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Mt Everest Expedition: Dave Hahn and Team at Camp 3 on Lhotse Face

Posted by: Dave Hahn, Melissa Arnot | May 23, 2012
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Everest
Elevation: 24,000'

Hello from Everest Base Camp,
I spoke with Dave and Melissa at Camp 3 and WOW did they sound great!
The climbing team left Camp 2 early this morning under perfect conditions.  As they periodically checked in it sounded like they were truly enjoying the climb and taking pictures when possible. As you can imagine, under harsh weather there isn’t time to enjoy the mountain and the views.

Our super Sherpa team started a bit earlier and set up tents at Camp 3 then returned back to Camp 2 to spend the night. The equipment that had been brought up there weeks ago was all intact and the team was able to pull into a well provisioned home for the night. Last I heard Melissa was kicking Dave’s you know what in the stove boil off competition for dinner, Go Melissa Go!

As this climb is quickly coming to it’s conclusion, and a day like today that can be so pivotal in the future success I get so excited with this good luck. Not that these tough individuals wouldn’t meet the challenge of wind, cold and snow. I just like the way it is shaping up.
The weather forecast is still looking good with winds decreasing over the next few days.  You have to love that!

The Sherpa team will get out of Camp 2 early tomorrow morning and the climbing team will try and have a seamless hand off of some gear to them from Camp 3, check out time should be around 6:00 am.  Then the whole team should climb together up to high camp the South Col, getting there midday, that should allow enough time for rest and preparation for early departure toward the summit that night.

RMI Guide & Everest Base Camp Manager Mark Tucker

Mt. Everest.  Photo: Jake Norton The route to Camp 3 on the Lhoste Face.  Photo: Michael Brown


RMI Guide Dave Hahn checks in from Camp 3 on Mt. Everest.

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Mountaineering Training | 5 Packing Tips From RMI Guide Pete Van Deventer

Posted by: Pete Van Deventer | August 12, 2013
Categories: *Mountaineering Fitness & Training

Between training and the climb itself, climbers spend a lot of time with a pack on their backs.  Somewhat of a necessary evil, the goal is to make your pack carry comfortably and efficiently so that it doesn’t work against you.  A few tips that will result in a more enjoyable pack to carry:

1. Minimize dead space in the pack
2. Try to fit everything (except the ice axe) inside the pack
3. Keep the mass of the pack close to your body
4. Frequently adjust the straps to carry the load more comfortably
5. Have a system

Minimizing dead space in the pack will help the pack ride in a more balanced way, and allow you to fit everything inside.  A big factor that creates dead space is too many stuff sacks packed together.  Round or barrel shaped stuff sacks don’t nest together well, instead leaving large gaps between them (like a cup full of marbles).  To minimize this effect, try to limit the number of stuff sacks you use.  A compression stuff sack for your sleeping bag is important, as it dramatically reduces the volume of the sleeping bag, but most of the other items can be packed loose, without stuff sacks.  The down parka and spare insulating layers do a great job of packing around the sleeping bag to fill any spaces.  Some guides go so far as to pack their pack partway, and then (taking care not to crush anything breakable) insert their foot into the pack and squish everything down to squeeze out all of the air.  In addition, if climbers have packs with dedicated sleeping bag compartments, I often recommend that they detach the shelf that separates the compartment from the main pack, and treat the pack as one large tube.  Sleeping bag compartments tend to create dead space where we want it least, right near the center of mass of our bodies. 

Minimize the number of items that are attached to the outside of the pack.  The ice axe generally has a dedicated attachment point (the ice axe loops), and is really the only exception to this rule.  The rest of our equipment should fit inside the pack.  With a little bit of thought, items that seem to take up a lot of space can be packed more efficiently.  For example, by stuffing the helmet with extra socks and food before packing it, the volume of the helmet itself becomes very little.  Crampons can be put together so that the tines cover each other, and they too can be placed in the pack.  Items clipped to the outside of the pack tend to swing, get damaged, and make a ruckus.  By minimizing the number of items clipped to the outside of the pack, your pack will carry more comfortably and with less noise!

In general when you are packing, place items that you won’t need or use that stretch to the bottom of the pack, while items that you would like to keep handy (food, sunscreen, etc) stay near the top.  Additionally, place heavier items closer to the back panel of the pack, keeping them nearer your center of mass.

