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Peak Freaks Blog - Excerpt

photos/words: M. Scott Mortensen

The moon over Nepal was shedding its pink luster while the sunrise over Tibet was growing in amber. In between, Mt. Everest split the man-made boundaries like an upside down thunderbolt. It was officially the most beautiful dawn I had ever witnessed. A single tear froze inside my goggles. I was going to make it.



Standing in line at the Balcony, waiting my turn to change an oxygen bottle I was unaware that though my way up Everest would be a summit of splendor, the way down would be a complete circus of the bizarre. For starters, I couldn't understand why I was using up oxygen so fast. My flow rate was a measly 1.5 liters per hour. With the slow motion progress of the crowd ahead of me, I didn't need anymore than that. But something was wrong. I kept checking the gauge on my TOP OUT system. I was losing pressure too fast.

Hours later, about a 100 meters from the summit, I ran into Karma Sherpa. I told him I would have to turn back because though I had a few hours of O's left, the crowd was too thick for me to make it back to the Balcony in time to swap out bottles. Physically, I could make it to the summit, but I would be breaking one of my cardinal rules of mountaineering....SAVE EVERYTHING FOR THE WAY DOWN. It was disappointing that I would not reach the summit, but not as disappointing as dying on the mountain. While I was thinking the matter over Karma Sherpa offered to exchange bottles with me.

"No way." I replied without hesitation. The only thing worse than dying myself, would be causing someone else to...but after convincing me that his "brother" had extra for him I finally, gratefully accepted Karma's offer. My summit hopes were restored. Needless to say, I was extremely thankful.



After spending 45 minutes on top of the world, I headed down just ahead of our Peak Freaks guide Tim Rippel. I've read the books and was ready to roll. For me, summiting Mt. Everest was akin to running up to the penthouse of a burning building, grabbing your precious photos and then trying to make it out alive. Yet, everyone was moving so slow! An uneasy feeling was growing in my stomach....



HOWEVER,

I am currently in Dingboche, writing as fast as I can...the internet here is too costly!!!! Therefore, I will blog you all tomorrow in Namche--with rescue photos! There is so much to say about this year on Everest. There will be a whole new batch of controversy, blame, and negativity. Before it all hits, I would like to say that there are also shining stars in the darkness. The rescue efforts of Tim Rippel, Willie Benegas (MOUNTAIN MADNESS) , all the Super Sherpas, and Peak Freak members who played a hand in the amazing rescue of Sultan and Faruq had me in awe. I was proud to be a part of it.

A QUICK EXCERPT...

On our way down from the summit, Tim and I came across a disoriented man from the Korean team. He was out of oxygen and still trying to push for the summit.

"Tim, this guy is a dead man." I said after inspecting his pressure gage. Goose eggs.
"So am I if I don't get out of here soon." Tim replied. I checked the medicine in his bottle. He was at lower liters than me, but still took the time wrangle two Sherpas to help the man out by providing more oxygen. Meanwhile, I tried to convince the Korean that the summit was in the opposite direction---DOWN--to no avail. He staggered and stretched for a summit that was still an hour away. A radio call interrupted my ineffective ruse.
"Tim, this is Sultan. I am at the South Summit. I am very dehydrated. I need help."
"Okay, borrow some water from someone we're on our way down." Tim assured him.

Later we passed Faruq who was still heading towards the summit with his personal Sherpa, Mingmar. I thought someone would turn him around. It was way too late to push forward....or maybe not???? Though I didn't trust it, the weather was absolutely perfect.
"Tim, I want to get the hell off this mountain." I said after another lengthy delay waiting for a man ahead of us to take ten minutes to swing his leg over a rock. My sense of unease was now an absolute feeling of impending doom.
"Me too." Tim said. "Me too."

The harrowing events that followed may change my life forever.

Will write more soon...much love to you all. Thank God we are all safe.

After a short rest, Tim and I came across Sultan’s lifeless body just below the South Summit. It was probably sometime around 2:00pm, but I’m not sure. I never wear a watch. Larry was right behind us. He says, “I noticed the crowd of Sherpas, and the crowd of climbers trying to get by. When I realized it was one of our team members, a chill went down my spine.” Tim and I went into patient assessment mode.

