2003 Everest North Side Expedition 
Directed by Eric Simonson • Led by Craig John 

Everest North Side Dispatches

Friday, April 25, 2003
base camp
Pemba, World's Greatest Expedition Chef
Eric Simonson phoned in from Everest Tibet Base Camp today. It was late in the evening their time. Here's the update on all team members:

ABC Trek: ABC trekkers Laura Dozier, Jay Leppanen, Seiji Ohashi, Matt Sant, and Lisa Trotter have all safely returned to Kathmandu with Ang Jangbu Sherpa, our agent with Great Escapes Trekking in Kathmandu. Jangbu made a special guest appearance on this trip and was a great asset to the trek. Eric has worked with Jangbu for many years and values his friendship and help every year in organizing our Himalayan programs. A special thanks to Jangbu for making this trip with us! Pemba is doing his best, as always, at keeping lots of great food in front of the entire group.

North Col Climb: Eric descended from ABC to BC on Wednesday with N. Col climber David Ferriera. The trip down took about 11 hours and David has been fighting off a suspected case of pulmonary edema, using supplemental O2 and the Gamow bag to help him recover at Base Camp.
base camp
The climb to the North Col
Fellow team member and physician Margaret Watkins has been helping to care for David. Meanwhile, the remaining N. Col climbers, including Barry Baker, Morgan Batt, Gail Bredis, Thom Gerst, Terry Holt, Garry Phillips and Ralph Quade returned to BC today with IMG guides Mike Hamill and Mark Tucker. They made an attempt on the North Col on Wednesday and Thursday, with several members of the team reaching the Col before descending.

8000m Climb: IMG guides Craig John and Chris Booher spent the day today making an attempt on the N. Col with Nacho Piedra. Craig and Nacho turned around before reaching the Col, and may make another attempt tomorrow. Chris reached the Col and is sleeping there tonite in order to build his acclimatization for a possible climb higher later in the expedition. Craig and Nacho should return to BC on Sunday, after which Nacho will head home to Spain.

base camp
Da Nuru of Phortse, Super Sherpa
Summit Climb: IMG super-Sherpa Da Nuru, together with sherpa climbers from the Chinese expedition and Russell Brice's team, fixed rope into the high camp, Camp 6, today. With the route in place to the high camp now, things are really rolling, with a lot of carrying to Camp 4 and Camp 5 taking place also, so Panuru, Mingma, Phu Nuru, and Karma Rita are busy with the task at hand. Summit climbers Jay White, Pete Certain and Ted Wheeler are at ABC and plan to climb to the North Col tomorrow, where they will sleep for two nights to push their acclimatization ahead. After that, they will likely return to ABC on Monday, and may choose to either remain there for rest, or descend to BC for some thicker air. They are all doing well.

—Erin Simonson, IMG

base camp
Past expedition trekkers and yaks just out of BC
Monday, April 21, 2003
Rescues already, and it's only April. Chris Booher reported in from Base Camp and shared this story. When our high-altitude team was on it's way up to ABC last week, they were taking a rest day at IC (Interim Camp) on April 14th and encountered a group of Tibetans carrying down a Japanese climber from ABC. Chris and Craig believed the climber was suffering from severe cerebral edema and a possible stroke. He had been given no O2 or medications by his team, and when the Tibetans got him to IC, he could not sit up under his own power and had "mentally, totally checked out of the game."

Chris and Craig loaded him with Dexamethasone and Diamox, then sent him down with one of IMG's oxygen bottles and a regulator. We haven't seen the guy since, as he was taken to Kathmandu, but we have heard that he was doing much better. Deposit received and credited by the Karma Bank in favor of the Tibetans and IMG guides Craig John and Chris Booher, who likely saved this climber's life.

After spending several days and nights at ABC, Chris and Bruce Bramhill walked down to IC on the 17th and then to BC on the 18th. Bruce has now decided to head home, and was journeying back to Kathmandu when another "all nation" strike stopped him en route. So Bruce was able to enjoy an extra night at that great bastion of border delight, Kodari (think Star Wars bar scene) due to the unavailability of any motor transport on the streets of Nepal on April 20th. Bruce should be in Kathmandu today!

Craig John and Nacho Piedra descended from ABC to BC on the 18th, and the summit climbers (Pete Certain, Jay White and Ted Wheeler) spent an extra night at ABC, descending to BC on the 19th. They are all now getting some much needed rest at BC.

John and Nancy Steffa made it safely back to Kathmandu. The last word heard from Eric Simonson, along with Mike Hamill and Mark Tucker and the trekkers and N. Col climbers, was of an enjoyable evening spent at Camp 1 (above Base Camp, but below Interim Camp, this camp is established for the trekkers in order to make the ascent from BC to ABC more gradual) with plans to continue upward soon. This word came not from Tibet, but from Nepal, where leader Dave Hahn and our South Col team now have found the radio frequency to stay in touch with the Tibet team via handheld radios. So now, everyone is talking to everyone, as it should be!