There is no perfect fit for a pack, and comfort and fit of your pack will change throughout the course of a climb or training session.  In general, try to carry the majority of the weight on your hips.  When putting on a pack, hitch the pack up higher on your back than it will ride, and cinch down the waist strap.  Then tighten the shoulder straps until they just make contact with your shoulders.  Next, lightly tighten the load lifter straps on the shoulder straps and waist belt.  This helps to pull the weight of the pack in closer to your back and helps with balance.  Lastly, constantly adjust throughout the day as discomforts arise!

Have a system to your pack so that you have a good idea where each item is.  This will save you time and frustration throughout the climb, if you can reach straight to a warmer pair of gloves for example, rather than unpack most of your pack each time you need an item.  With a well-organized system, you will spend more time at each break resting and recovering, and less time digging for items in your pack. 

With a little bit of time and practice your pack won’t be such a burden and your training sessions, and ultimately the climb, will be more enjoyable!

________
Pete Van Deventer is a senior guide at RMI Expeditions. A former collegiate nordic skier, Pete climbs and guides around the world, from the Andes to Alaska. Read about Pete’s recent sailing and ski mountaineering trip to Norway’s Lofoten Islands on the RMI Blog.

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RMI Guide Robby Young leads a rope team around Mt. McKinley's Windy Corner. Photo: Pete Van Deventer.

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Mt. Everest Expedition: Bill & Sara McGahan Start Their Expedition

Posted by: | March 28, 2011
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Everest
Elevation: 11,300'

Hi. This is Bill blogging from Namche, Nepal.

I started climbing with my daughter Sara about 3 1/2 years ago when she was just 12, and since that time we have had many adventures together. I love climbing, but even more so, I love spending the time with Sara, who is now 16.  When we are at home in Atlanta she is so busy and I never get to hear about all the things that go on in her life every day.  So while we are climbing, and over meals, or watching a movie or TV show on her itouch, I get to hear all the funny things that happen on a daily basis. For example, I just learned all about the social importance of ‘threads” on Facebook, and the song with the line “the best 30 seconds of my life” (if you don’t know what song that is, that’s probably a good thing!).

So this past week has been fun.  It takes a lot of patience to fly from the states to Kathmandu, with the layovers, cramped planes, visa lines and time changes, so its a big relief to finally get to a hotel room and start to work on your jet lag. Its been about a week, and I think I am finally over the 10 hour change.

The flight from Kathmandu to Lukla is quite an adventure, which starts with getting up in Kathmandu at 4:30 am and then literally fighting your way through a mosh pit of folks in the airport. It’s actually great fun if you keep it in perspective. And of course, the 45 minute flight up to the mountains through a saddle into the very short landing strip (on a twin prop, specialized short takeoff and landing plane) is intense. If you have any doubt, go to youtube and search “lukla airport” and check out the clips.  The strip is only open for brief spurts every morning due to the clouds, so you have to be on the 1st flight, hence the mosh pit.

There are two ways to get to Lukla, flying or walking, and the walk takes days. So, the main way (really the only way) is to fly in.  All goods used by the many villages in the mountains get flown in.  Then, once into Lukla, porters pick up all the goods and carry them up the trail. The trail is filled with porters carrying 70 to 80 pound loads on their backs, some the size of refrigerators. Most everything gets to the towns in the mountains makes it way there on the backs of the porters (or yaks or donkeys). All of our bags going to base camp are carried by these porters, and it takes them about 7 to 10 days to get up to basecamp. The porters climb from an altitude of about 9,000 feet, down to about 8,000 feet, and then all the way up to nearly 18,000 feet.  Its just amazing what they do.

The “tea houses” that we stay in are really beautiful little lodges. They are made of stone (cut up here from the sides of the hills).  The rooms are simple but clean, and the common dining room serves delicious food. We are eating so very well, and with dishes that we are accustomed to - pizza, chicken, steak, french fries, eggs, pancakes, etc… and these dishes - combined with the RMI condiments - have been great.  We are buying bottled water along the way, but the bottles are getting more and more expensive the further we go.

Our climb so far has really consisted of getting into Namche, the center for all trekking and climbing in this area. The “Namche hill” is a 2000 foot hill from about 9,000’ to 11,000’ just before Namche that takes about 2 hours to climb.  It was raining yesterday when we were ascending, so our biggest challenge was dodging the puddles and the yak dung along the way (not to mention the yaks which also have considerable loads on their backs).

