(MARCH 28-MAY 29, 2010):

As you all know, Kristine and I were married last October in Telluride and this climb started out being considered our honeymoon. However, now with Everest behind us, I think we’ll go on a more relaxing and traditional honeymoon – Everest just didn’t quite cut it as a romantic setting. In our effort to try and climb the 7 Summits together, Everest seemed to be by far the biggest hurdle and turned out to definitely be the biggest climb of our lives and for good reason. My good friend, Rob Casserley from the UK (now a 7 time Everest summiter – twice this past season), had told Kristine & I how mental and psychological Everest is aside from being the obvious physical. How accurate Rob was…it seemed to boil down to 70% mental and 30% physical for us. Other mountains were much more physical for us such as, for example, Denali. Denali seemed more of a workhorse’s mountain. For Kristine & I, the big challenge with Everest was keeping it together mentally and staying in the game with lots of patience, mental fortitude, and getting through the times of not feeling well either from the food or altitude. Fortunately, our individual bad days never coincided, so it was very helpful to have Kristine lift my spirits on my bad days and me lift her spirits on her bad days.

I had always sort of thought how unattainable Everest was because of money, logistics, etc. Everest seemed like a pipe dream and always very far away. However, through a lot of hard work in trying to raise the necessary funds for an unguided, yet fully supported expedition, we were eventually able to make it happen. Thanks to our sponsors (Juggle.com, Stone Mechanical, Active Energies, Berkeley Capital Advisors, & Coca-Cola Consolidated) and the support of so many friends and families through personal donations and wedding gifts, we were able to raise enough money to allow us to climb Everest. Rob Cassserley, who had summitted Everest 5 times prior to the 2010 season, urged us to use the logistical support services of Henry Todd who he had come to think of as almost family. We had met Rob while climbing Denali in 2007 when he asked if he could borrow one of our stoves after which we all became great friends. After months and months of coordination with Henry, who provided all of the necessary on-mountain support including food, stoves, tents, oxygen, radios, and Sherpa services (ferrying loads and sherpas to climb with us on summit day), we were off to Kathmandu on March 22. Rob was essentially going back to Everest this year to be a pseudo-guide for a few other people from the UK under Henry’s permit, but was ecstatic about hopefully climbing with Kristine & myself much of the time as were we. There were a total of 9 people on Henry’s permit (all unguided but fully supported) and, amazingly, 8 of the 9 ended up summitting Everest. Rob had been rowing the Atlantic Ocean for the 70 days prior to flying to Kathmandu in a rowing race from the Canary Islands to Antigua, but unfortunately had to bail with only 200 miles left to be able to get to Quebec to see his fiancé and then to Kathmandu where he and his friend, Ang Nuru Sherpa, were leading an Everest basecamp trek with Rob’s future mother-in-law, Anne, her friend, Martine, and Rob’s friend, Tim. Kristine & I were acting as sort-of “free agents” and just planned to trek alongside this crew. We all became great friends and it was so special for us to share this trekking experience with these fantastic people.  So, after a few days in the bustling, dirty city of Kathmandu, lots of coordination with gear and Henry, we flew to Lukla (9,300’) to begin the trek into basecamp on March 28. The flight was amazing, albeit a bit of turbulence, and the landing into Lukla’s 12 deg pitched-up runway was even better. I was watching “World’s Most Extreme Airports” the other night and guess what got #1 – Lukla!

Sunset over Kathmandu from the Hotel Vajra rooftop

In the downtown shopping district of Kathmandu called Thamel

For those who are into hiking and trekking and haven’t done the Everest basecamp trek, we highly recommend it be on your “bucket list”. And if you are interested, contact me, and Rob and I can hopefully set you up with his trekking company (http://www.trek8848.com/). Henry had arranged our large gear bags to be transported via yak into basecamp for the actual Everest climb while Kristine & I carried our personal items and sleeping bag for the trek into basecamp. The 1st day we hiked to the Sagarmatha National Park Entrance at the town of Monjo followed by our 2nd day to Namche Bazaar (11,300’), the largest town in the Khumbu Valley.

Boarding the plane to Lukla (9,000′)

Prayer rocks on the hike into basecamp

Kristine and I stayed on Rob’s trekkers’ schedule and we all had a rest day in Namche for the 3rd day, which was a good thing for me given that my gastrointestinal system was trying to acclimate to the local Sherpa food – not pleasant. Feeling better, we set out on the 4th day to go to Pangboche, home of Ang Nuru Sherpa, with whom we became great friends with and is one of the strongest hikers and climbers we have known. He is only 29 yrs old yet looks 19 yrs old and is fading out the Everest climbing business as a climbing Sherpa for the trekking business with Rob. Kristine and I agreed with him that we thought this was a good thing and a lot safer since Ang Nuru had lost many friends and family members to Everest over the years. He finished 3rd in the Everest marathon last year and is running a marathon in New Zealand this August where I am sure he will do well. I thought how awesome it would be to invite him to Colorado and see how well he would do in the Pikes Peak Marathon or one of this Vail hill climbs…haha.

