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Saturday, April 26, 2014

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Latitude:27.93393
Longitude:86.79195
GPS location Date/Time:04/26/2014 18:13:17 PDT

Message:Successful Summit! Expect a full update soon.

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Thursday, April 24, 2014

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Latitude:27.93413
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GPS location Date/Time:04/24/2014 03:00:49 PDT

Message:Doing well. Expect an update soon.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Update from Gorak Shep - a quick change of plans

Greetings.  For once, this is Patrick reporting from a few hours down from EBC.  Thanks to my dear wife Kathy for keeping up the blog.  I was in EBC for the past few days and going through some tumultuous times.  Sorry for the silence but the internet connectivity with my Nexus table and phone are pretty awful.  I really want to post pictures but that might have to wait until I return to civilization.  Here are a few updates we confirmed from multiple sources on the mountain and our team:

1.  An unknown number of Sherpa are calling for the end of the climbing season on Everest.
2.  Few if any large expedition leaders are calling it quits.
3.  Dan and many of us remain very positive about the expedition
4.  We need to acclimatize to at least Everest camp 1 (6,100 m) so we left EBC this morning to climb Lobuche.
5.  Rumors are flying about the climbing season.  Please be patient and do not take any single source seriously.

Thanks to Alan Arnette for keeping everyone filled in on the Everest climbing season.  I am sure you have all come to realize that Alan is quite knowledgeable and does not jump to conclusions.  The funny thing about Everest is that the people on the hill know very little so as you move away, you can expect to know even less.  Stay positive and keep supporting the Sherpa and the climbers.  We are one. 

Here is a picture of me (Patrick) and my new pal Sam (Chappette).  Please follow Sam & Alex's blog if you have not already done so. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Photos from Everest

This is Kat again, trying to post some more photos from Dan Mazur's Summit Climb group. They were taken by everyone on the team, so I'll try to give credit to the photographer where I can.

This is Alex and Sam, both from the UK, sitting in front of the Ice Fall. Sam took the photo. They're part of the Summit Climb group and planning to summit Everest with Pat.



This is Everest Base Camp, where everyone's been waiting to hear if the Ice Fall will be re-opened and climbing will resume. Sam took this photo. I think the big tent with the orange top is the Base Camp bar. Really. See the next photo...


This is the Base Camp bar, hosted by Seven Summits. I'm not kidding here...  (Seriously, who's boozing  it up on Everest?!!!)


Here's Pat's tent, with Olivia's flag flying high. She's keeping him safe :)


Here's Team Canada! Wait...now I know who's hitting the Base Camp booze (ha ha, just kidding).
Photo by Sam. So is the bar pic.

This is Gary, one of climbers on Summit Climb team, playing with a Sherpa girl -- little doll! :)


Photo from the wake, taken by Mike Fairman. Sherpa, climbers, media and government officials were there.


Moving forward

Hi all,

Kat posting for Pat here...

Summit Climb, the group that Pat is climbing with and lead by Dan Mazur, is making plans to continue climbing. Today they attended the wake for the fallen Sherpa, held at Everest Base Camp for everyone to attend. Here's a photo of the meeting.



The team will be leaving for Lobouche to continue acclimating to the altitude, but they have to wait for more porters to help move the tents, food, etc. that might take a few days. It sounds like they will be attempting the Khumbu Ice Fall next week, after their Sherpa have the Puja ceremony to bless the climb. Here's a photo Pat took, annotated by his friend Sam to show where the avalanche hit:



In all of this, Pat says that their leader Dan has been the picture of calm and cool headedness, which is sorely needed during trying times. Apparently rumors are flying around Base Camp about who is staying and who is going, and throughout it all, Dan calmly says "Let's wait and see what happens." For now, it looks like the climb is on, and only one of the big teams has pulled out. That team lost 5 of their beloved Sherpa, one of whom was a cook with that team for over 15 years. The Sherpa are like family to these teams and the loss is great.

I'll see if I can get a few more photos up, but for now, here's one of my favorites: it's Alex, Neal and Pat cheering on a yak and some Sherpas to thank them for their help. Pat said they were yelling "You're in third place! Go Go Go!!!"





Friday, April 18, 2014

Quick update from Gorak Shep

We just hiked up from Lobouche to Gorak Shep en route to EBC.  Just heard some bad news posted by Alan Arnette.   Please check out his website for more frequent updates.  We are all fine - well away from the problems on the hill.  I feel great.   The acclimatization I did at home really paid off.  Will post a more elaborate update after I get to EBC.  I can't wait!

Oh, still in flip-flops and shorts.  Every person from various countries seems to claim me as a fellow countryman.  I just tell them that I am a man of the world with warm feet. 

Hope all is well with you all.

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Latitude:28.00285
Longitude:86.85339
GPS location Date/Time:04/18/2014 01:46:48 PDT

Message:Doing well. Expect an update soon.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Update from Pheriche

Greetings from Pheriche.  By this point, you should have seen my two spot posts that showed my locations in Pangboche and now Pheriche.  The towns are pronounced pangbowchay and ferichay - both en route to Everest base camp.   I'm doing really well these days.  No problems with altitude or illness so far and I hope it stays that way.  I fear the illness more than the altitude now.  Each day moves along in the same way.  I get up to the morning black tea served by our kitchen staff.  We get out of our sleeping bags and head to some central place for breakfast.  The meals are filling and nutritious.  I like the food and find it good enough to keep me interested in eating.   Next, we all head out for our eventual destination.  From Namche, we headed to Pangboche - about a 15k trek that took roughly 4.5-5 hours.  It was a beautiful hike.  We did not gain much altitude but we had to climb and descend several steep hills.  I took roughly 200 pictures during the day so I hope to upload them today once my tablet gets a full charge.  Once we got to Pangboche, we all peeled off our gear and settled into the common room for tea.  I think there were roughly 3 hours that separated the first from the last expedition members.  Some took their time and ate at the bakeries en route while others pressed on without much stopping time.  I took a rather casual approach stopping for pictures and water breaks.  The sights were too amazing to pass up. 

