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Archive for March, 2013

1 APR: Jet-lagged/Touring in Nepal

Sunday, March 31st, 2013

Namaste! The USAF 7 Summits Challenge team made it to Nepal just after midnight on the 31st of March. We were able to hit the sack by 0230 after a five hour flight from Hong Kong (it was delayed 2.5hrs due to storms over HK) and waiting over an hour at Nepalese immigration. It’s now about 24hrs since we got here and the team is slowly recovering from the long trip and 12hr circadian rhythm shift.

Yesterday we ate breakfast outside side as the birds were chirping and the sun came up over the bamboo and wiry trees. The rest of the day was spent doing a task critical to our pre-depature risk management: gear checks.

While each trekker and climber already packed using a detailed gear list, it’s inevitable that something was overlooked, forgotten, or doesn’t meet requirements. So each small room became a mass of colorful gear spread out across beds, floors and chairs: sleeping bags, boots, crampons, jackets, long underwear, harnesses, cord, gloves, hats, goggles, snacks, medicines, electronics, water bottles, and many other items. The main goal of this: don’t get into the mountains and find something is missing/broken/unnecessary. It also gives us a chance to come together as a team and see what we can share among each other, therefore saving weight and repetition.

The wounded warriors (two Pararescuemen and one Combat Rescue Officer) are having a great time. After eating lunch, they headed off on a tour of the city while the climbers bought a little gear and repacked. Here is a SITREP sent out by one of the PJs. (Notice- there is a character in this photo called “Charlie”. He’s pretty darn famous in the rescue community. Charlie enjoyed the tour and is thinking about heading to the summit of Everest, but hasn’t made up his mind.)

The three of us had an epic day to say the least. After we left Rob Marshall and gang at lunch we did a city tour of the Stupa Boudhantah and ate at the Cafe Dew Drops overlooking the Stupa and market. We visited some incredible Buddhist temples, art schools, and shops. I got blessed by a Buddhist monk in the temple. It was sweet. Then we headed for the Hindu part of town to see the Pashupati Area which was unreal. There are so many diverse group that live so close together, each with their own customs and practices. We met some very interesting people including a Hindu Holy man who took pictures with Charlie. We ended the sunset day at the Temple of Monkeys on top of the city where you could see for miles. Gus and I went to the Thamel market for dinner at Jesse James Indian Cuisine. Rob Disney crashed. Anyway hope you’re guys’ day was excellent. I’m down for the night its about 2215. Catch you in the AM.

Stupa Buddha Gino Rob Gus Temple

30 MAR: Hong Kong Layover, Enroute Kathmandu

Saturday, March 30th, 2013
Many of the Everest '13 team in front of the Hong Kong harbor skyline.

Many of the Everest ’13 team in front of the Hong Kong harbor skyline.

Day two of the trip. Our 12 hour layover afforded us the opportunity to get out and see Hong Kong and after the 15 hour flight it was awesome stretching the legs. Jacky Wong, our guide, was able to pack in a fun tour in a short period of time.  After starving us for the first half of the day, he then stuffed us with the local dishes at a Dim Sum restaurant.  Between the 10 of us, we must have eaten a good 2000 calories.  The cost was only ~$12 a person and it was all we could do to finish the food.  Many laughs were had as people got to know each other better over endless dishes of noodles, dumplings, meats and who-knows-what.  We all packed on an extra 5 pounds of weight that will be welcome calories in the weeks to come.  Of course navigating around the city probably ate up most of those calories anyway.

Hong Kong was unlike any place most of us had seen.  The density was hard to comprehend.  We really enjoyed having a local showing us around and sharing his insight on this massive city.  Rather than use a guide book that took us to all the touristy spots, we skipped them and ended up in areas of the city few foreigners roamed.

Crowded Signage in Downtown Hong Kong

This varied group of Airmen is quickly coming together as a large group of friends.  Inside jokes are beginning (in a good way) and slaps on the back are common between all.  Some of the laughs seem to be due to our lack of sleep… you know that giddy laugh people get after staying up all night?  Those are pretty much common place as we sit in the airport waiting for our delayed flight to Kathmandu.

