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Everest! A Trek to Base Camp and Back – 2011 – Update 9

Update 9 – A Wedding at the Top of The World

Everest Base Camp  — November 10, 2011

While at Base Camp admiring the unbelievable scenery, the incomparable view of Mt. Everest with the Kumbu Icefall in the foreground and the 27,900 ft. peak of Lhotse creating an impressive cloud against the impossibly blue sky — I have never seen a blue as deep as at this altitude! – as snow blew off the peak, we had a special bonus.  A young Czech Republic couple, Sarka Podlucka and David Cemus had trekked to Everest Base Camp where they were to get married!  I instantly became the official wedding videographer, and Kent took video with their camera since the Nepali authorities needed that to verify that the ceremony actually took place. I was already extremely emotional.  I had just called Katie on my cell phone from Everest Base Camp, and could hardly speak, completely overcome by the emotion and the realization of the enormity of our accomplishment.  And now, here was this very touching ceremony of a couple who have likely made the biggest emotional and physical sacrifice of anyone, to commit to each other.  And they had no friends there.  Pretty soon we were all close friends, and the few climbers and guides and porters who were there became an instant wedding congregation.  I was so teared-up I could hardly see the viewfinder! I uploaded this in 1920x1080p HD, so it will be a big file, but high quality for David and Sarka to download as a record and remembrance of their very special day at the top of the world.

Everest! A Trek to Base Camp and Back – 2011 – Update 8

Update 8 – Final

Click on the image below for a short video of our Escape from Lukla! YouTube Logo Cropped


Escape from Lukla

Escape from Lukla

16th November, 2011 – Wednesday

 Stuck in Lukla

 All day yesterday we hiked in thick fog, sometimes in a fine drizzle.  It was quite cold, and we were concerned about our flight from Lukla to Kathmandu the next day.  Lukla is a small, but vibrant town literally hanging on the side of the Himalayas here.  The airstrip at Lukla is considered the most dangerous in the world.  We could not really tell why because, even though it was still early afternoon when we arrived, the fog was so thick that one could barely see 100 feet.

Lukla Airport Lukla 9,000 ft 1


The single cobblestone street of Lukla was lined with shops, restaurants, and even a Starbucks knock-off.  Porters, donkeys and Yak caravans came down the street as we entered this village at almost 9,300 ft.

We settled into our rooms at the Kumbu Lodge, and met a number of climbers who had been stuck here for two or three days already, with no sign of a possible departure in the next few days.


I spent the day editing my videos, and posting my Everest Base Camp update 7.

The rooms in this guesthouse were quite a surprise.  We had a view of the landing strip and the mountains towering over the town.  Only, we could not see it because of the thick fog.

As we crawled in to go to sleep under two very heavy, thick blankets, a wonderful diversion from our sleeping bags the past 12 days, Kent said, “This hotel gets it!”

There was an on-suite bathroom with toilet, hand basin and shower.  Only problem – no hot water in the hand basin. Another problem – no water in the shower at all – hot or cold.  But this was the first time since Kathmandu that we did not have to go down the hall to use the bathroom in the freezing cold, dark night.

Of course, that is not really a problem, since I kept a one-liter Nalgene water bottle inside my sleeping bag to use as a pee bottle during the night.  In order to stay hydrated, one consumes huge quantities of water during the day, resulting in huge quantities of pee during the night, often a liter and a half.  The nights were very cold – invariably below freezing, and these lodges were not heated.  Hence the need to pee in your sleeping bag into the pee bottle.   While it requires some talent, I perfected this skill on Kilimanjaro three years ago, and had no problem with this trick.  Anyway, it was a wide-necked Nalgene bottle.


 17th November 2011 – Thursday – Day 13

Still Stuck in Lukla – Killing a day in Lukla

Our second day stuck in Lukla.  There is no indication of an improvement in the weather until Sunday, the day we are supposed to leave Kathmandu for New Delhi and on to the USA.  We are concerned, but the one thing that walking, climbing, suffering during the past 13 days have done for me was to teach me that checking the weather forecast is not going to change it.  I have learned acceptance and patience.  I actually enjoyed the down time, and the opportunity to re-live the adventure through editing my videos.

At lunch we went out for a change of scenery – and cuisine.  We ended up in a restaurant a few buildings down from the Rhumba lodge, and ordered a hamburger.  The picture on the menu depicting the hamburger as the “Special of the Day” looked so attractive; all four of us ordered this.   About 20 minutes later the waitress returned to apologize profusely that they have no hamburger, but would we like a chicken burger?

How could they be out of hamburger and still list that as the special of the day, we wondered?  Half an hour later she showed up with our chicken burgers, which were essentially a very thin strip of what looked like chicken spam, and a lot of raw onions on a bun.  So tired of noodles and rice, we ate this offering quite disappointed that we were not eating the juicy, tasty hamburger depicted on their menu picture.

On our way back to the teahouse, we met Ramesh.  “Have you had lunch?’ he asked.  “Yes, thank you”, I said.  “You are not supposed to eat lunch away from Kumbu Resort”, he reprimanded.  “They will double your room rate!”  “Oh,” I said.  “Actually we skipped lunch.”  That was not entirely untrue.  I did not think one could call a chicken spam and onion sandwich lunch.

Later we went for an afternoon walk, and ended up in the Irish Pub, meeting some very interesting adventurers from New Zealand.

After dinner we went to bed, quite discouraged since the weather forecast for Lukla remained bleak.  It was bitterly cold, and a warm shower to wash the dirt fro the past days off one’s body would have been nice.  I determined that the first thing I would do when we eventually reach Kathmandu is to take a hot shower.


18th November, 2011 – Friday – Day 14

Four Cold Showers in Kathmandu

At 7 am. Ramesh knocked on our door.  I let him in.