“Sultan, wake up!” Sultan was barely responsive to verbal stimulus…and then he stopped breathing. It may have been 10 seconds, it may have been a minute—Tim and I have different estimates but the bag in his Top Out oxygen system remained inflated…not a good sign. I was about to deliver two rescue breaths and begin CPR when Tim tried the old school precordial thump—a hard fist to the chest which is a desperate attempt to provide enough stimulus to get the heart beating again, that’s assuming that Sultan’s heart had even stopped in the first place. Whatever the physiological reaction was, Sultan inhaled again and though he denies ever losing consciousness it was clear to me that we were still in serious trouble. Successfully rescuing a patient from this high in the Death Zone was a rarity in the annals of mountaineering—especially, when the would-be rescuers were exhausted from a grueling two days of climbing.

I looked at my oxygen. It was too low. Something was wrong with my regulator. There was just no way I could be losing O’s so fast. And now with the prospect of a full blown rescue, I wondered if I’d have enough to make it down to the Balcony.

“Larry, go down and cut that rope.” Tim was now issuing directives with one thought in mind…save Sultan’s life. Though I had certifications in Rope Rescue Systems I and II as well as Mountain Rescue I couldn’t believe how fast Tim was tying his figure eights, adjusting his prussiks, and setting anchors for Sultan’s descent…and all this without oxygen. Tim’s bottle was empty. I descended about 10 meters to help Larry with the receiving end of the hand off.

This was the exact reason why I wanted to get the hell off the mountain in the first place: things go wrong with rapid ease above 8000 meters. I looked around me. The day was deceptively beautiful. The Tibetans call Mt. Everest, Mt. Chomolungma, Mother Godess of the Earth. That may be a fitting description of her spirit, but to me her physical appearance resembled that of a shark’s tooth, complete with all the power and intrigue of a Great White. And when she decides to attack it doesn’t matter if you’re the best climber on the mountain or a complete novice. Her victims are indiscriminate.

“Tim, what do you want me to do?” I asked our guide.

“We’re going to need more help.” He replied. Five of our Sherpas—most of whom had just returned from the summit, were assisting in the rescue. George stood above the chaos and I wondered what was going through his mind. It was nearly three o’clock (?) and there still was not a breath of wind. We were lucky. Tim was even working without gloves on, an uncommon luxury this high on the mountain. I was growing increasingly antsy. With the lack of oxygen in my pack, I made the only decision I could.

“I’m going down to get more help.”

“Good.” Tim supported my call. “Go.”

As I headed out, I heard footsteps behind me. It was Larry. Though he was one of my best friends on the team I wasn’t slowing down. I know what hypoxia feels like and at this altitude it could be deadly—with Sultan’s sudden demise I was now even more acutely aware of that fact. Sultan would later claim that he was simply severely dehydrated but my assessment was way more serious: high altitude cerebral edema aka HACE. Altered consciousness: check. Combative: check. Loss of coordination: check, check, check. Before descending for hopeful safety, I had Tim give Sultan water and Diamox (he was conscious at the time.) If I had dexamethasone, I would have given him that too. Sultan spit out the first dose but managed to swallow the second. Though he was still non-ambulatory, I was glad Sultan was moving his arms at least. Before Larry and I hustled down to the Balcony, I turned and yelled one last thing to Tim.

“Tim, get the rest of your climbers off the mountain!” I’m not sure he heard me. I was suddenly worried that Faruq and George did not realize the gravity of the situation. I remembered the unspoken adage from my firefighting days….when there’s a death-dance going down, it’s best not to bring any more victims to the party. Yes, I was worried about Sultan but honestly, I didn’t think he was going to make it. Tim, who had never lost a client in his 28 years of guiding, was the next priority on my list. He had been low on oxygen since the summit—worse off than me. I tried not to think of Rob Hall, the great mountain guide from New Zealand. When I was living in the Kiwi country in 1996, the whole nation mourned his loss. If there was any way I could help it, I would do my best not to let such an episode happen again.

“Scott, you’re going to have to go on without me.” I stopped and turned to Larry. We had been tromping towards the Balcony for scarcely 20 minutes.

“What’s wrong?”

“I don’t have any oxygen.” Larry replied matter-of-factly. He wasn’t wearing a mask but the familiarity of his face hid the obvious.

“Where’s your O’s?”

“I gave my bottle to Sultan.”

“Why?”

“Tim told me to.” Crap. Now we had another problem. The Balcony was about six hundred meters away. I could see our flaming orange bottles of remedy waiting patiently in the cache below. It was all downhill. But without oxygen, Larry was getting hypoxic. Bad things happen when you get hypoxic this high. I tried to remain calm. I saw two of our younger Sherpas 100 meters below—Geltzen and Kajee. I hustled down to summon their help. Larry’s pace slowed to that of a zombie.

