Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A Few Pictures

Barbara the Buddhist

Me and Jetha

The Trek


The Trek

In Namche Bazar

Mohan the Big Boss

Sherab, Lakpa, Rita, her son, Mohan, and Us

The Funniest Monks in the Khumbu

Beer and Puja

Barbara, Martin, and Scott at Puja

Karma and Jetha - Two Generations

Barbara on Top of Lobuche

Nima Tashi Pointing to Everest

The Whole Team

Jim, Steve, Me, Martin, Nima Tashi, and Barbara

The Ice Fall

The Khumbu Rules

Ancient Moni Stones

A Himalayan Vulture or Big Bird

On The Way Home

The Return Home

After three long days of walking thirty-five miles and one flight we have arrived back in Kathmandu. It's much warmer here now. We were both exhausted from the journey and hungry, so we immediately showered and went to have two vegan pizzas and then napped the afternoon away.

The trek though the Khumbu was bittersweet. The last three days walking down the valley were difficult. Emotionally, I was done and my heart just wasn't into it. We are still very sad for the loss of so many lives on the mountain and also sad the climb did not continue.

There appears to be many reasons and much speculation as to why the Sherpa decided to not continue this year. Was it respect for the dead climbers, superstition, maoist threats, or family pressure? In the end, I suspect, it was all of those and more.  I'll trust our Sherpas when they told us they weren't being threatened. My gut tells me they simply just did not wish to continue after the accident. Our head Sherpa, Nima Tashi, told Barbara that his wife walked up from their home and took his crampons, ice axe, and harness from him so he couldn't climb. What a powerful statement. I'll never forget Nima grabbing his pack and running into the Ice Fall to check on his family members. I was with him part of the way and he kept repeating out loud, "everything okay, everything okay, everything okay." This strong brave man was trying to comfort me as he feared the worst. His tears when he came back to camp with the good news for his family gave me  a good idea early on what impact this would have on our climb. My tears come every time I recall this moment.

I had many conversations with Sherpa since the accident and they all feel sad the season ended the way it did, and although they are reluctant to say it, I believe in the end most of them just didn't feel it was right to continue this year. They are extremely loyal to their expedition leaders and don't want to disappoint them. They would have continued if asked. Jim didn't pressure our Sherpa to continue and he left it to Nima Tashi to make the final decision.

The Khumbu valley is a close knit community and in some ways it was their 9/11. Of course, it wasn't a terrorist attack, but the loss of so many lives, so quickly, overwhelmed this valley. One teahouse owner told me he could hear two different families crying all night on both sides of his house after they each heard the news that they had lost family members in the accident.

There has been much talk or rumors of threats and tension between foreign climbers and Sherpas. I never once saw any of this tension or felt threatened. The hardest part was trying to express our mutual grief for each other's losses given the barriers of language and cultural differences. Even though their loss was on a much greater scale, many Sherpa felt the need to say they were sorry that my climb did not continue. It is a culture that doesn't like to disappoint and respects the efforts us climbers make to come here.

The Khumbu Valley is changing and I'm sure this year will change it even more. Yes, there does appear to be a younger and better educated generation of Sherpas that want progress, change, and aren't willing to cater to foreign climbers quite as much as their fathers and grandfathers have. That's the pain of progress and not unlike what many cultures have gone through.

Even with all that has happened this year this valley is still an amazing place with many kind compassionate people. There is a spirit here that is unlike anywhere else in the world.

