November 11, 1999

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Latest Dispatch

April 25, 1999

Same Mountain, New Adventure: South Side Base Camp

(Note: does not research or edit dispatches.)

It’s about nine o’clock at night here. We’re down in Base Camp just taking a bit of R & R and letting the boys, the Sherpas actually, do a bit of work up high, getting our upper camp stocked while we’re down here.

Icefall Ladder We just welcomed Chris Metcalfe, Matt Lau, and David Mencin, who will be helping us tomorrow morning. We’ll be getting out the weather probes and some of the other GPS-related equipment that will be going with us to the very top of the mountain. So we’re pretty excited about that- obviously getting everything tested so that we don’t carry up a bunch of equipment that doesn’t work. We’re all pretty excited about learning about all that stuff and actually getting on with the business of climbing the peak.

The Icefall is in kind of critical shape right now. It almost feels like it’s a month ahead of schedule, chiefly because it’s been so warm. There have been some beautiful arches forming, actually right in the center of the Icefall, that we thought would last for quite awhile. Fortunately Jeff was able to get some good photographs of it on videotape and it will be part of the NBC program that will come in early 2000. But unfortunately they’re obviously very ephemeral and don’t last very long. By the time we were on our way back down, the arches had completely collapsed—obviously another one of those transient moments in life and in the Khumbu Icefall, it makes things very dramatically clear sometimes.

Translucent view But I’m really thinking much more about our climb of Nuptse. We can see the ridge right here from Base Camp quite well. We see the profile—it’s a beautiful mixed ridge. It looks like about 1,500 feet (458 meters) of ice climbing, 500-600 feet (150-180 meters) of mixed climbing, and then some very beautiful ridge climbing as well. It was a very unique moment for me to go over beneath that ridge with Bill Crouse. We were just looking at the southwest face of Everest, which loomed incredibly huge over our heads—it was just an amazing moment. You know this is the (obviously some of you already know this) 13th time I’ve been here. It leaves me, to go back to that double couplet from T.S. Eliot in the Four Quartets:

We shall not cease from exploration
and the object of all our exploring
is to arrive at the beginning
and know the place for the first time.

For me, that was certainly the feeling I had there in the Western Cwm. Obviously I’ve been there hundreds of times, but taking on a completely new perspective, I felt that I truly knew it. Well that’s probably not much for tonight’s conversation with you all, but I hope you’re all well. And thank you for spending time with us. We’ll be going to the top with you all real soon. Good night for now.

—Pete Athans, Expedition Leader

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