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  Alpine Ascents Everest Expedition, 2011: Trek Home

 

It is a little surreal how quickly the Expedition comes to a close after the team has made the summit. A few climbers chose to fly out of base camp by helicopter and the others are currently trekking back down the valley to Lukla. From there they will fly back to Kathmandu and then on to their friends and family back home. I spent an extra day in Base Camp helping the Sherpa organize and pack up all our gear for our next Everest Expedition and this falls Cho Oyu Expedition.

I woke up yesterday to the jingle jangle of Yak bells, lots of them. By 5:30 in the morning we had 60 Yaks in Camp ready to bring all of our tents and gear out. I am now on my second trekking day into the rich oxygen of the lower Khumbu valley and it feels amazing! We take the same route as we do on our Drop Back, but it is somehow different. Spring has really taken hold and the valley is warmer and greener, but I think the biggest change is the feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction.
The trek out marks the end to our amazing season. We had 100% success on Everest, we broke records on Lhotse, and we brought a client to two 8,000 meter peaks in under 24 hours...not bad, not bad at all. I guess this means I am signing off for the last time. Please welcome your Summiteers home with huge hugs and loving arms, I know I can't wait to see my family and friends again. Thank you for all your support and for following along with us on our amazing adventure to the top of the world. Again, we could not have done it without you.
Please sign in next year for our 2012 Everest Expedition and feel free to check in on the other amazing Alpine Ascents International trips that are happening year round, all over the globe.
All my best,
Joe Kluberton
 
May 21, 2011    
The climbing team is back in base camp. Today we descended from Camp 2 (Advanced Base Camp), leaving at 5 AM, and arrived here in EBC around noon. It sure feels nice to be down, having had lunch & showered, etc. Our plan is to begin our hike or helicopter flights out of the Khumbu valley tomorrow and head towards Kathmandu and eventually our homes in the USA. A brief recap of our climb:
On May 19 we had an excellent climb with 100% of our climbers topping out on Everest between 7:30 and 8 AM. We lucked out with great weather and only a few other climbers on route.
On May 20 we also had a great climb of Lhotse, with climber Tom Halliday, guide Garrett Madison, & Kami Rita Sherpa topping out on the neighboring peak at 4:20 AM. It was another beautiful day and while descending the couloir we encountered several other climbers on route going up.
All members of the 2011 Alpine Ascents International Everest & Lhotse team are in good health and great spirits, & are excited to be heading home!
Garrett Madison
 

May 20, 4:22am    

At 4:22 am on May 20th 2011, Garrett Madison, Tom Halliday and Kami Rita Sherpa made the summit of Lhotse!! Tom and Garrett were both on the summit of Everest at 8am May 19th. This makes Tom Halliday the first person to be successfully guided to the summits of both Everest and Lhotse (the worlds highest and 4th highest peak) in under 24 hours and is one of only three individuals that have now down so; himself and Alpine Ascents guides Garrett Madison and Michael Horst. Let's wish them a safe descent back to Lhotse High Camp and on down to Camp 2 where they will be joining the rest of their team for some well deserved rest.
Joe Kluberton
 

Lhotse from Everest Top of Lhotse Coulior
May 20, 3:40am    

Alpine Ascents guide Garrett Madison, Tom Halliday, and Kami Rita Sherpa are nearing the top of the Lhotse Coulior. It will be about an hour before they reach the Summit ridge. Their timing is perfect, the sun will start to rise here in about an hour so they should have some amazing views as they near the completion of their second 8,000 meter peak.
Lhotse rises about 1,800 feet above the South Col, compared with Everest which rises nearly 3,000 feet above Camp 4. They needed to drop below the Col for a bit to make the traverse to Lhotse High Camp, so they will total nearly 5,000 feet of elevation gain…all above 26,000 feet. Though Lhotse is a shorter climb, it is a good deal steeper than the South East Ridge of Everest. Any way you look at it, climbing both mountains in such a short period of time is a pretty amazing accomplishment.
Lhotse Climbers on their way!!