Pangboche consisted of about 20 buildings - perhaps more.  Each had the same rectangular stone arrangement and tin roof.  There were bakeries, internet cafes and lodges located in the "city" limits.  Several of us walked over to the bakery where we sat for multiple pots of black tea.  A pot has about 1 liters so we were sufficiently hydrated after the tea break.  After our tea, we headed back to the common room in our lodge and ate a huge meal of vegetarian dumplings and french fries.  What a great meal!  I ate several rounds and felt great afterwards.  The accommodations were outstanding as well.  Each of us had a bed in a structure without nylon walls.  Yep, we slept inside.  In Namche, we slept in tents for two days or rather three nights.  I love tent sleeping but if a room is available, I don't mind a bed from time to time.  Pangboche gave us luxury.  We even had pads on the beds.  Life couldn't get any better.  A great meal and a great night sleep meant that I was one happy camper. 

We woke up to the same tea routine and breakfast that consisted of the usual cereal and egg sandwiches.  Just after breakfast, we headed up the hill to a small temple where we got our expedition blessed by the local Lama.  The ceremony is called a Puja.  It was quite an affair.  We all sat around while an old guy dressed in maroon and gold North Face branded clothing spoke in the local Nepali dialect.  He gave us his blessing after we paid him some honorarium but he said we needed to conduct our big Puja on May 1st at basecamp.  Dan immediately asked questions about the date and the potential problems of not going up the hill to acclimatize.  You see, the Sherpa will not violate the Lama's wishes but the Lama assured the Sherpa that it was OK to climb higher than EBC provided we come down for our ceremony on May 1st.  That late date would greatly affect our climb if the Sherpa were not allowed to ascend beyond EBC.  Needless to say, we all sat intently listening to the outcome of Dan's conversation.  All seems to be well with the timing though.  Our Sirdar (the head Sherpa) assured Dan that he and his compatriots would be allowed to climb above EBC.  We all felt some relief but as we have grown accustomed to the constant changes in Nepal, our relief may be short-lived.  Stay tuned to that update....

After our ceremony, we all pushed off for Pheriche where I am now.  It is now almost a full day after I arrived and I am getting ready to head out to Dugla - our next stop.  Yesterday's hike was a casual 1-2 hour trek through some amazing areas of lush grass and rolling hills.  As you can see from my spot update, we gained a little altitude (roughly 300 meters or 1000 feet).  It was an easy day to Pheriche.  I walked alone because I wanted to pace myself and take in the sights at my own leisure.  NBC has a huge contingent heading up the hill to video Joby jump off the summit in his squirrel suit.  There were about 200 yaks carrying huge loads of camera equipment.  I believe the NBC folks are flying up to base camp (from now on, referred to as EBC for ease).   Hopefully they don't get sick by the sudden change in altitude.  Speaking of NBC, I saw a 12 year-old kid lugging a huge white ABS plastic case that was marked with "Team lift required" and then a sticker with the weight posted as 144 lbs or about 70 kg.  I was impressed by his strength and endurance.  Our kids ought to take note that they don't have it hard.  I have plenty of pictures of that kid to show my son.  Hopefully, he will gain some appreciation for the ease of his life to date.

Throughout the entire trek, I wore flip flops and shorts.  Many people comment on my choice of footwear but I assure them that these are my usual footwear.   For those of you who know me, you might wonder what else I would wear.  My entire outfit remained unchanged throughout the trek.  Yep, I am starting to stink a bit but the Action wipes help kill some of the foul stench.  The only outerwear that changed on my body was my upper-half coverings.  I wore the same base shirt throughout but put on my thin smartwool top along with my puff sweater (synthetic downish top) over that.  Some may care about the clothes so I figured I would post that in my update.

The weather has been divine so far.  Each day starts off a bit chilly but warms up quickly with the sun.  My apparel of choice works well for the weather.  Even the evenings are relatively warm.   We hear that the weather in EBC is really cold and the sky is socked in with clouds and occasional snow fall.  We feel great as a group and have no reservations about our pace or the conditions.

Speaking of the kitchen staff, these guys work their collective tails off.  Most of them are kids below the age of 18 and they all hope to become climbing Sherpas.  I learned a ton by just chatting with the climbing Sherpas with my friendly tent mate Neal who serves as translator.  Additionally, Dan provides a little more detail to the stories.  Here is what I learned to date...

A kid becomes a lowly cook assistant at the age of 12 and serves the expedition members for all meals.  These kids lug equipment between stops on the trek and clean all the dishes/flatware, make the tea, boil water, and do all the scut work.  If a kid shows promise by working hard, they get an opportunity to lug kerosene up the hill.  That job is not for the faint of heart.  Kerosene burns skin and constantly sloshes around the jug and spills a bit as the jug moves.  These kids will move the jugs up from basecamp to the higher camps as needed.  If they do that job with some level of skill and do not get ill, they get to port equipment up.  The entire process works just like an apprenticeship in most other professions except for the fact that being a climbing Sherpa is a tough job that pays well but offers more danger than most other professions - save for the drug-selling gangs in the US. 

