Monthly Archives: April 2013

Check-in/OK message from Clayton-2 SPOT

GPS location Date/Time:04/30/2013 20:43:17 NPT

Climbing Everest North Face, resting at Base Camp.
Escalando Everest, descansando en Campamento Base

Day 25: Hello World, I <3 O2

O2, just a letter and a number, it’s such a beautiful combination ❤

I have a favorite color, a favorite motorcycle brand, favorite country and music artist, but I haven’t had favorite letter and number till today, when I discovered the beauty of the letter O plus the number 2. Say with me O2, OOOOOOTWOOOOO, once again! oooooOOOOOooootwoooOOOOOoooooom 😀

I now perfectly remember when I had my first fish tank with a gold fish in it, and I was a little lazy to have the water replaced every day. After long weekends the liquid in the tank was sort of stuffy, and when I got it replaced by fresh and clear water, coming from the high peaks of our mountain range right straight to the tap, I could sense absolute happiness on those big eyes of my golden friend. Today I feel I’m a fishy swimming happy in my tank of fresh water, plenty of O2 molecules.Today I envision the future of my professional career. No more IT Geek stuff from 9am to 7 in the evening. Today I see myself as O2 bar tender in the North Col of Everest. You grab your tired butt into a big dome tent with reclinable chairs and chill out music on the background. A tibetan lady on miniskirt and nepali chap on muscle T-Shirt offer you the menu. You can opt for plain O2 or flavored. It is not a replica of a shisha place in Abu Dhabi, but still you have plenty of choices. You choose the flavor and the flow rate and I charge you per hour. 0.5l/m will cost you somewhat around AED200. 1l/m AED350, and if you have Starwoods membership or Airmiles from the Star Alliance you’ll get a complimentary Gu energy gel or Snicker chocolate bar. The oxygen masks are sanitized with a Detol wet tissue, and you get ready to relax and filling you lungs with the essential element… O2… mmmMMMMMmmmmmMMMMmmmm.

Yesterday we descended 1250m, and few day ago I was 1800m higher up from Base Camp, opening my mouth wide an average of 60 times per minute, just like my golden fish was doing after a long weekend swimming in stuffy water. Today I have a tank full of fresh water and I shaking my tail happily 😀

Last night I had wonderful dreams… A crew of Swedish lesbians were singing and feeding me grapes… Esperanza Aguirre in Spain was jailed because of importing illegal breast implants into the country… My gardener was finally doing a good job and not killing my flowers every weekend…

Then I woke up and started coughing. The fluids are turning green, meaning I had small chest infection up there, and now my immune system is getting strong and fighting back whatever virus or bacteria was preventing me from breathing properly.

The morning was absolutely stunning. I’ve took a nice and warm bucket shower, noticed I look like some of my Arab friends (I won’t trim my beard yet) and I lost a considerable amount of the fat I stored in my belly before the expedition (Angelica will be happy)

Life is good again at the North Side of Everest, holding a bottle of beer while listening to the latest gossiping from the dark side (i.e South). Simone Moro and Ueli Stek, two of the most popular climbers in todays’ world, had to run away and hide in the glacier after a horde of angry Sherpas tried committing murder. Seriously, this story is very weird… these two guys and their camera man must have done something really bad for the beautiful Sherpa community to go that crazy. Now I remember the incident we have two days back (see my blog post) and I can’t wait to get more news from reliable sources to better understand the whole story.

Meanwhile I’ll keep breathing plain O2 (not double-apple flavor available yet), and I can’t wait for the day when I’ll put my oxygen mask on… inhale… exhale… Ahhhhh, live is so good at Base Camp 🙂

Check-in/OK message from Clayton-2 SPOT

GPS location Date/Time:04/28/2013 16:43:29 NPT

At BC drinking a bottle of cognac from 1975

Day 24: Back to Base Camp, running down the hill!

Were are back at BC and it feels like heaven! Last night the winds at Advance Base Camp were crazy, and we’ve got snow as well, so right before breakfast we decided to abandon the idea of doing a a second rotation, we packed and ran away to the comfort of our palace at Base Camp.

