End of journey

The abrupt end to the Everest season has given me a month I did not expect to have at home. The first few days were needed to overcome jet lag. To really reset my internal clock I did two fairly rigorous mountain bike rides and went into work. At work I had to stay active or I would fall asleep in my chair. On Wednesday I gave a lunch presentation to the employees of Ortho Development, the company that manufactures my artificial knees. On Saturday I gave another presentation at the Adventure and Gear Expo here in Salt Lake City. Those two events kept me busy for most of the week preparing slide shows for each. It has returned to winter here in Utah but I have been too busy to hit the slopes. I promised myself that I would go up tomorrow and do a hike and then ski down. The weather looks like it will warm up after Monday.

It already seems that Everest 2014 happened long ago and yet it was only a week ago that I came home. I have not mentioned the kindness shown to me by Pemba Sherpa, his daughter Shanti and the rest of his family in Kathmandu. He and Shanti made sure I got around Kathmandu to secure my flights home. I also spent a glorious day at their home where I took a delightfully long nap and had a nice dinner with the family. Their hospitality and the Sherpa people’s hospitality in general is just incredible.

After doing two presentations regarding Everest and the disaster of 2014 the magnitude that disaster has sunk in all the more. Apa Sherpa, who has climbed Everest a record 21 times and who lives in Salt Lake City , was interviewed by a local newspaper. He felt that it was appropriate to give Everest a rest this year. I  now agree with his sentiment. However, it was difficult as a climber who trained hard and long to let go of the dream while still in base camp right at the bottom of the mountain. It may sound callous to still have wanted to climb after such a devastating disaster but it is really hard to dial back the drive that one must have to get there and survive there for such a long time. Once the reality that we would not be climbing set in I felt a significant decrease in my energy reserves both physically and mentally. In fact, I picked up the Khumbu cough (which I am still fighting) the day before we departed base camp for home. I attribute my getting the illness to going from a “game-on” to “game-off” mentality with much stress heaped on as will.

Finally, in reviewing my photos from the trip and recollecting all I went through with my team-mates I am able to declare that we had one heck of an adventure together regardless of the fact that we did not summit. It was an adventure marred by tragedy but also defined by that tragedy. We will never forget those 16 Sherpas who died so that the spirit of adventure can live on! I also like what another Everest expedition leader, Willie Benegas (he was instrumental in the rescue and recovery effort after the accident) said after the season was cancelled:

“The beauty of a successful mountaineering expedition to the Himalayas is not if we have reached the top of the mountain. It is that if at the end of the entire process – culturally and emotionally – a simple symbiosis a brotherhood is created. Where we begin as strangers and leave as brothers.”

This sums up how I feel about the men and women that were involved in the HIMEX 2014 Everest expedition. I will be adding pictures to the post but give me a chance to recover and catch up on my life.

 

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Finally I get lucky

A four day descent from Base Camp to Kathmandu was tough given my newly acquired Khumbu cough. This was a first in my 3 visits to Nepal. The cough was accompanied by a soar throat that was amplified if I tried to walk faster. My teammates seemed to be in a race to get to Lukla so I was at the end of the line for the three days of real hiking. I was fast enough to get to Lukla before a heavy rainstorm hit in the early afternoon. It was a relief to be laying in a bed somewhat warm listening to the rain on the tin roof. In Lukla on Wednesday morning the all to common to Nepal mountaineering “hurry up and wait” game played out as we tried to get helicoptered out Kathmandu. We went to the airport at 9:00 AM but were turned back as our helicopter was needed to recover two Russian climbers killed on Ama Dablam. Finally at around 11:00 AM we were called back to the airport and flown to Kathmandu and   by 12:30 PM I was taking my first real hot shower at the hotel.

