I received a newsletter from Wendy, our mountain climber extraordinaire, much earlier this morning. The newsletter was written shortly before Brooke (her climbing partner) and she were scheduled to depart on a plane for Nepal - a 26-hour flight - and sent out to all subscribers while they were in the air.
Here are excerpts (taken verbatim) from what she wrote in her newsletter ... ...
Seems like only a few weeks ago I wrote about my upcoming trip to Australia to climb summit #6, Kosciusko. Between the holidays, my relocation back to New England, and my ongoing training for Everest the early winter months have blended together in a blur.
Now I am a few days away from my departure for Nepal and am about to take on the seventh summit - nine years since I was first offered the opportunity to attempt Denali (McKinley), seven years since I started training for my first mountain, five years since my first major summit and one mountain away from my goal to reach the top of the highest mountain on each continent.
Often I am asked how one prepares to climb Everest or any major mountain. There are multiple layers as to what is required physically and what I draw upon internally to even begin to contemplate a peak in the Himalayas. This journey certainly did not come naturally and without immense self-doubt.
The obvious is of course the physical aspect of preparing for a major expedition. Endless hours at the gym in the northeast and Colorado. The gym training and the daily regimen I adhere to isn't sport specific. My week is set up to include swimming, running, cycling, strength training and plyometrics.
I get one day of rest which usually is a travel day to a speaking venue and at this point in time I get to eat....a lot. In order to take on Everest I have been directed to gain 10 to 20 pounds as the average climber loses 22. I am consuming everything in sight and have been given my trainer's blessing to eat Haagen Daz ice cream every single night before bed. I am 6 pounds heavier and think at this point I will succeed in that prescribed weight gain.
The far more difficult training is the mental training. It is very difficult to be in an exceedingly remote part of the world with no creature comforts. To be covered in dirt, grime and sweat and no shower or bathing facilities. To be cold and sometimes scared and pushed to a point that I question my sanity. I have had to turn back from more than one mountain because of pangs of homesickness and the emptiness in my heart. It is a complication and a direct outcome of the homesickness that makes me use a special satellite phone to call home thinking this will recharge my spirit only to have the opposite effect. I become despondent and lose my mental edge.
Last month (You'll need to remember that she was writing this newsletter in March. She went to Mexico in February, as I wrote here. At this point in her newsletter she is telling about her training in Mexico on Mt. Ixta and how she deliberately cut herself off from any outside communication in an effort to harden herself for what is to come.) we (she and her climbing partner) spent five days in the remote wilderness climbing. I climbed with both strength of body and purpose, not once being reminded of all I had left behind. I got to that special remote place of being at one with the mountain which so often eludes me.
The climb was a huge success. Now to apply all that I learned to this upcoming mountain ... longer, harder and a whole lot higher.
She goes on to tell about how she will go into seclusion for a few days after arriving in Kathmandu to try and prepare both mentally and physically. She continues ... We then fly to the tiny village of Lukla in the Khumbu Valley from whence our trek to base camp will commence.
Lukla is at approximately 9000 feet. The trek will take at least 12 days as we intentionally travel slowly to gain strength as the altitude increases. Everest base camp is at 17,800 feet. We hope to be there around April 14.
There will be 29 teams attempting Everest this year. The unusually high number is due to the Chinese having closed Everest from the northern route (Tibet) concentrating all the teams on the south side.
(She writes in detail about a few of the 17 Sherpas that will be traveling with her party. Her life, and those of her traveling companions, are literally in those good people's hands. At the bottom of my post of March 6th, which I have already linked above, you will find more info on Sherpas.)
Everest base camp is the largest and most populated camp in mountain history. All 29 teams and their Sherpa support will reside there and return there frequently to rest and gain strength. We will move in and out of base camp frequently, even getting off the mountain for a few days at an even lower altitude. This is the on going process of acclimatizing and gaining more strength for the soon to come higher altitudes. All this up and down is why Everest takes so long to climb. Once sufficiently strong we will move to camp one at 19,000 feet.
Between base camp and camp one is the infamous Khumbu Ice Falls where we will cross the crevasse field via ladders* maintained by a Sherpa team called the "Ice Fall Docs". It is their sole job to maintain the route, ropes and ladders throughout the climbing season.
(*Again, please see the above-linked post for further info on Wendy's training for the Khumbu ice field.)
We will once again return to base camp and begin this process of sleeping at a lower altitude and climbing higher many times. We do not have a rigid agenda from base camp on. All is dependent on our health, our strength and the conditions on the mountain.
She writes about how she hopes to maintain her blog - and she posted today, by the way! - altho she cannot possibly forecast how the political climate might change, much less foresee computer and satellite phone access while on this last leg of her long journey.
Wow!! A trip like this must certainly be cost-prohibitive, wouldn't you agree? Not to mention the years of training, paying for time, Sherpas, housing, airfare, equipment, food and the like. In addition to all that, a fee of $25,000 per person, I think I remember reading, must be paid in advance. Ye Gods!!
Now, she has sponsors. Obviously! Otherwise she could not even begin to contemplate such a task. But, heavens to Betsy!!
Are you wondering what she looks like? I found - and there's just a 'ton' of stuff available on her, as you might imagine - an interview that was probably recorded in 2008, before she went to Australia.
It's motivational and inspirational, of course, and she talks about three "S's" that have come to mean so much to her ... self-discovery - serendipity - stubbornness.
I will, of course, be following her progress and relaying news from Nepal as I receive it. And you are certainly more than welcome to add her blogsite (which I've already linked) to your "Favorites". That way you won't have to wait for my updates.
Any gazillionaires out there who'd like to contribute to her cause? I can give you some links!
PS. She doesn't sound 'tired' now, to me. She sounds almost excited!