(Transcribed from interrupted and partly
unintelligible satellite phone voice messages received
April 18, 2003 at 5:37AM and 6:35AM)
21,300 feet officially
this fiction, fable, or fairytale, but it was an
honest-to-goodness 85 degrees on the Khumbu Glacier
today! By a miracle of only Mt Everest doing, the
glacier remained hard as a rock and not a drop of
water was to be found anywhere.
plan to head up the Lhotse face today…
(Communication lost; 6:35 AM
call reestablished communications)
Our plan to head up the
Lhotse Face was delayed a day on news that the establishment of Camp Three is
a few days off. Today we hiked up to the base of the face for a look around.
On Everest the face is nearly vertical lessening in angle as it approaches the
chute that falls from the Geneva Spur. The route heads to the right of the
chute winding through the glacier. The route snakes vertically … height as it
climbs through … up the face.
On our return to Camp Two
today I was surprised to find our mountain was being quickly absorbed by the
“invading” Indo-Nepalese Army. The expedition numbers 205 members and they are
honestly the best neighbors you could hope for. In base camp they actually
have a movie theater featuring the best from the Indian box office. At Camp
Two they have a cup of tea to offer, as well as good conversation!
Their tents each sleep 7 to 8
and they are all curious and amused with my tiny one-person model. I will be
the first to admit that mine looks a little silly surrounded by so many giant
Shawn heads back to Base Camp
tomorrow to meet his wife who had just trekked in. Robert and Rudy are in
Pheriche working through a strategy that is to remain as low as possible, as
long as possible. That leaves Chris and me to look over Camp Two for the next
five or six days before returning to Base Camp to rest for a few days before
making our first attempt on the summit.
(Transcribed from satellite
phone voice message received April 19, 2003 at 7:07AM)
Camp Two 21,300
When I was in the planning
stages of this climb, I told many of you that I had done plenty of climbs more
difficult than Everest. “Everest is just the highest, not technically
demanding,” I said. After today’s climb up the Lhotse Face, I have the deepest
respect and admiration for anyone who can even make it to Camp Four. Wow this
is a big mountain!
It only took four hours to
make it up to Camp Three, but every step was earned. The face is comprised of
blue, black and alpine ice, at least half of which is vertical. The steepness
of the terrain and the altitude make every five steps feel like running a
fifty yard dash. The terrain isn’t for the faint of heart and if you don’t
care for the prospect of climbing a 2500 foot wall of ice, you won’t find any
consolation in the gear supporting the fixed lines.
Now I have climbed some scary
routes before, but this line is terrifying! “Four and a half” chord runs the
length of the face anchored off every 200 feet or so. The term “anchor” is
used very lightly here as many of the points are composed of a single ice
screw inserted half way, chord clipped to the end. The “hard men” in the crowd
may find this adequate for a hard lead in the box canyon but now picture four
or five climbers all weighting it while “jugging” the line.
My solution? Leave early so I
am the only person on the line and never weight the chord. If you hook it to
the line for backup, then lead, the climbing is quite pleasant, if a bit more
On my way to the wall today
it was so cold that my hands literally froze around my ax. After yesterday’s
heat wave, I was traveling in a pair of light ice climbing gloves instead of
the required down mittens. It does get cold here!
After all of that, it only
took thirty minutes to get down.
I ate four tuna sandwiches
for lunch, and followed it with a three hour nap. When I awoke, I discovered
my resting heart rate to be over 100, which brings me to the point of concern
on summit day. What I have just described is the second leg of what will be a
four leg battle.
The first day is actually two
days of climbing pressed into one for the weathers sake. It heads up through
the Icefall, some difficult climbing terrain and some very difficult technical
Day Two is what I have
already covered, with the addition of a pack filled with several stones worth
of equipment. Today I had no pack. Day Three looks promising but at 24,000
feet even walking across a flat field will be exhausting. And remember it is
day three. And Day Four brings the big show! The trip to the summit takes
around 12 hours and the Sherpas have promised me that it is all the Lhotse
Face is, only three times as long. Rest day tomorrow, which really isn’t all
that promising as it is nearly impossible to sleep here... dehydration, cold
temperatures, and lots of bathroom breaks planned.
Does it sound like I am
complaining? I’ll tell you one thing; this is probably one of the most
beautiful places in the world… the “membership” is just tough! Charlie