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Ama Dablam  Expedition   Trip  Report  –  October  2011  –  David  Hyland  &  Eric  Larson  

Everest,  Lhotse,  and  Ama  Dablam  (l.  to  r.)  

It all  felt  good.  It  was  all  very  exciting:  Kathmandu;  the  Bodhnath  Stupa,  one  of  the   holiest  of  Buddhist  sites;  the  flight  to  Lukla,  ‘gateway  to  the  Khumbu’;  trekking  up  the   valleys  of  Solu  Khumbu  towards  some  of  the  greatest  peaks  of  the  Himalayas  and  the   world;  visiting  all  the  villages  and  monasteries;  seeing  Mt.  Everest  and  Lhotse  for  the   first  time;  getting  up  high  and  higher  still;  the  successful  acclimatization  climbs  of   Pokalde  and  Kongma  Tse,  each  just  over  19,000  feet;  being  blessed  by  the  revered  Lama   Geshe  at  his  home  in  Pangboche;  my  conditioning;  my  health;  my  confidence.  It  all  felt   really  good.  And  then  Ama  Dablam,  the  ‘Mother’s  Necklace’,  22,500  feet  of  Himalayan   rock  and  ice  and  snow  stood  before  me…   …But  à  la  the  Boulder,  Colorado  mountaineer,  Cory  Richards,  and  his  recent  award-­‐ winning  documentary  film,  Cold,  all  I  could  think  of  was,  “what  the  f***  am  I  doing  here?”     Kathmandu   I  landed  in  Kathmandu  on  a  warm,  sunny,  fall  day,  with  that  little  anticipatory   nervousness-­‐in-­‐the-­‐pit-­‐of-­‐the-­‐stomach  you  get  when  arriving  in  any  foreign  city  that   you’ve  never  been  to  before.  It  took  a  good  long  while  to  get  through  passport  control,   but  it  was  all  fairly  orderly  and  without  a  lot  of  fuss.  Eric  was  a  day  ahead  of  me  so  he   was  there  to  greet  me  and  help  collect  all  my  gear.  That  made  my  arrival  much  easier.   We  negotiated  for  a  taxi  and  headed  to  the  Thamel  district  where  we  were  staying  at   the  Hotel  Manang.     Driving  through  cities  in  developing  countries  is  always  an  interesting  affair.   Kathmandu  is  a  riotous,  teeming,  and  unfortunately,  pretty  polluted  yet  beautiful  place   with  no  semblance  of  traffic  control,  whatsoever.  It  seems  there  might  be  no  more  than  

half a  dozen  traffic  lights  in  the  entire  city  of   4  million.  Signage  is  minimal  and  what  there   is  seems  to  be  consistently  ignored.  There  are   tons  of  tiny  taxis  and  motorbikes,  buses,   trucks,  tempos  (3-­‐wheeler  auto-­‐rickshaws),   bikes.  You  name  it.  And  of  course  they  drive   on  the  “wrong”  side  of  the  road,  which  makes   crossing  the  street  an  interesting  exercise  in   head  swiveling.  What’s  more  is  that  all  of   these  vehicles  are  pretty  much  continuously   honking.  But  it’s  a  polite  honk.  It’s  not  a   “what  a  jerk,  you  just  cut  me  off”  honk.  It’s  more  of  a  “here  I  come,  be  careful”  kind  of   honk.  And  even  though  everyone  comes  literally  within  a  few  inches  of  each  other,   there  are  surprisingly  few  wrecks  and  it  all  seems  to  work.     We  settled  into  the  hotel  and  then  went   out  for  that  first  refreshing  beer.  Of  course   it  had  to  be  Everest  beer  with  a  picture  of   the  famed  mountain  on  the  label.  How   appropriate.  We  also  had  a  list  of  last   minute  errands  involving  changing  money,   getting  Primus  fuel  for  our  stove,   arranging  our  flight  to  Lukla,  and  meeting   Jiban,  our  in-­‐country  fixer  and  logistics   man.   It  was  hotter  than  I  imagined  it  would  be.  We  walked  the  maze  of  narrow,  never-­‐ straight  streets  and  alleys  that  make  up  the  Thamel  district  and  got  to  know  this   confusing  area  of  shops,  restaurants,  and  bars  a  bit  better.  I  was  amazed  at  the  number   and  quality  of  trekking  and  climbing  shops  in  Thamel.  They  carry  every  kind  of  gear  and   kit  you  can  imagine.  Much  of  the  gear  and  technical  clothing  are  Chinese  knock-­‐offs  but   it’s  not  half  bad.  You  could  arrive  in  this  country  with  the  clothes  on  your  back  and   within  a  day  be  fully  outfitted  to  take  on  Everest.  Incredible.   Then  we  took  a  taxi  over  to  the  eastern   outskirts  of  the  city  to  visit  the  famous   Bodhnath  Stupa.  The  Bodhnath  Stupa  is  the   largest  stupa  in  Nepal  and  the  holiest  Tibetan   Buddhist  temple  outside  of  Tibet.  It’s  not   known  when  this  UNESCO  World  Heritage  site   was  built  but  it  certainly  has  stood  there  for   many  centuries.  It’s  an  incredible  place.  The   space,  the  energy,  the  people,  the  prayer  flags   and  wheels,  the  monks.  All  quite  amazing.  We   sat  there  for  hours  taking  it  all  in,  people   watching,  and  spinning  quite  a  few  prayer   wheels  ourselves.    