Everybody left pretty quickly but I decided not to rush and pack wisely while our Sherpas were dismantling our tents. They wrapped each tent with the PVC sheets that are placed underneath them, leaving our duffle bags inside and covering everything with rocks. Lets hope this prevents the jet stream from taking our belongings away. We could see many teams abandoning the place as well.

I left about 30 mins after the last team member, and I passed three of them on my way to Base Camp. I stopped dozens of times to take photos and videos, and to talk to some people on the way, and still I managed to overtake my colleagues leaving a dusty cloud behind me 😛

I was quite motivated to get down to BC and I also love trail running, but the main reason why I managed to pass some of the people who left one hour before me, is because I am fully stocked with Gu Roctane 🙂 Seriously, this energetic products are amazing. I already mentioned on a previous post Gu Roctane is like rocket fuel. However today I learned how not to use it when you are climbing on high altitude. During breakfast I had a large cup of strong coffee, and then I filled two 1l Nalgene bottles with Gu Roctane brew. I was quite thirsty so I drunk a lot of it before leaving and I plugged my iPod with the music I normally use for training. I was running down the East Rongbok glacier quite fast with about 7kg on my backpack and my climbing boots. The terrain is not easy, with icy sections and tons of detritus from the moraine. With the strong coffee for breakfast, the caffeine + taurine shot from the Roctane, and my favorite music, I quickly noticed I was overexerting and loosing my breath. About one hour later I stopped the music, took some photos and videos on the glacier and I already was feeling very good. Then I’ve had one of the Gu gels and continued walking very fast, sometimes running down the hill. I did few more stops for photos and to socialize with the locals and other climbers, and I took two more Gels. My energy levels were high and I felt very focused on the tricky terrain, probably due to the effects of Taurine. Many athletes use Red Bull to gain the same effect, but that magic drink is very well know for upsetting almost any stomach, whereas Gu is scientifically designed to be quickly absorbed, and most of its ingredients are natural and easy to digest.

At the begging of the trip I found an young American dude, walking a very low pace, almost loosing balance. I asked him if he was doing fine and I offered water and gels, but he refused any help and I continued my way. I guess some people pushes too hard at ABC and above, and I’m afraid this guy will go through a nightmare today to make it safely to BC, considering the bad weather and his miserable condition just few km away from ABC…

Thirty minutes before getting to my destination, I offered my last Gu Roctane gel to one of my climbing partners who was walking slowly. I asked him to try it and give me his feedback, and when he arrived to BC he told the it really boosted him up! Some of our other team members asked me for some samples to use them on our second rotation and even the summit push 🙂

From the East Rongbuk Glacier, north gateway to the summit of Everest, I want to send very special thanks to Nicola Girot, Managing Director of Sport in Life distribution company, who believes on my Everest Dream and sponsors me with a full range of Gu Performance products for my Everest training and the Expedition. Sport in Life supports many other athletes in the Middle East, because Nicola and his team are very passionate about sports and bringing the best performance products to the UAE market, and I hope we can build a long term relationship and bringing the Sports in Life brand to many other extreme and beautiful places in The World 🙂

Once we all arrived to BC we’ve got together in the dining tent and we opened some beers and wine. I decided not to drink any alcohol today, but our teammate Chris opened a bottle of Cognac from 1975 that he had reserved to celebrate our Summit. I could not resist and I had a glass of this wonderful delicatessen. Most of my friends know how crazy I am for old brandies and whiskeys. For those who didn’t know yet, now you know what you can get me as Summit award once I get back home 😛

Feels so good being back to Base Camp! our very own palace at Everest. I can’t believe how good is going to feel once I’m back home celebrating with my friends and girlfriend, and the summit certificate hanging on my wall 😉