I went to a restaurant near the US consulate and had a huge hamburger. It was alright but still not the real thing. I then went to Cathay Pacific office to try to change tickets. I spent over an hour there but had no luck confirming a flight unless I wanted to pay thousands to upgrade. The options were to wait until after May 14th. Too many people had returned early from Everest and the planes were full. Thursday was a holiday and nobody was working and nothing could be done about flights. On friday morning I started checking into other airlines only to find that it would be very expensive to get home anytime soon. At 10:00 AM on Friday I got a call from Cathay Pacific to inform me that They had a seat for me that night for a small change fee. I could not believe it. I went back to their office to make sure I was not dreaming. I confirmed it and they gave me a ticket. Finally I had something happen in my favor!

 

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Heading home

On Sunday morning as we prepared to leave base camp and hike to Pheriche I was told by Russell that joining the Makalu team would be logistically very difficult and not a possibility. With all on Russ’s plate I did not think I should push for another peak and excepted the fact that I was heading home. I was somewhat disappointed as I left base camp. Additionally I picked up the Khumbu cough and sore throat. It was hard to go walk fast as heavy breathing hurt my throat and even saying “namaste” to passing hikers hurt. I arrived in Pheriche quite worn out and my teammates were concerned about my condition. Richie, one of the guides, had me gargle with an iodine mixture which helped. Fortunately I slept pretty well with minimum coughing. Today was also difficult hiking from Pheriche to Namche. my throat was not too bad….I just did not have much energy. I think that the events of the last two weeks were finally manifesting themselves in physical and mental way. I am not feeling like much of a climber right now….the call to action pulled out from under me has taken the wind out of my sails. I need to remember what I have been telling everyone regarding mountaineering…it is more about enjoying the journey than summiting the mountain. I must remain happy even though I am disappointed. Somehow the disappointment over two Everest attempts curtailed by things out of my control redefine disappointment. However, aside from not feeling well, I can honestly say that the camaraderie of our team and some great moments together have taken most of the sting away. I have met some of the most interesting and inspiring people while on this expedition. I would climb anywhere and anytime with them. That is what this crazy climbing stuff is all about!

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Witnessing the future of Everest

On Saturday the remaining people in base camp were able to witness the future of Everest. From early morning to mid afternoon there were numerous helicopters ferrying loads of gear from Camp 1, Camp 2 and the avalanche zone down to base camp. Out of respect to the Sherpas two Himex Kiwi guides worked the avalanche area gather rescue gear and loads left by fleeing Sherpas. Two other western guides and around 15 Sherpa worked the area between Camp 1 and Camp 2 readying equipment (tents, food oxygen etc) for extraction. Nepal officials also, for the first time allowed some gear to be stored at Camp 2.

The fact that helicopters can be used so effectively up to Camp 2 bodes well for the Sherpa’s future. Hopefully, the number of loads that Sherpas have to take through the Khumbu icefall will be greatly reduced  by using helicopters to get loads up to Camp 1 and Camp 2. Russell Brice was really excited at the end of the day by how much was accomplished by way of ferrying gear off the mountain.Russell does not believe this well open the door for clients to bypass the icefall via helicopter. It is seen as a means to reduce the risk to sherpas who easily go through the ice fall 6 t0 7 times more than expedition climbers.

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The retreat from base camp.

Last night I dreamed I was sleeping in a bed. I think I finally made my sleeping pad comfortably by putting in puffy down pants and jackets at strategic locations. I have also made certain to bring two large Nalgene bottles of hot water to bed with me. On is near my feet and I hold the other like a teddy bear. They keep me warm all night. I slept right up to hot towel “delivery” which is about 7:15 AM. I almost refused but given the difficult rocky trail to get to my tent I wanted to act appreciative so I unzipped the vestibule and accepted the steaming towel. I quickly slipped back into my sleeping bag hoping to re-engage my sweet slumber but the sun soon came out turning the tent from refrigerator to oven. Then the helicopters returned.