But we  were  here  for  the  mountains.     Flight  to  Lukla   The  next  day  we  headed  back  to  the  airport  for  a  45-­‐minute  flight  to  Lukla,  which  is  the   gateway  to  Solu  Khumbu  and  the  big  mountains  of  the  Eastern  Himalayas.  Of  course   you  can’t  expect  things  to  always  go  smoothly.  The  domestic  terminal  at  Kathmandu  is   separate  from  the  international  terminal  by  only  a  few  hundred  yards  but  it’s  a  world   unto  itself.  Essentially  it  consists  of  a  large  hall  with  small  booths  around  the  perimeter,   which  may  or  may  not  be  staffed  by  the  representatives  of  the  various  small  airlines   that  operate  there.  You  may  have  purchased  a  ticket  ahead  of  time  and  think  all  is  fine,   but  don’t  be  so  self-­‐assured  about  your  situation,  because  quite  likely  you  will  be   bumped  literally  and  figuratively—as  we  were  a  couple  of  times—in  the  scrum  that   ensues  as  soon  as  an  airline  representative  shows  up.  And  you  don’t  want  to  be  bumped   because  the  flights  are,  shall  we  say,  a  little  precarious.  Clouds  often  move  in  in  the   afternoon  and  obscure  the  small  landing  strips  scattered  throughout  the  country.  Pilots   must  have  a  visual  on  the  landing  strip.  The  mountains  mean  that  there  is  no  room  for   error  and  they  will  not  put  down  a  plane  using  only  instruments.  Consequently  flights   can  easily  be  canceled.  In  fact,  a   day  after  our  return  to   Kathmandu  all  flights  to  and  from   Lukla  were  canceled  for  nearly  a   week  stranding  hundreds  if  not   thousands  of  trekking  tourists.   The  flight  to  Lukla  is  an  adventure   in  its  own  right.  As  my  sister   pointed  out  to  me,  Lukla  is   considered  to  be  the  most   dangerous  airport  in  the  world.   (So  I  guess  I  can  check  that  off  the   proverbial  bucket  list.)  Most  of   the  planes  flying  to  Lukla  are   Twin  Otters.  Twin  Otters  are  high-­‐winged,  unpressurized,  durable  workhorses  that  seat   about  18  passengers  in  a  cabin  that  is  not  quite  five  feet  high.  I  did  not  expect  a  flight   attendant,  but  there  she  was  passing  out  shreds  of  cotton  to  be  used  as  earplugs.  The   flight  winds  its  way  east  through  a  number  of  mountain  passes  shrouded  in  clouds  and   mist.  Often  you  look  up,  not  down,  to  see  the  mountains.  At  each  pass  the  land  rushes   up  quite  quickly  from  below.  With  the  mountains  floating  up  above  it  begins  to  feel  as   though  you  are  surrounded  on  all  sides  by  land,  as  though  you  are  flying  through  land,   not  air.  You  wonder  how  close  you’re  going  to  get.  The  answer  is:  pretty  dang  close.     The  landing  is  even  more  adventurous  because  there  is  only  one,  short  airstrip  situated   on  the  side  of  a  mountain.  The  plane  lands  heading  uphill  on  a  runway  that  terminates   in  a  solid  and  high  wall  of  stone.  Departure  is  equally  adventurous  given  that  you  take   off  going  downhill  and  off  a  cliff.  They  quickly  get  the  passengers  and  baggage  off  and  


on and  turn  around  the  planes  so  that  they  can  get  in  as  many  flights  as  possible  before   the  afternoon  weather  moves  in.  It’s  quite  an  efficient  production  and  fun  to  watch.   Porters   Upon  landing  in  Lukla  we  each  hoisted  a  70-­‐pound  duffel  of  expedition  gear  onto  our   heads,  while  also  wearing  backpacks,  and  headed  for  a  local  teahouse  where  we  could   offload  our  gear  and  hire  a  couple  porters.  As  we  walked  by  a  group  of  locals  they   immediately  began  laughing  at  our  inept  way  of  carrying  a  heavy  load.  The  economy   here  is  literally  driven  by  the  porters,  who  essentially  are  the  truck  drivers  of  the  region.   Absolutely  everything  you  see,  consume,  and  use:  food,  canned  beer,  bottled  water,   crates  of  eggs,  towering  stacks  of  Pringles,  gas  cylinders,  snooker  tables  (I  kid  you  not),   all  sorts  of  building  materials,  clothing  and  shoes  for  the  shops  and  markets,  as  well  as   the  gear  of  trekkers  and  climbers,  is   carried  into  the  region  on  the  back  of   either  a  yak  or  a  porter.  There  are  no   wheels  of  any  kind,  anywhere.  No   bikes,  no  wheelbarrows,  no  carts.  No   wheels,  period.   The  porters  are  phenomenal.  They  are   typically  fairly  young,  not  big,  and   wearing  flip-­‐flops,  often  with  a  cell   phone  in  one  hand.  Anything  and   everything  they  carry  is  trussed  up   and  carried  via  a  tumpline  across  their   forehead.  You  can  give  them  a  fancy   pack  with  hip  belt,  shoulder  straps,   and  compression  and  load  stabilization  straps,  but  they  will  still  carry  it  with  a   tumpline.  The  loads  they  routinely  carry  are  truly  unbelievable.  I’ve  seen  them  carry   loads  equivalent  to  or  greater  than  their  own  body  weight  up  rocky  trails  from  altitudes   of  9,000  feet  on  up  to  15,000  feet.     The  owner  of  one  of  the  fancier  lodges  in  Namche  told  us  she  had  ordered  20  pieces  of   ¼-­‐inch  plate  glass  for  the  tables  in  the  dining  room  of  her  teahouse.  She  said  there  was   only  one  porter  in  all  of  Solu  Khumbu  she  trusted  to  carry  her  glass  without  breakage.   He  carried  them  four  at  a  time  (100  kilograms)  from  Lukla  (9,300  ft)  down  to  Phakding   (8,500  ft)  and  on  up  to  Namche  (11,300  ft).  That’s  220  pounds  on  the  back  of  a  guy   wearing  flip-­‐flops  who  weighs  maybe  140  pounds.  It’s  almost  unbelievable  what  they   are  capable  of.  And  they  do  this  day  in  and  day  out,  which  of  course  comes  with  some   consequent  long-­‐term  health  issues.  It’s  rare  to  see  an  older  porter.   It  would  be  very  difficult  to  mount  a  climbing  expedition  without  porters.  All  of  our   expedition/climbing  gear,  food,  and  fuel  was  contained  in  two  70-­‐pound  duffels.  We   hired  a  couple  of  porters  to  carry  these  on  up  to  Namche  as  we  wouldn’t  need  anything   in  them  for  a  few  days.      


