This blog covers my 2013 trek to Everest Base Camp and back, October 31 to November 23, 2013. I organized the posts in order of the climb to enable reading the complete story consecutively. Click on the YouTube icon to go to my Everest 2013 Trek Playlist. You can also read my 2011 Everest Trek BLOGS including a documentary video of the 2011 Everest! A Trek to Base Camp and
Click on the image above to see a documentary video of the 2011 Everest! A Trek to Base Camp and Back adventure.
Everest 2013 – A Trek to Base Camp and Back
I have uploaded our daily photo record to Flickr. Please click HERE for my FLICKR GALLERY,
Click on the thumbnail to go directly to the chapter below
Blog Update 1:October 20, 2013 – Preamble 1
Blog Update 2: October 25, 2013 – Preamble 2
Blog Update 3: October 31, 2013 – Exeter and London
Blog Update 4: October 31 to November 2 – Stuck at Heathrow International Airport and Arriving in Kathmandu
Blog Update 6: Monday November 4 – Trek from Phakding, 9,285 ft. to Naamche Bazaar, 11,417
Blog Update 7: Tuesday November 5: Trek from Naamche Bazaar, 11,417 ft. to Hotel Everest View, 12,448
Blog Update 9: SaturdayNovember 9 – Everest Base Camp – Lobuche, 15,505 ft. to Gorak Shep, 16,162 ft., Everest Base Camp, 16,736, back to Gorak Shep
Blog Update 10: Sunday November 10, and Monday November 11 – Kala Pattar and Pangboche
Blog Update 11: November 12 to 15 : Pangboche to Namche Bazaar and on to Lukla for helicopter to Kathmandu
Blog Update 12: POSTSCRIPT – Thanksgiving Message
Blog Update 1:
October 20, 2013: Pre-amble 1(I suppose I’ll “amble” a lot more in the next month!)
On October 31, I will arrive in Kathmandu to start my second trek to Everest Base Camp and back in as many years. This blog will record our progress day to day, assuming internet connections and physical ability; sometimes at high altitude one’s head gets so messed up that it becomes impossible to type a sentence, post a photo, or edit a video!
Everest 2013: A Trek to Everest Base Camp and Back (Photo: Everest on the left, Lhotse on the right, from the summit of Kala Patthar, 18,400 ft.. 2011 Trek)
I am excited to share this adventure with friends old and new:
- BRIAN NOCCO with whom I summited Kilimanjaro in 2008. Brian went back to Kilimanjaro in 2012 with his and Julie’s daughter, Jennifer, and son, Brad. I know how special that was; Katie and my son, Thomas, and his wife, Yuki, summited with me in 2008. Nothing beats that!
- JENNIFER NOCCO who already trekked in Nepal before, loved the Kilimanjaro experience with her dad, Brian, and will get her first view of Everest from Cholo Pass. Jennifer will leave us there to trek back to Lukla while we trek on to Base Camp.
- BARRET MCDEVITT, a friend and along with Adair, our neighbor on Ambergris Caye in Belize.
- DOUG NELSON, a friend of Barrett and Adair’s.
Click HERE to see a copy of my coffee table book, Everest! A Trek to Base Camp and Back published in November 2012.
Younger Next Year – Chris Crowley
See the book website at http://www.youngernextyear.com/
Click on the image above or HERE to see a short video intro I made while at the Everest View Hotel. 15,000 ft., on the way to Everest.
On November 16, 2013 at 9 AM at the Fawcett Center you will have a unique opportunity to hear Chris Crowley speak as part of the UBS event: Maximizing your retirement’s potential. What you need to know I hate to miss this event, since Chris Crowley is arguably one of my top favorite people. I will be on my way down the mountain from Everest Base Camp. While there, I will record a video message to be presented at this event. In 2008, just after I summited Kilimanjaro, my friend, Jim Grote gave me the greatest gift. He gave me a copy of Chris Crowley and Henry Lodge’s book, Younger Next Year. I was 60 years old, and for years had a goal to summit Kilimanjaro. It was at the top of my bucket list. After such a major accomplishment I thought I had done all I needed to. I could now let go and grow old… Until I read this book. I realized it was only the beginning to a healthy life well into old age! Chris Crowley changed my life, as I am certain he has changed the lives of countless others. Rather than a one-time, flash-in-the-pan event I thought Kilimanjaro was to be, it became a life-long pursuit for fitness, strength and health. I am now 64, and hope to do these marvelous things for many years to come, thanks to Chris Crowley’s book. You would not want to miss the opportunity to hear Chris Crowley as the featured speaker at this important UBS event.
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Blog Update 2
October 25, 2013: Preamble 2
Today, October 25, 2013 I leave for New York and London to spend a few days with my wife, Katie, before going on to New Delhi and Kathmandu, Nepal on October 31. Backpacks are packed with 50 pounds of stuff – trail mix, cliff bars, medical stuff, the minimum amount of clothing – last time I took way too much – I had almost 80 pounds of “stuff”. I left about half of it in Kathmandu, and gave a bunch more away; stuff I never used but carried all that way. Experience is the mother of efficiency!
A beautiful day flying into New York this afternoon!
