By Marty Schmidt from Mt Everest 2012
Hello and Namaste everyone from Mt Everest Base Camp. This is it. Our first team to the summit of Mt Everest happened on the 18th – 19th of May. We left in the evening time of 2300 hours, leaving the tents of the South Col, 7,900 meters in height. Most of the other teams took off from the Col between 1900 hours and 2000 hours. We left 3 hours later to try and not get caught in the traffic jams that has happened in the past around the Balcony and in front of the famous Hillary Step. My team of 2 clients were AB from Australia and George from Cyprus. I had 3 other clients with me at the Col that night, Mark from South Africa, Steve from Australia and John from Canada, they were poised to come with us on the first summit push but needed to rest the next day to make the best attempt for the their summit moment. Unfortunately the winds picked up and their attempt did not look good as in the weather, so Tim, who was down in Base Camp and getting worldwide weather reports from Becky back in Canada, asked them to return back to camp 2 to rest a few days for their second attempt starting on the 22nd of May from camp 2.
Now back to our first attempt with AB and George……..it was an amazing remaining hour of the evening, we quickly caught up with the rest of the teams, feeling strong and focused. We started to wait longer then we wanted in the queue lines. Up until then, we had a good pace and we were on target to summit before 0800 hours. All was good, but then the slowness of others kicked us in the sides and we waited and waited. This is Everest in the moderns times these days, many people reaching out for the narrow opening from the weather so that we human beings can reach the highest point on the earth and get down safely. Up until reaching the back of the queue, I was climbing without 02, around 8,200 meters and feeling good, but then having to slow down our pace and with me being a professional guide and guiding my clients, I need to go onto 02 to go slower and stay warm. I know it sounds the opposite of what 02 should be used for but to deal with high altitude I have learned to move quickly to keep my feet warm. I have speed ascents of Aconcagua 6 hours and 13 minutes in 1989, Cho Oyu in 2001 with 10 hours 45 minutes and with Everest in 2008 from Base Camp to the Balcony in 11 hours and 30 minutes. From experience I know how to survive above 8000 meters and I know how to take care of my clients in this realm, so the slower one goes the more issues the human race will have above the death zone.
So on we travel towards the Balcony. The sun was rising near Makalu, bringing back great memories of 2010 when I was on a new route on the south face with my good friend Chris Warner. I ended up soloing the French route back then and on the way to the summit I rescued 3 Ukraine climbers who just completed an impressive new route between the Yugoslav route and the West Pillar. They could not get back down their route so decided to traverse the summit ridge only to get off route and seriously in trouble. They were all separated and needing help. After getting them back to safety, I went for one of the best summits of my life, Makalu, solo. I love it and felt good. This is how we are meant to feel while climbing these 8000ers……..so back to sunrise while on the Balcony……the sun felt so good, warm and inviting. Yes, we were very slow, with so many climbers ahead of us being slow our plan was maybe not the best one to begin with. We thought these climbers ahead of us would be faster on their summit push, instead it bottled necked on the Hillary Step. From a distance we could see many climbers coming down from the summit and getting stuck, not moving at the top of the Hillary Step because there were climbers pushing their way up the Hillary Step at the same. For my team, I held us in place, not moving into this obvious jam. I asked these other climbers that were pushing their way past us not to climb and just hold up and wait until the numbers cleared themselves off the Step. But noooooooo, they kept climbing without thinking ahead and jammed the whole system. My team waited 3 HOURS at the base of the Step. We felt honored to do so and that the descending teams could continue to move. I was thanked by several other guides that I have known for years. This felt so right to do. It was cold and windy but we made it happen with no issues.
The Southeast Ridge is a beautiful ridge, a great climb, a respectful ascent and descent. Back in 1953, there were no fixed lines on this ridge, only pure alpine climbing techniques and skills, there were no lines of people, only 2 men reaching this rock gendarme, on a day that they must have known would be their summit time. Amazing to reflect back at history and know it for what it is, all good. My team at the same time were in the position to have our own history made. With Becky and Tim Ripple’s guide service, Peakfreaks, we have one of the best organized teams on the mountains. We have the great connections with the local people, the high altitude Sherpa’s, like with Tashi leading the Sherpas as Sidar from BC to the summit and back to BC and all this adds up to summit success with no issues. After the 3 hour wait, we quickly climbed through the Hillary Step to gain the final summit ridge. In the distance I saw the prayer flags of the summit of the world. Tashi was out front getting some photos, I came up next and just stood there, for several moments I just enjoyed the NOW, I knew I could not take another step higher, I just could not take another step higher even if I wanted to, anywhere on this planet. This was a very cool feeling, since I was 15 years old I was guiding people in the mountains and I always had another step to make on the earth. Now that Everest was under my own mind and body, soul and spirit, I do not have any different thoughts and feelings….I still feel the same, which means I am balanced before this powerful summit. The only thing changed is that I am dedicated to my climbing, skiing and guiding my special clients 100% more than ever, I know where I was at that very moment in time while on the summit of the world and this calling was stronger than ever before and I gave thanks and will do forever and ever. While looking down the North Face and the North Ridge I was reminded of my first expedition to Everest. See one of the photos that looks down the final steps of the North ridge. I was hired by Russell Brice back in 1994 to be his first Him Ex guide and we were given a permit for the first ascent of the NE Face of Mt Everest. This means that I was to lead 1000 meters of virgin rock, snow and ice to camp 1. And this means that our 8 clients had to ascend these 1000 meters, like jumaring up El Capitan to get to sleep for the night. Who does a new route on Everest with 8 novice clients these days??????? We ended up being threatened by avalanches and moved off this new route to the North ridge. I was with one client at 7,900 meter camp ready to leave for the summit when I got the call to rescue Michael Reimburger and Mark Whetu. My client and I forfeited our summit to help these people. Unfortunately, Michael passed away that night and we ended up helping Mark back down to ABC. So now I was on top looking down the North ridge. What great memories and experiences to have in my life. Thank you Russell.
