Apr 29, 2010, 1:30pm

 It’s only a few hours since I sent away Tasia, sitting in the sun room writing. Kuran, the lodge service boy, came up: “Your friend is here.” I walked into the dining room and was shocked to see Jeff, one of my teammates, sitting there! “I’m going home.” Everyone had a tough time at camp 2. Other than going through the same physical pain, Jeff is also torn emotionally. With a sweet wife and two lovely kids at home, Jeff decided it’s more than he can bear. It felt like a joke to me that I’m just sitting here in Pheriche sending away one teammate after another. It’s sad to see another teammate leaving.

In a sense, the serious climb hasn’t even started yet (we haven’t even touched Lhotse face yet), but we (and every team) have been quickly losing climbers for various reasons. Some have said that going through Khumbu icefall is the ultimate Russian Roulette game for mountaineers. But here we see a different Russian Roulette game before we even start climbing. Everest has been so trivialized by various movies, but here I intimately feel it’s a survivor’s game on a daily basis. Everest tests us from all dimensions. We often say, “one step at a time.” Here, each step is hard. There’s a voice trying to tell you “quit” at each step. We need to be resilient in many dimensions, but it’s also a balance between many forces. Some of them you can’t fight against.




Why is Everest so hard?

There are many challenges other than the simple high altitude AMS threat:

  1. Physical Challenge: The approach to Everest is long, and the technique required is more complicated than other hiking mountains— climbing through Khumbu icefall, climbing Lhotse face, and climbing Hilary step at extreme high altitude are all very
  2. Physical Pain: There are so many health hazards along the way; every day you need to not only bear the pain of breathing the thin air and any possible AMS symptoms such as headache, but also fight against the pain of cough, nose stuffed with bloody secretions all the time (we constantly need to clean it, every few minutes, then it’s stuffed again in another minute), throat irritated by dry air all the time. Your immune system is weakened, so any little sickness at sea level is magnified 100 times at altitude. It’s painful to fight health problems at
  3. Tiredness: Each climbing day is long, and you are tired from climbing; the altitude and the uncomfortable camping conditions make it hard to sleep, and your own cough would interrupt rest. Tired and unable to sleep!
  4. Demanding schedule: Every climbing day is equivalent to a summit day on other mountains. Every climbing day is alpine start (get up in middle of night and start in dark). You have to make so many mini-summit days during the whole climb, it’s
  5. Uncomfortable climbing climate: The temperature on glaciers alternates between freezing cold and furnace-hot You can never dress perfectly. It’s painful to be tortured by bone-chilling wind one second, then cooked inside a 100F furnace the next second.
  6. Fear: The unknown risk from icefall or avalanche is there all the time, you just don’t know when it happens. The fearful feeling deters and weakens a lot of people. Not to mention Lhotse face and other hurdles high up on the
  7. Psychological pressure: Not just “what happens if I fail” kind of pressure from yourself or others, which most climbers have learned to deal with after having climbed so many mountains. Here, this is a very demanding mountain. You see other climbers stronger than you, faster than you, and the peer pressure from competition can make you doubt your own capability or potential, make you worry about yourself. Here everyone climbs on their own schedule: some choose to rest more days, and some choose to skip certain camps, so we will all end our summit on different dates. How do you feel when you are trying to focus on your summit push while others are celebrating and packing up to go?
  8. Option to quit: The approach to the mountain is long, and every step is hard. But it’s not so hard to quit! You can leave on a helicopter in a day, you can hike out in two or three days. You can be back in a nice hotel in KTM or your hometown in just a matter of days. Why suffer from the sickness, pain, fear, cold, risk of AMS and avalanche? You see people around you keep on leaving, and some are actually stronger than you. Should I suffer or should I go? Why should I suffer? The easiness to quit may contribute to more
  9. Emotional lure of home: Cozy home, warm family, loved ones are missing you. The expedition is so long. It has been a month already, yet we haven’t even started on Lhotse face yet! Summit is still weeks away and you never know the condition this It’s a torture to be torn emotionally.
  10. Every step is so hard: There are so many forces against you. You may arrive here with gear missing/forgotten or damaged in transportation. You easily fall sick. Nothing is comfortable here. You don’t sleep well, not enough nutritious food to compensate your big energy expense every Weather is never perfect. You feel you’re not trained enough, you never feel good/strong enough. It’s important to steer negative thoughts away; don’t be overly fixed on cause/condition or the so-called “sense.”

