Shadow of the Condor – A great adventure and a great film!

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In the Shadow of the Condor documents an expedition in January of 2002 into the spectacular pristine Corcovado wilderness in Southern Chile. The expedition traveled up a “heart of darkness” river, bushwhacked through a vertical jungle, and then emerged out into a magnificent landscape of glaciated granite walls. Filmmaker Michael Brown and Chilean conservationist Pablo Sandor climbed upward to find a jewel of a lake tucked between the highest peaks. Sandor and his Ayacara Foundation are working to protect the Corcovado region from development and the United Nations has just selected Ayacara to receive a prestigious conservation award. Ayacara leaders give important credit for the award to Brown’s film, which dramatized for U.N. and the Chilean Government’s decision makers first-hand why the region should be included in a national park. “In the Shadow of the Condor” was produced by Outside Television, in association with OLN.

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Sherpas – Who Are They?

by Jeff Messner

I always thought Sherpas were amazing mountaineering athletes.  After experiencing their culture and presence it is evident they are devoted to their immediate and extended families. They have beautiful children and homeland. They share it all with us as they devote their climbing lives to helping others summit their goals and dreams.

Kami Tenzing Sherpa – Kami was our Nepalese expedition leader.  Kami guided us with a firm determination and a gentle, caring manner.  He assembled an efficient and always helpful team for the trek and the best climbing Sherpa team we could have imagined.  We owe Kami and all his team our special thanks for contributing so much to our success and memories.

Chhemeng Nima SherpaChhemeng was our climbing lead on Lobouche and one of the world’s great climbers. He had summited Everest 19 times. “  Tragically, Chemeng was killed in an Avalanche on Baruntse the week following our expedition.  Chemeng, thank you for helping the soldiers summit their goals and our prayers are with you.

Expedition Sherpa Crew

Kami on the trail.

Aiding a tired climber

Top of Lobuche

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To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield

by Luis Benitez

Luis Benitez leading a small group up fixed lines. Photo by Didrik Johnck.

Luis Benitez leading a small group up fixed lines. Photo by Didrik Johnck.

October 19 LUKLA, NEPAL – At Outward Bound we tell everyone that participates in our programs that “there is more in you than you know.” I used to think this phrase summed up the efforts and goals of OB as an organization pretty succinctly. After working with these Soldiers on this amazing expedition, my perceptions have shifted to a whole new level.

Outward Bound’s history with the military dates back to the Vietnam era, serving returning veterans through five-day mountaineering programs out of our base camp in Leadville, Colorado that utilizes the same course area that the 10th Mountain Division employed to train Soldiers before their deployment to Europe during World War II. These programs were designed on the same premise as most OB courses, take a group of strangers, place them in an intense environment to undertake exceptional challenges, and shape the outcomes to assure lessons learned are taken back home to help make everyday life more extraordinary.

It’s one thing to facilitate this process in Colorado, but to take a group of Soldiers where some have been literally blown up, shot at, and torn apart and take them to the Himalaya to climb a peak was a daunting prospect. However once Erik, Jeff and I started talking about Outward Bound’s part in this, we realized that thru OB’s history with serving veterans we could do more, and provide more to these Soldiers in an effort to continue their road to recovery.

So on this expedition, we wanted to combine the prospect of climbing the mountain, with the tangible transference of what a true Outward Bound course would provide, giving the effort shape and definition. In working with Peter Baliey of The Prouty Project, The Heroes Journey started to take shape. To define this process, after each day’s journey, we came together as a team to talk about high/low points of the day, as well as talk about bigger topics like who were your “allies” back home? How do you define your “road of challenges” thru life?

The analogy I used for this process was one of building a house. Some days you would build a few walls, perhaps put in a window or two. Some days saw a wall destroyed, or the “misuse” of “tools,” but the overall effort, if the work was quality, was of a structure that would stand the test of time.

