Looking Into the Distance

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As I took my final steps to the summit, my exasperated breath became deep and eager. I had reached the summit successfully. I fell to my knees, looked up at the sky and took it all in. I had neither energy nor space to run around and scream like an excited child, so instead, I took the time for the realization to hit me. The lyrics from the song “Beautiful Day” by U2 filled my head and I was overjoyed.

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From this remarkable height, I felt as if I could see the whole world. I recognized Makalu, Chomo Lonzo, Lhotse, Nuptse and Cho Oyu in the distance. Lhotse, at 8516 meters, seemed so close that I wanted to reach out and touch it. The horizon was clear and the sky went on for miles. This was truly how it felt to be on top of the world.

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Although I was truly ecstatic to have reached the summit, I knew the job was only halfway completed. We all know and live by the quote, "What comes up must come down." In this situation, I knew that even though reaching the summit felt like I accomplished the mission, I still had to make it back down. Often times, the trek back down is much harder and more dangerous. I made sure that I stayed focused and kept my eyes on the prize.

After a solid twenty minutes of pure excitement and picture taking, we decided to begin the trip back down to Base Camp. It was hard for me to fully enjoy the summit knowing that I had to get down from the highest peak in the world. The thought was very intimidating. I took a final glance around me, drew in a deep breath, closed my eyes and thought to myself, "You can do it."

Dead or Alive?

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Looking back now, I’m confident that we made the right decision even though it was hard to give up the ultimate goal. It was the most anticipated day of the expedition. The sun was beaming now and the ever so perfect weather was only making the summit push more enjoyable. The group was in high spirits as we became closer to our goal. The circumstances were almost too ideal and I had a premonition that things may change.

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I was leading the group and all of the sudden I spotted something in the snow that stood out.Instantly, I knew it was the body of a climber. What I could not determine though, was whether or not the person was alive. I waved the group to follow me as I went to evaluate the situation. As it turns out, it was a climber who was alone and needed to be rescued.

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Immediately, when this situation arose, I thought of the infamous Lincoln Hall case. When he attempted Everest in 2006, he was inflicted with high-altitude sickness and had to stop climbing. Although the Sherpas tried their best to rescue Hall, when they ran out of oxygen they had to retreat down the mountain. This left the other climbers in the group with the thought that he was dead. They made the dreaded phone call to his family and everything. Luckily, Hall was found the next day by another group of climbers. They stopped their pursuit to the summit to help him and make sure he was assisted by a group of Sherpas. This generous action saved the life of Lincoln Hall.

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It was obvious that the climber was close to death and if we might not be able to save him. Other members from our group thought that we should just continue our push to the summit and help him on our way down. There wasn’t time for that. I acted as a true leader and sacrificed the summit, which was in sight, to help get him down the mountain. Although it sounds silly, but you must use the life lesson “treat others the way you want to be treated” in all aspects of life. If I were stranded in need of rescue, I’d hope that others would do the same for me.

We got the man down and ended up saving his life. While some were angry at the time, we are all in agreement that it was the right decision. The summit will always be there, while a man's life will not.

How Is It Possible?

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It is unbelievable to think that we are able to communicate across the world with others when on an expedition in the mountains. How is it done? What do you think it was like for past mountaineers that have not been as fortunate to have the same technology? Being able to communicate with our loved ones isn’t something that has been available for a long time. Rather, it is recent and is due to our cutting edge technology made by HumanEdgeTech.


HumanEdgeTech allows mountaineers to communicate with anyone within seconds. Their most prominent package that they offer is called the 8848 High Speed Package. This incredible deal is offered for $3,999 and provides mountaineers with the most efficient expedition technology today.


The features included are:
-Contact 4 Expedition Dispatch System
-Laptop with photo and video editing
-Satellite high speed modem
-Satellite phone
-Ultralight foldable solar panel
-Multifunction battery
-Wideye handset

What it can do:
-Live web conferencing
-Instant direct update of personal website
-Video and photo editing
-Ability to make and receive phone calls

One of the reasons that makes this the most premiere and used package today is through the type of battery they use. The HET Power 50, considered the smartest battery, has the ability to recharge through a small solar panel. It charges itself as it charges the other devices. The best part of all is the size. Unlike large, chunky batteries, the P50 is small enough to fit inside of a pocket.