It’s important to focus on positive thinking. Yes, there are many forces against you. You need to be resilient! Climbing Everest is 90% mental. True, there are certain forces you can fight against, but don’t give up too easily! Make your best effort, consider all possible alternatives, think thoroughly of your decision. It’s a balance of all forces!



Dear all,

We just finished the rotation up to camp 2 (6500m), and spent two nights there. The trip through Khumbu icefall is safe, the acclimatization went well. My cough got very bad at camp 2 and kept me from sleeping in the night. We came down to EBC two days ago. Doctor made me take strong antibiotics, and I decided to descend to Pheriche (4200m) to speed up my recovery. I got here yesterday, and had a good night’s sleep last night. My cough has already quieted down a lot. Hopefully I will fully recover in a couple of days and go back to EBC in the next few days.

Thank you with warm thoughts, Lei


Apr 27 – 30, 2010


Sitting here in the Himalaya Lodge dining room. Light music in the background, quiet and warm, despite cold and wind outside. Fog is rising in the valley, most of sky covered by clouds. I just sit here, enjoy my ginger tea, and just finished Sherpa stew, re-reading the description of the trekking route I have been through, trying to figure out the plan once I recover from the bad cough— hope the strong dose of antibiotics will do its magic. No worry of putting on an all-weather/all-temperature outfit to travel between tents or rush to pee in a bottle to save the 5-minute hike to the toilet.

Life is luxurious for me for the next few days. Just rest, eat, drink. My normal appetite is back, and I can order whatever I eat, according to my taste, not the general American group taste, and not limited by the stock in the high mountains. Food won’t get cold before I finish it. Instead, I can slowly savor it while reading or writing without worrying about it getting cold. It’s warm and windless inside here, with music in the background.

This won’t be forever. Hope I will get over the bad cough and get back to EBC soon. It’s windy outside. What’s the weather in EBC like? What are my teammates doing? Are they practicing using oxygen bottles? Oh, it’s lunch time. They are just exchanging stories in the dining tent. It’s interesting to have this peaceful time all alone here on such a trip, sitting here with only my own mind to feel.

Almost forgot this is in Nepal. Tourists from all over the world come and go, except the lodge owner and the diligent service boys. The stock in the bar is amazing. Maybe that’s why I almost forgot this is in the Khumbu valley…


It’s snowing so hard outside, like Xmas. Inside, dry flowers and long candles decorate each dining table, just like Xmas. Some people drink beer; one party is celebrating a birthday with a cake. A fireplace in the center of the dining room keeps the room so warm and cozy that the window is all covered with steam. No need to know if it’s cold or windy outside. Walking down the hallway to my room, there’s even lights along the ceiling every few yards. No need to worry about forgotten headlights, no need to worry if the trail is slippery because of the snow. Open the door to my room, it’s cold. But at least there’s a switch to turn on the light, and the toilet is down the hallway, also with a light inside. It’s five-star hotel life compared to that in EBC, but I need to go back soon.

What’s happening on the mountain?

While it is snowing here, weather is not great on Everest. The consortium of all teams just had a meeting and each team is contributing a few Sherpa to fix the route between camp 3 and camp 4, but it is going slow because of the weather.

Route between camp 2 and camp 3 (Lhotse face) is slowly kicking in. The first few teams (one with strong competitive mentality is eager to climb early before the route gets into better shape) on that route would have to kick the step much harder. It’s the steep face of hard ice!

IMG is still digging (literally! It’s hard ice slope!) camp platform for camp 3. Camp 2 to camp 3 is not only a hard climbing route, but also a hard camping site.


Apr 23

My cough is clearly picking up at the same time while my appetite is subdued at 6000m, though I’m happy that I don’t have any altitude symptoms— not even a headache. From what I’m hearing from everyone, this is normal for Khumbu Cough, the cough triggered by the cold dry air at altitude. Woken up by cough many times last night, I decided take more rest today— I only went for a short walk near the camp.

Looking from a distance, the setting of camp 1 is one of the most beautiful places. The rock wall of Everest rises above it so close! Can’t believe it’s only less than 3000m from here, yet it’s still weeks away for us to reach! Far away, Pumori, Lingtren, and Khumbutse paint a beautiful background to the west, while Lhotse faces straight to the east.

Apr 24: Camp 1 to Camp 2, 6500m


The route to camp 2 appears to be very straightforward on that giant gentle snow slope, but it’s still a lot of zigzagging across the maze of crevasse. At one point, the top of the ladder barely touched the lip of the crevasse. It’s a game of gamble before the lip melts away one of the days. But sometimes you just have to take the chance and move on.