Trekking Trekking  was  much  simpler  and  more  comfortable  than  I  had  ever  imagined.  I  had   thought  we  would  be  doing  a  fair  bit  of  backpacking  and  camping  with  all  the  attendant   gear,  but  that’s  not  how  it  works  at  all.  It’s  actually  pretty  easy  and  straightforward.   Each  day  you  get  up,  have  a  nice  breakfast,  do  a  4–6  hour  day  hike,  and  then  stop  in  the   afternoon  at  the  next  teahouse  down  the  trail  for  dinner  and  a  bed.  Not  much  is   required.  You  only  need  a  sleeping  bag  (and  even  that’s  not  strictly  necessary),  minimal   clothing,  a  few  toiletries,  and  your  personal  gear  (water  bottle,  camera,  headlamp,  etc.).   Our  packs  didn’t  weight  anymore  than  25  pounds  or  so,  if  that.  And  the  longer  you  are   there  the  more  you  pare  down  and  realize  you  really  don’t  need  much.  It’s  really  quite   easy.  You  simply  go  from  teahouse  to  teahouse.  How  nice.   The  Teahouse   Because  there  are  so  many  trekkers   come  to  see  the  mountains,  and   Everest  Base  Camp  in  particular,   there  are  teahouses  scattered  about  in   every  little  village.  They  are  very   similar  in  most  respects.     The  central  gathering  place  and   physical  heart  of  the  teahouse  is  the   dining  room,  and  there  is  a  basic  plan   to  which  they  all  adhere.  Usually  the   room  will  have  a  continuous  row  of   windows  on  at  least  two  if  not  three   sides,  so  by  day  it  is  bright  and   welcoming.  In  the  center  of  the  room  is  a  wood/dung-­‐burning  stove.  A  continuous   bench—covered  in  an  impressive  array  of  Tibetan  rugs—runs  around  the  perimeter  of   the  room  such  that  when  seated  your  back  is  against  the  wall  and  you  face  towards  the   stove.  Directly  in  front  of  the  bench  is  a  series  of  narrow  wood  tables  each  long  enough   for  two  or  in  a  pinch  maybe  three  people  to  sit  behind.  Almost  always  they  have  a  solid   front  such  that  your  legs  are  hidden.     Then  there’s  generally  a  succession  of  small   rooms  each  with  two  cot-­‐size  platforms  covered   with  a  foam  pad  and  blanket.  Normally,  there  is   one,  lone,  very  low  wattage,  curly-­‐cue   fluorescent  light  bulb  per  room  for  illumination,   though  there  is  no  power  until  evening.  And  you   won’t  find  any  electrical  outlets  in  your  room.   For  hygiene’s  sake  there  is  usually  a  squat  style   toilet  and  sink  at  the  end  of  the  hall  with  water   plumbed  in  from  the  local  creek.  It  might  sound   a  bit  crude  and  it  certainly  is  basic,  but  it  actually   functions  quite  well.      


That’s it,  and  this  basic  layout  is  repeated  in  every  teahouse,  both  large  and  small,  fancy   and  plain.   You  simply  wander  from  teahouse  to  teahouse,  though  admittedly  your  wandering  is   taking  place  at  elevations  often  well  above  10,000  ft.  If  you  prefer,  you  can  hire  a  porter   to  carry  most  of  your  gear  from  village  to  village.  Very  civil.  Maybe  too  civil.  But  one  has   to  remember  that  the  teahouses  and  the  trekking  trade  form  the  bulk  of  the  economy  in   these  parts.  So,  development  or  pristine  nature?  Which  do  you  choose?  Never  an  easy   answer  to  that  one.  It’s  not  black  and  white;  more  often  there  are  a  lot  of  nuanced  greys.   In  the  practical,  cultivated  world  a  balance  of  some  sort  is  required,  for  people   everywhere  have  aspirations  and  need  to  make  a  living.     On  The  Trail   The  trails  and  the  people  on  them  were  all  quite  captivating.  The  very  first  thing  that   struck  me  was  just  how  vertical  the  world  there  is,  and  how  unworldly  and  mystical  the   mountains  are.  They  seem  to  float  above  the  clouds  with  no  connection  to  terra  firma.   And  they  are  huge.  The  scale  is  off  the  chart.  Photos  can  be  gorgeous  and  even   impressive,  but  they  communicate  little  of  the  massiveness  of  the  place.  If  ever  there   was  a  place  where  you  are  continuously  filled  with  awe  it  is  the  Himalayas.  They  are   truly  impressive,  daunting,  striking,  and  awe-­‐some,  in  every  sense  of  the  word.  


Lhotse (27,940  ft)  and  Lhotse  Shar  (27,559  ft)  

Ama Dablam  (22,494  ft)  

The next  thing  that  strikes  the  eye  is  the  mani  stones,  which  are  everywhere;  and  then   the  prayer  flags;  and  then  the  prayer  wheels.  All  of  these  represent  forms  of  prayer  in   Tibetan  Buddhism.  The  stones  are  found  all  along  the  trails  and  form  mounds  and  long   walls.  Mostly  they  are  plain,  but  some   are  painted  white  and  a  very  few  are   painted  in  a  rainbow  of  colors.  All  are   intricately  carved,  most  with  the   message,  “om  mani  padme  hum,”  which   translates  as  “hail  to  the  jewel  in  the   lotus.”  If  you  are  respectful  of  the   religion  and  are  trying  to  amass  as  much   karma  and  good  will  as  possible  for  the   impending  climb,  you  always  pass  them   on  the  left  as  though  you  were  going   around  them  in  a  clockwise  direction.     And  of  course  there  are  the  trekkers,  climbers,  and  porters,  all  of  whom  made  for  great   people-­‐watching:  the  Germans  and  Italians  in  their  tights  and  purposeful  gear,  the   Russians  wearing  butt  pads  so  that  when  they  sit  for  a  rest  their  behinds  are  well-­‐ cushioned  (I  have  no  idea  how  this  hilarious  fad  began,  but  it  certainly  provided  for   some  trail  humor),  and  the  Koreans  ensconced  in  Gore-­‐Tex  from  head  to  toe  and   wearing  the  latest  ice-­‐climbing  boots.  Surprisingly,  the  few  Americans  we  encountered   were  generally  the  least  impressive  in  terms  of  gear  and  clothing,  and  that  included  


ourselves. I  like  to  think  it  meant  we  were  doing  more  with  less.  Well,  at  least  the   climbers  certainly  know  how  to  do  more  with  less.  The  trekkers  tend  to  overdo  it,  not   realizing  how  little  they  truly  need.  But  in  terms  of  people-­‐watching,  the  porters  were   beyond  doubt  the  most  phenomenal  and  certainly  earned  my  respect.     We  passed  through  many  towns  and  villages:  Lukla,  Phakding,  Namche  Bazar,   Khumjung,  Khunde,  Pangboche,  Dingboche,  Chhukhung,  Lobuche,  and  Pheriche.  All   were  unique,  all  fascinating  (well,  almost  all),  and  some  had  Buddhist  monasteries,   including  the  famous  ones  at  Pangboche  and  Dingboche.  It’s  hard  to  generalize  (actually   being  human  it’s  all  too  easy),  but  the  people  were  nearly  always  cheerful,  humorous,   polite,  industrious,  and  sometimes  a  little  shy  while  being  direct  at  the  same  time.  I  was   amazed  how  entrepreneurial  and  well-­‐traveled  they  are.  You  might  think  some  small   business  person  operating  a  family  restaurant  in  the  hinterlands  of  Nepal  has  never   been  far  from  home  but  you  would  often  be  entirely  wrong  in  that  assumption.  But  still,   one  must  realize  that  it’s  one  of  the  poorest  countries  in  the  world.  The  non-­‐tourist   areas  of  the  country  are  quite  poor  indeed.     But  as  interesting  as  the  people  and  the  culture  are,  we  were  here  for  the  mountains.   The  Plan   The  plan  to  climb  Ama  Dablam  was  hatched  in  the  summer  of  2010.  I  had  just  returned   home  after  climbing  the  Grand  Teton  with  Eric  Larson  of  Exum  Mountain  Guides  when   he  proposed  a  climbing  expedition  to  Nepal.    