As for me and my climbing team, we are all doing well.  I am starting to settle into a groove.  Today is the last time I will have reliable internet so my posts will be much shorter.   Expect the updates daily - at least via my spot.  Thanks for following....

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Another post for (not by) Pat

Hi all,

Again, I am the WiFi on the ground for Pat while he treks away in the Himalayas. He is a few days from Base Camp, and internet cafes get fewer and fewer. We are chatting almost every day, only briefly to bank cell minutes -- that's the story Pat's going with anyway. Personally, I think he's checking out early so he can haul over to the bakery... :)

In addition to his buddy Neal's Twitter site (I gave the link in the last post), he said to check out 2 of his other climbing buddies' blog at www.twoadventurists.com

They're posting some great pics and I love their descriptions of the trek and the people, including Pat, who they call "The Athlete." Go Ironman go!!! :)  What is also funny is their posts are a lot like his: they also took pics of all their gear, and described every piece, and they talk about the food -- loading up on pizza, donuts and burgers until it's all gone. I have this mental picture of a bunch of stuffed, burping, farting climbers knocking each other off the trail with their collective gas. Eww.

Enjoy the hell out of your adventure, you lipid laden adventurists! Trek on!


p.s. Pat told me to tell you all that the time he spent in the hypoxic tent and training in his "Bane" mask has paid off. I guess whatever altitude he's currently at, isn't phasing (fazing? phazing?) him in the least. Go Pat!

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Longitude:86.82004
GPS location Date/Time:04/15/2014 00:54:00 PDT

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Sunday, April 13, 2014

Everest, Nupse, Lohtse, and Ama Dablam panorama

Photo by my pal Neal Kushwaha.  We had a great hike today.  Thanks Neal.

Follow his twitter feed for more pics.  See prior post for his address.

Namche rest day again....sorta

Hello all.  Greetings from Namche's Cyber Cafe.  Just had a cheeseburger and fries to rough it a little more in this civilized area before heading out to the less civilized area.  Have a few updates from yesterday.

First, last night, we all voted to stay another day in Namche to allow our comrades to acclimatize.  Recall that 5 of our crew were held back in Kathmandu because the airport closed.  They were bummed and I was bummed for them.  Imagine getting left behind by your expedition mates and having to go back to the hotel that we were all excited to leave.  I am sure they were a little miffed about the hitch in our plans.  Thankfully, they all seem to be doing well.  At any rate, we voted to stay for another day and keep the cohesion of our group - a wise decision if you ask me.  The 5 members were silent during our vote but I could see they were appreciative of our support. 

Next, my tent mate and I decided to head out for a hike to see Everest this morning.  Our hike started before breakfast so we skipped the meal and left with the plan to eat something at the Everest View Lodge.  We made it up to the lodge in record time, ate a nice omelette, enjoyed a few pots of tea, and took countless pictures of Everest, Lohtse, Ama Dablam, and Nuptse.  What a view!  My buddy Neal - my tent mate - posted several photos of us and the hills.  Check them out at his twitter site.  Kathy posted his URL earlier.  Follow his twitter feed too.  He will post plenty of photos of us as we climb.  Great guy!  Can't wait to climb more with Neal.

Finally, I got a little sunburned today.  Beat red might be a better description.  In my haste to get out this morning, I forgot to put on my sunscreen.  Bummer.   Oh well.  I won't make that mistake again.  Dan suggested I use sun screen and even offered some of his own.  I just told him that I forgot it.  Tomorrow, we push off for Pangboche in the morning.  I promise to put on my sun screen. 

Expect an update from Pangboche - at a minimum from my Spot locator.  

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Update for (not by) Pat

Hi all,
Sorry to disappoint, but this is Kathy, not Pat, writing an update. We just got off the phone and all is well in Namche Bazaar. They are going to stay an extra day or two, and Pat seems very happy about that.

He asked me to post this link on Twitter for his Canadian climbing buddy Neal, who is taking tons of photos on his iPhone and posting them there. Here's the link: https://twitter.com/nealkushwaha
There are some great photos on there!

For your entertainment, I was going to post a photo of our clean dogs, after their sudsing today, but I don't feel like figuring out know how to get my iPhone photos onto this blog post, so consider yourselves spared by my sheer laziness.

Onward and upward :)

Namche Bazaar rest day

Greetings.  I sit here in the same bakery where I posted from yesterday.  It is a delightful place with great (probably by local standards...passable) goodies.  We feast on fatty foods and endless cups of black tea here.  The best part is that there is unlimited internet access.

Last night, we hiked up a huge hill to our tea house.  There were several rooms and 7 tents.  Since I was last up, I got a tent and was really happy.  My tent mate - Neal - was an ideal pairing.  We both have similar attitudes about sleep and such.  The events during the evening were rather subdued.   We all sat around the dinner room and told stories.  It was a great evening.   I enjoy chatting with all my expedition mates. 

Life is good overall.   I feel great.  The sinus infection that I keep battling seems to be waning.  Granted, the daily huge doses of antibiotics help.  The food keeps me full enough.  I finally slept a full night last night - perhaps as much as 8 hours.  It feels good to finally be at altitude.  I love sleeping in tents at altitude.  Something about snuggling into my big down bag and having no pressure to do anything.  Again, life is good.

I trekked up from Lukla to Namche in my flip-flops.  Those of you who know me should not find that terribly noteworthy but what is novel is that my feet are absolute filthy.  My main objective is to get my feet clean.  I want get them clean enough so they do not feel awful in my sleeping bag.  Perhaps today I will take a shower today.  My co-climbers might really appreciate that effort.