“Take a picture, take a picture!”


He opened the curtains and the completely frozen window, and there, right outside our window, was the most beautiful sight of the mountains surrounding Lukla, towering clear up to the sky, and not a cloud in sight.  Very excited about the possibility of getting out today, we jumped up and went to the dining room for breakfast.

Our table companions, six travelers from Australia, were all excited because they were able to get six seats on a huge Russian helicopter with the obnoxious French people at the next table over, supposedly leaving right away.  They were all packed and ready, anxious to make their international flight from Kathmandu.  After waiting patiently for almost two hours, their guide suddenly rushed into the dining room where we were all congregated hoping to get a flight out, and in a huge panic rushed them out the door and on to the landing strip (“airport”).

Ramesh, our guide, assured us that we would get out today or tomorrow.  “But we can’t be certain because the weather may change again any time”, he added.

We agreed that it would be prudent to also try to arrange a helicopter, since we were already stuck in Lukla for three days.  So we instructed Ramesh to get us on either a small plane or helicopter, whichever became available first.

The Lukla airstrip was chaos.  The planes they use to fly in-and out are very flimsy looking 10 to 20 seaters.  To help pass the time, Roger, Pete and I stood for several hours at the top of the landing strip to watch the constant flow of airplanes and helicopters come and go.


Until just over 40 years ago the eastern Himalayan region of the Solukhumbu leading to Mt. Everest was inaccessible to most air traffic. The way to reach the heights of the trail head in Lukla was to travel the road from Kathmandu to Jiri, then hike five days over the rugged lowland hills. In 1964 Sir Edmund Hillary initiated construction of the Lukla airfield (LUA), and from that time the area has been opened up to countless enthused hikers, assuming the weather is conducive to landing or taking off from this dangerous mountain airstrip.  It is a great convenience to bypass the arduous hike beyond Jiri since it the hike beyond Lukla is challenging enough for most. Lukla is now a vibrant and welcoming entryway to the Himalayas.

We went back to the Kumbu Lodge for lunch.  No sooner had we ordered or Ramesh came running in shouting, “we must go immediately.”  We have four seats on a helicopter about to land.

I was sorry to forego the chicken chili I ordered, but we literally ran to our rooms, grabbed our backpacks, and trotted off to the airport.  We were bundled into a seven-seater along with five other people – yes, nine of us! – and took off without even had the opportunity for a proper goodbye to Ramesh.  That saddened me some, because for the past 14 days I have relied on this young man for my safety and well being every day.


Taking a short break earlier on in the trek, Ramesh and I discussed our families.  I discovered that he was the same age as my son, Thomas.  From that day on we addressed each other as “my son” and “my father”.  There was much more than some levity to that.  We truly bonded, and I will forever be grateful to this remarkable young man for helping and guiding me through this pinnacle lifetime experience.

I was sitting in the co-pilot’s seat, hoping to get some good video of the mountains below.  We were flying at about 6,700 m. (almost 22,000 ft.) according to the Altimeter in the instrument panel.  Suddenly the ‘copter took a sharp left, then a sharp right, and descended rapidly to land on a plateau with several buildings at what looked like a military installation.  We were asked to get out, and another group of eight took our seats.

“What’s going on?” I asked our pilot.

“You must wait here,” he said.


Wait here?  We were only a half hour into the flight, and had no idea where we were, or if the helicopter would ever come back for us!

We sat around for a long time as we watch the dark, ominous clouds come in over the mountaintop, concerned that the weather might change to where the helicopter may not be ABLE to return, even if their intentions were to do so.  Amazing how the experience of the past two weeks have taught us to accept, and not panic over things we could not control.

After what seemed like a long time, the chopper appeared over the mountaintop, landed, and took us to Kathmandu.  After landing I said, “I am not sure which was the greater adventure; climbing to Everest Base Camp and summitting Kala Patthar, or getting from Kathmandu to the mountains and back!”




What a lovely sight to see the smog and pollution-filled air over the slums of Kathmandu as we glided in the noisy helicopter over the city to the heliport!  I never would have thought I’d RELISH that view!.  Unceremoniously our backpacks were thrown on the back of a pick-up truck.  We piled on top, and were transported the three miles to the main terminal to take a “taxi” back to Katmandu.


02 Traffic 1

By now we knew the route, and reminded each other of the familiar sites as we pass the Bazaar on the left, the Royal Palace on the right (we once again recalled the massacre in the palace just two years ago), the Ministry of education, the slums om Kathmandu and on into the Thamel district.  It was a familiar experience for us, this trip crammed into a very tiny minivan, fighting the unbelievable chaos of the Kathmandu traffic with the cacophony of scooters, motorcycles and cars revving their engines and hooting their horns incessantly, all the while spewing fumes into the air which affected us now so much more than when we were here before.  Most of us had developed some annoying respiratory problems.  My annoying head cold and running nose have now settled in my upper chest, and couching was extremely painful.  The air in Kathmandu did not help any.

We arrived at the Hotel Marsyangdi Mandala at the edge of the Thamel district of Kathmandu.  A very nice place, and I was more than anything looking forward to a hot shower, and maybe even a shave.  I know how Katie hates facial hair!

During the time we were stranded in Kathmandu almost three weeks before, waiting for a break in the weather, I took three cold showers.  The other trekkers all seemed to have hot water, except me.  Three times, three days in a row I jumped into the cold water to get cleaned.

On the mountain, on Day 3 in Namche Bazaar, we were able to take a hot shower.  It was in a dirty little room, with a small gas water heater stuck on a wall, ejecting a small, weak, but welcome stream of hot water into the near-freezing room.  On the way down on day 9, last Saturday, almost a week ago, we were able to enjoy that little shower again.  Oh, how I wallowed in those drops of hot water coming from that small heater!