The most agonizing part is from the time you see the campsite of camp 2 to the point you finally arrive at your campsite. It’s still hours of uphill trip, and exhausting! I was surprised that camp 2 is almost as big as

EBC in a sense. Because this is ABC, the Advanced Base Camp, every team built a permanent (for the season) campsite here including sleeping tents, standing cooking, dining tents, and toilet tents.

IMG camp site is high up on the hill, yet you are not sure where. So you must keep climbing over one false summit after another; you can’t let yourself relax the moment you step into the general campsite. You have to keep on putting in extra effort to make another step up the hill till you really reach your own campsite.

This would be the highest point I would have slept at to date. AMS symptoms normally start after you wake up from your first nap. Under the advice of our guide, I spent the afternoon sat around chatting and drinking, being active to avoid AMS. I’m happy that I’m mostly headache-free at 6500m. But nothing is easy here. To walk up and down the small hill between tents is already a big challenge! First, it’s a “big” decision to put on the big boots and put on all the layers of clothes, especially when it’s windy and cold outside; second, it takes several deep breaths before you finally summon enough strength to crawl out the little hole of the tent on the creepy hill— then every step up and down the hill at 6500m is not trivial!

Yet, we haven’t started the hard part of the climb yet— Lhotse face! This is not an easy mountain, and every step is an achievement in itself. It’s not only just huffing and puffing to fight against the thin air, it’s also fighting against your own pain, from cough, from wind, from heat, and from your own doubt. Every step is a hard physical effort, but also an extremely hard mental effort! Everyone is tired reaching this point. You may not be the strongest one on the team, but that doesn’t mean you should give up. You have to keep faith in yourself all the time despite the external hardship and internal weakness. Fight against the physical weakness with your mental strength.

I was hungry at dinner, but we were only allocated one small slice of SPAM per person other than some spaghetti. It’s not easy to bring up enough nutritious food this high.


Apr 25: Camp 2 Rest

The first half of last night I practiced sleeping with my full suit on inside my sleeping bag, since that will be how we sleep once we move up Lhotse wall. It was so uncomfortable that I could not fall asleep. But the second half of the night, after I threw away the full suit, was only slightly better. My cough kept interrupting my sleep, and while not coughing, the extreme dry air irritated my throat. It can’t be quenched by a cough drop or hot drink. I probably got no more than a couple hours’ poor sleep in the end.

Apr 26: Camp 2 to EBC

The second night at camp 2 was one of the longest and the most torturing nights I have had in the mountains. Despite my effort to control my cough with medicine, every few minutes, my violent cough would throw my body into the air; oftentimes I had to cough till I nearly threw up to find a little relief. I don’t have any AMS headache, but each shake from cough causes a lot of pain to my head. In the short peaceful minutes between bouts of cough, the unbearable dry air irritates my throat to the level that I would rather bear the painful freezing night to get up to drink hot water. But neither hot water nor cough drop could provide even a short moment’s temporary relief. I was painfully aware of every minute passing by and never looked forward to the daylight break so much!

The first time I saw the mucus come out from my cough, I was horrified. I never expected such a thing to come out of a live human! It was so dense, like a piece of dead meat! The greenish color made it appear to come from an alien’s body. I had no idea if this is what people call Khumbu cough?

I guess the whole campsite heard my all-night cough. When we finally got up to pack up to head down the mountain, guide Greg asked me if I was sick. I still didn’t understand the difference between cough and sick, and replied “just cough.” Everyone is coughing. Until we started walking down the hill, I hadn’t realized how much I have been weakened by the two days at camp 2 or by my violent cough. When trying to get up the first fixed line, I was shocked to realize that I can’t trust my hand belay without a jumar anymore. I also felt loss of muscle strength in my legs too! I was feeling quite weak by the time we walked into camp 1. My body wanted to spend more time resting here, but I understand we’d better get down the icefall early in the morning, and getting lower will help my health/strength.

Walking up the hill to leave camp 1 was hard. Though it’s 500m below camp 2 already, I still haven’t found much benefit of the altitude drop yet. When further lowering into the icefall, I gained some strength back in climbing the fixed rope up and down the icebergs on hand belay. But my cough is not getting much better. I would burst into violent coughs almost after gaining each little hill. I could only do short, shallow, frequent breaths instead of well-rhythmic deep breaths, or I would end up coughing and stopping to gasp for air. After spending nights at 6500m, I should have flown up hills at lower altitude. I was sad to find that was not the case for me. Lower altitude didn’t relieve my violent coughing pattern. Shortly into the icefall, I also completely lost my voice.

