March 15, 2012

Mountaineer Conrad Anker to Lead Spring 2012 Expedition to Mount Everest With Support of National Geographic and The North Face®

Two Ascents, Both Seek Summit — Southeast Ridge Team to Focus on Education and Science; West Ridge Team of Anker and Cory Richards to Retrace Route of First American Ascent on West Ridge

Climb to Be Covered Online Starting March 16 at natgeo.com/oneverest and www.thenorthface.com/everest.  Real-time Updates from West Ridge Team to Start April 16 on National Geographic Magazine App for iPad

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Mountaineer and The North Face athlete Conrad Anker with Everest highlighted by the sun in the distance on the left. (Photo: Cory Richards)

Continuing his legacy of renowned ascents, famed mountaineer and The North Face athlete Conrad Anker is aiming once again for the top of the world as he leads a team of climbers setting out to reach the summit of Mount Everest this spring.

Steeped with a history unlike any other, Everest has been perhaps the most sought-after summit for climbers in the world. Anker, along with fellow The North Face athlete and National Geographic photographer Cory Richards, will revisit Everest’s storied past as they attempt to repeat the historic climb of the 1963 National Geographic-sponsored American Mount Everest Expedition (AMEE) almost 50 years after the first American ascent to the summit via the West Ridge.

Anker and Richards will climb Everest’s West Ridge, a route seldom visited. Their alpine-style climb will be documented by Richards for a feature in National Geographic magazine to be published in early 2013 and covered in real time on the magazine’s May issue iPad app starting April 16. It can also be followed online at the partners’ websites and on Twitter via #oneverest.

Anker and Richards’ efforts will be complemented by a second team of climbers from The North Face global athlete team, including Kris Erickson, Hilaree O’Neill, Emily Harrington and Sam Elias. This team will attempt the summit simultaneously on the Southeast Ridge of the mountain. They will focus on mentorship within the climbing and mountaineering communities. Erickson and O’Neill, who have climbed some of the world’s most challenging mountains, will provide insight and education to the younger Elias and Harrington, who have traditionally been focused on rock and ice climbing.

The scientific portion of the expedition involves geologists from Montana State University on the Southeast Ridge team and medical specialists from Mayo Clinic at Base Camp.  On the Southeast Ridge team will be Montana State University professor and structural geologist, Dr. David Lageson. He will focus on research and education in partnership with Philip Henderson of the National Outdoor Leadership School and Travis Corthouts, a geology graduate student who will conduct research from Everest Base Camp. Also part of the Southeast Ridge team will be National Geographic writer Mark Jenkins. Some members of this team will contribute to an online science curriculum developed for fifth graders by Montana State University.

“The West Ridge of Everest is a demanding and challenging route. Sharing the science of Mount Everest is a goal of our team, and combining our two objectives in one expedition is a fitting tribute to the 1963 AMEE team,” Anker said. “Everest remains a beacon of exploration. The ability to share the experience of Mount Everest with school children while conducting science is the foundation of our expedition.”

Continuing the scientific theme, at Base Camp a team of five Mayo Clinic researchers will study climbers from both teams, recording real-time data for a comprehensive look at the impacts of high altitude on human physiology.

The expedition is sponsored by National Geographic and The North Face, with support from Montana State University.

“National Geographic is thrilled to support this exciting project, which takes a historic achievement we funded — the 1963 American Mount Everest Expedition — and uses it to frame a modern-day attempt at the summit. New technology allows us to do something that was impossible in 1963 — bring National Geographic magazine readers along in real time, with video, photographs and blogs from the expedition in the magazine’s May issue app for iPad,” said Rebecca Martin, director of National Geographic’s Expeditions Council. “Supporting this expedition is particularly meaningful to us because Conrad and the teams seek to not only replicate what has to date been a singular achievement but also to expand scientific understanding of Everest and instill a deeper appreciation of the Himalayas through educational outreach.”

“At The North Face, we are excited to work in partnership with National Geographic on this momentous expedition. We are proud to see our athletes Conrad, Cory, Kris, Hilaree, Sam, and Emily embarking on a journey that truly exhibits the evolution of high-altitude mountaineering and honors its rich past,” said Todd Spaletto, The North Face president. "We see this expedition as a tremendous step inspiring outdoor exploration in communities around the world.”

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Mountaineer Conrad Anker (left) with teammate and National Geographic photographer Cory Richards join forces to climb the West Ridge of Mount Everest in the spring of 2012. (Karine Aigner/National Geographic)

March 27, 2012

Harrington Has A New Friend

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According to her Instagram, Emily Harrington, who is trekking to Everest Base Camp now, “My favorite yak with the white face walking along the giant mani stone wall in Khumjung. The journey continues.” 

March 28, 2012

Elias Takes In The View at Lion’s Gate

Sam Elias is having an epic experience as he makes his way to Everest Base Camp. He snapped this Instagram pic and wrote the caption, “Nuptse, Everest, and Lhotse from the Lion's Gate. Never did I think I would gaze upon this – view of my life. #thankful #OnEverest.”

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Follow Sam’s photos on instagram at @bookofsamuel, and see how everyone is experiencing the Everest Expedition by using the hashtag #OnEverest on Instagram and Twitter.

March 30, 2012

Harrington: Getting There, Kathmandu, Trekking to Basecamp

March 30, 2012

Every day is new.  There’s constant change and sensory overload in the sights, sounds, tastes, and smells we encounter each day.  It has been so hard for me to put it all into a coherent and concise piece of writing right now.  Our impeding arrival at basecamp, acclimitization process, and eventual summit attempt are all looming, swirling around in my mind like a dizzying hurricane of doubt, excitement, and anxiety.  I can’t keep it all straight, so forgive me for being scattered.  Here are some ups, downs, and facts of the trip so far:

We first arrived in Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal about two weeks ago.  It is a totally crazy place to me.  I found it difficult to comprehend the culture and way of life there.  Simultaneously chaotic, spiritual, impoverished, beautiful, and suffocating.  We visited three notable places during our first days there: the Pashupatinath Temple, the Boudhanath, and the city of Bhaktapur.

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Pashupatinath Temple, one of the most significant Hindu temples in the world, and the holiest in Nepal.  Human cremations take place there, out in the open along the Bagmati River, which flows into the Ganges River in India and eventually reaches the holy city of Varanasi.

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Boudhanath Stupa, one of the holiest Buddhist sites in Kathmandu and one of the largest stupas in the world.  This is perhaps my favorite place I’ve visited in Kathmandu.

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Bhaktapur, an ancient Newar city located on the outskirts of Kathmandu.  It is a very prominent center for architecture and traditional art.  The way of life there seems untouched and well-preserved within the ancient walls, a time capsule. 

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Trekking to Basecamp

Flying into Lukla was scary for me.  The plane is so small and the mountains are so big and I was terrified of crashing.  That said, I was in awe once we landed, because the mountains ARE. SO. BIG.  And they just get bigger and more powerful the deeper we travel into the Khumbu.

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Hiking to Namche

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Namche Bazaar, at 3,440 meters; it is the main trading center in the Khumbu Region and one of the most modern and populated towns in the Khumbu Valley.

Sam, Cory, Conrad, and I are wearing these monitors on our chests 24/7 throughout the entire trip for the Mayo Clinic researchers.  They are arriving to basecamp in a few weeks to conduct further tests on us in an effort to understand the effects of high altitude on the body and relate it to heart failure symptoms.  The monitors gather all kinds of information that I don’t completely understand, including measuring our hearts 256 times per second.  Whoa. 

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Sam sporting the monitor with the specialized TNF baselayer

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I caught some sort of sickness in Phortse after a big day of hiking from Namche.  My chest hurt, I started coughing and wheezing, and had a terrible headache.  I was so bummed and upset about it.  I rested there for two days while most of the crew visited the monastery in Tangboche. Today is the first day I feel better.  I am realizing that being sick, tired, or just “off” is a high possibility for the next month or so, and there’s not much to do about it but try and rest well and deal with it.  Patience, patience, patience.

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We spent some time at the Magic Yeti Library in Phortse, reading with the local kids. They sang to us, practiced their english.  It was a pretty cool experience.

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We arrived in Pangboche yesterday and had two Puja ceremonies.  The first one was with Lama Geshe at his house.  It felt like a very intimate and personal event.  We each received Kathas and necklaces with special knots tied in them, in addition to cards with notes personally written to each of us by Lama Geshe himself.  The second one was held at the monastery in town.  The lama there chanted and played a gong for a while before giving us each a blessed katha.

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Lama Geshe gives his blessing to Sam

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Puja at the Parlibu Monastery

Ama Dablam behind the stupa

The magestic Ama Dablam (6856m)

April 1, 2012

O’Neill: Traveling to Kathmandu

I really hope I didn’t leave my house in total chaos. Packing for this trip was more difficult than usual just based on the length of time Igone going to be gone. It also didn’t help that I wouldpack and then Quinn and grayden would find things in my bags that were “fun” and unpack them for me. I found my solar battery pack tied in the curtain strings. My brunt on solar roll was used as stepping stone to see over the railing- I’m going to cross my fingers that that will still work. I wasn’t totally encouraged by the loud cracking noise when Q actually started jumping on the poor thing.. I’m a little worried about thI thing I didn’t  find and that are not longer with me, hopefully, nothing too important.