On Wednesday morning this week I did a presentation of my November 2011 Everest! A Trek to Base Camp and Back adventure to the Westerville Rotary Club. It was almost impossible to tell the story in 25 minutes with video, photos, music, graphics, and live narration, but I was pleased when the club president mentioned to me afterwards that he did not remember a speaker ever getting a standing ovation! The message of Everest is just SO POWERFUL! Last week I presented the program to my church, Trinity United Methodist Church – I had a little more time! That presentation is 49 minutes, and I have now recorded all the elements in a video. I posted the video – I actually would like to call it a documentary – to You Tube. If you have the time to watch this, it will give you a good indication of what we may expect on this next trek to Everest Base Camp. There are two videos on line: a smaller, lower quality version and a high definition version. Click HERE or on the image below for a documentary video of the 2011 Everest! A Trek to Base Camp and Back adventure.
Wish us good luck and good health as we take on this amazing adventure and terrific challenge.
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Blog Update 3
October 31, 2013: Exeter and London
I had a wonderful two days, flying to New York on Wednesday last week for a meeting at UBS headquarters on Thursday, October 24. We had a great dinner at Joe Allen, a restaurant frequented by many Broadway types. I was joined by my clients and friends, Mitch and Julie McLeod, as well as by Katie, Dan and Jessica, and Derek Hegarty, my business partner at Grové Wealth Management Partners. After dinner we went to see Jersey Boys and enjoyed a backstage tour after the show, visiting with two of the principals, Matt Bogart and Drew Gehling, friends of Jessica and Dan’s. On Thursday evening I flew back with the McLeods and Derek to Columbus, just to pack for the Everest trek and return to NY on Friday to meet Katie at JFK for our flight to London. From Heathrow on Saturday October 26, we took the train to Exeter where our long-time friend from South Africa, Chris Copeland lives with his dear Jane.
Katie, Chris and Jane in Totnes
Chris had not changed one bit in the 12 years since we last saw him in London. We enjoyed their company immensely as they showed us around the lovely English countryside, through lovely towns like Topsham, Teighnmouth, Torquay, Paignton, Dartmouth, and then on to Totnes for some Yorkshire pudding and a pint.
We arrived in London on Monday evening, October 28th. Miguel and Mariana DeAlmeida have a lovely flat on the Thames in Chelsea. We have been friends since they lived in Rio de Janeiro where in 1976 I proposed to Katie when we visited them there. I love being in London (actually anywhere!) with them. We visited fantastic exhibits in some of London’s many art galleries and I felt quite educated after the Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea and the new Serpentine Gallery in Kensington Gardens to see the amazing Adrian Villar Rojas exhibit. Like the last time we visited Miguel and Mariana in London, we had wonderful meals, including at The Wolesley last night. We were joined by a high school friend of Jessica’s, Ben Dietz. Ben lives in London with his wife Allison, and he summited Kilimanjaro last year.
Ben Dietz, Katie Grové, Willie Grové, Miguel D’Almeida, Mariana D’Almeida in front of the Wolesley
Today, Thursday October 31, I will meet two of my trekking buddies, Barrett McDevitt and Doug Nelson at Heathrow to fly to New Delhi where we will meet up with Brian Nocco to fly on to Kathmandu. Jennifer Nocco, Brian and Julie Nocco’s daughter, will meet us in Kathmandu late at night on Friday, November 1. Click on the images or on This link. It will take you to my You Tube playlist: Everest 2013. There is a short video I call Preamble.
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Blog Update 4
October 31 to November 2: Stuck at Heathrow International Airport and Arriving in Kathmandu
The travel from Heathrow to Kathmandu was my first challenge! Katie and I arrived at the airport with plenty time to spare – two hours before her flight to JFK and mine to Delhi. The ticket agent told me, “Sorry but you do not have a seat. We are oversold. But don’t worry, we will put you up for the night and give you compensation.” “Compensation?!@#&*,” I said. “I have two friends meeting me here to connect to New Delhi, where another friend will meet us tomorrow for our connection to Kathmandu, and a trek to Everest starting on November 2. I MUST get on this flight!!” “Sorry, you have to go see the agent at A14,” in a sweet, pleasant British accent, looking down his nose.
At A14, on the other side of the beautiful, HUGE new Terminal 5, a very nice lady explained that they oversold the flight, and I was one of five or six who got bumped. Her name was Sandy. “But don’t worry,” in a sweet British accent. “You will be put up in a hotel and get compensation. There is nothing else I can do.” “I don’t want compensation or a nice hotel room, I have a ticket to Delhi and Kathmandu, and I want the seat that goes with that ticket! I have two friends…” explaining the whole snafu this is causing, all the while with Katie at my side reminding me to ”be nice. They can keep you here for days if you really tick them off.”
The nice lady explained that British Airways has “a contractual obligation to get you there, but not at any specified time!” That was a new one for me. We decided that Katie would go to her gate. Her flight was close to the same time as mine. She would look for Barrett and Doug at their gate, close to hers, and give them the news. We said goodbye, and I immediately calmed down as she hugged and kissed me, and told me she loved me, and to be safe.
I decided to let things happen as Karma decides – leave it up to destiny. The lady said she’d give me a coupon for coffee and to come back at 6:45. I said, “No thank you, I’ll stay here and make sure you do not forget about me.” I must admit it was somewhat nerve wracking to sit there on my backpack, not knowing what was going to happen next, but I decided it was not life or death. Nobody died, and there was still hope. At any rate, I actually had one extra day in Kathmandu – I was thankful that our trek did not start until Sunday, November 2.