After we finally reached EBC, I went straight to HRA. It took no guess for the doctor to tell me that it was not Khumbu cough that I’m having. Good news is that it’s not HAPE or Pneumonia neither, which I feared. It’s that remnant cold virus I had before I gained super power, when high altitude weakened the immune system. He gave me some strong antibiotics and suggested that I may benefit from further lower altitude. So after discussing with IMG guides, I decided to descend to Pheriche (4200m) the next morning.


Apr 22: EBC – Camp 1, 6000m

Today is the start of our first rotation up on Mt Everest. To climb a mountain as high as Mt Everest, we need to gradually expose our body to higher altitude instead of going up in one shot, which a normal person would surely not survive. To  achieve that purpose, we are planning several rotations, each time sleeping at a higher altitude, then returning to EBC to recover before going through the next rotation. A few days ago, we climbed Lobuche peak, which is as high as camp 1, so as to save us one rotation through the dangerous Khumbu icefall. The goal of this first rotation is to adapt our body to the altitude of 6500m, where camp 2 is.

(Note to readers: In Sherpa guided climb, each climber is on his/her own schedule. So when a “group” goes up the mountain, it does not mean everyone on the team is going on the same schedule. Actually, only half of my team is going on this rotation on this date; other members choose to go up on a later date because of health or strength reasons. So if you are trying to follow a specific climber, please do not assume/predict his/ her whereabouts based on general group progress.) 

To avoid spending too much time during heated hours in the icefall, we started early, before 4am. A Sherpa started the Puja fire before our departure. Led by my Sherpa, we passed from the left, grabbed some rice and threw it into the air three times, bowed and made a prayer for our safe climb, then started our walk towards the icefall. Most of the camps along the trail are still sleeping, though from far away, we can see lines of headlights in the icefall already.

The beginning part of the ice fall was some up and down trekking through the maze of endless rising hills of ice of various shapes. Some parts are steep and it is safer to grab the fixed rope just in case. Most of the time I found it ok just to hand-belay myself up instead of bothering with the jumar. Soon, we hit the first ladder and then endless ladders over all sorts of monster icebergs. Daylight starts to break, and I can clearly see the crevasse below the ladders. I would say, it’s not for the faint of heart. It’s joked that if you fell through those crevasses, you’d get a direct flight to America. But fortunately for me, I didn’t have a problem with the exposure, so I always looked into the crevasse to be aware of my environment. It’s an impressive mass of endless icebergs and it’s more impressive that ice doctors can find a safe path through this maze!

My cough just started picking up two days ago after that short exercise into the icefall and I coughed a lot last night. I must have coughed quite loudly, because several team members asked me, “Lei, are you sick?” when they passed me on the trail. “No, just a cough. No problem.” But my cough is getting worse, I can tell. Oftentimes I had to stop to gasp for air after a bout of bad cough, and it’s happening more frequently, which tired me out and slowed me down more and more.

Just as we finally topped out icefall near camp 1, we suddenly heard a loud noise above us. Looking up, rain of rocks and ice/snow is flying down from the west shoulder of Everest along the big wall next to us. Luckily, it was not a huge one and it was losing strength as it came down the mountain, and there is a little bit of distance between us and the wall. We were still clipped to the rope as we just crossed one crevasse.

Following my Sherpa, I got low to the ground and tucked my head to my knee. At the same time, our radio fired up with incoming inquiries from base camp and camp 1. We only got some dust from the avalanche and immediately replied a safe message to the radio.

Looking from far away, the camp 1 is built on a giant gentle snow slope. But look closely, and it’s laced with crevasse everywhere. We kept on making big zigzags for the safe pass, which made the trip much longer than the direct distance between us and the destination that appeared to be so close to our eyes. I can say I crossed my lifetime worth of crevasse today from the beginning of the icefall to the camp 1 and I know I will cross them several more times again on this trip! After climbing up the final steep hill, I finally arrived at camp 1 around midday, very tired needless to say. I find myself for the first time on this trip losing my appetite, and I know it’s not good. The first day at camp 1, I think the total I eat is less than what I would eat in one meal at EBC.


Apr 14-16, 2010

Things are happening fast here. Only three days ago (Apr 14th), we left EBC after an epic stormy night (all night thunder, lightning, snow and wind; so many avalanches that morning following the wind and snow loading; woke up to a 20F cold morning). Now we have just climbed Lobuche, a 6000m-ish peak, and are getting ready to head home (EBC).

