Thursday, December 24, 2009
Thursday, June 4, 2009
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Thursday, May 28, 2009
As you have probably guessed because of the lack of a phone call, we are on the move. The day after I last called you (the day of the huge snow storm) it dawned perfectly clear and Russell got us all out of bed early and told us to get packed. I've never packed in such a hurry and within an hour and a half we were headed out of base camp and on our way. It was pretty tricky going for the first half of the day because the trail was covered with so much packed snow. As we slowly descended the snow turned to slush and it became very sloppy and wet but we didn't care because we are headed home! At about the 14,000' elevation grass and small bushes began to appear. That is always such a great sight after being in a lifeless land for so long. It was a very long day but after all the time acclimatizing at 17,000' I felt like I was getting drunk on air. It really feels great. We spent the night at Pangboche, which I am guessing is about 18 or so miles from base camp, at around 13,000'. We are below the snowline and it is absolutely beautiful. There are evergreen trees and grass and bushes. I'm suffering from sensory overload. It was nice for the first time in two months to not wake up in the night gasping for breath.
Today we walked for about 4 hours in a drizzle and have arrived and Namche Bazaar. It has changed since we were here two months ago. With the recent rain, all the fields around the town have turned green. The trekking season has pretty much ended so the place feels like a ghost town. Tomorrow we walk to Lukla and spend the night and hope for good weather the next morning so we can fly to Kathmandu.
As we have been walking I have thought a lot about what climbing Everest means to me. It still hasn't hit me what I have accomplished and perhaps it won't until I get home. All my life I feel like I have struggled with my ability to complete what I start. I have had many goals in my life that I have started and then allowed to fall by the wayside. This has taught me that I do have the ability to follow through if I want to enough. It is totally up to me. This probably sounds trite but I have learned that I can be a finisher and not just a starter.
Sorry I haven't sent any more photos. With the big snowstorm I spent so much time dealing with keeping my tent cleared off (so it wouldn’t collapse) and other housekeeping issues that I didn't get a chance. My laptop computer is packed away now and hopefully on its way, on the back of a yak, to Kathmandu, so I don't have a way to resize my photos and send them from here. They are so huge that I don't think I could send them full size. You'll have to wait until I get to KTM.
Keep your fingers crossed for good weather two days from now. I'll call you as soon as I can.
Okay, this is Janet again. Isn't it interesting how we judge ourselves so much more harshly than others judge us? I have never thought of Bruce as someone who didn't see things through, in fact to me he's exactly the opposite . . .
I will continue to update the blog at least until Bruce gets home, so that he can add his own thoughts and share some experiences and add some photos. At this point I'm not sure what day he'll be getting home. He will call from Kathmandu and then I get to start working on changing his flight itinerary. I imagine it will be sometime next week. I'll let everyone know as soon as I know.
Monday, May 25, 2009
Anyway, as the climbers came into base camp they were greeted by a huge crowd of the climbers in group one, the sherpas, sherpa cook staff, guides, etc., all banging on pots and pans and shouting congratulations. He said it was pretty fun. As we were talking some other climbers came into camp and I could actually hear the pot-banging through the phone.
He says he's lost weight and has the usual dry cough that always occurs at high altitude, but other than that he feels great, and still has all his fingers and toes. He will be home earlier than June 10th, which was the projected date, so that's good news, but we're not sure exactly what day at this point. He said he might email some pictures for me to post, so if you want to keep checking you can watch for those. I think I'll keep this blog going at least long enough for Bruce to add some of his own thoughts when he gets home.
Thanks everyone, so much, for all the prayers and good wishes. It has helped more than you know. You can't imagine how relieved we are and how proud I am of Bruce!
Saturday, May 23, 2009
He borrowed someone's sat phone and called at 3:15 a.m. this morning to let us know that he had made it and was back at the South Col (Camp 4). Still very high, and still using oxygen, he will spend the night there, then head to Camp 2 for one night, then back to base camp. He will call from base camp with much more information.
