It’s that magical time of the year when climbers from all over the world converge on Kathmandu and head up the Khumbu Valley, and elsewhere, to pursue their Himalayan dreams. For the third time in four years, count me amongst them.
I feel very fortunate that many things have conspired to allow me to return to this majestic place yet again, including a generous sponsorship from Q-Force (a terrific, Quercetin-based chew that helps build endurance, promote recovery from strenuous work-outs, sharpen mental acuity and boost the immune system). With Nepal’s Ministry of Tourism finally approving the recognition of our “unused” 2014 permits for Everest & Lhotse, all of the pieces have fallen into place, including the return of my stellar team from last year.
Mike Moniz, of the father-son team, will not be returning this year with us since he climbed Everest & Lhotse as a member of my 2012 Everest expedition. Therefore, I will be returning with his 17 year-old son, Matt (an exceptionally strong climber), and expedition leader extraordinaire, Willie Benegas. As a strong and nimble team of three, we will be going in a little later than usual, beginning our trek through the Khumbu in mid-April (most Everest teams are arriving in Kathmandu as I write this). This should put us in position for a late-May summit attempt of Everest (29,035′) and then Lhotse (27,940′).
And, if climbing two of the four tallest peaks in the world in one push wasn’t enough of a challenge, conditions permitting, Matt & Willie will attempt to be the first to ski down the Lhotse Couloir back to Camp II (skiing from 27,940′ to 21,500′ down the Lhotse Couloir and Lhotse Face – the steep, snow-covered face on the central peak in the photo above). I will gladly serve as witness and videographer for that portion of the expedition, as that’s a bit out of my pay-grade at this stage.
A highlight of this year’s expedition will be having Carla join me for the trek to Everest base camp, which by itself is more than a two-week journey from 9,300′ up to 17,500′ through the many welcoming villages of the Khumbu Valley. Additionally, we’re hopeful that she will be able to attend our puja ceremony, once at base camp, where we ask for permission and safe passage during our climb. In 2012, we did a two-week journey through India and the Kathmandu Valley on my way to climb Everest. Last year, in 2014, she met me in Thailand for a week of R&R on beautiful Kata Noi beach after my successful ascent of Cho Oyu (26,906′) while the team awaited final approval from the Chinese to climb Everest from the North side (an approval that never came). The trek through the Khumbu Valley is one that she has always wanted to do, so this year’s expedition, hopefully, will culminate in both of us realizing a lifelong dream.
We depart in a little more than two weeks, so things are a bit hectic as we finalize preparations. That said, I am getting up to the hills to train quite a bit with my trusty climbing partner, Camden, who never complains about the wind, weather, snow conditions or anything else. A quick treat and scratch of the belly and he’s ready for whatever the day has in store for us (wouldn’t it be great if we were all so amenable). We’ve climbed a dozen or so peaks in the past few weeks, with many more to follow prior to departure, so he’s doing a fine job of getting me ready for another Himalayan season. More to follow, and I will try to keep this blog up-to-date as the expedition and connectivity allow.