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  Mt. Everest 2005: Team Alongi 2005: It is a wrap!


Michael Frank - Seattle, Washington

Update 5/27/2005: The team is back at KTM and all is well! It is a wrap! 3 summits, no deaths...

Update: So I've finally recovered enough to actually think and type at the same time regarding summiting on the 21st. It was an extremely challenging and rewarding experience. Beforehand I was thinking very arrogantly that I could do this it was just a matter of the weather window. Having now reached the summit I don't think I would ever say I know I can make it up. It was out on the edge for so long I reached a point at the 3rd step where I was standing 3 to 4 feet from the Kangshung Face looking down this incredible face realizing that I must be standing on a cornice and I was mentally so numb by that point from all the climbing, lack of oxygen, cold temperatures, incredible views, and constantly having to force yourself to keep going up when your entire body is screaming to go down and get out of this extremely hostile environment that my mind was numb to the risk. I could see the final summit snow slope and was completely committed.

The summit push started on May 18th with the six of us (Ambrose, Ryan, Scott, Lhakpa, DaNgima, and myself) heading up to the North Col. On the morning of the 19th the weather report turned worse than previously reported for the 21st. We had a few confusing discussions leaving a few team members unsure of the plans. I thought it was tentatively to head to 7900m. If we made it there by around 1 to 2pm we try to continue to 8300m and then try to summit on the 20th instead. Lhakpa, DaNgima, and myself all arrived there around 3 to 3:30pm and so decided to not continue. Ambrose and Ryan I guess thought this meant to go back to the North Col while Scott was drained from his cracked rib which he acquired a couple days prior from a coughing fit.

 

That left me with the 2 Sherpas at the 7900m camp. We decided to set up one 2 person tent and sleep 3 people in it. It was extremely windy that night and we cooked inside the tent. It was very cramped to say the least but we could actually sleep laying down with our legs straight. The morning of the 20th it was perfectly calm so we headed up to the 8300m camp (really 8210m per my GPS). Rosa's tent was pitched next to ours. Cooking and sleeping is this tent with one sleeping bag for the 3 of us was a new level in intimacy with my climbing partners for me. The tent sights took at least 2 hours to hack into the mountain.

 

After brewing up and sleeping for a few hours we got up around 10pm. Our original plans were to get up at 8pm because the Sherpas were going to be taking extra time to fix ropes from the top of the Yellow Band to the summit. They were all carrying extra ropes for this job. Luckily many of the groups were a bit late leaving and we caught up with the rest of the Sherpa rope fixing team at the 2nd step.

 

The climbing from the 8300m camp was a lot more technical than I expected. It was pretty much continuous class 2 with an occasional class 3 move, but in the dark and at that altitude it felt a lot harder. The 2nd step was very cool. The hard part about it was getting to the ladder. The ladder itself was pretty straight forward. There are 2 ladders there, the 2nd which people say was put there last year. It is a bit taller and positioned a bit to the right of the old ladder which makes the move at the top much easier.

 

Once above the 2nd step we had sunshine, but also increasing winds. The climbing was straightforward but a constant strain due to the altitude, exposure, down sloping rock, and climbing with crampons on. The views were incredible and the anchors were all suspect. When we reached the base of the 3rd step we were standing in a pretty stiff wind and I was starting to shiver and my feet were quite cold. After a 5 minute break I decided to head up and not wait for the Sherpas to finish fixing. I climbed over the 3rd step and up the final snow slope without a new fixed rope. Often I could clip one of the ropes from previous years. Once we were on the summit snow slope we were completely lucky that the way the wind was blowing we were protected. This, I think, helped substantially with our making it to the top without more serious frostbite or other issues. For myself I came away without any frostbite, although it was very close on my right foot. DaNigma fixed a good portion of the final pitches to the summit.

 

People often ask what the views are like from the summit, and they were nice, but that wasn't why I was there. It was for the challenge, wondering if I could do it, that was my reward.

 

I got I think 4 pictures from the summit before my camera froze up, unfortunately the first thing in the top of my summit bag was Al's rubber chicken so 2 of the pictures are of DaNgima with the chicken. Maybe the first rubber chicken on the summit of Everest!

