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 2, 2002: Sometimes it is really difficult to get up early. I had to get out of my precious sleeping bag at 5.30am instead of 7.30am, for whatever reason. My teeth were chattering, I put sunblock on my face, because the sun in the Khumbu is unforgiving and I had some mate (Argentinian tea) without which I would be lost. Amongst the decisions I had to make were which footwear to put on – either One Sport or my Gore Tex ones. I chose the Gore-Tex ones without thinking too much about it.

I started on the Icefall at 8.30am, listening to Tracy Chapman on my CD (it’s my girlfriend Jennifer’s favourite.) After a short while, in the midst of the Icefall, I came across the Alpine Ascents International group and I managed to grab a few words with Al Hanna – a real voice of perseverance. It made me think of years ago when on Aconcagua I found myself guiding a German client – “Old Walter” who at that time was 75 years old. Every day, after a painful climb, he used to sit on a rock smoking his pipe, he would tell me stories of his climbs in Europe at the beginning of the century. I was 21 at the time and I was very impatient, especially when things were going badly. The most important thing I learned from Walter was that however late it is, there is always time to achieve your objectives in life.

After 3 hours and 40 minutes, I reached Camp 2. I was very pleased to see the whole group together and I was especially pleased to see the Sherpas. ‘Super Dorje’ was waiting for me with a drink of juice. This was the first chance I had to see the conditions at Camp 3 after the storm that took the life of a English climber. According to Pete Athans, it was the worst storm he could remember. All in all the damage wasn’t as bad as I had imagined. The most important thing was that I was with my friends, having tea.

3rd May: It was 6am and very cold and I was like an old car trying to warm up a bit. We left with Maria and made for the base of the Lhotse face. It was two hours later before we began to climb the fixed ropes. For some reason Maria was extremely tired. I realised that the passing of the years and my experience with Walter had improved my patience 100%.

It was a nine and a half hour tiring and painful climb to Camp 3. Cold, heat and the weight of two packs contributed to the effort. Despite all the suffering, it was worth it to see Maria achieve her objective of reaching Camp 3.

4th May: I woke covered in a gross layer of ice due to the condensation from some cups of tea. We began to empty Camp 3. Despite her painful ascent, Maria completed her part incredibly quickly.  I thought we might have time to change 100 metres of rope which was in a bad way, but when I had finished fixing the ropes, Speedy Gonzales Maria finished the finished the fixed ropes and was starting to walk to camp 2. Arriving at Camp 2, my dear friends like Phenden were waiting for us with some cups of juice. If only you knew how protective I feel about whenever I have contact with the Sherpas.

5th May: The guys climbed to the South Col for the 2nd time in about 5 hours. It would take one of us lot 2 days. The completed the stocking of Camp 4. Having finished our acclimatisation, we decided to go back to Base Camp to rest for about 4 days, whereas the guys had to stay for another day to go up to Camp 4 for the last time. We were very happy and we began emptying the camp. On the way down we stopped every now and then to take pictures and film a bit. We eventually arrived at BC. Dawa and Tensing were waiting for us with some Yak steaks and fried eggs. Willie

Translated by Adrian Sutton