“We need oxygen.” I explained to Geltzen. It didn’t take me long to descend. In fact, I would have been faster but I got caught up in some old fixed rope. My crampons seem to have a vacuum device built in for pieces of nylon just below the surface layer of snow. I couldn’t untangle the mess from the metal teeth of my Sabertooths. It took me two hasty, headfirst dives and the torque of gravity to break loose.

“Slowly, slowly.” Was all Geltzen said as he squeezed out a Power-Bar Gel.

“I don’t have time for slowly, slowly. Tim and Larry need oxygen.” I replied. Geltzen was acting funny so I scrambled down to Kajee. Either he spoke less English than Geltzen, or he was in worse condition. I decided to get down to the Balcony and stop wasting time on broken communication.

Relieved that they were not all empty, I changed out my oxygen bottle. The pressure on my new can was 21 liters. I cranked the regulator all the way up hoping the intake of fresh oxygen would help me think. With the cylinder out of my pack I could finally hear it—a small leak coming from the where the rubber regulator hose attached to the metal connection at the end of my mask. Here was the reason why I had been burning through my oxygen so fast; a nearly unnoticeable but consistent pressure loss. Immediately, I spit on the joint, toggled the rubber piece forward, and as the natural cooling of gaseous flow worked its thermal magic, the leak froze and sealed. (Information that would have been useful yesterday.)

Above me about 400 meters a body sat in the snow. It was Larry. And worse yet, there was someone with him. Was George out of O’s as well? My assignment was to head down to Camp IV and get help for Sultan, but how could I leave the pair sitting that far above the relative safety of the Balcony? Geltzen and Kajee finally caught up to me.

“You guys need to get some oxygen up there!” I demanded.

“No, I’m afraid it is not possible.” Geltzen responded. Their assignment was to bring the empties down from the Balcony and they were sticking to it. Yet, they we’re acting completely out of character. I finally put it together. They had come all the way down from the summit without oxygen.

“You guys need oxygen.” They agreed and masked up.

What followed was the toughest decision I’ve had to make in years. Without the assistance of these two Sherpas, should I run oxygen bottles back up to Larry and Tim? Physically, I could make it but I would be breaking one of my cardinal rules of mountaineering: SAVE EVERYTHING FOR THE WAY DOWN. Worse yet, I would further jeopardize Sultan’s chance of survival. He needed help and needed it fast. If this was a triage situation, he was the most critical. Tim was functioning rather proficiently considering the circumstances. Larry was a walking wounded but at least he was walking. It must have been 15 minutes that I sat there assessing the situation. Geltzen finally called out,

“Come. We go down.” He stood on a snowy precipice waiting for me to join him. The oxygen was helping us both think more clearly now. Finally, I made my decision. There was a whole oxygen cache in plain sight for Larry. It would be motivation enough to keep him moving downhill. My nickname for him was Gold Team Leader. He would make it. And if he couldn’t, he had a whole crew of strong Sherpas thirty minutes behind him to get him to the Balcony. There was safety ahead of him and safety behind him. My head said “go” but my heart was torn. If I chose wrong, I’d never forgive myself. In the end it was the right decision. Larry had not only given his oxygen bottle to Sultan, but also his mask. If I had ran oxygen back up to him it would have been a useless waste of energy. You can’t use a bottle of O’s without your regulator and mask. Of course with Tim, I had no idea how he was doing but I didn’t underestimate his strength as a guide…not even in the Death Zone.

“Keep going!” I yelled at Geltzen about half way down from the Balcony to Camp IV. He was bent over at an anchor, inspecting one our bottles tied to the rope…probably just doing his pre-assigned job. “We’ve got to keep going.” Nonetheless, Geltzen took the time to pack the empty cylinder. Fifteen minutes later it dislodged from his pack and nearly took out a climber starting early for his summit bid. I couldn’t help but laugh as it careened a mile down the snowy steep to the right of South Col. “I told you to leave it.”

Without any other problems, we made it to Camp IV. I was pretty tired at this point and probably should have kept my oxygen on but it’s pretty hard to yell for help with a mask covering your face. I believe it was the Indian Army and a team of Sherpas bustling about the camp, preparing for their summit push. I figured I would have no problems convincing someone to take up a tent, food, water, and a sleeping bag to Sultan and the rescue team.

