawa was already apologizing. But even so, I know he is not happy, maybe because he was having a really good dream, and I woke him up.  Over breakfast, Damian and I decide to go (via a sea of crevasses) all the way up to our Nuptse camp, where a lonely Assault 22 tent stands half way in the middle of nowhere of the Khumbu Valley.  From there, we want to finish opening the route to the base of The Snake. 

6:30 a.m.  We depart camp and start moving up the ice fall.  Accompanying us is our new companion, who we have named Himalaya.  She is a stray Tibetan dog, who decided to stay in Base Camp after following some trekker in the other day.  Now, even though following after us seems like a serious effort for her, it is impossible to convince her to turn around and go back.  Already, I am imagining the news on the web- DOG SUMMITS EVEREST!   Well, just 20 feet before crossing the first ladder, Damian somehow pulls a muscle in his right side.  He is immediately in alot of pain.  Apologizing, he decides he should go back to BC.  So, Damian, and dog, go back to BC, leaving me with a dilemma.  What do you do when your partner gets sick?  One, I could go back to BC too, re-introduce myself to my comfy sleeping bag, and forget about going to the Nuptse camp.  Or two,  I could find some other crazy climber to follow me through the endless crevasses.  After some consideration,  I realize that nowhere on Earth will I find someone who would like to have a fun day of following me up through the Khumbu.  So, I settle to carry the gear up to our camp, by myself.

9 a.m.  I reach C1, just as many people are on their way down from C2.  I came across some Sherpa friends, and sat back with them to enjoy a cup of tea.  From there, I told everyone I would see them back in BC later that afternoon, and then I set off.  That was me, trudging alone through the Valley of Silence, passing Sherpas and Westerners, and crossing many a ladder along the way.  I was depressed because I felt like I was loosing another days time.  Then out of the corner of my eyes, what did I see? It was a lonely ladder cast off to the side, probably thinking the same thing as me.  "Today is another boring day of hanging around."  And it struck me that not only was I looking at a ladder, but that single ladder was to be my next climbing partner.  Yes, it was the solution I was looking for.  I strapped the 12 foot ladder to my harness, and hoped that I would not find a hole to fall into that was wider than the ladder was long.  So, I became the crazy white man, carrying my ladder across the Khumbu.  As I was leaving, Lappa Gelu came over to me, looking at me with a strange expression on his face. "Willie,  what are you doing!"  With a big smile, I look back at him, and then at my ladder.  "How do you like my new climbing partner?", I ask him.

Sometime later that afternoon.........   Finally I arrive at our Nuptse camp.  I get 10 more feet of rope, and strap the ladder better. It was my expectation that the moment I found a crevasse,  I would just set up the ladder over it in order to pass through.  In this way, I could journey to the base of the Snake.  I know all of the Sherpas were mumbling, and I know what they were thinking. "Willie has gone mad!"  But what other choice did I have?  I knew that if I had turned back to BC along with Damian this morning,  after having the expectations of accomplishing so much, that yes, I would indeed go mad.  Well. the first hole I came across was partly covered with snow, and difficult to tell how wide it was.  Being out there alone left my imagination to work over time, so when I screamed down into the darkness of it, I half expected to recieve a reply from some unknown creature.  But, the first crevasse proved to be uneventful, as did the rest of the journey.  My plan worked perfect.  I finished the work I had set out to do, and returned back to BC as happy as ever.   Necessity is the mother of all invention, it seems. Willie

Approaching the Snake

Dispatches

 





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