Monday, May 30, 2016

Can't Stop

Just over a decade ago the Red Hot Chili Peppers came out with a song called "Can't Stop" and I just thought of that because I was laying on my hotel bed, only an hour from leaving my hotel here in Kathmandu, and I want to email the National Park Service for Mt. Rainier National park to see if I can get a solo permit later this week. Yep, I'm thinking of doing a one day speed ascent later this week, but I'm so exhausted from a two hour run this morning I didn't want to get off the bed to send an email, let alone book another plane ticket.

The video today is another one from the south col on May 20th. I've got a few of these, and again, I find them rather entertaining. I took the whole thing so casually, like no big deal, but it's the south col,  it's above where people died this year, it is a serious place. Most people didn't want to come out of their tents because they wanted to save every calorie of energy, and I was just walking around, talking to people, taking videos.
So I went out to Sam's Bar last night, a place that features in books and has many of the mountaineering regulars. It's a tradition to write on the wall if you have a good quote, Alex Gavan has a big one above the stair way, prime real estate. Mine is over by the potted plants along the top of the wall about half way from the bar to the balcony.
I wrote on the wall.
Then continuing the tradition of meeting interesting people we hung out with Amelia Hillary, Edmund Hillary's granddaughter, for an hour. She was quite interesting because she has lived in Kathmandu for several years and again like some other people I have met lately, knows a huge network of people, she even climbs too.

I leave my hotel soon and it looks like I will be in the US Tuesday morning. Until next time Asia, goodbye.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Kathmandu and the Khumbu Ice Fall

Several treats today! I will tell you what, you want to have great experiences, meet the right people. I've had the good fortune in the last few days to bump shoulders with a few people that, at least in my little world, are big stuff. First, let's start with a four minute video featuring what I thought was the most difficult obstacle in the icefall, the three horizontal ladders, which only appeared late in the season, sometime after May 10th. It was difficult because the safety ropes were not totally parallel to the ladders, and there was a ice block halfway through that was pushing you to the left on the way down. It's not that difficult, it took me all of 17 seconds to walk across it, but some part of the ice fall has to be the most difficult.

Next we had the 9th International Sagarmatha Day this morning, where I gave a speech in front of Nepal's Prime Minister, the Minister of Tourism, and maybe 400 other people including Russell Brice. Ang Tshering, president of the Nepal Mountaineering Association, asked me Friday night if I would please give a speech at the event since I had summited and they wanted an international guest to say something. He also asked that I give a recommendation or suggestion for how to improve Mt. Everest. I was dubious that this would all come together and I would actually give a speech, but I thought about it on Saturday and came up with a few words to say if it actually happened.

We met at 7 AM in front of all the official gear shops like Mountain Hardware and The North Face in Thamel before a short parade over to the Ministry of Tourism. Funny enough, turns out they even had my name in the official program. Yep, looks like I was going to get to speak after all.
Giving a Speech at the 9th International Sagarmatha Day (Sitting behind me right to left: Ang Tshering Sherpa, Kumar Rai, and the Prime Minister of Nepal K.P. Sharma Oli with the black hat.)
I thanked the guests, specifically those sitting on stage by name, and all the people for attending, and I thanked the high altitude workers like Sherpas, guides, cooks, and porters that make this whole industry possible and accessible to individuals. Then I briefly described my summit experience, the feeling that we don't belong at the summit and our time there is temporary, so we need to take care of our home, the places we live because the world is not unlimited. Then I suggested that if the tallest mountain in the world was in the USA the National Park Service would fix the ropes from basecamp to the summit, and perhaps that was something that the SPCC (Sagarmatha Pollution Control Council aka Ice Fall Doctors) could do in the future. In fact, it already happens on the Chinese side of the mountain. Pasang Sherpa, one of the Sherpas that fixed the ropes from camp 4 to the summit gave several suggestions, and that was also one of his suggestions. Good to know we are on the same page.