I was wrong. I quickly learned that people do not want to jeopardize their summit chances at the last moment with the burden of a rescue attempt. I couldn’t believe it. Everywhere I walked, everywhere I turned, it seemed that I was suddenly a leper asking for a free handout. The analogy wasn’t far off.

“I need help.” I finally yelled at the center of the tents. “Someone has got to be able to bring a tent up to the Balcony.” Still, it was too much to ask so I upped the ante. “I will give someone a thousand dollars to bring a sleeping bag to the Balcony.” Unbelievably, there we’re still no takers. I marched back to my tent and sucked down oxygen for ten minutes. What else could I do? Immediately I thought of Nils Antezana. Nils was a 69 year-old American doctor who had summitted back in 2004. Unfortunately he ran into problems and his guide, Gustavo Lisi left him up there to die. Once safely back at Camp IV, Lisi collapsed in his tent, radioed that he had successfully made it to the top of the world and then went to sleep, neglecting to mention that his client was slowly dying somewhere on the mountain above him.

I ripped off my mask and stormed towards the campus of tents—this time with unbridled determination in my mission to garner assistance. Striding from tent to tent I boldly asked to use a radio and double checked with all the occupants about the rescue mission. After a hodgepodge of international excuses, I came across Ryan Waters from Colorado. He knew the frequency that Jamie McGinnis used, and as Jamie and Tim were in constant communication, we radioed to inquire exactly what they thought they needed up there. Afterwards, Ryan directed me to go see Willie Benegas. I had heard Willie’s name all throughout base camp and his reputation as an honorable guide preceded him. In 2003 with his twin brother, Willie had blazed a new route up the face of Nuptse. He was not only a great climber but had a philosophy of helping others whenever he could. He was the man I was looking for.

“Willie!” I yelled when I got close to the vicinity of his tent.

“Yeah.” A tired voice with a Patagonian accent responded. A vestibule opened with a zip.

“I need help.” It was all I had to say.

Willie and his client Francisco started pouring me tea and cider non-stop as I relayed the information. The hot beverages were warmth to my soul and my vigor soon returned.

“I need to get a tent and some food up to the Balcony.”

“What you need is a sleeping bag.” Willie corrected me. Earlier in the trip, I had asked Tim about the use of a sked for Mountain Rescue. A sked is a tool used primarily for confined space emergencies. It’s made of durable plastic, is lightweight, and rolls up into the size of a Therma-rest. I was telling Tim how surprised I was that no one had thought to stash one up on Everest. With its grommets and lashing you could easily secure a patient and effect a speedy rescue down a steep snow slope or rocky scree. Tim agreed but that was the extent of our conversation and the thought of using one now was futile. None were handy.

“Okay, a sleeping bag.” I replied to Willie. “I just offered a thousand dollars to anyone who would take one up.” I guess my face was more haggard than my body because the next thing Willie told me was to go to my tent and lay down for an hour. He would work on it. I could see why he was such a successful guide. He spoke with a calm authority that didn’t leave room for much questioning. But the fact of the matter was that we had just both summitted ourselves and were too exhausted to do much. He had spent much of the morning fixing ropes up the Hillary Step and I had expended more energy than I thought playing my small part in the rescue.

“Thanks for the tea and cider.” I said as I left. The liquids were the kindest gesture I had received in the last two months. Nonetheless, I was dejected. Despite our efforts, I was sure that Sultan was going to die.

It was dark now. I was busy gathering oxygen and water for the return of my tent mates Larry and George. I was also growing excessively worried about Faruq. Where was he? Did his late summit put his life in jeopardy as well?

“Hello?” A voice outside my tent beckoned. It was Nang Chumbi Sherpa. “You need sleeping bag to the Balcony? I will take.” Willie was successful in doing what I could not. Here was a willing Sherpa ready to play his part in the rescue despite risking his summit success.

“Okay, great.” I replied a little bit stunned.

“Where is sleeping bag?”

“Uh hold on.” I got out of the tent and rummaged in Sultan and Faruq’s tent. Sultan’s sleeping bag wasn’t enough. I saw that Faruq had a North Face Inferno—rated to minus forty. The night was still perfect. Sultan might have a shot inside a warming specimen of this caliber.

Back at my tent, Nang Chumbi Sherpa and I had a last minute haggle over the price.

“Honestly, what do you think is fair?” I half-begged. “The Balcony isn’t that far really.” I couldn’t believe I was doing it, but a thousand bucks was a lot of money for me to be shelling out. Chumbi was classic in response.

