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!

Read on below for my personal experiences of the climb!

DAYS 1 AND 2

Everest – Base Camp

Base Camp in itself was so interesting that I had to devote a whole entry to it!

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First, I should say that the company I went with, Alpine Ascents, went out and beyond to make sure we were comfortable there.  According to the guides, it was imperative that we stay healthy in order to go higher up the mountain, so they spared no cost to ensure our well being, both physical and mental.

Each climber had their own individual tents.  Every one of us was asked to bring two ThermaRests (a blowup mattress), but it turned out that we didn’t need one of them because the company provided us with a body length 2-inch thick soft mattresses already set up in our tents.  We also had a huge dining tent in the middle of our camp, complete with a table, chairs, real china plates, and real silverware.  There was even a plastic tablecloth on the table and some plastic flowers!!!  Right across from the dining tent there was a cooks tent with an American head cook who would serve us mainly American style cuisine (so our poor bellies could fill up on something familiar).

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Andy in front of our Khumbu Icefall and my tent right behind him

DSC_8643typical early snow at base camp

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view of Base Camp from our tents. The white tent with orange triangles in the background is the ‘headquarters’ of Himex (Russell Brice)

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The blue tent is one of the dining tents (ours is that sliver on the left). The dark green/grey one to the left is the cooks’ tent.

The dining tent also had a few thermoses always filled with hot water, as well as hot tea bags, coffee, cocoa powder, and snacks.  It also had a little charging station on which we were allowed to charge our electronic devices for most of the day.  Our base camp manager had 2 huge solar panels off of which he drew power for the generator, off of which we got to charge our devices.  Also, every day, we were allowed to use wi-fi for a few hours a day.  The connection was very slow, only 5MB for our whole group (12 of us plus 4 guides), but hey, it’s better than nothing!!  It allowed me to post short updates on Facebook and let my family and friends know via email that I’m still alive.  At night, after dinner, we were able to watch movies through a computer and projected out on a small screen in the dining room tent.

As far as the bathrooms go, they took care of us too!  Our restroom was composed of a bucket with an actual toilet seat on it, enclosed in a tent.  Supposedly one of the Sherpa porters was responsible for bringing it down the mountain.  Even though he was compensated better than a usual porter, imagine the poor guy carrying this load! (pun intended).  In addition, the company erected a small tall tent over the rocks just for us girls, so we could have some privacy when peeing.  How awesome is that?!!

We also had 2 large tents for showers.  The Sherpas would warm up some water and put it in a bucket.  The tent was divided into 2 areas: one half was a ‘dressing’ area with a chair, and the second half had a huge slab of flat rock (so our tootsies wouldn’t hurt from standing on sharp uneven rocks) and a faucet over us.  The key to taking a shower was to do it in early afternoon when the sun was high and before the clouds would come in.  Sun would warm up the tent so it felt nice and comfortable, but the second the clouds would cover it up, the temperature would drop by at least 40 degrees…  I made that mistake once and got in in late-ish afternoon..  It was the quickest shower ever!!  Brr…  Overall we could take a shower about every 10 days or so.

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two central yellow tents are the shower tents (you can see blue barrels hanging at the corners). To their right, there’s a small dark blue girls’ pee tent, and to the right there’s a small yellow tent for #2

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bottom center there’s one of our shower tents with a hanging barrel with hot water

In case we wanted to hang out in a bigger space than our own tents, Alpine Ascents had a huge dome tent for us.  It was usually filled with snacks and had some mattresses for comfort.

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our hangout dome. We even exercised there on few occasions when we got bored!  it got very comfortable in the sun but also very cold when clouds came in

Right in the middle of Base Camp there was a huge medical tent with 3 doctor volunteers.  It was sort of like a clinic that would treat mild ailments, usually related to high altitude.  There were also two helicopter pads, one in the middle of the camp, and one by the Icefall.

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I kept thinking: if this is what this climb is going to be like, then it will be a piece of cake!!!  Read on my story though to find out! 🙂

DAYS 16 and 17

Everest – Day 15: Lobuche – Base Camp

April 13 (Saturday)

today's trail

today’s trail

Today was the last day of our trek and the final move to our new home away from home: the Everest Base Camp.  We also were to gain the final 1500 ft (1541f to be exact).  It doesn’t sound much, but there is a big difference in gaining 1500 ft at sea-level vs at 16000 ft already…  Because of my unfortunate encounter with the toilet last night, I felt pretty queasy today.  This leg of the trail was probably one of the easiest ones  so far uphill-wise, but it felt the hardest one for me yet.  My legs were hurting and were occasionally cramping up from the lack of electrolytes my body got rid of the previous night.  I wasn’t the only one suffering; the altitude finally caught up with Andy and gave him a splitting headache.

We reached Gorak Shep at 16,942 ft), the last village before base camp, and traveled through a huge plain field that resembled more of a waterless beach than a mountain landscape.

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We were able to sneak a peak at Everest on the trek, as well as part of the Khumbu Icefall.

