By clicking the picture above, you will be taken to my complete photo narrative of our 2014 expedition on the world’s 6th tallest peak, Cho Oyu (Turquoise Goddess). It was a great expedition with an exceptional group of people, however, the Himalayan season was not without its challenges.
As you well know by now, we headed to the Himalayas with the highly ambitious goal of climbing three of the world’s six tallest peaks in one push (Cho Oyu, Everest and Lhotse). Our plans were derailed by a horrific tragedy, a work stoppage and global geo-politics, as we worked feverishly to get a permit to climb Everest from the North side (Tibetan/Chinese side) once the South side in Nepal shut down after the serac collapse that tragically killed 13 Sherpas and 3 Nepalese porters. To this end, we had incredibly high-level contacts in the US government contact their counterparts in the Chinese government to lobby on our behalf. Despite calls to the Chinese Mountaineering Authority on our behalf from extremely high-level Chinese Generals, Chinese foreign ministers, etc., a permit was not forthcoming with our only reply or explanation being a simple “no.”
So, Matt Moniz and Willie Benegas continued our team’s mission (as we didn’t have the financial resources necessary to send all four of us) by changing gears completely and climbing Makalu, the world’s 5th tallest peak, in a record-setting, 3-day alpine push. Meanwhile, Mike Moniz continued his extraordinary efforts to attain an Everest permit for the team. At this point, I remained in the region, by relaxing and recovering on the beaches of Thailand with Carla (an exceptional way to recover from a big climb), in case our Hail Mary efforts shook free the ever-elusive North-side Everest permit. After waiting nearly a week and the spring Himalayan climbing season quickly coming to a close due to the imminent arrival of the Indian monsoon to the Himalayas, it was time to fly home. I made it home on 5/31, and Mike & Matt Moniz soon followed. And, with that, our Himalayan season came to an end with the team climbing the 5th & 6th highest peaks in the world, but leaving some unfinished business for us all.
I think we all believe strongly that our team would have accomplished our goal of climbing three 8,000 meter peaks in one push had the South side season on Everest not ended in tragedy, as it did, or if the Chinese had simply granted us a permit to climb the North side of Everest. The team was strong, determined, acclimatized and in good health coming off our successful climb of Cho Oyu, which made the circumstances that were well beyond our control sting that much more. It’s one thing when you’re unable to climb due to illness, physical exhaustion, inability, poor conditions/weather, etc. and it’s a whole other thing to be denied your dream by nameless, faceless bureaucrats. Perhaps, if nothing else, it keeps the name of this blog relevant and a return trip to Everest, yet again, possible. We’ll see what the future holds, but this season’s frustrations and successes will have to suffice for now. It was certainly a season of ups-and-downs, but I am thankful for the incredible climb of Cho Oyu and the camaraderie of my teammates, which will make the good memories far outweigh the frustrations of this adventure.