Next, since not all the fun happens during the day, Saturday night I had dinner with the Iranians, and some Adventure Consultants people including the famous Ang Dorjee. Yes, in the movie Everest,  Guy Cotter is yelling into the radio at Ang Dorjee, that Ang Dorjee.
A Water Bottle (Actually Ang Dorjee signed his name near his father's picture in Doug Scott's Himalayan Climber book, which was a birthday present to Claudia, and that's the man himself all blurry in the background. I am not a photographer. Also, that's Iraj from Iran on his left.)
We made our way to Tom and Jerry's and I asked Ang Dorjee what was the most difficult time he had in the mountains, I mean with 21 Everest expeditions, 18 summits, and just about every other big mountain around the world, he had to have a rough go of it at least once. Turns out he was stuck with Scott Fisher and five other people at camp 3 (7000 meters) on Broad Peak in 1995 for seven days in a terrible storm, so back they could not unzip the tents, and the tents flattened on them many times. They ran out of food. They were low on gas and were measuring out water in a cup so that everyone had the same few ounces. Finally they walked down, with the storm still going, and Ang Dorjee leading the way. He even triggered an avalanche below camp 1. Fortunately, they all survived. It actually provides a little more context to the 1996 incident. He is working on a book and I encouraged him several times to follow through with it. Two years ago I bought Tenzing Norgay's book, yesterday I bought Jamling Norgay's book, maybe in two years I will buy Ang Dorjee's book. Frankly, I can't wait to read about the 1995 Broad Peak storm. Not enough Sherpas write books, I want to hear their side of the story.

Finally, if you are in Kathmandu, and you are a rock climber, you really ought to stop by the Astrek climbing wall in Thamel and take a few laps. I borrowed some shoes from Niraj the manager and Nepali rock climbing champion Saturday afternoon and bouldered until I had a couple blisters on my hands.
I'm going to give up on selfies.
In other news I am coming home a few days earlier than planned and will arrive in Chicago around 10 AM Tuesday, May 31st.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Post Everest Update 3

I took 58 seconds of video on the summit of Mt. Everest. 25 second in the video above on my GoPro and 33 seconds on my primary camera, which I will publish eventually, but it's not as good. Taking a picture or a video is such a challenge in these conditions. For my GoPro the process was to unzip my down suit, take off my gloves, reach into my inner down suit pocket and take out the camera, turn it on, and then start recording. That takes maybe 30 seconds to do all of that, maybe 20 seconds. Then there is the recording time. At which point I realized, and said in the video, that my fingers were getting very cold, and I had to start the reverse process of putting the camera away, another 20-30 seconds. It sounds really short, and it was, but I've spent time in a -40C/F cold room for engineering testing, with fans running, and the cold up at the summit of Everest there was worse.

On the topic of cameras, my primary camera was a Nikon AW120, on a strap around my neck. Great pictures, but when I tried to get it off my neck for some better angles, it got stuck on my hoods, so I gave up and moved on to my iPhone 5S and GoPro Hero 3+. The problem with those two is that trying to use them with my summit gloves was nearly impossible because the risk of dropping either one was too great. So I had to take off my gloves to use them, which means that in the interest of keeping my fingers I took 58 seconds of video and 15 pictures, most of which look like the one below.
Another Summit Selfie, With My Thumb
It's actually kind of funny. I'm going to frame at least one of them, actually hang it on my wall, and title it: "No Frostbite", because I would much rather have my fingers than some picture. Also, shout out to Alan Bean who broke the color video camera on Apollo 12, I get it man.