Grand  Teton,  Wyoming  (13,775  ft)  

Summit of  Grand  Teton  

Since I  was  a  kid  I’ve  always  read  and  dreamed  about  Nepal  and  all  the  famous  climbers   of  the  Himalayas.  It  was  certainly  on  my  list  of  places  to  visit,  but  I  never  really  thought   I’d  get  the  opportunity  to  climb  there.  At  the  same  time  I  had  long  been  thinking  about   taking  a  year  off  from  work  to  travel  and  explore.  So  the  stars  aligned  and  my  chance   was  now  right  in  front  of  me.  I  gave  up  being  chair  of  the  Biology  Department;  my  term   as  president  of  the  Faculty  Senate  was  coming  to  an  end;  and  my  much  beloved  pet  cat   of  almost  17  years,  Pesta,  passed  away.  Perhaps  she  was  telling  me,  “There  is  moss   under  your  feet.  You  need  to  get  out  of  here.  Go,  go.”  So  all  the  strings  that  tied  me  to   home  were  successively  cut,  one  by  one.  Ama  Dablam  was  going  to  happen.    


So I  rented  out  my  condo,  built  a  storage  unit  in  my  basement  into  which  I  moved  all  my   worldly  belongings,  put  all  the  finances  in  order  including  writing  out  that  long-­‐put-­‐off   will  (you  know,  just  in  case  there  was  an  avalanche  or  3,000  foot  plunge  out  there  with   my  name  on  it),  and  on  Labor  Day  pointed  my  car—full  of  outdoor  gear  and  related   toys—west  to  Colorado.     The  plan  was  to  set  up  shop  at  my  brother’s  house  north  of  Colorado  Springs  and  focus   on  training  for  the  month  of  September.  His  house  sits  at  7,200  feet  so  the  thinking  was   that  that  would  give  me  a  bit  of  a  head  start  on  the  acclimatization  process.  I  climbed  Mt.   Yale  (14,200  ft)  and  La  Plata  Peak  (14,336  ft),  did  the  Manitou  Incline—a  2,000  foot   staircase  locally  used  by  Olympians  and  other  athletes  for  training—outside  of   Colorado  Springs  a  few  times,  and  biked  and  hiked  a  ton.  I  felt  pretty  good.  I  felt  ready.    

In  the  distance:  Everest,  Lhotse,  and  Ama  Dablam  

Acclimatization Climbs  –  Pokalde  and  Kongma-­‐Tse   On  the  third  day  in  the  Solu  Khumbu  district  we  took  an  acclimatization  hike  up  above   Namche  Bazar.  We  crested  a  grassy,  park-­‐like  hill  and  stopped  for  a  short  break.  Eric   then  says,  “there’s  Ama  Dablam.”  I  was  in  disbelief.  Then  he  says,  “and  over  there  is   Everest.”  I  had  not  expected  to  see  either  for  several  more  days  as  I  thought  they  were   still  too  far  away  and  hidden  by  other  mountains.  But  again,  their  scale  is  huge.  They   can  be  seen  from  quite  away  off.  I  felt  very  privileged,  very  small,  totally  stunned,  and   giddy  as  a  school-­‐girl.  They  were  real  and  we  were  here.   Now  you  just  can’t  charge  up  a  mountain  that  towers  well  over  22,000  feet  and  stands   10,000  feet  directly  above  the  village  of  Pangboche,  which  sits  just  across  the  river  from  


its base.  It  requires  acclimatization,  and  acclimatization  requires  successive  climbs  of   some  lesser  yet  still  sizable  mountains.  So  we  put  into  place  the  well-­‐tested  adage,   which  encapsulates  standard  mountaineering  procedure  for  optimizing  acclimatization   at  extreme  elevations,  “climb  high,  sleep  low.”   After  a  couple  nights  at  Namche  (11,286  ft)  and  a  day  hike  to  Khumjung  (12,402  ft)  we   headed  deeper  and  higher  into  the  Khumbu.  At  Pangboche  we  caught  up  with  our   climbing  gear  previously  stashed  by  our  porters  at  a  teahouse.  We  loaded  up  our  packs   with  gear  and  supplies  to  last  us  a  few  days  and  hiked  up  trail  to  the  village  of   Chhukhung  (15,518  ft),  which  sits  impressively  at  the  edge  of  a  glacier  just  below  the   enormous  Lhotse  face  and  near  Island  Peak.  Our  goal  was  the  nearby  mountains  of   Pokalde  and  Kongma-­‐Tse,  each  of  which  are  just  a  tick  over  19,000  feet.  We  hiked  up  to   the  area  of  Kongma-­‐La  Pass,  located  between  these  two  mountains,  and  established  a   high  camp  at  a  little  over  17,000  feet.     Kongma-­‐La  Pass  is  a  little  off  the  beaten  track  that  most  of  the  trekkers  take,  which  in   part,  is  why  we  chose  the  area.  It  is  absolutely  gorgeous,  a  bit  remote,  and  surrounded   by  mountains  of  gargantuan  proportions.  And  at  that  altitude  I  was  surprised  to   discover  that  there  were  even  several  beautiful  alpine  lakes  nestled  between  our  two   objectives.   The  climbs  of  Kongma-­‐Tse  and  Pokalde  were  much  more  straight-­‐forward  and  easier   that  I  had  imagined.  We  had  to  skirt  a  small  but  beautiful  glacier  below  Kongma-­‐Tse   before  climbing  a  snowfield,  gaining  the  northeast  ridge,  and  making  for  the  summit.  On   Pokalde,  though  the  usual  route  is  the  north  ridge  we  thought  it  looked  a  little  rotten   and  decided  to  go  for  the  southeast  ridge.  It  too,  was  fairly  straight-­‐forward.  