Despite the fact that I left Telluride on Thursday, I am still on my way to Kathmandu. Due to some cancelled flights and long layovers, I will only get to Nepal today. I met up with Nat Geo writer Mark Jenkins in Dallas and was so payched that he got us an upgrade to fly business class on our 15 hr flight to Dubai. Ive never flown Emirates airlines before but they were so great, especially helping us with our absurd number of bags.

Our 24 hour layover in Dubai is coming to an end.  This is somewhere I never thought I would visit so it was pretty cool to see some of the sights yesterday. Today, we are on our final leg to kathmandu. One night in kathnmandu and off to Lukla and the start of our trek to Basecamp.

April 4, 2012

O’Neill: Namche

I’m still trying to figure out how to blog so, hopefully, whoever is following this will bear with me! The iPad has to use an app to be able to attach photos to go with the blog- thanks to Gabby who’s been sorting me out from home or I’d never have figured this out!

At any rate, I am now in Namche, finally putting a real impression on a place I’ve only heard about for years. It’s taken us two days to walk from Lukla. The biggest excitement was getting to Lukla. With bad weather, flights from Kathmandu were severely backed up and we were afraid it would take several days to make it to Lukla. Mark jumped on the chance to make the trip via helicopter stuffed with a bunch of gear. Alas, Mark, myself and one of our climbing Sherpas, Dawa, flew in on a Bell Ranger heli. Not so bad.

We’re hiking in with Dawa Sherpa who will then become our Sherpa on the south col. If she summits, sounds like she will be the first Nepalese woman to summit in the capacity of a working Sherpa. Really very cool… Especially since she is only 23 years old!

I’ve been fighting a cold this whole trip, hoping I can keep it at bay. My whole family was sick before I left and I brought it with me. The good thing is we have a slow pace with lots of sleep. Lots of food as well- always a good thing.

Anyway, I am hoping this post will work- if so I will follow with more photos!!

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April 4, 2012

Harrington Acclimatizing With Great Views

Via her Instagram Harrington said, “View of the West Face of Ama Dablam (6812m ~ 22,349ft) from the top of Nagarstang Peak (5038m ~ 16,625ft). The West Face is very technical and has only been climbed a few times, not near as often as the Normal Southwest Ridge route. Nice little #acclimatization hike today with Kaji Sherpa #OnEverest @natgeo @thenorthface”

Harrington

Follow the Everest expedition on Instagram by using the hashtag #OnEverest

 

April 5, 2012

O’Neill: Catching up…

Today we are spending the entire day in Namche. Apart from a short hike above town this morning, I have been catching up on some much needed sleep and rest. The weather pattern seems pretty consistent so far, with sun and warm temperatures in the morning, eventually disintegrating to rain and wind and cold by the afternoon.

Knowing this, we headed out early for the village a Khunde, a few hundred meters above Namche. Since I am still waking up at 5 am, early is no problem and well worth it. Ama Dablam was clear as a bell as we topped out in Khunde. It is as incredibly beautiful as all the stories and photos make it out to be.

Mark and I are still planning on another 5-6 days before we reach Everest Basecamp and the rest of our group; Conrad Anker, Cory Richards, Sam Elias, Emily Harrington and Kris Erickson. They all arrived at Basecamp nearly a week ago and have been working to put the whole camp together. Namche seems to be crawling with lots of Everest climbers, seems that Basecamp will be a busy place this year!

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Flying in the heli to Lukla, sitting next to Dawa who will, hopefully, be the first Nepalese woman to climb Everest as a working Sherpa.

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A crazy hail storm that thundered down onLu’s for several hours. Thank goodness for tea houses!

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An amazing view of Ama Dablam today, from just above Namche.

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Just a cool chicken, hanging out.

April 7, 2012

O’Neill: Pheriche

Our pace towards Basecamp has been fairly steady. Yesterday from Namche was really snowy in the morning and very muddy by the afternoon. The general consensus from the Sherpas and other people we are meeting along the way is that the weather is unseasonably cold and wet. At any rate, a new coat of snow makes everything incredibly beautiful so it’s not so bad!

Today the sun was out but the temperature stayed brisk as the wind has been blowing pretty hard all day. We got our first view of Everest this morning, just the top and a bit of the south face peeking over the summit of Nuptse. It’s still a ways away but the walking has been so enjoyable. We never seem to walk more than a few hours a day and I’m pretty sure I’m spending more time eating than actually hiking.

Mark and I are working on consuming four meals a day. It’s hard work but with all the tea houses around we are getting fairly good at it. I need to put a few pounds on before the climb so the food and long nights of rest are going to help once we reach Basecamp.

Today, we are already in phrenic he for lunch. We will stay here tonight and then on to Lobuche, Gorak Shep, and finally, Everest BC on the 10th of April.

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A local at the Hillary school above Namch

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Prayer wheels above Namche

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Dawa and I on our snowy morning hike from Namche to Pangboche.

April 9, 2012

Elias Takes an Acclimatizing Hike

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“Acclimatizing hike to about 5800 meters. The view – #Everest (8848m), #Lhotse (8516m), and #Nuptse (7855m). The #Khumbu ice fall is between the western shoulder of Everest and Nuptse. It is continuously moving downward and turns left to become the Khumbu glacier. #OnEverest @natgeo @thenorthface” – Sam Elias on Instagram (@bookofsamuel)

 

April 10, 2012

Harrington: A look at Everest through her lens

Emily Harrington is currently residing at Everest Basecamp, and the following are some shots she sent of her journey to get there.

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Sam hiking down from Syangboche.

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Porter above Phortse en route to Pangboche.

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Reading with the kids at the Magic Yeti Library in Phortse. Founded by Pete Athens and Leisel Clark.

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The Puja Ceremony in Pangboche.

 

April 17, 2012

O’Neill: Everest Base Camp

Mark, Dawa and I have made it to Everest Basecamp- finally. It’s a dream come true for me to see all these mountains I’ve heard about my entire life; Everest, lhotse, Nuptse, Pumo Ri, Loboche, AMA Dablam and so on and so forth.  We took our time coming in on the trek and now I feel well acclimatized to our new home at 17000 feet, plus or minus. It also gave me time to get over my cold, never an easy thing to do once you get to high.

Things seem to be plugging along at camp. MSU has been sending lots of dispatches and videos to create content for the education side of this adventure. Cory and his assistant, Andy, are handling photo and video content for Nat Geo. Mark should be starting his Nat Geo blog on the 16th. The rest of us are filling things in for North Face via their blog and instagram.

There has been a virus floating around Basecamp that has put some hurt on part of the group, namely Emily Harrington and Dave Lageson. With that said, we are splitting into two groups for our first foray up the mountain. I will head up tomorrow morning around 5 am with Kris, Andy and Sam. We will move through the icefall to Camp 1 at about 5900m. The next day we will go to camp 2 at around 6400m. We’ll spend two nights there and then head back to Basecamp on April 16th- my mom’s birthday- Happy Bday mom! The rest of the group will follow a day behind, in hopes that Emily and Dave will be healthier and stronger.

I’m really looking forward to climbing higher. I will update the blog when we get back down. Our technology at camp is pretty amazing. We actually have wi-fi but it is really expensive to use so I will likely only write in seldomly. Thanks to everyone for your comments and all the support!

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Mark and I acclimatizing atop Khala Phattar before reaching Basecamp.

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Llama Geshi giving us a blessing in Pengboche.

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My system for charging my iPad on the fly!

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A beautiful morning for a hike, outside our tea house in Pengboche.

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Cory Richards super excited to have the whole team together at Basecamp.

April 18, 2012

The North Face: On Everest Video Dispatch 1 – Sam Elias

Approach Everest through the eyes of The North Face climber, Sam Elias.

 

April 19, 2012

O’Neill: Back at Base Camp

It’s a crazy thing to finally walk a path I’ve heard about for so many years- the Khumbu ice fall.  We headed up on Friday the 13th and, all I can say is, I’m glad I didn’t realize the significance of the date until we had safely passed through to Camp 1.  Without a doubt, the icefall has an incredibly high level of subjective hazard. So much so, that upon our return, Kris and Cory went to speak with one of the head Sirdahrs of Everest Basecamp to see if, as a group, we could get the icefall doctors to change the route.

On a more positive note, our group has been the first to venture up the mountain. What that means is that we have had the unbelievable pleasure of experiencing camp 1 and camp 2 with no other climbers. On Friday it took us about 5 hours to reach Camp 1. Another hour or so to set up our tents and then the rest of the day to chill and soak up our surroundings. I got my first glimpse of the Lhotse face and was psyched to see how snowy it looked. We spent the night and then had a casual morning and hiked to camp 2. From there, things got a little dicier- weather came in and the wind was cranking. We had to pick axe platforms out of the rock and ice. At 6440 meters, swinging a pick axe and throwing rocks hurts like hell. We spent 3 nights at camp 2 and came down this morning all the way to Basecamp in less than 4 hours.

