Alpine 8000 Everest 2002 Expedition

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Alpine 8000 Everest 2002 Expedition

Expedition: Leader: Willie Benegas
   * Robert Geier  -  Australia
   * Maria Maccecchini  - USA
   * Louis Strik  -  Holland

   * Pingui, a small stuffed Penguin, the only penguin to summit 2 times. Our team mascot

Sherpas:  After two summits together, I consider them my best friends in Nepal.
   * Phenden Sherpa 3 times to the summit.
   * Pemba Ringi Sherpa     3 times to the summit.
   * Mingma Sherpa            1 summit.
   * Dalengi Sherpa cook
   * Dorgi Sherpa C2 cook
   * Migma chiri Sherpa    South Col.

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May 6, 2002: Dear, from team member Maria Maccecchini

Climbing Everest - Continued: 

April 27, 28, 29, 2002: We as a group are behind schedule. I knew that by going to Pheriche I was putting myself behind in the acclimatization program, but now being behind schedule has become a group problem. Due to the high winds and copious snow precipitations we have not been able to spend a few nights in camp III and our members are afraid that we will not be ready to summit Everest when the window opens. I try not to say too much, but as far as I am concerned: I am happy for every bad weather day. I do not want to go up there: life is uncomfortable enough in base camp, why make life more uncomfortable by going to camp II and III. I do not understand: where did my motivation and my determination go? Aren't those my strengths? 

I go and visit Al Hanna, a 72 year old climber, who is on his 4th attempt. In 2000 he missed the summit by 310 ft. This year, his climbing resume says: "Goal is to summit at 29,035 ft. about May 25, 2002 thereby becoming the oldest person to climb all the Seven Summits and Everest." I tell him that it is a tough road and he replies that I have to replace my negative images of tough, cold, steep, icy and sucking on air with the feeling of gratification and sweetness of success.

April 30, 2002: Another high wind and snow day. Just to reinforce my negative feelings, I hear in the early morning that three people were descending from camp III to camp II, when one of them either did not clip into the fixed ropes, or did miss the clip, or was between clips, when he slipped and fell into a crevasse 200 m below and died. The reason there was three climbers in camp III despite of the bad weather was that they felt, like us, that they were behind schedule. It seems so wrong and so absurd: here are people, who want to experience the ultimate high in life and summit the highest mountain in the world and the ultimate experience ends up being death.

May 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 2002: The weather clears up and we head for camp II. Somehow, the Khumbu seems to be getting easier: I think I can handle it by myself: ladders, crevasses, ice walls and all. After one rest day in camp II we head for camp III. The Lhotse face represents a whole new level of exertion: steep, icy, exposed and LONG: reaching camp III takes forever. I crawl into my sleeping bag and Willie boils water. Boiling water is a full time occupation, when you consider that it takes 10 volumes of snow to make 1 volume of water. Willie gives me some tea and then asks for my water bottle. I give it to him without thinking too much and it gets returned to me filled with hot water for me to keep warm. He had just thought of me being cold and needing a hot water bottle. How nice! It made my evening. In camp III the tent platforms are cut into the ice and when you exit the tent you slide down the mountain. You learn really fast that the only way you can step outside your tent is with boots and crampons - it makes going to the bathroom a real pleasure. After a night in camp III, we go back to camp II and back to base camp.

May 6, 2002: On the whole way down to base camp I have a huge smile on my face: I am going back to civilization and will be able to spend the next week or so in relative comfort before we go back up for the summit push. I may even have a glass of wine. In fact, I am having it.

Climbing Everest - Knitting: In the pharmaceutical and biotech  industry, where I am from, people are mostly politically correct - it is a prerequisite to making it in business. Base camp is different: people here seem to subscribe to a highly testosterone charged environment, where being better, faster, stronger and more sexually desirable is very important. (I am not saying that the same characteristics are not important in other businesses, they are just not so freely expressed). I  really did not come here to have sex with anybody, or to enter a butt contest, or to climb the Khumbu ice fall 30 minutes faster than anybody else. I came here to see whether the strengths that propelled me in my career are transferable to climbing Everest. How far and how high can motivation, determination and good judgment get me up this mountain? How do I extract myself from a competitive environment I really do not like?

For starters, being older helps. Second, I knit. Growing up as a good Swiss girl, I learned sewing and knitting in school. The last time I had knitting needles in my hands I was 18 years old and was knitting a dress for myself. Since the skirt took the most stitches and time, I cut it short...  I started studying and went into business and did not find the time to do something as time-consuming and inefficient as knitting. But in base camp and in camp II knitting seems the perfect thing to do. It is non-threatening and puts me into the grandmother category. Plus I end up with sweaters and hats that I can give to whoever wants them. I am actually pretty happy about being a knitting grandmother for Everest Knitting Enterprises. Maria Maccecchini