“A thousand dollars is fair.” True. He was risking his summit attempt after all—for a human life yes, but a human life that signed up for Everest fully aware of the risks.

“Fine. But you have to take a stove for melting water and some food also.” I dumped the items into the stuff sack. A propane stove, a pot, and half of George’s food because it looked better than my MRE—tuna, nuts, energy bars and the like. Chumbi smiled and was off. I couldn’t believe that Willie pulled it off so quickly. We had a chance now.

An hour or so later Larry made it back to our tent. Relieved, I handed him some cold water (the way he prefers it) and he filled me in on the story. The person next to him above the Balcony was George. And fortunately, George shared his full bottle of oxygen all the way down to the oxygen depot. It was nothing short of heroic. 25 sips at every anchor. George was to be commended. (Little did we know that right about that time, George had taken a spill coming down the last stretch to the South Col. He got tangled up in old fixed ropes and no one would stop to help him out. He would come into camp a couple hours later, severely hypoxic and yelling at me for reasons I still don’t understand:

“Scott, bring my sleeping bag to my tent!”

“George, I’m in your tent. You’re sleeping bag is right next to me.” For some reason he collapsed in Sultan’s tent. It was absolute chaos. From what I understand he lost his SAT phone and tore up his down suit in the fall. I am still waiting for details from Jamie McGinnis on what exactly happened to George that night.)

I did not sleep for hours. It seemed there was issue upon issue to deal with. But on the rocky scree above us, Tim, Faruq, and a team of Sherpas were dealing with problems much larger than ours. Sultan was still exhibiting the classic signs of HACE and now he was getting more violent. Though the sleeping bag and extras made it to the rescue team around 12:30am the terrain had grown more difficult. By 3:30am they had made it about 30 meters to the end of the difficult rocky slope.

“If I could have just got him to the snow, we could have slid him to safety.” Tim would tell me the next morning. But Sultan had other plans. Near the frozen body of Scott Fisher, Tim yelled,

“Look Sultan, do you want to end up like that?”

In a fit of violence Sultan threw a rock at Tim which clipped him in the forehead. If it wasn’t for the quick action of a nearby Sherpa, Tim would have fallen backwards off a lethal ledge. All Sultan wanted to do was sleep, and the physicality of the rescue was infuriating him in his delusional state. Utterly exhausted, Tim finally conceded, wrapping Sultan tight in the sleeping bag, hoping he could survive the night.

I think I slept an hour or an hour and half after Tim and Faruq made it back to camp. Shortly after dawn, Willie’s voice was the first I heard outside my tent.

“Let’s go, we’ve got to get you guys out of here.”

“Willie, what’s the status?” I yelled through my vestibule. Willie calmly walked over.

“Sultan is dead.” I wasn’t surprised or shocked. It was what I expected.

“I can’t see.” A muffled voice came from Faruq’s tent. Faruq, who usually wears contact lenses, had exchanged them for glasses on the day of his summit. Unfortunately for him, his goggles kept fogging up and as a result, he went most of the day without either. Avoiding snow blindness is Mountaineering 101 and probably Desert Survival 101 but to Faruq’s credit, he isn’t the first person it’s happened to on Everest. It’s just that this new information sent Willie Benegas into rescue mode part two. Now he and Tim had a blind climber they had to get down from Camp IV—a place where high altitude emergencies were still quite common. As those who could help dealt with Faruq, surprising word came across the radio. Sultan was still alive. He did the impossible and survived the night.

The initial team of Sherpas that I had beckoned for help had successfully summitted. At approximately 5:30am, on their way down they found Sultan, warm and still breathing. They were bringing him down.

“Scott, I need you to spend the night here with me.” Tim pleaded. “I can’t take care of Sultan myself.” Tim was so exhausted. In fact, I was surprised he was still standing. What I had witnessed was amazing. Performing a rescue in the Death Zone without oxygen after summitting Mt. Everest was close to miraculous. But now he was asking me to stay another night in a place I wanted no part of. I was quickly learning that I was much more comfortable in the raging surf of the South Pacific rather than here in the sparse air of the Himalayas. At least the avalanches in the big wave world only hold you down for a couple of minutes. Tim must have seen the concern in my eyes. I wanted off the mountain.

“Okay.” Was all I could say as I prayed for an alternative.

Then it came. Around 11am, Sultan came walking---yes walking—into camp. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Furthermore, he was coherent.