May 19, 9:30pm    

We have some takers for Lhotse! Alpine Ascents guide Garrett Madison, Tom Halliday, and Kami Rita Sherpa are leaving Everest Camp 4 now and making their way across the South Col to Lhotse Camp 4. It will take them an hour or so to make it to the Lhotse high camp where they will have a quick break before setting out for the 4th highest mountain in the world. It is pretty amazing when you consider that both Garrett and Tom were standing on the summit of the highest mountain in the world earlier today.
Joe Kluberton
 

May 19, 3:00pm    

The team is safely down to the South Col and enjoying hot drinks after their all night outing. Most of the team will sleep and eat until tomorrow morning when they head down to Camp 2 and then on to Base Camp the next day for some festivities. I say most, because a few of our climbers have the option to attempt Lhotse tonight.
If they do go for Lhotse they will join a very small, elite list of high altitude climbers that have made the summit of two 8,000 meter peaks in under 24 hours. In fact, the list is only one at the moment, Alpine Ascents Guide Mike Horst who summited both peaks less than a week ago.
Here is a picture from Camp 4 looking down the Western Cwm past Camps 3, 2, 1 and on to Base Camp. The second picture is of option number 2, the view up to the top of Lhotse from the South Col. Climbers take the main coulior in the center of the picture to gain the summit ridge and it is a short distance to the true summit from there. We will see what they decide tonight. They will be departing around midnight and we ask you to join us on another exciting night of high altitude climbing, should they choose to go.
Joe Kluberton

May 19, 8:00am    

The ENTIRE team has made the summit!!! All members who showed up in Kathmadu nearly 2 months ago are now standing on top of the world. Michael Gibbons, Thomas Halliday, Louis Mariorenzi, Gary Nelson and Marshall Warren were guided to the summit by Lakpa Rita Sherpa, Garrett Madison, and Ben Jones. We could not have done it without our amazing Summit Sherpa; Tshering Dorjee Sherpa, Dawa Nuru Sherpa, Ang Pasang Sherpa, Mingma Dorje Sherpa, and Mingma Tshering Sherpa. Add in Michael Horst's and Rob Hart's Everest summit on the 14th and it all adds up to a perfect season.
There are many, many more people with us on this summit day other then those listed above. Everest is not climbed by any one individual, we have a huge support team here in Base Camp and around the world that make it possible for our guys to be where they are now. Most of all we want to give thanks to all the friends and family that have supported us for the last 2 months. You have been with us every step of the way and we could not be here without you. Thank You!
Lets wish the team a nice safe trip back to their cozy tents at the South Col. I will continue to send updates on their progress back to base camp over the next few days so stay with us as we finish out our amazing season!
Joe Kluberton

Earlier:

South Summit
    

Lakpa Rita has made the South Summit and the rest of the team will be there soon. The weather has lifted up there, but a good deal of snow has fallen since the last time anyone has been to the summit. Lakpa has been breaking trail for hours through some pretty deep snow. He is as strong as they come and the hours of hard work well above 8,000 meters do not seem to have affected him much. He has already descended to the Summit ridge and is making the trail to the Hillary Step and on to the true Summit.
All together we have a team of 13 people pushing their way to the top of the world. Three guides, with Lakpa Rita out in front, our five climbers and their personal climbing Sherpa. All in all we make a pretty good sized group and I am sure the other teams summiting today will be pleased with the 'highway' we have put in through the deep snow :-)

At the Balcony
    
The team has made it to the balcony, nearly half way to the South Summit. They will take a bit of a break before heading up the snow line of the South East Ridge with the Khungshang face down on their right. It will take them several hours of climbing along the ridge before crossing some rock bands and reaching the South Summit.
This Picture Michael Horst took from Lhotse clearly shows the route from South Col to the Summit. You can see that enormous Khungshang face on the right side of the South East Ridge. The Balcony is right were the ridgeline takes a left about half way up toward the South Summit, which is visible just before the true Everest Summit.
Joe Kluberton

 

May 18, 11:00pm    
The team is on the way!! They left Camp 4 at 9:50pm with calm winds and a bit of precipitation. They will have crossed the South Col by now and be well on their way up the Triangular face. It will be a few hours before they make it to the Balcony at 27,300 feet, over a thousand feet above Camp 4. It is calm and snowing lightly, which is much preferred to high winds. The weather has been clearing off in the mornings here, lets hope it does the same this morning so the guys can take in those amazing views.

