Back to Basecamp!

First, thanks for all the comments about my father. I appreciate it. Wojciech and I woke at 5 am and headed to the heli pad to catch our chopper back to base camp. We had hiked down to Namche for the lower elevation to heal up, and that just what we did. We were recommended not to stay more than 3-4 nights max or you start losing the acclimatization you build up by being higher. So we took the “scenic” route back to basecamp.

I had never flown in a helicopter before this last October, when we used one to fly over a civil war in Papúa, Indonesia, while climbing Carstensz Pyramid. They are amazing and such a cool experience. Today was no different. We got a great view and covered 40 kilometers and more than 10,000 ft in elevation in 12 minutes, what a lifesaver. Since it took us over 5 days to hike it the first time. Below, I captured a great shot of the Khumbu Icefall this morning from the chopper!

The remaining 6 climbers of our team are booked to return tomorrow at 8 am. We are now just waiting on our skilled Sherpa team to fix the lines to the summit and a weather window to open. Once everything is a go, it will take us five days to summit, once we leave basecamp ( assuming everything goes as planned.).

The remainder of the day was spent relaxing and organizing gear. I also cleaned up my tent a bit, as it needed some cleaning. Other than that I spent the majority of the day wrapped in my sleeping bag trying to stay warm. It is amazing the difference in temperatures between Namche and Everest Basecamp!

Music and Memories!

So today was the same as yesterday, almost to the pizza slice! We lounged around and just soaked up the sunshine and relaxed. The only difference is I made my summit push playlist. The top 5 songs in no particular order:

⁃ it’s a long way to the top – AC/DC

⁃ On top of the world -Imagine Dragons

⁃ Run to the hills -Iron Maiden

⁃ Stair way to Heaven – Led Zeppelin

⁃ Highway to Hell -AC/DC

Pretty much seemed like all 5 could be the theme song to this adventure. I have over 50 plus songs that hopefully will help carry me to the top of the world. Not excluding …..

⁃ Living on a Prayer by Bon Jovi.

On the topic of summiting, music, and musicians. I have a tradition that I have been doing now for over 15 years, and actually, it started back in high school.

When I was 16, I swiped my dad’s Kenny Rogers shirt out of his closet, because it was retro and I thought it was cool. I wore it to concerts and ski/snowboarding trips mostly being a clown! But in 2007 my father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s (just 58 years old when it started) and I started wearing it on adventure trips and music concerts/festivals as kind of a tribute to him, like he was apart of the adventure with me.

I credit my mother with a lot of things in my life but my sense of adventure I got from my father. I didn’t record or take pictures at first but started to a couple years back.

As anyone who has dealt with Alzheimer’s

Knows, it’s tough on the person and even tougher on the family. We all deal with it in our own way. I have tried to honor him by living a life full of adventure. A kind of life that was taken from him way too early!

So you will understand the reason I wear this 1982 Kenny Rogers tour T-Shirt in a lot of my climbing photos! Kenny (The T-shirt) is currently camped out at camp 2 on Everest, waiting for me to head back up on the final summit push and Join him on the top of the world. My father would have loved this adventure, and so Kenny and I plan to keep this tradition going.

For everyone who has a loved one with this horrible disease, I wish you the best! Love them and cherish every moment you get with them. Be understanding and treat them with the respect and dignity they deserve! I love you Dad and Kenny and I hope to make you proud when we reach the Top of the world!

Rest Day in Namche

Good morning Namche! 10 hours of sleep and woke feeling incredible! The lower elevation, warmer temps, and the extra oxygen have made a huge difference with my health. I slept through the night, my soar throat is gone, and no more coughing up….. well anything. The sun was shining, and it was warm (well relatively,) I would say around 35 degrees F or 2 degrees C.

We all gathered around 9 am for breakfast. Although the remaining group was there, we felt the absence of our fellow team members. We are missing Michael and Kenton, who headed back to base camp early this morning. Our three guides Garrett, Conan, and Stewart, who stayed in base camp to keep things organized ( and to probably get some chill time.) Richard, who is back in Santa Fe recovering from a bad case of AMS. And finally, with a heavy heart, I’m sad to say, Randy and Art called their adventure short and flew back to Kathmandu this morning.