Camp 2 is beautiful, we were nestled in the cirque of Everest, lhotse and Nuptse. Truly incredible. The mountains here are, obviously, the biggest in the world and, therefore, very powerful. Laying in the tent, we could hear the constant thrum, like a train, of the jet stream as it blew above our heads on the ridge tops. Intimidating to say the least.

At any rate, I am glad to be at Basecamp and looking forward to 5 or 6 days of rest before heading back up. A coke and Pringles for lunch never tasted so good!

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Our first foray through the Khumbu icefall.

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Emily and Anjin arriving at Camp 1 in good spirits!

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A view of Camp 2 from the flank of the west ridge of Everest.

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Cory and Conrad looking for their route to the west ridge, Lhotse face in the background.

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Sam Elias crossing one of the first ladders in the ice fall.

 

 

 

April 21, 2012

Elias: Thoughts From My Tent

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Saturday April 21, 2012.

It’s 6:02 pm at Everest base camp, 6:18 am in Boulder, CO where I left 5 weeks ago tomorrow. We’re about to eat dinner here. Today around noon, I lay resting in a yellow room – my tent – like a starfish, no shirt, ¾ length long underwear. My wristwatch read 91 degrees Fahrenheit, and the air was heavy, but thin to my adapting lungs. I must consciously inhale and exhale deeper. It’s uncomfortable but I’ve nearly grown accustomed to it. We’re residing at over 17,000 feet (5254m). It stank in there; only 3 showers in all these weeks, and not many fresh clothes.

My mind drifted. Around me, the landscape rises up with massive relief. My tent is oriented such that behind me there is Pumo Ri (7165m), and to its left in a semi-circle – Lingtren (6749m) and Khumbhutse (6665m). Then, out my front door is Everest (8850m), Lhotse (8501m), and Nuptse (7861m). Each except Nuptse is on the borderline of China (Tibet) and Nepal. Everest base camp is the cul-de-sac of the Khumbu valley and glacier. There is nowhere to go from here but up.

Down valley you can see the tops of smaller peaks – Tawoche (6367m) and Cholatse (6335m). This is a radical place – harsh and raw and extreme. It’s amazing to be here, but I feel out of place. Around me, the land speaks – rock fall, landslides, avalanches, serac collapses.

Every afternoon the wind picks up, the clouds come, and it gets cold quickly. It all adds to my sense of awe and anxiety as a visitor. This afternoon was no different. My bodily sensations brought my mind back from its wandering – I was cold. My watch read 29 degrees, and it was pounding snow. Things can change so quickly here. It is a magical place, but it commands attention. We are lucky to be here…

Time to eat.

 

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April 22, 2012

O’Neill: The Daily Grind…

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We’ve now had 5 full days at basecamp and everyone is starting to get a bit stir-crazy.  This morning we had a group meeting to plan out our next rotation up the mountain. The Lhotse face will be getting fixed with ropes on the 26th and, as all the groups have agreed, we cannot climb on it prior to that time, it looks as though we won’t ascend until Wed, the 25th.

With that said, we are all falling into our Basecamp routine which mostly consists of eating!!! Today, Emily and I sorted out all the food that we will need for our high camps for both the West Ridge and the South Col routes. Conrad is checking our water for us on a daily basis- a good thing given the warm temps here in camp.

Yesterday, I did a great hike up to Pumori Camp 1 to get a look at the Lhotse face and see if there was any more snow. Not so much, still super icy! We all had an amazing day of ice climbing. Dawa, our sherpani, is a strong climber and it was fun to climb with Sam and Emily, as well as the other Sherpas in our crew. I even did my first ice lead, in ski boots!

All in all, we are healthy and well acclimatized and looking forward to getting back up the mountain…

April 25, 2012

Audio Dispatch – Hello, This is Conrad

Click play below to listen to an audio message from Conrad Anker who is at Camp 2 on Mount Everest.

April 25, 2012

Harrington: The Fat Lady Sings

Today the mountain warned us.

The upper part of the icefall has been a topic of hot conversation among our small basecamp community in the past few weeks. Conrad referred to the act of hiking through this section as “Dancing with the Fat Lady of Fate in the Ballroom of Death.”

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Heading up the “Popcorn” section of the Icefall. Below the danger zone…..

The seracs above and to the left of the trail hang precariously, calving off multiple times a day and dusting unsuspecting climbers below. Thus far, there have been no injuries, but these instances are mere hiccups compared to what could happen. A much more massive section could slide, dropping truck-sized ice blocks onto the trail below and killing anyone that may be in its path.

Even the Sherpas have been wary of the Fat Lady.

They said it was dangerous, the trail was too close, but that the other routes that steer clear of this danger may not be much safer. The bottom line is that the icefall is unstable and dangerous this year, and with hundereds of people passing through per day, it is only a matter of time before something bad happens.

Among our group, Cory was the most frightened. He stated his opinion many times, to us and to others at camp. He wanted the route to change. He even said one day that he would not go through the icefall again until it had changed. “It’s scary and I hate it,” he would say, shaking his head and casting his gaze downward.

His feelings made me scared too. I have zero experience in the big mountains, but I fear most what those who are most experienced are afraid of.

Today, the Fat Lady was active. She sang and danced throughout the morning and early afternoon, dropping sizable chunks of ice near the trail, to the point where the group of Sherpas returning from Camp 2 refused to descend.

“To dangerous. Big ice will fall. They will wait.” Panuru, our Sirdar (head Sherpa), told us this afternoon.

We are scheduled to head up to Camp 2 tomorrow at 4am. “If no ice fall before tomorrow, you wait one more day.” He told us, shrugging with his characteristic half smile that makes everything seem o.k. even when it’s not.

Years of experience, or maybe the mountain itself, had told the Sherpas that passing through the Ballroom on this day was not a good idea, something would happen. “Big ice will fall” Panuru’s words echoed in my head. “How do they know?” I wondered.

I was sitting in my tent fitting my crampons onto my boots when I heard it. I know the sound now. Before, when the loud rumbling began I instinctively thought of a giant semi barreling down a highway. But there are no vehicles here.

Now, I am used to hearing the sound of the avalanches. It starts low and guttural and then builds and echos off of the surrounding mountains, crashing waves of snow and ice that fill my eardrums and quicken my heartbeat.

Holy Sh*t!” I heard someone say. The sound was louder than usual. I immediately searched the icefall, my eyes landing on the Ballroom up high. The entire lower section was collapsing, spilling over itself and piling up below in a mass of bone crushing ice and snow. Powerful and terrifying, I felt my panic rise. I pleaded with a higher power, “Please don’t let there be anyone in there. Please.”   

We hurried over to Panuru, who was already on the radio speaking rapid Nepali to our Sherpa team up high. “No one in there. They come down now. Much, much safer now.” He told us.

Safer now and no one was hurt.

The Fat Lady has fallen and there’s not as much left to collapse. The icefall is still dangerous, and requires immense caution and awareness, but one of the biggest dangers has been diluted by the avalanche this afternoon.

What could have been a terrible tragedy was instead an impressive lesson in patience on the part of the Sherpas. They had listened and heeded the warning of the mountain, and were rewarded with safe passage.

We are extremely lucky to have such competent and experienced people climbing with us.

Now that the danger has lessened, I am finishing my packing to head up to Camp 2 tomorrow morning. We will climb to Camp 3 and possibly to Camp 4 before heading back down in a week or so.

Until then……

 

April 27, 2012

Everest Update: Avalanche at Base Camp 1, One Rescued

The following is an update on the avalanche that hit at Base Camp 1 on Everest today, written by Montana State University student Travis Corthouts, who is accompanying geologist David Lageson on the Everest Expedition.

Usually I’m not in the right place at the right time to see something incredible happen, I always just miss it.

That wasn’t the case this morning. 

After breakfast I took a walk up to the Everest ER medical clinic where I found myself sitting in the sun, chatting with some of the staff.  The ER location is as far up valley as a base camp location can be, which offers a great look at the icefall and into the beginning of the western cwm.  While chatting with ER staff and enjoying the morning rays, we heard the common rumble of an avalanche and looked up to the faces that flank the icefall, but saw no avalanche.  We looked back at each other to continue talking but the rumble increased and we looked back, but again saw nothing. 

Seconds later people began screaming and shouting, and this time we looked up to see a cloud of snow over 100-feet high barreling out of the western cwm over the top of the icefall.  The mass of snow was so tall it didn’t even seem real and it filled the entire width between the walls of Everest and Nuptse. 

We were in disbelief – Camp 1 sits right at the top of the icefall.  All you could hear was people saying “no, no, no” as the cloud pushed out over the icefall.  Near the top of the fall I could see a single file line of small black dots disappear – people, making a routine descent were now enveloped by the expanding cloud.  All we could think was, ‘is Camp 1 completely buried?’  How many people are lost? 