So I sit here with my second pot of tea and just polished off my chocolate cake.  Life is good.  Thanks for following.  Tomorrow we head out of town for higher acclimatization.  I'll check in via spot when we reach our destination.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Lukla to Namche Bazaar

Greetings from Namche Bazaar.  It is 3:10pm and we just trekked into this town for the past 5 hours.  The views were spectacular.  Here is what happened the past two days....

We left Kathmandu on Thursday morning - headed to the airport to get on our flight to Lukla.  That morning was just a blur.  We met in the Hotel Shakti lobby at 5am and packed into buses and then we were off.  Once we got to the airport, we quickly scrambled through throngs of people with all sorts of luggage - including live animals.  The process of checking in was quite interesting.  None of us had any identification because we left our passports with the folks in Kathmandu.  No need for this on the hill and apparently no need for them when you fly domestically in Nepal.  The airlines checked our packs and duffles in some crazy whirlwind event.  There were scales, yelling, and negotiating - none of which I completely comprehended.  After a few minutes, Dan directed us to go to the gate.  I complied and found myself in a chaotic mess within the terminal.   Glad I got to that point. 

Once inside, I noted that the flight was scheduled for departure 5 minutes before we got there.  Oh well.  This is Nepal.  I walked up to the gate and was immediately whisked onto the plane with 8 others.  Yep, I got on.  Thankfully I was on and I was ready to get out of Kathmandu.  The flight was uneventful.  We took off right away and saw some amazing sites.  There are a few 7,000 meter peaks within spitting distance of Kathmandu.  Landing was uneventful too.  The runway was a trip.  It slopes upward and the plane must take an extreme right to avoid plowing into a stone wall.  Life is exciting in Nepal. 

OK, so now we were in Lukla.  Our team split up due to the plane sizes.  We got out first.  One other team got out about 2 hours after us.  Another team was stranded in Kathmandu because they closed the airport due to high winds and low visibility.  We - those of us who made it out - gathered in a nice tea house for breakfast and tea.  I couldn't wait to eat.  That meal ranks up there with the top ones of my life.  Dan decided that we ought to head out to Phakding - a little village roughly 2 hours of trekking downhill.  So, we headed out and made it without incident.  The new tea house we were staying at was really nice.  We enjoyed a great meal and some great chatting.  Afterwards, we were treated to beds and a real night sleep. 

I finally got a full night sleep.  Well, perhaps not full.  I fell asleep at 9pm and woke up at 2:30am, went to the bathroom and then struggled to fall back asleep.  Finally!  I did it.  I fell asleep and slept in until about 6:30am.  How nice to finally sleep longer than 4 hours.  We woke up and had a great breakfast.  During breakfast, Dan told us that our objective was Namche Bazaar.  So off we went right after eating.

Namche Bazaar was a 5 hour trek through some amazing views.  There were about 10 steel foot bridges that spanned wide spans over the Khumbu river (I think).  I took about a 100 pictures but cannot post them yet - perhaps tomorrow when I figure out the internet connectivity.  Obviously I have access now but the speed is quite limited.  At any rate, the views today were incredible.  Spectacular day.  We ambled our way easily up the hill and I made it to the town along with Dan.  I posted my location right away and then headed inside for some warmth. 

OK, enough for now.  I promise pictures soon. 

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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Day 3 in Kathmandu - The excitement builds

Today, I have some zany updates - most related to the odd politics of Nepal mountaineering and others related to the ebb and flood of excitement that comes from these huge expeditions.  Let me begin by setting the stage....

It is 2:34am Nepali time on the 10th of April.  I just woke up from a restful 4 hours of sleep and find myself so excited about what lies ahead today.  We push off at 5am for our flight to Lukla.  The odd thing about my excitement is that it really is misplaced.  I'm excited for a day of waiting.   You see, I'm in Nepal and as Dan Mazur keeps reminding us, we need to be patient.  His mantra is "TIN" or "This Is Nepal."  Things just move at a different pace here.  We hurry up to wait and then hurry up to wait again.  Nothing starts on time and nothing proceeds as expected.  For those of you who know Mexico really well, consider this a more chaotic but gentler Mexico.  I'm not try to disparage Nepal - quite the contrary.  I love this place and the pace.  It is frenetic while also being slow.  The people are kind and extremely welcoming.  Just do not try to get anything substantial done here.  Thus, my excitement at this hour is misplaced.  I should be sleeping because today we have many hours of waiting for our flight.  In fact, the flight may never materialize. 

Consider a specific example for the Tibet climbers.  As an aside, I am starting to really appreciate the benefits of the Nepal side of this hill.  More on that later.  Back to my Tibet pals.  These folks have to wait today for three bodies to be cleared from the Friendship Bridge.  Not sure how they got there but there are three dead bodies lying there awaiting proper burial by the family members.  Until these bodies are properly removed, the traffic from Nepal into Tibet stops.  The bridge is closed and the expedition cannot move forward.  I am quite excited that we only need Mother Nature to cooperate and not the local community.  All my marbles are on us getting out well before the Tibet expedition.   Yep, ol' unpredictable Mother Nature is far more predictable than the Nepalese. 

The other reason why I sit awake at this hour is the jet lag.  I continue to battle the 9:45 difference between EDT and Nepal time.  Just in case you think I typed the hour difference incorrectly, rest assured that is a correct number.  Nepal is 5:45 ahead of GMT.  Why 45 minutes?  Dunno.  I believe that difference serves as a big middle finger to India.  I love the Nepalese.  No offense to India.  Nepal has had a troubled past with its two huge neighbors - India and China.  I think the trouble with India may be slightly worse because the Nepalese and Indians may be alike in too many ways.  Think of it like brothers who battle constantly.  I'm not jet lagged because of the history between these countries; I just cannot stay asleep yet.  There will be plenty of time ahead to sleep.  For now, I slept about 4-5 hours each night and expect a bit more each night as my brain and body get accustomed to the shift. 

