Archive for April, 2010

Then There Were Four

 

In 1914 Ernest Shackleton posted a notice “Looking for willing and able bodied men to go on a perilous journey from which they may never return” Over a 1000 applied.

  

In 2002 I answered a similar notice. I was one of a handful of ‘applicants’ and so began my amazing journey to climb the highest mountain on each of the seven continents. I wasn’t a climber. I wasn’t an adventurer. I had never been higher than a few gentle mountains that make up part of the White Mountains of New Hampshire. I went with my father, I think I was ten. 
But the call to attempt to go on a perilous journey of which I knew nothing but wanted to learn was too great and so with no experience in 2002 I went to Alaska to climb Denali. I did return but I was humbled. And thus began my new life….. 

My journey was further complicated by the fact that unlike Shackleton’s able-bodied men, in 1998 I had been diagnosed with MS but that above all else was my very personal reason for attempting this mission. I wanted to see if I could climb with and for MS. 

Mountaineering is unlike any other sport. It is a very solitary sport and a team effort both at once. The challenge is met by bringing together a clear, responsible decision as to what is the smart thing to do. The ego must be totally eliminated and the glory or self-adulation to reach the summit must be weighed by the total cost of what it takes to get there. As a friend so eloquently put it, “This is not a missed shot in a tennis game, there are no do overs. The ramifications of a single decision are enormous and the responsibility lies totally on and within the individual climber.” A poor decision not only affects the individual climber but also puts great risk on the people who must now give their own lives in order to save that person. A summit will only be recalled or glorified for a finite period of time. A poor decision on the way to that summit will carry a lifetime of regrets or take that life altogether. 

It is all about individual choice. Reaching one’s personal boundary and recognizing that we have a responsibility to ourselves, those we care about, the people we are climbing with and to our personal mission. The hardest choice I have had to face in the 12 years I have been living with MS was to turn back from a summit attempt on Everest… twice. I have had to recognize that on Everest I reached my boundary- sustained life above 17,000 feet, where the air is painfully thin and took my body to a place where it couldn’t function with Multiple Sclerosis. My MS could not tolerate the lack of oxygen to the brain and the enormous daily temperature fluctuations on the mountain. Everyday while others on my team grew stronger I was getting weaker. I noticed new symptoms I had not had before as well as a severe increase of those I have lived with for years. 

Sir Ernest Shackleton’s perilous adventure to Antarctica could have ended very differently then it did. Although the expedition failed because he did not reach the south pole, Shackleton triumphed over enormous odds to bring all 28 men safely home. 

My mission has been to educate, motivate and encourage those facing MS that they too have the ability to take an amazing journey with their disease. They have the personal responsibility to get on a medication to make themselves the best they can possibly be to face the challenges of the mountain ahead. Just like an individual climber facing insurmountable odds, discomfort, fear, trepidations and perseverance, we with MS face this mountain every day. But only within ourselves do we hold the individual decision to push back, reach and recognize our limitations, challenge our hearts, minds and spirit and live a fulfilling life with and for MS. It is not an easy mission but I personally know it is fate that brought us here. Our spirit that will guide us through. And the rewards are like no other. 

Like Sir Ernest Shackleton my mission ended very differently than I had expected. But I did not fail. I have attempted Everest twice. I took MS to the highest it would allow me to go. As the medical staff at base camp have documented, the bar has been set. I am a mountaineer, an adventurer, an explorer. And I’m not done yet. 

Wendy 

Safely back at Everest Base Camp 

Climb On! 

  

  

Sherpas Establish Camp III

RMI Dispatch from Dave Hahn…

April 23, 2010
17,575 ft.

The big event today was the establishment of Camp III at 24,000 ft by our Sherpa team. Nima and Tsering were part of a rope-fixing effort composed of Sherpas from a number of different teams. This was the second day of fixing lines on the Lhotse Face and although things seem to have gone well enough, it will still be a few more days before the route is good all the way to the South Col at 26,000 ft.