Both were great to get to know and a pleasure to climb with. Unfortunately, Everest is an unforgiving place and both suffered the fate of injury and altitude sickness. Art is 73 years old with a heart of a 25 year old and Randy, well Randy has the biggest heart on the team. Once both men decided their climbs were done they stuck around EBC and cheered us home from the Lhotse face.

After breakfast we headed down into town to do some supply shopping and get some lunch. We found a great little patio pizza joint and shared some slices and some laughs. We were all forgetting the last several days of struggle on the Lhotse Face while ignoring what was to come. It was a great afternoon of sunshine, food, and friends.

Later that evening we played cards, told stories, and yes a few of us shared some wine. It was a great day and the team continues to grow in strength, friendship, and unity. We are very close to being ready for the summit push. We have one more day of lounging around, and then it’s back to Everest Basecamp. Where we will need to get serious and prepare for the difficult and dangerous journey ahead.

Back in Namche

Today’s 20 kilometers was much more physical. Both Voychek and I are pretty tired.

We did the math, and in the last 62 hours we hiked from camp 2 down to Namche. This was over 60 kilometers and a decrease in more than 10.000 ft. We have decided we got all the adventure we needed and will charter a helicopter to fly us back up to base camp with the rest of the team.

We had a great time meeting up with the rest of the team, along with Michael, Kenton, and their new friend Nick. We got in around 2:30 pm. Grabbed a couple beers and took my first real shower in 3 weeks! It was awesome. Oh and we have a fully functioning bathroom. This place might not register as a 1 star hotel in most countries, but it feels like the Four Seasons to me!

For dinner Michael made reservations at a “Japanese” restaurant down the hill. Most of the team joined and as things go, the food was good, it just took about 1 hour and 30 minutes to get it. No new pics today. Was a fast pace hike and a lot of up and down. Truth is I’m already wiped out with all the down hill climbing the last three days, and how late we stayed out for dinner. This will be short and sweet.

One funny thing at the restaurant. Most of the team was worried about the sushi being fresh. When we asked the owner,is the fish fresh? He said “yes, very fresh”. We asked where does the fresh fish come from. He thought a minute and said “ heli”. We all look around confuse,…. where is that? He points up and says heli- copter! We all busted up laughing, I quickly ordered the chicken!

Heading Down to Lower Elevation

Before I get started on the activities of the day, I was able to catch an avalanche on the side of Nuptse break free and blast base camp with snow and ice chunks. Check out the video below! Pretty cool if you ask me! Our commentary might be the best part!

This morning the team woke and gathered for breakfast. All of us are suffering from some nagging health issue. Luckily for us, there are 4 days built-in after the second rotation to head lower in elevation to help our bodies heal. I have finally gotten over my stomach bug only to have severe dry sinuses. Which has lead to a lot of bloody noses and other disgusting things. I will spare you the details.

Six of our team chartered two helicopters and flew down to Namche to spend 4 days at 11,220 ft. Wojciech, (pronounced like Voychek, our Polish hard man) and I wanted a bit more of a challenge so we decided to hike back down the Valley to Namche and then back up. It’s 80 kilometers round trip and over 6,000 ft of elevation change.

We set out at noon and made our way down through three towns till we stopped in Pheriche, exactly halfway to Namche or 20 km from basecamp. The Valley was as beautiful as ever and we really enjoyed the hike, especially the bakeries and cafe’s.

Tomorrow we will hike the remaining 20 km till we reconnect with the team in Namche. At 11,220 ft your body can heal much faster with thicker air. Let’s hope it works!

Back at Basecamp

First, above is a quick video of our attempt up the Lhotse Face. The winds were raging and the risk was not worth the reward. I sent this clip to my family and my 6 year old niece Gia said; “it looks like the part in frozen when the ice monster comes out…. “My sister said “I know, scary right?! “ And Gia replied “nah, he has those lines to hold on to!” Thanks Gia you always tell it like it is! A pic of Gia and I.

