Bill Burke, who at 69 is attempting to become the first person to summit Mt. Everest via the north and south routes during the same season, has arrived at Chinese Base Camp in preparation for his north-side climb. His blog posts and audio reports are available on his website. We will publish many of Burke’s blog posts here. The following is his report after arriving at Chinese Base Camp:
April 11, 2011
Chinese Base Camp
I’m so excited to be back at Chinese Base Camp! Everything looks the same as last year, except there are fewer expeditions. That will change as more teams arrive. Chomolumna (“Mother Goddess of the Earth”) is stunningly beautiful and awesome. That hasn’t changed. We can see the whole North Face, and it just takes your breath away. Our Base Camp location is closer to the approach than last year, so that is good.
We departed Tingri for CBC in two Land Rovers around 9:30 am. The drive to CBC from Tingri is about 50 miles over a dirt road studded with rocks. It took us about 3-1/2 hours. One reason it took so long is that we had some mishaps along the way. First, our lead Land Rover had a flat tire, so we had to stop and change the tire. Then, we came across a large expedition truck that had rolled over and off the road and was perched on a hillside, tires up, and being held in place by all of the gear it was carrying. Fortunately, no one was hurt and it was not one of our trucks. There was nothing we could do to help, so we proceeded on to CBC. Then, just before arriving at EBC, the radiator in our Land Rover (the same one that had the flat tire) blew and that had to be fixed. But, we are here, and our sleeping tents and dining tent are comfy warm.
I really love our tight little team. David and I have been friends and climbing partners for years. Aboul, the Russian, is a real kick. Despite his girth, he runs up the hills in the acclimatization hikes. He is as strong as an ox. In the Turkish Bath House, he showed us his belly fat and proudly said it would all be gone in 20-days. I have no doubt he is correct. He’s a good guy to have along because he serves on a mountain rescue team on Mt. Elbrus, the highest mountain on the European continent. He doesn’t speak English too well, but he always has a smile on his face and finds a way to communicate with us in the universal mountaineering language. Doug is especially fun, because everything is new to him, and he is so excited to be along. He has never climbed a big mountain, so this will be a challenge, but he has the spirit, attitude and determination to be successful on Mt. Everest.
One reason I like Doug is that he is an animal lover. He had quite a tough time seeing some of the dogs in the villages. To give you an idea of his love for animals, he has a dual custody arrangement with his ex-girlfriend related to his two dogs. They split the cost of the medicine and health insurance for the dogs. Doug brought enough high altitude medicine to outfit every team on the mountain. My good friend and climbing partner, Spinflyer, would be green with envy. For example, Doug brought 25 vials of dexamethasone and six needles. Dex is a highly powerful steroid that is only taken when a climber is in extremis at high altitude suffering high altitude cerebral edema. One of my teammates on the 2009 expedition accidentally overdosed on dex and almost died. He was evacuated from Base Camp by helicopter and was in the hospital in Kathmandu for 6 weeks. He still hasn’t fully recovered. Don’t worry, we’ll keep a close eye on Doug with his medicine.
So, I have this video I took of Doug in the Turkish Bath House with him sitting in his briefs cheek-to-cheek with a Russian and two Sherpas. We’re currently negotiating the price for me to keep this video from falling into the wrong hands. He’s pleading poverty and lack of fame, but I’m not buying it. I know all of you disapprove, but a man’s got to do what he has to do to finance these extravagant trips.
— El Capitan
Photos: Bill Burke and wife Sharon (top) and the view from Mt. Everest, taken during a previous expedition. Courtesy of Bill Burke