 The Yellow Band on the way to the South Col

May 17    
After an 8am start from Camp 3 this morning, the entire team is safe and sound in Camp 4. They will rest tonight and all day tomorrow on oxygen. Most teams walk from Camp 3 to the South Col and then rest for only the remainder of the day before making their summit push. Alpine Ascents keeps this option open if the weather window looks good, but we traditionally stay for over 24 hours at Camp 4 resting on oxygen the entire time before our summit push. This rest day at Camp 4 contributes significantly to the teams strength and greatly increases our summit percentage. The weather is continuing to look decent and we are planning to make our push starting tomorrow evening Nepal time. Everyone is now resting in their tents or already asleep at the South Col. Things are peaceful here at the Base Camp. I set up a slack line at the HRA (Himalayan Rescue Association) and the doctors all had a good go at it. Rob Hart is back in Kathmandu and will be back to his family tomorrow night just as our team starts out for the top of the world. We have a big night tomorrow so I am off for a good nights rest. Thanks for following along with us as we prepare for our big day.
Joe Kluberton
 

Rob walking on top of the world, approaching summit after Hillary step 

 
May 16     
The team has made it safely to Camp 3. This was their high point on the second rotation. During their first visit to Camp 3, the guys stayed the night without the use of supplemental oxygen. The air is pretty thin at 23,600 feet and that night without oxygen is a tough one. Tonight should be much 'cozier' as then entire team will be sleeping on O's. Having never slept with an oxygen mask on, I am not sure how comfortable it actually is…though I did fall asleep underwater in my first SCUBA diving lessons, so perhaps I would be a natural :-)
Our weather window is looking better and better as we approach our summit day and I am keeping my fingers crossed that it stays that way. Weather is always a critical factor in mountaineering and this year the only consistency in our weather reports seems to be inconsistency. I am currently analyzing four different weather forecasts and always comparing that with what is actually happening here on the mountain. We have to make our decision to move for the summit nearly a week before the actual summit day and weather is the number one factor on when the team decides to leave Base Camp. I would have to say that reading a crystal ball is easier than trying to predict the weather a week in advance in the Himalaya. The good news is that the reports are improving from day to day! It looks like all that analysis is paying off and we are going to continue to grind through those forecasts until the team is safely back from their summit bid.
Speaking of back from the summit bid, Michael and Rob showed up on the Base Camp door step this morning. I met them out at the bottom of the Ice Fall with some cold refreshing beverages and we commenced with some early morning celebrations. Our Liaison Officer, who represents the Nepali government and confirms our summits, presented Michael and Rob with some lovely Everest 2011 Katas (a traditional prayer scarf given as a sign of honor) to congratulate their achievement. We spent the rest of the day relaxing in the sun and enjoying the satisfaction of a job well done. We are excited to have them safely back in camp and our attention now turns to the future AAI summiteers still out on their journey.
Joe Kluberton
 

Earlier:

Michael Horst has done it!! Michael has made it to the summit of Lhotse, less than 24 hours after standing on the top of Mt. Everest. It is quite an achievement, climbing the world's highest and 4th highest peaks in such a short period of time. Again, we believe that he may be the first person to climb both Everest and Lhotse without descending to Base Camp for rest in between. Michael summited at 5:50 am this morning with crystal clear skies and light winds, hard to ask for a better day. He is on his way back down to the fixed lines now and then on down to Camp 2 to meet up with the rest of the team. Mike Gibbons and Lakpa Rita are nearing the top of the Icefall and making good time. Rob Hart will also be descending from Camp 4 to Camp 2 today. All the guys at Camp 2 haven't woken up yet, but they will be having all kinds of company join them throughout the day. Here is a quick picture of Lhotse from our camp here in Base. It is the 'small' looking peak in the back above the Icefall that is half lit by the morning sun. Michael is up there some place with a big smile under his oxygen mask :-)

Joe Kluberton
 

May 14th, 10:30    

Michael Horst and Rob Hart have made the Summit of Mt. Everest!!
They topped out on the highest point on earth at 9:30 am and have started their decent. They are now back past the Hillary Step and on their way to the South Col. The climb is not over until everyone is back in their tents and sipping hot drinks so I will be continuing to monitor their progress on the radio and keeping you posted with the Cybercasts. The other team members have made it out of the Icefall and are now hiking through the heat on their way to Camp 2. They at least have a bit of a breeze to cool them off along the way. I just stepped outside the communications tent and snapped this picture of the Icefall with Nuptse and our Puja. It may not look too warm with all that rock and ice, but it sure can heat up in the Western Cwm.
Joe Kluberton
 

May 14, 1:45 am    

Michael and Rob departed the South Col around 11:30. Along with Kami Rita Sherpa (Lakpa's brother), they are a team of three and should be making good time toward the Summit. There are still some winds up high, but it is calm now at Camp 2 which is at 21,300 feet. Let's hope the weather continues to improve for our climbers. They should be above the Triangular Face now at 26,500 feet and well on their way to the Balcony.

