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  Everest 2007:  Mountain Madness Thengboche

wil3g.jpg (12288 bytes)


March 31- April 2, 2007

Thengboche, 12,900 feet; Dingboche, 14,250 feet

We are at last back on internet connection with lots of catching up to do. We find ourselves now in the village of Dingboche, above tree line in a wide open area of the Imja Khola river valley. We left Namche Bazar on the 31st and traversed along the west hillside of the Dudh Khosi river. The trail dropped back down to the river’s level at a funky little town called Phunky Tenga. Here we enjoyed a divine meal while defending ourselves against attack ponies, also intrigued by the delicious fare. The afternoon’s hike took us through a lush, shady coniferous forest and back up along the hillside, with the sentinel of Ama Dablam on our right shoulders. Ama Dablam is a most beautiful mountain, distinguished by a huge hanging serac just below its summit bloc. From each side of the serac extends a long rocky ridge, like two arms opening toward the valley. It is said that these are the arms of the mother, and the serac is the jewel box on her neck, from whence the name “Ama,” meaning mother, and “Dablam,” meaning jewel box. Everest, Lhotse and Nuptse in the distance give us sufficient reason to take lots of nice rests, often to our unbelieving eyes.

Gaining in elevation throughout the afternoon, we arrived at Thengboche in time to enjoy the moving clouds and the sounding gongs, indicating the start of the evening’s puja ceremony. Thengboche is home to the region’s largest monastery, a destination for monks of all ages throughout the country to practice and study Buddhism. The public is invited to witness their puja ceremonies, where they chant prayers and perform rituals inside the ornately decorated gompas. The trekkers made camp for the evening on the ridge at Thengboche. The climbing group camped just down the hill in Deboche, deep in a forest of rhododendron, and into the Imja Khola river valley, a tributary to the Dudh Khosi.

We started off April 1 with fairly easy walking through the Imja Khola valley, passing stupas of various sizes, always on our right side as is the custom for good merit. A stupa is a shrine structure built of stone, usually mound shaped with four sets of Buddha eyes at the top, facing four directions. These are found at either edge of each village, guarding against the entry of evil spirits. We entered the town of Pangboche mid-morning, and were treated to another chance to enter a monastery. Removal of shoes is required before entering a monastery, and Mark Earnest thought it a good opportunity for his first April fool’s joke, stealing one of Teddy’s shoes from the porch. Whether he knew it or not, an aged resident monk trumped this joke by locking Jaime in the monastery and retiring upstairs with the key. Jaime’s quiet knocking from inside brought the monk back down with the key, who then laughed much harder than the rest of us to discover his captive. From there the April fool’s jokes were just stock material: fake spiders, rocks in backpacks, and the like.

April 1 also marked Bjorn’s 40th birthday! Did we party hard? Not exactly; so we’ll try to ensnare him into something festive tonight.

The village of Pangboche is terraced with farming plots- mostly potatoes, buckwheat, barley and various vegetables. Much of that continues on to Dingboche, above all other vegetation save the ubiquitous juniper shrub. We camped here for the night and are staying over today. Much of the group is following Laxman’s lead of diligent pacing, others following Brian’s program of endless exploring. So a day like today has something for everyone, a long hike outside of town along a ridgetop and beyond, for some; or ambling about town with a good book, for others. Whatever the choice, all of it is experienced below looming Himalayan giants, keeping us humble and beckoning us higher.


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.  

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© 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


2001 OLN "Outlaws of the Aconcagua Trail"
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.
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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