Back to the zany....

Yesterday began with a meeting - a Summit  Climb expedition meeting where Dan Mazur kept us informed and in stitches about the upcoming events.  He has the driest sense of humor that never ceases to kill me.  An example you ask?  OK.  They are all rated G so no need to shield the kids' eyes.  He has a way of saying things that slay me.  Several people asked him about clothing for the trek into base camp.  He picked out his jacket, put it on, and starting telling us how much he liked his jacket.  All the while, we were waiting for the punch line.  They, he moved back to his talk.  When pressed for more specifics, he said, "well, you can do XX and that might be a good idea....or not."  The "or not" part followed many of his tidbits of wisdom and left us howling on the floor.  Now I know many of you are wondering how on earth did we find that funny.  I think the funniest part was just the setting and how casual Dan is with respect to everything.  Dan is an awesome leader because he is SO LAID BACK.  In fact, if he were any more laid back, he would be falling backwards.  His train of thoughts meander through a tapestry of seemingly unrelated events and ideas.  Eventually, he arrives at a point but the ride between the start and the end tends to be hilarious.  My sides ached after laughing for 90 minutes.  My new Canadian friend Neal and I have the same sense of humor.  We went up to Dan afterwards and said he ought to go into stand-up comedy.  He apologized profusely for his speaking but we assured him that we like him and his speaking just fine.  A usual 90 session that drags on was turned into comedy and I really appreciated his style.  Now, you may not get all the information you desire but you (and I) never feel as if you wasted your time. 

During his stand-up routine, Dan commented on the unpredictable nature of the Nepalese.  They have various rules with steep fines and dire consequences - none that seemed to be enforced.  If their traffic is any indication, I suspect anything goes on the hill.  We would soon find out about these new rules by our mandated meeting with the Ministry of Tourism.  Yep, Dan found out at about 2pm that all the Nepalese climbers who were going above the Khumbu icefall were required to attend a "session."  Dan had no idea what the meeting would entail but he said we needed to come back before 5pm to shuttle off to this event. 
Several of us realized that we needed a few extra items so we headed out right away to get them and some food.  I'm going off on a tangent right now so bear with me...

A tangent.....Dan obviously rubbed off on me because his tangential story telling was so interesting that I think it might take me some time to shake off his style. 

I heard from several friends and family members inquiring about the food.  Let me take the opportunity to shout out to my pals Stu Williams and Chris Lee.   Stu asked me what I ate while in Nepal and Chris was silent on the matter but he no doubt is burning to know.  So, what do I eat?  Nothing fancy.  The key to a successful climb (race, workout, or any other athletic endeavor) is to stay healthy.  There are tons of little beasties poised to infect my body via the local cuisine.  I stick to extremely well cooked and well-seasoned food like Thai curries and bread products without cheese - all in an effort to stay healthy.  So far, so good.  When I return after my climb, I will indulge myself.  For now, I eat only the safest stuff from the most reputable restaurants.  We found a Thai place that was about a 10 minute walk from our hotel.  I believe we ate there 4 times.  When you find a safe haven, you go back.  We all ordered and ate the same meals too.  Safe is better than the alternative.  All systems working as designed.....OK, back to the point of today's post.

The really zany part of yesterday was the meeting with the Ministry.  Many of you may not remember or were never exposed to "Alice's Restaurant" by Arlo Guthrie but for those of you who know the reference, I offer you this picture.  We were sitting around a table where some official looking dude when on and on about something in the strangest English I ever heard.  To call it English might be a huge disservice to all those who struggled to learn the language.  He went on and on and we all sat there smiling and nodding our heads.  Dan's expression was priceless.  He just nodded his head and thanked our host.  I'm not sure what he was thanking him for and I sat there for the 30-minute meeting extremely impressed by Dan's language skills.  You see, Dan does speak some Nepali but this wasn't even a language.  I asked Dan afterwards what the heck the guy was saying and Dan looked at me with the straightest, dead-panned look and said "I have no idea, do you?"  Again, I was on the floor laughing. 

So we sat there on the Group W bench (Alice's Restaurant reference) being told that we were not to litter and signing some document that appeared to be our acknowledgement of that requirement "to be moral" while on the mountain.  I got this message from the powerpoint slides that our host's compatriot showed us at rate too fast to read.  The slides might have been printed in English but they were presented like psychological stimuli at about 300ms each.  I saw litter, fines, trash, video, and several other key words not knowing how they all related until our debriefing session among the group.  As it turns out, the Nepalese Tourism office said we were not allowed to transmit anything from the mountain without a permit fee (a steep one at that) and if we were caught, we would be fined and kicked off the hill.  Moreover, we were assigned a "liaison" officer who would accompany our expedition to oversee our compliance.  Picture this....a rotund guy who looks as if he has never done an athletic thing in his life just got assigned the task of trekking up to base camp to oversee a group he knows very little about nor probably cares to know much about.  My bet is that he treks up in his suit and leather shoes.  Let us all hope - at least for his sake - that he finds some proper equipment. 

I am not trying to be cavalier about the initiative here.  The Nepalese have a great point about trash on the hill.  Their new polices have little to do with trash.  They are more focused on controlling the income streams from the hordes of climbers.   Consider these "new" rules.

1.  No trekkers allowed in basecamp.  They want everyone who steps foot into basecamp to pony up the permit fee ($$$$).  I also see this as a good safety measure to keep all the people outside the area where our stuff may be easily lifted and whisked off to lower places without so much as a raised eye brow. 