As always with expeditions such as these, one asks the question, “What’s next for us?” As I stood on the summit of Lobuje I turned to one of the Soldiers named Chad. This big, burly bearded guy standing both on his one “real” leg and his one prosthetic leg hold the American Flag with tears silently streaming down his face, I sat there and thought of all he had been through to reach this point, and realized the tears he had on his face were the same that were streaming down mine. Chad is the finest example of where my perception has shifted, all the way back to Outward Bound’s motto from the 70’s thru the 90’s pulled from Ralph Waldo Emerson. “That which we are, we are, one equal temper of heroic hearts. Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will. To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”

Chad Butrick. Video still by Didrik Johnck

Chad Butrick. Video still by Didrik Johnck

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Summit day was… (awesome, hellish, brutal, intense…)

by Didrik Johnck

Didrick Johnck, summit day was... Video still by Didrik Johnck

Didrick Johnck, summit day was… Video still by Didrik Johnck

October 18 MONZO, NEPAL – Didrik ambushes the team and asks them to complete the following sentence, “Summit day was…”

Ike Isaacson, summit day was... Video still by Didrik Johnck

Ike Isaacson, summit day was… Video still by Didrik Johnck

Chris Morris, summit day was... Video still by Didrik Johnck

Chris Morris, summit day was… Video still by Didrik Johnck

Rizzon and Cody, summit day was... Video still by Didrik Johnck

Rizzon and Cody, summit day was… Video still by Didrik Johnck

Sherpa, summit day was... Video still by Didrik Johnck

Sherpa, summit day was… Video still by Didrik Johnck

Charley Mace climbing, summit day was... Video still by Didrik Johnck

Charley Mace climbing, summit day was… Video still by Didrik Johnck

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Rational thinking, an irrational pursuit

by Brad Bull

The upper part of Lobuche with a climbing team. Photo by Didrik Johnck.

The upper part of Lobuche with a climbing team. Photo by Didrik Johnck.

October 18 MONZO, NEPAL – Mountain climbing is an irrational pursuit.

On our extraordinary summit day, I had the honor of climbing with Specialist Steve Baskis. His combat injuries left him completely blind and with limited use of his left hand, but with an admirable inner strength that will always serve him well.

We left our high camp at 1:00 AM to clear skies and relatively warm air. We had experimented with a few techniques for climbing together on the trek in including Steve holding on to the back of my pack for direction or following the sound of a bear bell, which is how we typically travel with Erik. We opted for the bell approach with me in front of Steve and Jeff Evans following to provide adjustments and corrections in the event of difficult trail, which was most of the time.

I can’t claim to know what Steve was thinking as we left the safety of our camp, but he did begin to express a series of concerns that revealed his mindset. “I think I’m going too slow”, “I don’t think I trained hard enough” and “I don’t think my gloves are right” were some of his comments.

I view my role in this process as to lend encouragement from my skills and experiences. While these soldiers have been through a wide range of extreme experiences, summit day on a Himalayan mountain has unique parameters and pressures. When the opportunity came for me to help with this incredible journey, I was grateful for the chance for to show my appreciation for all that these heroes had done for me. There was also a serious responsibility to get these amazing people home safely.

Steve’s body and brain were functioning well. He was going through the constant evaluation loop that mountain climbers need to run in order to reduce the controllable risks. Jeff and I knew that left to his own decision making process, Steve would have turned around many times had we allowed him to go down a negative path. We responded to all of his concerns with a string of “you can do it”, “we’re moving well”, “have some food and water”. In some ways I feel guilty for blatantly dismissing his anxieties with easy answers. It would have been much more difficult if he had more subjective and existential questions like “is this worth the risk?”

Steve got married in January. Based on our lengthy trail conversations, his bride, Sarah, has many admirable qualities and his love for her is unquestionable. My encouragement of this mountaineering effort was easy because I knew Steve was strong and his questions were rational. Some of the soldiers had already turned around, so it seemed even more important to Jeff and me to have Steve summit as he embodies the incredible spirit of this expedition.

It was a long and arduous climb, but as the day unfolded, Steve’s indomitable attitude prevailed. He was actually the third person to summit! We had great views, the weather cooperated and we got everyone down safely. I am grateful that our encouragement in the form of not accepting Steve’s attempts to turn around worked out well. We achieved success on many levels. I am most grateful that I could leverage my knowledge to bring some benefit to these incredible soldiers’ mountain experience.

Steve Baskis taking a rest. Jeff Evans and Sherman Bull rest in the background. Photo by Didrik Johnck.

Steve Baskis taking a rest. Jeff Evans and Sherman Bull rest in the background. Photo by Didrik Johnck.

