Reliving Everest

I flew in to Finland with my wife Delanii yesterday to visit my family for the first time since climbing Everest and Denali. It was great to see my parents, sibling and especially my little nephews and niece.

My parents admitted that they had been a bit worried especially during my Everest expedition, so they threw a little welcome home party for me, which gave me a chance to show some pictures and share some stories from Everest with them as well as relatives and friends.

Today is also Delanii’s birthday, so we got to celebrate that at the same time as well!

I got this funky picture, made by Finnish artist Teuvo Salminen, as a gift from my family, which will find a nice spot back home in Dubai!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Visiting Dubai Autism Center

I got a chance to visit the Dubai Autism Center (DAC) today, which we had selected as the recipient of the proceeds from the auction of the Nokia 808 PureView I used on my expedition to Mount Everest along with my climbing helmet which I had used on several of my Seven Summits expeditions.

The DAC is a non-profit organization, which operates largely based on the generosity and donations of companies and individuals.

We handed over the proceeds of the auction as a donation to DAC and toured the facilities with Hayula Mourad, the Head of Business Support and Communications for DAC and learned a lot about autism as well as the work that DAC does both with the children as well as their families.

The center does great work and I recommend that anyone with interest in autism, takes time to visit DAC and support their work!

 

 

 

 

 

Meeting a winner

Just 36 hours before I flew out from Dubai to Alaska for the last of my Seven Summits expedition, a charity auction of the Nokia PureView 808, which I used on Mount Everest, ended.

The person that ended up winning the phone I took to the top of the world, along with a climbing helmet I had used on several of the mountains, was Richard Pakenham.

Today, I got the chance to meet Richard at the Dubizzle offices to hand over the helmet to him and of course both congratulate and thank him for participating in the auction.

We raised a sizable amount of money for the Dubai Autism Centre, which I’ll be visiting next week and sharing some information about their work.

 

 

Surprise reunion with the Everest team

I spent yesterday just walking around Beverly Hills and West Hollywood, although I was politely told at the hotel that people normally don’t walk in LA, which I found pretty amusing as all I’ve done for the last few months is walk many miles over.

I also treated myself to a haircut, sitting next to Academy Award Winner Linda Hunt, which made me look human again.

I had sent a message yesterday to my teammates from the Everest expedition as many of them lived in Los Angeles. It turned out that they were planning to meet for breakfast this morning, so Bandar came to pick me up from the hotel and we headed to his father’s house in Beverly Hills.

We were joined by Kurt and Fred, who climbed together, along with Kurt’s wife Olga as well as Karl who was part of the IMG Hybrid Team with me and Bandar.

I also got to meet Bandar’s family which was great as Bandar & I had to share a lot of nights together in the same tent whilst on Everest.

 

It was great to see the Everest team and we enjoyed an impressive breakfast while we reflected on the expedition, which ended just over a month ago, including comparing notes on who lost the most weight and how much each person has gained back. I think we sounded like the cast in Desperate Housewives ;-).

Kurt also showed us his not so good-looking toes after breakfast. He had gotten frostnip on summit day on Everest and having checked his feet out in Camp 2 on the way down, they didn’t look bad, but I can tell you they weren’t pretty now – most of the toes were black, but fortunately he’ll get to keep all of them!

 

 

Profile: Mike Hamill, Mountain Guide

In a week’s time, I’m starting what will hopefully be the last expedition of my Seven Summits challenge. I’ll be flying to Alaska with the hopes of scaling 6194m Denali (also known as Mount McKinley), the highest mountain in North America.

I’ll be climbing the mountain with Alaska Mountaineering School (AMS) and my guide will be Mike Hamill, an all around great guy with whom I’ve already climbed Vinson Massif, the highest mountain on Antarctica, and who was also the lead guide on my recent expedition to Mount Everest.

Despite being just 34 years old, Mike is already one of the top mountain guides in the world. He’s been guiding for 12 years and has an impressive climbing resume, which includes for example four summits on Mount Everest, completing the Seven Summits (Bass List) four times, 19 summits on Aconcagua, five summits on Cho Oyu and four summits of Vinson Massif.

Today, Mike guides around 200 days a year exclusively for International Mountain Guides (IMG) and AMS across all seven continents.

His typical year begins with Aconcagua in Argentina before moving to Nepal for a two-month expedition to Mount Everest. After Everest, Mike heads to North America’s highest mountain Denali, one of his favourite annual pilgrimages, and continues from there to Europe’s highest peak Elbrus in Russia. Then it’s typically time for a trip or two on Mount Rainier, close to his home in Seattle. In the fall, Mike normally makes at least one trip to Vinson Massif on Antarctica.

Last year, Mike also managed to fit in a combined expedition to Shishapangma and Cho Oyu, summiting both +8000m mountains within eight days!