Casey Grom and Rob Suero got up early at Camp One this morning and made quick work of the route to ABC. After a few hot drinks there, they motored on down to Basecamp, arriving in time for lunch. Michael Brown spent his first “rest” day in BC editing and sorting the images and footage he’d collected over the past four days up the hill, while Leif Whittaker and I simply rested, ate and drank the day away. Scott Jones and Chad Peele also seemed content to take things easy today. Mark Tucker sorted gear, made plans with the Sherpa team and hiked toward Pumori to stretch his legs. Seth Waterfall is back in camp this evening after a quick run down to Pheriche.

Dave Hahn

2010 RMI Everest Team

2010 RMI Everest Team

Resting at Basecamp

The latest from Casey Grom with RMI…

April 20, 2010
17,575 ft.

It’s week three and all is well here at Everest Basecamp. Some of the team members have climbed through the icefall and camped at Camp One. A few of us have been fighting colds and coughs, but plan on heading up hill in just a few days. Being under the weather here is a big difference from being under the weather back home. First, it takes a lot longer to heal at 17,500′. Second, failing to take it easy when our bodies need it could lead to feeling worse or needing to descend to a lower altitude to recover.

Everyone has been doing a good job of taking it easy though. There has been plenty of hot showers, doing laundry, watching movies, and too many card games to count. The weather seems to be stable with crystal clear skies in the morning to cloudy in the afternoon with light snowfall. Looking forward to walking up hill soon and feeling better.

Casey

PS – Rob Suero would like to wish happy birthday to his daughter. Happy Birthday!

First Rotation

First and foremost Happy 21st Birthday to Alex!  Hope your day is terrific and we will celebrate in style once I return.  I’ll buy!

Resting here back at base after yesterday’s ‘dress rehearsal’ into the ice falls.  Seth and I went half way into the ice stopping at what is referred to as the ‘football field’ (I’m certain only the Americans refer to it as that).  The area is relatively flat (key word relatively) and a safe place in which to have a rest break after nearly 3.5 hours of hard vertical travel.  We were back at camp by about lunch time.  Time enough for me to head over to the medical facilities and get onto a study for the infamous “Khumbu Cough”.  Seems that a good percent of the climbers here at BC come down with a nagging cough that can lead to broken ribs and worse.  I’ve had it every time.  This year there is a medical study taking place and one can only be enrolled when one develops the cough.  Bingo! I’m in.  It is a double blind placebo study of a medication I get to inhale twice daily.  I cough constantly so who knows.

Tomorrow Seth and I will go for our first rotation.  A rotation is when a team leaves base camp and heads for one of the higher camps rotating back to base camp to regain strength and further acclimatization. In the next month we will try to have three rotations. We will once again leave at 4am to avoid the incredible heat once the sun rises and hits the ice fall.  We plan on staying at Camp 1 for three lovely nights.  Its far from life here at BC.

Just a tent, snow, ice and these huge mountains all around.  Besides sleeping and eating, a hike to Camp 2 and back it is not the liveliest spot.

Despite the weight, I plan on carrying my book and a deck of cards.  I’ve already asked Seth if he will help me take advantage of this time to learn to play a better hand of poker.  I think it is a requirement when on an all male team.

That’s it from here. Taking it a day at a time, one foot in front of the other, one cough at a time…

Wendy

Climb On!

Anticipation at Basecamp

RMI update from team lead, Dave Hahn!

April 18, 2010
17,575 ft.

Plenty of anticipation in the RMI Everest camp today. Casey and Chad took Scott and Rob up partway through the Icefall early this morning on their practice run. Michael, Leif, Wendy, Seth and myself took things easy with a rest day. Our Sherpa team had the day off as well. Everybody is getting set to move up the hill. Leif, Michael and I will get an early start into the Khumbu tomorrow and intend to be at Camp One for the next three nights. Tendi will head up to Camp Two (ABC) with the Sherpa team, while the rest of the team have plans for C1 in the next few days. Mark Tucker helped the team pack food and gear for this first “rotation” up the hill.