Brad Bull. Photo by Didrik Johnck

Brad Bull. Photo by Didrik Johnck

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Across the skyline, huge giant mountains…

by Chad Butrick

Erik Weihenmayer minutes below the summit of Lobuche. Photo by Didrik Johnck.

Erik Weihenmayer minutes below the summit of Lobuche. Photo by Didrik Johnck.

October 15 PHERICHE (This post was held up @12 hours due to an Asia-wide satellite outage) – What a day! I almost don’t know where to begin this was such an exciting day. After trekking for 10 days we finally approached our summit day with excitement. It was really hard to get any sleep before making our climb. I was extremely restless.

We left in two groups one at 1 am the other at 3 am. The plan was to meet on the summit together. When group one left I was already up and ready to go despite leaving in group two. The first part of the climb was a rock scramble up really slabby rock. There was lots of loose rock and scree also.

Toward the top of the rocks we could see the massive snow slopes above us as the sun began to rise. We were also greeted by the massive giant mountains of Nepal. I have been in the mountains in Colorado and Alaska and I can assure you nothing compares to the scale of these beautiful rugged giants. NOTHING! We quickly strapped on our crampons and began our ascent.

It was as hard as you think it would be. I have climbed a lot of mountains but never at this altitude. It is a real fight to survive the altitude, save the climbing. I was blown away at the resolve I saw on everyone’s face as they pushed themselves physically, mentally, and emotionally. I remember conversations along the trail as we began to push each other knowing that everyone on our ropes had what it took to summit.

As I hit the summit I broke down in tears. Charley Mace had to dry my eyes as I was overcome with a sense of accomplishment and pride. I had reached my personal elevation high at 20,075 feet. It is hard to describe my complete mental process but I was overwhelmed with emotion.

Then I looked up. There is nothing like looking across the skyline and seeing nothing but huge, giant mountains for as far as the eye can see. There are absolutely no words to describe the scale and size of these mountains. NO WORDS. We looked across the valley and saw the highest mountain in the world; a short 8 miles that might as well have been 100. The scale is that big. No photo will do it justice. Our team met on the summit and it was a very emotional experience for all involved. It was a real coming together showing what a few individuals could do if they decided to do it, disability or not.

Knowing that getting to the top was only half way we spent a short 45 minutes on the summit and began our descent. With a couple of exceptions we all arrived at our advanced base camp unscathed.

I know over the next few days/weeks I will have a lot more to say about the day and what we experienced but honestly I am not sure I have processed all of it yet.

I would like to thank sponsors again for getting us here. For me in particular I would like to thank United Airlines, Bent Gate Mountaineering, Quaker and World T.E.A.M Sports.

We have a few more days of trekking to get down completely and I will talk to all of you again soon!

Matt Nyman on the summit of Lobuche. Photo by Didrik Johnck.

Matt Nyman on the summit of Lobuche. Photo by Didrik Johnck.

Dan Sidles on summit of Lobuche. Photo by Didrik Johnck.

Dan Sidles on summit of Lobuche. Photo by Didrik Johnck.

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Summiting Lobuche: A step-by-step account

by Didrik Johnck

Chad Jukes. Photo by Didrik Johnck.

October 15, 2010 LOBUCHE HIGH CAMP – Decision was made to divide the group into two teams to synchronize summit times relative to climbing speeds. The mountain is divided into two distinct sections. The first half is rock slabs while the second half is steep snow and ice.

Team Alpha: Brad Bull, Steve Baskis, Sherman Bull, Erik Weihenmayer, Jeff Evans, Kami Tenzing, Ashley Crandall, Cody Miranda, Catherine Raggazino (Rizzo), Michael Brown, Rex Pemberton, and Didrik Johnck

Team Bravo (aka: Ramrod) – Charley Mace, Matt Nyman, Matt Murray Luis Benitez, Ike Isaacson, Dan Sidles, Kevin Cherilla, Chris Morris, Nico Maroulis, Chad Jukes, Chad Butrick, Brian Mockenhaupt

12am – wakeup call for Team A. Rizzo is not feeling well and decides not to climb. Cody stays behind to support Rizzo.

1:15am – Team A departs high camp (17,000 feet). Ashley is not feeling well and turns around shortly after departure.

2am – Team B wakeup call.

3am – Team B departs high camp.