One of Our Wounded Warriors (L) Stands Next to the Summit Team at Outdoor Store in Hong Kong

One of Our Wounded Warriors (L) Stands Next to the Summit Team at Outdoor Store in Hong Kong

While our trip is just beginning and we’re still far from the mountains, we’re already using a good deal of risk management.  Traveling with a group of ten folks in a crowded, confusing city has its hazards.  #1 would be getting separated, which wouldn’t be cool, right?!  Just using the simple head count at each stop was our best tool.  However, one of our deliberate risk management steps was to get all our team linked up on Skype.  How does that help?  Well, over here we don’t have cell signals (most of us have turned off cellular connections), but we are using our phones’ wifi.  The idea being that if anyone gets separated we are connected via voice and text on Skype.  It’s a cool way to avoid terribly expensive phone charges and still be in real-time communication with each other. It also doesn’t hurt that many here speak a little English, so finding a bus back to the airport and rallying at the gate, which was the back-up plan, wouldn’t be too difficult.  – Colin, Andrew, and Rob



29 MAR: Los Angeles Team Meet Up

Friday, March 29th, 2013

Alright! Here’s our first blog post on the road. The team (minus Maj Malcolm Schongalla, Capt Kyle Martin, and Dr Edie Marshall– who are all flying east) linked up at Los Angeles Int’l before catching a flight to Kathmandu via Hong Kong. We’ve included a photo. Not the best, but we’re seeing how well a blog post from an iPhone will look. What do you think?

We’ll be using a satellite system (BGAN) tied into a small net book. Our blogs will be longer and more detailed when using that. We’ll also make a few phone calls to the blog so you can hear from the different climbers, wounded warriors and trekkers.

It is almost 1am Pacific Time. Thats 4am to a few of us, so energy levels are dipping. But its about 2pm in Nepal, so we are staying awake until a regular bed time down range.

Behind me the team members are getting to know each other. Many had never met before, but all have enough shared experiences that it doesn’t take long to break past shyness and kick it like old friends. That is one of the major strengths of this USAF 7 Summits team- we bring men and women from all over the nation/world and put them into a tight team atmosphere. We often skip the “storming” stage and go right into “norming”.

By the time we leave our 12hr Hong Kong layover, the transformation from a group of Airmen to a team of friends will have progressed significantly.

The plane is starting to board and I want to join in on the story swapping behind me, so it’s time to sign off.

See you all in Hong Kong… a 15hr flight!! Ouch!!

–Climb High–

Rob M

Amarillo Mayor Proclamation

Saturday, March 23rd, 2013

On Tuesday, the 19th of March, the Mayor and City Commission of Amarillo made a formal proclamation in support of the USAF 7 Summit Challenge’s upcoming trip to Mt. Everest. Maj Marshall attended on behalf of the team of six Airmen climbers, three wounded Airmen, and three Airmen trekkers.  Two Amarillo banks were directly responsible for sending two Wounded Warriors up to Everest Base Camp with the team of climbers as part of their recovery from traumatic injuries/experiences.

When the people of Amarillo heard about the plans for Everest and taking injured military members to Base Camp, they came together to show their patriotism and caring by spreading the word and helping raise money.  It was a moving experience and one that underscores how a project like this can rally a community and bring everyone closer together.

Amarillo used to have an Air Force base for many years, but it was closed as the Cold War died down.  Even though the base is gone, there is an affinity for the Air Force in this north Texas town and they certainly love to support military members, both current and past.

Amarillo Proclamation

Pentagon Smiles

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

In light of all the stressful things going on in the cavernous Pentagon, we’re hoping this brief ray of light put a smile on at least a few faces.  It’s just a short video from the Pentagon Channel, but at least it has some great photos in it!  Sequestration, who?  Here’s to toughing out the painful cuts and not losing sight of positive things like the Air Force flag on top of the world!


First Audio-Blog

Saturday, March 9th, 2013

Here’s the first test of a great function we aim to use from Everest.  It gives us the ability to call in and leave a voice update rather than post.  The quality is pretty good and we think it’ll be a great way for everyone to follow us in our journey and get a more personal feel to how things are going!  –RMM

50th Anniversary of Americans on Everest

Friday, March 8th, 2013

We’re now just 20 days from leaving for Nepal.  I shake my head to think there is less than three weeks left.  A month ago we were all chomping at the bit- just really excited for the climb and ready to do it.  Now I’m thinking, “Will I get everything ready in time?!”

I guess that’s the way it goes with most my big trips.  The timeline goes from “Way More Time Than You Need” to “Oh $@!%, The Plane Leaves Soon!”  When that happens, it’s nice to know that all the long-term planning we’ve put into an expedition has us covered.  Part of our risk management was to get as much preparation done as early as possible- physical training, studying on the mountain, breaking in new gear, and spending time high in the mountains.  Thankfully, that didn’t leave too much last minute work to be done, as that’s always the most stressful.