This morning we awoke early to climb above Namche to get our first vies of Everest, Lhotse and the other massive mountains in the surrounding area. After a half hour trek at 6:30 this morning we were rewarded with perfect views. Everest had its tell tale plume of clouds streaking off the summit as it pierced the jet stream.  It looks quite daunting, perhaps because it is.

Our trip is led by Dave Hahn, who is not only an insane climber, but one of the most down to earth people you will ever meet. He breaks it all down to seem so simple, and he makes me (and Sara) believe that all we have to do is take this adventure day by day, and climb by climb. This coming from a man who has summitted Everest 12 times, more than any non-sherpa in the world.  If I were him I would be at least a little boastful, but he never is. And he seems to know everyone along the trail, at the hotels, and in the shops.  Its one big mixer for Dave as we head to base camp!

So today is a rest day, and quite a beautiful one. Sara and I are going to break out Yatzee and the deck of cards. The goal today is to continue to have our bodies adjust to 11,000 feet while remaining strong and sickness free.  Rest days are my strongest days in the mountains!!!

Thanks for following our climb.

Bill McGahan

(Photos by Expedition Leader Dave Hahn)

Bill and Sara McGahan with Mount Everest peaking out behind them Bill, Sara, Jeff Martin ready to walk out of Lukla Sara McGahan

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Mt. Everest Expedition: Greetings from Deboche

Posted by: | March 31, 2011
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Everest
Elevation: 12,325'

The much celebrated 3G phone service is not so robust down here in the Rhododendron forest at 12,400 ft above sea level, so please pardon the slight lapse in trip coverage as we pass through these benighted zones.  All is well with Bill, Sara, Dave and Lam Babu Sherpa.  We moved easily up from Namche yesterday, enjoying very light traffic on the trails.  We seem to be a few days ahead of most of the big Everest teams and we conveniently flew into Lukla during a brief weather-window that few trekking groups were able to take advantage of, so the end result is that we have this part of the gorgeous Khumbu Valley to ourselves.  Conditions have mostly been cool and cloudy, although we’ve been granted grand views of Everest and Lhotse and Ama Dablam.  The temps have been perfect for walking and we took advantage yesterday by cruising up the 1,700 ft Thyangboche Hill in one continuous push.  A couple of cool and fizzy drinks out in front of the palatial Thyangboche Monastery and then we completed the day by descending a few hundred feet to Deboche.  Last night was an easy one as we enjoyed a fine dinner in a comfy wood-stove heated dining room.

The McGahan clan showed each other how to beat the stuffing out of their climbing guide at Yahtzee and then we each turned in for the night… beginning to delight in the loft of our expedition sleeping bags.  We’ll spend tonight here as well, letting our bodies catch up to the altitude and enjoying a last day (for the next eight weeks) among trees.

Best,
RMI Guide Dave Hahn

An RMI team enroute to Deboche

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Guide Shack: Elias de Andres Martos

Posted by: Elias de Andres Martos | December 15, 2011
Categories: *Guide News

RMI Guide Elías de Andrés Martos organized a team of RMI Guides to climb Tibet’s Shishapangma (26, 289’), the world’s 14th highest mountain. The team reached the summit on October 11th & 12th. We sat down with Elías after the expedition to chat with him about the climb.


RMI: What first inspired you to climb Shishapangma?

Elías: I had been hoping to go climb an 8,000 meter peak for awhile. When you have that in your head and you have never been to the Himalayas, at first it looks like any peak - if the opportunity arose - would suffice. For the last couple of years, the objective was looking closer and closer, and the deeper research started. Initially I wanted to climb Dhaulagiri, as it was the dream of one of my mentors who never could do it. But I was determined to go this past fall and it turns out that Dhaulagiri is not the best for the post monsoon season, so I started to look at other mountains. Shishapangma seemed beautiful, rising alone on the Tibetan plateau. Easy access played a key role, as it also diminished the cost. And of course, it offered a relatively “easy” and “safe” line for this, our first, 8000 meter peak.


RMI: Organizing an expedition to an 8000 meter Himalayan peak is a major undertaking, what were some of the biggest challenges you faced in simply getting the expedition off of the ground?