The largest town in the Khumbu, Namche Bazaar (11,300′)

First views of Everest (left) & Lhotse (right)

After rounding a bend above Namche Bazaar on our 4th day of trekking, Everest & the Lhotse-Nuptse wall came into view towering 17,000’ above us. The magnicificnt peak of Ama Dablam, sometimes called the ‘Matterhorn” of the Himalaya, reared itself in earnest as well. The jet steam was still hammering the summit of Everest and had not moved to the north over Tibet as evident from the snow plume off of Everest’s summit. Everest was definitely a bit intimidating from this viewpoint for us, but we were so very excited that we were actually fortunate enough to be here staring at the tallest mountain in the world, which we would be climbing in a few weeks’ time! After awesome views of Ama Dablam (22,500’) the whole 4th day, we passed the Tangboche Monestary and made it to Pangboche (12,900’) and visited Ang Nuru’s home and family, which was very special. We stayed at Sonam Lodge, which Ang Nuru’s sister owned and ran, and we were all able to get blessed by Lama Geshe for safe travels up Everest the following day. We then traveled to Pheriche (14,000’) and thought we would take a run up the hill behind Pheriche to around 14,500’ only to be passed by Ang Nuru who started well behind us. What were we thinking – that we could actually keep up with this guy? It was funny.

Ama Dablam (22,500′)

Kristine being blessed by Lama Geshe in Pangboche

The next few days saw us trekking to Lobuche (16,200’) and Gorak Shep (16,900’) where we branched off to hike up to Kala Pattar (18,200’) at dusk for some amazing views of the Everest massif. Kala Pattar is actually just part of the mountain Pumori’s (23,500’) southeast ridge but is a destination for many trekkers.

A yak on the way to basecamp

Ang Nuru & myself above Lobuche (16,200′)

The next day, April 4, we hiked to Everest basecamp (17,500’) and saw our future home being established. There weren’t too many tents around basecamp at this time since basecamp didn’t officially open until April 10, but Russell Brice’s Himex expedition had many of their tents up. Our cook tent and mess tent were up, so we had a bit of lunch and then hiked back to Gorak Shep. Since basecamp didn’t open for another week and our gear wasn’t even there yet, we trekked back down 4,000’ to Pangboche with the crew and said goodbye to Anne, Martine, Tim, and Ang Nuru, who would accompany the other three back to Kathmandu. Rob, Kristine, & I met up with James & Fi, both from London, who were on our permit to climb Everest. James & Fi are amazing, very funny & personable, and we all got along so well and became good friends. Rob would be climbing with Fi most of the time, but the 5 of us thought how we should all stick together since we thought we made a good group. James & Fi were both in their early 30s as are Kristine and myself. James had done a couple of the 7 Summits himself and Fi had climbed Cho Oyu with Rob a few years back. After a few days lounging in Pangboche and a trek up to Ama Dablam’s basecamp at around 16,000’, we set out again for Everest basecamp and made the trek in about 7-8 hrs. We met us with two other fellow climbers under our permit in Pheriche – Rich Birrer Jr & Rich Birrer Sr. This father-son duo, originally from New York, were trying to climb Everest as both their final of the 7 Summits. Rich Sr attempted Everest in 2005 under Henry Todd as well but was called back on summit day due to one of their climbing members having a heart attack below the Balcony at 27,000′. Rich Sr was 60 yrs old and Rich Jr was 29. I just hope I’m in the shape Rich Sr is when I am his age! This time around at basecamp our gear bags had arrived and we had a great 1st dinner in our mess tent with James, Fi, & Rob.

Me on a sub-summit of Kala Pattar (18,200′)

Alpenglow on Everest & Nuptse from Kala Pattar (18,200′)

After a few days of acclimatizing to 17,500’, we went into the Khumbu Icefall to play around and practice on some ladders. We climbed up to the 1st horizontal ladder in the Icefall which we traversed several times this day to get accustomed to the balance and nerve it took to cross these things:

Alpenglow on Everest’s SW face from Kala Pattar (18,200′)

Kristine at our basecamp home (17,500′)