She is absolutely right. Without those lines we would literally be no match for a real “ice monster” aka The Lhotse Face. We would simply slide down a wall of ice. So far, as I have said, the Sherpas have fixed lines to camp 4. We are hoping in the near future the Sherpas will fix the lines to the summit and we can start our 3rd and final rotation. Pic of the Lhotse Face as we approach.

As I mentioned yesterday I had a major equipment failure with ordering a down suit that is way too big. My tent mate Sherif ( The Egyptian strong man) is 1 inch taller than I and the same weight. Here we are in matching suits only his is a small and fits and well mine doesn’t!

But not to worry, a fellow teammate, Randy has offered me his suit and its a perfect fit. Unfortunately, Randy has had to call his climb short, I will touch on that and all the physical challenges the mountain throws our way in the near future.

Today we woke at camp two and headed back down through the icefall to basecamp. Luckily we all made it down safe and checked off our 4th of 6 times we will maneuver through that dangerous labyrinth of shifting ice. I think I was craving the luxury of basecamp as I blasted down the mountain in 3 hours and 20 minutes, almost an hour and a half faster than my last time.

Finally, I want to thank Tracy, not only for the love and support she has given me on this journey, but when we are out of basecamp I have to text her my blog on my Garmin Inreach (Satellite phone for texting). This is not an easy thing to do. Each text has a 160 character limit per text, takes about five minutes to send, and to top it off about every third text doesn’t make it, even though it says sent! I have had to number the text and send them. This can take hours, and for that I am very grateful she can keep the blog going while I’m freezing on the side of a mountain! Thank you Tracy for all the love, patience and help. A pic of Tracy and I, so you can put a face with the name.

Feels Like Mountaineering Now!

The storm came and so did the winds. It snowed most of May 4th and the winds didn’t let up. I bet we got close to the 8-10 inches of snow but the wind spread it all over in drifts, crevasses, and in our tents. Both the front and back vestibules were filled with snow. We dug our climbing gear out and went for a short hike to get use to walking in our down full body suits. I had ordered my suit before the climb but never tried it on. I had been recommended XL by the sales agent. Turns out XL could fit Andre the Giant, I look 300 lbs in it, but it’s warm and it works.

We went to bed early to get up and try to push to camp 3. We were hoping the weather would change and we could push up to 23,500 on the Lhotse Face. Well, to our surprise the weather seamed nice so we geared up and started up toward the fixed lines on the Lhotse Face. As we got closer the winds returned and gave us a heck of a time. We would have been fine as you learn to climb in high winds and snow but the winds were blowing chunks of ice and rock down the face and Garrett made the call to head back as the Risk of injury increased.

We got close to 7,000 meters or 23,000 ft which was still a good push for acclimatizing. We returned to camp 2 and packed up most of our gear. We will store the stuff we need for the 3rd and final rotation (The Summit Push) at camp 2 and the rest we will take back down through the icefall to base camp. Once in Base Camp we need to wait for the Sherpas to fix ropes to the summit, but this could be awhile, as we have heard the winds are over 100 mph up there and could last 5-6 more days. Once the ropes are fixed we wait for our weather window to make the final summit push to the top of the world. Well time to get some shut eye. I make my fourth trip through the ice fall in 8 hours and I will need my rest! – Chad Gaston

The Winds of Everest

I was supposed to post this yesterday, but not getting good service with the SAT phone, finally received it all today….

I quickly drifted off to sleep after the physical and mentally draining day, pushing up to camp no altitude was going to keep me awake. Apparently the mountain didn’t like that and whipped up a wind storm a day before the main storm was to hit. I woke about 2am with the side of the tent pressing down on my face. If not for the freight train sound of the wind, I would have thought someone was trying to smother me with a pillow. I realized the winds were very strong, looked around the tent to to assess the structural integrity, all looked good so I slid farther down into my sleeping bag, turned up my music, and chuckled to myself…well ya big idiot, you wanted more adventure!?

When I woke again, twilight had broke and the winds were as severe if not worse. I pulled on my different down layers and popped out of my tent. Camp was pretty beat up and I could see our cook tent was 60% collapsed along with several other tents. I thought, “there goes coffee for the morning!”

