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  Everest 2007:  Mountain Madness Update


©EverestNews.com

March 28, 2007: Hello from Phakding, where the team rests for the night and well deserved at that. Our day started at 4:30 a.m. in the lobby of our hotel in Kathmandu where we arranged bags and boarded a bus to make our way to the airport. Four twin otter planes later, we arrived in Lukla where we set about organizing our gear. The local staff is headed up by Tshering Sherpa, who hikes along with us and keeps everything in order, making our logistics effortless.

After a hot breakfast, we set off down the trail out of Lukla. Much of our walk was downhill today, with our destination of Phakding at 8700 feet.

We already today have experienced some of the great wonders of this region, perhaps most strikingly the mani stones. These are natural rocks, some of them 50 feet tall, on to which prayers have been carved in the beautiful Devanagari script. The premise of this practice is to expose the prayers to the elements where they will be carried away by the water and wind. Fortunate are we to walk beneath these towering walls on one side of our path, with the other side dropping off into the Dudh Kosi river valley.

The word Dudh means milk in Nepali and this river is silty white from its glacial source. Carving its way through this valley, it is the artery that has allowed people to inhabit this region for centuries.

We experienced our first suspension bridge across the Dudh Kosi today, making camp just along its banks where it is singing us to sleep just now. The team is healthy, happy and well fed for the night and drifting off into dreams of Himalayan peaks.

March 27, 2007: Hello friends and families! We write to you from Kathmandu where our day has been well spent. Most of us have adjusted to the time change, more or less, and are keeping ourselves healthy and rested up. We did a Kathmandu city tour today including three distinctly different, and beautiful temples. The first of these was Pasupati, a series of many temples beside the Bagmati river. Here the Nepali people cremate the deceased, along with performing many associated rituals. The second temple is the striking Bouddhanath, a huge white dome structure surrounded by a wide walking path, lined on the outside with shops and restaurants. Thousands of people a day walk clockwise around this temple, spinning the prayer wheels lining its outer walls. The third temple was Swayambhu, commonly known as the monkey temple. Appropriately named, here you can expect to encounter hundreds of monkeys along the thirteen staircases rising to the top of the structure. Thick in foliage and vast in magnitude, it is one of the highest points in the city and offers good views of the Kathmandu valley.

We regrouped for dinner at the famous Rum Doodle restaurant, where mountaineering expeditions have gathered over the decades to sign and design their own giant footprint and hang it on the wall. With a rather humbling line-up of climbers represented on the walls, we are feeling lucky for the opportunity to embark on our own adventures in the Khumbu region.

There are three objectives for the Mountain Madness team this spring. First we have those who will trek to Everest base camp, spend a few days, and return to Lukla. These base camp trekkers include: Mark and Patricia Earnest from Los Angeles, California; David Harrison and Lisa Wolfe from a little country we call "Canada;" Laxman Kamath from Florida; Anne and Birgitte Horve just in from Norway; Simon Carter from the UK; Mark Stephenson from Scotland; and trek leader Teddy Anderson from Salt Lake City, Utah.

Our second objective is to climb beyond base camp through the Khumbu icefall to camp two. These Khumbu climbers include: Trond Stenerson and John Inderdal, also just in from Norway; Grant Musgrove from Alabama (or somewhere in the south, it's all the same to us); the fair and beautiful Erin Lally straight outta Aspen, Colorado; and their leader Jaime Laidlaw from McCall, Idaho.

The third objective is to climb to the top of Mt.Everest. These climbers include Brian Smith from Colorado; Eric Dalzell from Washington state; Eirik Tryti and Bjorn Evensen from Norway; and Mustafa Mustafa all the way from Jordan! Their leaders are the talented and charismatic Casey Henley, of the world; and Willie Benegas of Salt Lake City, Utah. Willie will be meeting us in Namche Bazaar in a few days.

With such a handsome and dynamic group of people, we are sure to have plenty of fun ahead of us as we fly into Lukla tomorrow to begin our stay in the mountains. Lots of good thoughts to all of you!

Background

Mountain Madness will return to Everest in Spring 2007 with a commercial expedition led by Willie Benegas, The final commercial team will be announced soon... But they have several clients. They will again attempt from the South (Nepal) side of the mountain. Christine Boskoff, owner of Mountain Madness sadly passed away in 2006.