When I asked how he did, he said, "Oh, it was hard. I struggled, but it was so worth it." He said the weather was a little dicey at the summit; cloudy, windy and very cold. He said he feels good, and he sounded good (strong, healthy, no coughing) to me, and very happy. He said, "We still have a long, steep descent ahead, and we have to go back through the ice fall, but I don't anticipate any problems."
I will post again after he calls from base camp, probably Sunday. Right now I have to go do something -- cartwheels maybe . . . : )
Friday, May 22, 2009
The other morning, KSL ran a little news spot on Bruce. They had interviewed me on the phone the day before, and didn't tell me that they would actually use part of that interview in the news spot, but they did. I don't love to hear myself recorded, but oh well. And it was pretty short, thankfully, so I didn't have time to sound too stupid. Anyway, the newscasters made the comment that "he didn't take the satellite phone with him," and then at the end of the report, they joked, kind of sarcastically, about "What kind of guy goes to Everest and forgets to take the phone?"
If you logged on to KSL.com and listened to the story there, it was a completely different news person who did it, interestingly enough, and he didn't make a joke, but he also said that Bruce "didn't take the phone."
What I had said to them was that he didn't take the phone with him "to the summit," not that he didn't take the phone at all. The whole experience made me realize two things:
1. This is why I am squeamish about having articles or news stories done about all of this, and
2. Maybe everyone is wondering why he didn't take the phone to the summit, so I'll try to explain.
A satellite phone is not like a cell phone, it's bigger and weighs more. When you're at that kind of altitude, working so hard to just put one foot in front of the other, sometimes having to stop and breathe several times before you can even take another step, every extra ounce that you're carrying on your back makes a difference. There is a fair amount of gear that you simply have to carry, but anything extra could be a liability. Bruce and I together decided that he shouldn't take it with him to the summit, and I would endure until he could call me (most likely when he returned to base camp).
Of course I would love it if he had it. I would love to have gotten a phone call from the summit of Mt. Everest. I would love to not be sitting here wondering where he is and if he has made it or not -- but I wanted him to be able to fully concentrate on what he is doing, rather than worrying about calling me, having to take his gloves off for even a minute to make the call, having to take his oxygen mask off while he talked to me -- you get the picture.
So here we are. If everything is going perfectly according to plan, he should have made the summit by now and be on his way back to Camp 4. I hope, I hope, I hope. I promise I will update this blog the minute I hear anything -- and many of you will probably get a phone call. Thank you so much for all the support and concern and prayers and good wishes. It means more than you can imagine.
Sunday, May 17, 2009
Monday, May 11, 2009
I pulled this video off of another group's daily dispatches from Everest. It's the group that includes Ed Viesturs, the well-known climber that Bruce mentioned he had seen in the airport in Bangkok. It shows what the weather is doing right now, and why they are waiting before they try for the summit. Interestingly, this video mentions that their weather equipment missed this storm, but Russell Brice saw it coming and made sure that all of the Himex climbers were safely back at base camp before it hit.
Bruce is feeling better every day and hoping these days of waiting will give him time to get over his lung congestion. Right now they are sort of predicting that the weather will break around the 18th, 19th, somewhere in there. Stay tuned.
Thursday, May 7, 2009
The next time they head up the mountain will be with the intent to summit, and as of right now it's looking like the weather window for that is at least a week out. Bruce is glad for the chance to relax and regroup. He has had a lingering cough from the cold he had early on, and while he did great and felt very strong getting to camps one and two, he struggled a little bit the day they went to camp three. The camp doctor at base camp has given him some antibiotics, and he has several days now to rest, so we're hoping it doesn't prohibit him from performing well when it comes time for the summit push.
Apparently six or seven of the original climbers have quit and gone home, a couple of them because they simply could not face going through the ice fall. Russell (their guide) has divided them up into two groups -- the faster climbers and the slower climbers. Bruce was placed into the faster group but wanted to remain tentmates with a friend who is in the slower group -- so basically he's traveling with the slower group, but he's the fastest guy in that group : )
I've tried very hard not to put my opinions or thoughts into this blog -- my intent is purely to keep everyone informed of Bruce's progress. However, I want everyone to know how much it means to us both that you are keeping him in your thoughts and wishing him well. This is a hard thing he's doing -- physically, mentally, emotionally -- and while he made the choice to do it (and I made the choice to support him) that doesn't make it any less hard. So thanks for your positive thoughts in his direction, and if you could just keep them coming for a couple more weeks . . .