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Views of the avalanche from Everest Base Camp.

The scale of what we saw didn’t make sense at first. The top of the icefall is low angle, nearly flat, and yet a plume of snow ten stories tall went blasting over it like an explosion.  The avalanche must have been massive!  Guides, Sherpas and anyone nearby affiliated with an expedition converged at the Everest ER tents, all with radios in hand on a different channel listening to someone screaming in Nepalese, Italian, English, whatever; it was chaos for several minutes following the avalanche. 

As the snow dust cleared I looked up to see the black dots, which were now huddled in a group – Safe! 

Imagine their panic when they saw what was coming for them, not knowing if a river of snow would entomb them or the tail-out would just dust them. Luckily it was the latter. 

News began piling in from the radios. One of the doctors who speaks Nepalese was frantically taking notes to keep track of which expeditions radioed in as “all accounted for.”  There were still so many questions.  The radio talk was frantic, with people on scene and in Camp 2 rushing to get a tally on their clients and guides, and to form a search and rescue plan ASAP. 

Some of the first details were – one Sherpa was definitely missing, an orange helmet was found along the debris periphery, some people were injured, a young man was blown into a crevasse, and members on multiple radio channels called for their Camp 2 first aid kits and skeds (body sleds) to be sent immediately to the site. 

I stayed at the ER for a half hour and then returned to camp. Right now it’s just Dave and I at base camp- the rest of the team is on their second rotation up the mountain. 

From our camp, Dave didn’t quite get a good view of the action and so I informed him on the severity of the situation.  We scanned the radios, getting updates on the status of each expedition. Things were scattered, but it seemed most people were accounted for.  We had little concern about our team as we knew all members to be up at Camp 2 or higher.

The main effort soon revolved around the man who had fallen into a crevasse. He had been rescued from the void but was in critical condition.  People on scene were rushing to set up a tent to treat him and mark out an area for a potential helicopter rescue. 

The medical reports over the radio were poor, but we picked up that he was in and out of consciousness, barely responding when conscious and tachycardic (going into shock). 

All the while there were constant questions on the radio about a potential helicopter evacuation – is there a landing zone marked, what’s the wind, elevation of clouds, is there a helicopter available, is the patient stable enough? 

Soon Simone Moro’s high pitched, fast-talking Italian voice became involved in the conversation of a helicopter rescue. 

Simone has graced our camp multiple times as he is friends with Conrad and Cory. He was also one of Cory’s partners last year on the first winter ascent of Gasherbrum II.  Simone is one of the more decorated mountaineers alive today and he’s planning the Everest-Lhotse traverse this year without oxygen.  He’s also a helicopter pilot and owner, with experience in high altitude rescues.  In fact he was the pilot who flew to Camp 1 to retrieve the body from last week’s casualty.

Before long Simone was airborne and on his way to base camp from Lukla.  We listened to his eta updates over the radio and when he warned 1 minute, we could hear the dull roar of his blades and we stepped out of our mess tent to watch him blast over our camp.  He landed and held idle, waiting for the go ahead from people coordinating the rescue above. 

I grabbed my camera and a radio, and jogged to the helicopter, parking myself 50 feet away with the helicopter pointed right at me.  I could see Simone through the windshield and I listened to the communications between him and rescuers on site.  A few minutes passed and then a voice on the radio said, “Simone, ready to take off?” Simone insta-replied, “ok ok, we take off!” 

He throttled up, lifted about 10 feet, dropped the nose of the chopper straight at me then floored it.  The rescue took minutes only, and Simone landed back at base camp briefly to drop off Rachael, the ER doctor, and then took off to Kathmandu hospital. 

That’s all the detail I have now, but I will keep you posted as things develop.  

 

 

April 28, 2012

Update: Richards Evacuated From Everest

On Saturday, April 28, 2012, The North Face athlete and National Geographic photographer Cory Richards was evacuated from base camp at Mount Everest following the onset of symptoms of altitude sickness.

Richards walked from camp 2 to base camp under his own power and was evacuated via helicopter to Lukla where he is receiving medical treatment.

Richards was on an expedition to Mount Everest, with support from National Geographic and The North Face.

Both National Geographic and The North Face extend our thoughts and prayers to Cory for a speedy recovery.

Update 4/29/12, 12:05 AM: Cory’s affliction was not related to altitude, but was a possible pulmonary embolism.  Cory is now in Kathmandu, where he is resting and awaiting a diagnosis.

 

 

 

April 30, 2012

AUDIO DISPATCH – HEY, THIS IS SAM

Click play below to listen to an audio message from Sam Elias who is at Basecamp on Mount Everest.

 

May 2, 2012

CLIMBER CORY RICHARDS LEAVES EVEREST EXPEDITION

WASHINGTON (May 2, 2012)—Following an emergency evacuation from Mount Everest on April 28, National Geographic photographer and The North Face global athlete Cory Richards decided, along with his climbing partner, expedition leader Conrad Anker, that he will not return to the National Geographic/The North Face expedition to summit the mountain via the West Ridge.

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Sherpas walk a sick Cory Richards into Camp 1. (Photo by Andy Bardon)

Richards was evacuated from Mount Everest suffering respiratory distress. He is healthy, and all tests to date have been inconclusive regarding the exact diagnosis. Richards is currently in Kathmandu, Nepal, and will return to his home in Boulder, Colo. In addition to being a The North Face athlete-climber, he was on assignment for National Geographic magazine, shooting real-time coverage of the expedition and a feature article for the magazine planned for early next year.

A decision has not yet been made about whether Anker will continue with the West Ridge climb. The expedition also includes a second team of The North Face climbers, National Outdoor Leadership School instructor Phil Henderson and National Geographic writer Mark Jenkins, who will attempt to summit via the Southeast Ridge. That climb will continue as planned.

“We were concerned for Cory’s health, and it was very sad to see him go. It was in his best interest to not risk further injury and to leave the expedition,” Anker said. “Going forward, I look forward to seeing the success of the South Col team; all of them are acclimatized and doing well. My overarching duties as expedition leader with Mayo Clinic and Montana State University are still there. And should I find a partner, it’s still my dream to climb the West Ridge.”

“Cory is incredibly talented, and we look forward to many more opportunities to work together,” said Chris Johns, editor in chief of National Geographic magazine. “We completely support his decision to put safety first and are grateful the expedition continues under Conrad’s expert leadership.”

“While we know what a disappointment this turn of events is for Cory, our main focus is for him recuperate. We’re relieved to know that he is in good hands,” said Aaron Carpenter, The North Face vice president of marketing. “Cory is an incredibly accomplished climber and photographer, and we look forward to seeing him back on the mountain soon.” 

 

May 2, 2012

Richards: I have to withdraw

Hey crew!

How’s it? Well? Hope so.

All is well in Kathmandu as the last of the tests have finished up. The great news is that my body is as healthy as it has ever been. All the doctors have cleared me on all accounts and have repeatedly insisted that whatever the cause of the brief episode I experienced, it was not related to altitude. Likewise, there is no evidence of a pulmonary embolism. Wonderful news…though frustrating that we can’t find an explanation.

Because of the overwhelming positive encouragement from all the doctors and specialists who have helped over the past five days, it is with a heavy heart that I have to withdraw from the expedition. While conclusive medical testing has shown that I am fit to return, the final decision regarding my involvement comes down to the team at Base Camp. Though I’m deeply disappointed in the decision not to let me return, I understand completely the team’s collective concerns regarding my health and well-being, and honor and respect them.

My greatest wish is that the team will continue to climb strong and to climb well…getting to the top and back down with all ten fingers and all ten toes…I look forward to hearing of their success shortly and wish them the best on the climb.

Thanks so much to all who have helped over the past five days…especially Sadie Quarrier and Jiban Ghimire…and all the folks at National Geographic and The North Face…you are all amazing!

Best and warmest,

C

This post is an email received from Cory on the morning of May 2, 2012

 

May 4, 2012

Henderson: Opening Our Eyes

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Climbing is not always about moving ourselves up.  Often it is about opening our eyes to different views.  Spending tent time in remote places has always helped me see things from a different perspective, whether it is things in my own life, problems to solve, or helping others.

It helps me, if nothing else, to be open to the views of others. People, if I agree with their view, is irrelevant. What matters is that I am open to another view.

Mountains provide me with the ability to see a different perspective.

This is one reason why I suggest that more people spend tent time in the mountains, to open their eyes. We all become healthier, physically and mentally when we are open to others.

Let's all spend more times in the mountains so we can open our eyes.

This post was written by Phil Henderson who is currently on Everest with the National Geographic and The North Face expedition.

 

May 7, 2012

Anker: Hello from Everest Base Camp!

Hello from Everest Base Camp!

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Self portrait at 7100 m. Wind, freezing temps and a smile.

After a busy week with the Bruce Johnson MD and  Mayo Clinic team we are settling into a bit of tranquility. Teams are working between 7000 m and 7900 m. The overall spirit in camp is upbeat, despite the challenges with the dry and windy weather.