There have been many great moments from this trip. Very funny moments too. As I mentioned before, Barbara and I had some of the funniest interactions with four Buddhist monks at dinner one night over cake, ketchup, and salt. Another involved a young boy, who I called big boss, who worked in a teahouse where we stayed for several nights. This kid was from a very poor family and the teahouse owner took him in and gave him a job. His smile and pride in working brightened the entire room every time he was present. The owner wanted to send him to school, but he said he'd had nine years and that was enough. He called me big boss too. His English was okay, but not great, and one night after a coke got spilled on the table I was trying to tell him that it was sticky and we needed something to wipe it up. He was confused, and told the teahouse owner that big boss (me) needed a stick. Barbara and I are still laughing about that one. Yet another moment was the sweet dog that followed Barbara and me home from the middle of Namche Bazar one night. He made his way over a wall, into the lodge, up two flights of stairs, and sat outside our door. We kept opening the door to see if he was still there and there he was. We promised each other we'd take him home if he was still there in the morning. Unfortunately he had moved on. Our team members, trekkers, and support crew also were some of the finest people I've ever had the pleasure to spend time with. The banter and laughter was infectious. Danny's stories about Martin, Steve, Barbara, and me were quite entertaining. We walked down and out of the Khumbu valley with Karma, the son of Jetha, our first Nepal trekking guide in 2007. Karma is every bit as special has his father and it was a pleasure to get to know him. These moments and many more are what I'll take away from this climb.

Will I come back for another try again? Probably not. I can accept the risks of mountaineering for myself, but to ask others to take more of the risk for my benefit is now painfully more difficult - even if it is how they choose to make their living. Climbing Mt. Everest on the backs of these fine people does not feel like a prize worth obtaining to me now. Maybe these thoughts will change with time. I just don't know yet. It's very raw, emotional, and confusing for me on many levels.

Barbara and I will spend a few days here in Kathmandu visiting with new and old friends before heading home and just celebrating life!

This was an adventure beyond what I could ever have imagined and it sure as hell Embraced All Things Funky.

I'd like to thank everyone for their kind words and encouragement these past few weeks. Believe me they mattered and helped  tremendously.

Over and Out

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Sherpa Decision

We had great news this morning when we heard that Barbara and Nima Tashi summited Loboche. They did it in fine style too summiting in about 5 hours from high camp. We expect them back later today. I'm very pleased and proud of Barbara. She accomplished her goal of climbing over 20,000. She's a strong woman.

This afternoon there was a large Puja and memorial service for the lost Sherpa with all of the teams in Base Camp participating. It was a fitting and moving ceremony. Towards the end of the gathering it became more of a political rally to support the reasons many of the Sherpa had gone on strike until the Nepalese government meets their demands for the climbers that were killed or injured in the Ice Fall accident. In the end it became clear that no matter what happens with the Sherpa's demands on the Nepalese government the Everest climbing season is now over. The Sherpa do not want to go into the Ice Fall again this season out of respect to the ones they lost. They are too sad and have suffered too much this time to continue.

To the lost and injured Sherpa's my heart goes out to them and their families. To the Sherpa who have decided not to continue this season, again in my heart, I can understand their difficult decision and pain. We've heard the accident scene is a living nightmare. Getting the bodies out of the ice was messy. How could anyone that witnessed this scene not be traumatized.  

I hope everyone that has been effected by this tragedy both Sherpa and and us foreigners can move forward and learn something from it. I know I will.

So, it's with a heavy, but healthy heart, that I now need to start packing to go home in a few days. After all the training, planning, and worries of back trouble, knee trouble, and heart issues I never thought this would end my climb. I sure wish things were different because I feel very strong after going to 19,000 feet yesterday. My legs feel strong, my lungs feel strong, and the team we have was perfect for a successful climb. Mentally, I'd have to say that since the accident, and being in limbo about wherever or not we'd get a chance to climb these last five days, has worn on me some. It's hard to keep your eyes on the prize when so many have lost their lives and have been permanently injured. It is what it is…

I do know that Steve, Martin, Jeff, Jim, Scott, Nima, Jetha, Barbara, the rest of our Sherpa staff, and I, are all very disappointed and sad. This team was a perfect mix of personalities and I have grown to really respect and admire all these fine folks. I could not have picked a better group people to attempt this climb with and do hope to climb something with them again in the future.

After many years of dreaming about this climb and finally being so close, I will be coming home forever changed. Many thoughts are forming and will be for days, weeks, months, and probably years. I'm lucky to have Barbara with me and we will have a joyful walk out of this majestic Khumbu region once again together. Will we come back…only time will tell.

