Adaptability and Pujas

Yesterday we had our Puja which all went well.

A Puja is a ceremony where the Sherpa by way of a local Buddhist lama asks the mountain for permission to climb safely.

The Sherpa had built a stone shrine with prayer flags strewn across all of ABC. Then they piled all of the items they wanted blessed next to the shrine.

The original plan was for us to be heading up to the North Col (23,000ft / 7000m) today. However, we’ve opted to stay another day at ABC, then cut our stay up high by a night. Our plan now is to stay two nights at North Col and then see how high we can climb one of the days. Ideally, we’ll touch 7500meters. We shall see!

After that rotation, we’ll be primed and ready for our summit push!!  It’ll be partly about the weather and also the Chinese Tibetan Mountaineering Association whom are the ones that set the route and fix thes ropes to the summit.

It’s about to get real!

Taggin’ 23,000ft 

Today was a long one. Shortly after breakfast, we packed our summit kits to drop off at the North Col. The North Col sits at about 23,000ft or 7000m. 

It was such a good day. It felt great to actually be climbing today. It was a solid movement and we made good time.  

Now we are back in camp trying to rehydrate and recover.  

Tomorrow is a full rest day where we’ll do nothing!  I can’t wait. Then the next day we’ll have our Puja ceremony which is important to the Sherpa before we do any more climbing. 

Assuming the weather holds, we’ll move up to the North Col to stay for three nights which will set us up for our summit push!


ABC life

We’ve now been at advanced basecamp for nearly 24hrs.  What a difference a day can make.  When we pulled in yesterday, I  wasn’t exactly on top of my game.  Lethargic, nauseated and in the early stages of a pounding headache.  

Remind me again why we do this to ourselves?  Oh that’s right, to experience places like this:

Expeditions like these are a regular test of determination, grit and will power. As annoying it is to lose your last meal or have a head splitting headache, it makes you appreciate the good moments ten fold. The more you learn to love hard work, the more you’ll reward yourself with incredible outcomes. 

You’d be amazed what you are capable of if you just put yourself out of your comfort zone. Whether that’s walking your first 5k or doing a 100+mile run. You don’t need to climb Mt Everest to blow your own mind with what you can accomplish. Whatever you define as ‘hard’ is within reach, I promise. The biggest obstacle is your mind telling you that you can’t. 

Anyway, back to Everest.  We’ll be here at ABC for a few days to acclimatize and recover. We’ll hopefully go tag the North Col (23,000ft / 7000m) in the next couple of days to enhance the acclimatization process. Then, next Sunday the 8th of May, we’ll have our Puja ceremony which the Sherpa will ask for a blessing from Chomolungma before we do our rotation up to the North Col for three nights. 

It feels so good to be here. Now, it gets real. I’m looking forward to the hard work of moving up the mountain. Chomolungma isn’t going to give up the summit without work. The mother goddess of the earth demands respect. Those whom don’t, well, you’re free to google the consequences of this hill. 

Thanks for checking in!

Hiking and no wind (well, less wind)

 After a few solid days of rest and recovery, today we went out and hiked a bit up one of the valleys.

It felt great to get out, breathe and see more of the valleys near basecamp. 

I’m feeling optimistic that I’ve gotten over the hump and I’m settling into a groove of being at altitude.

Tomorrow will be a rest day. Two things are super exciting about said rest day. One, I get to do some laundry. Some pieces are getting pretty ripe, so I’m sure my climbing partners will be quite appreciative. The other bonus of the rest day will be my first shower since getting to basecamp!  I can’t wait! 

While although we do have the capacity to have a shower at basecamp and even ABC, hot water isn’t exactly an endless commodity.  When we get to advanced basecamp, all the water we will have will come completely from melted ice. It will be he 24hr job of a person to make sure that there is water. As such, luxuries like showers must be highly rationed.  We might get a shower every 5-7 days at best. Trust me, I will make the most of those showers and appreciate every last drop. I’m sure those around me will as well. 

It feels great to feel good again.   


Opaqueness and transparency

I suppose with any sports, you’ll find people that keep their personal training/schedule/modifications close to the chest.

However, it seems in the mountains – climbers get even more vague & ambiguous with their plans or decisions for well being. I don’t know if it’s purely a function of ego out of concern for how people may view their accomplishments later, or what.

For example, this year there is a professional climber whom is now making an attempt on Everest but is trying to keep it incredibly quiet. So much so that when close friends of theirs have found out, said climber has gotten rather upset about the discovery. It seems that more has come of the situation than if they had just owned it but said they were just not advertising it publicly.

Past examples include climbers whom have attempted 8000 meter peaks without oxygen but then had to take nearly every drug on the planet during a rescue (while still refusing oxygen) simply so they can say they climbed without O2.

At work, I pride myself on being more transparent than I probably should be. However, it’s worked for me and I feel I’ve built levels of trust I may otherwise not have.