The Climber: Willie Benegas

Born and raised in the wild heart of Patagonia, Willie Benegas, along with his twin brother Damien, have pursued a long apprenticeship in the mountains.  As one of the "young bucks" of the world-class North Face team, Willie has pushed his craft on the big-walls of Yosemite, the airy summits of South America, and the loftiest peaks of the Himalaya.

The boundless duo, now hailing from Berkeley California, completed their first major new ascent with a route up Patagonia's West Face of Pilquitron (VI, 5.9, A3) which is still unrepeated.  

wil3g.jpg (12288 bytes)

© David Keaton

 At 20, they climbed Fitz Roy's impressive Supercouloir as well as routes on Guillaumet and Poincenot.  In the following years, Willie has ticked off the South Face of Aconcagua, a new route on the North Face of Pakistan's Nameless Tower (VII), record speed ascents in Yosemite valley, and attempted major new routes on the legendary North Faces of Thalay Sagar and Jannu.

But simply overcoming technical routes or highest summits is not enough for this 30 year old climber.   He gathers equal satisfaction by introducing others to the wide-world of mountain experience.  To help fulfill this goal, Willie and Damien established Patagonian Brothers Expeditions specializing in South American guided climbs and treks.  They also lead expeditions for Out There Trekking (UK, OTT) in Africa, South America,  and on Himalayan giants such as Cho Oyu.

Willie has many plans for the future, but he often gets the same question; why do you climb?  When asked about the draw of high places, he says "a mountain  adventure will carry over into many facets of your life, teaching about yourself, your co-existence with nature, and respect for other people's cultures." 

Willie's Brief Resume below

FILMS:

2001 OLN "Outlaws of the Aconcagua Trail"
1991 "Swimming with whales" discovery channel

HIGHLIGHTS:

Nameless Tower "Book of Shadows" VII 5.10+ A4 WI4, 1995
Mt Kenya all massif towers in 16 hrs, 2002
Mt Cuerno 17.600ft South Face First Ascent 5.7 WI 3 4640ft in 4.36hrs R/ trip solo, 2000
Fitzroy Super Canaleta VI 5.10b A1 WI 3,1987
Atensoraju 19.328ft. new route North ridge/face "The Pandora Box of Artensoraju:" 5.9 WI 3, 1998
Oshapalca new route South face "My Message" 5.7 WI 4/5 2.400ft., 2000
Aconcagua World record ascent/descent 54miles 13500ft elevation gain, 2000
First Ascent Argentina Andes "Welcome to a Dream" V 5.11 A4+.,1999
Patagonia Exploration, first ascent "Swept by the Wind" 5.13a, 1,000ft.
Patagonia 62.5miles endurance run first place 9.35hrs., 1986
The Nose VI 5.11 A1 16 ascents, ten one day ascents.
South Seas (VI 5.10 A5)
Sea of Dreams (VI 5.10 A5)
Regular Route (VI 5.10 A1) twenty times. Fastest time was 3:30
20/20 Classics Climb's in twenty days of the 50 Classic's Climbs of North America Book. Ascended 60,080ft, traveled 137 miles on foot, 2hrs in canoe, and climbed 241 pitches. 1993

ABOUT WILLIE: Born and raised in the wild heart of Patagonia, Willie Benegas has pursued a long apprenticeship in the mountains. Willie has pushed his craft on the big walls of Yosemite, the airy summits of South America, and the loftiest peaks of the Himalayas. Willie completed his first major ascent in the winter of 1987 with a route up Patagonia's West Face of Pitriquitron (VI, 5.9 A3 W2/3), which has still not been repeated. At age 20, he climbed Aconcagua's impressive South Face, as well as Fitzroy. In the following years, Willie "ticked off" the first ascent of the North Face of Pakistan's Nameless Tower "Book of Shadows" (VII, 5.10+ A4 W14), made record speed ascents in Yosemite Valley, and attempted major new routes on the legendary North Faces of Thalay Sagar and Jannu. In 2001, he set the world record speed ascent/descent of the highest mountain in the Western Hemisphere, Aconcagua (22,831 ft.), summited Everest for a second time, and ran the legendary Leadville Ultra 100-mile Race. In the spring of 2002, Willie reached the Top of the World yet a third time. However, simply overcoming technical routes and conquering summits around the world is not enough for this 34-year-old climber. He gathers equal satisfaction by introducing others to the world of mountain experiences and exploration.

Willie has many plans for the future, but he often gets the same question, why do you climb? To this he simply says, "A mountain adventure will carry over into the many facets of life, teaching yourself about yourself, your co-existence with nature, and the respect for people's cultures."

 

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