Friday, May 1, 2009
He said that the whole group was feeling a little anxious about this first trip through the ice fall. I can't even imagine doing it in the dark, but I guess they needed an early start -- I had been asleep when he called and didn't get up to take notes like I usually do, so I'm a little fuzzy about the details here. A little anxiety is not necessarily a bad thing -- it will certainly make them more careful -- but I have to say that when I went to the internet to throw some pictures of the ice fall on here, I had a little anxiety of my own.
Sunday, April 26, 2009
I was actually a little surprised at the lack of snow at the top of the mountain, but Greg tells me the wind almost always scours it clean of snow at the very top. Their route will go up the skyline that you can see on the right, most of which is hidden by the mountain in the foreground.
Bruce says he feels great and is acclimating well. The first time they climbed Lobuche, they weren't carrying any weight, and yet it still felt like an effort. This second time, because were spending the night on the summit, they had to carry their gear (tents, sleeping bags, food, etc.) Even though he was carrying a fair amount of weight, he said the climb felt easier this time, so he's adjusting to the altitude. They'll have a couple of days rest now at base camp, and then he thinks they'll start acclimating on Everest itself. They don't have a specific schedule yet, but will most likely go up to camp two, spend a couple of nights, come back to base camp, rest a bit, go up to camp three, spend a night, then back to camp two, spend a couple of nights -- that sort of thing. He'll let me know more specifically in his next phone call.
He said the weather has been absolutely perfect the entire month of April. It's in the 50's and 60's during the day, and although it usually clouds up and gets a little unsettled at about sunset, there has been none of that. Hope that continues for another few weeks!
Monday, April 20, 2009
He still has a cough, but says half the team does also, and nobody seems to be very worried about it, including Bruce. There's still quite a bit of time before they really have to get serious about summiting, and he seems to be acclimating just fine in spite of it, so I'm choosing not to fret.
He said he spent the morning "leveling out his tent base." He said at first glance the base camp at Everest looks like it's all rock, but it's a glacier, and it tends to melt and shift under the tent, which makes sleeping uncomfortable after a while, so he worked on that this morning. In the afternoon, they were going to practice on a ladder course that the sherpas have set up to get some practice crossing crevasses on ladders. Have you seen them do this on TV? They walk across these metal ladders -- sometimes several ladders lashed together -- with a whole lot of NOTHING underneath them, with crampons (i.e. spiky things that could make a person trip) on their feet. You couldn't pay me enough . . .
I discovered that one of the Himex guides is putting Everest newsletters on the Himex website. If you want to read those, click here.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
We’ve now been at base camp for several days. It’s situated on the edge of the Khumbu Glacier, about a 45 minute walk from the start of the icefall, at an elevation of about 17,300 ft. With 29 climbers, Sherpas, cook staff and guides it looks like a small village. There are about a dozen large tents – roughly 12’ X 20’ (used for dining, storage, communications and internet), Sherpa living quarters, kitchen facilities, bathroom/shower facilities and a tent for the Discovery film crew. In addition to those, there are roughly 40 two-person dome tents for all the climbers, guides and trekkers. We each have our own which is nice because it allows each of us to spread out and also have some privacy. We also have a large dome tent to relax in. It’s about 30’ in diameter with carpet, couches, a heater and a large flat panel TV. One side of it has clear windows that look out onto the flanks of Nuptse. We are located about 10 to 15 minutes down the valley from the normal base camp where all the other expeditions are camped. With a group this large we felt it would be best if we stayed a little ways away from everyone else.
The route through the ice fall was completed a couple of days ago by a group of Sherpas known as the “ice fall doctors”. They are paid with a portion of everyone’s permit fee and work through the entire climbing season to maintain the route through the ice fall, which is constantly shifting and moving. It’s a very dangerous job and rumor has it that they’re pretty much always drunk just so they can face the task each day. Right now there are 22 single ladders in all, which isn’t too bad. In most years there are usually a few spots where several ladders have to be lashed together.