At 7 PM Sandy told me that I was not getting on the 7:30 to Delhi, but that her manager was trying to work out something else. I walked over to the manager’s counter, lugging my huge rucksack with the two hiking backpacks, my duffel with seven copies of my Everest! Atrek to Base Camp and Back book – a gift to some of the folks I met in Nepal last time, and my backpack with my cameras. Claire was very nice, and was frantically talking on the phone. “I found you a seat on Virgin air, leaving at 23:30 PM from Terminal 3,” she breathed in English. Sounded so sophisticated! “But first let me give you your compensation.” She gave me a gift card for $300! Katie and I had already traveled from Terminal 3 earlier. That’s where I left my hiking backpacks last Saturday at LEFT LUGGAGE. It is a long walk and train ride. Claire took me to the Virgin Air folks to arrange my ticket. A half hour later she came out, breathing in that sexy English voice that my seat was given away by the Virgins of Virgin Air, but she had me a seat on Air India, also leaving from Terminal 3, but at 21:30 (9:30 PM). I would have to rush because it was now almost 8 PM. Claire walked me to the exit from where I would have to walk a long distance to catch the Heathrow Express back to Terminal 3.
Lugging my substantial luggage, finally exppropriating a cart, I huffed and puffed and sweated my way to the station, got on the train, and by 8:15, after a long walk from the station, I was at Terminal 3. But no Air India! “No sir, Air India is at Terminal 4,” a uniformed person told me. “How do I get to Terminal 4?” I asked, by now getting worried about missing the Air India flight. “Go back to the station and take the train from Platform 1.
All the way back to the station I convinced myself to stay calm. “This is good exercise, carrying all this luggage all over England,” look at is as preparation for the trek, I kept on saying to myself. I got to Platform 1 and the train was there, with the doors closing. I lunged forward, 50 pounds on my back and 40 pounds in my hands. I shoved my duffel bag into the closing doors, and they squashed my bag until she had a marvelous figure, thin in the middle and bulging on both ends. I and 90% of my luggage was still outside the train, with half my duffel and my right hand inside the train. I applied all the force I could and stretched the doors open just enough to squeeze through. I almost fell down on the floor inside the train as it took off. “This is the train to Terminal 4, isn’t it?” I gasped at the man standing there gaping at me with his mouth open. I wondered what he thought, but by now I really didn’t care. “No, Terminal 5. Terminal 4 is on the other side of the platform.” So I rode the train all the way to Terminal 5. Again.
I waited 10 minutes for the next train back to Terminal 3, where I had to cross the platform to catch the train to Terminal 4. I was sweating and gasping, by now just dragging my big bag with the two trekking backpacks weighing exactly 50 pounds. I rushed onto Termial 4 going the other direction, and the doors to the train were just closing. I figured if I missed this train there was no way I would make my Air India flight. Two uniformed persons standing there yelled at me, “You missed it! Don’t do it!” as I threw my 40-pound duffel into the closing doors. They kept on yelling as I forced the doors open. I was getting pretty good at this! “Sir! Sir!” they yelled as the doors closed behind by 50-pound anchor by now weighing 100 pounds! I made it to the Air India check-in counter at 8:40.
“The check-in is closed,” a man said. I ignored him, pushed up to the counter, and almost begged the nice Indian man to allow me through. That took 10 minutes. I now had less than 40 minutes to get through customs, immigration and security. A nice lady from Air India walked me all the way to security, and got me as far up front as she could. But there were still hundreds of people ahead of me, and there was no way I was going to get through. I was panicked a little, since boarding started at 8:20. It was now 9:20 and the flight certainly has closed the doors for the 9:30 departure. I resigned myself to the fact that I would not get to Delhi tomorrow to meet up with Brian, Barrett and Doug. I thought I would give it one more try, though. A uniformed person walked by in the Express Lane. I whipped out my Global Access card, issued by the USA TSA. I knew it had no authority outside the USA, but I made up this quick story how this card is supposed to give me access to the Express Lane. He turned the card over several times, lifted the barrier and let me into the fast lane.
I made my way though security at 9:30, the departure time for my flight. A nice man approached me. “Mr. Grove? Follow me to Gate 11.” I got to the gate. My boarding number was 328/328. The head attendant greeted me by name also and asked if I needed anything, and welcome aboard. “I need about a liter of water,” I said, realizing that I had been running around that vast airport since before 5 PM.
This was the first time I ever took my seat in an airplane with a liter bottle of water all to myself.
I met up with my trekking buddies in Delhi, and together we traveled to Kathmandu where we were met by our Himalayan Adventure folks, and braved the rush hour traffic into Kathmandu and to Thamel where we checked in at the Hotel Manang.
As we stepped out of the van, I heard someone yell, “Willie!” It was Pattie Moon, Executive Director of The Maya Sherpa Project. http://www.mayasherpaproject.org/. She, along with her son Alex, had just returned from a month in the village where the MSP is working to improve the lives of the villagers. We had dinner together; a lovely evening in the restaurant of the Hotel Manang, complete with traditional Nepalese and Sherpa dancing.