Then the next moment was upon me, George, the first Cyprus climber to summit Mt Everest was a few meters away from me and the summit. Tears quickly appeared in his eyes and we hugged. He is to be a father in a few days as well. AB was right behind us and we all congratulated each other. AB was solid all the way from BC to the summit, determined and focused to be the Australian that summited Everest in style and grace. It was a pleasure to be with them. Our Sherpa’s of the day were beyond solid and graceful, we all gave thanks to them and especially Tashi, a great person to get to know more into the future. The time was 1420 hours when we summited, feeling good on top of the world. We spent about 10 minutes on the summit and then I mentioned it was a good idea to get moving since it was getting late in the day and we still had the whole SE Ridge to travel down, knowing that there would be several teams still moving slowly and we would catch up to them. Unfortunately, this happened sooner than we wanted. We saw several climbers hurting badly. I knew inside that some of these people were not going to make it down; from my guiding and rescue professional experiences I could see this…..I guided and rescued many people around the world on the highest mountains and was able to help some of these people live another day. But I had the responsibility towards my own clients to make sure that AB and George would return safely back to the Col this night. Tim reconfirmed this direction and action. Yes, you all will read about the tragedies on Mt Everest from news organizations…right now there are 8 climbers on the south side of Everest and 3 climbers on the north side of Everest that have passed away. I am not here to write about these people and what happened. Mt Everest will always be a huge challenge to climb on this earth. Yes, it is like all other mountains, it is life threatening and dangerous, everyone knows this when they sign up for these 8000 meter expeditions. No one puts a gun to your head and tells you to climb the highest mountains on this planet. I will let you know that our team was solid and I was comfortable guiding my clients down the SE Ridge. Since there was not much winter snow this season, the Triangle Face above the Col had a lot of exposed stones and unfortunately some came down while we were descending. I was hit by a bowling ball size rock in the left boot area, it stopped me for a few seconds to rethink how much damage happened. Upon a quick check, it hurt but nothing more….thank goodness for La Sportiva Boots.
We got back to our tents by 1930 hours and just crashed into our sleeping bags. What a day, what a journey in life and what a life to live. We all gave thanks for these experiences. The next day we were off to Camp 3 and then to camp 2. With a great sleep at camp 2 and having a good time with the others of the team during the next morning, AB, George and I took off for Base Camp, encouraging the next team of 6; 5 clients and one guide, Joshua, all the best for their summit push on the 25th May.
So right now as I write these words, the 5 clients, Ben, Steve, Mark, John and Crunchy and Joshua with their Sherpa’s are all heading to the South Col. They will rest there through tomorrow the 24th May and leave for the summit of Mt Everest at 2000 hours on the 24th May. Please, no later gang. They will ascend the SE ridge and attempt the summit by the morning of the 25th May. So please be thinking of them as they climb this historic and beautiful ridge to the summit of this planet. Hope this dispatch was not too long. My next one will be in a few days from now letting you know how the second team went and then one more dispatch from our trek out to Lukla and our flights back to the horizontal world of Kathmandu, Nepal, before our flights out of there.
Thanks for following us on this journey upon Mt Everest. If interested, please write to me at email@example.com and see if you want to join me on another great adventure somewhere on this earth. Also, please keep following www.peakfreaks.com for I will be joining Tim and Becky again next year for Everest as well as for Lhotse, next to Everest and being the 4th highest mountain in the world. All my best, Cheers, Marty. PS, Many , many thanks to Becky and Tim and Peakfreaks for allowing me to be a part of this wonderful family.
Published by Emily M. on Friday, May 25, 2012 in In the Media. Comments: 0
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