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American Sean Swarner takes on Everest: A Cancer's Survivors Journey to the World's highest Summit

Updates from Sean: It is 1 :30 on Sunday the 5th of May. I just got back from the National Geographic Team's site. Before that I tried reaching my brother on the radio. They answered and said they had a package for me. See, National Geographic and I both are organized by Peak Promotion, so if we need something, they are more than helpful in doing what they can. Every now and then we get mail delivered from Kathmandu. Excellent huh? So I went to pick up my package. It contained some cards from my folks and an aunt from Seattle. It was also dried/instant potatoes. But beyond that, there were, in a box what used to be cookies and brownies. Granted no one expects cookies or brownies to make it this far with out falling apart, but that's not the point. The point is that someone went to the trouble of baking things and spending roughly 45 bucks to send the crumbs on over to one of the most in hospital places in the world. And besides that, I can eat more than one cookie at a time with only a handful!!!!

So anyhow, a girl by the name of Diane sent a package to remind me of home. Right now she's in New York City with my best friend Brendan, whom I'm sure is making fun of me, telling Diane everything she SHOULDN'T know about her boyfriend. Yea, Diane is my girlfriend. The same person I dream about holding back in the Denver airport. The time cannot come soon enough.

So as I sit here sifting through the rubble of what used to be good cookies (I have to say that), brownies, and some great candy from home, I realize I miss Diane more than I thought. Over a month of sleeping on a huge glacier can make you think some pretty funky things. It can also tear at your heart making you miss your loved ones more than you'd like to admit. So as I'm sitting here, I'd like to say I miss not only Diane, but my family as well. I love each and every one of you!!!! And while my brother deals with his battery problem, I'm dealing with emotional challenges as well as physical ones. One's I'll describe for you here…

First let's say this mountain isn't a mountain. It's about 4 of them put on top of one another. It's friggen huge!! The most amazing part is, even though it's so huge, you only get to see it a couple of times trekking into Base Camp. I would think that because of how enormous this hunk of rock is, that I'd be able to see it a lot. However that's not the case in this massive mountain range. Words CANNOT do justice to this part of the world. Words CANNOT even begin to describe this mountain range. If someone tried, they would be doing the Himalayas a great injustice!! But for the sake of trying… take the Rockies and put them on steroids… A LOT of steroids!!!

I just got back from a nice rest down in Debuche. It's a wonderful little 3-lodge village. Apparently it's where Tolkein got his idea for The Hobbit…rumor?? Anyhow, 2 nights there at 12,500 feet (sorry, I'm American and still use feet). Ate like a pig every day all day. Left the Rhododendron lodge after being blessed and headed up to Pheriche. Ran into some of my friends from France and Canada. Had a good night there and left for Lobuche the next day. Had breakfast in Tukla. Slept in Lobuche. Another nice night. Slept like a baby. I must say, I wasn't too thrilled to get back into Base Camp. Back in the cold, rocky area I've called "home" for a while. Left Lobuche and had breakfast in Gorak Shep. Then took my good 'ol time getting into base camp. Like I said, no hurry! Got "home" around 11 AM and found my site vacant. The Sherpas went up to establish Camp 4 - so I heard. My cook's brother was there and we cooked lunch.

Most of the time, going to Debuche and back up, I was hiking with a fellow named Randy from northern CA. He was Peter's climbing/tent partner. Peter is the English fellow who did not make it safely back from Camp 3. He was the first death on Everest. And on that note, I would like to extend my sincerest warmth and condolences to his mother, brother and sister. Peter was a great individual and we shared a number of laughs. I remember seeing him on the Lhotse Face and wishing him well… God Bless…

Times like this reinforce how dangerous this mountain is. I'll admit I cried when I heard about Peter. I was fortunate enough to reach mom and dad and Diane to let them know I was ok. I did all I could to hold tears back. Tears unlike those I shed at each camp I progress to.

The first time to Camp 1, I got tears in my eyes. Streaming down my face knowing I made it that far!! This is a very emotional climb for me. Every time I make it higher, I think of what I'm doing and I'm that much closer to the ultimate goal. However at the same time, I realize that what I've done so far is incredible!! I hope that other cancer patients and survivors catch wind of what I'm trying to do and they go after their own dreams. They set their own goals and chase after them. Every time I set foot at another camp, I tear up thinking of how this can help inspire and motivate others. Climbing this mountain in one word: emotional!

Since I've been to Camp 1, Camp 2, and slept at Camp 3, I'm acclimated and ready to go. Waiting for the weather is going to be the tough part. I'm anxious to get underway and up this hunk 'o rock. BUT not too anxious as I know those who rush are sometimes those who don't make it alive. With all I've been through, a mountain is NOT worth my life and if there's any reason to turn around, I'll do it to stay alive. I'm doing everything I can to ensure a safe trip up AND down this mountain.

So quick review: Camp 1… top of the Icefall in a snowfield. Our tent was on the edge of a small crevasse and my pee didn't help matters any. Every time I went in the same spot and created my own crevasse… I slept pretty well there. No funky dreams or anything. From Camp 1 I climbed to Camp 2 and down to Base Camp.