Day 23: Mountain Madness by The Latin Kings – sponsored by Cafe Velez

This morning something crazy happened in our Advance Base Camp. Right after we finished breakfast two guides from a camp next to our approached Phil to tell him “we want to know why one of your motherfuckers crapped in our toilet tent last night”. They sounded very aggressive and Phil firmly asked them to refrain from using those terms to address to their Sherpas or team members. These two angry guys were pointing to some footprints in the snow going to and from our camp to theirs. Last evening I’ve heard a Latin American couple fooling around our tents, and I was thinking on going out of mine to socialize with them, but I was not feeling well so I didn’t move. The guy kept saying multiple times “one of your motherfuckers crapped in my toilet” and Phil kept asking him not to use that language. The guide had a very crappy command of english with strong latin accent, so I approached him in Spanish and told him about the couple in his team who most probably left the footprints from our camp to his toilet. This is a small team of about five Ecuadorians with two guys from the Seattle based expedition company Mountain Madness. Right after I calmly gave them my point, one of them decided to stop the controversy and acknowledged that could be just a confusion. Meanwhile the other kept saying “I just want to know why one of your motherfuckers crapped in my toilet”. Dorje could not cope with the offense anymore and approached him asking to stop it right away, but that Ecuadorian guide had some sort of Mountain Madness and could not stop saying the magic work. Sadly one of our youngest Sherpas jumped out of his seat and kicked the Ecuadorian ass out of our camp. I could not believe what I was seeing… The Sherpas are some of the most noble, humble, peaceful and sweet hearted people on Earth.. Now that I look retrospectively I understand his reasons. You can cope with the Ecuadorian calling you motherfucker, but you can’t hold your hands when one of the most reputable Sherpas in Nepal, our Sirdar Dorje, who has climbed dozens of 8000m peaks in the last 30 years, and is like a father for many of these young Sherpas, is taking the offense over and over again. I can’t remember exactly who was our kung-fu Sherpa, but from these lines I want to say: well done buddy, we can’t let The Latin Kings coming to Mt Everest to offense the Sherpa people or anybody else, just because he has Mountain Madness of his command of English is so poor that he doesn’t know what he says.

Note for the Mountain Madness expedition company: I’m not sure what your standards are when hiring guides, but now you have a place in my black list of companies that none of my climbing buddies or I will ever hire to climb anywhere in the world. If your guides are to insult people along the way to a summit, you better ask them to hide the Mountain Madness logo they proudly display on their climbing gear…

Note for the Sponsor of the Ecuadorian Team – Cafe Velez: I understand is difficult to assess the mental condition of all members in a team to sponsor on their attempt to reach the summit of Mt Everest, but what we all normal climbers can assure you is that the Sherpa community is not only stronger that any of us westerners, but also they are beautiful people who represent some of the best values of human being. My advise to you is to take some money from your sponsorship and give it to the Sherpas to help them growing their local communities, having better schools, maybe a good hospital. Then your brand will shine brightest that in the small flag these “mountain guides” placed in their camp.

Right after the incident I went for a short walk, feeling better on my breathing, and noticed a group of climbers were doing their summit push to one of the neighborhood 7000m peaks, Lakpa-ri. Our experienced climbing partner Robert from Nebraska US, had the brilliant idea of bringing a powerful telescope from home, and I borrowed it to have fun observing these guys on their way to the summit. That was the one of the most exciting shows I’ve ever seen in the mountains. I’ve watched awesome rock climbers doing cool stuff before, but looking at these guys trying to summit that peak with such horrible cold weather and high winds, made me hold my breath for a good couple of hours. Lakpa-ri has three well differentiated summits, that can be accessed from the west side by progressing though a large glacier, poorly crevassed, followed by a rocky crest. The swiss-austrian team, guided by the TCSP Australian expedition company, was moving fast through the icy slope. They spent the night at a high camp not far from the crest, about two hours from the main summit, most probably because they had to cease on their attempt to summit yesterday due to the high winds. They split in three groups of five climbers and roped up through the glacier. The first team quickly reached the first summit, stayed there for about five minutes, and moved slowly to the second summit though a crazy sharp snow ridge pounded by the wind. I kept saying to myself “come on guys, go for for the third!” They quickly backed up to an area protected from the wind just below the first… I could not believe they were giving up, but the winds up there look way too crazy today! When the second team met the first, they moved again to the first summit and back down again, but five of them reached the second and stayed there for longer time, most probably thinking “shall we risk it?”. “Come on guys is juts few meters more and you go back home!” I was saying out loud. These guys retreated to the first summit very slowly and they were moving very precariously on the snow ridge. I guess it is so sharp and exposed that you really have to move cautiously when the wind is pushing you with violence towards the edge. “Well done guys, no need to risk it for just few meters more!”

