Team Delta: After 14 months of training, August 2nd 2014 we sailed out of St-Malo, France in a VOR 60 (Volvo Ocean Racer) Kevlar mono-hull racing sailboat called Esprit de Corps 11 across the North Atlantic to Quebec under skipper George Leblanc. We are 10 Quebec entrepreneurs who had little or no experience sailing but who recognized the great opportunity and learning experience to cross the vast ocean in such a purebred classic machine. This pedigree raced the 1998 Whitbread Round the World Race covering 39,000 nmi (nautical miles / 72,000 km) over a 9 month period. Her mast is 103 feet and she weighs in just under 30,000 lbs, and was designed to tear up the waves and push at more than 30 knots.
Day 1 got us pounding against oncoming waves in medium light winds following west along the north Brittany coastline. It felt great to finally get going but also meant that the reality of Open Ocean and grinding cramped conditions came home to roost. Most of us including myself had the rude awakening of seasickness the first and second day. Generally our first few days were rough until our bodies settled in to the rolling swells and insomnia conditions. We had 2 revolving shifts over a 5 day period. First shift of 3 hours on deck, next 3 hours on call, followed by 6 hours off. That meant 12 hours on and 12 hours off over 24 hours. Second shift every 5th day¬ was as back-up helmsman and was 3 hours on followed by 3 hours off 24 hours consecutive. The on deck team consisted of Francois Labarre or Gilles Barbot (First Mates) rotating every 3 hours, +2 man crew + back-up helmsman. It was a well-oiled schedule prepared for surprize. George our captain was never far from view.
Besides hauling sails up and down according to wind direction and strength, tacking or jibing, keeping our bearing west at approximately 280°, always being on look-out for floating debris, we were often awesomely entertained by passing dolphin pods jumping to our delight and leading us in unison at the bow. Occasionally a whale would surface and you would see the vertical spray from its ‘blow hole’. These were the very special moments of the day to see such amazing mammals and creatures of the sea. Some of the crew saw 2 huge turtles. Most incredible to me was all the birds (different species of seagulls) that were ubiquitous even in the middle of the ocean. I never expected that. Often they would circle just above the mast as if trying to land on it. Occasionally you would see a small flock hovering just above the waves and it would mean some attack was going on just below the surface. One night against the backdrop of a full moon we saw birds that appeared like large bats flying in seemingly archaic acrobatic flight.
We were truly all alone in the middle of the ocean. The last boat we saw was about 100 miles off the French coast and the next one about 10 days later was a few hundred miles before Newfoundland. What impressed me early one evening was a thin narrow band of reddish light on the horizon separating sky from sea. It was a 360° panoramic view the likes of which you would never see anywhere else except on such a perfect flat plane. Although alone on the sea surface, below one suspected was a living world of unimaginable proportions. This sense of awe I found enormously profound. It occurred to me at one moment lying in my bunk that my father emigrating from England at 6 months old 106 years ago with his poor family traveled the same route to the New World as I was doing. The big difference being they were fleeing poverty and I was accomplishing a goal, not to mention my father unfortunately getting polio on his boat.
Our weather conditions varied from one hot sunny day when we all jumped overboard to swim and wash ourselves in the cool ocean to a local depression with 40 knot winds. Calm, wind, sun, clouds, rain, and storm – we experienced it all. Hoisting our larger spinnaker one morning got us into serious trouble spinning out which then caused the halyard to potentially wreck the spreader bar high on the mast. George immediately recognized the ominous danger and cut the rope letting it fly downwind sporadically. We hauled it in but the line got tangled in the propeller shaft. It took 4 hours to cut the rope away under the boat by Guillaume, Alex and Robin.
We arrived 17 days later in Rivière au Renard in Gaspé. Not the fastest time but what we could manage with the conditions. I left the boat with Manu and Robin and flew to Montreal for business reasons. The rest of the team stayed onboard and mostly motored up the St. Lawrence River to Quebec City arriving 2 ½ days later. The dynamics of our team made this journey a great success. George, Gilles and Francois empowered us through their experience and sailing wisdom. They were key to our accomplishment.
Opportunity – Voyage – Challenge. These 3 words rolled over in my mind as what this crossing meant to me.
Opportunity when Gilles Barbot invited me to be part of the first ever ‘traversée de l’Atlantique’ by Esprit de Corps. We have done a lot of challenges together over the years and this would be another first for us. Opportunity is golden and not to be taken lightly.