This morning I wanted to share a cool article that talks about the first climb of Everest by an American.  Many people aren’t aware that 2013 is the 50th Anniversary of that historic American climb.  We think it’s pretty special that our climb, the first by a team of American military, falls on the 50th Anniversary.  Hard to imagine that it took fifty years to get a group of US service members onto Everest, but you can bet we’re exciting at getting rid of that record.

Cheers-  Maj M


The List: 50 Things About the 50th Anniversary of the 1963 American Everest Expedition


On May 1, 1963, the American Everest Expedition succeeded in placing the first American climber on the summit of Everest: Seattle native Jim Whittaker. The entire team was honored with the National Geographic Society’s Hubbard Medal, and Whittaker became a celebrity of the ’60s, as famous as astronaut John Glenn. Two other Americans, Lute Jerstad and Barry Bishop, summited via the South Col on the same expedition, and Americans Tom Hornbein and Willi Unsoeld summited via the bold, difficult (and rarely repeated) West Ridge.

In light of the historic expedition’s 50th anniversary, we’ve collected 50 facts about the expedition.

1.  Since there was no airport at Lukla in 1963, the expedition began on foot: The trek to Base Camp from Kathmandu was 187 miles and took the group a month (Feb. 20, 1963-March 20, 1963).
2.  Starting in Kathmandu, the trek involved a mass of almost 1,000 moving people:
3. 19 American climbers
4.  37 Sherpa, and
5.  909 porters, carrying
6.  27 tons of gear and supplies.
7.  Only six people had ever stood on the summit before the American expedition — Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in 1953 and four Swiss climbers in 1956, Ernst Schmied, Juerg Marmet, Dolf Reist and Hans-Rudolf von Gunten.
8.  When Jim Whittaker and Sherpa Nawang Gombu were a few feet below the summit on May 1, 1963, Whittaker yelled for Gombu to go to the summit first. Gombu yelled back, “You first, Big Jim.” The men walked to the summit together.
9.  In an interview after the expedition, Gombu was asked what his first thought was on top of the world’s highest peak. He replied, “How…to…get down.”
10. Before the American Everest Expedition, Jim Whittaker had never been higher than 20,320 feet (the summit of Denali). Willi Unsoeld, who summited the West Ridge, had been on the first ascent of 25,660-foot Masherbrum in 1960.
11.  Jim Whittaker was also the first full-time employee of REI, and at the time of the expedition, was the company’s sales manager. He would go on to become CEO of the company.
12.  Breakfast on summit day, for Whittaker and Gombu, was one cup of hot Jell-O each.
13.  On the day Whittaker and Gombu summited, Sir Edmund Hillary was camped at the base of nearby Taweche. He reportedly had looked up toward Everest and declared the weather “impossible.”
14.  On the descent, just beneath Everest’s south summit, Whittaker answered what was believed to be the highest call of nature ever.
15.  Tom Hornbein and Willi Unsoeld summited via the then-unclimbed West Ridge on May 22, three weeks after Whittaker became the first American on the summit.
16.  On the summit, Unsoeld recited over the radio a verse from Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening: “I have promises to keep/and miles to go before I sleep…”
17.  Only three climbers have summited Everest via the West Ridge since Hornbein and Unsoeld in 1963.
18.  The same day Hornbein and Unsoeld climbed the West Ridge, Lute Jerstad and Barry Bishop summited via the South Col. The four met below the summit on the South Col route late in the day and descended until they couldn’t see anymore.
19.  The morning of their summit attempt, Bishop and Jerstad made a mistake while changing out a stove fuel canister, and one of their stoves burst into flames, singeing their beards and eyebrows. They were two hours late leaving the high camp for the summit.
20.  Lute Jerstad filmed the first motion pictures ever captured on the summit, on May 22.
21.  As Jerstad was filming, Barry Bishop took still photos — knowing he might be confused at the high altitude, he had written on his parka a list of shots he wanted to get.
22.  After meeting below the summit, Unsoeld, Hornbein, Bishop, and Jerstad climbed downward until they couldn’t continue, and stopped to huddle and bivy for the night. It was the highest bivy in the history of mountaineering, at 28,000 feet.