Our fifth trekker,Jennifer Nocco, arrived at 1 AM, and we all had breakfast at 8:00, in time for our 9 AM briefing at Himalaya Adventures’ office. We spent the rest of the day wandering the streets of Thamel, making last minute purchases and checking our gear. We all seemed to unpack and repack our stuff several times to get comfortable with what we need to take on the adventure. We ended the day at the Rum Doodle Bar, a famous pub where many Everest expeditions start and finish. Tomorrow, weather permitting; we are off to Lukla by helicopter to start our trek.
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Blog Update 5
Sunday November 3: Trek from Surke, 8,442 ft. to Phakding, 9,285 ft.
We were up at 5:30, getting ready for our 6 a.m. pickup for the airport. If we were lucky, we would get to Lukla for the start of our trek. For the past three days there were no flights to Lukla from Kathmandu because of weather in the mountains, or because of poor visibility in Kathmandu. The airport was the usual chaos and pandemonium, but amazingly we were ushered through security, and almost directly on to the pickup truck for the ride to the heliport. We boarded our helicopter and took off presently. The air was thick and gray as we flew over the miles of tenement housing buildings and other construction of Kathmandu almost obscured by the smog.
The helicopter ride was as incredible as it was two years ago
The helicopter ride was as incredible as it was two years ago, November 2011, when I last took this journey. A huge difference this time though; we were soon able to see the snow-capped peaks of many of the giants of the Himalayas, impressively etched against the blue sky, with the clouds and fog far below us. In 2011 we had to fly low in the Dudh Kosi River valley to stay under the clouds. We never saw a mountain for the first three days because of fog. This bode well for this trek. Hopefully we would be lucky with good weather. The fog at Lukla was still too dense, so we landed at the same clearing in the mountains at Surke, a thousand feet below Lukla, adding a significant climb to the trek.
Landing at Surke after a breathtaking flight from Kathmandu
At 10:30 we started our trek to Phakding. We climbed to Cheplung where we had our first mountain lunch. It was a steep climb, with many irregular steps, and with astounding beauty. We did not see any of these spectacular views for the first three days of the 2011 trek since the mountains were covered in a dense, cold fog. To trek in the beautiful sunshine and clear blue skies was magnificent.
On the trail from Surke to Phakding steep climb: Willie Grové, Doug Nelson, Barrett McDevitt, Jennifer Nocco,and Brian Nocco
After lunch we trekked another few hours to Phakding at 9,230 ft., arriving at about 4 PM. I was pleased with my performance this first day. I felt strong and completely in control, a stark contrast to the 2011 trek when this first day’s climb seemed very difficult
Arriving in Phakding: Willie and Doug.
We checked into the Tibet Guest House, and actually had rooms with a bathroom and shower! Hot water was 250 Rupees – about $2.50. The bed was comfortable with a great blanket. I did not even roll out my new Mountain Hardwear -20 degrees sleeping bag. I had a wonderful night’s sleep, waking up only once at 3:30.
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Blog Update 6
Monday November 4: Trek from Phakding, 9,285ft. to Naamche Bazaar, 11,417 ft.
This morning a big surprise. The menu had fried eggs on it! Last time we were limited to oatmeal every morning. After a hardy breakfast we started the second day’s trek. I remembered that this was a brutal climb last time. I prepared my trekking mates for this difficult day. Describing some of the great, steep climbs, I was almost breathless as I remembered the difficulty we experienced last time.
Barrett on the trail from Phakding to Jorsale
We made it to Jorsale, a lovely village on the Dudh Kosi River, and had lunch at the Everest Guest House and Restaurant, enjoying a relaxing hour in the bright sunshine after what was a relatively easy trek. We were all feeling very good. The trek up to here was relatively flat, gaining only about 500 vertical feet.
Jennifer on the trail to Namche Bazaar
At lunch I reiterated the difficulty of the next four hours. My recollection was that it was extremely taxing.
Taking a short rest on the steep trail: Jennifer, Barrett, Doug, and Brian
I am sure my insistence on the difficulty of this day filled some of my trekking partners with trepidation as we started the difficult climb after lunch. We walked for some distance along the Dudh Kosi River, and then saw the Edmund Hillary Bridge in the distance. The climb up to the bridge was steep, but not nearly as difficult as I remembered.
The last steep part of the trail before entering Namche Bazaar, Edmund Hillary suspension bridge behind us
After the Hillary Bridge we had continuous uphill for about 2,000 feet, and walked into Naamche Bazaar at 3:300m p.m. I was surprised, because it took us only two and a half hours. I took a lot of ribbing from the trekkers for having made it sound so difficult, but that truly was my recollection. It was significantly easier for me this time, and rather than feeling totally spent upon arriving in Naamche Bazaar, I felt excited and exhilarated.
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Blog Update 7
Tuesday November 5: Trek from Naamche Bazaar, 11,417 ft. to Hotel Everest View, 12,448
Today was a rest day to recover and adjust to the altitude. We went for a trek to the Hotel Everest View, the highest five star hotel in the world. This climb to 12, 500 feet is necessary to help us acclimate to the altitude, and al;so to build additional strength for the rest of the trek.
Willie on the trail to Hotel Everest View
Brian, Jennifer, Willie, Amadablam in the background
We climbed for two hours on a very steep trail, and had the most incredible views of many of the tallest mountain peaks, including Mt. Everest, and my favorite, Amadablam. We were back in Naamche by 4:30, seven hours’ trekking and climbing on our rest day! Tomorrow to Tengboche, another difficult climb.