The morning took on the appearance of a troop withdrawal from the battle front. Our Sherpa team and numerous porters were moving duffel bags to a gathering zone and dismantling tents as soon as they were vacated. Helicopters were buzzing over constantly, not only to evacuate climbers, but also to transport people to Camp 1 and 2 so they could gather equipment and transport it down by helicopter. This retraction of gear by helicopter is a first on Everest and was just approved by the government. I looked through a telescope into the ice fall and could clearly see Sherpa working with western guides to mop up the area of the avalanche where there remained a lot of rescue gear. I must admit that the icefall appeared benign and enticing under the sunny dark blue skies.

We pulled the chairs out of the dining tents to watch the flurry of activity. Members of the team that were flying out today sat and waited to be called to the hell-pad. Some would go directly to Kathmandu and others to Namche. The radios are humming with chatter as the climber “retreat” and on-mountain gearing gathering play out at the same time. The call comes over to radio to get to the heli-pad quickly and we give hugs and say good-byes to friends now uniquely bonded by over a month of intense experience shared together.

I am staying as base camp in hopes of hearing good news about transferring over to the Makalu team. It is a long shot but it is worth a try. Regardless I will be heading down to Pheriche tomorrow with other “walkers”. Concerns about violence at base camp seem to have subsided. No wonder….since everyone is heading home in accordance to the wishes of those who made threats in the first place.

The persons responsible for the termination of the South Side season will need to reflect on the negative impression they have made on climbers and the world in general. Yes, they deserve credit for seizing the moment (avalanche catastrophe) with their fiery persistence and determination to get the government’s attention which ultimately won needed concessions for the climbing Sherpa. However, they did not do this entirely on their own. Many other folks, like Russell Brice, have been suggesting what changes were needed, implementing changes on their own and actively campaigning to government officials concerning needed changes for years. The recent concessions were due to a group effort that was ongoing although accelerated by the unfortunate deaths of 16 Sherpas.

Assurances need to come from the people that shut down the Everest South Side season that intimidation, implied violence and destruction of property will not become  the tools of future change in the Khumbu Valley/Everest region. Having fought for a good cause using these bullying tactics has given them the false perception that the ends justifies the means.  Unfortunately what they did not see in the heat of the fight is the possibility of loosing a bigger battle.  What are all the concessions given to the Sherpas worth to them if they are not employed due to a decrease in future expeditions and general tourism?. I am not coming back nor would I recommend to someone else to climb the Everest South-side until there is a clear and definite statement from the responsible parties that can be relied upon that from this point forward that all concerned parties will abide by mutually agreed upon protocol to peacefully and respectfully resolve disputes and strive for needed changes. Keep the Khumbu Valley an intimidation/violence-free zone so that all residents can thrive from and visitors enjoy the  incredible resources this region has to offer to the world.

 

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We surrender!

It has been 7 days since the devastating avalanche. 5 days ago my group finished their acclimatization cycle on Lobuche peak and returned to Everest base camp. We attended the memorial for the 16 Sherpas who perished. Unfortunately the ceremony was “hijacked” at the end by some Nepalese pseudo guides that are not from the Khumbu Valley and who have Maoist roots. They incite other Sherpas to bully and use violence to get their way. Their purpose seems less about honoring those who died and more focused on getting power/influence. Intimidation has been their primary means to accomplish their power grab.

Over the last few days the large expeditions have been canceling their season like falling dominos. First, it was the expeditions that had lost Sherpas that cancelled…which is very understandable. The remaining expedition leaders determined that the icefall was safe and that avalanches were no more prone that any normal year. They also felt that the mourning period had been adequate and climbing Everest would not dishonor those who died. Additionally, they know better than any one that the Sherpas sole source of income come from these expeditions. However, the militant group of violence prone out-of-towners wanted to capitalize on the situation to get long needed concessions from the Nepalase government. They felt closing Everest for the season would get everyone’s attention. First we heard that expeditions would be allowed to climb if they wanted. In reality, the Sherpas on the teams were told their legs would be broken if they took clients onto Everest. Expeditions relying on Sherpa-power were told to leave base camp within days or face consequences that implied potential violence.

