As most of you know, our intent was to climb Cho Oyu as a more ambitious and interesting way to acclimatize for our planned attempts of Everest and Lhotse. Unfortunately (on so many levels), the tragedy that struck the south side/Nepal side of Everest this year (and subsequent Sherpa strike that ended the climbing season on Everest’s south side) rendered those parts of our plan irrelevant.
With our plans no longer intact, we quickly shifted our sights to climb the North side/Chinese side of Everest. However, the Chinese proved determined not to provide us a permit to climb Everest, via their territory, despite the fact that we had a Chinese visa that was good through 5/31/2014 and we were already climbing Cho Oyu on their soil — only miles from Everest base camp. We had extraordinarily senior-level contacts from the US reach out to counterparts in the Chinese government at Ministry levels (essentially the equivalent of Cabinet-level positions in the US government), who then advocated on our behalf. Still, rather unbelievably, to no avail. Perhaps, the US’s pivot to Asia didn’t help our efforts or our recent indictment of senior Chinese generals for cyber-crimes. Regardless, they remained steadfast and the answer remained “no.” Thus far, anyway.
So, we then looked into other options to continue our goal to climb multiple 8,000m peaks (over 26,250′ tall) in a continuous push. We decided on Makalu (the world’s 5th highest peak) since there were teams there climbing already that would make an alpine push to the summit over a few days more feasible. Unfortunately, the logistics, infrastructure and team required to do so proved problematic and expensive. Therefore, our team has only sent Matt Moniz and Willie Benegas to Makalu to make an attempt over the next several days (they arrived at Makalu’s Advanced Base Camp today), while Mike Moniz and I continue to work toward a Chinese permit to climb Everest — however unlikely it is at this point. We are acclimatized, and will remain so for a couple of weeks, should the elusive permit be granted, and we continue to hope against hope to get a chance regardless of how unlikely it is.
To that end, I remain in the region on the off-chance that a permit is granted, but departed Nepal today for Thailand. I am meeting my beautiful girlfriend, Carla, in Bangkok tonight and we will continue on to the beaches of Phuket, Thailand, for a few days of R&R until our flights home on 5/31 or the Chinese grant us permission to attempt Everest via the north side. So, the clock is ticking either way, but should the Everest answer remain “no,” at least we’ll make the most of it. And there is nothing like trying to negotiate with the Chinese while in the midst of a military coup in Thailand!!! At least the beaches are beautiful…
Please wish us luck, especially Willie & Matt while they are on Makalu, and I’ll continue to keep you posted as things develop.