It was quite difficult to walk in the severe gusts and I estimate the winds were blowing around 40mph with gusts above 50mph. With camp in shambles and no coffee in the near future, I dove back in my tent and fell back to sleep. About 2 and a half hours later I was woke by Garrett saying, they were able to make some coffee and oatmeal. We all piled into the dinning tent but it was too loud to even talk. After eating we all retreated to our tents to wait out the wind storm. The winds calmed to a breeze from 3 pm to 6pm then started howling again, if not stronger this time. We ate dinner and then retreated once again to the safety of our -60 degree sleeping bags. The snow storm has not arrived yet, but Im sure it will come in the night. The temps and wind chills pierce the skin and in seconds exposed skin is numb. The best I can do is slide deep into my bag, crank some Frank Senatra, and wait for sunrise! – Chad Gaston

The Push, Back at Camp 2

Hello guys, here is the latest update from Chad this morning via SAT phone…

Everest is living up to her reputation. The push through the icefall all the way to camp 2 was brutal. It didn’t help that I had a stomach bug, and my wag bag came in handy.

I have done a lot of physical activities, sports, college football, and not once have I been in a worse physical position. Three different times I collapsed on my pack to rest. I was So tired I could barely stand. I believe they call it bonking in sports, to just completely deplete your bodies energy source. I would have to cram a snickers bar down and wait the 15-20 minutes for the sugar to hit my blood stream. Then I was able to go on for another hour or so till that ran out. I assume it was made worse from being sick, and the fact we are only breathing about 50% oxygen. All in all this was my toughest physical and mental challenge. It was a brutal 10 hour push and I commend my fellow climbers who made the trek as well. Unfortunately, two stayed back in base camp trying to recover from altitude, sickness, and fatigue.

I slept a few hours and had some dinner but am back in my sleeping bag just physically and emotionally wrecked. Fortunately I held it together and feel very proud to have made it through today. Now let’s just hope I can sleep at this high altitude, it’s never easy at 21,309 ft. – Chad Gaston

Round 2: Icefall Here We Come

So our schedule has been set, at 2am we will set out for our second rotation through the icefall, but instead of stopping at camp one, we will push all the way through to camp two. My pack will be half the size, hallelujah, but it will still be a very long day. We will gain 4,000 feet of official elevation but climb more like 7,000. I’m not sure of the mileage but it will be a long way.

Our goal is to get to camp two before a storm, that is moving in quickly. The storm looks like a 2-3 day storm with winds and maybe a foot of snow. We will hold up in our tents and wait it out, all the while acclimatizing to 21,300 ft. Once we have a clear window, we will push up the Lhotse face to camp three, roughly 24,500 ft. There we will sit for about 30 minutes, pushing our bodies to adapt to the thin air. All of this without oxygen.

After our break we repel down the Lhotse face back to camp 2 and await further instruction. We could be up there for 4-10 days pending on weather. I again will have my Garmin (sat phone for texting) and will be able to send updates to Tracy. She will do her best to post my blog but without pictures just like the last rotation and maybe not everyday.

I have now been gone from Costa Rica for one month, basically the halfway point. I cannot thank my love Tracy, my sister Lindsey, my whole family, my staff at all Iguana Locations, and stretch my construction partner, enough for supporting me and picking up the slack while I’m gone. I also want to thank Alan Arnette and all you great people for following along on this journey! The side of a frozen mountain can become a lonely place, and even though my team is great and a pleasure to be with, your support has meant a lot to me.

All the well wishes and cheering me on, whether through the blog or my other social media sites, THANK YOU!

Again, I am filled with anticipation and excitement to be heading back up this beautiful mountain, but you’re a fool if you are not just a bit terrified at the same time! That being said:

“Don’t be afraid of your fears. They’re not there to scare you. They’re there to let you know that something is worth it.”

– C. JoyBell C.

Earlier in the day we hiked up just over 18,000 ft to Pumori Basecamp and I got a great video of The Valley, basecamp, Mt. Nuptse, Mt. Lhotse, and Mt. Everest. Enjoy the video. Pretty cool perspective. Just as a reference the top of the ice fall to the Lhotse face is about 8 miles.