Our basecamp Puja Ceremony occurred around April 15 and was a fantastic ceremony of burning juniper, raising prayer flags, and getting blessed by a lama. The purpose of the Puja was to bless all of the climbers and sherpas in order to hopefully safeguard their ascent of Everest. Only after the Puja, did the sherpas believe it was safe to climb the Icefall to Camp 1 (19,500’). So, off we went the next day and set out from basecamp around 4am. The Icefall is generally safer in the colder morning hours when the seracs tend to shift less. However, when the sun reaches the Khumbu Icefall at around 8-9am, it gets scorchingly hot and is essentially a giant oven. It was very exciting and a little nerve-wracking for Kristine and I the 1st time up with the teetering seracs looming above us. There was one large serac tower that was really the only thing that bothered me. We essentially ran beneath it to get out of the way. Running in Millet Everest boots and crampons at 19,000’ over ice blocks is definitely not easy. It was especially intense for us looking down in a deep crevasse while crossing several long horizontal ladders. After around 4 hours of climbing, we reached the final steep pitch in the upper Icefall and before the Western Cwm which entailed climbing 3 vertical ladders lashed together. After another hour of climbing in the scorching heat of the lower Western Cwm and crossing some fairly sizable crevasses and ladders, we reached our Camp 1 (19,500’). When you reach Camp 1 for the 1st time of the climb, you’re probably not feeling so well…this is how Kristine & I felt. Some decent headaches put us in the tent for a few hours, but nothing that a diamox tablet couldn’t take care of.

The Khumbu Icefall

Our expedition’s Puja ceremony

The next morning, we left Camp 1 at 7am and began the 2.5 hour slog up the Western Cwm to Camp 2 (21,000’). The sunrise over Everest in the Western Cwm on our way to Camp 2 (21,000’) was absolutely amazing. The large scale of this valley and Everest, Lhotse, & Nuptse really became apparent. The heat really began to set in at 8am and our energy levels were fading fast with the increasing heat and altitude. Nevertheless, we made it to Camp 2 and had some snacks and then the 6 of us (me, Kristine, Rob, James, Fi, & Rich Jr) headed back down to basecamp that afternoon. Camp 2 was Kristine’s personal altitude record thus far (her previous high was on Denali’s 20,320’ summit). After returning to basecamp pretty spent and tired, we retired to our basecamp tent – it actually felt very comfortable and a bit like home – almost.

Crossing a ladder in the Khumbu Icefall

Climbing the final 3 vertical ladders of the Khumbu Icefall

After another 4-5 days and hanging out at basecamp with my good friend, Mike Horst, who was a guide for Alpine Ascents International (AAI), and Allison Levine, who was a client of Mike’s and who we had met on Quandary Peak in Colorado several times prior to leaving for Nepal, we left to go up the mountain again with the goal of touching Camp 3. Kristine, James, & I bypassed Camp 1 and climbed straight to Camp 2 with Fi & Rob about an hour behind us. By this time, Camp 2 had been established with a cook tent, mini-mess tent, and tents for ourselves. After a rest day at Camp 2 (21,000’), we set out for the upper Western Cwm to touch the bottom of the Lhotse face at 22,000’. The 3rd day above Camp 2 saw us to the bottom of the Lhotse Face again and after a few of the first fixed rope pitches up the bottom of the 50 degree icy Lhotse face, we turned around due to high winds. Then, the next day (the 4th day above Camp 2), the winds had died and we successfully climbed to low Camp 3 at 23,300’ on a gorgeous day. This was the highest Kristine and I had ever been! Kristine & I were very happy to have made it to low Camp 3 (23,300’) and completed our acclimatization. We had some spectacular views of Everest and it was obvious that the jet stream had not moved north off of Everest’s summit over Tibet just yet. After an hour break and some snacks, we headed down the fixed lines of the Lhotse face mostly arm-rappelling with some “real” rappelling on the steepest pitches towards the bottom of the face. We trudged back to Camp 2 for the night and headed back down to basecamp the following day. By this time, basecamp felt like home to us.

Camp 1 (19,500′)

Climbing to Camp 2 with the sun rising over Everest

The weather in early May was not the best on record for Everest, but the south col route was able to be fixed to the summit by several sherpas and Adrian Ballinger with Russell Brice’s crew on May 8. There were a few big snowstorms high on the mountain which pushed back several summit attempts between May 8 and May 17. It seemed to snow every afternoon at basecamp, so lots of reading and cards were on the agenda for the afternoons. To keep active, Kristine & I hiked up to Pumori Advanced Basecamp (ABC) at 19,000’ about every other day in the mornings. On a few clear day at Pumori ABC, we were able to get spectacular views of the Everest massif including Everest, Lhotse (27,940’), & Nuptse (25,750’). We made it back to Everest basecamp in time for our french fry/spam/soup lunch and then we retired to the tents for the afternoon where reading was the main entrée. I never read and I read 4 books on Everest – that’s a big step for me! While it was a test of patience waiting around from early May (when we returned from our 2nd acclimatization foray up the mountain) until May 19, when we left basecamp for the summit, we learned to think of it as “when else do you really have nothing to do or really think about?” In some ways, it was really nice.