Namaste my friends.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Another Day At Base Camp

The sun was out this morning and warmed things. Maybe even the mood is starting to shift some too, but no decisions have been made yet as to if and when climbing will resume. Many of the Sherpa have gone home or to the memorial services that will be taking place in the various villages where the climbers lived. The American Alpine Club has set up a fund for the families of the deceased climbers. Here's the link if you'd like to donate link

Today the Sherpa had a large meeting to discuss the situation. It's not really clear yet what was decided at the meeting. The decision to continue climbing is in their hands since they will do the brunt of the work and take more of the risk. It would be hard to have it end early, but I will respect and support whatever decision they make. 

We have been staying busy, eating, drinking tea, eating again, talking, drinking tea, talking some more, and preparing some technical gear if the climbing does continue. 

It was decided that Barbara will go with Nima Tashi and one other to climb Loboche tomorrow and than come back to base camp. I like this because Nima has summited Everest over 11 times and also because he is a very kind and caring man and will take great care of Barbara. She's strong and will do well on the climb. I also like that's she's coming back to Base Camp for a few days before starting her trek home. 

Martin, Steve, Jeff, Scott, Jim, and I, and the rest of our Sherpa crew, will hang out in Base Camp waiting for news on our climb, doing an acclimatization hike, and looking forward to hearing news about Barbara's climb.

Hope all is well where you are.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Post Accident

It was a gray and snowy today at Base Camp. Fitting for the somber mood in camps today. A few recovery flights were flown to bring more bodies down to Base Camp. Not something I find interesting to watch. It's just damn awful. Some teams lost more than others in the accident and everyone is sorting it out. Many of the Sherpa have gone home for a few days. There will be some meetings tomorrow, but no one is quite sure what they will be about. Barbara and I took a hike today to stretch our legs. She will need to leave in a few days and that will be very difficult for me. Really not much to report today. We're hanging in there waiting to see what comes next.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Ice Fall Accident Update

Today has been a very sad day here in Base Camp. Casualties will be higher than what's been reported on the news. No doubt it will be the biggest disaster in Everest history. All day we have watched the rescues and the bodies being recovered.

Again all our team is safe, but there was a tense moment when we were not sure where some of our Sherpa team members were when the avalanche hit. Nima Tashi our head Sherpa Sirdar immediately packed a pack and took off into the Ice Fall to check on our guys. Two were his family members. One was his son and one was his son in law. Thankfully he returned with news that our team members were safe.

Tragic, sad, and very tough day for all, but especially for our Sherpa team members as they knew many of the ones killed today. 

Hard to say what will happen here in the next several days. All climbing will halt until more searching for the missing and recoveries are completed. We've heard reports that maybe even the season will be closed for climbing. My thoughts are mixed. On one hand is it ethical to continue to ask these fine Sherpa team members to risk their lives for my benefit. On the other hand it is the way they make their living and I guess it is up to them to decide what happens next. If the season is shut down early they will be hurt financially. Only time will tell how it all plays out. 

Emotionally it's been a hard day watching the activities and knowing it could have been our whole team in the Ice Fall today.

Peace to all.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Ice Fall Accident

There was a very bad avalanche accident about two thirds of the way up in the Ice Fall today. Many people are still missing. We are all safe here at our Base Camp. Four of our guys were up high when the avalanche happened, but were able to get safely back to camp. We are hoping for the best, but it looks to be a dire situation. We all heard it happen about 6:30 this morning Nepalese time. There is much activity in Base Camp as all the teams are trying to sort this situation out and rescues are currently underway. A very sobering day.

Everest Base Camp

After a three day hike we finally arrived at Everest Base Camp. The last three days we spent hiking here through three villages. After leaving Pangboche in the late morning we had a short day of about three hours to Dingboche to an elevation of 14,500 ft. The following day we had another short hike to Chhukung at 15,900 ft. However, that was the last of the short days because the following day it took us close to 10 hours to cross the Kongma La pass at 18,200 ft. We all finally arrived in Loboche very tired, at an elevation 16,500 ft. After a quick dinner most of us hit the sack early. 