Elías: Of course the budget is the main undertaking. It is fairly expensive, particularly when one does it pretty much out of pocket. (We have to thank RMI’s indispensable Guide Grant and First Ascent‘s gear support.) This challenge leads to the difficulty of building a team as well; initially, along with my wife Bridget, I had this trip planned with my two good climbing friends from Spain, but getting 2 months off of work in addition to the funding, made it impossible for them to participate, so I had to start with 0 climbers just 6 months prior to the trip, when everything was logistically planned. Luckily, working for RMI made it easy to “collect” good friends for the expedition. Jake Beren, Geoff Schellens, Eric Frank, and Leon Davis were memorable companions. Ironically, the logistics were fairly easy, thanks to the internet and to Nima, our great contact in the Himalayas.


RMI: How did your previous climbing and guiding experience prepare you for the climbing and organizational challenges of the expedition?

Elías: That experience was probably a good 50% of the success of the trip. Having been on expeditions in other parts of the world is a great help that teaches you how to quickly act when facing problems or difficult situations, whether logistics or interactions with the local people. You come up with solutions or new plans on the go and deal with it.

The climbing and guiding experience among all of us on the team was definitely another great plus. Without much talking, we know what you have to do in different situations and the flow of the climb is as smooth as it can be as a result. Being a professional in the field, that usually works towards helping others achieve this goals, makes you have a greater temper on decision making too.


RMI: What was your impression of the Himalayas?

Elías: What can I say? It is the biggest mountain range in the World!!! Shishapangma sits alone in Tibet and unfortunately we drove to the trailhead from Kathmandu with clouds [covering the mountains], so we could not see much at first. When we all saw the mountain for the first time at Chinese Base Camp at sunrise, we were like little kids on Christmas day in front of Santa’s gifts - so excited. But at the same time you acknowledge the magnitude of the mountain and get those butterflies in your stomach.

I was lucky to have some time afterwards to explore the Annapurna-Dhaulagiri and the Solu Khumbu regions of Nepal, where the concentration of mountains is greater and the steepness of their walls grows exponentially…I have no words to describe what I felt there.


RMI: Give us a glimpse into your daily routine on a long expedition like this…

Elías: Wake up, breathe. Eat breakfast and come up with a plan, breath. Climb or rest, breathe. Try to have a hearty dinner, breathe…sleep. Start over.


RMI: Do you have a favorite memory or moment from the trip you can share?

Elías: Of course the summit. We made it to the Central Summit of Shishapangma at 8013 meters. I cried. I am very sentimental at points and being able to give a hug to my wife and two good friends up there after pursuing such a long dream is indescribable.


RMI: Any advice for climbers that have aspire to climb in the Himalayas one day?

Elías: Go for it. I think that such an undertaking requires determination. If there is a will there is a way and money and time to do it will materialize. Train for it and learn the skills that are necessary to do it. Be determined with your dream and with what it requires. And if you do not climb on your own, climb with a good guide, like the ones of RMI!!!


RMI: What is next for you?

Elías: As far as guiding goes, anything where I can help RMI clients. As I am shifting towards being more of a full time guide, I am very thankful for the opportunities RMI is giving me. I’m headed to Aconcagua (*Elías is currently on Aconcagua) and I am looking forward to the remainder of the winter with the ice climbing programs.

Personally, I have big ice and mixed climbing projects for this winter-spring locally here in Colorado and in the Canadian Rockies. Since the Himalayan bug has bitten me, I have to admit that plans for Dhaulagiri are “in the oven”.

Elias and his wife Bridget on the summit of Shishapangma. Shishapangma, 26,289'. Elias and Bridget in the tent at Camp 1. Geoff Schellens, Elias de Andres-Martos, and Jake Beren on the Central Summit of Shishapangma - Photo by Bridget Schletty

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Climbers Arrive In Sherpa Capital Namche

Posted by: | March 30, 2009
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Everest
Elevation: 11,296 ft.

The rain finished sometime during the night and left partly cloudy skies for our morning walk out of Phak Ding. These improved to sunny, clear and blue skies for a few hours as we wandered the trail through the small villages and farms along the Dudh Khosi. The trails were quite busy with trekking groups and heavily laden porters. There were numerous groups from Europe and Japan but none that we recognized as being from the United States.