Camp 2 (21,000′)

The Lhotse face from 22,000′

There was a small weather window May 16-17 and Henry gave us the option of heading up the mountain to target these dates for a possible summit attempt, but Kristine & I declined in order to wait for the better looking window starting May 22. We thought we really only had one attempt in us and we wanted the best, longest weather window possible. Rob went up with two of the climbers under Henry Todd for the 16th/17th window as did Kenton Cool’s group and Victor Saunder’s group, who were all under the Henry Todd umbrella. Kenton & Victor were each guiding 3-4 clients and we got to know Kenton & Victor very well and so enjoyed climbing with them. Kristine & I didn’t know if we were making the right decision, but our gut was to go on the later window. James, Kristine, & I actually trekked down to Pheriche for some rest & relaxation and interneting at a lower altitude (14,000’) when the other groups set out to the summit from basecamp. Arriving back at basecamp two days later, we learned that a lot of drama was unfolding on top of the world. It turned out to be a more crowded summit day than expected on May 17. Most of the climbers in Kenton & Victor’s groups as well as Rob and the 2 other climbers under Rob’s supervision & on Henry’s permit, Mike & Anita Kobold, made the summit in great weather. However, the drama unfolded on the descent when one of Kenton’s clients, Bonita Norris from the UK, fell down the Hillary Step and hurt her shoulder. She finally made it back down to the south col the following day at 2am but only after total exhaustion a lot of help from the sherpas – she was above 26,000’ for 24 hours! Also, Rob and Mike & Anita Kobold descended to Camp 2 that same day after summitting and upon arriving at Camp 2, Anita was complaining of not being able to breathe. It got so bad that she went unconscious for 10 min with something obstructing her airway. Rob then gave her a shot of dexamethazone and the heimlich maneuver and freed the clog and saved her life. Essentially, her trachea was frostbitten and dry and the dead cells had flaked off in her throat and combined with congestion it had obstructed her airway. A very scary moment but thank goodness Anita was ok. Anita had summitted Everest the previous year with her now husband Mike Kobold and became the 1st Hungarian woman to do so. Mike, Anita, & Rob descended to basecamp safely the next day. Mike & Anita organized a helocopter to fly them out from basecamp.

Kristine & Rob climbing the Lhotse face at 23,000′

The Western Cwm from 23,000′ on the Lhotse face

All of this drama made Kristine & I a bit anxious, but we were so psyched to get our chance at the top that we tried to push all the fear aside. James, Fi, Rob, me, Kristine, Rich Jr & Rich Sr left basecamp on May 19 for our summit push. Kristine & I made it to Camp 2 in about 6 hrs – much faster than the previous time, a testament to our acclimatization. We passed Kenton Cool’s crew in the Icefall and congratulated them and wished them safe travels…it was great to see that Bonita was ok. While we wished we were Kenton and his crew at this point having already summitted, we realized this was our chance and we were going to give it all we had. After two days at Camp 2, we climbed to high Camp 3 (24,000’) where our tents were located.

Sunset down the Khumbu valley back at basecamp

The Everest massif from Pumori ABC (19,000′)

We had met the RMI crew at the bottom of the Lhotse face that day and climbed with Dave Hahn & Leif Whittaker up the Lhotse face, which was pretty cool. Super nice guys…Dave was guiding Leif, son of Jim Whittaker, the first American to climb Everest in 1963. I had met Dave several times before in Kathmandu, the Icefall, around basecamp, and he is just such a great guy. Behind us was Casey Grom, another guide for RMI, who was guiding Scott Jones. Kristine & I had met Casey years ago on Denali and it was great to see him again. We also met another RMI guide, Chad Peele from Ridgway, CO, at the base of the Lhotse face but he had to descend with one of their clients who wasn’t feeling well. We rolled into high Camp 3 and were greeted by my buddy, Mike Horst, with AAI who had arrived there the day before. All of us were a little worried about Rob Casserley since he only rested at basecamp for two days after his first Everest summit of 2010 and before heading back up the mountain to climb with us, but he made it to high Camp 3 again about an hour after us. Rob is truly a high altitude machine. I started boiling lots of water while Kristine practiced with the oxygen. RMI’s tents were adjacent our tents at high Camp 3 and we spent a few hours conversing with Dave, Leif, Casey, & Scott, which was fun.

To top off a great day of climbing, we were presented with a spectacular sunset from high Camp 3 (24,000’) with Cho Oyu (26,900’) in the distance.