The climb schedule was definitely a fast-paced one. The first day (Apr 14th), we hiked 5 hours from EBC to arrive at base camp (~4800m); the next day (Apr 15th) we moved to high camp (~5100m) after lunch. After an early dinner and a few hours’ rest, we got up at 3am this morning and went for the summit! Then we are back to base camp this afternoon already!

Though 6000m peaks are everywhere in Himalaya, this climb is still a serious climb by any standard. For the

~1000m ascent on summit day, two-thirds of the climb requires ascending on fixed rope, with half of that on rock and the top half on snow and ice. If this was in any other region, this climb itself would call a trip already. But here, this is only our first training climb and just gives us a taste of how demanding the Everest climb will be. We are heading back to EBC tomorrow to rest a few days (yah, need to recover fast!) before we get ready for more training climbs on Mt Everest itself, and each of them will involve climbing through Khumbu Icefall.

Let it cough, let it cough!

I think the team is mostly clean of the cold virus by now, but almost everyone has started coughing with various severity. I’m still trying to figure out how to tell apart different kinds of cough, but I guess what most people have here is the so-called Khumbu cough, which results from long exposure to cold dry air at altitude. From what I overheard from the guide’s radio this morning, some other teams are already requesting help on medicine (z-pak) supply!

I’m sleeping with a cough drop in throat as my nightly routine now.



Apr 12, 2010

Arrive at EBC

The approach to base camp is certainly longer than I was prepared for, though everything is going just according to our plan. Almost 3 weeks after I left home in Boston, finally I’m in EBC! On one side, the

climber team took a more conservative pace to ensure best acclimatization; on the other side, located at 5300m (17700ft), EBC is higher than any mountains in the lower 48 states. The trek is not just a hike in your backyard! Impatient trekkers can easily run into altitude sickness problems.

We already saw EBC and Khumbu Glacier two days ago from Lobuche and yesterday from GorekShep. So today, the trek is basically a walk towards icefall! There is only one word to describe icefall: wow! The closer you get, the more you “wow!” I saw a similar glacier before in Alaska from high up in the air, or to a less degree, at the end of our Denali climb when the glacier became so corrupted from heat, but this time we have to navigate such a maze of icefalls ourselves! During the day, we could hear the thunder-loud noise of avalanche here and there from time to time, and we are getting used to it fast! To be safe, our campsite is located quite far away from the ice fall. The only group further away is Russell Brice’s team.

Another surprise is that there is no flat ground for base camp! The whole terrain is on a super ragged glacier moraine. It took a lot of work to pile up rocks just to build a little platform for each tent. Once step out of your tent, watch for “stairs”! The biggest challenge is to go to the bathroom. The bathroom itself is actually sheltered inside a tent and is as comfortable as you can expect on a mountain. But to safeguard our water source for cooking, the bathroom is located at the far end of our campsite. It takes 5-10 minutes of careful hiking (consider hiking poles and crampons if there’s snow) from our tents to the bathroom! Plan your emergency well in advance and good luck not getting lost in the night!


We arrived at EBC shortly after 10am, and 11am is the time for the Puja ceremony! The date for the Puja ceremony is determined by the Buddha calendar. We each brought our climbing hardware such as harness, ascenders, crampons, ice axe, etc. to lay by the center podium for blessing. It was a 1.5 hour long ceremony starting with prayer chanting led by Lama. Later, drink (milk tea, butter beer, regular beer, soda) and various service food were distributed while the prayer and chanting continued. Long strings of prayer flags were unwound from the center pole and sent across the camp side by Sherpa to be attached to remote high points across the glacier moraine in all directions, decorating the whole base camp with sacred and beautiful prayer flags. People put butter powder on each other’s faces for good luck, and my Sherpe Da Tenji put another yellow string on my neck. The ceremony ended with festive line dancing and singing. Everyone is so happy and excited about the beginning of a new season!

Apr 13, 2010

 Busy Life

Once we are at EBC, life gets busy! There’s an agenda for every day.

Yesterday, after the Puja ceremony in the morning, we spent part of the afternoon going over our gear, making sure everyone is properly rigged up for ascending, rappelling, and self rescue in case of falling into crevasse. The rest of the day (the day is defined by sunrise and sunset, and portioned by three meals and other agenda) is spent organizing our own tent. While on the trek, we pack and unpack almost every day. Life is always on the move. Now finally at base camp, it took a while to reorganize our new home. It has been almost three weeks since I saw my big duffel bags! Remember how much care I took to pack each bag before the trip? Now it takes no less effort trying to dig out where I hid each little thing inside other bigger things. It is also serious internal design work to make my tent as comfy as possible while still being able to find every little item!