Also, I'm apparently giving a five minute speech tomorrow at the 9th International Sagarmatha Day at  9 AM, May 29th, at the Nepal Tourism Board. Supposedly there will be 700 people there, and they wanted a westerner to say something. So if anyone is around Bhrikutimandap, Kathmandu in about 22 hours please stop by. I flew back into Kathmandu from Lukla around 11 AM on Friday the 27th, if that wasn't clear.
South Col selfie with Menanie Southworth in the background messing with her satellite phone.
Here is the first of several videos from the south col. I hope you get a laugh out of these as much as I do. That being said, the videos from my first summit push will make you surprised that the other guys went on to summit, it was not good weather.
Other random tidbits:
  • Feathered Friends down suit does not have pockets for your hands, it should.
  • "Everyone" summited Everest this year.
  • No one died above camp 4 this year on Everest, but they died between camp 3 and camp 4, very strange.
  • Camp de Base in Namche is my favorite lodge in the Khumbu. It has hot water, towels, big blankets, soap and toilet paper included, plus the food is good. 
  • Billi Bierling said last night at Sam's Bar that the "interesting" thing to do, which hasn't been done would be the west ridge of Everest, Lhotse, and Nuptse and down the west ridge of Nuptse all without bottled oxygen. It's not a huge traverse, but it's a lot of time at altitude. Anyone want to try with me? Uli?
  • I ran Everest basecamp to Namche Bazaar in 5:42, here is the Strava event. The hard part was carrying about 10 pounds of clothing, gear, food and water. 
  • The hard part of Everest summit day is having no sleep when you start hiking, at 8 PM. If we left at midnight, it might be even easier. That being said, I think it's good 48 hour race training to go from camp 3 up to the summit and back to camp 2 all with only a 40 minute nap after the summit on the south col.
  • There is less air pollution in Kathmandu now than there was in early April. 
  • My friend Dave Ohlson summited from the North Side a few days ago.
  • Looks like I will be on Denali next year. No oxygen, no guides, no porters. 
  • Again, July 4th weekend, I'm planning to "run" Nolan's 14. I would really like some company, if not on the actual mountains, then at the road crossings would still be great and make my logistics much easier. (I can go sub 48 hours.)

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Thank You Climbing Partners!

This article is addressed specifically to the following people, and several others who I may have missed:

Josh Zeigler
Stephen Bonneau
Clay Meier
Shane Ruther
Kyle Erickson
John Haines
Geoff Georges
Randall Crock
Peter Hoffman
John Inman
John MacDonald
Dave Arney

Every failure is an opportunity to learn something. And I like learning vicariously whenever possible. Eric Arnold from the Netherlands died Friday night near the south col, I believe, and I think I walked right past him and talked to him.

You see, you all have been roped to me in precarious situations or at least mildly precarious situations, my life and my safety in your hands. I'm a pretty independent person by nature. I can be bull headed and stubborn and go march off and try to solo The Nose on El Capitan or something ridiculous. I don't like to show when I have a problem, at least I will down play it (because I'm always complaining about some ailment). Point being, sometimes I feel like a rope and a partner is a weakness.

Friday night about 8:30 pm as we started our hike out of the south col, before we made it to the fixed rope, maybe 200 meters out of camp, there were two headlamps, two people, off to the left, off the route and one moving and one not moving. As we neared them I noticed something reflective on the trail at 26,000 feet, perhaps their backpacks. As we got closer I saw it was the "Millet" written on the shins of two One Sport Everest boots. As we were even closer I finally saw it was a man sitting in the snow. 

I think I said, "Are you okay?"

He said, I think I remember, in very good English, "Yes, I must have dozed off."

I don't remember all the details of our 90 second conversation, but he was with Seven Summits. He stood up and was very coherent and resumed walking downhill to look for his tents. I thought he was older, 50s but I can't be sure, he had an oxygen mask on his face.

In parting I remember saying, "Hury up before your oxygen runs out." And just like that we were 10+ meters apart going our separate ways. 

As a note, I yelled to the two headlamps 40 meters off the trail if they needed help, and they didn't respond even though I thought I could hear they were talking. Probably just someone on a bathroom break.

I've spent a lot of time thinking about 8000 meter mountains the last few months. Some people say you are totally on your own up there, a guide can't save you if you have a problem. Some say baloney to that. Having been there now, I say baloney, I tried to pull my friend Anish up a rocky part just below the Hillary Step. I had energy at 8800 meters to pull someone up. Yes, I was on I think 2.5 L/min oxygen at the time, but point being, if someone needs help, it is entirely possible to help them at high altitude. Problem is, no one says he or she need help. I offered help half a dozen times in the past week on the mountain, but no one wanted any. 

That's why partners are awesome, when you know me well enough to know when to push on and when to retreat because of the look on my face. It's a two way street, I'll turn around for you too. The man I passed, the man I woke up, he was alone. I don't know if he was the man that died, but napping 200 nearly flat meters out of camp, descending at 8:30 PM, and from Seven Summits... 