Camp 3 (24,000′)

Sunset & Cho Oyu (26,900′) from Camp 3 (24,000′)

We practiced on and off again with our oxygen during the night to get used to it, but we mostly slept without it. The next morning, we awoke to a gorgeous day and geared up for the ascent to Camp 4 (26,000’) at the south col. I thought I would be ok with oxygen on, but how strange and uncomfortable it really was for me to get used to. I felt I could breathe better at 25,000’ without it and so took it off a bit; however, I know I would need it higher up, so I tried my hardest to get used to it and did eventually. I have never been scuba diving or had a mask and thus the feeling of claustrophobia. Nevertheless, I got used to it. We crossed the infamous “yellow band” and then up the Geneva Spur after having been nearly missed by a rock falling down the Lhotse Couloir. We had some amazing views of Cho Oyu (26,900’) & Pumori (23,500’) below from 25,000’ on the Geneva Spur.  It was cool to now be looking down on Pumori after having looked up at it for so long from lower elevations on the mountain.

Me climbing the Geneva Spur at 25,000′ en route to Camp 4

Kristine on oxygen at Camp 4 (26,000′)

We trudged into Camp 4 at the south col around 2pm. I took my mask off for the walk across the south col to our tents and boy could I feel the altitude…truly amazing how little oxygen is up there and how hard it is to function without it. It just increases my admiration for those that can climb Everest without oxygen (Reinhold Messner, Ed Viesturs, etc). Our 4-person tent at Camp 4 was jam packed with 5 of us (me, Kristine, Rob, James, & Fi). The most crowded in a tent I have ever been and all at 26,000’! The plan was to leave for the summit at 9pm that night on May 23. After dozing a bit while breathing oxygen, snacking, hydrating, and listening to the howling wind outside, it was 7pm and we all geared up one at a time. There wasn’t enough room for all of us to get ready simultaneously. It didn’t look to good outside and the wind and snow had not backed down. We gave it a shot anyway with our sherpas and made it up to around 26,500’ before calling it due to blizzard conditions. If we had gone much further, we wouldn’t have enough oxygen available for a second attempt the following night. We passed my buddy Mike Horst and his AAI group on the way down and they agreed it was pretty bad weather with low visibility but they pressed on. They had already been at Camp 4 for 2 days and this was their final shot. Fortunately, their team ended up making the summit and all descended safely. We got back to our tent after midnight and felt pretty bummed and defeated. Sucking oxygen on and off again all night and the next day was pretty darn miserable. Just being up at that altitude is so wearing and taxing on the body…you can literally feel yourself deteriorating. Kristine & I had an appetite, which was a good thing, and drank as much as possible. That rest day, May 24, was James’ 31st birthday, and Kristine had made him a card and snuck it up in her pack. He was excited despite being at 26,000’ on Everest. We called our families via our satellite phone and let them know the situation. That day, one could hardly get out of the tent because of the wind and cold. Rob and I spoke with Dave Hahn and he said his team was going for the top that night at 11pm. Good enough for us, we thought!

Camp 4 (26,000′) at the south col

Sunrise over Tibet from 28,000′ on Everest’s southeast ridge

So, we geared up again one at a time around 8pm that 2nd night at Camp 4 and departed around 11pm after the RMI crew did. Rich Sr & Rich Jr and their sherpas had started an hour before us as well. James, Kristine, & I along with our sherpas were able to pass the RMI crew on the climb to the Balcony (27,500’) and a few others afterwards on the southeast ridge to the south summit (28,700’). I had left my boots in the vestibule of our tent prior to our departure from the south col and felt the mistake of doing so all morning long during our climb in the dark. My boot liners were in my sleeping bag but the cold of my outer boots radiated to my feet and despite my foot warmers, my toes were extremely cold the entire ascent. I continued to wiggle my toes every step and I truly believe this helped prevent serious frostbite. I did end up getting frostnip on my left big toe but it was nothing that wouldn’t heal completely. You could really experience the benefit of having your down suits or parka/pant combination during this ascent through the night as it was very cold – perhaps, 20 degrees below zero.

Lhotse (27,900′) from Everest’s south summit (28,700′)

Rich Sr & Padawa start the last 400′ to Everest’s summit

Its really hard to tell who is who up at 27,000’ in the dark with everyone’s down suits on and oxygen masks. After some intense scrambling up a few vertical rock pitches on the southeast ridge and jumaring up the fixed ropes, we finally topped out on the south summit at 28,700’ at sunrise. It was spectacular…truly amazing! Kristine, James, & myself switched to our 2nd oxygen tanks at the south summit and saw Rich Sr and his sherpa, Padawa, beginning the traverse over to the Hillary Step in front of us.