The day followed what seems to be a regular pattern now with clear and calm skies in the morning giving way to cloud and light snow in the afternoon. It pays to get showers and washing done early, which we did today. We are used to seeing a steady trickle of visitors and friends from neighboring expeditions and it is normal to try to coax the more gullible of these into some high stakes card game. We still run out of the tents to check on any great noise and today were rewarded with close-up views of a great avalanche off 25,000 ft Nuptse, just across the glacier.

Dave Hahn

Can You Say Ahhhhh

Yesterday was another acclimatization hike.  Seth and I left camp at about 9:30 am heading for Camp 1.  It was a nice hike since the terrain is different from down here in rock and ice.  Above Everest base camp along the Pumo Ri Ridge the landscape is a bit gentler with remnants of edelweiss and fall flowers amongst rocky outcroppings. Sounds so “Sound Of Music” doesn’t it?  Must be the edelweiss since that is the only similarity.  The terrain is steep and getting to that camp at about 19,000 feet was definately work.  I have to admit I am slowly acclimatizing and the hike felt good… well almost.

Not ten feet out base camp I slipped on some ice and went down onto my right knee.  After the initial feeling of passing out I limped into camp threw an ice pack on it, some antiseptic creme, a few bandaids and I think I’ll live.  Damn!  I always seem to take one step forward two steps back.

Tomorrow is dress rehearsal.  We will get up at 3 am, eat something at 3:30, and by 4 make our way into the icefalls.  Seth intends to see how things progress and if further acclimatization hikes are needed from there.  We will go about half way into the falls returning by late morning.  Not sure what I dread more – the ice falls or the 3 am wakeup call.  Either one… its going to hurt!

But today is rest, sunshine and a shower!  It has been over a week, and although it is a little odd to shower in a blue canvas tent with two Sherpa outside adjusting the water temperature and two more filling the water buckets asking you if everything is okay in there, the concept still delights me. Now I sit in my scrumptiously smelling tent with lotions and all that girlie-girl stuff I only break out on shower day.  I am clean, at least the layer closest to my body (as I work my way out the clothes do get dirtier and dirtier, but I won’t think about that).  For now all I can say is ahhhhh – and life certainly feels a little bit brighter way up here in the clouds.

Wendy

Climb On!

Readying for Camp 1

RMI dispatch from Mark Tucker…

April 17, 2010
17,575 ft.

Greetings from Basecamp,

Another beautiful day here. Some of the team hiked a few hours while others lounged around camp. Dave, myself and Tendi went to yet another meeting of the groups that will be involved with the rope placement above Camp Two.

In the past I have seen this essential element of the climb become a large hurdle in regards to not only the financial but physical impact on the teams, this year the job is set to be done with great cooperation from our diverse community. Happy is me!

Tomorrow will be final preparations for the first wave of climbers who will leave the next day for nights at Camp One. The real deal is just around the corner and this team is ready.

Thanks for visiting.
Cheers,

Mark Tucker


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About Wendy Booker

In June of 1998, this 55 year old mother of three was diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS after experiencing balance problems, blurred vision and numbness on her left side. When first diagnosed, Wendy was devastated. But it took very little time for her to transform anguish into inspiration. She immediately turned her hobby of casual running into a continuous pursuit and has now completed nine marathons.

Mountain climbing became the next conquest. Wendy learned about a team of mountain climbers with Multiple Sclerosis who were attempting to climb Mt. McKinley (Denali) in Alaska. With no previous climbing experience, she dedicated a year to hard training and set off with them in 2002. Although weather conditions prohibited the team from completing, Wendy attempted the summit again in 2004 on her own and she succeeded!

The feeling of accomplishment she experienced propelled her next aspiration: to climb the highest mountain on each continent. Just five years later, Wendy Booker has successfully reached the top of six of The Seven Summits – Mt. Kilimanjaro, Mt. McKinley, Mt. Elbrus, Mt. Aconcagua, Mt. Vinson Massif and Mt. Kosciuszko. Mt. Everest, the highest mountain on earth, still awaits for 2010.