Now, here we were at a nice hotel in Kathmandu, with a real shower in the bathroom, and water coming out of ALL fawcets.  With great anticipation I took off my smelly clothes, boots and socks, turned the water on, and waited.

This afternoon I took my fourth cold shower in Kathmandu!

Dinner was at the Everest Steak House in Thamel, and then we went for a beer at the Rum Doodle Pub.  This pub is world famous.  Here, many Everest Summit as well as Base Camp expeditions started and finished.  Hundreds of inscriptions adorned the walls and ceilings, and the place was packed with adventurers.  It was gratifying to know that we had accomplished this lofty goal also.  I was tempted to add Kent and my names to the hundreds, but thought no one would ever notice our names among the large number of inscriptions.

I was satisfied in the knowledge that we are in that small percentage of humanity who has had the privilege to reach Everest Base Camp.


19th November, 2011 – Saturday

We had the day free in Kathmandu, and Ram Pahari’s Himalaya Journeys’ tour guide took us for historical monuments sightseeing in Kathmandu valley.

We visited the oldest Buddhist shrine and stupa in the world, on a mountaintop high above the smog-filled Kathmandu valley, with the bustling city of Kathmandu barely visible through the haze of exhaust fumes and pollusion.  We next witnessed several cremations on a sacred river at a Hindu Temple, and after lunch visited the largest Stupa in the world.  We were very tired today, no doubt coming down from the incredible adventure we had experienced.  After a lovely Nepalese dinner hosted for us by Ram, we retired early for a good night’s sleep before our journey back to the good ol’ USA.

We missed our friends, Kathy and Al Wilson.  We are thankful that Al recovered from the AMS, and that they made it back safely to Indianapolis.


I am thankful for renewing the old friendships with Kathy and Al, and just as grateful for the new friendships the four of us, Pete, Roger, Kent and I  forged during this adventure.  Roger, Pete, Kent and I supported each other daily throughout this trek.  I am so very grateful to Kent who gave me the moral support to complete the adventure by reaching the goal: Mt. Everest Base Camp and summiting Kala Patthar.

I am grateful for Ram Pahari, Himalaya Journey Treks & Expedition who made all the arrangements, and who stepped in time-and-again as circumstances changed, sometimes working THREE cell phones at once, talking with helicopter and airline offices and hotels at the same time as we stood in the chaotic parking area of the Kathmandu airport, and who eventually made everything work out for us.

I am grateful forShiva Katuwel, Tika Basnet, and Bal Kumar Basnet, our porters.  How these small, tough Nepalese were able to negotiate the difficult climbs with our extra backpacks as well as their own, astounds me.  They became much more than porters, they became our friends and compatriots.

And my Nepalese son, Ramesh Kharel.  So young and so competent.  Reminds me of my own son.

My sincere thanks to my team at Grové Financial Group of UBS in Columbus, Ohio.  I hope you know how much I appreciate each one of you, as you continued to take care of our valuable client relationships in the US while I was doing this Walkabout.

A final thanks to my family – Katie, who never hesitated when I said I wanted to climb Kilimanjaro, or trek to Everest Base Camp, and who, along with Tommy and Yuki and Jessica and Dan, supported me all the way.  I miss you all, and particularly my two grandsons, Ryusei in Saigon and Gavin in New York.

 See you in Columbus on Monday afternoon!


 kala patthar summit panorama showing everest, lhotse, and the khumbu glacier

Our Outfitter for this Adventure

Ram Pahari

Himalaya Journey Treks & Expedition Pvt. Ltd.

P.O.Box No:- 21235 Thamel, Katmandu , Nepal .

Tel:977-1-4383184 , 4386585

Mobile:- 977-9851007829

Fax:- 977-1-4415679



Web site:

Everest! A Trek to Base Camp and Back – 2011 – Update 7

Update 7

10th November, 2011 – Thursday – Day 7

Willie on the summit of Kala Patthar - best view of Mount Everest

Willie on the summit of Kala Patthar – best view of Mount Everest

Well, I tried to upload the video I mentioned in my last post but the Internet at Namche Bazaar at 11,286 ft. was not very reliable – the video did not make it to YouTube.  So, here is a more complete update of the last few days.

On November 10, we awoke in Lebouche; 16,174 ft. very early and started what turned out to be the most taxing day up to then

We trekked through Gorak Shep on to Everest Base Camp, 17,600 ft. then back to Gorak Shep at 16,995 ft. to spend a fitful night at high altitude 16,995 ft.  This was a long and BRUTAL climb and quite a lot to expect of an old guy like me in one day.  The problem was that we did not just gain 1,426 ft. up to Base Camp and then down to Gorak Shep.  The total elevation change was many thousands of feet more than that as we constantly climbed over boulders and up very steep inclines, sometimes for hours without end in sight, just to descend over 1,000 feet to the next valley.



We walked and scrambled for many miles alongside and sometimes literally on top of the lower levels of the Kumbu Icefall and the Kumbu Glacier.  Finally we reached Base Camp, exhausted but exhilarated.



While at Base Camp admiring the unbelievable scenery, the incomparable view of Mt. Everest with the Khumbu Icefall in the foreground and the 27,900 ft. peak of Lhotse creating an impressive cloud against the impossibly blue sky – I have never seen a blue as deep as at this altitude! – as snow blew off the peak, we had a special bonus.  A young Czech Republic couple, Sarka Podlucka and David Cemus had trekked to Everest Base Camp where they were to get married!  I instantly became the official wedding videographer, and Kent took some video with their camera, since the Nepali authorities needed that to verify that the ceremony actually took place.

