Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Wendy's in Nepal!

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!


Chuck said...

I can't imagine doing what she does. I did backpack to the top of Uncompahgre Peak in Colorado, elevation 14,309, and we were "sucking air" as we crested -- and 14K isn't even close to Everest base camp -- and less than halfway up Everest! Amazing woman, and obviously really driven.

Craig Peihopa said...

What a post Goldenrod. Excellent. It is people like Wendy who make me more determined to strive harder for my own goals

Linda said...

everyone will enjoy her journey more if they have an intimate knowledge of the Sherpa culture in the Everest region and the role they play in summiting Everest.
To learn more about the Sherpas of the Mt. Everest region, read Beyond the Summit by Linda LeBlanc. Sherpas are the true heroes of Everest. Without their assistance, very few would reach the summit. Details of Sherpa culture and religion are interwoven in a tale of romance and high adventure. The story has something for everyone: a love affair between an American journalist and Sherpa guide, conflict between generations as the modern world challenges centuries of tradition, an expedition from the porter’s point of view.

Below are selections from reviews. To read the complete ones and excerpts go to

Beyond the Summit, is the rare gem that shows us the triumphs and challenges of a major climb from the porter’s point of view. The love of two people from diverse cultures is the fiery centerpiece of a novel that leads its readers through harshly beautiful and highly dangerous territory to the roof of the world. Malcolm Campbell, book reviewer

Conflict and dialog keep this gripping story of destiny, romance and adventure moving from the first page to the last paragraph. LeBlanc has a genius for bonding her readers and her characters. I found I was empathizing in turn with each character as they faced their own personal crisis or trauma.
Richard Blake for Readers Views.

A gripping, gut-twisting expedition through the eyes of a porter reveals the heart and soul of Sherpas living in the shadows of Everest.

A hard-hitting blend of adventure and romance which deserves a spot in any serious fiction collection. Midwest Book Review

LeBlanc is equally adept at describing complex, elusive emotions and the beautiful, terrifying aspect of the Himalayan Mountains. Boulder Daily Camera

LeBlanc’s vivid description of the Himalayas and the climbing culture makes this a powerful read. Rocky Mt News Pick of the Week

A rich adventure into the heart of the Himalayan Kingdom. Fantastic story-telling from one who has been there.

This is the book to read before you embark on your pilgrimage to Nepal. The author knows and loves the people and the country, and makes you feel the cold thin air, the hard rocks of the mountains, the tough life of the Sherpa guides, and you learn to love them too. This is a higly literate, but also very readable book. Highly recommended.”
– John (college professor)

Memorable characters and harrowing encounters with the mountains keep the action moving with a vibrant balance of vivid description and dialog. Literary Cafe Host, Healdsburg, CA

This superbly-crafted novel will land you in a world of unimaginable beauty, adventure, and romance. The love story will keep you awake at night with its vibrant tension and deep rich longing. Wick Downing, author of nine novels

Such vividly depicted images of the Everest region and the Sherpa people are the perfect scenario for the romance and adventure feats narrated. It’s a page-turner, so engrossing you end up wanting to visit Nepal! Not just novel, but perfect for those seeking to get acquainted with the culture of this country.
By Claudia Fournier (América, Bs. As., Argentina)

Available through Barnes and Noble, Borders,,, and the web site

Goldenrod said...

Linda, I am so glad you took the time to leave such an extensive comment. I have some home-schooling moms who read my blog, and I'm absolutely positive that they will be making specific note of your recommendation. I, personally, have read "Beyond the Summit", and highly recommend it.

I hope that you will have time in the future to visit my blog again.

Chuck and Craig, good to hear from you both, as always. Sometime in the near future, I will - most definitely tongue-in-cheek - relate my own 'mountain climbing' experiences. :)