Episode 023: Climbing The North Col
Seeing Spots. I might not be a mountaineer, but it’s time for me to climb Everest. Well, up to ABC anyway. The altitude up high is making my vision and balance a little funny. We left BC a couple of days ago and headed up the well worn path leading up to Interim Camp. Man, not my favorite place in the world but only had to spend a few hours of sleep there. Today, Andre (the 68-year-old Belgian climber sharing our camp) and I trudged up to ABC. This was one of the most difficult days I’ve ever had. I found the altitude very difficult to hike through. It wasn’t so much that I was tired, I JUST COULD NOT MOVE MY LEGS WELL. It’s bizarre and I felt like I was walking through quicksand. Every step made it more difficult to move forward. Andre was doing very well and was gracious to stay by my side the entire couple of days we’ve spent walking. Our mantra was, “Slowly, slowly…” and it worked. I’m here. For the last few kilometers I don’t think I was able to take more than a step every 3 or 4 seconds. I could see ABC, but I just couldn’t get there!
Boca Lama cruised down once Dawa arrived ahead of me at camp and found me sitting on a boulder a km or so away from camp. He brought tea and cookies with him. These guys are amazing, and I love them dearly. He grabbed by pack and allowed me to walk unburdened for the final stretch. So generous.
When I finally stumbled into the mess tent, I sat down at the table and felt this great rush of awareness that I did not have to walk any further. I began to sob. I had made it to 21,000′ on my own two feet.
Standing outside my tent you can see the summit which looks amazingly close. You also get an amazing view of the North Col–where Ben is right now. He and Lhawang and Lhakpa set out to climb up there yesterday. I can’t imagine what it must be like. I look forward to seeing my friends when they return to ABC in a few days.
Total Running Time: 17:08
Dispatch 16, April 24, 2003, Everest Basecamp
Now that the power situation has been solved, I’m off to ABC to check in with Ben himself. What this means is that in 5 days or so I’ll have a lot to write all of you about, but in the meantime you’ll just have to wait for the next dispatch. Like I said in my last letter, computers just aren’t reliable
at 21,000 feet. So I will not be taking any of our technology up to ABC. Only a video camera. But I will do some recording with Ben and will send a video out when I return to BC.
Before I head up, I just wanted to clarify a few things. I have received a few emails wondering if Ben is Ill. No, he is doing fine and the expedition
is moving forward just as planned. There have been some complications but everyone is safe and well. Major King, the wonderful Colorado Videographer who you may remember from
some of Ben’s dispatches, did have to leave early. Major developed symptoms of HAPE (altitude sickness) and was actually in grave danger here at Basecamp.
Luckily, we had a vehicle at the ready and he was able to make it back to Kathmandu in just over a day. He spent some time in a hospital there in Kathmandu (“anticlimactic” as he put it in an email to me) and flew home to his family in Ft Collins in time to enjoy Easter Sunday. HAPE can happen to anyone regardless of their fitness level or preparedness. Luckily, Major was able to get himself down to a lower altitude as quickly as possible–the best treatment. Again, Major is at home and JUST FINE. We miss him dearly and know that leaving was the only option. He did a fantastic job of documenting the trip on video from Denver to Basecamp. He will continue to be a member of this expedition.
That’s all for now, the Yaks are being loaded as I type this. I’ll be back in touch in a few days with much more information on Ben and the Everest 2003 Expedition.