HumanEdgeTech has changed the way mountaineers communicate with the world. These advances have helped tremendously with expeditions and will continue to throughout the years.


Remember Who Is Boss

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The conversation changed from pleasant to awkward within only a few minutes. Our expedition group had just completed the trek up to camp 1 and was now discussing our schedule. As the expedition leader, I told the group that we should descend to base camp to properly rest for the climb that lay ahead of us. As soon as I stated my case, one client immediately disagreed. That client went on to explain his point about how he felt fine and didn’t want to waste his energy going all the way down to 17,000 ft. He didn’t think it was worth the physical effort and thought he’d be sacrificing his opportunity to reach the summit.


I patiently explained to him the reasons for descending and that it would provide crucial rest for his body. His rebellion of this topic sparked another client to agree. The two were determined to continue up the mountain. They truly believed that they were untouchable and seemed to have forgotten that I was the expert on this expedition.

As this slight dispute was taking place, I had been simultaneously checking the weather report for the upcoming days. Although it showed forecast with little concern, a sly idea suddenly came to me. Since I was the group leader, I could use my access to useful information to help me in this situation. As this idea came to me, I had been glancing at the weather forecast. The argument was getting heated and I knew I had to come up with something or else they would leave. I told the two clients that I had received a weather warning and that it wasn’t safe to continue up for now. Base camp would get us out of the weather and provide us with additional rest.

The clients took my word for it and agreed to come down now that they knew their personal safety might be in jeopardy. I was aware of other expeditions in which failure occurred because of group dynamic problems. The situation in Into Thin Air with Rob Hall and Doug Hansen is a great example. Hall was a loyal leader and refused to leave Hansen. All of his extra effort that he put into helping Hansen could have been put to use in other ways and maybe things could have ended better for both of them.


I felt bad about lying but I would feel even worse if the two continued up without any assistance. I’m not proud of doing this but I knew the dangers that the mountain encompassed and had to make sure they stayed safe.

Every Breath Counts

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The decision to use oxygen or not is up to the particular climber. Some think that by not using oxygen, they think that they are tougher or more prestigious. Most climbers though, decide to use oxygen. They usually start to use oxygen at Camp 3. The main provider is a Russian company called Poisk.


This company, founded in 1929, produces oxygen equipment and metal-plastic vessels. The piece of equipment that the climbers use contains four parts: a stopping valve, a light oxygen-bottle, a reducer with a gas flow regulator and a bayonet join. Each cylinder is tested


The price for each depends on whether you purchase a 3 Lt or 4 Lt cylinder. If you choose the 3 Lt cylinder, the prices for each will be: $385 for 1-20, $372 for 21-60, $360 for 61-100 and $350 for 101-200. On the other hand, if you choose the 4 Lt, the price per cylinder will be: $410 for 1-20, $396 for 21-60, $385 for 61-100 and $372 for 101-200. As you can see, the price decreases as more cylinders are purchased.

Seeing as two bottles last about twelve hours, one is advised to bring five bottles to be safe. The most common problem encountered when dealing with oxygen is having it run out. If you are close to the end of your expedition, this may not prove harmful. If you are towards the top of the peak and you run out, it could make for an extremely dangerous situation. This problem occurs more than expected. Climbers sometimes think that they are able to go father distances with less oxygen.


All in all, a climber should be very cautious with their oxygen. They don't want any to leak, get stolen or be misplaced. There is enough inevitable danger on the mountain that they don't need problems with their oxygen.


Should We Do It?

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Trying to predict the weather on Everest is like trying to predict how many steps you will take in a day. The weather is the single most influential factor on your Everest expedition. If you go too soon and the weather turns bad, you will have to turn around and go back down to base camp. This will only waste your energy and strength. On the other hand, if you wait when you could’ve gone then you may have wasted an ideal day. It is really a gamble either way.


