Everest 2001 : Erik Weihenmayer

We're hanging out here at Dingboche at 14,500 feet resting for three days before we head back up to base camp and beyond. Hopefully the thick oxygen down here will return some strength to our sore muscles and heal some of our cuts and ailments. Yesterday I sat around eating tons of food like vegetable cheese fried noodles, garlic mushroom pizzas, double orders of french toast, apple pie, chocolate pudding, and lots of Sprites. Last night was the most relaxing night I've had in the Himalayas -- I learned how to play hearts with my Braille cards despite the fact that Jeff to my right and Didrik to my left kept peeking at my cards. I won. Beginners luck. I know they were looking because somebody across the table would say, "Do you have a spade?" And before I could scan my fingers across my cards, Jeff would say, "No he doesn't."
Erik on the on the satellite phone conducting interviews with radio and TV stations as far away as Japan. Photo by Kim Johnson.
Today we hiked over the hill to the Pheriche medical clinic. We ate lunch with the high altitude doctors stationed there. Alan said to the trekkers coming up the mountain that their oxygen saturation in their blood should be around 80 percent. Eric, Mike O and mine were in the 90s since we were coming down from so high. The doc said the first sign of altitude sickness is a headache combined with either dizziness or nausea, pretty much what I feel every moment I'm climbing above base camp. But down here I feel practically normal. A porter was in the clinic on bottled oxygen suffering from pulmonary edema. The doc let us each listen to the porter's lungs and you could hear the sound of gurgling fluid as he breathed. He was only 15 years old. The doc was worried about him. A helicopter was supposed to be flying him out this evening.
Just to show what an amazing team I'm part of, every time I near camp some faster climbers on the team will work their way back to meet us along the trail. As I got through the icefall the first time, still an hour and half from Camp 1, Charley and Brad met us with hot tang. On the way down the ice fall, half hour from base camp, somebody is always there to meet us. We hear them calling up to us as we descend. The most amazing moment was coming from base camp down to Dingboche two nights ago. It was a long rocky and bouldery 9-hour day, in which I kicked many rocks with my toes. Around six we came down below Tugla, across a long, rutted meadow. The clouds had risen up the valley and had engulfed us in mist. I felt it on my fingers like rain. At the top of the hill above Dingboche I should of known to expect it. There they were, Mike and Irie waiting with Sprite and candy bars. They reached the tea house and before eating dinner had hiked back up the hill to meet us.

Today over the radio we heard the tragic news of Babu Chiri Sherpa death near Camp 2. He is one of Nepal's national heroes; climbing Everest a record number of times. On my second trip through the icefall I got the privilege of meeting him as he was coming down. He leaned in towards me and I felt his barreled chest. His gloved hand patted me on the back. It sounds strange, but I can still feel the impression of his hand on my back.; warm and confident. Today I've been fighting to keep my head in a positive space. I've a lot of conflicting thoughts in my head and I'm not too sure what to think. I'll need more time to sort it all out.

I want to make sure that this accident doesn't make my friends and family worry more about us. One thing I've learned about our team is that we'll stick together and take care of each other, which gives me just enough courage to head back up there for the final push.

Erik Weihenmayer

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