Somehow, in the past year Mike has also found time to put together a guide book, “Climbing the Seven Summits”, targeted as a guide book for people interested in the Seven Summits. The book is published by Mountaineers Books and it was released the day before I summited Everest!

For anyone considering the Seven Summits challenge or interested in learning about the mountains from the safety of a comfortable chair, check out Mike’s website as well as his new book on Amazon!

 

 

 

Get your hands on a new Nokia phone that summited Everest!

One of the exciting products I got to test while on Everest was Nokia 808 PureView – the first 41MP camera phone in the world! I took some awesome pics with the camera phone during my expedition and think it’s going to be a huge hit when introduced!

I’ve agreed with Nokia that we’ll auction the Nokia 808 PureView, which reached the top of the world with me, along with my helmet, which has seen quite a few of the Seven Summits mountains and donate the proceeds to the Dubai Autism Centre, a non-profit organisation, which has been helping children with Autism Spectrum Disorders in Dubai since 2001.

So check out the auction on Dubizzle! The auction opens today and will run until Tuesday June 5th, 2012.

Be generous. You’ll not only get the coolest camera phone around but you’ll get two(!), my prototype Nokia 808 PureView 41 mega pixel camera phone that went to Everest’s summit (8850m) and contains photos I took during my expedition, Nokia will also throw in a brand new Nokia 808 PureView 41 MP camera phone and offer you a choice of colours and you’ll get both devices BEFORE it’s sold to the general public worldwide!!!  I’ll also throw in a Dubizzled helmet that’s travelled far and wide and probably more than any other helmet of it’s kind including being in Antarctica into this unique and exclusive package just bursting with ultimate kudos!!!!  Potentially this package could become a collectible and turn into an investment for you.

But for now, the money raised from the highest bidder will all go to a good cause! So, thank you for helping the Dubai Autism Centre!!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everest Season Recap

The end of May is now just a few days away and for Everest climbers, that also means that another season on the highest mountain in the world is coming to an end.

The end of season is typically marked by the Icefall Doctors, the company that maintains a path through the infamous Khumbu Icefall, collecting their ladders and ropes and packing it in until next season.

This season, Everest was extremely busy. According to data from Alan Arnette, there was a total of 45 expeditions with 446 climbers on the mountain: 32 expeditions with 337 climbers in the South and 13 expeditions with 109 climbers in the North. In addition, these expeditions were supported by hundreds of Sherpas, many of whom also went for the summit.

The weather was tricky all season, but eventually offered two summit windows: May 19-20th and May 25-26th, which enabled a total of 538 climbers to reach the top of the world:  389 people from the South and 149 from the North – even after Himex, the second largest expedition on the mountain, pulled out in early May.

The summit numbers include not only climbers that paid to be on the mountain, but also sherpas supporting them and hence the total is bigger than the number of climbers. The actual success rate (summits vs. attempts) this season was around 57.93%.

According to the website 8000ers.com, the summit record on Mount Everest is from 2007 when 633 climbers summited the mountain.

However, the season brought also bad news with six people perishing in the first summit window and making it the second deadliest day in the history of Everest climbing. In total, 10 people, three Sherpas and seven Western climbers died on the mountain this season – providing a stark reminder of the dangers involved in climbing Everest. The deaths represent 1.82% of the summits.

My condolences to all those who lost loved ones on Everest this season – I hope other’s learn from their misfortune and recognise that no prize, even summiting Mount Everest, is worth losing one’s life for!

Remembering the 1996 Everest Disaster

I woke up at home in Dubai this morning very happy that I managed to summit Everest on the 19th, but having had a few days to reflect on the conditions of the day, the number of people and other aspects, I’m even more happy to return alive with all my fingers and toes.

It turns out that the 19th of May, became the deadliest day on Mount Everest since 1996, when eight people died during summit attempts and the mountain claimed a total of 15 lives during the season – the worst day in the history of Everest.

I wanted to remind everyone of the events of 1996, not dig up the gory details, but to give a realistic example of what it can be like on summit day on Mount Everest and how small the margin of error can sometimes be.

Back on the 11th of May 1996, three expeditions were preparing for their summit push: Adventure Consultants’ expedition led by Rob Hall, a Mountain Madness expedition led by Scott Fischer and an expedition sponsored by the Taiwanese government and led by Makalu Gau.

Shortly after midnight on May 10th, Adventure Consultants (AC) expedition, consisting of six clients and three guides, began their summit push. They were joined by another six clients and three guides from Mountain Madness (MM).

However, upon reaching the Balcony, at 8350m, the teams discovered that no fixed lines had been put in place and the clients were forced to wait for an hour while the guides installed the safety ropes. This was repeated again at the Hillary Step, at 8760m, where another hour of valuable time was lost.