Six of our Sherpas left at 4:00 a.m. yesterday to begin carrying gear up to Camp 1 and Camp 2 in the Western Cwm. These guys are amazingly strong. Their round trip time to Camp 2 was around 10 hours, with loads, which I’m pretty sure is faster than I’ll be able to do the one way trip. I guess I’ll find out eventually but not too soon. Most teams acclimatize by making several trips through the ice fall and making their way to progressively higher camps and coming down to base camp each time to recover. We’re going to acclimatize as far as possible by climbing Lobuche Peak (20,070 ft.) at least once and maybe twice which will eliminate at least one round trip through the ice fall. Obviously we’ll eventually have to make the trip through the ice fall for an acclimatization trip and for our summit attempt but that will be several weeks from now.
Just like on Manaslu, I came down with a cold when I arrived at base camp. I’m not alone though. I think about half the people in camp have some form of illness but at 17,300 feet it’s not much fun. I think I’m slowly on the mend and am just trying to take it pretty easy for now. The acclimatization process is very slow so it probably doesn’t seem like much is happening right now, which is true, but it’s one of the most important parts of the climb.
Himex base camp
Looking toward Everest from base camp. The west shoulder of Everest is in the center of the picture. The ice fall is the jumble of ice at the center/lower portion of the mountain. The route goes through the ice fall from left to right into the Western Cwm between Everest and Nuptse. The long strings just above all the dark rock are prayer flags : )
Friday, April 10, 2009
Their group, Himex (short for Himalayan Experience) has actually set up their base camp a short distance away (about a fifteen-minute walk) from the main base camp. Their guide, Russell Brice, did this for a number of good reasons, one of them being the fact that their group is fairly large -- around 60 people including sherpas, guides, etc.) and another being that regular base camp gets to be kind of a zoo, what with all the groups that converge there. If any of you have read the book "High Crimes," you'll understand that being a little removed from the main base camp may also shield them from some of the shenanigans that go on there. I bet my kids are going to tease me about using the word shenanigans : )
Base camp is about 17,700 feet elevation. Bruce says he can see the ice fall from where they are, but has to walk a little ways to see the Western Cwm (pronounced "coom"). Wikipedia has a pretty good description of the route that they will take up the mountain. Click here if you want to read about it, and scroll down to the section called "Southeast Ridge."
They are having a couple of rest days at this point. The majority of their gear was hauled up the mountain in barrels on "yak back" and when they got there, they just unloaded the barrels and threw everything into their tents. Bruce said his tent looked like a bomb went off in it and he was going to spend today (which is over now for him, I guess) organizing everything.
I'm hoping to get an email soon, which will be a lot more detailed than the few minutes we are able to spend on the satellite phone. Stay tuned.
Sunday, April 5, 2009
Bruce called tonight to give me an update. They are in the village of Dingboche, Nepal, which is about 14,400 feet altitude. They arrived there today and will spend one more day there before moving on to the village of Lobuche. He said the landscape is pretty barren (as you can see from the photo below) but the mountain scenery all around them is spectacular.
Apparently a lot of the people in their group are sick with colds or the flu. They are going to great lengths to avoid each other. I told Bruce to wash his hands a LOT, then realized that wouldn't be as easy for him there as it would be here. He said he had been throwing up for a day or two (kept walking of course, just threw up occasionally along the trail -- how fun does that sound) but feels great now, so hopefully he's done with being sick and won't catch anything else.
They are scheduled to reach base camp on the 10th, and he said he probably won't call again until they get there. I'll update when I hear from him.
Thursday, April 2, 2009
Bruce called late last night from the village of Namche Bazaar, pictured above. You can read about it here, if you want. At 11 p.m. for me it was 11 a.m. the next day for him, and they were about ready to head off to the next village, called Khumjung. I'm assuming he's there by now and his itinerary looks like they will stay there two nights before going farther up. Namche Bazaar is at 11,283 feet elevation (if I remember correctly how to convert meters to feet) and Khumjung is 12,660 -- so you get an idea of where he is elevation-wise.