—Erin Simonson, IMG

base camp
Advanced Base Camp
Friday, April 18, 2003
Eric Simonson reported in from Rongbuk Base Camp this morning with news of the IMG Everest - Tibet team progress. High-altitude team leader Craig John, along with climbers Jay White, Ted Wheeler, Pete Certain, and Nacho Piedra have spent several days at ABC. They made a foray up to the North Col, with Ted reaching the top and the others getting almost there before turning and descending. Jay, Ted and Pete will remain at ABC for another day or two to advance their acclimatization schedule, while Craig descends to the Interim Camp today with Nacho, then to BC tomorrow. Chris Booher and Bruce Bramhill decided to skip the foray to the North Col and opted instead to descend to Interim Camp yesterday, with plans to arrive back down in BC today. From here on out, the three summit climbers (Ted, Pete and Jay) will probably be on a different rotation cycle than the 8000m climbers (Craig, Nacho, Chris and Bruce.)

Meanwhile, Eric and the trekkers and North Col climbers will embark on the journey uphill to Interim Camp tomorrow. A few complications have arisen. After facing some problems with the altitude, Nancy Steffa, accompanied by husband John Steffa, took a jeep out of Base Camp and headed back to Zhangmu, with a scheduled arrival in Kathmandu either Friday or Saturday. The whole team enjoyed their company and was sorry to see them leave early. Unfortunately, the best medicine for altitude problems is immediate descent, and from Base Camp, there's really only one place to go to achieve meaningful descent, and that is all the way back to Kathmandu.

Logistics problems are also underway. First, a union in Nepal has called an "all country" strike for the 28th and 29th of April. These strikes are not entirely uncommon, but all truck, bus and ground transport grinds to a complete halt (other than the ever diligent bicycle-taxi drivers, who pedal on regardless) and it becomes quite disruptive to travellers. Since our North Col team was scheduled to return to Kathmandu via truck on the 28th, Eric has decided to try to eliminate an "extra day" in the climbing itinerary and get the team back to Kathmandu on the 27th instead, one day ahead of the trucking shutdown. The team agreed it was better to get back one day early than two days late and miss existing airline plans. But meanwhile, Thai Airlines has cancelled many of their flights from Bangkok to LAX (with Asian travel way off due to the SARS situation) and so now, several of our team members may face unexpected layovers in Bangkok while waiting for an available flight. It sounds like even though flights have been reduced from daily to only three days per week, there is still plenty of room on the flights that are still going. We've tried to give the travel agents involved a "heads up" on this, but it only goes to demonstrate the need for flexibility on these kinds of trips. No matter how much good planning you do, things around you can change quickly, and you just can't control everything. Other than some possible travel delays, we're confident things will work out for everyone.

—Erin Simonson, IMG

base camp
Base Camp on the North Side of Everest
Wednesday, April 16, 2003
Eric Simonson called in this morning from... Rongbuk Base Camp! Eric and all members of the ABC Trek and North Col climbing teams had a successful journey from Tingri via the 17,800+ foot Lamna La pass, hiking over some beautiful, wide open high Tibetan terrain. Base Camp was fairly deserted when they arrived, with the high altitude team currently up at ABC testing their lungs and making a day trip to the Col for acclimatization.

In the last two weeks the trek team has been learning the most common greetings of both Nepal and Tibet. The sanskrit word Namaste (pronounced Na-ma-stay) means essentially "I bow to the divine in you" and is often spoken together with a gesture of the two hands pressed together and held near the heart with the head gently bowed. This is the greeting of choice in Nepal. Many of the high Himalayan buddhist regions use the greeting word Tashidelek (pronounced Ta-shi-da-lay) which means "Welcome" or Good luck" or "Cheers." So that is the news, you can rest assured the team is now enjoying a spectacular view of the entire North Face of Everest, or Sagarmartha, or Chomolungma (depending on whose language you're using!) when they wake up every morning. They're probably seeing a huge white plume streaming from the summit pyramid as the jet stream tears across the top.

Namaste and Tashidelek to all...

—Erin Simonson, IMG

base camp
ABC (Advanced Bace Camp)
Sunday April 13, 2003
IMG leader Craig John phoned in from BC, and we also received a backup report via email from Chris Booher. Everything is set to go, their high altitude team will move up to Interim Camp today and plans to spend two nights there before moving up to ABC on Tuesday. They'll try to spend three nights there, with a day trip to the North Col on Thursday, and then will retreat to BC on Friday, the 18th. For the time being, the summit climbers (Jay White, Ted Wheeler, Pete Certain) are cycling up the hill with Craig, Chris and the 8000m climbers (Bruce Bramhill and Nacho Piedra.) At some point after this initial trip up the hill, the summit climbers will likely split off into a separate rotation cycle. Craig noted that longtime IMG guide and friend Jake Norton, currently on photo assignment with another team, dropped by for a visit. Chris reported great weather so far, good harmony in the group, with all climbers healthy and psyched to be moving up the hill a bit, even though they'll miss Pemba's great cooking at BC.