Kristine’s self-portrait on the summit of Everest (29,035′)

Kristine on the summit of Everest (29,035′)

The Hillary Step didn’t appear to be all that difficult. It seemed the rock pitches between the Balcony & south summit were much more difficult and tiring. Above the Hillary Step, the summit was probably only 10 minutes away if you were at 8,000’. However, it took a lot of energy and determination to keep going that last 200 vertical feet or so. However, once we saw the Birrers on top, I knew we would make it. I reached the summit at 6am on May 25. James summitted about 10 minutes after me and Kristine followed. It was a surreal moment and you almost couldn’t believe it. I’ve compared it to dreaming, but I sure hope I wasn’t dreaming. I called my dad from the top of the world, which was very special for the both of us. It wasn’t a bluebird day by any means but was good enough!

Me on the summit of Everest (29,035′)

Kristine & I on the summit of Everest (29,035′)

We stayed on the summit of Everest for about 20 minutes, picked up a few summit rocks, and then headed down for we could tell the winds were picking up and our sherpas looked concerned. We passed the RMI crew below the Hillary Step and continued over to the south summit where we met Rob & Fi who were on their way up. They congratulated us and we wished them much luck and success. The descent to the south col was quick and once down we started packing up our gear and tents. Within an hour or two after arriving back at Camp 4, we started descending to Camp 2. This was by far the most tiring part of the day. Kristine and I descended together while the Birrers & James left way before us and Rob & Fi were still descending to the south col from the summit. We stayed on oxygen for the descent to Camp 3 as we had plenty left over from summitting and we believe this helped our energy levels in order to continue descending.  Nevertheless, the entire descent of the Lhotse face was extremely taxing on our feet and knees. The oxygen masks went on our backpacks at Camp 3 and it was definitely a relief for me to be breathing 100% ambient air once again.

Kristine leaving Camp 4 after summitting Everest

Kristine rapelling down the Yellow Band

We finally arrived at Camp 2 (21,000’) in the late afternoon of our summit day. The descent was completely exhausting but we were so glad we did that and had the energy to do so. We trudged into AAI’s camp and Mike Horst’s crew congratulated us and we did the same to them. They had returned to Camp 2 that morning after spending the previous night at Camp 4 after summitting Everest the day before we did. They gave us some tea and snacks which were definitely welcomed. We then descended one last time back through the Khumbu Icefall on May 26 to basecamp. A very expansive crevasse had opened up while we were high on the mountain when ice blocks that were wedged into the crevasse cracked and fell further down the crevasse. A Spanish lady hadn’t clipped in and fell when these blocks fell. She fell 90’ and had to be airlifted out of the Icefall. The result was that the “icefall doctors” (sherpas) had rigged 4 horizontal ladders together that spanned about 80’ over a deep crevasse. Wish I had taken some pics but just wanted to get through it. It was a bit nerve-wracking to say the least after the last 72 hours of straight climbing.

It felt tremendous to be back at basecamp. Fi’s feet were pretty blistered and bruised that she didn’t think she could walk out. So she coordinated with the doctors at basecamp and her insurance company and milked them for a helicopter ride out of basecamp. She pulled it off and her insurance company gladly paid for and sent the chopper. Fi asked Kristine and I to ride with her since she could have two companions! What a treat! I’ve never been in a chopper and probably never will again, but that’s ok because I don’t see how you can beat a chopper ride out of Everest basecamp, through the Khumbu Valley, and all the way to Kathmandu. Its amazing how fast you can descend Everest and just how long it takes to go up. Kristine, Fi, & I were sort of shell-shocked suddenly arriving back in Kathmandu, but we quickly found a hotel with a bar and outdoor pool and enjoyed every minute of it. Rob joined us in Kathmandu several days later after having completed and what we started calling his “double-double”, i.e. two Everest summits in a single season in 2007 & 2010. No other westerner has done this. I think he’s trying to catch up to Kenton Cool’s 8 summits for the most summits by a British person…we shall see.

After 7 days in Kathmandu, we were ready to be home and changed our flights to come home early. Gathering presents for friends and family, walking around Thamel, and organizing our gear bags to be shipped home filled most of our days. Kristine & I also both had incredibly bad coughs, sore throats, and constricted throats due to the high, cold air and pure oxygen we were breathing for so long. Kathmandu’s pollution didn’t seem to help that. So, we figured we needed to get back to Colorado as soon as possible for some good, clean air that was relatively humid (when compared to air at 29,000′).

Our team at basecamp (Back row left to right: Kristine, me, Rich Jr, Rich Sr; Front row left to right: Fi, Rob, James

Me & Kristine on a late night rickshaw ride through Kathmandu en route to a casino with our RMI & AAI friends.