I was already extremely emotional.  I had just called Katie on my cell phone from Everest Base Camp, and could hardly speak, completely overcome by the emotion and the realization of the enormity of our accomplishment.  And now, here was this very touching ceremony of a couple who have likely made the biggest emotional and physical sacrifice of anyone, to commit to each other.  And they had no friends there.  Pretty soon we were all close friends, and the few climbers and guides and porters who were there became an instant wedding congregation.  I was so teared-up I could hardly see the viewfinder!

Wedding on top of the world

Wedding on top of the world

Late afternoon, having arrived back at Gorak Shep, I was feeling quite sick, and could not figure out if it was from the altitude (Acute Mountain Sickness – AMS) or just extreme exhaustion.  I went to our room and lay there shivering, with my whole body tingling, and with quite a severe headache, fearing for cerebral edema, and quite certain that there would be no way I could attempt the 18,192 ft. climb to the summit of Kala Patthar the next morning.  Ramesh came into the room, grabbed my camera and took a few beautiful sunset pictures.



Everest Base Camp is a very special place, and a remarkable achievement.  But the view from Kala Patthar is supposed to be the highlight of this climb, and to reach the summit of Kala Patthar is another achievement not many can claim.  So I was quite bummed!  To top it all, the Czech couple was coming over to see the video, and to have me download their video to my computer, since I promised them that I would compile a nice video of their ceremony and post it to my MobileMe web hosting service.  At the appointed time I got up and went to the dining room where we had a great re-living of the beautiful ceremony in a most beautiful place.

We have not had a shower for five days, and I am sure a hot shower would have helped.  However, with the facilities quite basic I decided to pass.  I went to bed by 8 pm, still shivering, and unable to sleep.  I am sure I dozed off during the night, but sleep was very elusive.


11th November, 2011 – Friday – Day 8

At 6 am I heard Kent move around the room, and asked where he was going.  “Kala Patthar”, he said.  I lay there, unable to process what that meant.  Finally I said, “I don’t understand.  Can you tell me what’s happening?”

“Today is Kala Patthar”, he said.

I wondered about that some more, and then realized what it meant.

“Oh shit”, I said, and jumped out of bed, and got dressed as quickly as I could, feeling quite dizzy.

After a good breakfast I felt better, and we started our climb up the almost sheer mountainside of Kala Patthar.  We were led by Ramesh, and accompanied by one of our porters, Bal.  Bal offered to take my backpack, and Kent offered significant moral support.



We climbed to the 18,192 ft. summit for the most incredible views.


Willie and Kent on the summit of Kala Patthar, Mount Pumori in the background

Willie and Kent on the summit of Kala Patthar, Mount Pumori in the background

We sat at the peak of Kala Patthar, a five-foot wide pinnacle with sheer drops of more than 1,000 feet on three sides.  We were in the middle of a complete circle, surrounded by the highest mountain peaks in the world; of Mt. Everest 8,848m (29,028 ft.), Mt. Lhotse 8,516m (27,939 ft.) Mt. Nuptse, 7,855m (25,771 ft.), Mt. Pumori 7,161m, Mt. Changaste 7,550m, Khumbutse 6,665m, Mt. Amadablam 6.856m, Mt. Thamserku 6,723m, Mt. Kantega 6,979m, Mt. Kusum Khangaru 6,367m, Mt.Kongde 6,011m, Mt. Tawache peak 6,367m, Mt. Cholaste 6,335m.


To see this view was for me a lifetime high, likely impossible to ever match in whatever time I have left on this earth.

My sickness was completely gone now, and I literally felt on top of the world!


We climbed back down to Gorak Shep and continued our trek down continued our down through Labouche and Thukla, to spend the night in Pheriche, 4,243 m. (13,900 ft.).


12th November, 2011 – Saturday – Day 9

Another brutal day of severe changes in altitude and steep up-and-down climbs brought us through incredibly beautiful scenery and the villages of Pangboche, 3,985 m. (13,000 ft.) and to Tengboche, 3,867 (12,600 ft.), where we had lunch.  We were almost at our physical limit, but a late lunch rejuvenated us for the final push down to Namche Bazaar 3,440m, (11,286 ft.) – in total, an almost nine hour brutal trek of severe climbs and descents.


This was a full day’s very hard trekking.  Kent and I decided to try to do what would normally be three day’s trekking in two days in order to surprise Roger and Pete at Namche Bazaar.  While we were supposedly LOSING altitude, the gains and losses as we pushed really hard to complete this two-day trek almost did us in!

We were very happy to meet up with our friends, Pete and Roger at the Kamal Hotel, and had a great celebration!  We were welcomed back to the Kamal Guest House by the lovely family who own this “hotel”.

One of the most amazing things of this experience was the wonderful disposition of the Nepalese people.  Always a warm smile.  Always a special welcome.  And I cannot say enough about our guide, Ramesh Kharel, and our Sherpa porters, Shiva Katuwal, Tika Basnet and Bal Kumar Basnet.  Without the wonderful encouraging smile, never-changing friendly, supportive demeanor, I likely would not have made it to Everest Base Camp, up Kala Patthar, and back down to Namche Bazaar to meet up with our friends.


We were sad that Mina, the daughter of Mr. Kamal, the owner of the guesthouse was not in Namche.  She was so warm and friendly when we stayed at the Kamal on the way up.  On the third morning of our trek, (we had a conditioning/acclimatization day in Namche), just before we left or a hike up to the Everest View hotel, I Skyped my son, Tommy, his wife, Yuki and our grandson, Ryusei in Saigon, Vietnam.  Mina has a cute little daughter, and the two kids made quite a connection on the Internet, giggling at each other.  Mina was convinced that we could arrange betrothal, and she was quite impressed to be talking with and seeing Tommy and Yuki, and that I have a Japanese daughter-in-law.

