Mount Everest Summit

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Sheridan Resident Darren Rogers with the waning setting moon and the shadow of Mount Everest in Nepal

The summit rotation announcement came as a surprise late afternoon on May 15th as the weather reports had us staying in Base Camp for the next 5-8 days.

Sheridan Resident Darren Rogers with the waning setting moon and the shadow of Mount Everest in Nepal

The next day we were up early walking to Camp 2 where we spent one night then headed up to Camp 3. The afternoon was hot in the tent but this time we were resting on oxygen. The next morning the weather turned cold and very windy (not in the weather forecast but as the Sherpa describe as frostbite weather). We initially geared up for the climb to the South Col (Camp 4) but the weather was just too cold. All day the Sherpa worked extremely hard to bring hot water to each of us though they had significant trouble with the stoves in the wind. As we’d only brought up one dinner and one breakfast which was consumed, food besides the cold became an issue. Late in the afternoon a Sherpa arrived from Camp 2 with ramen noodles (my favorite). Then weather turned to snow with wind. We were thinking we’d have another night at Camp 3 then head to the South Col. Instead we were told to pack and head back to Camp 2. The climb down was brutal both physically and emotionally.

Meanwhile the weather forecast changed to good weather and the other IMG teams who had climbed to Camp 2 were ready for their summit bid. Though our group was first we now became last and had to wait four days and after the other groups summited because of limited resources. There were many mixed emotions in our group over being called back and not being first to go up etc.

Sunrise from the “Top of the World”

Because we’d packed for our summit rotation quickly expecting to be back in Base Camp in a few days none of us packed entertainment devices or even a deck of cards. However, the day the other groups headed uphill the day was filled with plenty of excitement. As the group was climbing the Lhotse Face someone above lost an oxygen bottle which rocketed over most of our group but landed striking one of our Sherpa in the foot. He was stretchered down the Face and back to Camp 2 and flown to Kathmandu. Fortunately, his foot was only bruised. Next came the real excitement. First one of our team members as they left Camp 3 failed to clip into the safety line, slipped and about went the distance of the Lhotse Face until a ledge with a bank of snow caught them two pickets down … lucky! Next, the Indian Army and their Sherpa group was fixing the lines to Lhotse peak (the second mountain I was climbing) when at about noon the lead fixing Sherpa slipped and fell starting from about 400 feet below the Lhotse summit. His body tumbled and slid the entire length of the Lhotse Face approximately 5,000 vertical feet missing everyone on the fixed lines finally landing on the other side of the bergschrund. Needless to say this shook everyone.

Finally, after four extra days in Camp 2 we were given the go-ahead to make our own summit bid. So up the Lhotse Face for the third time to Camp 3 for an uneventful afternoon and night on oxygen. The next day was a bit snowy and windy (not near like the first time) and we headed further up the Lhotse Face up and over the Yellow Band and into the South Col. The rest of the day was spent on oxygen, drinking water and resting (if one can with the anticipation of climbing Mount Everest). Dinner was steak and potatoes (beef jerky and instant mashed potatoes) … yum!

At 8:30 I started packing and gearing up for my departure time of 10:00 pm. Other group members had already left at 8:00 and 9:00 pm depending on their climbing speed (reason is the goal is to not arrive on the summit in the dark). I climbed out of the tent into a 10-15 mph wind and 6-8 inches of new snow … great. An IMG guide double checked my harness, crampons and oxygen mask then helped me make final adjustments to my pack. Mingma (my Sherpa) was late coming out of his tent which seemed odd but finally arrived and we were off to the triangular (very steep) face of Everest!

We hadn’t traveled 300 yards when I fell into a crevasse up to my waist … not too bad. Okay now let’s go! Mingma was moving slowly, initially I thought it was because he was carrying my second bottle of oxygen and to conserve energy. However, I soon realized Mingma was very sick, he’d take approximately 20 steps then rest for over a minute. He had developed a chest cold. As we slowly moved up the face, I was thinking this is going to take forever and can he make it?! Then and because we were moving so slowly my foot got cold … as planned I turned on the Hotronic insole boot heaters. Thirty minutes later my foot was still cold and I looked at the battery indicator and it’s off. What the heck? I turned it back on, it went off. I then switched batteries and the other one was dead as well! Now I’m thinking I need to turn up the oxygen flow rate (oxygen keeps you warm) and move faster so I told Mingma my problem and passed him. I headed to the Balcony and waited for him so we could switch oxygen bottles.

Then as I started up the South-East Ridge my crampon popped off. By now, I’m thinking what else could go wrong?! I got the crampon back on but not before being passed by a tall climber. Now that that Mingma wasn’t carrying my second bottle of oxygen he was moving better but looked horrible and was closer. Continuing up the ridge the tall climber became the next issue. He was very slow, awkward, unsteady, uncoordinated struggling with every step barely able to get over rocks … and what’s worst is he wouldn’t allow anyone to pass (climbing at a pace other than your own saps strength and is highly frustrating plus my foot is now cold again because of the lack of movement).

"Can I reach the summit for my favorite part of the day, sunrise?"

After what seemed like an eternity we reached the top of the ridge where I was able to get around the guy and reach the South Summit where a Sherpa checked my oxygen and turned it up a notch. Woo hoo! Here we go … climbing the ridge to the Hillary Step! The ridge is shear on both sides … one side Nepal, the other China. It is now about 4:30 am and the dawn is approaching … can I reach the summit for my favorite part of the day, sunrise?

I soon caught up to a climber in our group. I asked if I could pass and he said yes then wouldn’t let me … argh! What else could go wrong? Ah the Hillary Step! The fixed line along the ridge has large spans between pickets and/or bolts and as the ridge snakes the fixed line is over space at times. There I was at Hillary Step with the fixed line tight to my side, my safety and ascender are attached while I waited for the climber ahead to navigate up and over when Mingma comes around a rock twenty feet back and pushes on the fixed line from the other side. And just like that I was off the ridge hanging over a 5,000+ foot drop into Nepal by my safety and ascender … words do not describe that experience!! I scrambled up with many expletives and was on the far side of the Hillary Step missing how one must raise their right leg high to stick a crampon in a crack then swing the left leg up and over to straddle Nepal and China.

I arrived on the summit soon after at about 5:20 am May 23rd. The sun was just up without a cloud in the sky with the waning moon setting in Nepal, temperatures were warm and not a whisper of a breeze. Phenomenal! After many pictures, high-fives and hugs it was back down. Mingma and I were alone descending the ridge … what an incredible view, climb, experience! On reflection, had we'd been able to climb at my normal pace, I’d arrived on the summit in the dark missing a great sunrise.

We arrived at the South Col about 9:00 pm. With my plan for climbing Lhotse canceled because the route was not fixed after the Sherpa fall we headed to Camp 2 arriving about 12:30 pm for much needed rest. That evening laying in my tent thinking through my surreal experience of having just climbed the highest mountain I realized I wasn’t finished as I still had to navigate/survive the Khumbu Ice-Fall. Mission accomplished arriving in Base Camp at 9:00 am the next day.

Tomorrow I am heading by helicopter to Kathmandu and should be home in a few days. I want to thank my Family, Friends, Red Velvet Gang and the People of Sheridan for their support … thank you so much!