Life is precious and there is nothing like a demanding environment to remind us of how insignificant we are. Our bodies are challenged by the paucity of O2. Sleep is fleeting, we naturally shun calories and we loose muscle mass. Yet above us is the summit of the planet. The draw is powerful and is our source of inspiration each day. Keep an eye on the horizon, stay calm, be patient and be positive.

 

May 9, 2012

Elias: Testing on Everest

We’ve been in base camp for eight days, and today we will head back up the mountain for our third rotation. We were hoping that our third trip up would be for the summit, but the weather has not been cooperating, and in terms of acclimatization, it’s getting to be too long for us without being up high.

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The team spends time inside the Mayo Clinic Tent at Base Camp.

Six members from The Mayo Clinic arrived here in base camp while we were up on the mountain last time. With them were also two employees from The North Face, and one from National Geographic. The group brought over 600kg of really expensive and technical medical equipment. Thus, we spent the last week getting tested.

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Our blood, heart, lungs, cognitive functioning, sleeping, general body composition, and energy expenditure were all examined and will be further analyzed. The reasoning of Dr. Bruce Johnson and his team was to study the cardiopulmonary system under extreme stress. The goal is to hopefully apply the findings to people with heart problems. He and his team have found similarities between what happens to the body as it ascends and is exerted at high altitude, and what happens to the body of a person with a failing heart. Similarities such as fluid in the lungs, changes in heart rhythm, changes in breathing, etc. For us climbers, it is an opportunity for what we do to potentially have an impact on the mass population, as heart problems are so widespread in the world, and we are all glad to participate. For more info: (http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/244391.php)

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Emily Harrington works on a Mayo Clinic cognitive test.

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Phil Henderson has his pulse checked.

In addition to working with the Mayo personnel, we were testing various prototypes and working with the two members from The North Face on developing better products. We had many productive conversations, and the unique and immediate interactions that happened in the field proved beneficial to all.

The athlete team is very connected to the product innovation, design, and testing process, and the people within the company that work in these areas. Derek Campbell, the Director of Global Product Innovation, and Landon Bassett, the Outdoor Division Brand Manager were sent all the way here to Everest base camp to see how we use our gear firsthand, and to listen to what problems we have, and work with us to modify existing products or to create new and better ones.

The end result proves that the system works very well, as The North Face products are always at the forefront of innovation and quality because they are truly – “Athlete tested, Expedition proven.”

It was good to have them all in camp, refreshing new energy. It seemed that both the Mayo team and the TNF team were very satisfied with all that they did while here. Working and spending time with them allowed this rest cycle to pass by with ease. Now, however, they are gone, and it’s time that we go back up again. Stay tuned.

May 9, 2012

Update: West Ridge Expedition

While there is speculation about whether or not Simone Moro will join Conrad Anker on the expedition to summit Everest via its West Ridge, nothing is confirmed.

Check back daily at northface.com/everest and nationalgeographic.com/everest to hear the news when it’s official from the team on the mountain.

May 11, 2012

Anker: Audio Dispatch, Conditions are great

Click play to hear a voice message from Conrad Anker on Everest

Greetings Friends, this is Conrad with the 2012 National Geographic, North Face Everest expedition. I’m here at 6400 meters, which is approximately 21,000 feet.

2,000 feet above me we’ve got Hills and Chris and Sam and Emily and Mark Jenkins. They’re up at Camp 3, and that’s about 7,000 meters approximately 23,000 feet, and they’re camping up there to acclimatize.

Conditions are great. We’ve had periodic snowfall in the afternoon, which is great. It’s just keeping the snow… The snow is keeping the rocks, cementing them in. So we’re experiencing less rock fall, and we’re hoping that sometime in the next, ohh, 10 days or so, will have a summit window when the winds abate and we have clear whether.

Thanks for following, and have a pleasant day. Take Care. 

 

May 15, 2012

Harrington: As long as I live, I will never forget

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Self portrait walking through the Western Cwm just before reaching Camp 2.

Recently, the glaring negative environmental and social impacts of the Everest region have been broadcasted on the Internet, ranted about in forums, and beaten into our heads until the image of this place is that of one giant garbage dump with too many people who don’t belong or deserve to be here.

After having spent nearly two months here, I don’t agree; but I am also not going to go into it. I’ve heard it too many times before to regurgitate the facts. This place exists, in all its ugliness and beauty. And I want to share my experience with you.

What I will tell you about is the mind-blowing strength of the Sherpa people, who carry exponentially heavier loads than I can even lift in record speed to the high camps for us, and then return before we’ve had coffee in the morning.

Or how frightening it is to ascend through the icefall at 3 a.m., and even just try to comprehend how the Icefall Doctors manage to develop and maintain a safe route through this obstacle course of death throughout the season.

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The moon at sunrise in the Icefall.

Or how the intense heat of the Western Cwm can make your blood boil like you’re walking through the Sahara, parched and beaten into utter exhaustion.

How, from Camp 2, you can hear the wind barreling down off of the summit of Everest, like a freight train with no breaks. It reaches your tent moments later and you’re suddenly in the middle of a hurricane, the nylon ripping and floor trying to lift your helpless body off the ground.

Basecamp is slightly more friendly to us humans, because we made it that way. It’s a strange place, an international community of people convening at the base of the tallest place on earth for one common goal: to get themselves or others to the top.

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Hilaree O’Neil doing laundry in Basecamp.

But in many ways, it’s just like any small town, only it’s situated on a glacier and everyone lives in tents. There are kitchens, bathrooms, showers, and basic amenities. We have solar power (and generators, an admittedly unfortunate reality), wifi, and spotty cell coverage to keep in touch with friends and family.

There’s also a social aspect to Basecamp. I went to a rather raucous party in a white dome pod decorated with tiger rugs a few weeks ago, and a horseshoe tournament yesterday.

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Horseshoe tournament.

The community is friendly and tight-knit, with its fair share of gossip and drama, just like any other place.  The only anomaly I’ve noticed is the small ratio of females vs males; but hey, that’s pretty much expected.

As for our team, we’ve been progressing steadily up the mountain. Now, we’ve slept at Camp 3 (7100m), on a wonderful and unusually calm night, the sunset being one of the most perfect moments I’ve ever experienced. After a sleepless night induced by a lack of oxygen, we tried to move a bit higher before being turned around by the nuking frigid winds, which welcomed us that morning.

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Kris and Sam at Camp 3, Mt. Everest in the background.

That’s been the crux of this year – the wind. We’ll have to wait until it decides to abate before heading for the summit, hopefully in the next 10 days or so.

I have to keep reminding myself that the reality of playing in the big mountains is that nothing is certain and erring on the side of caution is always the best path to follow.

So now we’re back at basecamp, waiting and waiting in this bizarre little city that has become our home for the past six weeks now.

I am not sure yet if I like climbing big mountains as much as I do sport climbing in glorious temperate places, but I am starting to understand the allure of being in a place so much more vast and powerful than we can comprehend. It’s overwhelming and humbling and puts us in our respective places as human beings.

Perhaps that draw is why so many people come to experience this place; or maybe they just want to stand on top of the world. Either way, this is a small glimpse of my time here.

As long as I live, I will never forget the glorious sunsets I witnessed, the fierceness of the wind and sun, or the suffering I endured at the merciless hands of altitude. I am grateful for all of these things.

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Sunset on the Lhotse Face. A perfectly calm evening at 7100m. Rare and unforgettable.

 


May 15, 2012

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC/THE NORTH FACE CANCELS 1 OF 2 EVEREST SUMMIT ATTEMPTS

The West Ridge portion of the Conrad Anker-led National Geographic and The North Face expedition to summit Mount Everest has been canceled due to unsafe climbing conditions on the West Ridge route.

The expedition planned to summit via two routes, the West Ridge and the Southeast Ridge, in an attempt to repeat the historic climb of the 1963 National Geographic-sponsored American Mount Everest Expedition (AMEE).

“After looking at aerial photos of the Hornbein Couloir, the route is not safe to attempt this year.  It is a tough decision, but canceling the West Ridge climb is the sensible thing to do," Anker said. “I am excited that the Southeast Ridge team will still make a summit attempt, and that we can work to fulfill our geologic and scientific goals with that part of the expedition.”

You can read more of Anker’s thoughts here.

The Southeast Ridge team, composed of National Geographic magazine writer Mark Jenkins and The North Face Global Team Athletes Kris Erickson, Hilaree O’Neill, Sam Elias and Emily Harrington will continue as planned with their summit bid later this month. Anker hopes to climb with the Southeast Ridge team.

The expedition is covered in real-time on the magazine's blog and in the May and June editions of the National Geographic Magazine App for iPad.

 

May 16, 2012

O’Neill: Safer on Skis

Many people have thought I was crazy for wanting to ski down from the summit of Everest. My standard response has always been that I am much more coordinated on my skis than on my feet.