23.  During the bivy, Unsoeld warmed Hornbein’s numb feet against his bare stomach. Hornbein offered to return the favor, but Unsoeld declined, thinking his feet were fine.
24.  Dave Dingman abandoned his own summit attempt to find Unsoeld, Bishop, Hornbein, and Jerstad and get them safely down the mountain.
25.  Because of the exposure during the 28,000-foot bivy, Unsoeld and Bishop were unable to walk from Base Camp to Kathmandu — they were transported by military helicopter, and Unsoeld’s frostbite cost him nine toes. Bishop lost all ten toes, and the tips of his pinky fingers.
26.  The American Mount Everest Expedition was the first-ever simultaneous climb of Everest from two directions — the May 22 summits via the South Col and the West Ridge.
27.  Of the American summiters, only Jim Whittaker and Hornbein are still alive. Bishop was killed in a car accident in 1994, and Unsoeld died in an avalanche on Mount Rainier in 1979. Lute Jerstad had a heart attack while climbing in Nepal in 1998.
28.  Expedition leader Norman Dyhrenfurth wanted to keep it secret which team member was the first American to summit. Word leaked out six days later that it was Jim Whittaker.
29.  Each oxygen bottle used (above 22,900 feet, Camp III) weighed 9.9 pounds empty and 12.9 pounds full.
30.  Tom Hornbein, who had had trouble using Swiss oxygen masks on an expedition to Masherbrum, designed the team’s oxygen masks.
31.  The oxygen masks were molded and manufactured by the Maytag Company of Newton, Iowa, makers of washing machines and other appliances, over two years — Fred Maytag, head of the company, had attended a talk Hornbein had given about his Masherbrum trip at Washington University in St. Louis, and became interested.
32.  200 oxygen bottles were used on the ascent.
33.  Nearly 28,000 feet of 16mm Ektachrome Commercial film (mostly in 100-foot and 400-foot rolls) was exposed in the shooting of footage for the documentary film of the expedition.
34.  The film, Americans on Everest, was a National Geographic special airing in 1965. It was narrated by Orson Welles.
35.  Psychologist James T. Lester Jr. collected the men’s dreams throughout the approach and summit attempts, approaching the men each morning at breakfast.
36.  One of Dr. Lester’s statements about his research: “[It] is not that climbing insures a greater enjoyment of life, for climbers seem to have as much difficulty with that as any of us, but rather that many of the psychological qualities characterizing the man climbing a difficult mountain are qualities that could greatly enrich anyone’s daily life.”
37.  Total budget for the expedition was $403,307.
38.  In 2013 dollars, that’s $3,034,305.26.
39.  The expedition rationed 10 tons of food, packed by Universal Services Inc. of Seattle.
40.  The food was packed in 416 boxes, each 28 inches by 16 inches by 12 inches, and weighing an average of 63 pounds.
41.  Each meal, packed into a ration for 19 team members, was an average weight of 20 pounds.
42.  The members of the American Everest Expedition used Mount Rainier for a training ground because it had all the features of a big Himalayan peak (seracs, glaciers, icefalls, etc.), doing a practice run in September 1962.
43.  The permit for the expedition cost $640.
44.  All members of the expedition were asked to loan $500 (about $3,800 in 2013 dollars) to the expedition, to be repaid if it ever made any money.
45.  Out of the 19 expedition team members, three were M.D.s, five were Ph.D.s, and five had master’s degrees (and three of those were working towards Ph.D.s).
46.  All but four of the expedition members were married at the time, with a total of 26 children.
47.  Jim Whittaker picked up a rock from the summit, which he took home and had set into a gold-banded ring.
48.  Jim Whittaker’s twin brother, Lou, was part of the American Everest Expedition team until he made a difficult decision not to go, a few weeks before the team was due to leave for Kathmandu in February 1963.
49.  Lou Whittaker’s replacement on the team, Jake Breitenbach, was killed on March 23, 1963, by an ice wall that collapsed in the Khumbu Icefall. It was the team’s second day out of Base Camp.
50.  The remaining members of the ’63 expedition will gather in February 2013 at the American Alpine Club banquet in San Francisco: Jim Whittaker, Tom Hornbein, Norman Dyhrenfurth, Allen Auten, David Dingman, Maynard Miller, and Richard Pownall.

This list found at: http://www.adventure-journal.com/2013/02/thelist-50-things-about-the-50th-anniversary-of-the-1963-american-everest-expedition/