But just as I was barely unpacked, it’s time to pack again! We are leaving tomorrow for a training climb on Lobuche, a 6000m peak, for 4 or 5 days. Once we are back, we will get ready to tackle icefall!

Last night, we went to bed under a full sky of amazing stars. The evening was not too cold; the temperature inside my tent was about 20F. This morning, we woke up to find the whole EBC covered in fresh snow! What a beautiful day! We spent the morning practice climbing fixed rope.

I had been dreaming about showering and washing my clothes for several days before we arrived at EBC. But finding personal time is not easy with our busy agenda, and there is only a short window warm enough for showering and washing clothes— when the sun is shining on our campsite between 10am and 3pm. I finally managed to get a shower (don’t ask me if it’s comparable to the heavenly bath! But you would enjoy it if you have been wiping yourself with baby wipes for a week or more) after lunch, then the wind picked up, and I had to postpone washing clothes indefinitely.

Still a few hours of daylight left, time to get ready for Lobuche!


We walked about 5 hours from Pheriche to Lobuche (4900m). It was a hot day! Still around 75F, but the strong radiation of sun at high altitude and dust from trails require us to fully cover every inch of our skin. Last night, I went to bed with my nose a little bit stuffy, woke up feeling ok. Once I start walking, it’s

hard to tell the difference between a stuffy nose from cold or from altitude anyway. Other than that, I don’t feel other effects of cold.

We had a tea break at Khola, where Khumbu Glacier terminates. From there, we went up the hill to a place marked by Scott Fisher’s memorial. I’m a little bit emotional to pay the visit to his memorial, and am sad to see memorials of other young souls nearby— some died so early! But at least they died doing what they loved, albeit too early.

This reminds me of the quote I read at my Pheriche Lodge:

Life’s journey is not to arrive at the grave safely, in a well preserved body, but rather to ski in sideways, totally worn out, shouting “Holy shit, what a ride.” 

Everywhere you go on this trip, you see many inspirational posters. Life is short, cherish every day, make the best of every day, doing things you love! I also remember the memorial at Pheriche, the beautiful broken shining pyramid-shaped memorial with all the fallen climbers’ names etched on it. It’s too beautiful for so sad a reminder. There are still many empty name plates pre-attached to it. It’s sad that eventually they will all be claimed, many by Sherpa, some by young souls…

I couldn’t take my thoughts away from those emotions, from those memorials, until suddenly some new peaks popped out of the ridge in front me. I was so excited that I raced up the ridge— those are the beautiful peaks I had been admiring from far away in Gokyo a week ago: Pumo Ri, Lintren, Khumbutse! And you can clearly see Nuptse ridge winding down into Kumbu Glacier. Those 7000m or 6000m peaks are right in front of my eyes, not intimidating at all— rather, they felt dear to my heart like those lovely hills in my home yard!

Apr 10th

Last night when I went to bed, my nose still clearly demonstrated the symptom of cold. Luckily, it’s not bad enough to keep me from falling asleep. I kept a cough drop in my throat all night. On one side, it helps to relieve the dry throat irritation and prevent dry cough; on the other, the moisture in the throat helps breathing, so I don’t have to wake up in panic feeling suffocated. 5000m is so high that sometimes you could have that kind of panic feeling in sleep. I remembered that there was one night on Aconcagua high camp, as my breath slowed down when I was falling asleep. I would suddenly wake up in panic worried that my breath would stop if I fell asleep, and then immediately found myself suffocated because my dry throat prevented any swallowing actions. It was a scary feeling, and I don’t want to live like that for two months. The cough drop seems to be a nice solution to kill two birds with one stone.

This morning, we took a short hike to visit the Italian Pyramid research station, then hiked up the hill next to it that offered a great view of Khumbu Glacier. We can even see the base camp next to the icefall! When those 7000m peaks appear just like a small hill in front of you, almost reachable by hand, you know you are close! I can’t believe Everest Base Camp (EBC) is right in front of my eyes, though we will still patiently take two days to reach there in order to proper acclimatize.

To get over the cold as soon as possible, I spent the hours between lunch and dinner sleeping! It’s amazing how many hours we spent sleeping in the mountains. When the first person got the cold, we would try to keep a distance. Now that half of the team have the cold, it’s not a big deal anymore. Everyone is toughening up! So far, the cold hasn’t been holding back our progress. Compared to other more serious health threats, this is really just nothing.

To be safe, our meals have been boring, revolving around fried rice and pizza. The potato pizza is not bad at all although it’s just a plate of baked potato topped with cheese. Hopefully, we will have vegetable curries again once we arrive at base camp.