I walked along with Erica and Ed Dohring and Seth Waterfall. We didn’t do much instructing as to how to walk or climb the steps in the trail. Ed and Erica do hike plenty, in addition to the mountaineering they’ve accomplished. I did ask them to slow down just a bit to match my pace, hoping that I’d be able to pass on a rate appropriate for all we needed to accomplish today. The main wisdom I try to impart at this stage of a long climb is simply an awareness that our performance on any given day is an integral part of our overall performance. For instance, it wouldn’t have been so useful for us to attempt to set some speed record on the day moving to Namche if that meant being wasted for our first night at a new and significant altitude. Conversely, walking too slowly toward our intended goal could tire us out just as much by keeping us on our feet with packs on our backs for too long. It isn’t like figuring solutions to the world’s financial troubles or landing spacecraft on Mars, but walking uphill is none-the-less my specialty and it turns out that getting the walk to Namche right is crucial for climbing Mount Everest.
Everest didn’t show itself for us today, but we were granted tremendous views -seemingly straight up- to the wildly fluted snow-faces guarding Thamserku’s pointy summit. There was an unreal contrast between the rock and ice we could see by tilting our heads and the lush pine forests we walked through. We passed the odd flowering rhododendron and still a number of blossoming cherry and apple trees, though not quite as many of these once we’d gone through the gates of the Sagarmatha National Park and gradually started to gain a bit of altitude. My little gang enjoyed a hot lunch at the picnic tables outside a teahouse with members of our “production team” (Jake, Cherie, John and Tom) while the other climbers continued on toward the big “Namche Hill” -anxious to get the day’s work done.

The sky clouded up again and vaguely threatened rain as we continued along the Dudh Khosi. I found myself recognizing boulders and bridges along the way and remembering the friends/partners/clients from past expeditions who’d lounged here or there and stopped to take pictures in this or that spot. As we walked I counted myself lucky that most of the people in my memories were still my friends after those expeditions. In these days when I have to so often justify going back to the same mountains year after year, I wonder if I’d get away with that as a worthy argument… that they remind me of good people.

Of course the big Namche Hill reminds me of a lot of good and sweaty people. We gained over two thousand vertical feet on the dusty switchbacks, passing lots and lots of porters straining under loads of hand-hewn lumber. Someone up-valley must be building a wooden WalMart. In mid-afternoon, we crested the hills and rolled into Namche, the Sherpa capital. I bumped into a number of Sherpa friends in the narrow streets and as we passed along I just got in the habit of saying “Namaste” to all the shopkeepers, whether I recognized them or not. We caught up with the rest of our team enjoying the lemon tea at the Camp de Base guest house, where we’ll spend the next three nights. And now I’m sitting at the comfy dining room tables looking up at the usual posters of Hans Kammerlander, Hillary and Tenzing, and the Dalai Lama. We are home in the Khumbu.

Bridge over Dudh Kosi River Mt. Thanserku Grueling 2,000 ft. climb to Namche Bazaar Dave Hahn in Namche Bazaar

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Mt. Everest Expedition: Rest Day at ABC

Posted by: Dave Hahn, Melissa Arnot | May 22, 2012
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Everest
Elevation: 21,300'

Our team enjoyed a rest day at Camp 2 (ABC) today.  Their plan is to head for Camp 3 tomorrow. 

This really is the start of the Mt. Everest summit push in my eyes.  How the next two days go, can have real impact on the summit day.
It is so hard to try and maintain strength at these higher camps that you better hope the internal battery is charged, you will be drawing off of your reserves for sure.  The team is focusing on eating and hydrating, keeping their bodies strong and ready.  Four of our climbing Sherpa left Base Camp today and joined the climbers at ABC.  Everyone is doing well and looking forward to the next few days.

RMI Guide Dave Hahn is one of the best mountain guides in the business. With many expeditions under his belt, he knows how to climb this mountain.  The weather forecast still looks promising.  Good luck to the team!

RMI Guide Mark Tucker


RMI Guide Dave Hahn checks in from ABC on a rest day.

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Mountaineering Training | Training In Cold Temperatures

Posted by: | January 06, 2014
Categories: *Mountaineering Fitness & Training

Another wide ranging cold front is dropping across the U.S. this weekend, drawing down Arctic air and threatening to plunge temperatures below zero from coast to coast.  Seriously cold wintertime temps aren’t abnormal for many athletes in more northern climes, and most grit their teeth, throw on a couple more layers, and continue with their training.  Training goes on and we make the most of the weather, but treat these cold snaps with respect.  Several studies, by the Norwegian and Swedish national athletic programs, as well as the US Olympic committee, have shown that strenuous endurance training in cold, dry conditions can lead to lung and bronchial irritation and inflammation, and that prolonged training in these conditions increases the incidence of asthma and bronchospasms. 