Voyage to me was the amazing environment of being in such a small boat sailing alone across such a vast wilderness of water totally vulnerable to Mother Nature and the unknown. You are really at the mercy of the elements and you know it when you are out there. Albeit flat, the extraordinary beauty of sunrises and sunsets, the moon, waves, wind, clouds, rain, sounds, ocean visitors all add up to a deeply personal and profound experience.
Challenge is what changes you, opens your eyes, feeds your passions, delights your senses, strengthens your resolve, tests your commitment to living. It is the messenger to living a full, happy, healthy and extraordinary life. For me personally, I needed to take this challenge on to conquer my fears of vast Open Ocean on what I called merely a beautiful ‘popsicle stick.’
North Atlantic Crossing
After 14 months of training, August 2nd 2014 we sailed out of St-Malo, France in a VOR 60 (Volvo Ocean Racer) Kevlar mono-hull racing sailboat called Esprit de Corps 11 across the North Atlantic to Quebec
Amazing Team: Guillaume Le Prohon, Alexandre Forgues, Véronique Labbé, Patrick Garneau, Kevin Jutras, Robin Lacasse, Patrick Brassard, Aviva Lavallée Roberts, Emmanuel Chenail, Theodore Fairhurst.
Crew Delta: Skipper George Leblanc, 1st Mates; Francois Labarre, Gilles Barbot. 2nd Mate: Gauthier Da Silva
After 14 months of training in Quebec city and Montreal, we are ready to sail. We have been mentored by skipper Georges Leblanc (www.georgesleblanc.com/) and Francois Labarre to man one of the most sophisticated racing boats of its era, a VOR60. It is a carbon fiber mono-hull 65′ racing machine pushing a 100′ mast that sailed the 1998 Volvo Ocean Race around the world.
We are 2 teams of 20 entrepreneurs, +skipper, 1st mate and Gilles Barbot thedreamer who made this happen. The Alpha Team of 10 are sailing east from Quebec to St-Malo, France departing July 11. The Delta Team also of 10 (myself included) sail from St-Malo to Quebec leaving August 2nd. We are passionate souls who dream of a world much bigger than ourselves. We want to explore our destinies.
Saint-Malo is a walled port city in Brittany in northwestern France on the English Channel that was in the past notorious for piracy. Jacques Cartier, who sailed the Saint Lawrence River and visited the sites of Quebec City and Montreal – and is thus credited as the discoverer of Canada, lived in and sailed from Saint-Malo.
I am doing this challenge to experience and test myself on a whole new plane of adventure. We must constantly renew and invigorate ourselves to measure our inner strengths and wisdom. I always embark on these challenges on edge, allowing every cell in my body to fire up. Great challenges are opportunities to discover who we are and what we can become. As I have said so often, “we only get out of life what we are willing to put into it.”
Alpha Team Members:Michel Savonitto, Yann Rousselot-Pailley, Paul Alain, Eric Bélanger, Jean-Francois Audet, Yannick Pagé, Cédric Gagnon, Martin Fafard, Marc Boucher, Daniel Arguin.
Delta Team Members:Guillaume Le Prohon, Alexandre Forgues, Véronique Labbé, Patrick Garneau, Kevin Jutras, Robin Lacasse, Patrick Brassard, Aviva Lavallée Roberts, Emmanuel Chenail, Theodore Fairhurst.
Crew Alpha & Delta: Skipper George Leblanc, 1st Mates; Francois Labarre, Dave Gaudreau, Gauthier Da Silva, Gilles Barbot.
It has been an 8 year project – climbing the Seven Summits – highest mountain on every continent – but I reached that goal on the 19th March 2014. Carstensz Pyramid, 4884m, is in the western Indonesian half of the 2nd largest island in the world Papua New Guinea but simply called Papua. The other half is known as Irian Jaya or Papua New Guinea, an independent country. I left Montreal on the 7th March and flew to Bali with stopover in Doha. On the night of the 11th, I met my team of 2 Indian twin sisters, a Pakistani brother and sister, an Australian, 2 guys from United Arab Emirates, 2 other Quebecers and myself a Quebecer. All team members, as I would soon realize, are solid strong mountaineers. A rather large team but the diversity of us as it turned out worked beautifully. We caught a flight after midnight from Bali to Timika in Papua. In Timika we again flew on 2 eight passenger prop planes to Sugapa where we landed on a high mountain airstrip. Motorcycles were waiting to transport us to the local village nearby.