“You’re back from the dead.” I said to him as Tim and I rushed over.

“I know.” Was his only reply.

The rest of the story is filled with intricacies and chaos that is still unfolding. There are details coming in that I can scarcely believe…and not just with Sultan. Faruq’s rescue by Willie Benegas and his incredible team of Sherpas was one of the most professional and efficient operations I’ve witnessed—despite the personality clash between the two. Faruq’s unbreakable spirit and positive attitude was apparent as he planned his summit celebration even during his blind descent. This had to agitate Willie who was risking the lives of his team to help our Peak Freaks member. A witness said that Willie was ready to throw Faruq into a crevasse because he wouldn’t stop talking. As positive as I try to keep my reports, it’s not all rosy.

“In my opinion, Faruq did not summit.” Willie told me as I ran into him two days later. “He was just another package at the South Col.” His concern is valid and here is where I’m sure a ton of controversy will begin to emerge. Unfortunately, the slew of issues and climbing concerns are subjects that I currently do not have the time or resources to address. Trust me, I have my opinions, thoughts, and maybe a few suggestions. However, I would like to end this blog on a positive note.

Because of the need for rescue, Peak Freaks was criticized by some as not acting as a team. There were some rumours flying around that simply are not true. (I.e. that previously on an acclimatization run to Camp II, Sultan had fallen into a crevasse and was left there for hours…didn’t happen.)

I would like to say three things in closing—my eyeballs are doing the same:

1. Tim Rippel and Willie Benegas are two of the most proficient guides I have ever had the privilege of getting to know. I hope Willie knows how much our team appreciates his efforts…or at least how much I appreciate his efforts. The strength and stamina he showed during the rescue, and the kindness he showed to me when I was searching for help will not be forgotten.
2. As mentioned, there is so much more to write. There are details that happened after summit day that I still cannot believe. Yes, I summitted Mt. Everest. It was an honor and a pleasure to interact with such an extreme and exhilarating slice of nature. But that accomplishment comes secondary to the rescue where I was able to assist in saving a human life. I think that there are many people getting too much hype for “climbing” Mt. Everest when in fact they are “trekking” Mt. Everest. When you don’t know how to tie a figure eight, you can’t carry your own pack, and you have to rely too heavily on the strength of Sherpas and guides to get you to the top, you may be asking for trouble. This is a point of criticism that everyone who climbs the mountain must continue to face.
3. The team effort that Peak Freaks showed on summit day was phenomenal. Ranging the gamut from George sharing his oxygen to Faruq sharing his sleeping bag, the teamwork was not only apparent but effective. I was upset that my friend, Larry Williams gave up his oxygen in the death zone but in the end he probably saved Sultan’s life. I’m proud of the way our members acted and am in admiration for the way that every call that Tim made turned out for the best. Now if we could only get Becky to come to base camp to help manage the overwhelming logistics without her getting sick, the peanut butter would be back with the jelly. Seriously, guides need to be free to guide. My wish for Tim for next year is that he can be relieved from the overwhelming managerial duties with a solid base camp liason. Becky was sorely missed during these last two months.

In post script, Dominic Gilbert did what few others of us managed. He summitted Everest without a hitch. He was the epitome of a strong Everest climber. Starting in the back of the pack on May 20th, he passed the slow masses and was among the first ten to reach the top of the world. I know he wanted to help out in the rescue (he loaned me $300 to pay the Sherpa for the sleeping bag!) but the role he played was a tangible example of what happens when everything goes right…he was back in Camp II before he even got word of the events of the previous night.

Finally, I would like to give a shout out to one of our trekkers who met us at base camp weeks prior to this event. His name is Bud and his inspiration helped me fight the stomach flu and make it to Camp II on a day that Dominic and I were seriously hurting from illness (May 11th.) Bud is 71, in between chemo treatments, and despite a nasty fall, still managed to lead his team of trekkers to our base camp. Hope you’re well Bud…thanks for the inspiration.

If this last bit seems scattered, it’s because I am too. It’s late. I’ve trekked 26 miles to Namche and have to go to Lukla tomorrow. I miss my family, I long for my friends. Hopefully soon I will be able to celebrate what feels like a grand accomplishment. I stood on top of the world. Now I want back in it.

Much love to you all.

MSM

April 20th, 2008 - May 29th, 2008: 72 days and about 20 pounds later, the motto remains the same.

 

Some more photos from the trek back to Lukla.