Yesterday, was a very low day for me. The night prior, I was awake most of the night feeling very nauseous and having a headache that wouldn’t go away. Shortly after waking up in the morning, my first sip of tea sent me lunging out of the tent, half clothed, into the rocks to vomit. I powered through and made it to breakfast where I still ate, even if less so than what I normally would have. It seemed that I was feeling better after getting some food in me but still just sat around camp all morning. At lunch, I was back to eating what was a normal amount for me (aka taking big servings and then getting seconds).

Not having slept well the night before, taking a nap seemed the best course of action and proceeded to sleep for about an hour and a half. I can only assume that the nap was my enemy as the moment I got up, what I had for lunch decided to re-visit, only inches from the opening to the tent.

The rest of the day continued to go downhill from there. I couldn’t get comfortable whether sitting, standing or laying down. Even just a sip of water would come roaring back up. At this point, given the loss of fluids and no ability to replace them, the headache became worse & worse.

Throughout the day I had been communicating with our awesome expedition doctor (Dr. Monica Piris) about my degrading situation. A short while before dinner time, as it became apparent that things were only worsening, she made the decision to give me a shot of dexamethasone (a steroid commonly used to treat HACE and severe AMS as well as cancer patients with brain swelling) as well as a shot of an anti-nausea medication (given I couldn’t keep water down). For those with any medical insight, you might be interested to know that my blood oxygen saturation (SpO2%) was at 58% by this point. For those wondering what that means, for reference, if under normal circumstances your SpO2 dropped below 90%, you would immediately be put on oxygen in a hospital under very close attention. At sea-level, your SpO2% should be about 100%. In addition to the dex & anti-nausea meds, she also put me on supplemental oxygen for the night and to also take diamox (another altitude sickness med) as soon as I could keep water down.

Until the dex, anti-nausea meds & oxygen kicked in to start making me feel better, it was difficult to stay positive on the whole. One of the many reassuring parts of having an expedition doctor like Monica, is that with her vast experience at high altitude, she’s seen it all (several times). She reiterated that this didn’t necessarily mean anything just yet. By no means did it mean the climb was over, in spite of taking some heavy meds & oxygen so early into the trip.

While although I would certainly prefer to not be on meds of any description, I will say that I had the best night’s rest on the oxygen than I’ve had in weeks. It was so restful and enjoyable. Relative to the day prior, I felt like a million bucks when I woke up. I had my full appetite back and my SpO2% was back more in a more acceptable range for where we’re at and for how long we’ve been here.

We even got a chance to walk across camp to see Tim Medvetz & Charlie Linville from our climb last year. It was great to see them again and have a big laugh and some tea.

Now, back at camp, after lunch – I’m a little slower moving than this morning but still better than yesterday. Monica has decided to keep me on dexamethasone & diamox for the day just to be sure I get past the hump in the hopes that tomorrow I can wean myself back off everything. It’s a fine balance of being on dex to get well and staying on for too long that it becomes difficult to come off it, as we go higher.

The only thing in my control at this point is remaining positive about getting past this and moving on! It’s a big expedition, with lots of time built in to adjust for things like this. I will say that I gained a new level of empathy for my amazing wife whom has been suffering endlessly throughout her pregancy. To be sick, for such an extended period takes serious determination & will power to keep moving on. She’s my hero and a reminder that I’m choosing to be here and suffering whilst she has no choice, yet doing it with grace.

Good days wouldn’t be appreciated nearly as much without the bad ones to remind us that all things are temporary. Such is the human experience and I love it!

A day of reflection

Today marks the one year anniversary of the earthquake that so deeply impacted the people of Nepal.

While we sat at dinner, those of us whom were here last year felt incredibly uneasy as the howling winds shook the tent. It brought back a very real and visceral feeling we experienced after just getting to basecamp last year. At first, we just thought someone was shaking the table and didn’t may much attention. As it got more and more intense, it was obvious as to what was happening. What we didn’t know, nor could we know, was how safe we were in the moment. All we could do was look at one another in between desperate scans of the horizon. When the shaking finally ceased, we all quickly took to the phones, radios and any other communication mechanism we could get our hands on. We wanted to connect with friends known to be on the south side of Everest as well as friends and loved ones back home to assure them of our safety.
It’s amazing that a little wind can so quickly bring up between people who share a connection from a traumatic event.
As we all reflect in our own ways, we all still come back to the appreciation we had for one another.

After a pretty crappy night’s sleep, I’m happy to report that I’m feeling great this afternoon. I went on a quick stroll of EBC, and took a moment to visit one of the memorials here, paying respect to those of whom didn’t make it off the mountain safely. It’s good to pause and reflect on the seriousness of any mountain, let alone Mt Everest. It’s all too easy to get caught up in the excitement of the prospect of a summit push and lose sight of the respect that must be paid.

One day at a time, appreciating the journey.


And… We made it!

After a 10hr drive, crossing 17,000ft passes and getting to experience the awesomeness that was the paved road, we made it to basecamp!!

Sitting at 17,000ft, we now need to take it easy, and be sure to hydrate.  The next day or so will be rest days while we get used to the altitude and mountain life. 

It’s great to be back!