Everest was indeed the trip of a lifetime and was such an amazing experience primarily because Kristine and I did it together. We were there for each other the entire time and realize we each contributed to the other’s success in this way. Would we do it again? Probably not, but never say never, right? If the right opportunity arises, we probably wouldn’t say “no”. There are several other mountains in the Khmbu region that caught our eye for future climbs. The front-runner being Ama Dablam.  As for now, we’re enjoying summer here in Colorado, climbing 12ers, 13ers, & 14ers and planning a Kilimanjaro climb with friends and family in summer 2011 to continue our 7 Summits endeavor.

Below are our UPDATES FROM EVEREST written by Dave Levinson:

May 29 – Brandon and Kristine are in Kathmandu at a hotel eating, relaxing and lounging by the pool. Both are still really excited about summitting! They were able to catch a helicopter ride out of base camp with one of their fellow climbers and said it was great to avoid the hike out of Base Camp. Both are doing well but have some pretty bad sore throats, congestion, and horse voices from the high, cold, dry air up on Everest.  They’re both on antibiotics, so hopefully it will clear up soon with the hot, humid weather of Kathmandu. They are going to spend a few days in Kathmandu while they wait for the sherpas to bring their gear down and then will travel a bit or head back to Colorado.

May 27 (evening on Everest) – Brandon and Kristine made it back to Base Camp and have been resting there. They are both exhausted from summitting and the climb back down to Base Camp. They are packing up their gear and will begin the 3 day climb off the mountain soon.

May 27 (morning on Everest) – Brandon and Kristine rested at Camp 4 for an hour or so after summitting then headed to lower elevation as climbers should only be at such high altitudes for 38 hours. They made it down to Camp 2 where they slept until the morning. They are really excited with their successful summiting and will head back to Base Camp soon.

May 26 (10am on Everest) –  Brandon and Kristine summitted this morning! They are both back at Camp 4, exhausted but are very happy! They are going to rest for a few hours then go down to Camp 3 where they can eat, hydrate and sleep. They will give us another update when they can.

May 24 (early morning on Everest) – Brandon and Kristine started their summit climb early in the morning but had to return to Camp 4 three hours into the climb due to blizzard conditions (heavy wind and snow). They will try to summit again tomorrow.

May 23 (evening on Everest) – Brandon and Kristine checked in at 10AM EST Sunday. They arrived at Camp 4 (26,000 ft) five hours ago and they are going to leave for the summit in less than 2 hours! The next 10-12 hours will be crucial in their attempt to Summit. They are both doing well! There is light snow, but no winds, which is good for their summit climb.

May 22 (evening on Everest) – Brandon and Kristine are at High Camp 3 (there’s a High & Low Camp at 3). They are at 24,000 ft and are watching a spectacular sunset! Tomorrow, they will climb to Camp 4, spend 5-6 hours there, then push to Summit (leave about 9pm). They both feel really good at the high altitude and have not had to use oxygen yet. They thanked everyone for all the support! They also said the weather looks great for the next few days, with low or no winds. Stay tuned for their next update!

May 20 (afternoon) – Brandon and Kristine arrived at Camp 2 on May 19. They are going to Camp 3 on May 22  and then are hoping for a Summit on May 24th! They sounded good and they are both doing great. Stay tuned for the next update!

May 13 (afternoon) – Brandon and Kristine hiked down to Pheriche (14,500 ft) for a day or two of rest before returning to Base Camp. They have been passing the time at Base Camp by hiking to Pumori Advanced basecamp at 19,000′ every other day, ice climbing on the seracs in the Khumbu icefall, hanging out with their buddy Mike who is a guide for Alpine Ascents, reading, eating, and just trying to stay sane and patient and keep their psyche up.  It looks like their weather window for summitting is going to happen starting May 22.  That means they will leave basecamp on May 18 at the earliest, climb directly to camp 2 (21,000′), have a rest day there, climb the Lhotse Face again to camp 3 (23,500′) on May 20, climb to camp 4 (25,500′) on May 21, and hopefully summit on May 22. They’ll be on oxygen from camp 3 on.  The timing could be pushed back a day or two for weather purposes or to avoid crowds.

May 10 (8am Tuesday on Everest) – Brandon and Kristine have been in Base Camp for the last week waiting for the weather to improve high on Everest. They have been ice climbing and hiking during the day to stay active and are doing well. They really appreciate all the text messages. They are currently hoping to leave Base Camp on May 19 with a potential summit attempt on May 23 if the long-term forecast holds. They will give us another update once the plans are more firm.

