In Lukla, roughly eight thousand vertical feet below our Everest Basecamp home of the past three weeks, we were pretty comfortable. But just for one night. The team was awake by five am yesterday, eating by 5:30 and walking over to the airport check-in at six. We watched -partly in awe, partly in horror- as Twin Otters, Dorniers and A-Stars roared in and out of the compact one acre loading and unloading zone, pirouetting into place, revving engines, disgorging trekkers, cases of beer and heavy bags of rice at a frenetic pace. When summoned by frantic hand gestures, we shouldered our packs, walked out onto the tarmac and took over the seats in a Twin.
A few minutes later, we were in the air, over a few craggy passes and cruising toward Kathmandu. Upon landing, we were no-longer climbers, or even would-be climbers, we were happily transformed to overdressed tourists. As such we took off a few layers and began showering, shaving and eating eating eating.
Although we are still far from home, the program is finished. We continue to enjoy each other's company, we still rely on one another to make sense of the sad events and unexpected turns our trip has taken. The team is grateful that so many have followed our journey on the blog and offered up kind words and support.
RMI Guide Dave Hahn
Billy Nugent led the way out of Namche, down the big hill and into the valley of a thousand farms and small villages. We made it in six hours to a comfy tea house next to the airstrip in Lukla. The rain caught us for the last hour or so, but didn't actually bother anybody enough to make them put a raincoat on. We ate the afternoon away in our new low-altitude home. Mark Tucker made a surprise appearance for dinner, having finished up his duties at Basecamp today and figured out a way to heli-hike in minutes what had filled up three days for the rest of us. We are now poised for an early wake-up and some airport hustle that may or may not get us to Kathmandu by fixed-wing aircraft. All depends on the weather.
RMI Guide Dave Hahn
Nicole LoBiondo: I hope you have safe travels back home and I am so happy to hear that you and your team are safe! I’ll see you soon! Much love, Sammy
Posted by: Sam Borneman on 4/28/2014 at 8:25 pm
I hope you all have safe travels back home! I can’t wait to hear all about your adventure at Copper Canyon with a margarita! And of course the salad with the bacon, fish tacitos and the steak!!!! Love ya Nicole!
Today was a big walking day, up and down the hills of the Khumbu Valley from Pheriche to Namche. Right out of Pheriche, where we started hiking at 8 AM, we crossed the river, climbed a hill and turned into the inhabited portions of the Khumbu. We turned our backs on rocks and ice and walked down into rhododendrons, pine trees and villages. JJ led the way as we rolled through Shomare, Pangboche, Deboche, Thyangboche, and Phunky Tonga. We got hot enough to sweat a bit, which was a novelty, we passed a million trekkers and heard about a million helicopter laps as the B2's and B3's flew over us on their way back and forth to Everest Base. Finally, at midday, we got working our way up the giant dusty hill that would put us on level with Namche. It took us about six hours to reach Namche -still quite familiar to us since we spent three days acclimating in town on the way in. This time... no acclimatization needed... so fine to be below 12,000 ft for the first time in close to a month. The team enjoyed a fine evening at comfortable Camp De Base.
One more big day of hiking to go before Lukla International.
RMI Guide Dave Hahn
Our last night in base was made dramatic by a lightning storm rolling through. A few inches of snow fell thick and fast, making morning, bright, fresh and beautiful. At 11:15 AM we filed out of the ghost town that Mount Everest Basecamp has become. The climbing team, accompanied by Lam Babu, made good time in losing three and a half thousand feet to reach Pheriche in four hours and forty-five minutes. We each paid Everest's summit a couple of last longing looks during the march, but then paid more attention to the task at hand; walking an uneven, slippery mountain trail while dodging trekkers, yaks and porters. The gang stuck together wonderfully, demonstrating what a close knit and fit climbing team we've become. With each village on the descent, through Gorak Shep, Lobuche and Thukla, we each noticed the thicker and easier air. We coughed less and walked faster. All enjoyed seeing the baby yaks trying out their legs on our homestretch into Pheriche. Tonight, we are indoors again... safe, enjoying each other's company, and quite comfortable. We hope things are going well for Mark Tucker and the bulk of our Sherpa Team, back at EBC for a last couple of days to button things up properly.
RMI Guide Dave Hahn
What a pitiful attitude Bob has!! Wishing your team a safe journey back home. That is very admirable for Mark to have stayed back with the Sherpa team! Again it says a lot about the quality of a team you all are!! God Bless each and everyone of you!!!!! Tammy
Posted by: Tammy Doppenberg on 4/26/2014 at 4:47 pm
Tuesday’s not gone. There’s a lifetime of Tuesdays left for you. That mountain is not going anywhere. You’re young and strong and we got your back. Love you, Weasel,
We began the day with hope that we might be getting closer to resuming climbing. Billy and JJ took the climbers hiking while Mark Tucker and I met with a number of other climb leaders and Sherpa sirdars. Those meetings convinced us that the right course was to give up on Mount Everest for Spring 2014. In future dispatches, we'll try to quantify the reasons for such a decision. But for now, suffice to say that the risks outweigh the possibility of success.
This week has been a roller coaster of emotion for many of us, from the horror that came with the avalanche of April 18, to the confusion that followed it regarding the right course to take for balancing respect for the dead, concern for team safety and summit ambitions. Following the accident, our list of serious obstacles to an Everest summit was always significant, but we believed it worthwhile to continue looking for some way forward. Our climbers, Sherpas, guides, and outfitters had put too much into the planning and execution of this trip to let go of the goal with less than our best effort. We've given that now.