After the Nagano Winter Olympics in 1998, the US Olympic committee found that over 25% of the American team suffered from bronchospasms (uncontrollable spasms of the bronchi), and that of cross country skiers (athletes making long and exerted efforts in snowy and cold conditions), this respiratory problem was present in over half of the individuals.  A similar study of elite level cross country skiers in Sweden and Norway showed repeatedly that over half of these athletes display asthma like symptoms and decreased lung capacity. 

While a few days of training during a cold snap won’t be enough to cause most athletes long term respiratory distress, it could be enough to cause some bronchial irritation and inflammation that could impact training for the next few weeks.  This may be a good time to focus your training week on a few more gym and indoor workouts, and if you do train outside, consider training with a neck gaiter or buff over your mouth, to help warm the air as it enters your lungs.  In chronically cold places, such as Alaska, athletes have developed special masks for training in cold conditions.  Essentially stripped down respirators, they hollow metal grid of the mask retains the heat of each exhaled breath, helping to warm the next breath.

Stay motivated, wear a few more layers, and take care.  If an outdoor workout leaves your lungs and throat feeling raw and irritated, don’t push it.  Do your next few sessions indoors, the irritation heal and subside.  Good luck and happy training!

Read more about the respiratory studies here.

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RMI Climbers on the summit of Antarctica's Vinson Massif (Peter Whittaker).

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Mt. Everest Expedition: Linden Mallory Describes His First Summit of Mt. Everest

Posted by: | May 24, 2011
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Everest
Elevation: 17,575'

It has been three days since Dave, Tshering, Kaji and I reached the summit of Everest. Our short and fast summit bid was a whirlwind of a climb, an exciting and tiring endeavor up and back down the mountain’s upper reaches.

Leaving Camp 2 in the early hours of the 20th I was full of excitement and anticipation,  eager to finally be setting out on our summit bid after so much time here on the mountain but also nervous about heading to altitudes far higher than I had been to before, uncertain of how my body would react.  Within minutes of leaving Camp 2 those thoughts were pushed from my mind, replaced by nothing but pleasure: it was an incredible time to be climbing.  The waning moon was still so bright that the entire Lhotse Face shone above us, our shadows stretching across the glacier of the upper Cwm. We switched off our headlamps and climbed by nothing but the light of the moon, easily making out the ice and snow features of the Face as we ascended. We managed to climb at the same rate as the moon’s descent so that the moon hung just above Nuptse’s Ridge, never managing to slip behind it until daylight was well upon us. Dawn found us reaching Camp 3, passing by the tents of groggy climbers just waking up for the day.

Strapping on oxygen at Camp 3 changed the game. Dave, Tshering, Dawa, Kaji and I cruised past other teams that were just leaving Camp 3. I was amazed by how much stronger I felt, even at the relatively low flow rates we were using. Before long we had crested the Yellow Band and navigated through the Geneva Spur, arriving at the South Col by late morning. Above us clouds gently swirled off of Everest’s South Summit and we could pick out climbers descending from the summit. Dave spent some time explaining the route above to me, pointing out notable landmarks and their elevations and what to look for as we passing them in the dark. Soon we crawled into our tent for some much needed rest after our push up from Camp 2, now sitting a vertical mile below us.

We spent the day melting snow and doing our best to recover from the climb.  The winds picked up in the late afternoon, gusts shaking the tent walls, but I managed to drift off for an hour or two of restless sleep. Before I knew it we were firing up the stoves, filling our waterbottles with boiling water, and choking down a little bit of food before heading out. Above us we could see a string of lights bobbing up the Triangular Face - climbers who departed a few hours before us. By midnight the evening winds died and we set out - walking across the Col to the base of the Triangular Face. The approach to the Face is far longer than it looks from Camp and I felt like we were making hardly any progress, the silhouette of the mountain above us in the darkness seemed to retreat with each step towards it. But as soon as we hit the Triangular Face and began to gain elevation the mountain side slipped quickly by as we climbed. Before long we had passed the climbers we had seen on the Face from camp and were cresting onto the ridge, pausing on a small bench known as the Balcony, no bigger than the backseat of most SUVs.