Bottom-line, Himex held out the longest hoping for an amicable solution that would allow us to climb. When Purba Tashi and his team of Sherpas heard talk of bodily harm and destruction of property it just got to be too much. Russ and Purba could find no way to work with the hooligans and had to give in to their threatening intimidation and this morning our entire expedition met under sunny skies and were told to pack our bags.

It will be a few days until we can actually leave because there are hundreds and hundreds of other people that got a head start on us so yaks and porters are not in abundance. This a very hard place to stay at unless you have a definitive purpose. With our dreams abandoned base camp starts to feel like prison on a rock pile. Unfriendly Sherpas who have been brainwashed by the militants have confronted other team members yesterday and today outside of camp. It is hard to imagine this as I have not seen a Sherpa without a friendly smile. I do not think I will go outside of camp to investigate. The Khumbu Valley (at least around base camp)has turned from Shangi La to a medieval third world  power play that Westerners like me cannot comprehend. The Everest region has hit it’s “tipping point” and will never be the same. It seems like much good will come to the Sherpas if the government makes good on it’s promises. However, if the militant faction garners more power and forces itself upon the region I suspect all aspects of tourism will suffer because these people like to make up the rules as they go along and are not peaceful like the Sherpas who have grown up in the Khumbu Valley.

I hate being in the middle of history being made. Why can’t I pick a normal year to climb Everest??!! I am sitting in base camp now exhausted and worn out not so much from physical exertion but because of all the twists and turns of the last 7 days. Our team is very supportive of one another and is trying to remain positive in light of everything that has happened. But the bottom line is that for the second time I have be denied the opportunity to test myself against the mountain. Some may think it is selfish to think that way given the magnitude of the disaster that just happened. It is what it is and I am just tired of things not going my way.

I have talked to Russell about joining the Makalu team. It is unlikely but he was going to check into it for me. I want to give my supporters a summit and Makalu is a worthy one. I hope I can know sooner than later because it is difficult to keep up my resolve to climb when nothing is going your way on a cold  and foreboding 17,600′ rock pile.

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Everest roller-coaster ride

This is actually me—Greg. it is hard to connect to outside world except by satellite phone. Somehow I got a connection via our base camp wi-fi. Probably because there are not many people are using the system right now. It has been a horrendous time at Everest and a very difficult time for climbers and especially Sherpas who knew and lost friends in the April 18th avalanche. At this point my understanding is that it is the worse disaster on Everest. It has been difficult to proceed with our training climbs with the calamity so close at hand. Every now and again I have broken down in tears when the gravity of it all sneaks through the layers that you develop as a mountaineer. Certain questions and situations trigger the emotions. Our Himex Sherpas are still on “vacation” being sent to their villages while the Khumbu ice fall is closed for 7 days.. It will be hard to face them without emotion when they come back. As all this has played out in the last 4 days we have had (I am reluctant to say) some excellent climbing and great weather on Lobuche mountain. I think it helped to stay busy so my mind did not constantly dwell on the the dark side of recent events. It does not seem fair to those that died to say I was able to appreciate a magnificent Easter Sunday sunset atop Lobuche Peak. On the other hand it seems that is what they would want us to do because in life it is those views that  they worked so hard to provide us.

Today the Himex team in Everest base camp went to a memorial Puja ceremony for the 16 Sherpas who died. It was probably the largest gathering of Sherpas and climbers to ever occur at base camp. There was a unity/brotherhood felt by all as the Lama and Sherpas chanted and then we all sang together. I recognized Om Mani Padme Uhm in the song and could at least sing along with that. As somber as things are our lives go on here at base camp. The status of the climbing season is uncertain. We must appreciate the concerns and safety of the Sherpas. The condition of the Khumbu icefall appeared better than 2012 when multiple avalanches were occurring…..luckily not when people were in their path. This season we have had only one but people were in its path.