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Hilaree at Camp 3 on the Lhotse Face. Dry conditions meant bringing our skis back down to Base Camp.

For example, when I was pregnant I skied until about 7 months with never a single fall or problem. However, as soon as I would take my skis and boots off, put on tennis shoes and turn around to walk, I would trip over the dog and go sprawling on the pavement.

Well, apparently my inability to walk like a normal person is no different on Everest. A few days ago, as we were finishing our final rotation on the mountain, it became evident that skiing was not going to happen.

Sam, Kris and I decided to bring our gear down and focus just on climbing. Sam and I skied from Camp 2 to Camp 1, across crevasses, ice and changing snow conditions, carrying our skis over ladders spanning gaping holes, all without incident.

But as soon as I get to the “safety” of base camp, I manage to severely sprain my ankle walking back to my tent from another camp.

Seriously?!?!

While I spent the entire night freaking out that I’d ruined my chances to summit Everest, I am thankful that is not the case. It looks like we have about a week at base camp before the weather gives us our summit window.

My ankle seems to be holding steady and with lots of ice, compression socks and rest, I think I’ll still be able to pull it off. As Conrad says- Hold fast! Patience, patience, patience. I’m just in awe of my ability to take something very hard and make it a lot harder.

I’m keeping this post short but many things have happened in the past week so I will write again soon. As always thanks for all the support from everyone and keep your fingers crossed that I can get my foot in my boot in six days time!!

 

May 18, 2012

Erickson: Patience -The art of Waiting

Some things are easier experienced than explained, and the ability to teach patience isn’t always so easy. As days drift into weeks, and the weeks into months, this expedition forces each of us to dig deep and ask difficult questions of why we choose to pursue such a daunting task.

The climbing is hardly climbing at the technical level we enjoy at home and the dangers are greater than most we will ever experience in a lifetime.  Yet we are all here and all willing to put forth the effort to make the summit a reality.

The Everest Enigma is a unique question we all struggle to answer and for each of us the answer is different.

Why climb the highest point on earth? Because it’s there, or maybe more deeply because of the challenge associated with the difficulties in the personal struggle found along the way.

Either way the reality of what it takes to climb Mt. Everest lies in weeks or months of effort, sometimes in the simplest form of being able to wait. For some on the team the time in base camp can fly by but for others there is less responsibility and the time can leave one wishing for something to do.

We all find ourselves wishing for the comforts of home at points during the expedition, but for Sam and Emily this is a hard first expedition and they are more than eager to get back to the lives they know in the states.  Hilaree misses her boys, Conrad has been fighting for weeks in the thickest of red tape Nepali bureaucracy, hoping to now join our South East ridge team and I struggle to balance my responsibilities as a team leader with my role documenting the expedition.

Climbing Everest is providing each of us with a unique opportunity to learn more about ourselves, and the difficult questions you can’t run from with distractions of everyday life. The reality is nothing is easy about climbing Everest.

As we wait these last few days for our final opportunity to push back up the mountain there is no easy way to teach the value of waiting.

Over 300 people are currently waiting on the mountain to try and summit, not waiting like us here in the comforts of base camp, but waiting high on the mountain in the death zone at 8000m. Those teams poised at Camp 4 on the South Col are banking on the weather holding steady and their window of opportunity providing a safe summit bid.

With so many teams going for the same summit day it would be difficult for us to be there preforming the geology and science we have planned for the top. Unfortunately that means letting others go when we’ve been here the longest. Having arrived to base camp weeks ago, more than nine of them, I had hoped to go for the summit in early May, yet with the chaos of a dry season and now so many teams looking to try for the first window of opportunity, I felt it was better to wait yet a little more.

In all reality I can only hope that making the call for the later window will allow our team to have a safer summit day. I’m hoping there will be less people waiting on the lines, lower winds, more daylight, warmer temps, all pointing to a greater chance of the team being able to attain all of our lofty goals, but then again we have to wait. 

May 20, 2012

O’Neill: The day has finally arrived.

The day has finally arrived.

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View of base camp.

We’ve received our weather report today and it couldn’t look any more promising for a summit attempt on the 25th. Winds are low, a mere 5-10 km per hour at 8500m at midnight. Temperatures are manageable at -20 C and the weather window is solid, in that it lasts for 3-4 days.

Everyone in camp was struggling with letting this first weather window pass us by, but in the end, I think it’s the best decision we could have made. Our team is now six people, Kris Erickson, Sam Elias, Emily Harrington, Conrad Anker, Mark Jenkins and myself.

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Conrad does an interview with Anjin and Kris- an amazing ice formation in the background.

Phil has decided to step down from making a summit attempt and has taken on the role of base camp manager, something we desperately need.

Sooooo, tomorrow we will get up at 2 a.m., head out around 3 a.m. and climb to Camp 2. We will then have a rest day at Camp 2 and go to Camp 3 on the 23rd. We will leave Camp 3 around 6 a.m. on the morning of the 24th and expect to take about 8 hours to get to the South Col.

Given that everybody feels strong, we will rest for a handful of hours and then start our summit push.

The majority of climbers went for the first summit window so we are hoping the mountain will be considerably less crowded and will, therefore, allow us to move quickly and safely.

Our group has definitely had its challenges the last week or so. First, Phil got pretty sick at Camp 2, on our last rotation, and had to descend on oxygen. Fortunately, he is well but, as I said, won’t be trying for the summit. Then I sprained my ankle but, thanks to some sage advice from Greg at IMG, it is back in one piece and I feel very confident climbing on it. I’m pretty sure it’s going to hurt like an SOB:) but I’m taking a positive outlook that it will help distract me from the suffering of high altitude.

Greg, by the way, is an Olympic gold medalist volleyball coach so he’s seen a few sprained ankles.  His advice was to stick my foot in a mostly frozen glacial lake 4-5 times a day, among other things that equally sucked.

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Extreme icing to get rid of swelling. Torture.

I thought he was crazy but it worked!

Kris got a sinus infection and had to go on antibiotics. Not great but we’ve had enough time at Base Camp for him to heal.

Finally, Conrad got food poisoning. Not pretty. I’ll spare everyone the details on that. Needless to say, camp got a bit grim but things are looking up and we are all getting our mojo back.

I won’t be doing any blogs while on the mountain but we will be doing sat phone updates to the North Face and Nat Geo websites, as well as Facebook.

 

May 20, 2012

Anker: Calm before the calm

Today is the third day of Everest ascents for the 2012 season. Camps clang oxygen cylinders as makeshift bells in honor of their Sherpa climbers and members reaching the apex of our planet. We are quite excited for each of the teams and wish for safe passage back to base camp.

With less than 48 hrs to departure the team is readying for an ascent later in the week. We reviewed the medical devices and procedures today and will follow up with the GPS and sampling procedures tomorrow. Then it's game time. A quick and safe passage through the icefall to Camp 2, a day of rest, a short day to 7100m and then onto she South Col and the summit the following day. If everything goes well we will be back in base camp in a week.

As a way to soothe the apprehension of the unknown I recount the food I'll be needing and recheck my harness. There is only one day to have a go at the final 3000 feet of the 12,000 feet above me. Regardless of it being relegated to a trade route it is hard and as we learn today, lethal.

My favorite food is tucked away and my harness and gear rechecked. What might the next week bring? The route is a known entity, and we are hardly pioneers in any sense of the word. Yet the unknown, if we allow it to be part of our motivation, can transport us in our minds to the moments of discovery that define being human. Finding these moments keeps us in the spirit of exploration.

More to come via sat phone…..

 

May 21, 2012

Elias: Audio Dispatch, calling from Everest Camp 2

Click above to listen to a voicemail from Sam Elias.

What’s up? This is Sam calling from Everest Camp 2. We got here this morning, the team, everyone got here quickly and safely and everyone is feeling great. We had a really nice day up here just resting. We’re going to rest at Camp 2 again tomorrow and then the following day head up to Camp 3.

Everyone’s excited. Everyone’s feeling really good.

It’s nice to have Conrad with us. I got to walk with him today from Camp 1 to Camp 2 and it’s pretty amazing the amount of people that he knows up here. The amount of sherpas who have gone through the Khumbu Climbing School. They all stop and say hello to him. It’s just an honor to be able to be here with him and now have him climbing with us.

Everyone is in good spirits, we’re all really excited and the weather looks like it’s going to be really good for us. Just wanted to say hello to everyone out there and thanks for all the support and we will talk to you in the next few days.

 

May 25, 2012

Erickson: Audio Dispatch, Summited This Morning Bright and Early

Click play above to listen to an audio message from Kris Erickson who was at Camp 4 after summiting Mount Everest.

It’s Kris calling from the South Col on Mount Everest. Just wanted to give you an update and let you know that Hilaree, myself, Sam, Emily and Mark Jenkins all summited this morning bright and early.

It was very cold and windy, but rather beautiful at the same time.

We’re all back here at the South Col. Hilaree and I are resting up and we are going for Lhotse at midnight tonight. So, wish us the best. We’ll give you an update from Camp 2 when we get there tomorrow and hopefully we’ll have summited Everest and Lhotse in one 24-hour period.

