Homeward Bound: Everest Update,May 25

My last 24 hours at Everest Base Camp were a blur. After guardedly

muscling my way down the Khumbu icefall for the last time, I

immediately began thinking about what it would take to get back home.

I knew that once I began the trek out, each step I took would finally

be one step closer to home. I had anticipated a three-day,

36 mile walk/limp through springtime valleys, getting progressively

greener as I descended. Everest veterans had described seeing newborn

yaks and beautiful rhododendrons on their prior post-climb descents,

so despite a gait somewhat like Frankenstein’s I was sort of looking

forward to the long way home.

A friend and fellow climber had developed a medical condition

necessitating evacuation, however. As he was unable to make the long

trek out, physicians at the Himalayan Rescue Association (HRA) clinic

at base camp (“Everest ER”) requested a helicopter evacuation for him.

My friend appointed me his “personal physician,” and since there was

an extra seat in the French-built Cheetah helicopter (flown by the

Nepalese Air Force), I was told to finish packing in 15 minutes (!)

and start hiking towards Gorak Shep, where they thought the aircraft

might be able to duck in under the weather. The weather was much less

than ideal, but our ride from The Mountain to Katmandu was one I’ll

never forget:

skimming treetops by just a few feet, with enormous valleys opening up

beneath us. Most of the Himalayan Giants were shrouded in clouds

during the flight, but looking down at the raging rivers, tiny

villages and tenuous suspension bridges made it seem like we were

airborn for just a few minutes…

If all goes well, my duffel bags will arrive in Katmandu from the

mountains this afternoon — thanks to two very strong porters, who

carried them all the way from base camp to the Lukla airport — and

I’ll be on my way back to Houston tomorrow afternoon (via Bangkok, Los

Angeles and Dallas). I can feel the jet lag setting in already!







Summit so close,yet so far…

There I was, literally just 24 hours from standing atop
the world’s tallest mountain, 6:30 am, May 21, 2008.
The radio call from Casey had just come in, indicating
that he, Ari, Danuru and Dawa had actually done it,

and with extra determination I gave my pack a hoist,
wincing in sharp pain in the process.
Just the day before I’d awoken with low back spasms
(something I’ve dealt with intermittently in the
past), but I had still managed to climb the very steep
Lhotse face between Camps II and III in a very
respectable four and a half hours, cinching my
climbing harness like a weight lifter’s belt. The
night at Camp II had been hard, unable to find a
comfortable position for my low back for more than a
minute or two. I told myself to persevere, the summit
was tantalizingly close — by morning all would be
well, else I’d just “ignore” the stabbing pain and
press on to the top.

My buddies Adam, Kami, Namgya, Bob and others at camp
were as helpful as friends could ever be under the
circumstances — getting ready to move up to Camp IV
for our summit assault — placing a fresh oxygen
cylinder in my backpack and installing the crampons on
my boots (there was no way I’d have been able to reach
them). With their encouragement I braced myself and led
off up the steep slope towards the Yellow Band on a
test run. Within 10 paces I did an about face and told
my friends “I’m done,” averting my wet eyes from
probably some of theirs. I knew that if I continued up
with them I’d slow them dramatically, possibly
compromising their summit success, and conceivably
place them in a rescue situation (mine). After 59 days
on this expedition, and a lifetime of dreaming about
it, it was a painful but easy decision to turn away
from the summit…

There’s no need to feel sorry for me, though, as I’ve
had the adventure of a lifetime here — and besides,
I can handle a short period of self pity on my own!
Thanks so much for following along with my Everest
expedition. In the weeks ahead (after I’ve downclimbed
the mountain and flown back home), we’ll post some
other great photos and videos here.

Everest Base Camp
May 22, 2008

Ready to go at the Base Camp!

This is Scott again.  This’ll be my last entry until I get back from the summit of the mountain, hopefully here in a few days.  But just want to comment on the real expeditionary nature of being here in the wilds for now 54 days and counting. 


This really is a way station up… towards the summit of Mt. Everest just like the International Space Station is for places beyond Earth orbit.  Days are long and its time away from family, which can be very difficult.  Fortunately communications are better these days and we can call our families and, at least from Station, have access to news and some of the creature comforts of home.  It hasn’t been so easy here on Everest this season just because of some of the communications issues we had. 


But I’ll tell you one of the great highlights of my stay here was the [garbled] folks led by Sabrina Singh who’s one of our EVA Flight Controllers.  Came in earlier this month bringing cards and letters and a care package from home and friends from the Astronaut Office.  It was just a wonderful thing.  It felt very much like what I imagine a shuttle visiting crew feels like to an ISS expedition who’s been up there for several months.  Bye.