Anatoli Boukreev, a guide with MM, was the first to reach the summit at 1307. However, due to the delays with the fixed ropes, most of the climbers didn’t reach the summit by 1400, the last generally accepted safe turnaround time to reach Camp 4 before nightfall.

By 1500 several of Hall’s clients, including Doug Hansen, a 46-year old member of the AC expedition who had already ran out of supplementary oxygen, were still on their way up rather than down.

At 1700, a severe snowstorm struck the Southwest Face of Everest, reducing visibility and obliterating the trail back to Camp 4. Shortly afterwards, Hall radioed Camp 4 for help, stating that Hansen had fallen unconscious but was still alive. Moments later, Andy Harris, Hall’s fellow guide began climbing to the Hillary Step with supplementary oxygen and water.

Meanwhile, Mountain Madness expedition has also been caught in the snowstorm. Scott Fischer had reached the summit at 1545, way past the normally agreed cut off time. He was climbing with a sherpa, Lopsang Jangbu, but had convinced Lopsang to descend alone once it became clear that Fischer was not able to descend the Balcony. Fischer was left with Makalu Gau, the leader of the Taiwanese expedition.

The weather continued to deteriorate into a full-scale blizzard. As a result, several climbers got lost on the South Col. Six members of MM along with three members of AC wandered in the blizzard until midnight, when they caught a glimpse of Camp 4 – just 200m away.

A few hours later, Hall radioed that he was on the South Summit. He also reported that Harris had reached him and Hansen, but that Hansen had died during the night due to hypothermia and that now Harris was also missing.

Hall also noted that he was not breathing oxygen, because his regulator was too choked with ice. He also highlighted that his frostbitten hands and feet were making it difficult to traverse the fixed ropes.

Meanwhile, Fischer’s fellow guide, Anatoli Boukreev made several attempts to reach the stricken Mountain Madness expedition leader, but was forced to turn around due to the weather, although he succeeded in rescuing several clients in the process.

In the early evening, Adventure Consultants’ Hall radioed to Base Camp, asking them to call his wife, Jan Arnold, on the satellite phone. During their last communication, Hall reassured his wife that he was reasonably comfortable and told her “Sleep well my sweetheart. Please don’t worry too much.” He died shortly thereafter.

When Boukreev finally reached Fischer’s location the following day, it was too late. It’s speculated that Fischer had been suffering from severe altitude sickness, either High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) or High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE).

While it’s natural to focus on the sad parts of this story, it also includes amazing stories of survival, like that of Beck Weathers, an American pathologist, climbing as part of the Adventure Consultant’s expedition.

During the summit push, Weathers became blinded due to effects of high altitude as well as overexposure to ultraviolet radiation. He needed to be guided off the mountain by Hall, but before Hall could get to Weathers’ aid, Weathers became stranded in the blizzard.

Weathers spent the night exposed to the elements on the South Col, suffering from hypothermia and frostbite to his face and hands. However, miraculously, he recovered enough to walk unsupported to Camp 4.

At Camp 4, his teammates were certain Weathers would not survive the night and simply tried to make him as comfortable as possible. However, against all odds, Weathers survived another night despite not being able to eat, drink or keep himself covered by the sleeping bags provided to him.

Once found alive, Weathers was helped to walk on frozen feet to a lower camp, where he was a subject of the highest altitude medical evacuations ever performed by helicopter. Following his evacuation, he had his right arm amputated halfway between the elbow and the wrist. All four fingers and the thumb of his left hand were were removed, as well as parts of both feet. His nose was amputated and reconstructed with tissue from his ear and forehead. Weathers’ story had been captured in a book called “Left for Dead”.

One of the people involved on the treacherous summit day was John Krakauer, a journalist on an assignment for the Outside magazine, who captured the story of the day into a well known book “Into Thin Air”.

Back home!

I felt disoriented waking up on an actual bed this morning. I guess it’ll take a couple of days to get used to waking up indoors, on a bed ;-)

Last night I managed to get my flights changed, so I spent the day at the hotel in Kathmandu – a general strike in the city ensured that I actually couldn’t get anywhere!

In the evening I got a ride to the airport, where I managed to meet up with Mr Suresh and Mrs Bina from the Surya Vinayak English School – whom I’ve been helping out with my wife as well as my classmates from London Business School, before jumping onto a flight to Abu Dhabi.

I gave Mr Suresh and Mrs Bina a Surya Vinayak English School flag I had taken to the summit – it’s a shame that the weather didn’t allow for good pics with the flag on the summit, but at least I got some at Everest Base Camp!

I was feeling sick for most of the flight, probably from the resealed bottle of water I was served yesterday at the helipad in Kathmandu.

Anyways, I was happy to jump into the back of an Etihad car that drove from the Abu Dhabi airport back home, kiss my wife and fall asleep in my own bed…after two months in a tent.