 

May 13, 11:10pm  Waking up at the South Col
Michael and Rob are awake and just finished eating some ‘breakfast.' It is 11:00 pm and it sounds as though the winds are pretty strong right now at the South Col. Our forecast shows that the winds could be decreasing into the night so they have decided to sip hot drinks for the time being and see if the winds do indeed let up a bit in the next hour.  We have the Puja fire burning strong down here in Base Camp and we will keep you all posted on the action up high.
Joe
 

Earlier:

Today high winds over Everest have resulted in several teams aborting their summit attempts (several teams reported reaching the south summit but then turned around). Several teams that were at the South Col high camp in position for a summit attempt tonight (camp 4) are now packing up and going down. The weather forecast shows high winds for the next few days, so we are not going to climb from base camp to Camp 2 tomorrow as planned. We will remain in base camp and monitor the weather forecast, and make our move up to Camp 2 when we receive a favorable forecast. Our climbing team currently at Camp 3, guide Michael Horst & climber Rob Hart are planning to spend the night at Camp 3 and evaluate the weather in the morning.

Garrett Madison

May 11, 2011    

The climbing team of guide Michael Horst & climber Rob Hart are planning to move up to Camp 3 tomorrow morning. The weather is holding out, and summit winds look very manageable. If all goes according to plan they may summit Everest on May 14th. The main climbing group reviewed oxygen systems today and sorted gear in preparation for our move to Camp 2 on May 13th. Everyone is doing well!
Garrett Madison
 
May 5, 2011    
Our climber Mike Gibbons, who suffered a crevasse fall at the base of the Lhotse Face a few days ago, returned to the USA and visited with doctors who have diagnosed his arm as not broken. Mike is planning to fly back to Nepal ASAP and rejoin our expedition! We are very excited to have Mike rejoin our climb and have our team reunited! If travel logistics go well for Mike hopefully he will meet us on our drop back in a few days in the village of Debuche.
Garrett

May 5, 2011    
Today the Sherpa teams are aiming to fix the route from the South Col high camp to the "Balcony" and tomorrow, weather pending, they are planning to fix from the Balcony to the Summit. The weather is holding steady for the fixing teams and hopefully their work will be completed by tomorrow as planned. Our loads of oxygen, food, tents, etc. will be carried up to the South Col high camp over the next few days so that camp is stocked and ready for our summit rotation. After the load carries are completed the Sherpa will return to base camp to rest for a few days before the summit bid. Our plan is to drop back today to Pheriche, then spend 3 nights in Debuche, then another night in Pheriche before making our way back up to base camp for our summit rotation.
Garrett Madison

May 3, 2011    

We have just arrived back in base camp this afternoon, having descended from Camp 2 (our Advanced Base Camp) earlier today. We had a successful 2nd "rotation" on the mountain, sleeping at Camp 3 (23,600') for 1 night. We spent a total of 5 nights above base camp on this last rotation. Climbing the Lhotse Face up to Camp 3 was exhilarating, steep ice and great views of Everest, Lhotse, Nuptse & looking down the Western CWM. At this time we will take a rest day in base camp then descend down the valley to a lower elevation for our "drop back", a strategic part of our recovery & acclimatization from a night at high altitude without supplemental oxygen. Attached are a few photos from our recent trip up to Camp 3.  Garrett Madison


May 2, 2011    

The team successfully descended the Lhotse face today with good conditions and sunny weather. They are back in Camp 2 resting, relaxing, and preparing for their 5am start down through the Ice Fall tomorrow morning. We sadly have to say farewell to a great member of our team. Mike Gibbons has broken his arm and will be heading back home to mend with family and friends. We will miss him greatly here on our Everest Expedition.
Joe
 

