Episode 053: …Safe and Sound

Theft In The Death Zone. The evening keeps getting more interesting. Now that Ben’s back, we have had the pleasure of listening to his summit day account. Man, it was epic.

The weather on the 22nd of May was not the kind of weather you dream of summitting Everest in. I mean, come on. You don’t dream for years of sitting on top of the planet is gale-force winds and a total whiteout. The conditions were appalling but the team persevered and made it to the summit and back down with only minor injuries. Ben’s biggest complaint was that he got a bit of frostbite on his right foot due to the simple act of tying his right boot a little bit too tightly.

As other teams come off the mountain it’s clear that Ben, Lhawang and Lhakpa with their minor ailments were the exception to the rule. People got hammered by the cold up there.

The crowding on Everest’s upper slopes is apparent.: frostbite is everywhere. So many climbers made it up to the Second Step with nearly two months of hard work and effort behind them (not to mention the financial cost of these expeditions) only to get caught in the world’s highest traffic jam. The Second Step is the crux of the route and therefore the bottleneck of the Northeast Ridge. At those altitudes, if you stop moving, you start freezing.

Miraculously no one has lost their life so far this year but the cost has still been great. The toll on Everest is being paid in fingers and toes. What a terrible waste. But there’s more.

Apparently Ben cached his ice axe below the Second Step with the idea of lightening his load for the final push to the summit. He would grab it on the way down when he really needed it. Unfortunately, when he returned after the summit the ice axe was missing. It was stolen.

For so long now we’ve been trying to prove that Everest is not the mythical struggle of man vs. man. We’ve seen so many other sides to this experience. But the reality is that ethics high on Everest do turn questionable. Climb at your own risk.

Jon Miller

Total Running Time: 17:47

Dispatch 50, May 25th, 2003: Mount Everest Base Camp

Ok, radio contact has been established, and Ben says he’ll be here in 40 minutes.
I don’t mean for these email to sound like I’m over-hyping his return, but you have to understand that the summit of Everest is only the halfway point of the climb. It’s not over until the climbers make it back to Base Camp.
Also, you’re never truly safe until back at BC, where there are vehicles that can lower you down even further. Fortunately, Ben is in good health and can just sit at BC and think about his amazing achievement.
Boca Lama has set out hiking and will meet Ben halfway with some juice and cookies.
These guys are the BEST!
Talk to you all soon!