If given the opportunity, as crazy as it sounds, I would go up through the Khumbu icefall if given the chance on the premise that “lightening will not strike twice. I guess 2012 prepared me mentally for doing such. I would rather honor the victims of the avalanche by climbing rather than honor them by staying off the mountain.Is this harsh or ethically wrong?  I guess I am just interjecting my personality into the situation as I would not want my death to deter others from pursuing their dream.  High adventures requires a certain mindset when viewing one’s mortality. I totally respect those who believe the opposite of me and sometimes the horror of the accident dwells on me and my resolve falters. I have to tell myself that great rewards are often accompanied by great risks. Many of mankind’s greatest achievements followed huge disappointments. I sincerely regret that the 16 Sherpas gave their lives so that climbers like me could enjoy the rewards of getting to the top of the world. I know this accident has put into motion some possible solutions to this inequity. Sherpas deserve to improve their lot in life which climbing offers them but they should not be put in harms way any more than those climbers they work for. I appreciate everyone’s prayers and I pray that the deceased Sherpas and their families will not be forgotten.

I never expected my second attempt of Everest would deal me this hand of cards. At this juncture we can only wait for the situation to play out. I try to suppress my disappointment by realizing how lucky I am to have the opportunity to be in this beautiful land and how lucky I am to have a supportive family, friends and sponsors. Also, the Sherpa friends I have made are just incredible human beings.

 

 

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Utah Daily Herald Article

ALPINE — An Alpine couple is safe after an avalanche swept down a climbing route on Mount Everest, killing at least 12 people.

Greg and Billie Paul are safe, according to their daughter, Rebecca Paul McAllister, who told the Daily Herald on Friday that she had heard from both of her parents letting her know that they are OK.

“Fortunately he was doing training on another mountain,” McAllister said.

McAllister explained that her father had spent the past week training on Lobuche, a 20,075-foot peak south of Mount Everest. Climbers hoping to summit on Everest typically train on Lobuche to acclimate before attempting the 29,029-foot Everest peak.

As for Paul’s wife, McAllister said she and their son, Kevin, had hiked away from the Everest base camp earlier this week and are now in Kathmandu preparing to return home.

Greg Paul called McAllister at 3 a.m. Friday morning to let her know he was safe. McAllister said she actually let the call go to her voicemail as she thought he was calling to give her some updates to post on his blog, www.gregclimbing.com.

She said she was contacted at about 5 a.m. by a relative who said they had heard about the avalanche and wanted to know how her dad was doing.

It was then that McAllister immediately checked her messages and found that he was safe.

“I got quite emotional hearing him leave the message to me and talking about the details,” McAllister said. “It was pretty shocking to learn about that news.”

McAllister said climbing Everest has been a lifelong dream for her father. She said he has talked about going up the mountain since she was a child.

She said she would tell her friends her dad was so good at climbing that he would one day climb Mount Everest.

That dream almost became a reality two years ago.

McAllister said Paul was offered a spot on a team climbing Everest in 2012, but the climb was called off after the team arrived in Nepal and was training. Weather conditions were such that guides worried the safety of the climbers might be in jeopardy and Paul returned home without ever reaching Everest’s summit.

Paul’s second opportunity now comes thanks in part to having his left knee replaced. Paul had the procedure done on his right knee a few years ago. When he had his left knee replaced he convinced the designer of his artificial knee to sponsor him in his second quest to climb the mountain.

Paul wrote on his blog that to the best of his knowledge he would be the first ever to summit the peak with two replaced knees if he succeeds next month when he makes his attempt.

He also wrote that he hopes to be a role model to the baby boomers, his generation, that it isn’t too late to pursue their passions and dreams.

McAllister said despite the avalanche, her father still hopes to reach the top of Everest sometime in May.