In spite of sniffling and coughing through the night, using my pee bottle at least five times – amazing that one can pee about one-and-a-half liter in one night! – I had a wonderful rest and woke the next morning totally refreshed and ready for the two days’ trek to Lukla.


13th November, 2011 – Sunday – Day 10

We were so looking forward to a change in pace regarding breakfast this morning.  We have had porridge every morning for the past nine days in order to have enough “fuel” for a full day of trekking.  We all felt that we would throw up if we had the huge bowl of porridge one more time.  The next thing we knew a huge bowl of porridge appeared in front of each of us on the table.  We protested mildly to Ramesh that we really were hoping for eggs or something else this morning, but politely accepted and started forcing the porridge down.  What was our surprise when in front of Ramesh appeared an order of two fried eggs and toast!  We all laughed and shared the irony of the moment, but gave Ramesh a hard time for days afterwards.


We were now ready to trek to Jorsale and as we gathered our backpacks and poles, Mr. Kamal offered us each a complementary cup of coffee.  We accepted, and no sooner were we finished enjoying our last cup of hospitality from these good people, or Ramesh had us line up together, side-by-side.  Mr. Kamal approached and hung a prayer shawl around each of our necks, while offering a blessing to each of us for the rest of our journey.  How special!

Kent and I spent the next two hours in an Internet Café, since the Kamal Wi-Fi was down, and I wanted to post the short video I put together the night before.  After almost two hours I realized the video did not complete uploading to YouTube.  Roger and Pete took off with Shiva more than an hour before.  I paid the $10.00 for the connection, and after a slice of pizza in the local bakery we took off for Jorsale.

We caught up with Pete and Roger after a brisk one-hour hike, mostly downhill.  We were now at less than half the altitude of Kala Patthar, and we were feeling fantastic and so strong!  Amazing what oxygen will do!

We concluded the rest of the morning’s trek at a leisurely pace, stopping often to admire the beautiful scenery, crossing suspension bridges and passing the amazing Yak and donkey caravans which are the only mode of transportation, other than the remarkable men and a few women who carry huge loads on their backs up the mountain.

We arrived at Jorsale, 2,930 m. (9,6109 ft.) and had an excellent lunch at the Nirvana Garden Lodge, a lovely place with beautiful gardens, and comfortable rooms.  We all agreed that we had the best night sleep yet.


14th November, 2011 – Monday – Day 11

Trekking along the Dudh Kosi River

We left early for a beautiful hike, mostly downhill to Phakding, 2,640 m. (8,660 ft.).  This was where we spent our first night on our way up the mountain.  We stayed at the International Trekkers Guest House that night, and we where we were welcomed back like family by the lovely young family who runs this lodge.

Like in Namche at the Kamal lodge, everyone was asking about Al and Kathy.

I should explain what happened to our fellow trekkers on the way up.

Climbing, trekking, hiking.  Call it what you may, this adventure was extremely difficult.  Negotiating severe ups-and-downs, scrambling over boulders, climbing endless ancient steps built by generations past – since the mountain sides would be too steep to crawl up or down without them – all the while at extreme altitude, was an incredible test for all of us.

The climb from Namche Bazaar, 3,440 m. (11, 280 ft.) to Tengboche, 3,867 m. (12,680 ft.) was a total gain of 1,400 ft.  That is quite deceiving, since I am certain the TOTAL altitude change, climbing up and down these steep mountains, must have been many times that.

On the morning of the fifth day, Pete and Roger decided to forego the significantly greater altitude and climbing difficulty, and seek a different adventure.  Ramesh drew up a route for them to hike while Kent, Al, Kathy and I continued up the trail.  Their adventures and their excitement about their journey the next four days is another chapter.

If we thought the trek from Namche to Tengboche was severe, we had a major surprise waiting for us the next day.  The climb that fifth day from Tengboche to Pheriche, 4,243 m. (13,929 ft.) was even more taxing at this higher altitude (a gain of 1,233 ft. this day) with even steeper mountainsides.

Al has been suffering from sinus and other respiratory problems almost from the beginning.  Never complaining, he forged on, each step of this day certainly agony for him.  I could tell he was suffering, and admired him immensely for the courage and mental strength to keep on going.

Cold and dark, in a small guesthouse at almost 14,000 ft. in the Himalayas, Al lay on his bed in the room next to Kent and mine, and was coughing severely.  Just as I told Kent how worried I was for Al’s health, Kathy came into our room and told us that they have decided not to continue.  Kathy and Ramesh took Al to the hospital in this small village where Al was diagnosed with severe Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS).  He was kept at the hospital, and the next morning Al and Kathy were evacuated by Helicopter to Kathmandu where Al was admitted to the hospital.

I am happy report that Al recovered.  After he was discharged from the hospital we were able to talk to him as they were making their arrangements to return to the US.  The remarkable coincidence was that we were on top of Kala Patthar at 18,200 ft. when we got that call!


15th November, 2011 – Tuesday – Day 12

This morning we left for Lukla from Phakding and very much enjoyed the familiar scenery at which we marveled on the way up the mountain.


After a four-hour trek in thick fog, with some surprising elevation changes, we arrived at Lukla, 9,285 ft. from where we hope to leave for Kathmandu tomorrow morning.  Unfortunately the weather conditions have not been very good, and we are likely to get stuck here for a few days.  Our flight back to the USA is in the 20th, so we have some leeway.


We all agree that this has been the most inspiring journey we have ever undertaken.  For me, the spiritual and emotional accomplishment far exceeds the physical challenge.

Every day as I looked at the splendor of this beautiful country, day-by-day surrounded by sheer mountains all exceeding 25,000 feet, a verse from Psalm 121 constantly went through my head, “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills…”

What inspiration these mountains gave me!