Tomorrow, we will hike to Groek Shep early, then go up Kala Pattar in the afternoon to have another Panorama view of Khumbu Glacier. The day after tomorrow (Apr 12th) we will arrive at EBC early to get ready for Puja, the prayer ceremony for the climb, on Apr 13th. We are getting busier with an agenda lined up every day! Ang Jangbu Sherpa, our base camp director, already took a shortcut to pass us and arrived at EBC yesterday! The climbing route is already completed in the icefall area, and all the way to camp 2 already! Well ahead of schedule! Things are happening fast!


Apr 5th – 8th, 2010

With the ultimate goal in mind, our group hiked at a very conservative pace, with an extra rest day at each stop to allow for sufficient acclimatization. Apr 5th and 6th, we hiked to Deboche/Tengboche with a day of rest, then on Apr. 7th we hiked from Deboche (3700m) to Periche (4200m) in about 4 hours, with more than an hour’s stop at the Pangboche monastery to get blessed by the Lama and an hour’s lunch break at Syamore.

My spiritual journey

The most important thing during the past few days is getting the blessing from Lamas. Yesterday, Apr 6th, we got blessed at Tengboche, and on Apr 7th at Pangboche. During each blessing, we put on a Khaddar that was blessed by the Lama, and the Lama also tied a red string around our neck that we will keep on us during the whole trip. Everyone carefully retied the string afterwards to make sure it wouldn’t fall off by accident. Some Sherpa also brought some sacred items they would bring to Everest Base Camp and to get the blessing from the Pangboche Lama. Everyone takes it seriously.

We also did some questions and answers with the Lama. Nothing complicated, just simple philosophy about life. The most important lesson is positive thinking and peace. Not only peace from within, but doing good deeds to create peace in the surroundings. The whole journey to Everest is not just an adventure, but more of a spiritual journey for me and many others.

During the past few years, my life has been through several transforming stages. At each critical point, it is with the help of many kind friends that I overcame some of the most difficult moments of my life and grew out of it. The little sailboat finally broke through the stormy wave and arrived at this serene land surrounded by peace. The hectic past seems to be distant when you can look at the world with a peaceful heart, and life moves on to a different level of understanding. I’m grateful for the good wishes and kind help from all friends that allow me to embark on this trip with peace of mind.

Himalaya is truly a special destination, and I truly believe that the right attitude is the most important thing to enjoy this wonderful place. Khumbu valley, where most Sherpa come from, is a Buddhism valley. It’s not only manifested in the temples, various Buddhist symbols, and prayer flags, but also in the kindness of the people and peaceful spirit everywhere. In this spiritual journey, I’m glad to have the company of a like- spirited team. This is a very capable team. Some have previously summited Everest or reached high on the mountain; several climbed Cho-Oyu or other high peaks; some have been extreme athletes that went through some of the most rigorous training/competition in the world in their past lives. Everyone has a lot that’s worth bragging about, yet everyone is so humble and brings calm and kindness.


Though each of us is going to climb with our own Sherpa, we still take care of each other just like a traditional climbing team. Our guides are all so tall (6’5”), yet they deliberately set such a slow pace during hiking to keep the team at a very conservative pace because they are focusing on the big picture and the ultimate goal. We need to stay in the best shape we can, and this is not a race. Our guides look out for every detail like a dutiful guardian, from enforcing sanitizing practice to keeping track of everyone’s drinking/eating/ sleeping conditions. Our Sherpa works so diligently to take care of the drinking/eating logistics of such a big team at a high sanitary standard.

The whole climbing team is so focused on Everest that few people can name or care to know other lesser- known mountains along the way. I think I’m the most knowledgeable one thanks my trekking last week and the education from Ted and Dawa.

The trail between Namche and Deboche was very similar to the one I was familiar with— Ama Dablam to the southeast; Peak 38, Lhotse Shar, Lhotse, Everest to the east; Thamserku, Kantega to the south; Cholatse and Taboche to the north; Nuptse ridge so very distinguishable that it hides Everest behind it.

After Deboche, the scenery starts to change. We gradually walked to the east side of Taboche and Cholatse. We also went around Ama Dalbam until I couldn’t recognize it easily anymore; when we crossed the river near Periche, Island Peak started to show up, while Everest completely hid behind Nuptse ridge.

Apr 8th 

With spring comes the cold virus!

There’s some cold virus circulating among the team. Several members including our guide are catching colds. The sound of coughing is not rare anymore. I started to feel very dry at the upper part of my throat in the afternoon, and felt super sleepy while waiting for dinner. I suspect it is the early symptom of the cold, if not any virus worse than that. Altitude wise, I was feeling almost perfect.