The following day we left for base camp and arrived in four hours. Everest Base Camp is one of the most unusual places you'll ever experience. There's a trail running up and down and around rock and ice somewhat through the middle of the camps. The camps cover a very large area with lots of space between some while some are on top of each other. There are some flat spots, but the terrain is mostly broken ice and rock. There are no direct routes to walk anywhere without having to go around a drop off of rock and ice. We are surrounded by huge mountains in every direction. Our camp sits up on a small hill away from the main trail and most of the other camps. This is good because it protects us from the herds of yaks passing along the main trail as they deliver supplies to other camps. 

Today we had a Puja ceremony with the Lama to bless our safe passage as we climb into the mountain. The Sherpa's will not begin climbing until this Puja ceremony is done. There was much chatting, the ringing of bells, a small drum, the throwing of rice, and plenty of food and drink was passed around. Juniper is burned and a large pole with prayer flags attached is raised. We now have prayer flags crossing our camp in every direction. The food portion of the Puja is really interesting and quite involved. The Sherpa stayed up late and got up early to make decorations out of butter, Sherpa cake,  and fried dough. Drinks included milk tea, chang (Sherpa rice beer), Everest Beer, coke and sprite. The ceremony was very festive.

Tomorrow we'll have a practice day to prepare our climbing gear and practice for the Ice Fall. I have been staring at the ice fall for two days now wondering what it will be like to finally climb into it. It's massive and so intimidating looking from my view here at camp. 

We're both feeling good and adjusting to the altitude very well. Barbara is still planning to climb Lobuche in a few days and I will make my first trip into the Ice Fall. The internet connection is pretty good and so far I can sit in my tent and connect. In the cold laptop batteries don't last long. Once we get more of our solar panels setup keeping a good charge on my laptop will be easier. Overall, we have a great base camp and Barbara and are settling into camp life. In fact, she's lying beside me snoring as I type. 


Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Trek Continues

Our final night at the Panarama Lodge was most exciting. We were celebrating two birthdays. Our trekking team member Lauren turned 27 and the the owner of the lodge, Sherab, was celebrating his 60th birthday. There was quite a crowd of family and friends gathered to celebrate. There were even four Buddhist monks from the Tengboche Monastery present and they actually sat next to me and Barbara at dinner. We had a really fun time talking with them. It turns out they all had great senses of humor. When the birthday cake was passed, I asked them if the needed any ketchup or salt and pepper to go with their cake. It cracked them all up. One clever young monk with a sparkle in his eyes said "yes" but he that he didn't need the salt.

It took all of us about six hours to walk from Namche Bazar to Pangboche yesterday. We are staying at the same lodge where Barbara and I stayed in 2007. It is owned by Tashi and it was nice to see her again. She is old friends with Jim and is also the daughter of one of the most important Buddhist Lamas in the Khumba, Lama Geshe. Today we had a special blessing from him. The blessing was to offer us protection, safety and guidance from the goddess of Everest to help us do well on our trek and climb. Us Everest climbers were given a special card to carry to the summit for good wishes and good luck.  Lama Geshe draped a yellow scarf called a kata and tied a string called a sumg dhis around each of our necks and then gave us a gentle head butt. After a few prayers and the throwing of blessed rice the ceremony was finished. It's the second time Barbara and I have experienced this ceremony and every time at some point I am moved by it.

Surprised we found a decent internet connection today. I am posting this from a very cold cyber cafe called Beyul. There is no indoor heat anywhere in the Khumba Valley except stoves that burn yak dung, and they're only lit after 5 pm.

The picture above of the prayer wheels is from the gate of the Tengboche Buddhist Monastery on our trek and I can assure you I spun every one of them again for good luck.

Tomorrow we are off to Dingboche.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Trek

We had an uneventful flight on our 18 seater plane out of Kathmandu to Lukla. We were one of the first flights out and very lucky because there are times when it takes all day, even several days, to get out. It's a breathtaking experience to see the short runway surrounded by mountains through the front cockpit window as you bank right to approach the uphill landing strip. It looks so freaking small. The plane never turns the engines off and you're soon standing on the tarmac being instructed to keep moving away from the running aircraft. You round the small terminal building and you're greeted by hundreds of staring faces, mostly porters, each hoping to get a job carrying your duffle bags up the mountain. It's damn tough works and it's impressive to see the massive amount of weight these guys carry.