Pokalde,  North  Face  (19,049  ft)  

Kongma-­‐Tse, South  Face  (19,094  ft)  

I was  excited.  I  had  never  been  so  high.  I  had  had  no  problems  whatsoever  with  the   climbs  or  the  altitude.  Pokalde  and  Kongma-­‐Tse  were  good  confidence  boosters.  Maybe   I  was  ready  for  Ama  Dablam  after  all.   We  descended  Pokalde,  struck  camp,  headed  over  Kongma-­‐La  Pass,  and  made  for  the   village  of  Lobuche  on  the  other  side  of  the  enormous  Khumbu  Glacier.  This  made  for  a   long  and  arduous  day.  Unfortunately  I  hadn’t  fueled  up  properly  and  pretty  much   bonked  on  the  way  down  from  the  pass.  Bonking  doesn’t  just  hit  you  physically.  It  also    


made me  a  bit  more  timid  in  my  judgment  as  I  descended  the  steep  pass  and  then   headed  up  the  200-­‐foot  high  berm  of  the  glacier.  So  I  took  my  time.  I  couldn’t  do   otherwise.     The  Khumbu  Glacier  is  indescribable,   otherworldly,  a  little  spooky,  and  just  plain   huge.  It  consists  of  piles  upon  piles  of   enormous  boulders  and  unconsolidated   debris  all  underlain  by  unseen  but  moving   ice.  It  looks  like  the  world’s  largest   construction  site  gone  totally  awry.  Of   necessity  the  trail,  such  that  it  is,  is  marked   by  cairns  and  is  constantly  reconfigured  to   avoid  drop-­‐offs  and  icy  chasms.  Once   across,  you  descend  the  other  lateral   moraine  and  regain  terra  firma.  

Khumbu Glacier  

Preparations and  Blessings   We  felt  good.  We  felt  ready.  Our  health  was  good,  and  we  had  acclimatized  well.  So  the   next  day  we  headed  down  to  the  village  of  Pangboche  to  begin  our  attempt  on  Ama   Dablam.   Now  the  apprehension  begins  to  slowly  creep  in.  Am  I  really  ready?  Am  I  up  for  this?   We  spend  two  nights  in  Pangboche  resting  our  bodies,  but  the  idleness  allows  the  mind   to  wander  and  question.  Overall,  I  still  feel  pretty  good  and  ready  to  go,   notwithstanding  the  group  of  Italian  research  doctors  studying  the  pulmonary  function   of  the  locals  all  the  while  themselves  hacking  and  wheezing  all  over  the  teahouse.   On  our  rest  day  we  make  arrangements  to  see   Lama  Geshe  at  his  home  just  above  the  old   and  venerable  Pangboche  Buddhist  Monastery.   For  decades  climbers  have  been  visiting  Lama   Geshe  to  receive  a  blessing  for  their  safety.  It   is  a  fairly  lengthy  and  private  ceremony  with   many  prayers,  incantations,  blessings,  singing   and  drumming.  You  receive  a  small  packet  of   rice  that  has  been  blessed  and  is  to  be  thrown   in  the  direction  of  danger  should  a  perilous   situation  arise,  a  cord  tied  around  your  neck   signifying  the  blessings  that  have  been     bestowed  on  you,  a  khata  ceremonial  scarf  which  invokes  good  luck,  and  a  personalized   card  to  be  taken  to  the  summit.  In  return,  your  climbing  partner  takes  a  photograph  of   you  on  the  summit  while  holding  the  card,  and  upon  your  successful  return  this   photograph  is  then  sent  to  the  Lama.  In  his  home  there  are  dozens  of  photographs  of  all   the  famous  Himalayan  mountaineers  holding  up  their  cards  on  the  summits  of  these   gigantic  mountains.  It  was  cool  to  see  all  the  pictures  but  also  slightly  intimidating.  


The Mountain  –  Ama  Dablam   W.H.  Murray,  of  the  1951  Scottish  Himalayan  Expedition  wrote:     “Until  one  is  committed,  there  is  hesitancy,  the  chance  to  draw  back,   always  ineffectiveness.  Concerning  all  acts  of  initiative  (and  creation)   there  is  one  elementary  truth,  the  ignorance  of  which  kills  countless  ideas   and  splendid  plans:  that  the  moment  one  definitely  commits  oneself,  then   Providence  moves  too.  A  whole  stream  of  events  issues  from  the  decision,   raising  in  one's  favor  all  manner  of  unforeseen  incidents,  meetings  and   material  assistance,  which  no  man  could  have  dreamt  would  have  come   his  way.  I  learned  a  deep  respect  for  one  of  Goethe's  couplets.”   Whatever  you  can  do  or  dream  you  can,  begin  it.   Boldness  has  genius,  power  and  magic  in  it!   When  we  arrived  at  Base  Camp  I  felt  a  mixture  of  excitement  and  trepidation.   Unfortunately,  I  didn’t  feel  Murray’s  Providence  moving.  My  confidence  was  waning.  I   was  no  longer  amidst  the  gawking  and  admiring  trekkers.  I  was  now  in  the  company  of   climbers  and  mountaineers  from  all  parts  of  the  world,  some  of  whom  have  lengthy   Himalayan  resumes.  Hmmm,  is  this  where  I  belong?  And  while  Ama  Dablam  is  certainly   beautiful  and  iconic,  up  close  it  is  damn  huge,  high,  and  steep.  It  is  one  of  the  more   technical  and  demanding  climbs  in  the   Eastern  Himalayas,  so  much  so  that  when  Sir   Edmund  Hillary  laid  eyes  on  it  he  said  it  was   unclimbable.  This  from  the  man  who  with   Tenzing  Norgay  was  the  first  to  summit   Everest!   Base  Camp  at  Ama  Dablam  is  not  quite  what   you  think  it  might  be  like.  Ama  Dablam  is  one   of  the  few  technical  mountains  in  the   Himalayas  where  Base  Camp  is  not  on  some   rock-­‐strewn  glacier.  Here  it  lies  in  a  large,   level,  grassy  meadow  the  size  of  several   football  fields  immediately  below  the   southwest  ridge  and  west  face.  It’s  a  rather   comfortable  location  and  quite  a  few  trekkers   come  up  to  check  out  the  climbing  scene  and   for  a  close-­‐up  view  of  the  mountain.  When  we   first  arrived  I  was  surprised  by  how  large  and   level  the  area  is  and  amazed  to  see  nearly  100   tents  pitched.  There  were  quite  a  few  large   expeditions  on  the  mountain  and  typically  each  climber  has  his/her  own  tent.  Plus   there  are  the  porters  and  Sherpas  coming  and  going.  So  it’s  a  bit  like  a  small  village.   Some  of  the  expeditions  are  pretty  deluxe  with  roomy  tents,  cots,  showers,  staffed   kitchens,  the  works.  The  clients  of  these  expeditions  don’t  even  have  to  set  up  their  own   tents.  The  Sherpas  do  it  for  them  both  at  Base  Camp  and  higher  up  the  mountain.  


