Everest 2013 expedition video

Below you will find a video of my expedition to the top of the world in 2013, courtesy of Brien Sheedy, one of my guides.  This video is FANTASTIC, lasts only 40 min, and shows pretty well the route to the top of Everest.

Here’s how you can identify me:  on the lower mountain I’m wearing a light blue jacket and a red backpack.  Higher up I still wear my light blue jacket with addition of blue helmet and green harness.  I’m always wearing yellow boots and my red backpack.  High up on the mountain I’m in a bright blue downsuit.

Enjoy!

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Read on below for my personal experiences of the climb!

DAYS 1 AND 2

Everest – Day 21: Foray into the Icefall

April 19 (Friday)

Today we ventured out to the Khumbu Icefall to prepare ourselves for the first rotation up the mountain.  We only went about 1/4 up the Icefall.  We began going up and down small but very steep hills until we encountered first fixed lines and actual crevasses.

A few words about the Khumbu Icefall before I go on further.  The Icefall is naturally a glacier, and it sits on approximately 2,000 vertical feet of a pretty steep slope.  As any glacier, the part closest to the ground moves at different speed than the portion furthest up from the ground.  As a result, the glacier cracks and forms huge gaps, or crevasses.  In addition, huge ice towers and seracs are formed, as well as interesting formations resembling ice cream cones or mushrooms.  Khumbu Icefall moves anywhere from 3 to 5 feet a day which makes it especially treacherous since an ice tower can fall and crumble everything in its sight at any time.  Most vulnerable period for the movement of the Icefall is during a day, when it’s exposed and warmed up in sunlight (after 9 o’clock or so).   However, avalanches and other movements can happen during a night, or pretty much at any time.  Khumbu Icefall is one of, if not THE most dangerous part of the whole climb.

In order to safely (if that is such a thing) cross the Icefall, there is a group of 5 to 6 Sherpas chosen from different teams on the mountain, called the Icefall Doctors.  The Sherpas go out to the Icefall everyday to inspect the route and install and repair ladders to cross the crevasses, or to ascend the huge ice walls.

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the black specks in the left lower corner are people!

Moving on.  We clipped in to the fixed lines and kept moving up around and up the ice towers.  We crossed a few ladders which surprisingly were not too bad.  I was slow but it didn’t really bother me that much.  I actually really enjoyed the Icefall.  I was mesmerized by the huge seracs and ice formations the nature conjured up.  It felt like an ice castle all around me!  I tried not to think about how dangerous it can be though…

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resting at our destination for the day. Notice the huge slab of ice on the Western shoulder in the left upper corner; it’s the one that caused the deadly avalanche in 2014

 

I liked the Icefall, but when I got back to camp I felt somewhat nauseated.  We were supposed to go on a first rotation tomorrow and I wasn’t sure if I was going to be up to it.  If I’m sick, then how can I do well??  I felt much better after dinner though and went to bed full of anticipation for tomorrow, our first rotation!

First Rotation

Everest – Day 20: Acclimatization hike

April 18 (Thursday)

After breakfast we started out on an acclimatization hike to the base camp of Pumori, about 500ft higher than base camp of Everest.  The purpose of this was to be active at altitude to acclimatize better to the height of Everest base camp.  We retraced our steps to the beginning of Base Camp and towards Gorak Shep, and made a steep right turn off the trail onto the base camp of Pumori.  The other girl on the team turned around early because she was feeling sick.  One guy also turned around because he felt he was coming down with a cold.  I pushed on.

to the left: west shoulder of Everest.  To the right: part of Nuptse ridge.  In the center, hiding from the view: the summit of Everest with the tell-tale jet-stream of wind and ice

to the left: west shoulder of Everest. To the right: part of Nuptse ridge. In the center, hiding from the view: the summit of Everest with the tell-tale jet-stream of wind and ice

Of course I was slower than everybody else in the group, the remaining 9 guys and guides.  One of the guides really pushed me.  He said not to even think about the walk, just do it.   So I did.  And slowly but surely I made it to the preset elevation.

