Episode 049: May 21st, Camp 4

“Ya Gotta Love Climbing!” Today the team is heading up to Camp 4 from Camp 3. This means they are firmly planting themselves into the famous “death zone.” Cue scary music.

At least I think they’re heading up. Dawa and Boca Lama have yet to get in touch with anyone via radio. The tension around here is palpable. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before.

People stationed at Base are running around checking the progress of other teams. Several climbers have summitted today and you’ll hear the occasional whoop as the good news is radioed down. The excitement is unreal. But you have to keep in the forefront of your mind that the summit is truly just the halfway point. Most fatalities occur on the way down. Think about it: you give it everything you’ve got to get to the summit and don’t have enough to safely get back down. I can’t imagine our guys doing that but let’s face it…I’m not up there.

Radio communications are still marginal at best and by all accounts we’re about to lose our weather window. This is getting serious.

OK, Boca has just gotten off of the radio with Lhawang. I missed the call but here’s his report. Ben Lhawang and Lhakpa have all made it to high camp and are resting for a summit attempt tomorrow. High Camp is at around 8300 meters. To give you some perspective, this is the altitude at which some commercial airliners cruise at! Amazing. And now they still have 600 meters of vertical gain to go. This place is crazy!

Jon Miller

Total Running Time: 21:32

Dispatch 36, May 21st, 2003: Mount Everest Base-camp

Ok, here’s the latest.

I could not reach Lhawang or Ben on the radio. This probably means that they are climbing and the wind is drowning out the sound of the radio or they’ll contact us when they stop for a rest. Of course, this is just speculation, but the reports from the other camps say that other climbers are making progress up the mountain.

Faithful, persistent Dawa will continue to try to contact the guys and will fetch me from my post next to the St Petersburg team’s generator (may ours rest in peace…)

The weather looks positive for a summit attempt from now until afternoon on the 23rd. This is really positive, because it gives Ben options, a luxury on Everest.

The mood here at Base Camp is really something to experience. Everyone is excited and people are wandering from camp to camp looking for information about each team. Everyone is welcomed into every camp…we’re all in this together and everyone is acknowledging that fact.

Unfortunately, Everest is completely obscured by a massive fog-like cloud, so no one can zoom in on the North East Ridge to try and get a glimpse of the climbers. Oh, well, we’ll just hope they stay safe. Apparently, Ben’s other climbing Sherpa, Lhakpa is staying at the camp on the North Col. Once he’s been told that the weather is worth climbing in, he’ll ascend from the North Col at around 7000 meters to Camp 6 at 8300 meters! This man is a climbing machine and probably one of, if not, the strongest Sherpa on the mountain today. He truly is an amazing individual…and he’s been living up at ABC (21,000 feet) and higher for over 40 days without respite at the lower elevation of Base Camp!That’s all for now, you’ll hear from me as soon as I get more information.