Everything is going well. He said that he had just returned from a hike to the top of the village where you can get your first view of Everest. The bottom part of the mountain is blocked from view, but he was able to see the south summit and the Hilary step.
The photo below is one I pulled off of the internet that is labeled as a first view of Everest from Namche Bazaar. I've read you can also see Cho Oyu, Lhotse, and Ama Dablam from there. Pretty spectacular scenery!
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
While I'm waiting for Bruce to call I thought I'd explain the decor on my porch. When Bruce went to Nepal last fall to climb Manaslu, he brought home some Tibetan prayer flags. I decided I wanted to hang them up in honor of Bruce's trip to Everest, so here they are.
The five colors of the flags represent the elements and are arranged from left to right in a specific order: blue (sky/space), white (air/wind), red (fire), green (water), and yellow (earth). There are prayers, blessings, and mantras (among other things) printed on each flag. Traditionally, prayer flags are used to promote peace, compassion, strength, and wisdom. The flags do not carry prayers to 'gods,' a common misconception, rather the Tibetans believe that as the flags flutter in the breeze, the prayers and mantras will be blown by the wind to spread the good will and compassion into all pervading space. Therefore, prayer flags are thought to bring benefit to all. They are also thought to calm the elements, and are often hung on high mountain peaks to "pacify" the mountain. This, I'm thinking, is a very good idea.
Prayer flags in Kathmandu
Prayer flags at Everest base camp.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
I’ve spent the last couple of days wandering around Kathmandu just relaxing and taking in the sights of the city. It really is an amazing place. It is very much third world with trash and falling-apart buildings everywhere. The city has a definite odor and with all the sights, noise and smell you almost suffer from sensory overload. The traffic is amazing with apparently no traffic laws either in place or being enforced. As I mentioned to Janet when I was here last fall, the most important piece of equipment in all the cars is the horn. I’m sure it must be the first thing to wear out. The roads are narrow with hundreds of pedestrians walking on either side with cars traveling along just barely missing them. You would swear there isn’t room for everything to pass but somehow it just works.
The team is finally all here and ready to be on the way. We leave Kathmandu tomorrow to begin our trek up the Khumbu Valley so today has been spent getting gear organized for the trip. Most of the gear will go all the way to base camp carried by yaks so that had to go into one bag which we won’t see for nine days. The rest of the gear will be carried by porters and will travel along with us so that had to go into another bag. We’ll have access to that bag each night. The trick is to make sure you get the right items into the right bag. Don’t want to end up without a sleeping bag each night because it mistakenly got sent all the way to base camp in the wrong bag!
The walk will take about nine days and begins with a flight to Lukla at 9000 feet elevation on what they say is one of the scariest landing strips in the world. Should be pretty exciting. From there we slowly make our way up the Khumbu Valley, acclimatizing along the way and staying in lodges each night.
This will be the last email in a while. Supposedly we’ll have email access at base camp but nothing is certain. In the meantime I’ll try to communicate by way of satellite phone.
Saturday, March 28, 2009
I woke up this morning feeling much better. I slept for about 10 hours straight, which for me is an eternity. I think I’m already making the time zone adjustment which always seems to be easier for me to make when I’m traveling west. Because Nepal is 12 hours different from Logan, if people want to know what time it is here they just have to change Logan time from am to pm or pm to am as the case may be.
While I was sitting in the airport in Bangkok waiting to board my flight to Kathmandu I noticed Ed Viesturs walk in and sit a few rows away. It’s kind of funny because I was reading the Outside magazine that has his photo on the cover. For anyone who doesn’t know, Ed Viesturs is the first American to climb all fourteen of the world’s 8000 meter peaks. In the climbing world he is considered a god. I was tempted to go ask him to sign the cover of my magazine but decided it would be pretty corny. Apparently he has put a small Everest expedition together to promote the new line of outdoor clothing he and Dave Hahn and Peter Whittaker are launching. Dave Hahn is who I climbed Mt. Vinson with in Antarctica and who holds the record for number of ascents of Everest by a non-sherpa. I believe his total is ten so far. Peter Whittaker is the nephew of Jim Whittaker, who was the first American to climb Everest.
A few of our team members have arrived in Kathmandu along with all of our guides. Russell is also here and it was good to visit with him. The rest of the team will trickle in during the next couple of days. It’s always a struggle for me to learn everyone’s name but so far so good. I met Dick Colthurst, who is the person in charge of the filming that Tigress Productions will be doing this year for the Discovery Channel. Because of budget cuts they only have three cameramen working this year as opposed to nearly a dozen in years past. They are not only filming our group of 28 but also Erik Simonson’s group that is nearly that big. With that many people I don’t expect to see much camera time. I guess we’ll see, but I have to confess that I really don’t mind. That’s about all for now. I think I’ll spend the rest of the day playing tourist here in Kathmandu and getting my gear organized.
Love to you all,
Friday, March 27, 2009
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
I know this blog isn't about me, but I will say that taking him to the airport is one of the hardest parts for me. After that last wave, the walk back to my car and the drive home are pretty lonely. I don't usually have any kids with me because they're in school, at work, whatever. Today, however, Greg surprised me by getting up and driving to the airport with us, which made it a lot easier. Thanks, boy.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Anyway, just for fun, here are the six continental high points, the year that he summited them, and their heights.
Mt. McKinley, North America, 1999, 20,320 feet
Aconcogua, South America, 2001, 22.831 feet
Kilimanjaro, Africa, 2002, 19,340 feet
Vinson Massif, Antarctica, 2003, 16,069 feet (No summit photo here - the choice was lose your fingers to frostbite while trying to operate a camera, or not . . . Bruce chose not - he's a very responsible climber)
Mt. Elbrus, Europe, 2004, 18,511 feet
Kosciuszko, Australia, 2005, 7,310 (Yep, Janet bagged a high point)
You probably all know this already, but Bruce was scheduled to go to Everest last year at this time. He was planning to go up the Northeast ridge of Everest, which is in China (the South side is in Nepal). Then the Olympics rolled around, there was a whole lot of political unrest, the Chinese government got scared that climbers were going to protest on the mountain, and so they shut the mountain down, and eventually closed all the borders into Lhasa, which is where you need to go to get to base camp on the north side. We got the final word that the trip was off four days before Bruce was supposed to leave. Much disappointment and frustration at the Parker's.
The good news was that the guide that Bruce had signed on with, Russell Brice (world renowned Everest guide -- go here to read about him) offered to hold the money and carry everything over to this year. So all we had to do now was keep Bruce in the best condition of his life for another year : ) That year has gone by pretty fast, it seems, and here we are again. The conditions in China are still not good, and while they are letting some people climb the north side, they have placed ridiculously prohibitive restrictions on the groups that go there, so a few months ago Russell approached the climbers who were signed on to go this year and asked how they felt about climbing the south side instead. Everyone was fine with that, so the south side it is. This is actually the side you usually hear about. Everyone asks what the difference is as far as difficulty or danger, and the answer Bruce gives is: The north side is more technically difficult, but not as dangerous. The south side has the ice fall, which makes it more dangerous in general.
Another good thing that came of the delay is that Bruce decided since he couldn't go to Everest last year, maybe he would use the time in between to climb another high mountain to get some experience -- see how he would do at extreme high altitude, use oxygen (which he hadn't done before) etc. He was able to sign on with Russell Brice to climb Manaslu, in Nepal. It is the eighth highest mountain in the world, approximately 2,000 feet shorter than Everest. He left in August of 2008, was gone for seven weeks, and had a very successful trip, in spite of some extended bad weather that almost kept them from summiting. We both feel that this was a really good "practice run," and Bruce feels more confident now in his ability to climb Everest.
Manaslu, Nepal, 2008, 26,781 feet
Bruce in funny oxygen mask. Looks like Hefalump to me.
Okay. So Bruce leaves Wednesday morning at 7:58 a.m. You can't imagine how excited I am to get up at three in the morning to take him to the airport : ). The packing is going on in earnest, and he's just about ready to go. Please be patient with the fact that this blog looks less than perfect -- it's my very first time (thanks Carlie, Molly and Amy for the help!). I'm hoping to become a better blogger as we go along . . .