2.  All climbers must climb their permitted route.  Any climber found deviating from their route will be asked to leave the hill and be disallowed from all Nepal Himalayan climbs for a period of 5 to 10 years. 

3.   All climbers must descend with 8kg of trash - the components of which were never discussed.  The only thing we could not count toward our quota was oxygen tanks.  Actually, the guy said no rocks.  I chuckled a bit when I heard that because I could imagine a bunch of people caught short on their trash quote loading up their bags with stones.  All climbers and Sherpa needed to pack out that amount - no exceptions.

4.  No satellite phones permitted without a permit.  We later learned that the permit was as high as $1500 per phone per person on the expedition.  I thought that was rather steep.  An expedition with 10 climbers and 2 phones would pay $30,000 for the privilege of using the phone.  Not sure how that will play out.  Expect an update later.

I am sure there were more bits I left out but these were the big ones.  We were going to be watched carefully for our compliance.  Did I mention we signed some paper at the meeting?  Well, that paper turned out to be our signed released of all rights to videos of us taken on the hill.  Apparently, the Nepalese negotiated a large contract with NBC to film the climb.  I guess we will all be on NBC sports soon.  We laughed at this notion but played along.  The Minister said we were all in a movie shot by NBC.  The rest of what he had to say about it flew over my head.  I got the point though.  Last year, a BBC representative or free lancer shot video from the summit without a penny going to the Nepalese government.  This year, we are all to pay for their past sins.  So, we move forward with our climb and all will be well.

Thanks for hanging in there for today's dispatch.  I take off in 1.5 hours for the airport.   Time to shower up....

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Day 2 in Kathmandu

Not much to update you on today - other than a long day of walking around the city center.  Instead of giving you too many boring details, I will post about the past 2 days just to give you a full picture of an expedition.  Brace yourself, there is not a lot of exciting event updates ahead. 

First, I bring you back to Monday.  I landed in Kathmandu on Monday at 11:30am local time.  Departing the plane was a breeze and then I stood on one of the longest and most disorganized lines.  People were getting really upset but I was tired and had no rush so I enjoyed the chaos.  I finally arrived at the front of the line and was greeted by a very nice man who happily chatted with me while a few 100 people stood behind me with relatively little patience.  It was a funny scene - glad I was not in a rush. 

After the kind man accepted my $100 payment for my 90 day visa, he directed me to the "90 day visa" line that was empty.  All that waiting was for the 30-day visas for trekkers.  I guess - based upon these observations - the estimate of 10 trekkers for every climber might be an underestimate.  At any rate, I went through the line of 0 with little delay.

Next, I lugged my bags from the visa line through customs.  Well, to call it customs might be a stretch.  I placed all four bags - two checked and two carry-ons - atop some conveyor belt that did something to them but what I haven't a clue.  Whatever the purpose of the machine, it was quick.  Even our US TSA bag screening goes slower than that machine.  Oh well, what might they get after the bags were so heavily scrutinized by previous screening methods.

After I grabbed my bags from the mystery machine, I slowly ambled out toward this mass of humanity.   I now know what the Beatles felt like when they first entered the US.  No, not one of these people were cheering for me - or for anyone else for that matter -  but they were all passionately interested in us and our bags.   These folks were the unofficial baggage handlers.  I think they make their living hoisting a bag or two along with several others who have their hands on the same bag. My aim at that point was not to support the local economy but to find my Summit Climb ride.  Sure enough, they were there with a sign and anxiously awaiting my arrival. 

These gentlemen were extremely helpful.  They grabbed all my bags, put them on a cart and it was at that point that I realized I was finally in Kathmandu.  All the prior steps were just lines and waiting.  Now, I was greeted by locals and would probably see them for some time.  Well, that is what I thought.   The folks who greeted me where locals but they were no different than the professional baggage handlers who amassed around the exit of the terminal.  These guys were hired guns and the Summit Climb sign was merely a cover.  Regardless, they were helpful and got us (three others) into a cab right away.

The three others were two trekkers from the UK and a fellow climber from Denmark.  I will provide some details about these and others in upcoming posts.  For now, picture five people crammed into a taxi the size of a Volkswagen Beetle (70's style).  It was hilarious but not as funny as the ride itself.  Traffic in Kathmandu is sheer chaos.  I recall the chaos in Italy and figured this to be far worse but better in other ways.  It is worse than Italy because there are no laws - at least none discernable by the traffic patterns and inattentive police officers at every intersection.  Life just moves one in one chaotic mess.  Now, I said it was better than Italy because of one thing - kindness.  We all experience traffic at some point.  How we deal with it is often the same.   We get angry at times and other times we just tune out.  In Kathmandu, all the drivers tune out.  They don't care!  Well, they probably do care but they never exchange a cross word.  I was amazed.  In New York, for example, drivers would probably come to blows over some of the incidents we watched unfold during our 20 minute cab ride.  I was and remain impressed by the locals low-key attitude and acceptance of one another.

We arrived at the Shakti hotel unharmed but universally impressed - perhaps thankful might be more appropriate - by our cab driver's skill.  The hotel is buried within a skein of structures that cannot be discerned by sign, road, or landmark.  This place is just a confused mess of roads that all seem to lead to shops.  Pictures of this place may follow but I am having some trouble with the local internet and its capacity to handle the picture files.  Hopefully this gets resolved soon because some of the pictures tell more than any words can ever deliver. 