Thank you partners for putting up with me! Thank you for helping me fulfill my wild fantasies. Thank you for sacrificing sleep, vacation and your own health in cold and windy places. Sure I will continue to solo things, like I want to do Nolan's 14 over July 4th weekend, but for serious places, like Mt. Everest, I only want to go if I can go with a trusted partner. This may sound absurd, but I am healthy and alive today so I can say it while Eric can't, I love you man.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

I Summited Mt. Everest!

Okay, first I am on my phone, so excuse the brevity of this post, and lack of better pictures from my two other cameras.

First is Tshering Sherpa who climbed with me to the summit. Here he is sitting on it, it was about a 20 foot long by 1 foot wide perch. I took pictures with three cameras, but had a wardrobe malfunction with my main one, so don't hold your breath for any great pictures from me from the summit.

Next is from my first attempt, when I used oxygen and didn't feel like climbing higher than camp four here is me chilling at the south col.
Oxygen at Camp 4
What's been in my mind all day was how hard it was to climb Mt. Everest with bottled oxygen? I can only compare to other experiences so here are the hardest physical days of my life:

1. Italy 2015 24 Hour World Championships - terrible magnesium cramps
2. 2014 North Coast 24 hour run - I seriously could not walk for three hours after it was over
3. 2008 Casual Route on the Diamond on Longs Peak with Clay Meier - 20:15 car to car, super long mountain day, took a 20 foot pendulum fall. 
4. 2002 Mt. Massive and Mt. Elbert in the same day solo - age 16, about 15.5 hours
5. 2009 double marathon (52.4 miles) fun run of Cape Cod May 9th - first ultra run at age 23
6. 2010 Wonderland Trail run solo (93 miles 31:32) - first real trail ultra run
7. 2006 Ellingwood ArĂȘte on Crestone Needle with John Inman - first technical mountain route, and first I lead, I have to look up the time but we finished in a hail storm after dark, and I really suffered leading the 5.7 at 14,000 feet.
8. 2013 Chicago Marathon - hit the wall, hard to explain this one, but I've never felt so empty, I felt like a zombie while running.
9. Mt. Everest with oxygen 2016 - obviously more to come about this
10. 2012 Devils Tower with Steve Bonneau and Ryan Stickle - I really struggled on the last pitch, dehydrated, not in great climbing shape.
11. 2009 Longs Peak Kiener's with Josh Zeigler - we took the 5.8 version by accident, ended up starting and finishing in the dark, 15 hours or so, but good weather.

The list gets pretty dense after this with lots of 10+ hour days and painful races. Also, I'm writing this on my phone at Everest basecamp so I might change my mind back at sea level in the states. Worth noting, I have to cry from the pain to make the top five, maybe even top eight but I can't remember for those three. 

Friday, May 20, 2016

SUMMIT DAY 5-20-2016

Hello everyone,

Isaiah's sister, Berea, here.

To the best of my ability, according to GPS tracking, Isaiah is shown at the elevation of the summit of Mount Everest! HE DID IT!

Monday, May 9, 2016

Scared of Turning 30: Part 4

My perspective on turning 30 has changed over the last several months, starting around Christmas time. I’m not sure on the particular event or moment when my perspective changed, but it has changed. As I thought about turning 30 and why I was so scared to be that number, I thought about why I was scared of 30. What is there to be scared of? It’s just another day. I realized that it all boiled down to one thing, I am single, and for the most part have been single my entire life, and at times that is lonely, and I am scared of being lonely for the rest of my life. 

I feel I have the best life in the world, and I hope that others feel the same way about their lives, but none of our lives are perfect. The micropoint being I want to share the details of my life with someone. I blog, and it’s a great way to share my life and lessons I have learned with people, but we can’t have a laugh or a cry beside each other when I am typing and you are reading it 12 hours later in another time zone. 

Just to lay it all out there, because, why not? Here is what I am looking for and what I have not quite found. First, a woman I can have communion at the same alter with. My Christian faith is very important to me and if we can’t share that, the relationship simply won’t last. She doesn’t have to have the same faith as me, but if I can’t see similar values as a possibility at some time in the future, I won’t pursue the relationship for long. Second, she must have a healthy life style, it’s a vague term on purpose, and it means that we value the health of the one body we have each been given. In particular, if we are going to raise kids, I want to start my kids on a healthy lifestyle. Third, we must be intellectually compatible, we don’t have to have the same interests, or discuss Capital in the 21st Century in detail, but we need to be able to have a conversation. For years that’s all I have tried to limit my ”requirements”, and recently I have realized that being attracted to her is part of the equation too, and I feel very shallow about that, yet it does factor into my desire to pursue a relationship.