Camp 2: since we stayed at Camp 1, we bypass it now and go directly to Camp 2. it's a long drudge uphill across the Western Cwm to Camp 2. C2 is situated up against a nice rock wall and is 2 tents facing each other with walls enclosing them. Between the tents and under the tarp over the rock walls is our "kitchen". Really safe and cozy spot. We managed to make it through the storm with only some snow in our "kitchen". I say some snow, but it was probably at least a foot of wind-blown snow. The storm I talk about was the one that ripped through a while ago and devastated a few tents. I was pretty lucky.

Camp 3 is situated high on the Lhotse Face. The first part isn't too bad, but after a while the nice compact snow turns into plastic ice. Plastic ice is veers hard, compact ice. Ice where crampons really don't sink into, but just chip off ice blocks. VERY dangerous. My tent was situated on a chipped-out campsite. Sleeping here was a wonderful experience, let me tell you… EXACTLY like a 5 star hotel. I recommend it to everyone young and old. Both my Sherpa and I spent most of the night up and down. First of all, our site was pitched on an angle. Every 5 minutes I had to move myself from the bottom of the tent back to the top. I also kept pulling my pants from my armpits because they kept riding up. I considered putting in an ice screw and tethering myself to it keep me from sliding down!!! So up and down and peeing and peeing. Altitude has a bad habit of dehydrating people and making them go to the bathroom more and more. I was no exception. BUT to top off the wonderful sleep-sliding experience, I woke up and saw what I had for dinner the night before. Yea…2 cups of instant coffee and …. YUK… there's a pea, there's a carrot, and hey, there's some noodles clumped together. Yea, I succumbed to the high altitude puke. Tasted great too.

Packed up our stuff and headed down to C2. Then to Base Camp. That was a long day, but I still felt pretty good. Right till I got to the edge of the icefall and BC. Seth said he saw me cock back like a hammer on a gun, whip my neck and wammo!!!! Full-on yak!!!! Nothing but stomach acid. Boy that tasted great!!! Next day…. Felt like a million bucks.

So there you have it. C1, C2, and C3. I'd describe the icefall, but it literally changes every day. Last time I came down, it didn't even look like the same place. There was one spot where a Volkswagen beetle-sized hunk of ice had fallen right on the fixed line. I could see the rope come out of one side, disappear under the ice chunk, then come out the other side. Thank God no one was there when it happened!!! To be quite honest, the Khumbu Icefall is literally falling apart. The route needs another 2 people to get up there and fix it. There are spots where it gets more dangerous every day. A ladder is sitting on a small chunk of ice ready to fall at any minute. The entire top of the icefall fell as well. Take the Empire State Building on its side and push it over an 1/8 of a mile wall and that's about what happened. Thank God I only have to go up one more time!!! I hope…

Other than that, I'm feeling pretty good. Waiting for the weather to clear up. I heard maybe a few days then it's good. We'll see. Either way, I already consider this expedition a success. How can I not? I've made it to Base Camp. I climbed through the Khumbu Icefall to Camp 1. I made it through the Western Cwm to Camp 2. I've made it through the Lhotse Face to sleep at Camp 3. I made it back to Base Camp from every height I've climbed. THAT is success. Every time coming back to BC with a smile on my face knowing I'm still alive is success. Climbing to any height with my background and coming "home" safely IS success. AND I've been doing this without 2 fully functioning lungs. The intense treatments I was put through now limit my lungs' ability. So like I said… every time I make it higher and to a new camp, it's an accomplishment in its own right and is very emotional.

I hope you reading this right now find some inspiration in my words to make your own goals. Go after your own dreams. Challenge yourself!!! Remember life is not a time-trial. There are no second chances, and you may never be offered an opportunity again. Take advantage of what you've been given. When you do something, do it passionately. Do it as though it were your last time ever. Because you never know… it just may be!!!

I could rattle on and on about life and give you example after example of taking full advantage of life, but I'll save you that agony…

It's now about 5:45 PM. I've been writing this dispatch off and on all day. I apologize to those who expected more and to those who wanted less:

Went from BC to C1 to C2 to BC.

Went from BC to C2 … 2 nights…then to 7000M to BC.

Went from BC to C2…2 nights…to C3…1 night… to BC.

Went to Debuche to BC….4 nights down.

And in closing, I want to say that my feet are cold, I want a REAL beer, a REAL bed, central heating (no a yak dung fire in the center of a room doesn't count), a hamburger made from cow not yak or buffalo, a pizza with pepperoni not carrots and cabbage, I want to be able to walk 50 feet in less than 10 minutes because of all the rocks and boulders, and I want to be able to sit down with out worrying about sitting in yak crap!!

All joking aside…. Attitude is great, I feel pretty good, appetite is voracious just waiting for the weather! I DO miss family and loved ones and I really hope at least some people feel inspired by what I'm trying to do. Regardless of the outcome, I consider this a successful expedition in its own rights. I also want to thank every single person who helped out and who has faith in what I'm doing. Please keep me in your thoughts and prayers when I go back on the mountain, and hopefully the next dispatch will include a summit success!!


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