Following months of intense negotiations with the better half a return to Mount Everest changed from a far off possibility into a 50/50 realistic opportunity, before finally blossoming into a firm commitment! Since that epic date the Dollars have been flowing – deposit paid, balance paid, flights booked, remaining gear purchased, body disposal form completed, leaving only cancellation/ evacuation insurance as pending. The free missing links are to maintain an excellent level of fitness and not get injured! …at least not before the hefty insurance premium has been handed over to Ripcord Rescue.

The decision to once again be involved with Mike Hamill, this time the proud owner of Climbing the Seven Summits and not just an employee of another guiding company was an easy one; probably one of the most successful high altitude guides around having proven himself by knocking off the seven summits 6 times over, lead 23 expeditions to 8,000 meter peaks, and managed to bag Mount Rainier in the US over 5o times. On this, my second attempt at the big E and under the expert logistics of Mike and CTSS, failure to make it to 29,035 feet is not an option!

Climbing route leading from basecamp at 17,500 ft up to the 29,035 ft summit

As of writing the countdown has begun with less than 9 weeks until departure from Atlanta. Flying Qatar Airlines via Doha on the evening of March 29th the chaos of Kathmandu should still be in full swing – I remember it vividly from 14 years ago! On this occasion I will sadly be alone, my old climbing buddies well past their prime. Sorry guys! The team Green Gibbon mascot will be along for the ride to enjoy the sufferfest and keep a watchful eye.

Going back to mid November after being granted approval for this constantly nagging dream… Choosing the guiding company was the easy bit but as with most, if not all, they have various programs for the big Himalayan mountains. Everest is no exception, pricing for a non-guided sherpa supported expedition coming in at a lowly $43,950, all the way up to a personal western guide option for well over $100,000, then throw in a bit more luxury, a helicopter out from basecamp and maybe even an attempt at nearby Lhotse and you’re hovering around the $150,000 price tag! Choosing one very small step up from the entry level program would provide some shared sherpa support from basecamp and a personal climbing sherpa from camp 2 – still no guide, but with the oversight of Mike Hamill and the exceptional logistics of CTSS this was the preferred route.

To put things into perspective the expedition is approximately 59 days; that works out at $745 for every single day, or around $2,500 per day for the fully loaded package. In my case all I really care about is the final 1,000′, yes one thousand tiny feet (that was the shortfall from the summit back in 2005). So that’s $44 for each and every foot above the previous highpoint! Actually that is all nonsense as the entire trip is going to be unbelievable and an adventure from the moment the plane touches down in Kathmandu.

Lots of down

Boots ‘n all

Technical stuff

Logistical decisions out of the way the next big expense is usually gear, especially when we’re talking big Himalayan peaks and the Polar regions. Having had a previous crack at Everest and recently spending time climbing down in Antarctica meant that pretty much everything required was stashed away in a storage box somewhere – as is usual there is always room for new outdoor equipment and clothing. Incidentally another quest of ours is to knock off all the REI stores in the United States, something we are well on our way to completing due to our love of adventure gear! For this trip the big money items like the -40°F down suit, sleeping bag and triple mountaineering boots were in all in great condition, almost all the required layered clothing had been accumulated over the years, and the actual climbing techy stuff was still attached and knotted like it had been used yesterday. Actually it was about 16 months ago. The quicker we move to the mountains the better and the more we’ll be able to justify the money we, I mean ‘I’ spend on outdoor gear!

The last checkbox has just been ticked off the gear list after the arrival of a new passport and a half dozen photos. Still valid for two years the old one had a little too much water damage to risk turning up at Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport at 1am and be denied entry due to the immigration officer being pissed about working at such a late hour! A gleaming new passport with a fancy Nepalese visa on the first page will definitely be worth the added expense and hassle.

This Polar Vortex weather is perfect for getting geared up

Everest being graded as a class 4 intermediate to advanced climb implies that whilst not being overly technical it does require a strong level of fitness. Plenty of time for acclimatization is factored into the expedition so no real need for getting too high in advance!

Fortunately getting into shape for up to 2 months in the Himalayas is as good as free, obviously made easier if you don’t travel too much and live in or close to the mountains. Spending 2 weeks over Christmas in the Swiss Alps Andrea and I had an energetic dog to care for so we dragged it out into the hills every day for a 4 hour walk. Arriving back in the flatlands of Kentucky from Europe meant we had to join a gym; the local YMCA being first class with the cardio machines as good as empty during the day. Every day included two hours of cardio wearing a 40lb weight vest – split between a stairmaster and the highest incline grade on a treadmill. Throw in a couple hours on a spin bike, leg weight exercises and some upper body and it was actually kind of fun for 3 weeks.

The final 6 weeks prior to departure will be spent in the Colorado Rocky Mountains, hopefully tagging a few more 14,000′ peaks for altitude training and gaining familiarity with relatively unused cold weather clothing and gear. This will be by far the most critical time for staying injury and sickness free – the urge to snowboard double black runs will have to be resisted! Learning to cross country ski and putting some serious usage into snowshoes will have to suffice.

Arrival/ Departure: Atlanta <-> Kathmandu, Carrier: Qatar Airways, Cost: $1272.10

March 29th – May 30th 2019


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