Everest - A Higher Learning Experience
Camp II, Mt. Everest, Nepal

Clear, little wind.

Wednesday May 19, 2004

Ben Webster

Hi there… I am feeling tired from being at this altitude for so long and also for not having much sleep while the Team was doing their summit push a few days ago. At this altitude, you really cannot catch up on any sleep until you go down to Base Camp, and actually moving lower than Base Camp is even more effective. I get some sleep here at Camp II, but the higher you climb, the less you can sleep because the air is so thin. Not only do you have a lousy sleep, but you just don’t get the deep sleep you actually need.

Shaunna and I are planning our push but we are concerned about the weather patterns that we are seeing with a lot of snow on its way. We require another weather report but at this time, we have had to push our summit climb one day. We are going to leave Camp II May 21 and climb to Camp III. We will leave for the South Col on the 22nd and climb to Camp IV and if the weather is clear, we will complete our summit climb on May 23rd. Once we have another weather report we will make our final decision. It may be the 24th that we actually make our move to the Summit.

I sat with a Sherpa climber today who advised me of some breaking news. I do not have all the details; however we may have very sad news coming from Everest today with the potential of a fatality. I will know more in the coming hours, however if what we are hearing is true, it appears that an American climber is missing and presumed dead. I understand he was climbing with a Nepali outfitter.

What I know is that this climber broke down above the balcony (over 8000m). He appeared to have been suffering from severe cerebral edema. People who met him (an Argentinean climber and a the Climbing Sherpa that I have just spoken with) gave him liquid but they could not get him to move. This is one of the most difficult decisions a climber is forced to make and one that the Argentinean and climbing Sherpa would have had to make. They would have had to ask themselves, “Do we stay another hour to keep trying to move this person and quite likely also die, or do we move down and survive”? We cannot pass judgment on this decision because it is one that most of us will ever have to make and it is one that these two climbers will live with.

This is a reminder of the danger of climbing Mt. Everest. Those who suggest that climbing Everest is becoming easy and trivial… really have no idea what they are talking about. In the past week, there have been several life-saving rescues and had it not been for the unwritten rule that saving another climber is always the first priority, there would have been more casualties. Our prayers are with the climber’s family, his climbing Team and the two climbers who had to move down to save themselves.

We are preparing for the summit, knowing that we must have all of our focus on the climb and all resources in place to be safe and successful.

We have sent spectacular summit pictures back to Algonquin College. We hope you enjoy them and look for new photos of Shaunna’s summit bid in the coming days.