April 27, 2011

Today we awoke to a few inches of fresh snow on the ground in base camp. We were planning to climb today to Camp 1, but with the new snow we have decided to postpone our ascent until tomorrow morning. The current plan is for the team to depart base camp at 4 AM on April 28th for our second rotation. We plan to climb through the Khumbu Icefall & spend 1 night at camp 1, then climb through the Western CWM to Camp 2 and spend 2 nights there. Then, weather pending, we plan to climb up the Lhotse Face to Camp 3 and spend 1 night. We will then descend down to Camp 2 for a night, then back to base camp for our final rest before our summit rotation. All members of the team are doing well & looking forward to climbing! Stay tuned! Garrett Madison

April 25, 2011    

Yesterday in base camp we awoke to a few inches of fresh snow on the ground, and enjoyed an Easter Sunday service led by Mike Gibbons in our Alpine Ascents Mountain Hardwear Space Station movie tent. Various members of the team participated in the service and afterward we enjoyed a lunch of fresh sushi! Today a few members are hiking to Pumori base camp to stretch their legs, so far the day is clear but a bit windy and colder than usual. Relaxing in base camp is a pleasant experience with opportunities for shaving, showering, and evening films. We've been sorting our food and meals for the higher camps and resting for a few more days before we begin our second rotation on the mountain, currently we're aiming to head up to Camp 1 on the 27th.
Garrett
 

Earlier:

The 2011 Alpine Ascents Everest & Lhotse team is doing great! Currently we have 2 teams operating on slightly different schedules. The main team composed of climbers Mike, Louis, Thomas, Marshall, & Gary with guides Garrett, Ben, & Lhakpa Rita descended yesterday from Camp 2 to base camp, successfully concluding our first “rotation” on the mountain. The other team composed of climber Rob & guide Michael is currently up at Camp 2 tonight and will descend to base camp tomorrow, concluding their first rotation as well. The main group is resting in base camp and sorting our gear for approximately 4-5 more days before heading up for our second “rotation.” Base camp is great, we were able to take hot showers & do laundry today, and enjoy a few good meals. The air feels much thicker down here at base camp (17,500') compared to our camp 2 where we just spent 3 nights (21,300').  Our first rotation went exceptionally well. We climbed up the Khumbu Icefall & spent 2 nights at Camp 1, then climbed up the Western CWM to Camp 2 where we spent 3 more nights. During our time up at Camp 1 & Camp 2 we had some great views of both Everest & Lhotse. We went for a short hike above Camp 2 for additional acclimatization. The time spent at altitude will help us acclimatize so that on our second rotation we can climb higher. While we were up at Camp 2 we experienced some strong winds which forced us to keep a close eye on our tent anchors. Here in base camp the winds are significantly reduced, so we are able to relax and enjoy our time to rest and recover.
Garrett Madison

 

April 20, 2011    

I just radioed up to check on the folks at Camp 2 and it sounds like more of the usual up at 21,300 feet; which is to say they were all in their tents resting :-) Rob and Mike made their way up to Camp 2 to join the rest of the team today as well. The guys took a two hour hike up the Cwm and are probably settled in their tents tell dinner time. They'll be waking up early tomorrow to walk all the way back down to Base Camp, just in time for Lunch.
The big news here in base camp is that Adrian has mastered the chemical and pressure challenges of baking with 1/2 the atmosphere. This means the guys are going to have fresh bread with lunch tomorrow. Adrien also baked up some hand made buns for Polish sausages we've been saving for a special occasion. Add in some caramelized onions, real Dijon mustard…wow…I can't wait for lunch tomorrow :-) Joe
 

Day 2 at Camp 2
April 19, 2011    
The team took a true rest day today with no scheduled acclimatization hikes, just reading and relaxing in the thin air. Although, I heard a few people walked halfway up the Western Cwm trying to find cell phone reception :-) It seems the guys have finally made it beyond the reach of technology or, at least, cell service. Sat phones and radios still work fine on up the mountain. Michael and Rob opted to stay in Camp 1 another day and will meet up with the team tomorrow. They did take a quick hike toward camp 2 today, making it all the way to the giant crevasse spanned by 5 ladders. They decided to call it a day and turn around there. Most Sherpa won't even tackle the 5 ladder crossing and instead go for the 15 minute detour around the precipice. All's good here at base camp. Joe

April 17:

The boys took an hour long hike out of Camp 1 and up the Western Cwm today. That means the rest of the day was designated to eating food, sipping tea and relaxing. Things were a little busier here at Base Camp today. We held a second Puja ceremony for Michael Horst and Rob Hart who will be leaving bright and early tomorrow morning for their first rotation up the mountain. The whole team should be crossing paths in Camp 2 the day after tomorrow.
As you may have heard, this is our first year having cell phone reception in Base Camp. The word is that a few of our guys at Camp 1 were able to tilt their heads the right way and call home to friends and family from their mobile phones. And, amazingly, those calls are cheaper then when I make instate phone calls back in Alaska. That might not be saying much, since we are a bit out there in Alaska :-) Still though, technology sure does have a way of making it to every corner of the world…
Joe
 

April 16 to Camp 1

Nothing like a nice early start to the day! We got a 2:45 am wakeup call and enjoyed a hot breakfast at 3am. Everyone was geared up and ready to round the Puja by 4am, then off they went up the Icefall. We just got our radio call from Garrett that all members have arrived safely at camp 1. They are all enjoying some hot drinks and looking forward to hot meal prepared by the Guides.
It sounds like they'll be the only team at Camp 1 so they will have the whole place to themselves to relax and acclimate to a new Everest high point. Camp 1 is right around 20,000 feet or 6,100 meters, that's just a bit shy of Denali!!
It was a wonderful sunny day down in Base Camp. We busied ourselves with laundry and basking in the sun while sipping Sherpa Tea. Rob and Michael will be heading to Camp 1 in a few days. They took advantage of the sunshine to walk up to the first few ladders of the Icefall and were back in time for Lunch.
No, these pictures are not from 4am this morning. I took these yesterday as the team ventured a short ways into the icefall. But they do take the same route out around the Puja in the morning; offering rice to the great mountain and burring Juniper…it's just a bit darker and colder at 4 am :-)
Joe Kluberton

Earlier:

Winter turns to Spring the world round and in the mighty Himalaya; the great peaks of the world emerge from their snow covered slumber. This Spring as in past years, climbers will walk past the blossoming rhododendron, in pursuit of the world highest mountain. While preparing for Everest is an arduous task, we are always excited at to get another season up and running, as we have been doing since 1990 !

This morning (March 25, 2011) we load boxes (years ago we designed boxes that work well for the flight and yak travel) of food, gear, communications equipment into the van and will make our way to the airport. These same boxes will eventually be strapped to the feisty yaks, and make there way through the Khumbu region of Nepal to Everest base camp.
Meanwhile staff in Nepal started preparations weeks ago, purchasing and checking Oxygen bottles, procuring gear and food supplies, checking lodging and dining tents and cordoning off our 2011 base camp home. Given the terrain at base camp, our Sherpa team must make platforms for every tent, a tough task at 17,500 feet. Our Sirdar and co- leader Lakpa Rita Sherpa oversees this portion of the prep.
Along with our climbers, a group of trekkers will walk with climbers to base camp, stopping at villages, monasteries and visiting friends along the way. This always makes the trek in festive while allowing all to absorb Sherpa culture and experience the warmth and hospitality that have always been a part of this cultural sharing.
So onward and upward we go, into another Everest season and we look to share our experiences with you via this cybercast page. Our trekking team will be led by Suzanne Allen. Lead climbers for our Everest ascents include a very skilled and experienced group of guides including Lakpa Rita Sherpa, Garrett Madison, Michael Horst, and Ben Jones with our BC manager, Joe Kluberton.
This years climbing team (please see team roster and bios)  have been prepping, training and climbing for months leading up to the expedition. We do hope you will join us in sharing our good wishes and Namaste’s and follow along as we track the 2011 Everest season.

 

2011 Guides
GARRETT MADISON
LAKPA RITA SHERPA
BEN JONES
MICHAEL HORST
JOE KLUBERTON: Base camp manager
2011 Climbers
MICHAEL GIBBONS
THOMAS HALLIDAY
Robert Hart
LOUIS MARIORENZI
GARY NELSON
MARSHALL WARREN
 
4/9: The team has reached Everest Base Camp, and is settling into their new home for the coming weeks. They are experiencing a few technical difficulties with the satellite modem but expect regular dispatches to begin tomorrow.

 

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