Posted at Lukla, Nepal

November 15th, 2011


Thanks to Kent for proof-reading this post and suggesting some helpful changes and additions.

Everest! A Trek to Base Camp and Back – 2011 – Update 6

Update 6

On November 10, we awoke in Lebouche and trekked through Gorak Shep on to Everest Base Camp (17,600 ft.) then back to Gorak Shep to spend a fitful night at high altitude 5,180m (16,995 ft.).

Early the next morning, we climbed Kala Patthar 5,545m (18,192 ft.) for superb Himalayan scenery including Kent and Willie’s trek to Everest Base Camp (17,600 ft.) and Kala Patthar summit (18,192 ft.) for the most incredible views of Mt. Everest 8,848m (29,028 ft.), Mt. Lhotse 8,516m (27,939 ft.) Mt. Nuptse, 7,855m (25,771 ft.), Mt. Pumori 7,161m, Mt. Changaste 7,550m, Khumbutse 6,665m, Mt. Amadablam 6.856m, Mt. Thamserku 6,723m, Mt. Kantega 6,979m, Mt. Kusum Khangaru 6,367m, Mt.Kongde 6,011m, Mt. Tawache peak 6,367m, Mt. Cholaste 6,335m. From there we went back to Gorak Shep and continued our trek down to Pheriche, 4,260m (13, 976 ft.) to spend the night before trekking to Namche Bazaar 3,440m, (11,286 ft.) – an almost nine hour brutal trek of severe climbs and descents.  We were happy to meet up with our friends, Pete and Roger at the Kamal Hotel, and had a great celebration!

Base Camp and Kala Patthar video trailer on  YouTube Logo Cropped

Willie and Kent on the summit of Kala Patthar - the best view of Mount Everest

Willie and Kent on the summit of Kala Patthar – the best view of Mount Everest



Everest! A Trek to Base Camp and Back – 2011 – Update 5

Everest Base Camp Update 5


Willie and Kent at Everest Base Camp

We made it to Everest Base Camp today.  After seven days of very hard trekking – I would rather call it climbing – we finally reached our goal: Everest Base Camp at 5,364 metres (17,700 ft.)  Today’s hike was brutal.  Many elevation changes, scampering over huge boulders, loose gravel, drop-offs on both sides several hundred feet with occasionally less than one foot of trail.  Amazing to hike right on top of the Kumbu Glacier.  An amazing achievement fo both of us.  Unfortunately we lost four of our original six-pack due to AMS and severe difficulty of the hike.

Click on the  YouTube Logo Cropped  icon for a short trailer on YouTube

Everest! A Trek to Base Camp and Back – 2011 – Update 4

Base Camp Hike Update 4

The Six Pack - Hillary Bridge 1



The Six Pack and the Mountain of Destiny




Click on the photo to go to YouTube Logo Cropped for a “Trailer” of our Everest Adventure

We are at Namche Bazaar, two days’ hike into the adventure.

I think the past two days’ hike was as hard as the summit day on Kilimanjaro. Fortunately we were not at almost 20,000 feet like we were on Kili!

Two days of incredible scenery – I think the most beautiful I have EVER seen!

After three days of trying to get from Kathmandu to the mountains we finally hired a helicopter.   After an incredible flight following the Dudh Kosi River all the way from Kuthmandu, dodging mountain tops and seemingly missing cliff sides by inches, we had a very short window in which to get to Surke from Kathmandu.   Surke wasn’t a village; it was a flat piece of dirt carved out of the sheer mountain side.  We were met by Ramesh who is to be our guide for the next two weeks as we hike to Everest.

We hiked 7 1/2 hours that first day, carrying our packs and struggling up incredibly steep mountain sides, and eventually arrived at a sweet little mountain inn run by a lovely Nepalise family in the village of Phakding – pronunced Fakding.  The guys had some fun with that name…

No heating in the rooms, and no blankets – very basic, but welcome after a very difficult hike.

Left early yesterday morning, our second day of the trek, and hiked for almost eight hours (think climb – up-and-down) which almost did us in!  The hike was a brutal climb, mostly up, never-ending, very challenging. We arrived at Namche Bazaar totally exhausted, but exhilarated.  I paid $4.00 for a hot shower – maybe the last in two weeks.

Namche is at 11,340 ft. and an important step in our process of adjusting to the higher altitudes to come. Tomorrow would be an altitude acclimatizing day. We will stay in Namche Bazaar, but take a four hour hike to a higher altitude, and then spend the night here.

I made a short video trailer and uploaded it to YouTube Logo Cropped

Day 3 – Everest View Hotel

Today did a wonderful hike up to a fancy hotel built by a Japanese Magnate.  The hotel is called Everest View.  Unfortunately, after an almost 3-hour climb, everything was still fogged in, and we had no view.  We made it back down to Namche Bazaar in about 1 1/2 hours.  Rest of the day we rested and prepared for the severe hiking starting the next day, Day 4.

Everest! A Trek to Base Camp and Back – 2011 – Update 3

Had a great breakfast.  Feeling much better.  Ready for Everest!

Then saw this headline in today’s paper:

Newspaper article










This turned into 3,000 trekkers stranded for five days…

We headed to the airport at 8 am. anyhow.

Read the article here:

Everest! A Trek to Base Camp and Back – 2011 – Update 2

Update 2

3rd November 2011 – Thursday – Day 03  

We have been up since 3 am.  Going to bed at 8 pm. was maybe not such a good idea!  We have a flight booked for 11:00 am this morning.  If this does not work out, our last chance would be to go by helicopter tomorrow…

Kent went downstairs for an Internet connection, and I lay in bed wishing I could sleep another hour.  I got my computer out and edited a short video – a “trailer” of our adventure.  Fun!

