Episode 046: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

“We Got The Sh*t Kicked Out Of Us.” I finally spoke to Ben this evening at 5pm Nepali time. He was at ABC resting after getting pretty weather-beaten higher up on the mountain. However, he’s doing just fine and was even cracking some jokes with me.

It was wonderful to hear Ben’s voice and know that he’s doing alright. As a Base camp communications manager, it’s frustrating when none of our three radios work!

Luckily, Stuart and Rupert have given me access to their BC radio equipment even though they are “up the hill” right now. Thanks guys.

Well, this is Everest and Ben and Co.’s first summit push was a bust. As he said, they just were too weather-beaten to continue up. It looks like the next weather window will open in 3 days or so. They’ll try and rest at ABC and head up in a few days. I think it’s been almost 10 days since I’ve seen Ben, and Lhawang. I haven’t seen Lhakpa in almost a month! That dude sure was built to live up high. Amazing.

Jon Miller

Total Running Time: 30:17


Date: 05/17/2003 02:48AM
Subject: Re: from your Mom’s English class

2. I’m here at Everest because it’s my job to be here. As you may know,
I’m not climbing the entire mountain. That’s left for my client, Ben
Clark. I have climbed on the mountain, up to 21,000 feet to ABC. I
spent 4 days there then came back down. I’ve spent the remainder of the time here at BC.

I am the owner of my own video production business and so this is just one of the contracts I’ve received. I’m spending time here documenting Ben’s experience, but also trying to tell the story about what it’s like to live here at BC. I did have a choice, I didn’t have to come out for the full 2 month journey…I could have just come out for 3 weeks or so. Fortunately, I’m married to a wonderful woman, Heidi, and she encouraged me to dive right in and take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

I did not come out here alone. In fact, I traveled from the US to
Base camp with a good friend of mine, another photographer named Major King. No kidding, that’s his name. Major only stayed here at BC for one night because he fell victim to the altitude. He developed High
Altitude Pulmonary Edema, or HAPE. His lungs began to fill with fluid
and it made breathing difficult. The night he spent here I stayed in
his tent with him leaning against me like the back of a chair so he
could breathe better. If he lied down, you could hear his lungs gurgle
with each breath. It was quite scary. So, it made him feel better to
sit up against me and I just talked to him. Every so often he’s start
praying to God to get him out of this mess and it was quite difficult
to listen to. Here was a man truly praying to God to save his life.
Luckily, the next afternoon we were able to secure a vehicle for Major
and he was transported over the next 2 days down to Kathmandu where he spent 5 days in the hospital before flying home to Colorado. Major is 44 years old with 2 children and a wife. I’m glad he’s Ok.

3.-4. When you first arrive at Everest BC, you feel terrible. No one is
meant to be up this high for this long. The lack of oxygen in the air
gives you these wicked headaches and you have terrible, constant
diarrhea. It really sucks. You think to yourself, “So this is why I
came all the way out here?” You have to force every bite of food and
every gulp of water down. It’s really difficult.

When I arrived, every time I even thought about my wife, or my brothers or my mother I wanted to cry, I just felt so far away. I began to think about the next month and a half as a prison sentence. It was horrible. Then, as I descended from ABC, I totally mangled my left big toe. It was really bad. It didn’t even look like a toe anymore. I became really depressed on the
hike down. It hurt so much and every 10 minutes or so I’d stub my boot
on a rock and nearly vomit from the pain.

But the toe incident was a blessing in disguise. I know it sounds weird, but I’m so thankful that I creamed my toe. See, it forced me to get to know my Base camp neighbors better. The Russian St Petersburg Expedition to the north had a doctor that I had met briefly before hiking up to ABC. He is a very tall, very stern looking man but is also one of the kindest souls you’ll ever meet. He operated on my toe and cared for it over the next week to keep away any infection. Before I knew it, I was friends with the entire team.

I spent a good portion of every day there and it completely
changed the way I perceived BC. I grew to really enjoy this place.
Within 2 weeks, I knew most of the teams and I know I can pop into any tent and someone will be pleased to see me. And vice versa. It’s a wonderful little community here.

5. I’m afraid I can’t answer this question. I’m still here!

6.This is an interesting one. I really don’t think this experience is
changing me very much. I’ve been through so many changes over the last few years: the death of my beloved father, being laid off from a career which gave me such a wonderful sense of self, starting my own business (fairly successfully!) and then meeting a wonderful woman and marrying her. I don’t feel that this experience will change me as much as those did. I believe it’s all of the changes that I’ve experienced beforehand that are helping me to get through this one. I just feel like Jon up here.

Continued Next Week…