The way that most climbers determine the weather is through customized weather forecasts. ExplorersWeb provides daily, detailed weather forecasts that are available through satellite phones. To properly read the weather forecasts, it is best to look at the week as a whole and see if there are any dramatic changes in the weather.

The Jet stream is the main weather condition that must be avoided. This occurs when the wind whips through the summit at very high speeds. The noise it creates is literally equivalent to a jet taking off. The best time to climb is during something called a “weather window.” This is a period of typically four to six days in which the weather is looking good. May 23 is when this period usually occurs and lasts for a week.

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All in all, the weather is an inevitable factor of any Everest expedition. It will influence your ability to reach the summit or not. It is crucial to be patient but not too patient. It all comes down to one question, should we do it?


Breathe In, Breathe Out

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Before starting an expedition to climb Mt. Everest, one has to be sure that they have properly acclimatized. If you do not take the necessary amount of time to let your body adjust to the new altitudes, it could prove to be deadly. The trek to base camp will take you 10 days. Once you arrive on day 1, you then depart 6 days later and climb to camp 1. The day after you reach camp 1 (on day 7), you then climb back down to base camp on day 8. On day 11, you climb to camp 2 and stay there for 2 days. On the 13th day you and the group make your way back to base camp and stay down there for 4 days. On the 17th day the trek to camp 2 occurs. Two days later, on the 19th, you climb to camp 3. It may seem obscure at the time, but then one day later, you must climb back down to base camp.

Although this may seem repetitive and unnecessary, it is the way to make sure your body is in proper conditions to make a summit attempt on Everest. If you are seriously running out of time, you could skip one of the acclimatization steps (although it is certainly not recommended).


On the 21st day you trek down and then go back to base camp 5 days later. Some consider the trek down to be the most crucial part of the acclimatization process because it allows you to strengthen your weak body and get fresh oxygen into your system. After only being down there for a couple days, it will rejuvenate your mind, body and soul and prepare you for the summit attempt that you are about to make. Now, on the first day of the next month, which will most likely be May 1st, you are ready to make your first summit attempt. This entire process allows the body to make up to 3 summit attempts.

If a climber does not appropriately acclimatize, serious conditions can occur and possibly cause death. HAPE stands for high altitude pulmonary edema and happens when there’s a fluid build up in the air sacs of the lungs. The build up of fluid is caused by leaky capillaries. When this occurs it inhibits enough oxygen from coming into the lungs and causes many deaths with mountaineers in situations of high altitude pressure. It is difficult to determine who is or will be susceptible to HAPE.


Another condition, HACE, is a very serious form of altitude sickness. HACE stands for high altitude cerebral edema and occurs when there is swelling of the brain. The swelling of the brain results from fluid leakage. When this occurs, the brain stops functioning properly. Signs include: confusion, fatigue, vomiting, hallucinations and many other conditions.

Both conditions are very serious and will need immediate treatment. Therefore, if a climber is inflicted by either HAPE or HACE, it will be an end all to the summit attempt. Although it cannot prevent you from getting either of the conditions, proper acclimatization is the best way to help yourself from getting HACE or HAPE.


Up, Up and Away

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Going on an Everest expedition entails more than purely climbing the mountain. When I pictured the journey to base camp, I merely imagined a helicopter ride from Kathmandu to base camp. Just getting to base camp is a nine day trek in itself. The trail to Everest has become more popular as the years have gone by and it is has become a commonly traveled route. Along the way, you will enjoy your surroundings and take in some of the most spectacular views.


This trip starts from the Tribhuwan International Airport in Kathmandu. The thirty minute flight arrives in Lukla. From Lukla we proceed onto Phakding and spend the night. Throughout the next week, the group will experience the culture through visiting local Sherpa villages and monasteries. Once morning comes, we are off to Namche Bazaar and reach an altitude of 3535 meters. In order to cope with the thin air, the group must spend another day there to properly acclimatize. This location gives the climber their first legitimate view of Everest. Day four marks the arrival at Tengboche which is at an altitude of 3850 meters.