Ready to go at the Base Camp!

Hi again, this is Scott. Just wanted to make a few comments about the tools that are required to scale a mountain as it compared with going outside on a spacewalk.  It’s actually quite similar, in many regards…   We’re at great heights, of course gravity affects us in space a little bit differently as we’re in a free fall around the earth but here on Mt. Everest if you’re to slip and fall, it could mean a long ride, of several thousand feet…with a pretty bad outcome.  So we tether ourselves directly to the mountain, typically using fixed lines.  We have a little carabiner that we’ll grab onto a fixed line as we ascend or descend the mountain.  Sometimes we use a specialized tool, called a jumar, or an ascender, that cams on to the… and so we can scale very steep slopes and then periodically take breaks.  The little cam will grab onto the rope and let’s us take a breather.


And I think as I get higher and higher on the mountain that’s going to be more important to do that.  We use ice axes also to help us scale the mountain and use crampons on our boots to dig into the very hard blue ice that is on the Lhotse Face and other parts of the mountain.


So it’s a very committing environment when you go outside here on Mt. Everest.  In fact I liken going out of the vestibule of my tent as very similar to going outside of the ISS airlock hatch….  You’re wearing a big insulated suit, you have oxygen tank on your back, goggles, every square inch of your body is covered with insulation to keep you warm, and of course you need that oxygen to keep you healthy as you go to these enormous altitudes.  Also we wear very protective gloves and mittens, the temperatures can be extremely cold, you know, with a wind-chill down to -50 or -60 degrees.  In space the temperatures can get to, you know, -150 or even -200.


Fortunately, it won’t be that cold for me on summit day, but definitely something to think about as I head up to the summit in a few days.

Hope all is well back in Houston, and we’ll talk to you soon!


Ready to go at the Base Camp!

This is Scott calling in from [garbled].  It’s May 16th and I head out towards the summit.  We’ll be getting our gear on around 3:30 a.m. tomorrow morning and over the next several days working our way up successively … to hopefully Camp 4 on …  If all goes well around 6 or 7 in the morning on the 22nd we’ll be standing on top.  The fourth day of the expedition right now it’s been the most physically difficult thing I’ve ever done, to climb up to 24,000 feet so far.  On a shuttle trip it’s an 8½ minute ride to get to the perspective that I hope to experience on the summit.  So, definitely a very difficult, but very rewarding experience to be here on the mountain.  And I look forward to sharing more of it with ya when we get back to Houston.  Talk to ya later.

Back at Base Camp – Again,Everest Update,May 13,2008

Update from Keith Cowing:

Satellite call from Scott Parazynski:

“We had a great rotation down from Camp 3 (altitude 7,470 meters – 24,500 feet). We got back yesterday. We’re back here for several day’s rest – and we’re hiking around to stay fit.

We’re now waiting for camp to be set up on the South Col – Camp 4 (7,920 meters – 26,000 feet) and some fixed lines towards the summit.

We’re a bit uncertain when the summit window will open – probably some time after 22nd.

I feel great and am fully acclimatized. feel great. Being at Camp 3 at 24,000 feet felt super. Life is going well. I had a fantastic visit with my friends from the NASA Trek team. I can’t tell you how much that meant to me.”

More pictures and updates on Everest Expedition 2008 are coming soon.



Back at Base Camp – Everest Update,April 30

Update from Keith Cowing:

 I just got a phone call from Scott Parazynski at Everest Base Camp. He reports that he and his team feel great and that they returned to Everest Base Camp yesterday from Camp II after a 4 day stay.

This was their second rotation up to Camp II which is also known as Advanced Base Camp. Camp II is located at 6,065 meters (19,900 feet)

These forays up and down the mountain help them acclimatize to the ever-decreasing oxygen levels. By the time they make their push for the summit itself they will be better adapted to the arduous demands that will be placed on their bodies.

Over the next week or so he and his team will rest at  Base Camp and do some additional acclimatization climbs on some nearby peaks.

Once the Chinese have completed their climb Scott and his team will resume acclimatization climbs on Everest itself. They will push up to Camp III and possibly spend a night there before descending. Camp III is located at an altitude of 7,470 meters (24,500 feet)

After that, their next foray onto Everest itself will likely be the push for the summit.

Weather has been very good and it would seem that this will not present an issue around the middle of the month when most summit attempts are usually made.