A short lunch later and we were off bouncing down a really rough dirt rocky road on the motorcycles occasionally encountering roadblocks manned by locals demanding passage money. A big negotiation would then pursue until finally something was reached and we pushed on.
We finally arrived at the end of the road and then a short walk to a tiny village at the edge of the jungle. We stayed the night in a wood shelter surrounded by round straw huts and a native population awed by our presence. We felt a bit like being in a zoo – watched by all the curious.
Next morning we started hiking through the jungle and for the next 2 days we were prodding through mud at times almost knee deep. Rarely the terrain was flat, usually climbing or descending and mostly gaining altitude. Jumping rocks or balancing across fallen trees to cross over raging rivers. The first 2 days were 9 sweaty very hot humid hours.
Day 2 it poured rain in the dense very primitive forest until we arrived at camp 2 drenched and cold but out of the deep jungle.Day 3 we climbed up to a ridge and crossed over multiple connected hills until we at last saw those spectacular white-capped mountains – our objective in the distant horizon. A short descent brought us to camp 3.
Several long days followed winding ever up, down, or around valley or hilltop constantly dealing with slippery mud, rain, steep ascents or descents until we spotted our serene Base Camp bordering a turquoise moraine lake. We had arrived into such natural beauty surrounded by towering peaks. Carstensz was now partially in view and the magnitude of the technical climb became apparent. These mountains recently formed by geological standards and are straight up very sharp rock, great for hand and foot holds but bad for slicing ropes.
The 18th March we rested at Base Camp enjoying such phenomenal beauty.
Next morning at 3 am on the nineteenth we hiked to the foot of Carstensz and literally began climbing 60° to 90° walls. By 10am we were high on the ridge preparing for the Tyrolean Traverse (crossing a 30m huge gap in the rock leading to the summit. Upside down but roped into our harnesses, we pulled ourselves across with our hearts pounding furiously. Next followed a few more committed suicidal jumps across gaps and around ledges until we finally reached a rocky steep pinnacle and climbed to the absolute summit.
It was a ‘slice.’ Photos, hugs and glory for a while but the obvious was still awaiting us. Down climbing factually is the most dangerous. Back over all the same obstacles, and then rappelling down +80% of this steep mountain. Some 12 hours later exhausted but relieved we rejoiced our success in Base Camp.
Next day began the long return back out through the mud, rain and tough terrain.
At about 3:30 pm the following day (day 9), I reached the top of the ridge I earlier mentioned (day 3), had a snack and drank most of my water, expecting to make the long traverse over the ridge and descent to our next camp at the edge of the jungle in about 1 ½ hours. It didn’t go that way. Unknown to me, there was a 2nd older trail leading off in another direction that unfortunately I followed. I was exhausted after a very long day yet happily visualizing dinner and my warm sleeping bag.
By about 5 pm I came to realize I was off-track. I also realized I did not have enough time left in the day to retrace my steps back up the ridge to my last absolute reference point. My best gamble I decided was to continue climbing down the mountain and hope this trail would merge with the correct one before or near the valley river below. I decided I had nothing to lose following this strategy provided I went slowly and did not hurt myself. Evidently, a twisted ancle or broken leg could end up fatal since I would unlikely ever be found.
At 6:30 pm the game was over. Darkness had set in, and I knew I was spending the night out alone without shelter, food or water. After a couple of expletives, I was resolved to my fate. Essentially, I had been preparing myself for years for such an event. Often back home in Quebec in winter, I would go out snowshoeing or back-country skiing and purposely get myself lost, and then about an hour or two before dark I would sit down and calmly evaluate all the signs using my compass, shadow of the sun, etc. to decide on a strategy to find my way back out of the woods before dark. I have spent a huge amount of time alone in nature hiking, mountain biking, skiing, snowshoeing so I was not afraid. In fact I was pretty psychologically positive about this new experience. I put on my Gore-Tex jacket and pants, emptied my pack so I could lie on it, opened my umbrella and got under it. Of course, the rain started immediately.
It became very clear to me what plan of action I needed to put in place at dawn. I must stop descending into the unknown and re-climb up to the ridge and over to the last known reference point. I figured it would take about 2 ½ hours which would also coincide with any rescue effort by my team starting at dawn. I would properly place myself in view and/or return to the correct path.
The night was long but the sweet amazing sounds of the alpine / jungle were an amazing delightful symphony to my ears. It rained off and on but I managed to keep relatively dry.