After a short tea break to gather our bags and and repack our daypacks we were off on our six hour trek to the village of Monjo. Barbara and I have both been amazed at how familiar being back in Khumba feels. Our teahouse in Monjo provided an excellent oil free vegan meal of potatoes, greens, rice, and dal. Even oil free popcorn. So far the vegan oil free diet is working well and the teahouses have done well accommodating my diet. 

Yesterday we arrived in Namche Bazar, at 11, 200 feet, after a four hour hike up hill. We'll spend a couple of days here to maximize our acclimatization. It's a stunning trek into the Sagarmatha National Park, the gateway to the Khumba Valley and Mt. Everest. We crossed the fast moving glacier river multiple times on suspension bridges cloaked in hundreds, if not thousands, of Nepalese prayer flags blowing in the wind. Each of the five differently colored flags represent sky, air, fire, water and earth.

I hiked the last hour slowly up the valley to Namche Bazar alone in my thoughts. There are many memories from my last trip to Nepal, and of course, many thoughts about what lies ahead for me trying to climb Mt. Everest. It's nice to occasionally walk alone each day and have a few minutes to think, but it's great to have a group of people all moving towards the same goal. 

I was greeted at the gate to Namche Bazar by three adorable little Nepalese girls about 4 or 5 years old, asking for chocolate. I said "no chocolate" several times…and one little girl took my hand and held it as she led me up the steps into the lower part of the village. Her help up those many steps was much appreciated. As I rounded the corner I could hear the little girls repeating to each other, "no chocolate, no chocolate."  Once entering the village, like all villages here, I rounded the traditional white Buddhist Stupa to the left… you must always go left around Stupas to keep your soul pure…The Stupa have prayer wheels around them and it's customary to spin them clockwise as you pass …I spun every one of the prayer wheels on the Stupa, probably 30 or 40 of them…I'll take all the purity and luck I can get.

One of the best things is the amount of time we spend sitting around our teahouse drinking tea, eating, and sharing our life histories. The stories range from hilarious to very moving. All are entertaining and it's a great way to get to know each other. It's the part of climbing I've always enjoyed the most. 

We'll have one more day resting here before we move up the valley further to Pangboche. 

All is well.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Arrival


After a year of planning, training, and getting ready for this climb, we finally left Durham on Wednesday evening with four large gear bags each weighting 50 pounds and three 50 pound boxes of food and supplies. We arrived safely in Kathmandu on Friday without a hitch. Our direct seven hour flight to London was pleasant and after a short layover we were off to Delhi. Nine hours later we were in Delhi at just before midnight. It took two hours of working and waiting with the airport transfer hotel to make sure all our gear bags were going to be on our flight to Kathmandu in the morning. We finally checked into the transfer hotel around 2:00 am and had a couple of hours of sleep before waking at 4:45 to go to our gate for the 6:30 flight to Kathmandu.

It's great to be back in Kathmandu. This crazy chaotic city is bustling with activity. Arriving at our hotel we saw our old friend Jetha. He was our trekking guide in 2007 and will again trek to base camp with us and be our base camp cook. Our first order of business was to go food shopping and get a local cell phone. 

We spent Saturday touring Kathmandu. We had an interesting experience touring a famous Hindu temple and crematorium funeral site down by the river. Hindu religion requires that the dead bodies be cleansed in the river water and then burned over an open fire. We witnessed several funerals taking place and the burning of bodies. Once the bodies are burned the ashes are sweep into the river. Later we visited the large Boudha Stupa, one the holiest Buddhist temples. Our final stop was another Buddhist temple on a hill called Swoyambhu or more commonly known as the Monkey Temple because of the hundreds of monkeys that climb around everywhere. Later Barbara and I wandered around the Thamel shopping district of Kathmandu and explored the endless confusing streets. 