But alternatively  you  can  also  go  fast  and  light,  alpine  style.  It’s  not  as  easy  or   comfortable  but  ultimately  it’s  more  rewarding.  This  is  what  we  did.  We  had  porters   carry  our  gear  up  to  Base  Camp  from  Pangboche,  but  after  that  we  were  on  our  own.  It   gives  you  much  more  flexibility  and  speed,  and  speed  generally  equates  to  safety.     After  a  comfortable  night  we   packed  our  gear  and  humped   it  up  to  Camp  1,  which  is   nearly  4,000  feet  higher  and   overlooks  Base  Camp.  We   spent  two  nights  at  Camp  1   acclimatizing  and  while  we   were  there  we  climbed  about   halfway  to  Camp  2.  Then  it   began  to  snow.  We  were   scheduled  to  descend  back  to   Base  Camp  the  next  morning   but  when  we  woke  we  were   staring  at  about  6-­‐10  inches  of   new  fallen  snow  and  it  was   still  coming  down.  We  had   some  weather  days  built  into  our  schedule  so  we  weren’t  too  concerned  and  it  was  the   dry  season  so  most  likely  we  wouldn’t  be  snowbound  for  long.  Late  in  the  morning  it   seemed  to  let  up  just  a  bit  and  we  decided  to  go  down.  Problem  was  we  had  not  yet   brought  up  our  mountaineering  double  boots  and  had  on  only  lightweight  approach   shoes,  basically  a  heavy  duty  tennis  shoe.  And  immediately  below  Camp  1  is  a  section   known  as  the  “Slabs.”  The  Slabs  are  just  that,  a  series  of  flat  slab-­‐like  rocks  angled  up  at   about  45  degrees.  There  is  no  way  around  them  and  now  they  were  covered  with  snow.   There  are  some  fixed  lines  there  to  help  with  the  descent,  but  they  don’t  cover  the   entire  route.  So  we  gingerly  began  to  descend/slide  in  the  snow.  I  went  for  about  a  30-­‐ foot  ride  on  a  particularly  slick  stretch  but  perfectly  stuck  the  landing  in  a  little  gully.   Almost  like  sled-­‐riding.  Then  we  had  to  negotiate  the  boulder  field,  which  consists  of   giant  boulders  stacked  against  each  other  with  leg-­‐breaking  gaps  in  between.  In  the  dry   we  would  normally  just  leap  from  boulder  to  boulder  with  no  problems.  Now  it  was  all   covered  in  snow.  After  making  it  through  the  boulder  field  there  is  a  trail  that  goes  all   the  way  down  to  Base  Camp.  Home  free,  but  now  with  it  still  snowing  and  limited   visibility,  we  lost  the  trail.  We  knew  the  general  direction  and  figured  we’d  hit  the  trail   at  some  point.  But  striking  off  in  a  general  direction  and  not  following  a  trail  usually   means  the  terrain  is  going  to  be  rough.  And  so  it  was.  Finally  we  regained  the  trail  and   made  it  to  Base  Camp.   I  felt  a  little  sketchy  on  the  practice/acclimatization  climb  above  Camp  1  the  day  before   while  dangling  my  butt  over  a  rather  lengthy  piece  of  air,  and  now  back  in  Base  Camp   for  a  rest  day  my  mind  decided  to  do  a  total  number  on  me.  Suddenly,  I  wanted  out.  I   was  scared.  I  regretted  the  time  and  money  spent.  I  questioned  my  every  ability,  but   mostly  I  questioned  how  I  was  going  to  hold  it  together.  Eric  said  nothing,  but  I  figured   he  knew.  Other  guys  we  met  in  Base  Camp  sensed  my  trepidation  and  told  me  to  take  it    


a step  at  a  time.  It’s  the  world’s  oldest,  simplest,  seemingly  trite  yet  most  sage  advice,   and  so  hard  to  carry  out.  There  were  plenty  of  others  there  who  didn’t  make  it,  but  they   at  least  made  an  attempt.  I  wasn’t  sure  I  could  even  do  that  much.  At  this  level  it  isn’t  so   much  about  physical  skill,  talent,  and  prowess.  Everyone  up  there  had  talent  in  spades.   At  this  level  the  climb  is  mental,  and  my  mental  capacities  had  just  fled  for  the  hills,  or   rather  the  lowlands.   But  I  had  to  at  least  make  an  attempt.  I  couldn’t  let  myself  down  or  Eric  or  friends  and   family  back  home.  I  felt  that  all  too  human  and  destructive  emotion,  shame,  flooding   into  me.  Incredibly  I  had  really  sunk  myself.  At  that  moment  I’m  not  sure  if  I  was  more   afraid  of  failure  or  success.  All  I  knew  was  I  was  in  a  stew  of  my  own  making  and  I   wanted  a  way  out.  And  just  a  few  days  before  I  stood  on  top  of  two  19,000+  foot  peaks   and  was  brimming  with  confidence.  Go  figure.   I  focused  on  the  one-­‐step-­‐at-­‐a-­‐time  mantra.  I  figured  I  could  make  it  back  up  to  Camp  1   and  then  I’d  reassess.  The  new  snow  was  now  mostly  gone  and  the  trip  up  to  Camp  1   went  smoothly.  So  in  my  mind  I  now  repeated  the  process  and  figured  I  would  try  for   Camp  2.  It  was  now  time  to  gear  up:  double  boots,  crampons,  ice  axe,  harness.  There’s  a   section  between  Camps  1  and  2  that  is  really  fairly  easy  but  it  wigged  me  out.  You’re   clipped  into  a  fixed  line  but  you  have  to  lean  out  and  traverse  along  a  very  airy  section.   The  holds  are  there.  The  line  is  there.  It  should  be  no  problem.  On  a  similar  yet  more   technical  section  of  the  Grand  Teton  I  had  had  no  problem  whatsoever  and  even   enjoyed  it.  My  brain  was  deserting  me.     Somehow  I  made  it  through.   Now  we  were  perched  in  the   aerie  that  is  Camp  2.  Camp  2  sits   on  a  pinnacle  of  the  southwest   ridge  and  unlike  Camp  1  has   room  only  for  a  very  few  tents.   It  is  surrounded  by  air  and  huge   drop-­‐offs,  but  it  felt  more  secure   than  what  I  had  thought  based   on  photos.     The  next  day  would  be  our  big   push.  We  would  bypass  Camp  3   and  go  for  the  summit.  Was  I   ready?  I  knew  the  next  section   featured  what  some  thought  of   as  the  crux  of  the  entire  climb,  Mushroom  Ridge.  Mushroom  Ridge  is  a  snow-­‐covered,   knife-­‐edge  ridge  with  a  drop-­‐off  of  about  3,000  feet  on  one  side  and  about  5,000  feet  on   the  other  side.  I  had  heard  stories  of  guys  breaking  down  in  tears  and  turning  around.  I   knew  that  just  a  few  years  ago  a  German  climber  fell  to  his  death  here.  Was  I  ready?  We   would  be  going  up  the  ridge  at  night,  which  is  not  so  bad  because  you  can’t  see  the   abyss.  But  we  would  be  coming  down  it  during  daylight.    