After swapping out our partially used oxygen bottles we continued up the ridge towards the South Summit, still some 1,200’ above us. We continued upwards, bracing against sporadic gusts of wind sweeping down from above, and battling the frozen condensation that formed on the masks, occasionally freezing the valves. Entering the rock bands below the South Summit Dave stopped and pointed off to the east where a thin line of purple and red was spreading across the horizon. The sky gradually lightened while we navigated the short rock steps and soon the sun found us, suddenly turning the snow and rock brilliant orange around us. The sun brought me a new wave of energy, we were just a handful of vertical meters shy of the south summit and my excitement was growing with each step. The sharp cold we battled throughout the night dulled slightly and my fingers and toes pulsed with warm. Within minutes we were standing at 28,700’ on the South Summit looking across the narrow ridge line to the top of Everest just a few hundred feet above.

The final portion of the climb was a blur. Traversing the ridge line to the Hillary Step demanded intense focus with the 8,000’ of exposure on each side. We followed the route crossing back and forth across several rock outcroppings, and up the narrow choke of rock and snow up the Hillary Step, moving over the awkward step around at the top of the Step, and up the gentle snow slopes to the summit. The views from the top were stunning, it was incredible to gaze northwards into the Tibetan Plateau, to the south into the middle hills of Nepal, and to the east and west ran the Himalayas, a jagged white strip piercing into the horizon in both directions. Below I could make out the peaks surrounding Base Camp - Pumori, Lingtren, Khumbutse - looking tiny compared to the prominence they hold from below. We spent some time on the summit, snapping a few photos and exchanging celebratory hugs before heading down, reaching camp back at the South Col by late morning.

We rested for a short moment at the South Col before breaking camp and heading back across the Geneva Spur and down the Lhotse Face into a high altitude furnace. Clouds settled on the face, trapping the sun that bounced off the face and rocketing the temperatures. Wearing down suits and carrying big loads, it felt like as much of a battle to descend the face in a couple of hours as it had to ascend it the day before.

Camp 2, at 21,300’, never felt so good. We covered a lot of ground in the 36 hours since we left Camp 2 and my legs felt the effort, my toes screamed from the 8,000’ descent that day, but the grin on the faces of Dave, Dawa, Kaji, Tshering - and doubtlessly me-  told the the bigger story: we were all elated to have had such an incredible climb.

We slept soundly that night and it took us a long time to get moving in the morning, lethargically packing our gear before leaving Camp 2. By the time we walked into the sun while descending the Western Cwm I began feeling stronger, the sun again bringing much needed warmth and energy. We made a furious and fast descent back down through the Khumbu Ice fall, well acquainted with the ladders crossings and tricky sections of the route by now. Emerging from the Ice fall our pace quickened as we climbed up and down the dozens of large pressure ridges of ice back to Base Camp, despite our tiredness we were eager to put the final stretch behind us and just make it back to Camp.  Cokes, flip flops and a big meal awaited us.

We’ve been back at Base Camp for two days now, drying out our gear, sitting in the sun, eating, drinking and recovering from the climb. Melissa Arnot and Dave Morton arrived in Base Camp today; already acclimated from 45 days spent climbing on Makalu, they are hoping to make a fast attempt on Everest before the end of the season. It has been a blast to sit around today swapping stories from the past month and a half of climbing on our respective mountains and catching up with them - it has been a spring full of adventure.

RMI Guide Linden Mallory

Dave, Dawa, Linden, Tshherring, Kaji...... 2 AM start from Camp 2.  Photo: Linden Mallory Linden and Tshherring topping out the Geneva Spur, 25,900 ft.  Photo: Dave Hahn View back along ridge to South Summit from Hillary Step.  Photo: Dave Hahn

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Kilimanjaro: Last Day on Safari

Posted by: Seth Waterfall | September 22, 2011
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Kilimanjaro

This is Seth and the safari crew checking in from the Kikoti Camp at Tarangire National Park. This was our last full day of safari and it was a good one. We managed to see several big cats again including a leopard. That was the last one we needed to complete our finding of the ‘Big Five’. The Big Five includes: lions, elephants, water buffalo, leopard and the rhino. The game viewing has been outstanding for us. Tomorrow we are heading back to town as several folks have an afternoon flight from Arusha heading home.

Our trip has been awesome and we will enjoy this last day before we board planes tomorrow and head back to our friends and family.

RMI Guide Seth Waterfall

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