 

 

May 26, 2012

National Geographic and The North Face® Expedition to Mount Everest Reaches Summit

Southeast Ridge Team, Focused on Education and Science, Returns From Summit to Camp 2 Following 74 Days of Exploration

 Climb and Team’s Summit Push, Including First Photo from the Summit, Covered Online at natgeo.com/oneverest and www.thenorthface.com/everest. Expedition Also Covered in Real-Time in the May and June iPad Editions of National Geographic Magazine.

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@emilyaharrington self portrait at the top of the the world – 8848m Mt Everest. What a climb it’s been! @thenorthface #oneveres (Photo by Emily Harrington)

WASHINGTON (May 26, 2012)—Taking advantage of what was only this season’s second good weather window, five athletes on a National Geographic and The North Face expedition reached the highest point on Earth, stepping foot atop the summit of Mount Everest at approximately 8 a.m. Nepal time on Friday, May 25.

Renowned mountaineers Hilaree O’Neill and Kris Erickson, along with rock and ice climbers Sam Elias and Emily Harrington — who are all part of The North Face Global Athlete Team — and Mark Jenkins, a climber and writer on assignment for National Geographic magazine, set out from the South Col at approximately 9 p.m. May 24 Nepal time for their summit push. The expedition marked the first Everest summit for the entire team. Upon return to the South Col, O’Neill and Erickson continued to summit Lhotse, accomplishing the two summits in one 24-hour period.

“It was awesome,” Harrington said. “There is a 360-degree view of the Himalaya, and you could see over into Tibet, all of Nepal and the mountains. It was amazing just being able to stand up there, and experiencing that made the whole thing worth it.”

Following the team from the moment they set out, National Geographic and The North Face have given followers the chance to take a front row seat, watching the expedition as it unfolded through use of the photo sharing app Instagram, which was put in the hands of the climbers themselves to share photos of their experiences. On Instagram, @natgeo and @thenorthface followers were the first to know the team had summited, as Harrington posted a self-portrait she took on the summit from Camp 4, as she returned from the top of the mountain.

The expedition got underway March 15 with the team of five accompanied by famed mountaineer Conrad Anker and National Geographic photographer Cory Richards, both of whom are also athletes on The North Face Global Team. The two had planned to summit Everest via its seldom-climbed West Ridge in celebration of the 1963 National Geographic-sponsored American Mount Everest Expedition —the first American ascent to the summit via the West Ridge. However, Richards was evacuated off the mountain on April 28 for unspecified health issues, and Anker, a two-time Everest summiter, determined that due to dangerous conditions on the West Ridge, he would instead accompany the South Col team.

Following a climb from Camp 2 to Camp 4 to unite with the South Col team on May 24, Anker decided to remain at Camp 4 for his team on their descent and to assist with any additional support that should be needed, and the five pushed ahead on what would be a challenging climb. After the team had summited and safely arrived at lower elevations, Anker made a push for the summit himself. He summited without oxygen via the South Col at 10:10 a.m. May 26 and is now reunited with the team at Camp 2. This marked Anker’s third Everest summit, yet his first summit via the Southeast Ridge.

One of the main purposes of the South Col expedition was for Erickson and O’Neill, who have climbed some of the world’s most challenging mountains, to provide mentorship to Elias and Harrington, whose backgrounds are in rock and ice climbing.

The expedition was also focused on education and seeking to answer scientific questions, with geologists from Montana State University on the Southeast Ridge team, and medical specialists from Mayo Clinic at Base Camp.

Mayo Clinic researchers have been studying the climbers and recording real-time data as part of their research on the impacts of high altitude on human physiology. The Montana State University team re-surveyed the summit of Mount Everest in the hopes of shedding light on the compression between the Indian and Eurasian tectonic plates that lie beneath the mountain, as well as attempting to obtain a new height measurement for Everest.

The Montana State University team also created an eight-week online science curriculum to accompany the expedition, which focused on geology, glaciology, climate change and other topics, to allow classrooms to mimic the research and observations of the Everest team. Developed with a grant from the National Science Foundation and support from The North Face, National Geographic and other sponsors, the curriculum is targeted at fifth graders, but is available to teachers of any grade.

The team is now at Camp 2 and will likely return to Base Camp within 24 hours, where they will offer additional comment on their experience and prepare for their return to the States. The studies conducted on the mountain are expected to be published in the coming months.

In addition to National Geographic magazine’s current website and iPad coverage, the magazine plans to publish a print article by Jenkins early next year.

 

May 26, 2012

Elias and Anker: Audio Dispatch, sitting in a 2-Meter Dome

Click play above to listen to an audio message from Sam Elias and Conrad Anker who were at Camp 2 after summiting Mount Everest.

It’s Sam calling from Camp 2 on Everest and I’m sitting in a 2-Meter Dome with Kris and Hilaree and Conrad. Emily and Mark are already down at Base Camp, doing well and psyched and safe. As for the rest of us, we’re pretty hammered. Today Kris and Hilaree did Lhotse, which is the fourth highest peak in the world and neighbor to Everest. They chained the two in a single push and I think that Hilaree might be the first woman to ever do that. And it’s pretty rare to do, so Kris is pretty psyched, especially after his attempt last year.

And Conrad sent the big Everest without Oxygen in great style today and I’m going to pass the phone over to him to say a few words. He’s super psyched and he’s just chilling and recovering.

Hello.  I hammered myself today. My lungs are hurting but I got it done last minute. I hope everything is going well. We’ll be down to basecamp tomorrow and we’ll have more communications going. Talk to you soon! Bye.

May 27, 2012

Anker: Audio Dispatch, it was time to go and it was game on

Click play above to listen to an audio message from Conrad Anker who was at Base Camp after summiting Mount Everest.

Greetings folks, this is Conrad calling from Everest Base Camp and just back here after descending the Khumbu Ice Fall. On the 26 of May I managed to reach the summit of Everest at five minutes after 10 a.m.

I climbed with myself. I made a decision with about two hours notice in the middle of the night. I wasn’t feeling too well on the 25th so I declined to climb with my other teammates and the weather, the wind died and it was time to go and it was game on and we had fun. So, that was that. It was a trip to Everest.

May 29, 2012

Q&A: Emily Harrington on Reaching the Summit of Everest

Emily Harrington has a new notch to add to her belt this week: reaching the summit of Mount Everest.

On Friday, May 25, Harrington reached the top of the world. After firing off a now widely-circulated self-portrait from the top of Everest she made her way back down past Camps 4, 3 and 2, through the Khumbu Ice Fall for one last time, and then she perched herself atop a rock to rest, and fill us in on the details of what this journey was like for her.

EmSummit

TNF: How do you feel? You just summited Mount Everest!

EH: I feel really, really tired, actually. I just sat down. I’m not even to camp yet at Base Camp. And I just sat down to rest as I’m struggling to get back.

It was a marathon of climbing and it was a lot mentally and physically. I don’t think I’ve slept in three days.

TNF: Would you say that this was one of the more challenging things that you’ve done?

EH: Yeah. It was one of the more challenging things I have done. Not necessarily physically, even though it was super physically challenging. But more than anything it was really mentally challenging. It was just hard not knowing what to expect, being here for so long, trying to stay motivated and having all kinds of things happen. There were accidents up there and that can be disheartening and worrisome. It’s just a lot.

I went from 9:30 last night to 6:30 this morning to the summit and then back down, which is another four hours, and then I went all the way down to Camp 2 yesterday. And then I came down to Base Camp today. It’s been a lot. Climbing an 8,000-meter peak is not easy, no matter what anyone says.

TNF: What was it like on the summit?

EH: It was a little frustrating for me because I got stuck behind a group of people that were slower than me and I couldn’t do anything about it. So Kris and Hilaree summited before me and I saw them on the way down. I ended up summiting by myself. The reason they were coming down is that it was brutally cold and windy up there. If you took anything off you’d get frostbite.

But it was awesome. I mean, there is a 360 degree view of the Himalaya and you could see over into Tibet, all of Nepal and the mountains. It was amazing just being able to stand up there and experience that made the whole thing worth it.

TNF: So, you made it to top and achieved some goals that some who set out to summit Everest never achieve. What is that like to know that?

EH: It’s been a really long journey mentally and emotionally just being here and experiencing what it’s like to be within this realm of climbing, which is something different than even the mountaineering world. It’s Everest, which is a whole different animal in itself. The whole experience has been eye opening. There are a lot of negative aspects of it, but there’s also a lot of positive things about it and I am just really grateful that Conrad thought of me for this trip and thought that I was strong enough to be on it. It’s the experience of a lifetime. I don’t think I’ll ever forget it and I’m super thankful that I was able to be here and do this.

TNF: Now that you’ve accomplished what Conrad thought you could, do you see in yourself what he initially saw?