At first light I was marching back-up to the ridge according to plan. It was sunny, I was in good spirits. I was convinced I would be found or find the right trail.
Not far below the ridge I heard human voices. I immediately yelled out. Poxi, our guide and some of the porters had been in shifts during the night and early morning searching for me. Some had tears in their eyes when they saw me. Not only was I relieved but deeply moved by these people. They may live a simple life but peoples values and emotions are the same the world over – people are people, regardless where they live or what education they have. It touched me deeply.
The balance of the trip was mostly uneventful save for the constant mud and rain and long days.
More photos and a video will follow when I get home.
As mentioned above, there is some controversy whether Mount Kosciusko 2,228 meters (7,310 ft.) in the Australian Mainland or Mount Carstensz Pyramid 4,884 m (16,024 ft.) in the Australian Continent on the island of New Guinea which lies on the Australian Continental Shelf is really the 7th Summit. Most serious climbers will now climb both mountains.
I summitted Kosciuszko April 10, 2014 with my partner in life Rosanna Grande. It was a miserable cold, rainy, windy April day with very little visibility. We were soaked to the bone and only descended the mountain after dark.
Wednesday August 8th 2012 just after noon I reached the summit of Mount Elbrus, the highest mountain in Europe. We had really harsh and dangerous conditions particularly on the descent. This successful summit gets me one big step closer to achieving my goal to climb the 7 Summits. I have now climbed 6 out of the 7.
Flying half way around the world August 3 – 4 from Montreal to Moscow and then on to Mineralnye Vody, I was met at the airport and driven another 3 hours to a tiny village at the base of Mount Elbrus called Azau in the Caucasus. For the next 2 days I did acclimatization hikes first to 3500m (11,500’) and then up the glacier to the Pastaho Rocks at 4400m (14,500’). Advanced base camp was at 3800m. Tuesday was a rest day to prepare gear, organize and evaluate weather for a summit bid that night. Weather is always a big issue on Elbrus. It changes on a dime and often goes from one extreme to another in minutes. That said, Tuesday evening the clouds cleared and the skies were beautifully clear.
At 4am next morning weather had moved back in and there were low winds, some snow and moderate visibility. We started up the mountain in the clouds and frankly I struggled in the thin air. I really should have had one extra acclimatization day to develop more red blood cells. My heart raced to get enough oxygen to my muscles, I paced myself to 50 steps and then rested to allow my heart to quiet down a little.
My guide, Dasha Chuenko, a local young female climber and snowboarder set the pace for us in the dark and misty night. Her passion for the mountains to guide and excel was truly inspiring to me. Her father had introduced her to climbing and mountaineering at a very young age. At 21, she is already a natural in the mountains.
Elbrus, a dormant volcano, has 2 summits – east and west. The west summit at 5642m is 21m higher. A col or as it is called ‘saddle’ separates the 2 cones. After reaching the ‘saddle’ we diagonally climbed up the snowy route to a rocky outcrop and soon found ourselves on a rather flat plateau. A long gradual traverse brought us to a steep rise and on the small ‘table top’ peak. We were in the clouds with little visibility and no views but we made it.
On the climb up above the saddle we met Ahmed from the Republic of Abkhazia, climbing Elbrus to represent his young country situated on the Black Sea bordering Georgia. Together we reached the summit and made a special connection between Abkhazia and Canada.
The real fun began on the descent back at the saddle. The winds picked up to 50+km with blinding snow and practically zero visibility. The route down was not especially steep but one miss-step could be fatal. My experience has taught me that with that mix of low visibility and new snow the eye easily gets tricked with what is real ground or an illusion.
Best of all back in Azau the next night, Nicolai Chernny, a legend in Russian mountaineering took Dasha and myself out for a celebratory dinner with the best champagne and local Kabardino-Balkaria cuisine. Nicolai at 73, still leads climbers up Elbrus and other high-altitude mountains. He was leader of the K2 Russian Expedition West Face 2007.
Mid-January to mid-February 2012 I spent a month in Tanzania first hiking Kibo (Kilimanjaro)
Immediately after Kili I went on safari in the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater and Lake Manyara. It was simply extraordinary. I could never have imagined that suddenly I would be plunged into such an amazing world of wildlife on the African plains and savannah. It was a National Geographic TV series but in real life. Witness the incredible footage and imagery I took with my small G9 Canon. Literally I was only 1 1/2 m from a lion using our vehicule as camouflage concentrating on making a kill. Maasai Warriors jumping, hippos charging, lions mating, etc, etc. At night I heard hyenas in our camp. I was truly in awe.