Meanwhile, trekkers and N. Col climbers under Eric Simonson's leadership began their trek from Tingri this morning. Eric called in via sat phone to say that so far, everyone is doing just fine. They'll start tasting the altitude in the next few days, so we wish them the best and look forward to hearing from them when they arrive in Base Camp, which should be in about three days. We'll let you know when we hear from them...

—Erin Simonson, IMG

April 10, 2003
IMG guide Chris Booher has mastered the technology curve and has his laptop talking to the US. He predicts unhappiness on the part of Eric Simonson when he arrives with the second team at BC to find a big expedition "camped up our tails" next door, so it sounds like crowding is already evident.

Rongbuk is a huge glacial outwash plain and there is plenty of real estate to work with over there for BC establishment, so maybe the other team just wanted to be friendly? Anyway, the yaks and Sherpas should head up to establish ABC tomorrow and the remainder of the high-altitude team will move up to Interim Camp on the 13th and then to ABC on the 15th. Caisey Harlingten has safely returned to Kathmandu.

Eric Simonson
Eric Simonson, IMG
Meanwhile, Eric and the second team of ABC trekkers and North Col climbers logged in from Xigatse and will meet the Sherpas in Tingri today, where they will acclimatize for two nights before beginning the trek into BC. Simo reports everyone on the second team doing fine so far!

—Erin Simonson, IMG

April 7, 2003
Tibet 2003 expedition leader Craig John reported that after spending 3 nights in Tingri, the advance team had a successful arrival in Base Camp today, where the Sherpas had things totally dialed-in and ready to go. Sherpas, Craig and the western climbers are doing fine. The only mishap thus far was the news upon their arrival at Base Camp of the unfortunate loss of Phu Nuru Sherpa's duffel bag sometime while the Sherpa team was en route overland. Apparently the driver was fairly "aggressive" (fairly normal over there) in driving over the bumpy roads and they believe Phu Nuru's duffle "bounced out" along the way. Between extra gear on hand and provisions to be delivered by the second team, Phu Nuru should have a down suit and gloves by the time he really needs it.

Craig reported that the road from Tingri into Base Camp, while historically a pretty rough ride, was in amazingly good repair this year and only took 4 hours to navigate today! Craig estimates the first yak team and Sherpas will head up from Base Camp on April 11th, with the rest of the team moving up toward ABC on about April 15th. Leaders of the big Chinese expedition (logistics assistance provided by Eric Simonson) paid Craig and team a courtesy call and offered full cooperation and assistance, so international relations are good as well.

Meanwhile, the team of 20 North Col climbers and ABC trekkers traveling with Eric Simonson will fly out of Kathmandu on Tuesday, April 8, and begin their Tibetan journey in Lhasa and then on to Xigatse, Tingri, and then to Base Camp, with a scheduled arrival there on April 16th. Eric reported in from Kathmandu today and said all was well, his team is ready to head for Tibet in the morning. Everything's rolling right along...

—Erin Simonson, IMG

April 4, 2003
IMG North Side expedition leader Craig John reports from Xegatse (the second largest city in Tibet) that all's well with the team. They flew to Lhasa on April 1st, had a day there to be tourists (visit Potala, Barkhor, etc), then drove to Xegatse today. They are going to visit the Tashilumpo Monastary (home of Panchen Lama) in Xegatse , then tomorrow drive to Tingri, where they will meet the Sherpas, who are travelling with the trucks from Kathmandu. The Sherpas reported that they had successfully crossed into Tibet a couple days ago at Zhangmu and that they were headed for Nylam. So... everything is on schedule so far, no problems.

—Eric Simonson, IMG Director

April 1, 2003
The IMG North Side team safely made it to Kathmandu. Joining Leader Craig John and Ted Wheeler, Jay White, and Pete Certain are "8000 meter" climbers Caisey Harlingten, Bruce Bramhill, and Nacho Piedra, and IMG guide Chris Booher.

The 8000m climbers travel to the mountain with the climbers, with their goal being to reach 8000 meters on the North Ridge (not the summit). Yesterday all the climbers joined the Sherpa team in a trip to the Boudhanath Monastery in Kathmandu, for a puja with the Lama. This morning they all fly to Lhasa, where they will take a couple days to acclimatize and be tourists. Then it is off to Base Camp, via jeeps, crossing the Tibet Plateau.

—Eric Simonson, IMG Director

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