The last few months I have realized that waiting for a relationship to develop, and depending a portion of my current happiness on a relationship is not good. God has given me an amazing life, and if his plan is for me to be single for the next 60+ years of my life, so be it. I’m not going to wait around twiddling my thumbs hoping to have a family of my own one day. I don’t mean that in a way that suggests I am going to take more risks than I already do or that I value myself less because I am not directly contributing to a family. I also don’t mean that I have “given up” on a relationship. I’ve never tried online dating and I am open to it. What I mean is I am going to live my life, and it’s not totally scripted and planned, like I prefer, and I’m not going to let that unknown depress me. 

Macropoint being, I’m not scared of turning 30 anymore. In fact, I look forward to that milestone. I have done so much in my short time, and so many people have not lived this long or had the opportunities I have had. I realize my life is a blessing. 

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Everest May 7th Update

The last rotation I did went really well. This whole expedition the plan was to summit later than everyone, because not using oxygen I will be slower so there is a higher risk that I both create or get in big trouble from from a traffic jam on summit day. However, as I mentioned before this created a feeling in me that I was rushing to catch up. I felt insecure about my plan as others were climbing higher and higher while I seemed to be sick. Well, this rotation was a little different. 

May 3rd we headed up from basecamp to camp 2, which was a very very long day. Only three of us made it to camp 2, a couple others stopped at camp 1 and one turned around with a lung infection. I think tent to tent it was like 11.5 hours, or maybe 10.5 hours. It was 5:15 from the crampon point to camp 1, and just over 4 hours camp 1 to camp 2. We spent about 50 minutes getting to the crampon point and about 40 minutes in camp 1 resting. I was climbing with Alyssia Azar, Carsten Illibad, Sandoop and Pasang. 

I was planning to go up to camp 3 the next day, but I was tired so I took a rest day, which included a little hike on the rock pile behind camp 2. I did take 500 mg of some powerfull ibuprofen type something that David Llano gave to me the first night we were in camp 2. The second night I took a standard 200 mg ibuprofen and I slept well.  It was funny as we are sitting around the dining tent at camp 2 on May 4th debating what to wear for the climb to camp 3, three of our Sherpas walk in wearing their down suits to discuss the plan for tomorrow. It was pretty funny, and everyone with a down suit then planned to wear it. I didn’t have one so I just wore my down jacket and synthetic insulated pants. 
Sandoop, Pasang and I think Tenzing
So Cinco de Mayo comes and we wake up at 5 for a 6 AM departure. We started off across the valley to the start of the Lohtse face. I was with Hazel, potentially first Welsch woman to summit Lohtse, Tenzing, her Sherpa who was short roping her, and Shera Sherpa, who was sort of climbing with me for the day. At the start of the face she had a problem with her mittens so I passed her and Tenzing and went on my own up the face. It was great! I was climbing so well, I was passing everyone else. When I made it to the steep part where there is an ice blue there were some other people coming down, who I assume had spent the night in camp 3. One man, basically clipped into the rope, held on, and then slid down the 60-65 degree ice and snow gully destroying all of the snow steps. He looked in a bad way, and it was really frustrating because I felt fine. His Sherpa and his friend were above him about to start the rappel and I raised my arms in wonder and told them both that I thought their friend needed some help. I mean, it was a bright sunny day with very little wind, it wasn’t a particularly difficult section, and we were at a particularly high altitude. There are two ropes at this section so I was on the ascending rope and he was on the descending rope, but they are only maybe four feet apart and the ice bulge has a little gully maybe two feet deep that kind of forces the two ropes together. Anyway, after that I was basically on my own for the remaining few fixed rope sections to camp 3.