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Everest summit is hidden in the clouds. The yellow specks behind my right shoulder are the tents of Everest base camp

Khumbu Icefall and its lip in all its glory

Khumbu Icefall and its lip in all its glory; the mountain in the middle is Lhotse

We got back to camp where I found that my whole body hurt.  The whole hike didn’t take more than 5 hours, so it was very unusual to feel like this.  I did feel better after lunch though!  I’d better… tomorrow we were supposed to ‘play’ in the Khumbu Icefall for the first time!

DAY 21

Everest – Day 19: Training in Base Camp

April 17 (Wednesday)

Early morning one of the girls from the team left by helicopter for Kathmandu to check out her unexplained swollen arm.  The rest of the team moved on to the nearby icewall again for some advanced training.  Today we were supposed to ascend a vertical wall and rappel.  Even though the actual wall was a lot taller than the actual obstacles we would see further up on the climb, this exercise was supposed to prepare us for the icefall and the Hillary Step high up on the mountain.

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Well..  all I gotta say is that I’ve never rappelled before.  I was so scared!!  I was afraid that I would slip and fall, even though there was a person ‘breaking’ me down at the bottom of the wall.  The whole experienced was not fun at all.  It seemed like everybody else has rappelled before, or at least pretended like they did.  It seemed like I was the slowest out of the whole group.  I know I shouldn’t have compared myself to others, but especially at altitude, I was getting so self-conscious!

The emotions got to me to the point of actual crying.  I didn’t want to sit inside of the dining tent with everybody because I was just bawling.  So instead of drawing attention away from myself, I inadvertently drew it toward me by sitting outside of the dining tent and eating lunch out there by myself.  I felt like I was ‘the weakest link’, I was not going to make it.  This was only base camp, and I still had another 12,000 feet to go!!  If I can’t do it now, then I will surely fail up higher!  I went to my tent and kept bawling my eyes out.  Two guides came over and told me that I’m doing great.  They emphasized that climbing this mountain is a mental game more than anything, and that I’m strong enough to do this.  I eventually got better.  I’m normally not a wuss, and it takes a lot for me to cry.  Stupid altitude makes me so emotional though!!

DAY 20

Everest – Day 18: Puja ceremony

April 16 (Tuesday)

Today we took part in a very important portion of the trip: the Puja ceremony.  According to Buddhist beliefs, nobody should go up the mountain past base camp unless Puja ceremony is performed.  It is essentially a ritual where the Sherpas pay homeage to Sagarmatha, the mountain goddess.   Usually a special monk comes up from one of the villages down the valley, and some Sherpas who were also monks earlier on in their life, join him in the ritual.

The Sherpas erect a tall altar using rocks and boulders, and stick a mast in the center that’s adorned with multitude of prayer flags.  All the mountain equipment, especially the sharps (crampons, ice axes) are brought to the altar for the blessing.

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The monks then pray in form of Buddhist chanting and throw tsampa (barley flour) towards the altar.  In their prayers they ask Sagarmatha, the mountain goddess, for permission to step upon its slopes, for safe passage, as well as for forgiveness for inflicting pain upon it with our crampons and ice axes.

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Juniper wood is burnt, and rice, cookies and beer are also offered up to the deity.

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The culmination of the ceremony is spreading of the prayer flags over the whole camp in hopes of protection.  There is a belief that if a bird sits on top of the mast it’s an omen of good luck.  We were lucky to get a raven sit on the top multiple times!! (of course the fact that the top of the mast had some rice on it probably had something to do with it…) 😉

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raven sitting on top of our Puja

raven sitting on top of our Puja

We were given the food that was blessed, including beer and homemade rice wine.  It took only one can of beer to get me tipsy haha :)). We also smeared each other’s faces with flour for good luck, and then joined the Sherpas in the traditional, arm to arm, Buddhist dance.

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view of Khumbu Icefall in the background

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Sherpas’ cooking tent (grey on in the background) with Puja altar in the foreground

Now we were truly ready to climb the mountain!!!

DAY 19