Except for Jeff, who will arrive in a few days, the rest of our team arrived today. The team consists of Barbara and me, Martin (Irish by birth, but he has lived in Australia most of his life), Danny and Carol from Texas, Steve (raised in Alabama but lives in China) and his daughter Lauren who now lives in Knoxville,  Jim our leader, Scott our base camp manager, and Jeff our guide, all three from Jackson Wyoming. I'm very pleased with our team.

Today is Sunday and tomorrow we fly to Lukla to begin the trek to base camp. Lukla is the jumping off point for any Everest climb or trek. It's also famously known as the world's most dangerous airport. (I hope Barbara's family and my family doesn't see that sentence). The runway is situated on a hill at a 12 degree angle up hill. Once the plane touches down all engines are gunned hard to bring the plane to a stop. Even more interesting is the take off when you simply drop off into the valley. It's rare to take off in a plane and go down and not up.

Our first day's trek should take us to a small village called Monjo. We are all doing well and looking forward to getting this thing started. Look for our next post in a few days from Namche Barzar. 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Preparation

It's been said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. I'd have to say that the journey to climb Everest begins with thousands of little steps of detail. Hardly a minute passes without my thinking about it. I go to bed thinking about the climb and wake up thinking about the climb. There is, what seems like, an endless list of things to do. 

The climbing gear and clothes seem the easiest to organize, but recreating a small home in my base camp tent with the things needed to live for two months away seems at times daunting and overwhelming. I have been compiling a list of food, gear, etc. for months now. As something came to mind I'd add it to the list. Most of the technical climbing gear I had, but there were a few new pieces of gear that I needed. I'm certain the UPS, FedX, and mail people are convinced I'm running some kind of mysterious business. It's like Christmas everyday seeing a new box sitting near the front door when I get home.

A two month climb is a long time. I've done close to a month before, so I have some sense of the scale of things, but this one is borderline ridiculous. I know from experience to be sure to cover the basics, and that, in the end it will all come together and that everything will be packed in my big gear duffles ready to go.

Here's an example of what's been going through my mind everyday for the last several month preparing for this climb: 

"Okay, I need to get wet wipes...wonder how many I'll need...one per day for 60 days that is 60 total, but wait, maybe I will need more than one wet wipe some days... need to order my power bars...five power bars a day for 60 days that's 300 bars...don't forget to buy a few new stuff sacks...Wait, that's only 200 calories per bar and 1000 calories a day, and I'll be burning close to 10,000 calories a day...maybe I should have 6 to 7 bars a day... yeah, but I'll also have my usual go-to climbing snacks, orange slices, mango slices...which gear bags should I use...crocs would be nice to wear at base camp...need to call and see if my gaiters can be repaired...need to re-check those new gloves and compare to my old ones...need to set up automatic bill pay at bank...Shit, I almost forgot about batteries and hand warmers...how many of these will I need for two months... can't forget to make doctor’s appointment this week for medication scripts and then get to CVS to get them filled...right, while I'm there I can get sunscreen, candy, tooth paste, hand sanitizer, foot powder, maybe a few trashy novels to read...have to decide on laptop stuff...get extra camera battery...need to get taxes done before we leave... need to speak with my clients again before leaving...wonder if Jim's available later to discuss our oxygen plan and food list...need to do Nepal's new online visa application...call eye doctor to get new contacts...maybe 400 power bars would be better..." It's an endless loop.

Training has been a big part of this journey and becauseI knew Everest was a possibility last January, I started training just to get myself ready in case it became a reality. I really enjoy training and pushing my body hard. However, being 53 makes it much harder to push those limits, but I've tried, and as a result there have been set backs with knee and lower back issues. I call it the ugly intersection of age and desire. In the end you just keep moving forward the best you can and except that it is what it is. 