Arni (my new Danish friend) and I were paired up to a room.  I welcomed the company since the past 48 hours seemed quite socially isolated.  We quickly discovered many commonalities that lead to hours of interesting chats.  I won't bore you with those details and I will not speak for others during my blog posts.  Instead, if Arni or any other wants to chime in, I will quote them directly.

We met Dan Mazur and Scott Patch - the two expedition leaders - along with several others in the lobby.   Shortly after our informal meeting, we headed out for dinner.  Boy, was I hungry.  Remember the traffic?  Well, it is probably far more hazardous to be a pedestrian than a driver.  Our group split up after one intersection with little hope to catch them.  They dropped five of us in seconds.   Now, we were alone without much clue about the area.  Remember, the adventure doesn't start until something goes wrong.  Well, this was a minor thing but it sure lead us to an interesting adventure.  We walked around and found a restaurant that had nobody inside.  History taught me to avoid these places but we pressed on with some (trepid) boldness. 

The meal and the hosts were delightful.  We (the two trekkers, Arni, and Garry - our new Australian/UK friend) sat down to the most conservative meal we could get - overcooked chicken with tons of spices.  We avoided vegetables and water at all costs.  Downing the chicken with Cokes made the entire thing completely memorable.  We found a solution to a minor problem.  The next problem would be to find our way back to the hotel.  Remember how I said it was buried in a skein of buildings?  That fact did not leave our minds. 

So, I am finally settled into my hotel that serves as my temporary home for the next few days.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Made it to Nepal

Just as the title says, I am one step closer to my climb.  The flight here was long - 14 hours from DC to Qatar followed by a 12 hour layover and my final 5 hour flight from Qatar to Kathmandu.  I am excited to be here but more than anything else, I am exhausted.  Too much sitting and not enough sleeping.  I will catch up in the next few days on sleep. 
One major noteworthy thing was the traffic in town.  Talk about crazy!  The Nepalese make even the craziest driver seem tame.  Here is a picture of one street we walked down (see below).

More tomorrow.  My eyes are at half mast....


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Saturday, April 5, 2014

A tearful "see you later"

I am excited about this trip but not excited to leave my family for so long.

Equipment Checklist - Miscellaneous items and the final result.

I'm all packed and thought I would post once or twice more before I head off to the airport.  It is now 4:40pm and I need to leave the house by 7pm.  My prior posts, documented mostly climbing essentials.  The following items are a mixture of essential and non-essential items.  First, let me provide you with a picture...

At the top, I have my water bottles (Nalgenes with the Humangear caps - a vast improvement over the traditional screw-top lid).  The bottle on the left sits inside an insulation sleeve.  I find these somewhat useful but the bottles still freeze when it gets really code.  To the right of my Nalgene bottles are a few freeze-dried meals (Mountain House).  Generally, I like these meals about as much as I enjoy eating cardboard.  MH meals are a bit saltier than cardboard but just about as flavorful.  The big black bag beneath those blue MH meals sits my huge sack (about 10 lbs) of bars.  I like the Lara Uber bars.  They all taste horrible after a few days but these I tend to stomach even when I can barely stomach anything.  Moving down and to the right is my compression sack for my sleeping bag.  The gray thing that sits atop this green compression sack is my inflatable pillow.  I love this pillow.  It takes up no space, weighs nothing but provides a little bit of essential creature comfort that does not exist without it.  Here is a picture of my sleeping bag and the compression sack in action:


Notice that the sleeping bag takes up about 17 board widths of my flooring, the uncompressed sack takes up about 5 and when compressed, my sleeping bag takes up about 3 board widths.  Pretty impressive, eh?

OK, back to the first picture but I will spare you the scrolling and paste it in the blog again.  Here goes:
  The bottom right two bags are my various emergency medications.  These bags contain hypodermic needles (not my friends) and several IV administered medications.  I doubt any of these will be used but it always pays to have the good stuff along for high altitude climbing.  Moving left and upwards, I have the usual suspects of sun screen (oriented in a odd way), lithium ion batteries (AAA), my personal locator beacon (always useful when in dangerous areas), hand sanitizer, USB battery pack to be charged by my solar panels, assorted patches for the groups I represent, and a few flags to take with me to the summit.  In the center of the entire mess is my MSR dromedary ("camel" for those of us who don't speak SAT vocabulary).  Finally, I have my "pee bottle" in the upper left corner.  I don't think I need to elaborate much on its use or purpose.  It is clean and never used.  These flexible Nalgene bottles are inexpensive enough to warrant replacements for each expedition.  

Well, that just about does it.  I packed all those things into three bags and one carry-on.  Actually, two big expedition bags and two carry-ons.  Here is the final product:


Two more hours before we head to the airport.  Now, what should I eat?

Hey!  My dad is here.  OK, gotta go.  See you later.

Weeks 41-44 Update: A whole month goes by without much sweating

Weeks 41-44 Update: Apr 05, 2014 for the week beginning on March 16th, 2014


I sit here at my desk for the last update from home. Perusing the data from all the previous weeks, I feel confident that I am prepared. The past month presented more challenges than I ever imagined. Here are some of the highlights…


  • Sick and tired of being sick and tired: The past month seemed like it was more a matter of me shaking off one cold to only feel the onset of another. I think the stress of work and training finally caught up to me. Additionally, the hypoxic training and sleeping probably suppressed my immune response.
  • Training took a back seat to weight gain and getting healthy: I think I licked this one. My training base was sufficient for me to stop. There were only diminishing returns avaialble and I wanted to make sure I left injury free and well-rested for what lies ahead. The weight gain was slow and I am not sure I could qualify it as steady. I lost some upper-body muscle mass and gained a little fat - a swap that will do we well on the hill. The upper body is next to useless and the fat will be burned off in a matter of days.
  • The support I received throughout the last month has been overwhelming. Thank you all for your kind words and continued questions about the climb. Keep 'em coming!