After breakfast, still making frequent short trips to the restroom, we settled in to wait for the word on the day’s travels.  Ram called and informed us that there would be no flights to Lukla today.  We had only one option now, and that was to go by helicopter the next day.  This would entail an additional half-day hike just to get to Lukla, but we all enthusiastically voted YES for this option.  This is why we were here.  We came to go to Everest Base Camp, and nothing except the weather or serious health issues would stop us!

Ram called from the airport at 1 pm.  He was in the helicopter company’s office, and they were quite certain they would be able to go and even land a Lukla, but he would call us to confirm.  We constantly check our iPhones’ weather application, and it seemed there was about a three-hour window open over Lukla. 

At 2:45 pm Ram called and said, “It is a go!  Could you be ready in 15 minutes and the minibus will collect you in time to be at the airport for a very small takeoff window.”

Well, one would have thought we’d just won the Super Lotto!  Everyone scrambled the four floors up to their rooms.  Fortunately we did not really unpack last night.  Kent was still under the weather and he was asleep in the room when the news came.  I woke him and he jumped up, had his stuff ready and down the stairs faster than any of us, in spite of feeling quite miserable.  He was a real trooper and insisted that he was fine.  I was not feeling too hot myself, but the Imodium definitely at least stopped the diarrhea.  I have been drinking lots of water, and thought I’d start the Cipro antibiotic I brought along if I didn’t get better soon.  Adventurers who come to Kathmandu to fly to Lukla to start their expedition to Everest and other Himalayan treks often comment that one of the major challenges of such an adventure is getting out of Kathmandu healty enough to start the trek!

We all rushed to the front door of the Hotel Manang, and in frenzy loaded our backpacks and some extra food items Lama has brought along for the hike.  A major positive:  Ram had brought Kent’s backpack from the airport.  This really gave Kent’s spirits a lift.  Although he was feeling quite miserable, he sat in the back of the minibus and re-arranged his stuff.  He offered the four pairs of socks I lent him back, but I really did not have room for them in my bags.  And besides, I did have four pairs plus the pair I have been wearing.  That should be plenty for the hike, provided one makes sure that they dry properly at night, and trade them out every other day.  I sleep with my socks next to my body to allow the body heat in the sleeping bag to dry the socks.

The ride to the airport was beyond description.  It was now getting close to rush hour, which means hardly anything moves any faster than a snail’s pace.  By now we were getting a bit tired of this congestion, as we wheezed and sneezed, chests burning from the pollution.

The usual pandemonium at the airport with hundreds of motorcycles and cars in major chaos as porters and passengers try to push their way along the long walk from the “parking lot” to the domestic terminal.  We franticly shoved our bags onto the security scanner conveyor, and subjected ourselves to the pat down for the third time in as many days.  Everyone was excited as we were met by the helicopter company’s manager who assured us that the helicopter is waiting with engines running and the pilot in his seat.  “We are just waiting for the air controller’s clearance,” he said.

And then we waited…  We sat around on our bags since there were no chairs in this section of the airport.  Kent crashed on one of the benches.  We were moved around the room as the cleaners started mopping the floors for the end-of-day closing of the terminal, and we became suspicious that we may have a problem again.

At 4 pm. the manager informed us that the flight had been cancelled, but that we were priority for the next morning.

It was amazing what patience and constraint every single member of our group showed.  The disappointment was great, since we were so close to going today.  I could see the concern in every pair of eyes as we contemplated that tomorrow morning would be our last chance.

As we reloaded the mini-bus with our backpacks, Ram operated three cell phones at once, trying to find us accommodation for the night, since we gave up our rooms at the Hotel Manag.  He called 18 hotels, and not one of them had a room.

“I called the 5-star, the 4-star, the 3-star and the 2-star hotels.  They are all full.”

“What about the 1-star hotels?” I ask.

“They are also full.”

The problem was that with all the flights cancelled for the past three days, the city was filling up with folks coming in to climb, but they couldn’t get to Lukla to start their trek.  We were told that there were over 2,000 trekkers currently stranded at Lukla, and there was also no accommodation available there, even if we were able to fly in tonight.

Ram continued to work his magic with his three phones, right there in the chaos of the Kathmandu airport’s crazy domestic terminal’s “parking lot”.  Time and again he got off the phone, clearly disappointed, but he continued relentlessly. 

He is quite a guy, this Ram Pahari!  Finally he said, “I have found three rooms.  But it is not a star hotel.  It is just a regular hotel in the heart of Thamel.”  We would have been happy to find a minibus in which to sleep!

So there we were, inching our way back to Thamel, the traffic excruciating!  More than an hour to do the 15-minute drive.  We arrived in front of the Hotel Kathmandu View, Ram signed us in and we carried our bags up the stairs to the very basic but clean rooms.  There was a small problem here – Kent and my room had only a small three quarter bed.  That is halfway between a twin-single and a double.  Kent was not feeling too good, and neither was I, and I suggested that sharing a bed this small would probably not be conducive to a speedy recovery from our ailment.  I decided to roll out my trusty Thermarest self-inflating mattress and my sleeping bag and sleep on the floor.  However, Kathy came to the rescue and offered to swap rooms since their room had two twin-singles.  I think both Kent and I were very relieved.

A quick dinner, and we all headed back to the hotel, since our pickup was at 6 am. for our 9 am. helicopter flight to Lukla.  If we did not go tomorrow, we would have to abort the Everest Base Camp trek, since we would not have enough days left before our return to the USA to complete the trek.  That would be a major disappointment for all of us.  But we all agreed that safety came first, and that we would take no chances getting into Lukla.  If we did not fly tomorrow, we would work out an alternate hike to another part of the Himalayas.