The Everest challenge was everything and more than my original expectations. Heading back up the Khumbu Valley after 40 years (December 1969) and especially arriving in Namche Bazaar, was a moving moment for me. That original experience of trekking to Everest Base Camp alone 40 years ago and having a dream, even if it was in a distant recess of my mind, to go back and climb this great mountain some day, was a fulfilling and huge life experience. It made me realize that I am exactly the same guy now as I was then, needing adventure, needing challenges, living life with passion. I had no idea if I would make it, but I knew that nothing, at least under my control, would stop me from giving it my best shot. There are some things in life you just have to do.
The climb itself was unique. The time duration was long. Everest Base Camp is a small international community that is a ‘one of a kind’ in the world. I think there is no other comparison to any other sport or adventure that resembles those 2 months every year so many diverse people assemble with one purpose to test themselves and risk everything on this Himalayan icon of mountaineering. The friendship one develops spending literally day and night together with a small group who depend on each other for support and safety. The absolute decisiveness and clarity of mind one must have to hang in there and succeed. The significant cost involved that one is prepared to spend just to have a ‘go’ at it.
Climbing Everest is physically tough. You get up often at 2am when it is the coldest and climb all night when the ice is more solid, so there is less chance of avalanche. Day after day, you climb higher to acclimatize, and then after a week descend back to base camp for several days of rest to solidify your physiological gains. You do this week after week.
Everest demands that you manage fear. Climbing up through the treacherous Khumbu Ice Fall; crossing ladders over deep crevasses with your crampons on; getting blasted by 100km an hour winds on the steep, rock-hard icy slopes of Lhotse; being holed up for 30 hours in our tents precipitously carved into the Lhotse Face and feeling like any moment we would get blown off the mountain; finding bodies melting out of the glacier ice. Summit day you are on your own in the death zone and there is no room for error. No one can help you. It is just you, the mountain, and your life.
Everest demands your psychological tenacity. You must be stubborn; you must hold fast; you must know why you are there. You must see what you don’t want to see, but be able to remove it from mind’s eye. You must focus on one thing or you will die. Your world is exactly one step at a time.
Good news. We are on our way to the summit very soon, tomorrow at 3am is the plan. The weather forecast is promising. It is just a question of team planning and final weather analysis. The Jet Stream is moving north and the window is opening. The final dynamics are unfolding and we will all know within a week or do how we will do. It is both scary and thrilling.
The summit of Everest has only about 25% air pressure (likewise 25% oxygen) as exists at sea level. At Camp 4 (26,000’) we will probably be there for only hours before leaving to climb around 9pm to the summit. Summit day is usually 18 hours. The hope is to arrive at the summit at sunrise.
My next post will be when we’re back to BC around the 25th, weather deciding.
This is it. My turn to practice what I preach and ‘go for it’ !
Today 5 of us hiked, by way of Pumo Ri to Kala Patthar. It is a 4 ½ hour hike over scree and boulders to a summit pinnacle with spectacular views of the Khumbu Valley, Khumbu Glacier, Base Camp and Everest itself. It is effectively a panoramic view of the entire area.
We are still on standby mode at BC. Every night we can hear the cracking and screeching sounds of the moving glacier under our tents. Avalanches, especially very early morning come crashing down, mostly it seems from Nupste, but also in all directions. Some break the silence for moments, other create great clouds of snow and mist and thunder that mushroom over a wide area as they crash down onto the Khumbu Glacier. Fortunately, none reach our encampment.
We are still here at BC waiting for our weather window to make our summit bid. Tuesday and Wednesday, both night and day, there were very high winds at BC, probably 50-60 mph in the gusts. The winds coming off the top of Everest were of course much higher. We were mostly confined to our tents. Yesterday, Thursday we found a nice 50’ wall on the glacier and practiced front-pointing up it to get us moving and out of the tents. After so many weeks of being so active, hiking into here, climbing Lobuche, 2 rotations up to C3, etc, it is really tough having to wait out so long at BC. We are all anxious to get climbing.
In terms of the weather, the problem is the Jet Stream. It is sitting right on top of Everest. It moves a bit north or south, sometimes up and down, but generally it is so close the winds stay high. The other problem is the monsoons. Storms usually generate in the Bay of Bengal and then come ripping a thousand miles up here and blast the mountain. However, fortunately there has been no sign of the monsoons forming yet.
