Posts Tagged 'Wendy Booker'

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! 

  

  

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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!

Gallery of Photos from RMI

Enjoy this sampling of photos from RMI, Wendy’s guide company:

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Life as I Know it

Wendy’s latest post from Everest Base Camp!

April 16th

We’ve settled into a routine here at base camp.  I hesitate to use the word ‘comfortable’ although in many ways it really is.  You begin to sort of accept things, and as the daily routine becomes the norm you learn, and from there you grow more familiar and comfortable.  In that routine the body slowly accepts life with less oxygen and every day you feel a little stronger than the day before.

Breakfast is always at 8 am sharp in the dining tent.  I awaken early when the first light hits my tent around 5:45 but it is still bitter cold and there are ice particles on my sleeping bag and inside my tent created by the warm air I exhale during the night.  To minimize this, the tent flap is kept open during the night.  We estimate the temperature to be somewhere around 16 degrees F.  From 5:45 until 7:41 I stay deep in the down bag (think hibernating chipmunk here).

At exactly 7:41 the sun hits the back of my tent.  Almost as if an electrical switch has been flipped, the temperature warms up to a tolerable 30.  The clothing items I washed the day before are hanging in the tent frozen stiff.  They will be dry enough to wear within hours of sun rise.  I have less than 15 minutes to pull myself together.  I am far more groggy than at sea level so getting going takes a lot longer.  I sit upright in my sleeping bag for several minutes gathering my thoughts.

My clothes are cold and slightly frozen so I stick them in the sleeping bag to thaw for a few minutes.  Once dressed I rush to the small ‘restroom” tent about twenty feet from my tent.  This is difficult terrain on morning legs, rocks, ice, snow – no different than the interior of the restroom tent.  I imagine the beautiful new bathroom I just redid back home… nope got to banish that thought quickly.  Breakfast starts with rice pudding, it is all I can do to get a few spoonfuls down.  We then have some sort of egg and toast or pancakes.  I am not eating well and find it difficult to swallow most of the food, liquids seems to be the only thing I can tolerate. I’m making an effort but I know my calorie count is way down. It is recommended we eat (you lowlanders will just love this!) 8000 calories per day and drink at least 4 liters of liquids. I do make it a point to eat a candy bar every afternoon with a Pringles chaser.  Great diet!

After breakfast we assemble and head out for a training hike.  Since base camp is at the end of the long trek from Lukla we can not go any further, steep, high slabs of rock and ice prevent further passage.  Not to mention, China is on the other side and they are not too keen on our entry. So we head back down the valley a short way and then up toward some surrounding peaks.

As usual getting the heart and lungs working efficiently is both frightening and important.  Several times during these morning workouts I feel as if I am suffocating and my limbs grow weak as the oxygen rushes to my heart and lungs leaving the limbs deplete for several seconds.  That will humble a person.  I know I look horrendous at this moment and grimace in fear and discomfort.  As always my nose is running (the Fish Chicks know this well) I am snorting like an overworked yak and I am miserable.  This misery I am assured is part of being an alpinist.   Yesterday I was told it was like hitting yourself over the head with a hammer.  It only feels good when you stop.  Remind me again why I choose to do this?

After lunch we are instructed to lay low, rest is crucial, too much rest
devastatingly difficult to shake out of.  I try to stay out of my tent which by now is delightfully warm and cozy but cooks the energy right out of you. Its like a sauna and despite being very cold outside I can take off all my layers of clothing inside.  That is until the sun goes behind a thick afternoon cloud or sets for the day around 5 pm.  then get ready!   Every layer I have comes back on including an enormous down parka, gloves, hat, hood, the full deal.  In a matter of seconds every speck of liquid has turned solid – including me.

We assemble for a team meeting at 6pm.  here Dave outlines the following day’s itinerary and the team discusses needs, health and concerns.  Dinner is promptly served at 6:30, the meals are amazing.  Dinner always begins with soup followed by some of the most creative cuisine I have ever seen. Our camp chef carves flourishes out of fruits and vegetables and adorns water buffalo in ways I have never seen. We have had pizza, chicken cordon bleu (at least I think that’s what it was, please don’t tell me differently), curry and burritos (okay, that night our American base camp director cooked).  Dessert has been anything from canned fruit to a homemade apple pie.

Now all this doesn’t sound too extraordinary except the actual kitchen is a primitive stone structure with a blue tarp roof lashed down with rope.  The stove is propane, there is no electricity or running water yet our Sherpa staff are able to see to our every need.

Depending on the following days activities, after dinner either everyone escapes to their tents for the night or Mark Tucker, our base camp facilitator as he likes to be referred, calls to action a game of poker. Mark wears about a hundred hats each with a huge smile and wonderful sense of humor.  He has corny jokes and the attitude of a Vegas casino operator, but behind the scenes he is what makes base camp run in all aspects from seeing there is peanut butter on the table to the vital communications and technology required on the mountain.  Mark is the ‘go to’ guy and he will see it gets done quickly, efficiently and always with a sense of humor.

Man, am I lucky he is on my team.  But at night it’s “Tuck” who gets things riled up.  The poker games began innocently enough down valley but now at EBC they are serious – the stakes are high!  Once we stopped playing with beans and the poker chips were located the stakes grew from  20 rupees (about 25 cents) to 100 rupees ($1.30) all the way to 500 ($8.00) and we have only been here 10 days.  I am whipped out of poker chips quickly and happily go off to my tent with two water bottles filled with hot water.  These go into my sleeping bag for the night.  One at my frozen feet, the other on my stomach.  They will stay warm until morning and then I quickly locate them and extract them from my bag.  By about 8:30, or if it is a late night of cards 10 pm, I am in my sleeping bag.  I can still hear the card game going strong and Tuck yelling “come on… Daddy needs a new pair of crampons!”

I am still taking life a day at a time.  Everyday I feel a little more settled and resolute hopeful that the following day I will be a little stronger, a little faster and a little more equipped to take on the bigger task ahead in a few weeks.

Everest Base Camp

Wendy

Climb On!

Getting Ready to Ascend the Khumbu Icefall

RMI update from Casey Grom…

April 15, 2010
17,575 ft.

Greetings everyone,

The team has adjusted to our new home and daily routines. Everyone seems to be feeling well and we are all excited about heading higher. There has been plenty of training on the lower glacier and several acclimatization hikes that leave us feeling we are ready for the next step. Our new goal will be to ascend the famous Khumbu Icefall. We have already had a few small forays into the lower glacier and everyone did great. The Icefall starts just a few feet from camp and ascends a little over 2,000 ft to Camp One. Our goal will be to ascend the icefall as quickly, safely, and comfortably as we can. It won’t be a race, but more like a slow, steady climb to camp. We are hoping it takes no longer than 6 to 7 hours for our first trip. If all goes well we will spend a few days at Camp One and might even venture up the Western Cwm to Camp Two. George Mallory himself named the Western Cwm (Cwm being a Welsh word meaning valley).

The weather has been interesting these last few days and it’s beginning to snow as I type. Hopefully a few days of rest, some good weather and we’ll be on our way.

Hope everyone is doing great back home and we miss you all (well, most of you anyway!).

Casey and crew


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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.