The first six months of last year I went back to Crossfit of Durham and did morning bootcamps three days a week. On weekends I hiked and road biked. I also used my old realiable gym, the Duke Center for Living, for weight lifting and treadmill. I logged many miles on a treadmill at 15 degress with a 30 pound pack. Last fall I began a series of monthly training trips to Mt. Mitchell. I like the real-time training of hiking up and down hills and have done this many times before climbs. On Mt. Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi, I can get roughly a 4000 foot elevation gain in 5.5 miles. It was a good mental and physical test to gauge my fitness level and it was good to see improvement.  Barbara and I spent a week in New Hampshire after Christmas ice climbing and skiing. I did two winter summits of Mt. Washington, one solo in -35 degree wind-chill factor weather. After the first of the year, I moved back into regular crossfit class and then started an intensive training program designed for mountaineers called Mountain Athlete. It's the most intensive training program I've ever done and it helped tremendously, but one needs to be careful not to do too much too fast. I developed some lower back issues that limited my workouts these last few weeks. Only time will tell how it plays out on the mountain. 

In amongst these preparation and training details are actual thoughts about the climb. These too are an endless loop of wandering thoughts...the beautiful trek to base camp, the scary first climb into the Khumbu Icefall, the heat of the Western Cum, the step and icy Lhotse Face, the Yellow Rock Band, the Genevia Spur, the South Col and Camp 4, the Triangular Face up to the Balcony, the long steep ridge, the Norgay Step, the South Summit, the 9000 foot drop off Knife Edge Traverse, the Hillary Step, the false summits, the prayer flags blowing on the Summit. Do I even dare think about the Summit? This mind climb happens throughout the day and into my dreams. 

And nervous thoughts too..will the knees, back, and heart hold up? How will it go? Again, only time will tell. Without taking the risk I will never know.

Well, it time to leave in a few hours... It takes a village to send a climber off to climb Mt. Everest - even if the village doesn't know it.  As I begin this journey there are lots of people I'd like to thanks for helping me along this path. Each of them has played some roll, both small and large, in keeping me on track for this climb. They've all listened to my dreams and frustrations with supportive interest and offered sound advice.

My wife Barbara, for being completely supportive of this climb. She's never once suggested I shouldn't go, and when I've expressed doubt, she keeps telling me I need to go. She has the climbing bug now and I know she's itching to give it a try herself one day.

My mountain climbing and mountain training buddies, Ron, Scott, Kent, Jon, Alex, Frank, Barbara, and the Original Keev. We've logged a lot of miles together over the years and again this past year (although lately, these climbs have usually been followed by way too many beers in Asheville, NC, so the actual benefit of the training climbs is questionable). Thanks to Gaynor and Mary Leigh for the use of their warm cabin near the trailhead.

My biking buddies, Gaynor, Kent, Curt, Tom, and Don. A motivating and inspiring group of aging "legendary" racers who I've been fortunate enough to be allowed to ride with for many years now.

My Durham Crossfit training pals. Coach Doug for "not killing" me three years ago and for his generous support, motivation, and interest as we worked through the Mountain Athlete program. Thanks to Brad for many helpful suggestions as he worked out nearby. Thanks to owner Dave and all the other coaches. My original 7:15ers group - it's great to be back seeing everyone again each morning.

The staff at the Duke Center For Living and Duke Cardiac Rehab and fellow rehabbers - three years ago Karen, Anne, and Roy played a huge roll in my recovery from the heart attack. 

Stewart Walker at the Wholelistic Center for working the deep muscles and strains, for understanding my panicked phone calls, and fitting me in when some pain popped up in either my knees or lower back. Also, Jessica at Endless Summer Massage. Jamie and Kim at Duke Sports Medicine PT.

My work partners, Bob and Jennifer - this wouldn't be possible without you two. Our clients who allow me to be gone for several months and still support my efforts with enthusiasm. I'm looking forward to drinking some Mother Earth Beer at base camp.

Family and Friends, you know who you are and the rolls you've played - your support is obvious and always with me. 

One reminder. I will update my blog when I can, but you can follow our daily team dispatches here http://exploradus.com/dispatches/?exp_id=1259

Thanks again. Keep checking in. We're off. Next stop Kathmandu...