Our porter Tiva Sherpa at Hotel Everest View.
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Blog Update 8
November 6: Namche Bazaar to Tengboche
After a hardy breakfast we took off for Tengboche. I remembered this to be fairly easy trekking down to the Kumintanga River for lunch, with an extremely difficult, steep, relentless climb after lunch. To my surprise this time it was quite challenging, but completely doable. I kept on thanking my trainer at the Powershack Gym in Columbus, Nick Piccolo, who clearly prepared me appropriately for this trek. This time around I was able to keep the pace up the steepest inclines, without too much trouble, and arrived in Tengboche feeling like a million dollars. Last time I felt like, you know what. It was a beautiful climb down from the Tenzing Norgay Stupa at 11,100 feet to the village of Pungi Thanga on the Phungi Tanga River (10,300 feet) where we had lunch. Lunch was delicious. Everything is so different this time. The food, the trekking, the weather. I just feel so lucky to be here! Every meal we have been presented with a MENU! Last time we had a choice of noodles or rice. I had a grilled cheese and tomato sandwich, augmented with some tuna from a Star-Kist package Doug brought along. I brought three pounds of Biltong, a South African “Jerky”, which my buddies like very much, and we have used this to augment some of the local foods. Everyone contributes and participates, sharing trail mix, energy bars and other supplements. A few words about my trekking buddies. Barrett, Brian, and Doug are able to keep a faster pace than Jennifer and I. I am very pleased that Jennifer and I are very well matched, and are able to make the most difficult parts without trouble. I am so impressed with all of them for their stamina and strength. It certainly serves as a motivator for me, and I truly enjoy walking, climbing and trekking with them. I have learned to control my breathing and heart rate, and the repetitive, hypnotic motion of the step, step, breathe, breathe, is both meditative and nourishing. At lunch we had a lot of fun as Brian and Umesh Kharel, our new Sherpa porter who joined us in Namche Bazaar last night, compared their chest hair. The view of the mountains remained with us throughout the day. Often I would just stop in mid-stride, overwhelmed by the majesty and beauty, with a new realization of why I am here. We did not get to experience the Tengboche Monastery’s monks’ ceremony – they were doing a sand painting instead. However, we plan on attending the 6 a.m. ceremony tomorrow morning. A major surprise, however: Brian, Jennifer and I ended up at the bakery. Brian was blown away that he could order a cappuccino along with a slice of chocolate cake! We were joined by a lady we met in Khumjung where we had lunch yesterday. Wilhelmina (Winnie) is from Arizona, but of Dutch descent. We had fun speaking Afrikaans/Dutch together, and she knew some of my childhood Afrikaans songs like “Bobbejaan klim die berg,” and we sang them together at 12,500 feet in the Himalayas! We are staying in the Himalaya Hotel, again with everything so different from before. There is actually a working toilet on our floor this time, and just before dinner a nice lady came around with steaming hot towels. EVERYTHING is upgraded this time! Tomorrow on to Dingboche, 13,920 feet.
- We made small donations for trail improvements
- The trail sometimes seemed endless
Jennifier, Barrett, Willie, Brian, Sherpa Porter Mahendra Kunwar, our guide, Bhairab Thapa (Photo by Shiva Kharel)
Brian and Sherpa porter Umesh Kharel comparing chest hair
Willie, Brian, and Doug at the Tengboche Stupa
Tengboche Stupa and Monastery
The Golden Buddha in the Tengboche Monastery
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Blog Update 9
No Posts the past three days…
The Tea Houses in Dingboche and Lobuche did not have WiFi, so no posts. That was good since I was too exhausted to write anything anyhow. I would sit there with my computer, unable to think of the first sentence to type. Thursday and Friday were very difficult for me, and today was no exception. I was not feeling well in the evenings, certainly a result of the altitude and the trekking, and the diminished appetite. I slept very little each night. Sleeping at these altitudes seem to be near impossible for me, and I get up tired in the morning.
Here are a few photos of the last three days:
November 7: Tengboche to Dingboche
Brian and Willie. Following the headwaters of the Dudh Kosi River
Amadablam – I think it is the most beautiful mountain in the world. This view alone is worth the trek!
Arriving in Dingboche
November 8: Dingboche to Lobuche
A wild Yak on the way to Lobuche
A Hobbit-like stone hut provides shelter along the trail
Chikpulhara, a sacred place at the top of Dugla Pass. Hundreds of stone cairns and markers adorn the top of this mountain, with prayer flags strung to remember the brave ones who died in the pursuit of Everest
During the climb I try to stick to my pace, one foot in front of the other, breathing rhythmically, and got through some of the most difficult days of the trek exhausted. Brian, Jennifer, Barrett, and Doug all are doing well, and seem none the worse for wear.
November 9: Lobuche to Gorak Shep and on to Everest Base Camp
Made it to Base Camp today!
Today was a long trek from Lobuche to Gorak Shep. We left our backpacks here at the Yeti Resort where we are staying tonight.. Resort is a bit of an exaggeration, since the accommodations are quite primitive and the toilet quite disgusting.