Now it  was  truth  or  dare  time.  In  reality  it  was  both.  We  set  our  alarms  for  2:00am  with   hopes  of  being  out  the  tent  and  on  the  route  by  3:00.  I  still  wasn’t  brimming  with   confidence  but  I  was  moving  forward  and  on  the  mountain  as  well  as  in  life,  that’s   what’s  important.  You  don’t  really  sleep  at  that  altitude  in  those  conditions  and  with   that  level  of  anticipation.  You  rest.  Or  at  least  you  try  to  rest  and  maybe  doze  a  little  bit.   Rarely  do  you  really  need  an  alarm.  The  alarms  went  off  and  of  course  you  try  to   squeeze  out  a  few  more  moments  of  warmth  from  your  sleeping  bag.  Eric  was  in  mid-­‐ doze  so  I  told  him  it  was  now  2:15.  Actually  for  a  moment  I  wondered  if  I  just  fell  back   to  sleep  and  if  he  was  sleeping,  then  perhaps  it  would  be  too  late  and  we’d  have  to  call   off  the  attempt.  But  something  in  me  made  me  wake  him  up  and  we  started  our   preparations.   The  weather  was  pretty  much  perfect:  not  much  wind,  no  new  snow,  and  probably   around  0˚F.  Earlier  we  had  heard  forecasts  calling  for  50  mph  winds  on  the  summit,  but   we  had  been  watching  the  clouds  and  thought  we  had  a  go-­‐window.  We  strapped  on  the   crampons  and  started  up  at  3:30am  by  the  light  of  our  headlamps.     I  was  feeling  mildly  more   confident  about  our  chances   but  the  Mushroom  Ridge  was   out  there  waiting  for  us.  There   was  a  fair  bit  of  ice  and  snow  on   the  route.  Usually  there  is  a   little  more  rock.  But  the   crampons  were  biting  well  and   actually  the  extra  snow   probably  helped.  It’s  up  and  up   and  up  and  the  air  gets  thinner   by  the  moment.  The  legs  just   simply  want  a  little  flat  spot  to   rest.  And  that’s  what  the   Mushroom  Ridge  is,  a  flat  spot.  I   was  actually  grateful  for  it.  I   looked  at  it  and  thought,  “Oh,  I  can  just  walk  across  this.  Hardly  any  climbing  to  it  at  all.”   Never  mind  that  it’s  maybe  18  inches  wide  with  thousands  upon  thousands  of  feet  of  air   on  both  sides.  So  I  used  it  as  a  way  to  rest  my  legs  and  cruised  right  through  it.  Then  it’s   all  vertical  again  until  Camp  3  at  a  little  less  than  21,000  feet.  Although  I  didn’t  realize  it,   we  were  making  great  time.  It  was  7:00am  and  a  group  of  Germans  who  spent  the  night   at  Camp  3  were  just  rolling  out.  We  took  a  short  break  and  then  jumped  on  the  route  to   stay  ahead  of  the  Germans.  There  were  just  two  of  us  and  we  both  move  well  so  we   didn’t  want  to  get  stuck  behind  a  larger  group.     By  now  it  was  light  but  the  sun  was  still  hiding  and  it  was  still  somewhere  around  zero   degrees.  I  kept  wishing  the  sun  would  peak  over  the  ridge  and  bathe  me  in  its  warmth.   We  pushed  onward  and  upward.  I  hadn’t  taken  any  photos  and  really  had  not  even   looked  around.  I  didn’t  have  the  mental  strength  to  and  I  didn’t  want  to  be  wigged  out   by  anything  I  might  see.  My  entire  focus  was  on  an  area  of  about  a  square  meter  or  two.  


Just keep  moving.  Just  keep  moving.  At  some  point  I  wanted  to  look  around.  The  views   had  to  be  amazing.  But  I  just  kept  going  and  focused  only  on  the  immediate.  Finally  I   snuck  a  peak  at  the  huge,  gorgeous  snow  flutes  that  grace  the  upper  slopes.   At  some  point  on  the  summit  ridge  above  the  hanging  glacier  known  as  the  Dablam,  I   felt  like  my  body  was  giving  out.  My  strength  was  ebbing.  We  had  been  climbing  in  the   cold,  thin  air  for  nearly  six  hours.  I  was  dead.  My  legs  ached.  And  I  knew  we  still  had  to   descend.  I  also  knew  that  most  accidents  happen  on  the  way  down  when  fatigue  sets  in,   judgment  wanes,  and  you’re  entirely  dependent  on  the  gear.  On  the  way  up  the  gear  is   there  to  protect  you  from  a  fall  but  mostly  you  are  relying  on  yourself,  not  the  gear,  to   ascend.   In  climbing  there  are  many  sub-­‐ disciplines,  from  gymnastic   bouldering  and  sport  climbing  all   the  way  up  to  alpinism.  The  popular   saying  about  alpinism  is  that  it’s   more  suffering  than  climbing.  And   this  was  that.  A  real  suffer-­‐fest.  I   was  played  out.  I  stopped  and  said   to  Eric,  “I  don’t  know  if  I  can  make  it.   I  don’t  want  to  endanger  us.  And  we   still  have  to  get  down.”  His  response   was,  “Keep  moving.”  Evidently  he   knew  something,  saw  something,   that  I  didn’t.  We  kept  moving.     Suddenly,  at  10:00am  the  slope  lessened  and  then  there  was  no  more  up.  We  were   there  in  the  bright  sunlight  of  a  Himalayan  morning  on  top  of  the  world.  Incredible.   There  was  no  whopping  and  hollering.  There  was  no  conquering.  There  was  no  energy   for  that  nor  were  we  done.  Even  if  you   summit,  you  haven’t  successfully   climbed  a  mountain  until  you  get  down.   Perhaps  we  felt  mild  elation  that  we   summited.  We  had  made  great  time   (6½  hours  from  Camp  2)  and  done  it  in   style.  We  lingered  for  a  half  hour,  took   our  photos  with  the  cards  Lama  Geshe   had  given  us,  and  began  the  long   journey  down.   Going  down  involves  rappel  after   rappel  after  rappel  after  rappel…   Continually  clipping  in,  unclipping,   clipping  in  again.  And  you  must  watch  the  footwork,  which  is  hard  to  do  since  generally   you’re  descending  backwards.  And  fatigue  envelops  everything.  And  Mushroom  Ridge   is  waiting  once  again.  But  I  took  it  down  the  way  I  took  it  up,  as  a  way  to  rest  my  legs   and  just  simply  walk.  Well  that  might  be  oversimplifying  it  a  little  bit,  but  essentially    