We'll start heading for home soon.
RMI Guide Dave Hahn
The skies were sunny with warm temperatures today at Everest Base Camp. Our climbers took a few short hikes around the lower glacier and then a bit of cards and board games to keep our minds busy. There is community gathering for a remembrance scheduled for tomorrow.
RMI Guide & Base Camp Manager Mark Tucker
Nicole Lobiondo: Hope you are okay during this tough time. My Dad and I took our Walk in Long Branch and drove by your house. All looks good! Mufasa must be a good guard cat if he is there! Thinking of you and the team and wishing you all positive thoughts for what lies ahead. XOXO, Nicole
Still at Everest Base. Still a very difficult situation for all involved.
JJ and Billy led the climbing team on a hike to Pumori Camp One today, where they enjoyed awesome views of Mount Everest (during our hike to the same point last week we had no views due to an ill-timed and swirling snowstorm). Mark Tucker and I attended a series of somewhat tense and serious meetings between team leaders, Sherpas, and the few government representatives present in camp. It is very difficult to say what will happen going forward but one cannot under emphasize the enormity of the tragedy to the Sherpa community. Each team, if it has not suffered death and loss directly, has lost relatives, close friends and neighbors to the icefall avalanche of April 18. In too many cases, survivors saw the friends perish before their eyes or else they dealt with the difficult aftermath of body recovery personally.
Our Sherpa partners love their jobs and love to climb, but nobody is climbing now and all are struggling to come to terms with how to proceed in a way that honors those lost and protects those left alive.
RMI Guide Dave Hahn
My thoughts are with all affected by the tragedy. I can only imagine the impact it has had on you all personally. I have no doubt that you, JJ, and all the team members will make the right decision, whether that means retreating or pressing on to the summit, that most honors those lost and respects the memory and wishes of the Sherpa community. Stay strong and climb safe.
Hey this is Dave Hahn calling from Everest Base Camp. Today was another difficult day dealing with the tragedies from yesterday. The team members stayed in Base Camp today, it was cloudy, a little snowy, a little cold. Three of our Sherpa team, Tshering, Lam Babu and Pemba helicoptered up, with others, to the accident site to continue the difficult and dangerous work that some of us were engaged in yesterday of well, body retrieval at this point. There are still three missing, is my understanding, and they were not able to find those three. But they did a great job in going up and working hard and trying to make a difference and we are very proud of them.
The team is well, obviously, it is a difficult situation, everything is somewhat in limbo. There is word of a number of teams that are pulling the plug and are not going to climb. But we will see how these next couple of days play out. I told my climbers to be ready for anything.
We will keep you informed.
RMI Guide Dave Hahn
RMI Guide Dave Hahn checks in from Everest Base Camp.
Good day, I learnt about the tragedy few days ago. Even though I have never been to Nepal, I have always interest in the Everest. Please stay strong. My thoughts and prayers with the sherpas and their families.
Today was an exciting day! The entire team did a "live" rehearsal. What does that mean? Well...the team awoke at 3AM and slid on stiff boots and warm clothing, had a quick but nutritious breakfast and then began climbing the icefall with our headlamps lighting the way.
Climbing in the Khumbu Icefall is impossible to describe. It is impossible to relay what it's like through photos and videos. However, the best I can say is it is simply spectacular! Giant blocks of ice tower above as you bob and weave, slice and dice your way through the giant maze.
The entire team did absolutely great! This "dry run" of going through half of the icefall inspires confidence so the next time we get up at 3AM we will all be ready and rearing to go through the entire icefall and occupy Camp One at 20,000 feet.
For now however, we are all happy and content after another great lunch with culinary masterpieces allowing us to fully recover. Next, a little tent time to rest these weary bones.
RMI Guide JJ Justman
Nicole and team. We are so thankful that you and the team are safe and praying for the missing climbers.Your family are all sending you strngth and love. We love you so much Nicole, please take care of yourself. Spoke to dad, brothers, cousins, and we are praying for your safety. Aunt Mimi is with me now. Your loving Aunt Ginny
Posted by: ginny marasco on 4/18/2014 at 11:59 am
Nicole Lobiondo: Wonderful to hear you are all safe and staying confident. You are in great hands and praying for you all. You got this! Love, Nicole
Hello out there. Billy here checking in for the rest of the gang after another day deep in the Khumbu. Not much to report on another rest day here, other than the fact that the NCell tower began sporadically working today after nearly a ten-day outage. Our team was starting to go crazy... I mean it was like camping back in the 90's where you were in a deep black hole.
Anyway, clear skies this morning meant more helicopters buzzing basecamp as a film production crew has been ferrying tons of equipment up valley. The rumor is that they'll need more than fifty flights to get all of their gear in, we're all looking forward to it! Regardless, we're rested and ready for the next phase of our climb which involves an early wakeup dress rehearsal for tomorrow. It's the last step before we begin our first true rotation up the mountain.
All for now, will check in again tomorrow after another romp through the icefall...
RMI Guide Billy Nugent
Casey Grom - just checking in on you. Just read about the avalanche and of course I immediately thought of you. Be safe.
Posted by: Janel Miller on 4/18/2014 at 5:43 am
Posted by: Janel Miller on 4/18/2014 at 7:04 am
Nicole & Team sending blessings and prayers up to the top of the world. Thinking of you all, all those who left families and friends behind. Praying you are all safe, warm, healthy, and in good strong spirits.