The second day of acclimatization occurs once Dingboche has been reached. The guides are careful to make sure that the climbers are acclimatizing on the trek to base camp because as we know, the trek to base camp cannot even compare to the trek to the summit of Everest. The next step is to make it to Lobuje and then to Gorak Shep. Day nine marks the end of the beginning. The trek to Everest base camp may be completed, but the real challenge lies right before your eyes: Mount Everest. As Ed Viesturs puts it in No Shortcuts to the Top, "Getting to the top is optional. Getting down is mandatory."
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Other than being the highest mountain in the world, Everest is rich in culture and has a strong religious history. Buddhism is the most prevalent religion and is a large part of life there. Guru Rinpoche is the founder of Tibetan Buddhism. Prayer flags can be seen on the high peaks of the mountain and are in five colors to represent the five Buddhist elements: earth, wind, fire, water and consciousness. At the center of Buddhist beliefs are patience and mindfulness.

Sherpas are an ethnic group that inhabit the area. They generally live in the high mountain region of the eastern Himalaya. They are devoted to Buddhism and are considered "Tibetan Buddhists." Although there has been technological progress made around Everest, they have stayed with their traditional customs. For example, instead of using our modern technology, they continue to grow and raise the majority of their food herding yaks. Sherpas are strong willed and courageous people on and off the mountain. They are willing to help and use their religious beliefs and traditions in their daily lives.

There are two main monasteries in this region. First is the Tyengboche monastery. It remains today as one of the most important religious centers for the Sherpa culture. The Monastery is at the meeting point of two rivers, the Dudh Kosi and the Imja Khola. It has a beautiful view of Everest. The other is the Rongbuk monastery and is located on the north side. This monastery was founded in 1902. This is one of the last sites you will view if you are climbing through the North side of Everest. Some say that it has the most breathtaking views of Everest and is a sacred threshold.

All in all, Mt. Everest is more than just a large mountain. It's location, bordering Tibet and Nepal, is the homeland to many. It has a distinct cultural and religious background and provides opportunity and faith to those who inhabit the area. The Sherpas are faithful to Buddhism and continue to practice their ancient traditions today.

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Mt. Everest Expeditions

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In order to climb the highest mountain in the world, you need to be sure that you have a sufficient and valid guide service. Finding a legitimate and reliable guide service can be difficult these days. There are plenty of services that can be found on the internet that are scams. After researching different services, I found that Adventure Consultants, American Alpine Institute and Alpine Ascents International are the premier guiding services for Mt. Everest. They are all cost effective and dependable.

American Alpine Institutes charges $65,000 and takes a maximum of nine climbers. They climb through the South Col route in Nepal. Three Sherpa accompany those nine climbers. This expedition group would leave on March 30th and will return on June 2nd. To learn more about American Alpine Institutes, visit their website at: http://www.mtnguide.com/ProgramDetail/everest/.

Another option is Alpine Ascents. This trekking agency and guide service also costs $65,000 and requires a $20,000 deposit. This expedition departs on March 29th and returns on June 1st. Again, to learn more, visit: http://www.alpineascents.com/everest.asp.

The third and best option is Adventure Consultants. This guide service has the highest success rate of climbers getting to the summit of Everest. If I were to climb Everest, I would feel most comfortable with this guide service. Out of the three it is the most adequate and organized. It also costs the “standard” rate of $65,000 and claims to be the premier guiding service. It provides climbers with a “good chance to summit" because they make sure they only take suitable climbers and provide them with the proper instruction. The Sherpa and guide team are the best quality in the business and the ratio between climbers to Sherpa is great. They provide the most up to date technology so that the weather forecasts can be properly determined. This trip leaves on March 30th and returns June 9th. More information is available at: http://www.adventureconsultants.co.nz/AdventureInternational/7Everest/.


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