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 American Everest 2002 Expedition

With a Ski Descent planned!

Dispatch #9: Wednesday, 23 April 2002, from ABC:

From Jim: Yesterday, the 23rd, we woke up at 6:30 am and had breakfast at 7:00. We left for Camp 1 at just after 8:00 am. As we left ABC, 6,440 meters [21,130'], we headed up the lateral moraine that runs along or parallel to the glacier that ABC is on. We followed this moraine (pile of rocks deposited by the glacier as it melts) up a slight incline for about a mile and a gain of a few hundred vertical feet. This was loose and rocky terrain and was tough while wearing huge Everest boots. It also undulates somewhat, making for tedious travel up or down.

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We reached the glacier and put on our crampons. It was almost another mile of gradual walking across the east Rongbuk glacier, hopping over several small crevasses and gaining some ground to the base of the north col headwall. A col is a low spot of a ridge similar to a pass, but usually much less accessible. From here the fun began and we had to gain 1,500 vertical feet of steep, 40 to 65 degree, snow and ice to the north col and the beginning of the north ridge. The climbing was exposed to great fall potential and several large and hidden crevasse; however, all of it was fixed with rope and protection that all the climbers can clip into to prevent either of the above problems.

This part was beautiful, with awesome views down the glacier and of ABC, which looked like a spattering of various colors of paints on the ground from so far above. After several hours of climbing up and through the maze of ice we reached the north col. From here we had a good view of the steep north ridge and the spots where Camps 2 and 3 will go. Also, the first and second steps could be seen on the summit ridge, which seems to be constantly blasted by the jet stream and has rarely been without a huge plume of clouds being raked over it.

Adrian was going very strong and arrived at the north col an hour and a half before me and an hour ahead of Scott. He had already made a nice platform. He must be one of the strongest climbers I have known. We all have to go at our own pace though. We set up our tent at Camp 1, 7066 meters [23,182 feet], then headed down.

Schedule: Today and tomorrow we are resting and then we are going back up to Camp 1 to sleep and the next day, the 27th, make a carry of gear to Camp 2 and set the tent up, then return to ABC for several days of rest.

Health: We are all in good health. I still have a bad cough and am afraid I will for the duration or at least until we drop down to a lower elevation to recoup before our summit push. Scott has a cold.

Weather: Temps at ABC are nice when the sun is out, but well below freezing at night.

From Scott: 

Sanitation: I thought I would add a little detail. As you know, on the way from Base Camp to the interim camp we stopped for the night. What has not been described is the sanitation conditions at that camp. When I woke up I was handed a cup of hot yak milk tea, which I love. Yet, after a cup had been drank I noticed where they had been acquiring the water; from a quaint little alpine pond, slightly frozen, and with, what is that I thought; yes, it is excrement floating on top of the pond. I could not believe my eyes. This was to be the water that we were to drink on our way to ABC. The only thing that would help us acclimatize, this feces water. I write this to give a little understanding into what it takes to climb a big mountain. There are always problems and such. The bathroom is a plastic sheet with a hole in the front, so everyone can see you as you do your business.

Scott's health: Today I made a confirmation that I, in fact, have come down with a small cold. Our cook seems to have a cold that he got from another expedition cook, and he has hence passed it on to me. But I am dealing with it like everything else, a little bit at a time. Nothing is to go perfectly up here.

Problem: The yak have since come and all our remaining gear is now here, including the fuel canisters, the oxygen and the masks. One of the masks is broken. Out of the six masks that are here, one is not working. Another problem, yet with another solution, one that must be discovered perhaps, but one that is there. [For those who like to track oxygen problem this expedition is using Asian Trekking for support and they purchased the oxygen from Asian Trekking which sells Poisk oxygen.]

Entertainment: As Jim described in his portion of the update, the trip to the north Col. was amazing. Much steeper than I was expecting, but still easy by way of technical standards. We are indulging in some much needed rest after such a trip. Tonight we watched Star Wars on the lap top. Thank you Adrienne for packing all the movies for me, even though I did not think that it was going to work, watching DVD's at ABC or 21,000 feet.

Weather: To touch very quickly on the conditions around here; it is like living in a refrigerator and then moving to the freezer at night. There are moments of warmth when the sun is shining on us in the middle of the day, but the day is over at 4:00 p.m. So, the temperatures here are cold, as Jim stated, below freezing every night and lately it seems to be getting colder.

The Food: The food is just o.k.; at times edible and at times not. We are lucky that we have lots of snacks, cured meats and cheeses. The water is retrieved in large blocks of ice by the cook boy, since everything is frozen and he brings the ice blocks down to the cook, who has a cold. He then melts the ice and pours it out for us.

Altitude Issues: The altitude is a constant battle, dehydration sets in so quickly if I do not drink quite enough water . Then the headaches start; headaches that have been some of the worst of my life. So all in all I think that it could be said that living at 21,000 feet, the equivalent of the top of North America [actually higher as the summit of Denali, the highest point in North America is 20,320 feet], is quite difficult. Just even being here is quite a task and to be going higher and trying to come back here to recuperate is even harder, doubly harder. I hope this has somewhat enlightened you on the conditions that abound at this most lonely place on the planet.

Thanks again, as always Bill for helping all this to come together.

Till next we write,