Finally, I couldn’t wait to hit the sack after dessert while most people were still excited with the concert going on in the dining room. It was strange— despite the extremely noisy footsteps upstairs, I fell asleep like a dead log! I felt as if I was on a heavy anesthesia! Once I lay down, my dry throat became so unbearably irritable (itching) that I had to keep a cough drop in my throat through the night while sleeping. I got up once in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, but then fell back to sleep immediately with the help of another cough drop.

By breakfast, I still didn’t feel like getting up— not because of tiredness, but the gravity towards the pillow. I felt like I was still on a sleeping pill. I was concerned. I knew I was fighting a cold virus that was circulating among the team. I deliberately chose to sleep hot by closing my already very hot sleeping bag. I sweat quite a lot, and I think that helps to fight off the virus.

I got up with trepidation. It’s a weird feeling— my head still feels heavy, though no signs of headache. I felt like I had an alien inside me! Not sure if I was over the threat of cold or not, I decided to be conservative for today. So while most of the group went for a short hike up the hill to Dingboche, I only took a flat walk near Pheriche with some other members who also preferred to take it easy. From my previous experience, I know my body is sensitive to virus circulating around me and alerts me with those early irritations so my immune system will kick in immediately to fight off the invaders. So I know it’s important to take the opportunity of the rest day today to win the battle against the virus. Tomorrow will be a big day, as we will be moving up to nearly 4900m at Lobuche. Not only is it a day of significant altitude gain (700m), 4900m is also a serious altitude level.

After the flat walk, I felt more like myself again. I do have a little running nose, but not serious. My sore throat seems to have relieved a lot. I don’t feel wired anymore. I feel the frontier of the virus has passed and I’m already on my way to recovery. Hopefully, with another night’s warm sleep, the virus will pass through my system.

News from EBC

Icefall route has been finished well ahead of schedule. Route fixed all the way to camp 1 already.


Apr 3rd

Having hiked so many hours yesterday, and with no pressure of my schedule today, I slept until almost 8am before I leisurely enjoyed breakfast with Pasang and Dawa. My acclimatization went so well that we didn’t need to take those rest days. So I’m heading back to Namche today, one day ahead of schedule. But my legs were definitely tired when I had to make the 400m ascending from Phortse Tenga to Mong La again.

Had to wear a down parka whenever sitting around during the past few days, now the air is getting hotter as we are near Namche. It’s like getting back to summer again. Clearly, there was no precipitation here when we had snow near Gokyo; the air is dry and dusty, especially when wind swirls by.

My dirty socks are at their limit already— they almost can glue my feet to my boots. I kept on telling myself that this as far as I can bear with one pair of dirty socks! I kept on calculating how fast I would want to get ready for a shower once I arrive at Namche.



Namche again!

I took a long shower and did laundry. This was only a week. How am I going to bear the dirtiness when I arrive at Everest Base Camp (EBC)?

I met my other team members. Trip leader is Justin Merle, and he will be the private guide for one of the climbers. Our Sherpa guided group is lead by Greg Vernovage, who will serve as coach for the team while trying to make his own first summit on Everest. Legendary mountaineer Phil Ershler will oversee this season’s climb.

Among the 14 members of the Sherpa guided group, there’s another female climber besides me— Anastasia from Greece. She had reached North Col a few years ago with a Greek team. There are also two other Asian climbers— Davis from Taiwan and Lein from Singapore.

There is also a large group from California! At least one member (Al Hancock) had previously summited Everest, while several other climbers had reached very high up on Everest in previous attempts or have climbed Cho Oyu. A few of them are also on the quest for the 7 summits.

Over the first dinner with the group, we shared a lot of laughs. Atmosphere is different from the previous few days. More hopeful jokes about the climb than the serious advice from Sherpa. Though we are staying at the same lodge and being served by the same kitchen staff, we enjoyed a buffet dinner with three choices of main dishes, including two different veg curries, and one meat curry. Everyone loaded their plates full and many went for second rounds. This is so different from my experience of the past week, when I couldn’t order enough food when following local style. I couldn’t understand— how do those Sherpa get so much energy with just such a tiny portion of potato/carrots/cabbage/rice/lentils for each meal? Asking our IMG guides, they couldn’t understand either!

Apr 4th

Group went for a training hike this morning, but I have the perfect excuse to rest. My legs were tired, and this is a needed rest day for me. A perfect day to catch up on all the writings and emails.

Tomorrow we will head out towards EBC via Tengboche.