 

The descent was reasonable except for needing be very careful with not tripping (especially on old ropes). Sometime around 1 or 2pm the winds really picked up and it started snowing. At the 2nd step a rappel line was not set up so you had to down climb the upper third with the ladder and pseudo rappel/down climb the lower two-thirds. When I was down climbing the yellow band my regulator got bumped and came unscrewed. By the time I could get to a spot I could take my pack off the bottle was empty. This hit me pretty hard as I was up at 8300m and suddenly cut off from oxygen. I was otherwise only 5 to 10 minutes from our tent. I would get up walk ten paces and sit down. It really was quite nice just sitting there. After covering about half the distance to the tent DaNgima caught up with me and gave me another bottle he was carrying. It then took me about 3 minutes to get to the tent.

 

When I opened the tent a Montarosa client was in our tent. He hadn't set up an 8300m camp and was shivering pretty good. Rosa had continued down to her camp at 7900m so we pushed him into her tent.

 

That night at 8300m Lhakpa and myself shared one sleeping bag while DaNgima shared with the Montarosa client in Rosa's tent. Descending down to ABC the next day seemed a bit surreal. The views seemed twice as spectacular. I'm not sure if this is because I was still on oxygen or because I was looking at them differently.

 

Upon reaching ABC it was like I was a movie star with everyone taking pictures and hugging. It was hard to not get very emotional.

 

Current plans are for us to head down to BC in the next day or two and they work our exit date. The current weather reports look marginal to bad until sometime around June 4th. Scott is considering staying.

 

I hope everyone is well at home. I know I'm more than ready to be home and look forward to seeing all of you. Michael

 

Here's a run down of the team roster.

 

Brook Alongi - Expedition Leader/Organizer, Marysville WA
Brook is definitely not a rookie when it comes to high altitude expeditions.  Mt. Everest will be his second 8000 meter summit, if he is lucky enough to stand atop her.  Brook's climbing resume spans the globe and includes accomplishments such as:  Cho Oyu, multiple ascents of El Capitan, first ascents in Alaska and Japan, multiple ascents of Aconcagua (even one solo), and much more.  In addition, Brook is a certified National Registry EMT and a Wilderness-EMT.  When he's home in Washington state, he volunteers his talents to the Everett Mountain Rescue Unit of Snohomish county.  
Ryan Allen - Seattle, Washington
Ryan has attempted some pretty hard climbs in the last few years.  The Muir Wall on El Capitan and Lotus Flower Tower in Canada are just two of the many great adventures he's had.  Growing up in Seattle has given him the opportunity to encounter a wide range of climbing environments in the Cascades.  Ryan believes in giving back to the local climbing community through education and volunteering opportunities.  He spent three years as the chief instructor of the Boeing Employees' Alpine Society (BOEALPS) Intermediate Climbing course.  Ryan is a software engineer, and will undoubtedly be on the expedition laptop often!
Al Baal - Seattle, Washington
Al has climbed Aconcagua, the highest mountain in South America, and Mera Peak in Nepal.  He has also participated in an expedition to Sikkim, India and climbed in the Dolomites in Italy. He toured more than 15,000 miles by bicycle in the US, Scotland, Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Switzerland, Portugal, Australia, and New Zealand over the last several years.  Al charming nature will be an important part of our team's cohesiveness on the mountain.
Ambrose Bittner - Seattle, Washington
Ambrose has been climbing for 20 years since he first took a rock climbing class and attempted to climb Mt. Rainier while getting his engineering degree at Washington State University.  Ambrose has two first ascents to his credit: a new route on Plummer Peak in the British Columbia Coast Range, and the first ascent of Cerro Tillman in Patagonia. Ambrose has climbed internationally, including the high and remote mountains of Nepal, Japan, New Zealand, Canada, Peru, Ecuador, and Argentina. He just completed his MBA degree from the University of Washington and is in the process of starting his own Asia-focused travel company called Red Lantern Journeys.
Michael Frank - Seattle, Washington
Michael started out as a rock climber in New Mexico before moving to Seattle in the late 80’s, where he discovered alpine climbing. Michael was on the first ascent climb with Ambrose of Cerro Tillman on the Patagonian Ice Cap and has done several peaks in the Canadian Rockies. In addition to climbing Michael is an avid cyclist and runner having completed 4 marathons and numerous 100+ mile bicycle rides, in addition to completing RAMROD 3 times, a 154 mile ride around Mt. Rainier in one day with 10,000 feet of elevation gain!  He currently works at Boeing as a Software Engineer.  
Scott Streett - Everett, Washington
Scott is about an avid athlete as one could be.  He trains incessantly for his passion, climbing and outdoor adventure travel.  He began climbing when he was in college at Penn State.  Since then, his love for the mountains has brought him to the Pacific Northwest where there is ample opportunities to grow within the sport.  Scott is an active member of the Everett Mountain Rescue Unit and works at REI.  

 

Dispatches

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