May 3 (8am Monday on Everest) – Brandon and Kristine have been in Base Camp the last five days. They were planning to head to Camp 2 on Tuesday to begin their summit climb but there was a big snow storm Saturday/Sunday so they have to postpone. Their leader is currently trying to figure out the best plan and determine the next suitable weather window for the summit climb. The next window may start as early as May 5 but could also be later. Depending on when they will get their weather window, they will wait at Base Camp or head down to the valley for a couple of days.  They will give an update once they know more. They also thanked everyone for the text messages of support!

April 28 (8am Thursday on Everest) – Brandon and Kristine returned to base camp two days ago after spending five days/nights at Camp 2 (21k ft). While at Camp 2, they were successful at climbing up the Lhotse Face to Camp 3 (23,300 ft), which was the highest they have ever climbed! They will now spend a week or two in base camp waiting for their summit weather window and hope to begin the summit climb in the first or second week of May. They said that all is going well and that they are looking forward to beginning their summit climb!

April 23 (8am on Everest) – Brandon and Kristine yesterday completed a nine hour climb up to Camp 2 (bypassing Camp 1) and spent the night at Camp 2 (21k feet). They said sleeping at 21k feet was not enjoyable because of the altitude and are hoping it gets easier to sleep at that elevation. They are going to spend the next several days/nights at Camp 2. They will also try to climb to Camp 3 (23k ft) from Camp 2 before returning to Base Camp, where they will spend their time waiting for the appropriate weather window to attempt to summit Everest. They also wanted to thank everyone again for all the text messages!

April 18 (8am on Everest) – Brandon and Kristine spent the last two days at Camp 1 (18,500 ft). On Saturday, they climbed up to Camp 2 (21,000 ft, which was an altitude record for Kristine) and then returned all the way to Base Camp. They said the climb went really well but was very tiring! They are going to spend the next few days taking a much needed rest in Base Camp. The initial climb to Camp 1 from Base Camp was through the Khumbu Ice Fall and they said it was really beautiful and they have some great pictures! They also thanked everyone again for the text messages. Unfortunately, they can’t reply to them all but they are saving them all.

April 13 – Brandon and Kristine have been in base camp for the last couple of days. Today, they hiked the safe part of the Khumbu Ice Fall (18,000ft) and practiced walking on some of the ladders in their gear (no problems). They are going to spend the next two days around base camp and then head up to Camp 1 after the Puja ceremony on April 15, which blesses all the climbers on the mountain. They also said its been fantastic to receive all the text messages from everyone at home! They really appreciate everyone’s support!

April 9 – Brandon and Kristine are back in Periche after spending a few days down in Pangboche, where they were able to have their first shower since arriving (12 days in). While there, they relaxed and hiked up to Ama Dablam basecamp and a bit above (16,000ft), which was gorgeous, but perhaps not a mountain that is on their list in the near future for climbing. Their trekking buddies from Quebec (Ann and Martine) headed home, but they have now met up with Fiona and James, who will be climbing Everest with them. Their excitement is growing as they meet others and get closer to the climb.  They will head all the way to basecamp tomorrow and will give us an update once settled and once the internet is setup at base camp.

April 6 – Brandon and Kristine are back down in Periche at 13,500′ on their way to Pangboche (Ang Nuru’s hometown) to spend a day or two.  They have spent the last several days higher up at Lobuche, Gorak Shep and hiked up Kala Pathar (18,500′) two days ago. They also hiked to Everest basecamp yesterday (17,500′), saw their expedition camp being setup by the sherpas, ate a sherpa-prepared lunch and saw their home for the next month and a half at Base Camp. The basecamp looks great and the cook tent and mess tents are already up. They reported it was gorgeous up there and the khumbu icefall will be their first challenge.  They were told that due to the dry season and lack of snow that most of ice seracs have already fallen down, so hopefully it will be safer this year.  Basecamp doesn’t officially open until April 10 which is they are heading back down to Pangboche for a few nights.

April 2 – Kristine & Brandon are in Periche and getting closer to basecamp everyday! They have enjoyed some amazing views of Everest and have skirted around the base of Ama Dablam which they said is equally impressive.

March 30 –  Kristine & Brandon report that they are loving the trek into basecamp so far. They flew into Lukla from Kathmandu two days ago and are climbing with Rob and his good friend and climbing sherpa, Ang Nuru Sherpa, as well as a few other friends. The first day they trekked to Monjo and spent the night, then moved on to Namche the following day.  Although they are only at about 11,000 feet, it is quite high for some of the trekkers and they’ve spent the day in Namche acclimatizing.  Tomorrow they will move on to Pangboche which is actually Ang Nuru’s hometown and they are looking forward to meeting his family.   They may or may not have email before basecamp but said there really shouldn’t be anything too eventful between now and then. They are enjoying the splendid views of the mountains and the local  cuisine, dahl bat (rice with lentils and potatoes).  They are hoping to give us an update again in 5-6 days.