After that show I feel very well motivated for our second rotation, and my appetite is improving as well. However the wind is picking up quickly and we are approaching the deadline when the Jet Stream was scheduled to hit this place. This morning we spotted a tent just few meters below the Camp 1 on the North Col and now it just blown away! The owner will have bitter surprise when they get back from wherever they are today…

Day 22: The harder I train the luckier I get…

This morning, after a very well deserved rest, our Expedition Leader Phil suggested we go into the glacier for some practicing on hand rappelling, a technique that allow climbers to go down the fix ropes quickly without the need for using abseiling devices like the figure of eight. Phil and and Dorje were disappointed yesterday with how we all handle the descent on the lines fixed at the North Col, and so they suggested we invest the morning practicing a few things. All the team members were very happy about the idea of training before our second rotation, which really surprised me, since few of them were making fun of other teams practicing both at BC and ABC. I remember three days back seeing a western team practicing different techniques, while few of my team mates were doing comments about them. Apparently if you have to train on the field you should not be climbing Everest… And here we are, training and having fun the whole of us on the field 🙂 We all in my team have different backgrounds and skills. A couple of my team mates demonstrated excellence moving on the icy boulders of the East Rongbuk Glacier, but the majority of us were not better than the western team practicing the oder day… I haven’t commented on this with anybody, and I guess one day they’ll read this. I personally train every day of the week and I train on the field on every expedition, I’ll keep training for the rest of my life in spite of the comments from other climbers observing me from the comfort of their tents. And I’ll do that because I’ve learnt something in the last two years: The harder I train the luckier I get…

I felt very comfortable with the technique, but I was incredibly extenuated with very little exercise. My lungs were burning like never before, and I’ve had cramping on my calves, for the first time in my life! I could not understand what was going on, it felt like my lungs were failing to function! And after feeling strong burning on my chest I started coughing with non stop. Now I can feel fluids moving from deep on my chest on every cough.

We wrapped up on the glacier and went for lunch. I felt so frustrated that I wanted to cry. I covered my face with sunglasses and a buff in the dining tent and I feel very sad today. I’ve been training so hard for so long. I know my weak points, but one of my strengths was my cardio. With a rest pulse of 48bmp, maximum heart rate of 178, I was so strong back home, and today my lungs do not function properly and I feel like there’s no place for me in this giant peak 😦

We are preparing our second rotation, tagging the North Col again, but next time all the way up to Camp 1 at the top of the Col and back to ABC again. I just hope whatever is wrong with my breathing gets fixed before that. I also want to do some improvements on my gear. I wan’t to go lighter and simpler with my harness and backpack. Once we finish this second rotation we’ll head back to BC for a week of rest. Then I hope my lungs get back to a normal condition…

Check-in/OK message from Clayton-2 SPOT

GPS location Date/Time:04/25/2013 19:14:43 NPT

Almost up to C1 back to ABC Strong and happy!

Day 21: Up to the North Col!

Finally I’ve have good rest at night for the first time at ABC. Fixing the surface underneath the tent yesterday and removing the inflatable matt definitely helped last night.