We trekked another 2½ hours to Mount Everest Base Camp, a difficult climb of multiple ups and downs over rock and ice. Arriving at Base Camp was for me as emotional an experience as it was last time. I took out a prayer shawl and added it to the many offerings here, saying the um mani padme hum prayer. A highlight was that I had full cell service and called Katie in New York.
We got back to Gorak Shep before dinner in time to take some photos as the spectacular sunset turned the peaks of Changaste and Nuptse a brilliant amber. I had all intentions to post a detailed description of the past three days, but need to get to bed – not feeling too good!
Golden sunset on the mountains behind Gorak Shep
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Blog Update 10
November 10 and 11: Kala Pattar and Pangboche
Forgive any typos I lost my contact and can’t see a thing!
Yesterday we summited Kala Pattar at 18,200 feet. It was much more difficult than two years ago, as there was lots of snow and ice, and only one extremely difficult trail to the summit was open.
On the summit of Kala Patthar, with Pumori behind us.
The ultimate “selfie” on the summit of Kala Patthar. Everest on the left, Lhotse on the right.
Jennifer on top of Kala Pattar
Prayer flags on the summit of Kala Patthar frame this spectacular view of Everest and Lhotse
After enjoying the most spectacular view of Everest and surrounding mountains we climbed back down to Gorak Shep where we had launch, and trekked to Lobuche where we spent the night.
All the modern conveniences back in Gorak Shep!
After enjoying the most spectacular view of Everest and surrounding mountains we climbed back down to Gorak Shep where we had launch, and trekked to Lobuche where we spent the night. Unfortunately the same thing happened to me as last time – I came down with a terrible head cold, and developed the Khumbu cough. Fortunately this time I brought NyQuil, lots of Halls, and a Z-pack. The problem is this just about puts me out of commission. I just did not see how I could go climb Cho La Pass, another 18,000 foot climb, but in extreme ice and snow conditions, and hike in the Gokyo Lakes area feeling so weak and feverish. I also developed an excruciating back pain after about five hours’ trekking each day. Actually, it only hurts when I inhale. And when I exhale. When we arrived in Lobuche last night I discussed my condition with our guide, Bairab, and we agreed that I would join Jennifer for the trek to Lukla, instead of going on with Brian, Barrett and Doug. Jennifer had a shorter original itinerary than the guys, and I proposed this idea to the guys. It turned our Barrett and Doug both have the same affliction and we unanimously decided to trek to Lukla the next three days with Jennifer, and change our helicopter charter to Katmandu. I am really struggling with the altitude this time, with tingling and shortness of breath above 16,000 feet. I can’t wait to get to lower altitudes. We are in Pangboche, after a hard day’s trekking, with my painful coughing slowing down the group. I remain amazed at Doug and Barrett’s stamina, but then, they are younger and clearly in fantastic shape! Brian really impresses me, trekking all day today not even using his poles. But I am most impressed with Jennifer who just keeps her steady pace, never faltering. When I called Katie from Base Camp the day before yesterday she said, “You made your goal. Now don’t do anything stupid.” I responded with the well known mountaineer’s mantra, “Getting to the summit is optional. Getting down safely is mandatory!”
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Blog Update 11
November 12 to 15 : Pangboche to Namche Bazaar and on to Lukla for helicopter to Kathmandu
I have uploaded our daily photo record to Flickr. Please click HERE for my FLICKR GALLERY, or go to the end of the blog entries to see a day-by-day index of photos.
November 12 to 15 – Pangboche to Namche Bazaar and on to Lukla for helicopter to Kathmandu
Readers may recall that, while our main goal for this trek was to reach Everest Base camp – 17,600 feet, and to summit Kala Patthar – 18,200 feet, I also had a goal to trek to the Gokyo Lake Region, via the 18,600 ft., Cho La Pass. Well, we never did make it to Cho La Pass or to the Gokyo Lakes Region.
We met two groups of trekkers, one in Lobouche and one in Gorak Shep who reported that it had snowed so much that Cho La Pass was impassable. One group turned around after 11 hours’ trying. We decided that we were too old for that kind of sport, and I certainly felt too sick to go higher again. I particularly felt the altitude this time – must be because at 64 I am two years older than last time! Although I was physically feeling very strong and well prepared with all the training I did – I never felt muscular exhaustion or pain – my chest would not work very well because of the infection. I figured we had about 50% of normal oxygen levels at 16,000 feet, and the chest infection reduced my aerobic capacity to probably 60% – not a good combination. I was constantly gasping for air, even lying in bed at night; a horrible feeling! Barrett reported the same symptoms. During the day I was getting weaker, and I knew some of my partners were struggling also. So that evening I made a decision with Bhairab, our guide, that I would return to lower altitudes with Jennifer, and do the three-day trek to Lula and wait for Brian, Doug and Barrett there. When I announced that at dinner, the decision was unanimous – we all would trek down together. Since we had a helicopter chartered, Bhairab was able to change the helicopter schedule to meet us in the new time frame. I still felt terrible the next day from Pangboche to Namche Bazaar, but as we were climbing up and down the amazingly spectacular mountains, descending through about 1,800 feet to Namche Bazaar at 15,000 feet I began to feel much better in spite of eight and a half hours’ climbing. So many times on this pen-ultimate trek day I stopped and with a heavy heart admired the astoundingly beautiful mountains, so starkly etched against the cobalt blue sky, saying to myself, “This is likely the last time in my life I would see this view.” I looked back often to see the dramatic peaks of Everest, Lhotse, Nuptse, Amadablam, Kongde, Thamserku, and the many other Himalayan giants slowly becoming more distant with each step, with my spirit continuing to soar vertiginously higher and higher as the mountain ranges diminished in size. Of course the cough and snot never went away but that night in Namche Bazaar I slept like a baby!