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sliver of Everest with the jet stream from the summit

sliver of Everest with the jet stream from the summit

peak of Everest in the middle

peak of Everest in the middle

'extension' of Khumbu Icefall

‘extension’ of Khumbu Icefall. The yellow tents in the background is Base Camp!

We continued on through gently rolling rocky hills that seemed to be built out of nothing but huge boulders, and we finally reached the beginning of Base Camp!!  If you look closely, you’ll notice that the Sherpas didn’t change the sign from last year, and it still says 2012! 😉

The girls of our expedition.  From the left: Raha, me, Siobhan

The girls of our expedition. From the left: Raha, me, Siobhan

Andy and I at the entrance of Base Camp

Andy and I at the entrance of Base Camp

I say ‘the beginning’ because the whole thing is just huge!  It resembles more of a little city of tents.  It took us good 40 min to reach our own tents situated at almost the very end of the Base Camp, but also very close to the actual Icefall.  I was so glad we finally reached our destination!  I knew now I was safe from the ‘cooties’ of a third world country =)

BASE CAMP

Everest – Day 14: Lobuche

April 12 (Friday)

Today we did an acclimatization hike to the nearby weather observation station that measures black carbon concentration in the air.

weather observation station

weather observation station

Most of the group decided to go back to the lodge but me and a few others elected to join our guide on a moraine walk and listen to his lecture about glaciology.  We got to see the lower tongue of the Khumbu Icefall and its path through the valley.  Because we were so high up, over 16,000 ft, there weren’t even any shrubs anymore.  The ground was covered with moss and many many rocks and boulders.

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view of Gorak Shep below

So far I have been pretty lucky with my health, besides some sore throat I really have not been sick at all.  One thing you should know about altitude is that the gut is the first organ to take a hit from the lack of oxygen.  Food is not processed as efficiently and quickly as at sea level and the result is all kinds of unpleasant gas…  OK, this may be TMI, but it really bothered me!  I think it was a combination of altitude and the Nepalese food that I wasn’t really used to, along with some bad bacteria mixed in for good measure, because after supper I promptly projectile vomited whatever food I just put it me…

As I already mentioned, the higher we went, the worse our conditions got.  You may remember our accommodations at Namche with private showers and heated beds?  Well with every lodge that would get worse.  We always had beds but the bathrooms went from great at Namche through good at Pheriche and awful at Lobuche (two communal toilets with a bucket of cold water and a scooper to flush after doing your business).  Historically, Lobuche has been the place where most people get sick, and it certainly delivered!  The reason behind worsening conditions is the growing distance between Lukla and the villages.  There are no cars on the trek so everything has to be carried in by humans or yaks (interestingly and disturbingly enough, to transport via yak is more expensive than using a porter!!). We certainly could not wait to get to Base Camp to rid ourselves of all the nasty bugs of the villages!

DAY 15

Everest – Day 13: Pheriche to Lobuche

April 11 (Thursday)

today's trail

today’s trail

After a ‘bad’ day yesterday I woke up with a slight sore throat.  I couldn’t complain much though, most people in my group were sick with either a cold or GI stuff…  Supposedly traveler’s diarrhea is so common in this region that even the bugs causing the illness got resistant to the antibiotic of choice to treat them! (Ciprofloxacin). Instead, the drug of choice there is Azithromycin.  Even though we went with one of the best companies out there (Alpine Ascents), there is only so much they could control.  We were served our food in the lodges cooked by the local people.  Water was boiled by the local people.  Also, as I already mentioned, the higher up we went, the worse the sanitary conditions got, going from the individual showers to communal toilet.

We started our hike out of Pheriche through an incredibly beautiful field covered with rocks and snow.  We had expensive views of the north face of Ama Dablam behind us, so I frequently was turning around to memorize the view in my head and on film.  In addition, the field seemed to be a perfect site for yaks to graze on.  Since it was spring, the mama yaks brought out their incredibly cute babies to graze along with them.  A few of us fell a little behind the rest of the group because we just couldn’t get enough of this sight!!

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After some hot soup and hot tea at one of the little villages we started walking uphill at our own pace.  We came to the top of the hill where we were greeted with an unusual sight: the chortens.  Chortens are in other words memorials to those who have lost their lives on this mountain.  Many of them had prayer flags upon them.

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One of the most prominent chortens was the one for Scott Fisher, the American guide who founded Mountain Madness and who lost his life high up on the mountain in the 1996 disaster (one of the guys you read about in “Into Thin Air”).

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There was also a memorial for the Asian woman who died as recently as last year…  And farther away on another hill there was a row of chortens erected for the Sherpas.

chortens for the fallen Sherpas

chortens for the fallen Sherpas

This was a very humbling experience, to say the least.  It was also a big reminder of what Everest can do to us regardless of how careful we are climbing it.

We kept hiking on a pretty flat trail with Nuptse right in front of us and made it to our new home, Lobuche at 16,200 ft.

final stretch to Lobuche

final stretch to Lobuche

view from our lodge at Lobuche

view from our lodge at Lobuche

DAY 14