We’ve had an early breakfast and set off to the crampon point which is about 40 mins easy walk through the moraine from our tents. From there we’ve crossed the glacier on another 30 mins not too steep ice slope covered by thin snow. There are fixed lines at the end, right before the giant North Col ice wall, but not presence of crevasses yet. These might develop as we approach the dates of our summit push, when the glacier will get warmer. Compared with other climbs I’ve done before, the rope fixing on this section of Everest seems to be fine work. The tibetans taking care of this crucial task know very well what they do, and most of them were instructed by our Expedition Leader Phil Crampton during his six years as resident teacher in the Chinese Mountaineering Association in Lasha. We Altitude Junkies feel proud of being on his team and quite safe here, since he has great contacts and knows the local culture, rules and people, better than nobody else 😉

I was doing my way trough the glacier with two of our team members and our Sherpa Sirdar Dorje, when we approached a crowd of Chinese climbers moving very slow. Then I decided to leave my group and overtake some of them before getting to the vertical icy wall. Very soon I’ve realized the number of Chinese climbers on the North Col was quite large, about 30 I’d say, and so I’ve decided to stop the race and going with the flow. The rest of my team was already far ahead of us, I had no intention to join them, and so with my head fully covered I became one more Chinese chap. Nihao! Am I spelling correctly? 😛

At a certain point one of the Chinese Sherpas was taking care of my safety carabiner and clipping through the anchors on my behalf, hehehe. Was that because he thought I was a real Chinese dude, or because the Chinese folks are super nice? Well, after climbing few hours with them I’d say it was the latter 🙂

I felt safe and comfortable with them. They are not super skilled and they move slowly, but they don’t panic or do stupid things when crossing the aluminum ladders and other tricky points. They don’t smile too much, but it’s because they are extremely focused 🙂

They get too much support from their army of sherpas I’d say, and I personally prefer what we do in my Team. The Altitude Junkies Everest Expedition is not guided, but a fully supported expedition led by Phil. He takes all crucial decisions up the hill, but ultimately you climb on your own. The climbing strategy is built as a team, and we are trying to move as a team as well, but we don’t need to stick together like the Chinese do, and we don’t have the constant supervision from sherpas of guides, specially on this early stages of our climb. Only one climber in the Team has a personal Sherpa, which is equivalent to a guide, meaning that he is all the time following the climber and assisting in all possible ways. The rest of us are climbing independently, but on the Summit Day we’ll have 16 sherpas going up and down the lines to make sure everything is all right. Now all our Sherpas are working hard to provision high camps, so today we only had Phil leading the rope, and our IMAX Sherpa Dorje closing the line. I really like the feeling of climbing by my own knowing that if I’m stuck I can pull out the radio and getting help right away. On the summit push, when I’m going to be totally brain fried, Phil will designate a Sherpa to follow my steps and make sure I don’t do something stupid. This Sherpa will also decide what oxygen flow I should set on the regulator on the different sections to climb from about 7500m. This personal sherpa will be my shadow on the summit day but won’t do baby sitting such us carrying my load or holding my hand while climbing the 1st and 2nd steps. I just hope if I’m totally brain fried he’ll take the precious summit photo! 😀

At a certain point the wind turned into something brutal, but I was warm and excited to reach the highest point on the North Col where our Sherpas are setting Camp 1. Then I saw one of our stronger team members turning down with a Sherpa, “dude, I don’t wan’t to risk a frost bit today!”. I’m very happy with my performance this morning, and specially with the setup of my climbing gear for the North Col: Warm underwear down to the knees, thermal pants, and brand new ice climbing pants on top. Thermal long sleeve with zippered neck to compensate overheating on the hard sections, and two primaloft hoodie jackets on top. Regular mountaineering socks and my brand new high altitude boots, expedition globes and the in-expendable buff with the UAE flag stamped on it 🙂 I did not even have to use the goretex hard sell, or expedition mittens I’ve had in my backpack. Trusting my gear is fundamental to feel strong mentally. Almost everything I wear if the The North Face, and American Brand I trust for many years, and I normally don’t buy from others because I know this work pretty well.

Thirty minutes after, when I’ve climbed about two thirds of the North Col, I’ve spotted all my team members turning down under the crazy winds. I didn’t want to stop the game, so much fun at that point, feeling so happy… But I’ve didn’t hesitate to come down with them, with a huge smile on my face… what the heck, I’m freaking climbing Everest!!! We moved down as a team, and I helped one of my colleagues who got stuck going down on a tricky section without a figure of eight. Once we’ve got to the safety of the glacier I’ve took pictures of my climbing buddies, and then I felt so emotional… I’ve got tears in my eyes and remembered with photographic precision the day I’ve climbed Kala Pathar in the Khumbu Valley, and I’ve stared at the Holy Mother, Mt Everest.