It does look like we have a summit window between the 23rd to the 27th. We will need to be in place at C3 to make our strike. That means another 4 or 5 days here before we head back up the mountain. It is very encouraging but it still feels a long way off.
Base Camp has many international expeditions, and a helicopter flies in most mornings to take someone out who has experienced some health issues.
I hope that the next time I report we will be on our way to the top. We certainly are eager to get our chance. Wish us luck. On Everest, so many factors determine your odds. The strongest or fittest are not always the ones who make it. Bye for now. Ted
Stuck but ready to climb Everest. We are well fed, rested, but nowhere to go until the weather high on the mountain improves. Winds and a low pressure system are preventing us from starting our attack for the summit. Late this week is a maybe.
Already it is 6 weeks since leaving home, we are more than primed to get the job done. A few more weeks are a small price to pay for such a great opportunity.
Today we hiked up to Pumori Base Camp to get are legs moving. Great views of Everest. We could see the high winds coming off its summit. Patience is golden in the mountains.
Alas, we are heading home to comfortable Base Camp. The “Dream Team” !!! Jason, Eben & myself, left at 4:30am down the Western Cwm blazing fresh tracts in about 6” of new snow. In the early light of dawn, with the white duskiness and new white snow, the visibility was deceiving, and identifying the cracks and crevasses was tricky. Eben did a masterly job of finding the way and uncovering the dangerous snow bridges. More below, including an essay from Louis Carstens … We down-climbed in the Ice Fall using the ropes and ladders, arm wraps and figure eight rappels. There are already some serious route changes in the Ice Fall from the continuous shifting and moving of the 2000 vertical feet of the jumbled massive blocks of ice. I took a video using my helmet-mounted camera as we descended the Ice Fall, and the footage is absolutely amazing. Hopefully when I get back home, I can put together a short video for the website. Finally, we are back at BC for several days of rest. All our rotations to fully acclimatize are over. We need to eat and rest well. Most of the team has lost weight. We are now ready when the weather is ripe, to ‘go for it’. Our next climb up will be the one. This is what we have been preparing for the last 6 weeks, and having been training for over the years. Our ‘summit bid’ will soon begin. The story of success or failure of reaching the summit is at the doorstep. The pressure is on. We are all feeling confident. So many factors will determine the outcome for each of us. All we can do is our best. Of note: photos 1-13 are on the Lhotse Face; photos #14-22 are in the Ice Fall; #23 Mayk Schega from Germany; #24 myself; #25 Louis Carstens from South Africa. You can see all the pics in photo album #9 “Up n Down” here. The other day at C2 in the dining tent, we were talking about climbing in general. Louis Carstens had some really interesting comments about the nature of climbing. I believe you will find this essay that he wrote for this website truly enlightening.
EVEREST SOUTH SIDE EXPEDITION: 2010 The lure of the mountains For non-climbers, there is just one question they ask of us climbers: “Did you summit?”. That is the wrong question. Climbing is a fundamentally different sport that does not lend itself to such an oversimplified view of outcome – let me explain why. When I want to run a marathon, I get up at 5am each day, go run 15km’s or 20km’s, and build up my stamina to a decent level. I then choose the marathon I want to run. In all probability, I will run the marathon in such a way that the outcome more or less equals my input, i.e. the number of hours I trained. The same with say a road cycle race. I get up at 5am, go ride 50km’s or 70km’s, choose my race, and in all probability, the outcome will once again more or less equals the input. Clearly in the above two examples, I will watch my diet, ensure I have the right equipment, read up on the races I choose, etc. I will be properly prepared. Mostly the unknowns in the marathon and the cycle race will be anchored in unpredictable weather, health concerns, and concerns about injuries during the race – spraining an ankle, or falling off my bike. But the probability of a good outcome, more or less equal to what I put in, is for all practical purposes almost guaranteed. Now let’s jump to mountaineering, and specifically this expedition to Mt Everest. Yesterday we came back from our final rotation up the mountain. We are now in Base camp, resting, rehydrating, and building up our mental preparation for the summit bids, which might start anytime from next Monday to – I don’t know when. In all probability we will get a summit window. But maybe we won’t. Currently we all are reasonably healthy – if we dismiss the fact that all of us have been sick at some time during the expedition. But maybe one or two of us will get really sick between now and when we go for the summit – to the point that that unfortunate soul might