that is  what  I  did.  And  it  worked.  Then  more  down  and  down  and  down.  We  got  to   Camp  2  around  2:00pm.     It  was  almost  done.  We  were  back  at  Camp  2.  I  was  still  altogether  in  body  and  mind.  I   hadn’t  cracked.  I  thought  we  would  spend  the  night  at  Camp  2  and  descend  to  Base   Camp  the  following  morning,  but  since  we  got  there  in  such  good  time  Eric  floated  the   idea  of  packing  up  and  continuing  down  to  Camp  1.  I  was  leaning  toward  remaining  at   Camp  2  for  fuel  and  rest  but  agreed  that  I  thought  we  could  make  it  down  to  Camp  1.   But  first  we  had  to  strike  camp  and  pack  it  all  up.  We  had  summited  with  the  bare   minimum.  Eric  had  taken  a  pack  with  hardly  anything  in  it.  In  a  quest  to  be  as  light  as   possible  I  went  with  even  less.  I  didn’t  wear  a  pack  on  our  summit  push.  I  just  basically   stuffed  food,  water,  camera,  sunscreen,  goggles,  etc.  in  my  pockets.  So  after  packing  up   all  of  our  gear  we  left  Camp  2  at  3:00pm  and  headed  for  the  barn.     But  that  is  when  I  bonked  like  I’ve  never  bonked  before.  I  was  entirely  spent.  I  had   given  every  piece  of  mental  and  physical  energy  to  Ama  Dablam  and  I  had  no  more.  I   had  felt  exertion  as  severe  as  anything  I  have  experienced.  We  were  about  halfway   between  Camps  1  and  2.  We  were  so  close.  Even  though  gravity  was  now  on  my  side  I   could  barely  move.  Eric  went  on  ahead.  I  simply  needed  to  follow  the  route  and  fixed   lines  over  a  section  I  had  been  on  three  times  before.  No  problem.  I  could  only  move   three  steps  at  a  time  and  then  I’d  have  to  stop  for  a  rest.  Otherwise  I  feared  I  would   misstep  and  simply  topple  over  the  side.  Keep  moving.  Keep  moving.  And  I  did.  It   seemed  as  though  it  took  days  to  cover  the  final  stretch  into  Camp  1.  When  I  got  there  I   literally  tumbled  into  the  tent  and  didn’t  budge.  Embarrassingly,  I  couldn’t  even  sit  up   to  take  off  my  boots.  Eric  pulled  them  off  for  me,  got  me  wrapped  up  in  my  sleeping  bag,   and  handed  me  a  hot  drink.     The  hardest  day  of  my  life  was  over.  We  did  it.  We  were  done.  In  the  morning,  Camp  1   to  Base  Camp  would  be  a  piece  of  cake.  Now  I  just  needed  rest.     Camp  1  is  rather  sizable  and  everyone  pretty  much  knows  who  is  coming  and  going.   They  know  when  you  were  on  your  summit  attempt,  so  when  you  come  down  they  ask   if  you  made  it.  If  you  did,  there  is  always  congratulations  all  the  way  around.  They  know   what  it  takes.  Then  some  might  ask  you  for  particulars,  like  how  long  did  it  take.  That’s   when  I  finally  learned  that  we  were  sprinting  up  and  down  that  giant  icy  rock.  I  had  no   reference—though  I  knew  Eric  was  much  faster  than  most  and  we  had  passed  a  few   groups—and  no  clue  how  well  I  would  do  at  20,000+  feet.  I  hoped  I  wasn’t  on  the  slow   side  and  thought  maybe  I  was  at  least  of  average  speed.  When  you  are  up  there  giving   more  than  you  have  to  give,  you  certainly  don’t  feel  fast  or  even  average.  You  feel  slow.   But  everyone’s  eyes  got  big  and  jaws  slightly  dropped  when  we  told  them  that  we   summited  in  6½  hours  from  Camp  2  (not  the  usual  Camp  3)  and  then  descended,   pausing  at  Camp  2  for  an  hour,  all  the  way  to  Camp  1.  In  total,  it  was  a  15-­‐hour  sprint.   Now  I  knew  why  I  bonked.  Plus  I  had  caught  whatever  the  Italian  docs  had  been   spewing  as  well  as  developed  the  inevitable  high-­‐altitude  “Khumbu”  cough,  which  is   known  to  break  ribs  of  those  severely  afflicted.     The  next  morning  we  packed  up  and  headed  for  Base  Camp.  We  both  felt  strong.  We   blitzed  down  the  trail  and  paused  at  Base  Camp  for  my  favorite  hot  milk  tea  and  then  


kept on  rolling  all  the  way  down  to  Pangboche  for  some  well  deserved  R&R.  We  stayed   two  nights  but  really  didn’t  need  the  rest  day.  Our  legs  wanted  to  keep  moving,  and   although  the  cough  and  cold  would  take  some  time  to  abate,  we  were  in  fine  form.     We  kept  moving.  We  could  hardly  stop.   We  breezed  into  Namche  in  time  to  catch   Market  Day  with  the  thought  of  spending   two  nights,  but  the  next  morning  we   were  on  the  move  again.  By  evening  we   made  it  all  the  way  down  to  Lukla.     That  night  we  finally  celebrated  into  the   wee  hours.  Teahouses  lock  up  pretty   early  but  usually  there  is  a  back  way  in.   However,  the  back  way  into  our  teahouse   was  also  locked  up  tight.  Eric  was  about   to  start  banging  on  some  doors  when  I   said  why  don’t  we  just  climb.  There  was  a  deck  open  to  the  outside  on  the  upper  level  of   the  courtyard.  If  we  could  make  it  to  that  we’d  have  access  to  our  room.  So  we  made   one  last  climb.   The  next  morning  we  caught  a  flight  out  of  Lukla  back  to  Kathmandu.  In  the  end,  it   turned  out  to  be  a  good  thing  we  sprinted  down  to  Lukla.  The  day  after  our  departure   they  closed  the  airport  for  a  week  due  to  weather,  stranding  hundreds  if  not  thousands   of  trekkers  and  climbers.   Our  luck,  our  karma  had  held,  and  Ama  Dablam  had  given  us  a  perfect  trip.      



Ama Dablam Travel Record  
Ama Dablam Travel Record  

Ama Dablam Travel Record by Dave Hyland, Ph.D.