Today dear friends and followers, I’ve climbed Mt Everest. Today is one of the happiest days of my life as mountaineer. Today I’m ready to fight headaches, sleepless nights, pain on my knees, cold hands and feet… so that tomorrow I will conquer this mountain. I will stand on the Top of The World as I envisioned few years back from the summit of that small peak.

Always keep the climb, one step after the other, Up to 8000m, with unlimited potential to do or become whaever you want… if you dream it out loud 🙂

Day 20: Now I know Hell really exists

Last night was horrible again. Fighting with the pillow, trying to find an even surface in my tent to place the sleeping mats, and not sliding towards one side all the night. I changed my position after the first night, with head next to the vestibule instead of feet, but nothing worked well… Moving all night long, running out of breath, growing the anxiety because of not being able to fall asleep, hearing my climb partner in agony again, turning right and left, upside down again, feeling warm, cold, itching on my head!!!… I ended vomiting in a plastic bag… I plugged the iPod Angelica prepared for me and I finally managed to relax and eventually fall asleep.

Right after I woke up we commented our difficulties with the rest of the Team, and I’ve surrendered… I’m on Diamox today 😦

This is a popular high altitude drug. The commercial name in some countries is Edemox and the active principle is Acetazolamide. This medication forces the kidneys to excrete bicarbonate, triggering some effects that will help on acclimation and fighting AMS. The blood gets re-acidified, balancing the effects of the hyperventilation that occurs at altitude in an attempt to get oxygen. This re-acidification acts as a respiratory stimulant, particularly at night, reducing or eliminating the periodic breathing pattern common at altitude. That’s why some climbers know it as the Sleeping Pill.

After breakfast my main goal today was to re-engineering the setup of my tent. I can barely move without loosing my breath, but with the help of three Sherpas now I have a perfectly flat, free of rocks and ice surface, where to reposition my tent. I’m also getting rid of my extremely expensing Thermarest expedition inflatable mattress, which keeps sliding over and over again. I hope both the sleeping pill and the new setup of my nest allows me to have a decent nigh for the first time at ABC.

Tomorrow we are starting with our first rotation, meaning that we are looking to tag the Camp 1 at the top of the North Col and back to ABC for some rest before repeating the operation or retreating to BC. The idea is to get as high as possible on the icy wall of the North Col. But we don’t have stupid rules along the way, like the ones Russell from Himex set as part of his $75k deal on the South Side, where all team members have to execute several rotations with military precision under his supervision, otherwise they are turned back home. We do have a telescope to observe the progress of climbers on the North col, but unlike Russell we only use it if we suspect they are hot chicks (or birds as the English like to say 😛 )

As part of preparations for my first rotation, I’ve been inspecting and simplifying my climbing gear. I’m not happy at all with two things:

– My climbing harness fits two small on top of my expedition suit. I have a BD Colouir, probably the lightest in the market for alpine climbs. I’ve got a size S because it packs like a box of cigarettes. Now I know if was not wise to bring only that one here. I can buckle it with no issues, but if you want to do double buckle for extra safety then it fits too tight 😦

– My down saloppettes (the bottom part of my two pieces down suit) has the perfect length for a short man like me, but it compresses my chest making breathing even more difficult. I have wide back, and I thought it will get more elastic with the use, but on the summit push, wearing two layers underneath it will for sure bother me a lot. I think I’ll need to use scissors on this crazy expensive piece of gear 😦

Lets see how it goes tomorrow. I’m not using the expedition suit but the normal stuff I use on my alpine climbs, plus new ice climbing pants from NF and my new Expedition Climbing Boots, La Sportiva Mons Evo (my existing Scarpa Phantom 8000 are too cold for Everest)

Climb on!

Check-in/OK message from Clayton-2 SPOT

GPS location Date/Time:04/23/2013 15:52:38 NPT

Resting at ABC after horrible nigh Feel tired