We were hopeful as we drifted off to sleep.  I really felt that I needed to get out of the chaos of Kathmandu…

(Would have liked to post some video, but must get to bed for an early pickup, and hopefully to feel better tomorrow.  Don’t know when the next internet may be available…)

Everest! A Trek to Base Camp and Back – November 2011

A street in Thamel

A street in Thamel

Leaving tomorrow, November 2, very early for the first leg of 16 days’ hike from Lukla Nepal to Everest Base Camp.  Spent the day in Kathmandu doing final preparations, buying last minute items, re-packing my stuff to balance the weight for my porter and me, each carrying about 30 pounds, and getting the final briefing from Ram Pahari, our trek outfitter at Himalaya Journeys – purveyor of “The Endless Journey”.  We are totally pumped.

My group consists of Kent Stuckey, Columbus, Ohio, Pete McIlroy, another friend from Columbus and his friend, Roger Verney from near Boston Mass.  Kathy and Al Wilson from Indianapolis round out our group.  They summited Kilimanjaro with me in 2oo8.

I sometimes ask myself the question, “why do I want to do this apparently crazy stuff.  Roger analised this over a beer in a local Kathmandu bar this afternoon.  He said “I think you want to do this because you thrive on achievement”.  I agree, but there is more.  Yes, the physical challenge, the adrenaline, etc.  But I think what really makes me do it is the SPIRITUAL high from and adventure such as this.

Every year when I go ski out West, it takes me several weeks to get down from the euphoria.  I climbed Kilimanjaro in 2008, and I still can hardly speak of that experience… I am still high on it.  So, maybe it is best summarized in this poem I came across some time ago by Robert Cramer.

“I Climb to be Free”

“Have you ever watched an eagle held captive,
fat and plump and full of food and safe from danger too?
Then have you seen another wheeling high up in the sky,
thin and hard and battle-scarred, but free to soar and fly?
Well, which have you pitied the caged one or his brother?
Though safe and warm from foe or storm, the captive, not the other!
There’s something of the eagle in climbers, don’t you see;
a secret thing, perhaps the soul, that clamors to be free.
It’s a different sort of freedom from the kind we often mean,
not free to work and eat and sleep and live in peace serene.
But freedom like a wild thing to leap and soar and strive,
to struggle with the icy blast, to really be alive.
That’s why we climb the mountain’s peak from which the cloud-veils flow,
to stand and watch the eagle fly, and soar, and wheel… below…”

The Main Event – A New Life!

To view the videos:

The videos are posted on my MobileMe web-host as well as to You Tube.  Click on the link or the photo to be directed to the applicable posting. The MobileMe video is uploaded in large format as well as mobile format.  You will need QuickTime 7.2 which you can download for free before playing the video.  Both the mobile and the You Tube format allow you to watch the movie on your iPhone.

Gavin Charles Cooney


Gavin was born September 29 at 2:40 am.  7 pounds 12 ounces, 20.5 inches.

We had been waiting since the due date, September 23, 2011.

Katie suggested that it would be okay for me to come into New York on the due date, since Jessica and Dan were expecting a boy, and anyway it was her first child.  He would be late.  I was nervous about that.  Since she was very little I had never missed an opening night, and this was going to be the biggest performance of her life – THE MAIN EVENT!.

Of course, as usual, Katie was right.  Gavin kept us waiting five days to the 29th.  We had FIVE final dinners before the birth!.

The waiting started on Friday evening as we spent some lovely time together at our apartment, re-living their wedding in Belize in February 2010, watching their wedding video on my laptop…

Waiting for the Main Event (You Tube – 0:28)

Jessica and Katie kept busy with the things mothers and daughters do when a baby is due to arrive any day – walking for exercise, shopping, baby clothes, etc.  Dan and I kept busy with our respective businesses on-line, and did a long bike ride almost every day, covering nearly 200 miles in total, exploring Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, Harlem, New Jersey, and many other Manhattan neighborhoods.  Quite an adrenalin rush to ride a bike in the streets of New York!  We circumnavigated Manhattan Island – 34 miles, rode across the Brooklyn, Queensborough and Williamsburgh bridges several times, circling back into Manhattan, exploring New York and meeting people in a way I thought not possible.  I made a short video of these adventures:

 Still Waiting for the Main Event (You Tube – 01:16)

Finally, after FIVE days’ waiting, the Main Event happened.

Tired of eating out every night for four nights having “that SPECIAL LAST dinner before the baby”, Dan an Jessica offered to prepare some Lake Erie Perch which Dan’s dad, Chuck Cooney had caught, and which I brought to New York in a freezer bag on Friday.  It was delicious!

Katie and I left their apartment just after 10 pm, with mild contractions having started, thinking we’d better all get a good night’s rest since Gavin was likely to appear the next day.  Katie and I had just fallen asleep when we got the call at about midnight.  Contractions were now close together and intense, and Dan and Jessica were leaving their condo on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, heading to St. Luke’s Hospital in our neighborhood in Mid Town.

We rushed over to St. Luke’s, just a couple of blocks from our apartment, thinking it would be sometime later that day.  Instead he came at 2:40 am.  A beautiful, precious boy; 7 pounds 12 ounces, 20.5 inches.  Jessica was a real trooper and Dan was the perfect supporter.  All the staff at St Luke’s werewonderful.

The amazing thing was that we were back at their apartment exactly 24 hours after they cooked dinner for us.  Or more amazing, less than 18 hours after Gavin was born.  We are truly blessed with a wonderful gift, and Jessica and Dan were blessed with a short birthing process!

 The MAIN EVENT – Gavin Charles Cooney!

THE MAIN EVENT! (You Tube – 03:08)

What a blessing to now have TWO grandsons.  William Ryusei Grové with our son, Thomas and his wife, Yuki, and now Gavin Charles Cooney with Jessica and Dan.  It does not get much better!