Sunday, March 18, 2012

Mt. Everest, really?

I am excited, crazed, nervous and naive. What else can I say? Last year I signed Mark and I up for a "trek" or what I thought would be a nice little "trek" to the base camp of Mt. Everest, traveling from the Napal side. Mark in turn convinced his brother, Jed and wife, Amy to sign up as well. Now I think we are all nuts. Oh my.

It all began when I heard Eric Johnson, an ER physician from Idaho give a talk over lunch at the Ogden Surgical Society meetings last May. He spoke of going to the base camp of Mt. Everest for the past eight years and working with climbers in the altitude sickness tent/hospital. His slides were bright and colorful, portraying the beautiful people, the ancient customs and traditions, and the ominous, elusive, majestic Mt. Everest. He spoke of the trek being a pleasant experience, not to be rushed or hurried, but to be enjoyed.

He also said that he would be guiding a trek in April of 2012 for twenty people who may be interested. He emphasized that if you ever had any desire to go to Mt. Everest, this trek would be your ticket. He explained that this particular trek has the most experienced medical personnel specializing in altitude sickness, is one of the most economical, it cuts all the extras that other trekking expeditions charge for, it includes two days at base camp as opposed to the 1/2 hour limit for those not planning to summit, and it even has CME (continuing medical education) hours for physicians, yada, yada, yada.

I have always been fascinated, awed and bewildered by those super achievers who would even think of attempting to summit that great mountain. I've read Jon Krakauer's book, "Into Thin Air" and heard him and numerous others speak about various expeditions over the years. I was interested!

I spoke to Eric after the lunch, and even called him up with questions. Mark was excited, so I signed us up, purchased airline tickets, Global Rescue insurance, trip insurance, and all of the rest.

Well. Last week, Mark and I met with nine other Ogdenites who are trekking to the base camp of Mt. Everest with a different outfit with two in their group planning to summit. Abe Shreeve who trekked to base camp in 2006 shared his slides and experiences with us. Oh my, were my eyes opened. Instead of being this wonderful, cultural, pleasurable hike, I learned that this trek is a rigorous, seventy-eight plus mile hike round trip at altitudes topping over 17,000 feet. Temperatures can drop to 20 degrees below zero with elevation rises and drops accumulating over 70,000 feet. Signs to the next village are measured in terms of days rather than miles or kilometers.

Then Mike Vause spoke at Ladies Literary about his experiences in both Napal and Tibet in trekking to base camps. It was fascinating, but eye opening. I began listening to my inner head voice saying, "Are you really planning to do this? Do you really know what you are getting into? People die from acute mountain sickness and pulmonary edema. Lukla airport is one of the most dangerous in the world. Retinal hemorrhages are common over 16,000 feet. There is very little oxygen at these high altitudes. Life is precious. Everest puts it on the line." and so forth.

What was I thinking or rather, why didn't I think? Am I really that naive? Yes, I am! I really am!

I have 19 days to train. I'll be hitting the trails tomorrow in my very muddy but oh, so comfortable hiking boots. I really have no idea what the day to day experience will be. But one thing is for sure, it is what it is! Namaste.

Here are some facts about Mt. Everest

Age of Everest: Everest was formed about 60 million years ago.
Elevation: 29,035 (8850m)-found to be 6' higher in 1999.
Name in Nepal: Sagarmatha: means "goddess of the sky".
In Tibet: Chomolungma: means "mother goddess of the universe".
Named after: Sir George Everest in 1865 ,the British surveyor-general of India. It was once known as Peak 15.
Location: Latitude 27° 59' N.....Longitude 86° 56' E Its summit ridge separates Nepal and Tibet.
First Ascent: May 29,1953 by Sir Edmund Hillary, NZ and Tenzing Norgay, NP, via the South Col Route.
First Solo Ascent: Aug. 20,1980, Reinhold Messner, IT, via the NE Ridge to North Face.
First winter Ascent: Feb. 17,1980 -L.Cichy and K. Wielicki, POL.
First Ascent by an American: May 1,1963, James Whittaker, via the South-Col
Mt. Everest rises a few millimeters each year due to geological forces.
Everest Name: Sir George Everest was the first person to record the height and location of Mt. Everest. This is where Mt."Everest" got its name in English.
First Ascent by a Woman: May 16,1975, Junko Tabei, JAP, via the South-Col.
First Ascent by an American Woman: Sep.29,1988, Stacey Allison, Portland, OR via the South-East Ridge.
First Oxygenless Ascent: May 8, 1978- Reinhold Messner, IT, and Peter Habeler, AUT, via the South-East Ridge.
First woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest from both north and south sides: Cathy O'Dowd (S.A.) South May 25,1996/North '99.
Fastest Ascent from South: Babu Chhiri Sherpa 34, NP-16 hours and 56 minutes (5-21-2000).
Fastest Ascent (north side): Hans Kammerlander (IT) May,24,1996, via the standard North Col Ridge Route, 16 hours 45 minutes from base camp.
Youngest person: Temba Tsheri (NP) 15 on May,22,2001.
Oldest Person: Sherman Bull May,25,2001 -64 yrs.
First Legally Blind Person: Erik Weihenmeyer May,25,2001.
Most Ascents: Eleven, 24th May 2000 Appa Sherpa became the first person to climb Everest 11 times. All ascents were oxygen-less.
Best and Worst Years on Everest: 1993, 129 summitted and eight died (a ratio of 16:1); in 1996, 98 summited and 15 died (a ratio of 6½:1).
Highest cause cause of death: Avalanches-about a (2:1) ratio over falls.
Country with most deaths on mountain: Nepal-46.
Most dangerous area on mountain: Khumbu Ice Fall-19 deaths.
First ski descent: Davo Karnicar (Slovenia) 10-7-2000.
Last year without ascent: 1977.
Corpses remaining on Everest: about 120.
Longest stay on top: Babu Chiri Sherpa stayed at the summit a full 21 hours and a half.
Largest team: In 1975, China tackled Everest with a 410-member team.
Fastest descent: In 1988, Jean-Marc Boivin of France descended from the top in just 11 minutes, paragliding.
Only climber to climb all 4 sides of Everest: Kushang Sherpa, now an instructor with Himlayan Mountaineering Institute.
First person to hike from sea level to summit, no oxygen: 11th May 1990,Tim Macartney-Snape, Australian.
Largest number to reach the top in one day: 40, on May 10, 1993.
First person to summit Everest twice: Nawang Gombu-Nepal(once with Whitaker in '63,and again two years later in '65). Gombu now works for the Himalayan mountaineering institute.
The oldest woman to summit: Anna Czerwinska, age 50, May 22, 2000.