The avalanche that occurred early Friday morning killed at least 12 Sherpa guides and left four missing. Several more also were injured.

Alpine Ascents International, a Seattle-based guiding service, said five of its Nepalese guides were among the 12 dead. A spokesman for the company told the Associated Press the guides had gone up the mountain to help set up camp and check out conditions for other climbers.

Daily Herald reporter Billy Hesterman can be reached at bhesterman@heraldextra.com or (801) 344-2559 or on Twitter @billyhesterman.

http://www.heraldextra.com/news/local/alpine-couple-safe-at-everest-base-camp-after-killer-avalanche/article_2b03165e-c4b9-5876-80b9-b76b4842cec5.html

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KUTV Channel 2 News Clip

This is the movie: http://www.kutv.c om/news/top-stories/stories/vid_10739.shtml
Here is the article:
Utah Connections To Everest Avalanche
(KUTV) A Utah man preparing his ascent to the top of Mt. Everest is doing fine, according to his daughter. Greg Paul was on a neighboring mountain getting used to the elevation change when the avalanche struck Everest, killing 12 Nepalise climbing guides; another four guides were missing as of Friday night.

Greg Paul is the part owner of Momentum Climbing gym in Sandy. As an avid outdoors man it’s his lifelong dream to summit Everest. “He had already been there once and tried to summit, so I think that he’s really driven,” says John Vickers, who works at the climbing gym, and is helping Greg manage his blog while he’s on the journey.

Vickers says Greg Paul is attempting to climb the mountain after having double knee replacement surgery. “I don’t think that something like this, as long as it’s still safe, is going to stop him either,” says Vickers.

Greg’s journey to the summit of Everest, is only possible with the help of Nepalise climbing guides, known as Sherpas. They are a group of men that risk their lives preparing the way for little pay, so westerners can achieve glory at the summit.

“The Sherpas really are the backbone of Everest,” says Jerry Mika, who’s a close friend of Apa Sherpa, the man who’s climbed Everest more than anyone. “They set the ropes and carry the ladders. Without the Sherpas, climbing Everest would be very difficult.”

Mika was a base camp manager for a 2007 Everest expedition, now he’s the president of the Utah-based, Apa Sherpa Foundation, a charity that helps the families of the Sherpas.

“At 12,500 feet, they don’t have a lot of school supplies up there, so our goal is to get them up to date, pay the new teachers, we just built libraries,” he says.

After this latest tragedy, that killed at least 12 Everest Sherpa guides, Mika says caring for the Sherpa children is more important than ever. “If we can get those little guys educated and get them off to the next level, they won’t have to carry for the westerners, or carry for the little bit of money that they do make,” he says.

As for Greg Paul’s Everest journey, his daughter says he’s saddened by the loss of life and concerned now that his effort to reach the summit may have taken a major setback.

By: Chris Miller

(Copyright 2014 Sinclair Broadcasting Group)

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A Hard Day on Everest

Report from Rebecca Paul McAllister: I just got off the phone with my dad. He just summited Lobuche. He started this morning at 6:30 at Lobuche Base Camp and Got to the top before noon. He was able to talk to my mom who is still at the Hyatt Hotel in Katmandu almost ready to fly back the US. He wanted me to mention she was at the spa the entire length of his grueling climb. He also said that Kevin was watching the food network learning how to cook lobster.

He said that all day long there have been helicopters flying to and from Base Camp taking the bodies of the victims to their homes in the various villages along the path up to Everest. He believes there aren’t any Sherpa left at Everest Base Camp because they have all gone to mourn. I mentioned that he got some attention in the news yesterday and he completely lost it on the phone crying. He said it is horrible what happened and no one knows what to do. He said they feel helpless and all they can do to forget it is just keep climbing. They are going to continue training till there is news elsewise. My dad says he trust Russell Brice’s (Himex Expedition Leader) call in the end and believes he will make the right choice.

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