We were staying in the Khamal Lodge in Namche, the same place I stayed last time, and also where we stayed on the way up this time. Mr. Khamal, the owner, welcomed us back like we were long-lost friends. On the way up I had given him a copy of my book, Everest! A trek to Base Camp and Back in which he and his Tea House, as well as his daughter, Meena and her two-year-old daughter are mentioned. He had placed the book in the dining area next to the potbelly yuk-dung-fired stove. No sooner had we sat down for our first of three cups of tea, or another trekker came up to me and said, “You are in this book! Oh, wait, you WROTE this book!” and started passing the book around to others. At breakfast the next morning three Japanese girls wanted their picture taken with me and the book. I gladly obliged! A Swiss trekker came up to me with high compliments, as he shook my hand, saying, “You are a celebrity!” The night before Mr. Khamal wanted to treat us to his specialty dinner – Yak Steak Sizzler. We were a little cautious because of the danger of contaminated meat, but we ate a sample, and no one got sick. Through Bhairab Mr. Khamal told me that I was his friend, and please to come back many times, as he draped the prayer shawls around our necks with a prayer for our next 8-hour trek to Lukla. Other than my sinuses and lungs I was feeling great this last day, keeping up with the younger guys with ease. I wish I could have felt this way the previous few days!
The Liquid Bar in Lukla. A well-deserved beer!
We got out of Lukla no problem the next morning, and I am now in New Delhi on my way to London and on to NY this morning. This, my second Everest Base Camp and Kala Patthar experience was a reminder for me that we never conquer the mountain; she merely allows us to reach our goal if we respect the mountains and the traditions of the gentle people who live here. This is why I very seldom passed a prayer wheel without turning it and saying the um mani padme hum mantra, a prayer for safe passage at each village. This is why I once again sat in the Tengboche monastery, enveloped by the monks’ drone as they said their prayers, the words of which I could never understand, but the spirit of which will remain burned in my soul forever. I will be home earlier than expected, both because we were able to complete the trek in fewer days than planned, and also because we were denied the opportunity to complete the planned itinerary. There is a lesson in that for me. I am thankful that I once more had the opportunity to experience the unbelievable majesty of the Himalayas in such a difficult, physical, way with such a rewarding spiritual immersion, day after day. I am also thankful that we made a good decision to come down when we did. I repeated the famous mountaineer Ed Viesturs’ admonition several times: “Reaching the summit is optional. Getting down safely is mandatory.” I am thankful for the opportunity to have shared this experience with friends, old and new. The Himalaya Journeys personnel: I was pleased to reunite with Shiva Katurel, one of our very able Sherpa porters from the last time, and to meet Mahendra Kunwar and Umesh Kharel. How these gentle, marvelous men carried our heavy loads as well as their own packs astounds me and never stops to amaze me. I was disappointed that Ramesh Karel, my guide on the last trek was not available, but I REALLY liked Bhairab Thapa, a gentle but firm young man who never stopped caring about us and led us through some difficult opportunities, never faltering or getting flustered. My thanks to Ram Pahari and Himalaya Journeys who once again made all the arrangements in the most efficient and pleasant manner, the same as he did last time. I would recommend this outfitter highly for folks wanting to have top level professional guidance and service in Nepal.
My trekker friends: Barrett McDevitt, who I really only knew very superficially as our neighbor in Belize, and who surprised me with his stamina even when sick. A steady, solid person with amazing artistic ability – he recorded the journey in his journal, and illustrated it with amazing watercolor paintings! Barrett’s friend, Doug Jones, who is an amazingly well read and informed man, and by far the strongest hiker of us all. Each day he would take off like it was a time trial, and make it to the lunch destination or the day’s final destination long before the rest of us. Doug knew more people than I could ever imagine, and constantly regaled us with stories of the people he knew and the places he’d been. I was particularly pleased to get to know Jennifer Nocco, a gentle, sweet person, who often stayed with me when I was slow or sick, and mothered me, admonishing me to drink water or to eat something. Jennifer totally amazed me with her steady pace and stamina, never faltering physically or emotionally. She never even panted, even when I was completely exhausted and gasping, sucking the thin air into my lungs in deep and rapid gasps.
One evening Jennifer said she would like to write something in my journal. This is what she wrote: Willie, you inspired me to come on both this and on Kilimanjaro trek by providing a frame of reference; someone that I know had completed the task. Not least of all, the joy you have in consuming your memories through your blog and your books and video infects others and puts things in reach which they might not otherwise have considered, whether it is replicating the same adventures that you have first completed, like I have, or being inspired to challenge themselves in some other way that poses the same relative challenge. “Consuming your memories…” I have never thought of it that way, but it truly was a wonderful thing for her to say; just a small example of the many things that impressed me about this spiritually and physically strong young lady, and another example of why I will continue to do these things that I find so rewarding.
