March 30, 2007
Hello from Namche Bazar, where we layed over for the day and enjoyed the
sights. We awoke to a beautiful clear day surrounded by massive peaks and warm
sun. Most of the group went for a hike on the ridge above town, where a
panoramic view of Everest, Nuptse, and Ama Dablam opened up before us, their
lucky viewers. True to form for the Himalaya, we enjoyed a perfect clear
morning, and rolling clouds in the afternoon. Some of the group hiked over the
hill and into the small village of Khumjung, where they visited the Hillary
school, founded by Edmund himself, which provides education to the kids of
several surrounding villages. We enjoyed high mountain air and Sherpa tea for
several hours before dropping back into Namche, a useful acclimatization hike
and a pleasantly mellow day.
In the afternoon we were delighted with the arrival of our own little
Argentine-tasmanian devil, Willie Benegas. He entertained us with stories from
home, and he says he's tired from hiking all the way from Lukla, but he won't
sit down, so we don't believe him. Most of us are well-acclimatized and
enjoying the bits of rest, along with the exercize. We have an impressive
line-up of Sherpa staff, and Tshering gave us some incredible number facts
today. To begin, 50 yaks and 15 porters were sent to base camp before us, last
week. These loads are to stock camp and prepare it for our arrival, and six
weeks of, well, basing there (hence the name base camp.) On the day we arrived
in Lukla and set about arranging gear, another 35 porters were employed to go
ahead of us to base camp for a delivery including: the group's climbing gear,
high altitude clothing and equipment, food, and all kinds of miscellaneous
items. Along with that, every day we share the trail with 10 of our own yaks
and 25 porters who are carrying the equipment we use daily, including all the
food our kitchen staff cooks for us each day.
Our head chef is Yubaraj, his first assistant is Laxmi. The other kitchen
helpers are Raaj, Rudra, Yaas, Sangey, Kitam, Lalbahadui, and Pasang. These
guys are behind the scenes, but we get an occasional shy smile when we thank
them. Throughout the day we are joined in our hiking with several more Sherpas,
most of them from Lukla. They skip through the group keeping us all in sight
and teaching us about their lives. Tshering is heading up the trekking
portion, and Lakpa is heading up the climbers. Their faithful assistants are
another Lakpa, Nima, Ramesh, Jangbu, Pandu and Sagar. It's an enormous group
effort to get a few trekkers along the trail, and a few climbers on the
Jaime is helping us with our Nepali vocabulary, that which he remembers from
his study abroad in Kathmandu seven years ago! Impressive memory, especially
at high altitude. Patricia's favorite word is "bistari," which means "slow."
Why the Sherpas taught her this word, we'll never know, but suffice it to say
she is a strong hiker and delightful company. She and Mark can handle any
conditions here, after the two years they spent in a small village in the
Ukraine as Peace Corps volunteers. With such interesting company, we haven't
yet run out of stories to tell, but there's still 8 weeks to go for some of
us, so we'll see how that holds up! All is well tonight and we'll check in
again tomorrow. Signing off...
March 29, 2007
Hello to all of you from all of us! We write to you from colorful Namche Bazar,
11,300 feet above the sea in a beautiful side valley of the Dudh Khosi river,
high in the Himalaya where we are blessed to find ourselves. The sun is just
setting and the people in town are tucking away into their blue-roofed homes
for the night. We are all warm and happy and hiking well.
Another beautiful day, beginning with warm tea and washing water at our tents
and in our rooms. Brian won the sleeping contest last night, logging an
intimidating 12 hours. Erin might be his biggest contender, as yet
undetermined. Mark from Scotland won the best sport award, when he was told by
Mustafa, upon their arrival in Namche, that this was some random small
village, and Namche was another two hours away. Mark was geared up and ready
to go when we all ratted out Mustafa, who thought it was a good surprise for
Mark. Mark thought an equally good surprise would be a snake in Mustafa's
sleeping bag, so Mustafa is on highest alert.
Big hugs going out from our Norwegian friends: to Bjorn's mom for her
birthday, and from Anne and Birgitte to their dad! Simon is fascinating us
with tales of medical wonders, and Trond is tireless in capturing our
adventure on film, then running to catch up. Hearty stock we've got here on
the trail, but every porter and Sherpa on the trail puts every one of us to
shame, carrying loads sometimes twice their body weight- no kidding. They make
this large-scale expedition possible for us, so here is a cyber-world thanks
So what did we do today? We left Phakding after another fabulous meal by our
local kitchen staff, and wasted no time in gaining a little elevation. Our
first stop was in Monjo where we entered Sagarmatha National Park. Sagarmatha
is the name of Mt. Everest, and literally translated means "head of the sea."
Nepali lore says that when the Himalaya emerged from the sea, Sagarmatha was
it's head, the first thing to appear, and of course remains its highest point.
After a long, leisurely lunch we started crossing suspension brigdes and
navigating switchbacks, passing the occasional village and sharing "Namaste"
greetings with the lovely children on their families' porches, ducking behind
their mama's skirts. We all agree that the people here are among the best in
the world, so generous and serene.
We all got comfortable upon arrival in Namche, enjoying the warmth of the sun,
listening to the booming ice avalanches across the valley, and perusing the
streets where you can buy anything you need for life in the mountains.
Tomorrow we will rest here, but for now, as we settle in with dinner waiting
on the table, I will waste no time with farewells and say only, goodnight.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
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!
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
The Climber: Willie Benegas
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.
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
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
2001 OLN "Outlaws of the
1991 "Swimming with
whales" discovery channel
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.
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
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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