As for the acclimatization process itself, Scott reports that he is doing fine in this regard as has been the case on previous climbs that he has participated in.

The NASA Trek team is now in Nepal and on their way to Everest Base Camp. They are due to arrive at Base Camp somewhere around 5/6 May. This is before Scott is expecting to make the climb up to Camp III so he is looking forward to seeing his friends.

Scott noted that it is hard to be away from home for long periods of time such as this and that he has “a lot of admiration for the ISS expedition crews who do it for 6 months at a time”.

When the familiar faces show up at Base Camp Scott said “it will be a lot like a visiting shuttle crew to the ISS in the middle of a long expedition – lots of friendly faces from home”.

I also passed on some hellos from folks back home including some of his fellow astronauts at NASA who often refer to him as “Doogie” (as in Doogie Howser M.D. – Scott is a M.D.).

Scott can also expect several bags of chocolate covered expresso beans (per his request) that I bought at a local Starbucks and some additional waterproof journals.

I expect the next report from Scott in a few days.

Heading for Camp 1 – Everest Update,April 19

Update by Keith Cowing.

I just got a satellite phone call from Scott Parazynski at Everest base Camp. He was expecting to leave a voice mail when I picked up the phone. We had a short chat during which he updated me on his stay.

Scott and his team have been at Everest Base Camp at an elevation of 5,380 meters (17,700 ft) on the south side of Mt. Everest in Nepal for a week now.

He sounded really good and said that “everyone is doing well and in excellent spirits” but noted that “at this point a little of the loneliness is starting to set in” in terms of friends and family and that in this regard he “now feels a kinship with my friends on-orbit”.

Scott also noted that he is feeling somewhat cut off from the rest of the world and that he is “out of the loop in terms of the presidential primaries, NBA playoffs, and Britney Spears”.

Today he and his climbing team will be heading up to Camp 1 which is located at 6,065 meters (19,900 feet) where they will stay for three days. This is all part of the gradual process whereby he will acclimatize his body to work at higher and higher altitudes. This process assures that climbers will be at maximum capacity when it is time to make the push for the summit.

During their stay at Camp 1 they will make a day hike even higher up to Camp 2 also known as Advanced Base Camp (ABC) which is located at 6,500 meters (21,300 feet). They will then head back down to Everest Base Camp and rest for a few days before doing this again.

Of course, throughout the day’s treks up and down there is the magnificent scenery. “This place is so photogenic. You cannot take a bad picture” he said.

In closing Scott repeated to me that he was truly having a wonderful time noting “sorry you cannot make it you’d really be in your element here.”

I expect to get the next update from Scott some time on 22/23 April after he has returned to Everest Base Camp and had a chance to relax.

Trek to Base Camp – Everest Update,April 6

Yesterday we trekked a little above tree line to the line of rock, snow and ice.  We’re well on our way to Everest Base Camp. Tomorrow we’ll be going to Gorak Shep.  And tomorrow morning, we’ll take a quick look at the whole Everest Base Camp Region, all of the way up to the summit of Everest and Lohtse and Nuptse and the other beautiful mountains surrounding the Everest Base Camp. Following that, we’ll trek on up to Base Camp where we’ll be for the next 6 to 8 weeks. 


Just wanted to let you know that we may have to go off line for a little bit here.  We’ll get back online as quickly as we can. When we’re able to get back online we’ll give you lots of lots of information on what the experience has been like up until that point.


I hope everything is going well back in Houston and hope to talk to you soon. 






Leaving Lobuche – Everest Update,April 5

I’m borrowing my friend Jaroslaw’s iPaq to zip out one last field report before we head to Gorak Shep, where we’ll spend tomorrow night — and Everest base camp the following day. Our acclimatization continues to go extremely well, and team spirits are off-scale high with anticipation of the mountain quest ahead.

Life here at Lobuche and destinations above is not easy: gusting wind, blowing snow, thinning air and the lack of many conveniences of home (for ex: running water, shower, stove, refrigerator) requires a great deal of focus, training, proper gear and teamwork. I feel really prepared for and excited by the challenges ahead.

We understand that our IMG base camp is nearly complete, and that the “Ice Doctors” have already installed 9 ladders in the Khumbu icefall — great progress indeed.

Of note, this may be the last time i’m able to post to this site for a few weeks, but I look forward to catching you up on our activities when able — and hopefully you’ll be able to follow along in near real-time as Adam, Kami, Ang Namgya and I head for the summit. In the meantime, the IMG site will be posting daily general updates on our team’s progress.

Climb on!