5am – Didrik, Erik, Kami reach snow line (18,200 feet).

5:30am – Rest of team A arrives at snow line.

5:45-6am – Snow line reached by Team B.

8am – Teams merge at ice chute 400-500 feet below summit.

8:15 – Erik and Kami arrive summit (20,075 feet).

8:45 – Michael Brown arrives summit.

9-9:30 – Rest of team summits.

10:30 – 11am – Team begins staggered descent off summit.

Noon – Team begins staggered arrival back at snow line. Sherpas and porters are waiting with hot drinks.

After a rest, team begins staggered departure down the rock slabs.

12:30pm – Brad, Sherman, Jeff, Didrik, depart snow for rock slabs. Sherman is experiencing profound fatigue and is short-roped by Jeff and assisted by two Sherpas.

1:45 – Murray, Brown, Jukes, Rex are 1st climbers to arrive back at high camp.

2:30 – Nyman, who is being short-roped by Charley, shows signs of cerebral edema. Jeff begins radio calls to Kevin in high camp to prep treatment options.

4pm –Didrik, Jeff, Nyman, Morris, Mace are last climbers to arrive at base camp.

Rest of day/night is spent eating, hydrating, sleeping and treating Nyman’s cerebral edema.

Soldier Justin Moore – Justin joined the expedition after the Colorado snow and ice training in August. As such he was not adequately trained for the conditions that would be encountered on Lobuche. Justin instead climbed to the rocky, pinnacled summit of Kala Pattar at over 18,000 feet on the same day the other soldiers were on Lobuche. Climbing rock at over 18,000 feet is no easy task and the entire team salutes his accomplishment.

The team cruising along the lower snowfields. Photo by Didrik Johnck.

The team cruising along the lower snowfields. Photo by Didrik Johnck.

Ike Isaacson. Photo by Didrik Johnck.

Ike Isaacson. Photo by Didrik Johnck.

Soldiers to the Summit team photo on summit of Lobuche. Photo by Didrik Johnck.

Soldiers to the Summit team photo on summit of Lobuche. Photo by Didrik Johnck.

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SUMMITED!

by World T.E.A.M. Sports

Soldiers to the Summit Himalayan 2010 Expedition team with Lobuche in the background. Phot by Didrk Johnck

The entire Soldiers to the Summit Himalayan 2010 Expedition team including soldiers, Everest climbers, trekkers, porters, and sherpas, with Lobuche in the background. Photo by Didrk Johnck

Oct 14 LOBUCHE HIGH CAMP – The team summited Lobuche approximately 12 hours ago, 9:00 a.m. Nepal Time (11:15 p.m. Eastern, Oct 13). Our first word that they’d done so actually came via our Soldiers to the Summit Twitter feed. The team tweeted the following (via satellite phone):

9am local time team summits 20,075 foot Lobuche. Sitting on summit now enjoying view.

About an hour later came another tweet:

10:15am local time. Heading down now. Gonna be a long calf busting day. Hope to get some pics and vids out tonight

There has been one brief communication, via sat-phone, since that time (around 8:00 a.m. Eastern or @ 5:15 p.m. Nepal Time) informing us that the team had descended to Lobuche High Camp where they will spend the night before descending to Lobuche Base Camp on Friday.

We anticipate receiving photos and video of the summiting sometime tonight (@ 2:00 a.m. Eastern), pending cooperation from clouds and satellite phones. We’ll post them here as soon as possible once we’ve received them.

In the meantime, we want to invite you to a Live Web-Conference Call with the team in Nepal, where team members will recount the climb. The call is scheduled to take place Friday, October 15 at 9:45 p.m. Eastern Time. To listen in (via your computer) you must register in advance (it only takes a few seconds). To register, click here (or go to https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/823602713).

Once you’ve registered, you’ll receive directions for attending the meeting as well as email notifications regarding the same. We hope you can attend!

If you’re not already following the expedition and World T.E.A.M. Sports on Twitter and our World T.E.A.M. Sports Facebook page, we hope you’ll take a minute and do so. Follow us on Twitter here. Become a fan on Facebook here.

Thanks to everyone for your incredible support for the team. And stay tuned here for more great dispatches from the field!

Close-up of our route on Lobuche. Photo by Didrik Johnck

Close-up of our route on Lobuche. Photo by Didrik Johnck

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