Episode 033: Climb On!

There Are Butterflies At Everest. It was a long time coming, but the wind has finally calmed down enough for the climb to resume. It’s not gone, mind you, but just diminished enough to step outside again and for the team to return to ABC.

I have to say that I have really mixed feelings about the climb moving forward. Over the course of the entire windstorm we were all upset about having to hunker down and wait out the weather. Yes, it was a pain to have to sit around and do nothing for days on end. But what I’ve come to realize is that in some ways it was a very good thing.

You see, while we were waiting out the storm, no one was in danger. It was uncomfortable, but it was safe.

This morning, Ben and the rest of the team headed out for the journey back to ABC and ultimately the summit push. I filmed this great shot of Ben leaving the Dome tent and walking past our camp in the direction of the mountain. It was a beautiful shot. Just as he was passing the mound of rocks we use as a windbreak I was struck by a heavy realization: I may never see Ben again. The full gravity of the situation hit me like a ton of bricks.

I shut off the camera and yelled “Ben, WAIT!” He stopped and turned in my direction as I ran over to him. I gave him a big, solid hug and managed to avoid saying the exact thought running through my head. Don’t die, Ben. Don’t die up there.

We said our goodbye’s, he turned around and walked on in his signature determined, focused style. I returned to the empty camp and sat down with Dawa. And then there were three. Just Dawa, me and the butterflies fluttering around in my belly.

Jon Miller

Total Running Time: 17:00

Email to Miles Blumhardt from the Fort Collins Coloradoan

From: Jonathan Miller
Sent: Monday, May 12, 2003 9:12 AM
To: MilesBlumhardt
Subject: Everest

Miles, Jon Miller here.

Just wanted you to know that Ben and I read
the May 3rd article and really enjoyed it. The Internet is a wonderful
thing! I just thought I’d take the time to write you and give you maybe
some more fodder for the next article.

A few weeks ago I was spontaneously visited by a member of the Russian St Petersburg 2003 Expedition. The man’s name is Tom and he’s a Canadian who has been living in Boulder for the past 20 years. Tom and I hit it off right away and visit each other every day. His team was having computer problems and he was just bored and seeing who’s who. I happen to be here in Tibet to keep our computers running, so I said I could probably help. We went over to their camp (about 100 yards from ours) and somehow I was able to install Windows XP onto one of their laptops…and in Russian to boot! There are, I believe, 9 climbers plus a doctor on that team and we all became friends. And I do mean friends.
I spend as much time at their camp as I do in my own. Our generator has permanently died and they’ve given me unlimited use of theirs. Plus, when I descended from ABC I really messed up my left toe. It was really serious and could have been life-threatening had I just ignored it (due to infection.) Instead, I just hobbled over to my friends’ camp and Dima (Dimitri) the doctor instantly performed a 30 minute surgical procedure (he is a surgeon) and let me keep my toe. I asked how much to pay him and he just looked at me funny and then put his finger to the side of his head and twirled it saying I was crazy. And it wasn’t a one time thing. Every day He either walks over (or I do) and changes the dressing on my poor toe with plenty of friendly broken English conversation. I owe them so much yet all they care about is my well being. It gets me all choked up. Very good friends indeed.

Then there is the fact that our camp is turning into a social club. We have a very large dome tent that is very comfortable and we’ve been receiving many guests. Ben’s made good friends with the Northern Ireland team. It consists primarily of two climbers, Banjo and Richard, One’s Protestant and the other’s Roman Catholic and they’re friends climbing the mountain together. You get the idea. But they’re a blast to have around and can usually be found at our camp talking away!

We also are getting visited by a French team who bring us treats of wild boar pate and other edible treats. And always we hang out with Jess and John Roskelley. Jess is a riot and Ben and him sit and rehash the good old days as guides on Rainier. Laughing laughing laughing. They’re both technically running for the title of youngest American to climb Everest, but they really couldn’t give a flying !@#% about it.

When you are here at Everest, sharing in the same pain, discomfort and humor of the entire situation, you’re all equals.

I just wanted to set the record straight about Basecamp. Yes, it can be a horrible place. But everyone here is in the same situation. It’s in these conditions where I feel the best side of humanity shines through.

You make the best of it, you know? Everyone wants to leave. Don’t get me wrong. But while you have to be here, this place would be absolutely dead without all of the good people. What a dichotomy!

Anyway, thanks for you continued support and email me anytime.