not even get a shot at the summit. We might get to the South Col (8,000m), and get sick – like I did last year. I did not summit. A friend of mine, in 2005, told the story of a fellow climber whose oxygen regulator failed close to the summit. The climber had to turn around. A range of other uncontrollable variables lie between each one of us and the summit: potential avalanches, collapse of the route in the Ice Fall, bottlenecks at critical points, ropes that are frozen into the ice, cold feet or hands that force one to abandon a summit, etc. Some might not be up for the mental challenge – for lying in a sleeping bag in a tiny tent, and longing for loved ones back home is very hard. Others might not be up for the cold, or the physical discomfort of spending 8 weeks on a mountain. Still some others might have to head home, back to business problems or personal problems. What other single event in a sports tournament lasts for 8 weeks? So, is “Did you summit?” the right question to define the outcome of an expedition to Everest? No, it can never be – there are too many unpredictable and unmanageable variables that we climbers face in our quest to climb a mountain. Two quotes by Barry Bishop, who summitted Everest on 22 May 1963 as a member of the first American expedition to successfully climb Everest, illustrate how some – not all – mountaineers might view their sport: “What do we do when we finally reach the summit and flop down? We weep. All inhibitions stripped away, we cry like babies. With joy for having scaled the mightiest of mountains; with relief that the long torture of the climb has ended.” “Everest is a hard and hostile immensity. Whoever challenges it declares war. He must mount his assault with the skill and ruthlessness of a military operation. And when the battle ends, the mountain remains unvanquished. There are no true victors, only survivors.” Some mountaineers like to view themselves as a special breed, superior to other sports people. This arrogance is fundamentally flawed and very dangerous. We are not special as climbers. Most of us are simply amateurs who love the unpredictability of our endeavour, for mountaineering is a sport where the outcome, more than often, does not more or less equal the input. Who in our team of 6 climbers and 2 guides will summit Everest in the next few weeks? Nobody knows. And that is the magnificent beauty of our sport – nobody knows, even though each one of us trained immensely hard for this climb, and spent thousands of dollars on equipment and buying a seat on a commercial expedition. Nobody knows. Louis Carstens
Storms during the night, but at 4:30 this morning it started to clear, we ate breakfast and hiked up to the Lhotse Bergschrund, descended into it and climbed it’s 90 degree pitch, crossed a narrow snowy ledge and then continued to climb the very steep rock solid blue ice of the Lhotse Face to C3. It is 3000 feet of rock hard old glacier ice that your crampons can barely bite into. Sometimes, you need to stab the steel points of your crampons several times before you feel secure enough to make your foot transition. It is very exciting climbing. This is what we are here for.
In the thin air, it is a challenge to keep your heart rate under control. The physical endurance at high altitude. You have yourself roped-in, but any error can be fatal. We all check each other’s harnesses as a standard precaution.
This will be our highest point so far, 24,000’+, and important last step in our long acclimatization process of almost 6 weeks, before our summit bid.
There are 2 C3’s, lower and upper. At lower C3, I was hanging back from the group trying to resolve a problem with my helmet-mounted camera, when bad weather came in. Mike thought it best that I descend back to C2 for the night. The rest of the group continued up to C3 and slept. The following morning at 4am I re-climbed up to C3 passing the team on their way down. In the end we got acclimatized differently.
At 2am this morning we had planned to get up and climb the Lhotse face to C3. It had snowed lightly all night, but at 2am there was lightning and thunder with high winds pounding our tents. It is now 3pm in the afternoon and the winds and snow have continued all day. We have been marooned in our tents on a sea of ice by the fickleness of the weather.
Last Friday the 30th April, we left BC at 3am and climbed in light winds and snow again up the shifting Ice Fall on our 2nd rotation. This time we all made it in under 6 ½ hours. Saturday we moved up here to C2 at the foot of Lhotse.
Great to get back to BC yesterday. Ate well. Slept well. Unfortunately, it is colder and cloudier than usual. Nevertheless, our Sherpa cook is great. And I can email and update the site with some terrific new photos taken with a helmet-mounted camera I finally figured out how to use. The shots really give you a full sense of the Ice Fall and perspective we get climbing the ladders and ropes. Hope you all enjoy. Also please note, we have very limited bandwidth here, so I cannot respond to the many messages sent to me on my site – DaretoReach.ca – until after getting back. Thanks so much for your support. Ted.