And then of course my friend, Brian Nocco, who summited Kilimanjaro in 2008 with me, and who contributed to the reason I did this trek again. Strong – physically and mentally – never faltering, and providing me with so much support on this trek. When we reached Base Camp together and Brian came over and hugged me and said something like, “best friends!” that meant the world to me. When I finally made it up to the summit of Kala Patthar, my trek buddies having reached this pinnacle surrounded by the highest peaks in the world, Brian said, “ you have done this before; I can’t believe you wanted to climb this mountain again!’ Truthfully, it was a lot harder than I remembered. But sitting on top of Kala Patthar at 18,200 feet, the summit ledge barely three feet wide with vertical drops of thousands of feet on three sides, the bright morning sun once more warming my body and soul, I remembered the poem I wrote when last I sat there:
Oh, to once more gaze upon the glory of that mountain’s grandeur,
And to caress the morning sun’s life force
Perched atop Kala Patthar
Surrounded by mountain peaks with magical names
Like Lhotse, Nuptse, Pumori, Thamserku,
Amadablam the Jewel, And Mount Everest, the Crown.
Just once more…
And I know now where my limits lie,
There where eagles dare to fly…
And I went beyond.
Thank you for following this journey. Thank you for walking with me these past two weeks. I could feel your prayers with us, lofting us as if on Eagle’s wings.
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Blog Update 12
POSTSCRIPT: Thanksgiving Message
In reflecting upon the adventure just concluded, I sent the following Thanksgiving message to our clients and friends:
The Therapeutic Value of Deprivation
Most of our clients and friends know that I made it to Everest Base Camp and that I summited Kala Patthar at 18,400 feet, right next to Mount Everest, earlier this month. (In case you missed it, you can read about it at the blogs below.) The amazingly spectacular sights, the indescribable grandeur of mountain range after mountain range in the high Himalayas, the physical and spiritual achievement, and the emotional gratification all were there in the same intensity I experienced two years ago when I first took on this challenge and met the goal. But I learned something else this time – the therapeutic value of deprivation. I returned with a profound feeling of gratitude, having been deprived for two weeks of so many things:
- The extreme cold we experienced, with no way to warm up except the clothing one brought, a good sleeping bag, and for an hour-or-so in the evening crowding around a small iron stove fired by dried Yak-dung cakes (smelling that way) waking up in the morning with ice crystals hanging from the small, cold bedroom’s ceiling, the result of one’s own breathing
- Precious water used only for drinking and stingingly brushing one’s teeth – no washing of any kind for two weeks
- The simple task of going to the bathroom in zero degree temperatures, in a hole in the ground, using exactly 12 squares of toilet paper and being unable to “flush” the hole since the flush bucket and empty jam tin used for flushing are all frozen solid
- Yearning for a hamburger or a steak, but having no protein available in the tea houses
- Oxygen! Gasping for the precious air in which one has very little oxygen at high altitudes, unable to sleep for nights in a row, fearing one might lose consciousness if asleep, missing the clean and by comparison unpolluted version of which we take for granted here in the U.S.A.
I suppose I returned this time a lot closer to my Zen, to my soul, than before! I also realized that the therapeutic value of this experience might wear off very quickly if I had to endure the deprivation for any extended period of time; like the materially impoverished but spiritually wealthy Nepalese who live under those circumstances most of their lives. After almost 48 hours travel from the incessant pandemonium of the traffic in Kathmandu, the foul air caused by the polluting tuk-tuks, thousands of scooters, motorcycles and other vehicles noisily tangled up in perpetual gridlock in the narrow, dirty streets of this incredibly crowded city, I said a quiet prayer of thanks as my flight glided into Port Columbus. I was looking down on the organized, clean suburbs surrounding Columbus, the orderly flow of traffic in the tidy streets and the air free of pollutants from unmitigated foul emissions from vehicles, with no disease-causing animal and human fecal dust mixed in with the smell of thousands of Yak-dung fires in the air. I am Thankful… And as I did two years ago, I again said Thank You! Thank you for America and our imperfect system, for a government that’s all broken and contributing to the economic and investment volatility, and for a tax system about which we all complain from time-to time. Because I know that those wonderful, friendly, open, and caring people I met in Nepal in the mountains from village to village, with no roads, no heating, and questionable sources of food and water, and the throngs of humanity I saw in Kathmandu, would give their left arm to live in this dysfunctional society, the United States of America. I am Thankful… … for the privilege of living, working and serving in this country. Each year, we here at Grové Wealth Management Partners, try to make a difference in our community because even though we live in the best place in the world, there is a great need in our country. Rather than sending Holiday cards, we support community needs which are important to us. One such cause is Christine’s Christmas, (this year on Saturday December 14, again at the Capitol Theatre in the Riffe Center) an event we are supporting financially, and in which we are participating for the fifth year. We hope you will have the opportunity to experience and help support this amazing cause this year. I am Thankful… … for YOU, our client, and for the opportunity to serve you. I am Thankful… … for my family and my friends, and for the opportunity to spend a day with them tomorrow to reflect on our good fortune in our beautiful, wonderful country, state, city, community, and home. With gratitude, I wish you a very blessed Thanksgiving 2013.
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I have uploaded our daily photo record to Flickr. Please click HERE for my FLICKR GALLERY, or click on the following links/thumbnails to view these photos for each day separately: