Sunday, March 29, 2009

Last email from Kathmandu

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

More from Bruce

Hi all,

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.

Ed Viesturs

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

"I'm here"

Here's the email that came today from Bruce:

Just a quick note to let you know I got here along with my baggage ok. I'll send you more details tomorrow. It's late and I'm too tired to write anything right now.

I imagine he IS tired, that's a darn long trip.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Here we go . . .

Took Bruce to the airport this morning. He was flying from Salt Lake to San Francisco. San Fran to Tokyo, Japan. Tokyo to Bangkok. Bangkok to Kathmandu. I know he made it to San Francisco because he called from the airport there and woke me up from my much-needed nap (we got up at 3:30 a.m.). His flight information says he lands in Tokyo tomorrow at 3:30 p.m. Can that be right? I don't know if that means 3:30 their time or ours -- probably theirs.

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

A Little Background . . .

Bruce has been climbing since he was a young teenager, but he first got the idea to climb the Seven Summits -- the highest mountain on each of the seven continents -- in about 2001. He went with a group of local friends to climb Mt. McKinley, in Alaska, and the next year decided to climb Kilimanjaro, in Africa. It was about then that he started thinking of maybe trying to do them all. When he mentioned it to me, I said something like, "Yeah, right. You climb all the others and then we'll talk about you climbing Everest." Silly me.

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 . . .