Workout Progress


No training to speak of so I will move on. The figure below represents a month of training. Sheesh!


plot of chunk WeekEx


Finally getting fatter but not really fat. Oh well. The time off was good for my overall productivity. Can't wait to climb!


plot of chunk DailyWL


Not much working out…but a ton of eating.


plot of chunk DailyWL2


Whew! Falling off that trajectory now.


plot of chunk CumWL


Monthly (not Weekly this time) Summary


Last month presented some challenges. I recognized that I am not able to handle much stress and boy did the stress pile on. There were days that I had every minute scheduled and I ran from one thing to the next. A life like that ain't worth much. But, that stress seems like a thing of the past. I can now focus on my climb. So here goes with the final update…


Mood


The lack of training and refocus on gaining weight made me pretty lethargic. I lacked the energy during the day and the fatigue at night to sleep well. Additionally, the hypoxic tent - especially sleeping alone - made for a pretty miserable situation. I pushed on but I could not wait for that period to end. Despite all these negatives, I remained upbeat, motivated, and productive.


plot of chunk Mood


Hypoxic Training


I really ramped up the hypoxic sleeping - peaking (no pun intended) at the equivalent of 20,250 feet. To call sleeping at that altitude sleep is a bit of a stretch. I did manage one training session for an hour at 20,000 feet and one swim session at sea-level. Both were good sessions and I realized how much I missed working out. My focus, however, was on getting well and gaining some mass.


plot of chunk Hypoxia


Recovery (Restwise Data)


plot of chunk RestwiseData


Updates for the week


Wow, almost too much to report here. You saw my previous posts about packing. I'm almost packed. I have so many people to thank and I fear I have little time to do so adequately. Let me focus on those closest to me for this post. I will thank each and every one of you in future posts. Today, it seems fitting that I thank those who really made all of this happen - my family.


Thanks to my lovely wife who supported me throughout all of this crazy preparation. She not only supported me but she defended me and accompanied me throughout the journey. I know of few of people who would devote themselves to their spouse like Kathy did for me. She slept in a hot tent for crying out loud; what more could you ask? Kathy also remained supportive and inquisitive all throughout. I received countless packages of stuff relevant to my climb. She never said a word. I littered the house with my climbing gear (and sailing gear) and she patiently side-stepped it all. She picked up the slack when I slacked. She offered her help when she knew I needed it. I cannot begin to even scratch the surface of how grateful I am to her and her support. Thinking of her almost brings tears to my eyes. Yeah, those are not tears…I think I got something in one. Hold on. OK, I'm back. All is well. I love my wife. She is the best. That is all there is to say nor needs to be said.


Thanks to my son; the other person who quietly supported me throughout this long process. He might be embarrassed if I write too much here so let me just say that I love him and respect him for his individualistic approach to life. Without his support over the past few months, I think this whole process would have been much more difficult. Patrick responded to every request - even some unusal requests. He often went out for runs with me even though he didn't feel like running or didn't feel like braving the elements. I love my boy and can't wait to regale him with tales of adventure. Sorry Patrick if I embarrased you.


Thanks to my brother Sean for all his help - both professionally, personally, and financially. Sean has always supported me in whatever I chose to do. He was the first to offer me support in triathlons. He bought me countless toys to help me achieve my goals. He patiently waited for me to update him on anything; often waiting well past the point where I would been patient. Sean, you are the best brother anyone could ever wish to have and there are times when I doubt I deserve you. Thanks for your continued support.


Finally, thanks to my dad who has always supported me in his own way. Most of his support comes from modeling the behaviors I have today. He was and is an adventurer - true and true to the end. I know of few fathers who would take their kids out on sailing adventures (hurricanes, squalls, extreme races - you name it, we did it), let those kids sail by themselves at a relatively young age (12 and 13) off-shore (!) and never lose a wink of sleep. My dad just trusted us. Not sure why he trusted us but I think his trust enabled both of us (Sean and me) to develop into the self-reliant and rugged individuals we are today. My dad raised us to be the way we are and I admire that in him. He continues to support me to this day. One story might add the appropriate color to this tribute so bear with me….


In 1991, I decided to do the Ironman in Canada. The Hawaiian Ironman is the race that garners all the attention but the Canadian Ironman was more suitable for me and my strengths. I hate the heat so Hawaii is not a good place for a cold-loving dude like me to race. At any rate, I told my dad about my race and he said the usual things like…“great” and “good luck.” Little did I know that he made plans to come out and support me during my race. I recall him keeping at a comfortable distance while I grumpily assembled all my racing gear. He jogged with me during the marathon. After the race, all I wanted was a large order of french fries. Each of these points, he was there to support me. Never did he question me or correct me (a McKnight specialty) regardless of how silly I behaved.


My dad supported me throughout this preparation even though he was the one who needed support. I don't want to go into those details now but suffice it to say that a young 77 year old man (my dad) offered me support through the most trying times of his life. OK, I need a break. More stuff in my eyes.


For those of you out there who do not know me or my family, I have just one request - please support the charities I list on my blog. My entire family benefitted and continues to benefit from the Johns Hopkins pancreatic cancer research and treatment group and the Olivia Constants Foundation. These charities are about hope and they give me the resolve and purpose to climb.


Thanks for following me to this point. My next updates will be more picturesque. It is now 6am. I slept for 3 hours last night and I am just about packed. Flight departure: T minus 16 hours and counting…..