At the bottom of camp 3 I looked around and could not find our tents, so I sat near the top of the lower grouping of tents and waited for Shera to come up. Yes, just to toot my own horn for a minute, I waited at camp 3, at 23,300 feet, for the Sherpa I was climbing with to catch up. He did and our camp was set about 200 vertical feet higher just to the left of the route, actually out of sight of the route. There was no fixed rope for about 30 meters and no one really caries an ice axe on Mt. Everest, mine was left at camp 2, so Shera short roped me across the gap between the fixed rope and our camp. Not difficult, but you certainly don’t want to fall there. It took a little over four hours for me to go from camp 2 to camp 3 without a backpack. Two hours to the start of the face, then a little over two hours up the face to camp 3. We stayed up there maybe 20 minutes or so to eat and drink a little, then it took about an hour to get back to camp 2, it’s much faster to descend at altitude than ascend. Just as we were leaving Hazel and Tenzing showed up.
Camp 3 Selfie with Everest in the Background
I made it back to camp 2 in time to have lunch with everyone who did not make it up to camp 3. Everyone had a different issue from stomach bug to tiredness from two previous days. I slept well that night, I was actually somewhat warm in my soft-shell layer and insulated pants inside my 0F sleeping bag. 

The next morning we woke at 4 AM and were hiking soon after 5 AM. We were all pretty close until the start of the icefall. I had been trailing, not so fast on the way to camp 1, but after the first rappel and I was moving better and was again at the front. I made my way down and soon enough when I stopped to let a Nepalese team come up Shera was right behind me and after they passed we began running down the ice fall. I’m not joking, on the nice like 15-25 degree slopes downhill we were running. We didn’t run the flats, ladders, or uphills, but we were flying. We mad it to the crampon point at 8:11 AM, just under 3 hours from the time we left camp 2. From there it was a 40 minute walk back to our basecamp and I made it in time to have some breakfast and get the 10 minutes of questions from the other 2/3rds of the team about how our rotation went. Overall, quite well. It seems barring a tragedy our team will have lots of summits this year. 

Monday, May 2, 2016

Camp 2 Dining Tent

So I'm not entirely sure why I headed up the mountain on April 26th. I mean, I haven't quit coughing. Anyway, in case my Internet gets cut off again as I write this, I made it to camp 1, and it was tough. It was a long seven hours up through the ice fall.

Then I had a bad Tuesday night. 8:30 PM I woke up with a headache... bad new. At midnight-thirty I went over to Sandoop and Nwang our Sherpas tent and told them I had an issue so they broke a diamox in half and gave it to me. That helped for a few hours until about 3 AM, then I more or less tossed and turned all night until it was time to get up and get going. Also, on the 26th I drank at least six liters of water, that's a lot for me, in fact, I cannot remember drinking more in a day. Perhaps during a 24 hour run, but I'm not sure. 

Anyway I was super strong going to camp 2 on the 27th. I did half of the ascent to camp 2 alone, because I was going fast. Then I did the whole descent to camp 1 alone. The next day I descended to camp 1 alone, almost at Sherpa speed, but not quite.
Dining Tent at Camp 2
Anyway, I have a terrible Internet connection, good night.

Sunday, May 1, 2016


A couple years ago my employer did Safe Start training. One of the four states of mind that leads to problems is rushing. This hit me like a sack of bricks last week when I spent three unpleasant nights in basecamp. Well, I didn’t realize I was rushing exactly until I descended and felt great. I knew that I ascended fast and that was why I was feeling poorly, but I didn’t think of it as rushing until I knew that it was beyond my limit. It’s one of those things, if it works out, you’re an efficient monster, if it fails, you’re a rushing idiot. 

It is the same way in much of life. We speed in our cars to get to a place one or two minutes earlier, usually with no consequences, until you get into an accident because you were speeding. We rush from one social appointment to another without really listening to what our friend was saying. 

It’s funny, I came here a week later than everyone else because I wanted to trying running a race before going on an expedition, something I had never tried before. Early indications are it worked. I could have probably used another day or two at sea level to recover muscularly but I am fine. However, when I got here I felt like I was playing catch up, even though my plan all along was to summit later in the season after much of the fanfare had worn away and the mountain was a little less crowded. Now I’m here and people are talking about May 5th and May 10th summits, and there is absolutely no way I will be ready to summit by then!

The lesson here is that feeling are not fact, and by rushing from one thing to the next you might not be giving each activity, or more importantly each person, including yourself, the time she or he (or you) deserve.