EH: Yes, totally. I started out this trip and I was super sick and I didn’t have a lot of confidence and towards the end of the trip it was like gaining altitude. I felt stronger, better and more confident in my abilities. I utilized a lot of my experience from climbing while I was in the mountains and I feel like I’ve been able to really open my mind and be open, accepting and listening to those who have more experience than myself, like Kris, Hilaree and Conrad. I’ve learned a lot and I think that maybe what Conrad saw in me hadn’t yet manifested itself, but now it has.

TNF: You really did have the A Team, so to speak, of mountaineers to learn from and be mentored by up there. How was the process?

EH: I learned a ton from them. They climbed with us all the time. They were the people that I looked to whenever I had a question or any sort of concern. I trust them more than I trusted anyone on the trip. It turned out great. They advised me and they gave us guidance, but they didn’t hold our hands in any way, shape or form. I think they had enough trust and confidence in our abilities as climbers to just let us trial and error it and experience it in our way, but with safety and guidance in mind. It was super cool. They were just there and it was comforting.

TNF: Well, that begs the question: Will you ever go back, or could you see yourself having the desire to?

EH: Um… I think I would maybe come back. I don’t know. I might need a little more time on that. I just came down from the ice fall a half hour ago and it’s kind of sketchy because it’s getting hot up here. I just thought, “Oh thank God I never have to do that again,” so, I don’t know… Lhotse looks like a really cool mountain to do.  I would like to experience more mountaineering and alpine climbing on different, smaller, more technical peaks, I think. Just cut my teeth and experience that aspect of climbing, because climbing Mount Everest is, like I said, totally different than anything.

May 31, 2012

Anker: Audio Dispatch, you’re not done till you’re done

Click play above to listen to an audio message from Conrad Anker who was surveying a glacier after summiting Mount Everest.

Well, they say you’re not done till you’re done and, this is Conrad here. I’m at the 5,700 meter elevation. I’m in Nare glacier on the south face of Ama Dablam and I’m here with Subhash, Hey Subhash.

Subhash: Hello

Conrad: Have you been walking?

Subhash: Long time walking

Conrad: Oh yeah, long time walking. We started out this morning walking at 3 a.m. and we gained 2,000 meters of elevation in probably 20km distance. This is the fifth of the Extreme Ice Survey cameras that we’re switching the cards out and doing maintenance on. Everyone else is headed to Kathmandu and I’m enjoying one last moment down in the mountains. There’s nothing like walking slowly after summiting Everest without supplemental oxygen to feel the effects.

We’re happy, it looks like the card came out ok, the battery and computer are all working well and the glacier looks a little anemic from here. It’s one that we are studying and we’ve got two years of data on it now. Yeah, you’re not done till you’re done, we definitely had work left, we saved the best things for last. So, this is Conrad calling in from the Nare glacier, in the Khumbu valley, and take care!

 

June 5, 2012

O’Neill: It was going to be one of those perfect days

Everything has been such a whirlwind for the last week – my apologies for not writing to the blog sooner.

Hil1

Testing my mask at the South Col.

The whole team has made it safely to Kathmandu, and I am getting ready to head home tomorrow after ten weeks in Nepal.  But, I should jump back to where I left off on the last blog.

We climbed more or less according to how we had planned, with only a few extras thrown in. We left Base Camp early on the 21st. It was amazing to me how much the temperatures had warmed over a seven-week period. When we first arrived at Base Camp I was constantly freezing, sleeping at night in all my down layers and even hiking through the icefall in my down jacket. Our final tour up through the icefall was a very different story.

Hil2

Lighting juniper to bless our climb at base camp.

We left earlier than normal in order to avoid any sun exposure between Camp 1 and Camp 2. I was also nervous that my sore ankle would slow me down. Needless to say, we all made it to Camp 2 without getting heat stroke. The icefall had changed dramatically, almost unrecognizable in the way it was falling apart. Seeing this made us realize it was now or never. The icefall would not hold up much longer and soon the ladders would be removed from the crevasses and the route would disappear.

At Camp 2 we all took a day to rest. No matter how acclimatized one is, it's still a beat down of a day going from Base Camp to Camp 2 – it's some 4000ft in elevation gain at high altitude. We rested the 22nd and then climbed to Camp 3 on the 23rd. At this point, Conrad elected to stay at Camp 2 and climb directly to the South Col the next day with the Sherpas. Camp 2 to Camp 3 is tiring but very doable in three hours or less. It's fairly direct and the elevation gain is only around 2000 ft.  From here, Emily, Sam and Mark started using oxygen to sleep on and then to climb with the next day to the South Col. Kris and I had decided to hold off on using O's until the South Col.

Hil4

Kris and Emily resting at Camp 3.

The next morning, the 24th, Conrad and the Sherpas reached Camp 3 around 6 a.m. and we all started towards the next camp together. This is where I started to get a bit nervous. Despite thinking we would not be summiting on a crowded day, seeing the number of people headed to the South Col told us otherwise. We inserted ourselves in a long line of climbers and started the long walk through the Yellow Band, over the Geneva Spur, and finally to the South Col at nearly 8000m. I was pretty happy with making it in a time of six hours, pretty good for not using oxygen. No doubt, though, I was tired and we only had a few hours of rest before we started our summit push.

Hil3

Kris climbing above Camp 3.

Conrad, Kris and I shared a tent at the Col. It was during this rest time that Conrad decided to opt out of the summit push. Kris and I donned our o2 masks and tried to rest. Sam, Emily and Mark were all doing fairly well. We decided to start climbing around 9 p.m.

For me, it was a bad night. From the minute I left the tent, I just knew it was going to be one of those nights of climbing that are a constant struggle. I put my crampons on wrong and within minutes of leaving camp, one fell off and then the other. I missed the start of the fixed ropes and ended up scrambling on blue ice trying to find them. I couldn't get my oxygen mask to fit well and it kept fogging up my goggles, which then iced over so I couldn't see. On and on and on.

In the end, I think this series of fumbles was because I was really scared about the climb. The weather was not what it was supposed to be, the wind was blowing a steady 20 mph and when we left the tent, the temperature was already -28 degrees Celsius, way too cold. There was a line of 150 people in front of us and we left way to early as it only took an hour before we were stuck at the end of the line.

This many people meant climbing way too slow and then crushing yourself when you tried to pass people. I also knew there were at least four recently dead climbers on or near the fixed lines that we would have to climb over or around.

All in all, we made it to the summit. Kris and I topped out around 5 a.m. with the others shortly behind.

The crowds of people made the summit a little anti-climactic for me. There were some 60-70 climbers on top of Everest when we arrived. In addition, the temperature was around -50 with wind chill, which made it impossible to linger and left me with frost nip on several fingers.

I was so proud of Sam and Em being able to overcome the difficulties of this trip and the challenging conditions of our summit day. For their age and total lack of high altitude climbing, it was pretty amazing for both of them.

But, alas, now we get to the fun part. All of us had bought permits to climb Lhotse as well, but we were all so knackered it didn't seem possible.

Sam and Emily were both out, in fact she and Mark continued down to Camp 2 on the 25th. Conrad said he still didn't feel up to climbing. That left Kris and I. We rested on oxygen from 10 a.m. to about 10 p.m. on the 25th, not really able to sleep or eat. As we were melting water, we kept telling ourselves that we would just give it a try and if it didn't work we'd descend. Simple. Then Conrad came into our tent and asked if we had any extra water. He was going to try to climb Everest without oxygen. That was when I noticed it. The wind had died. There was absolute stillness at the South Col. The stars were out, the temperature was warmer. It was going to be one of those perfect days, the kind of day I fear even mentioning so as not to jinx it.

Conrad set out for the summit of Everest about 1 a.m. and Kris and I headed the opposite direction towards the Geneva Spur. We needed to wrap around to the Lhotse face and drop a couple hundred meters before starting the climb. We left the trail around 2 a.m. and began our ascent.

Kris was climbing hard and it was difficult for me to keep up. I had several moments of thinking I was too tired and wasn't going to be able to summit. There was one climbing party of four ahead of us. They were 2/3 of the way up the mountain when we started. When we caught them before the summit, I realized I wasn't going slow but that Kris was going absurdly fast.

All in all, it took us about three hours to summit Lhotse, putting Kris and I on the summit of two 8000m peaks in 24 hours.  It was amazing and Kris and I were the only people on the summit and I was just thankful for the weather and to have had a good climbing day after the struggle of the previous night. 

On top of that, Conrad summited Everest a few hours later without oxygen.

Amazing.

After Lhotse, everything was a whirlwind. We flew down the mountain, moving every day until we reached Kathmandu. Of course, now that I have stopped moving I am so tired I can barely walk. I'm sick and just started antibiotics. I think I just spent so many weeks willing myself to stay healthy that now my body is telling me I need rest.

My ankle survived the journey but it also is swollen and painful and likely just pissed off at me in general for stuffing it in an 8k boot and climbing hard for several days.

Needless to say, we all worked really hard and it will take our bodies some time to recover. Thanks again to everyone for all the supportive comments and I look forward to getting home to see my family and friends.