Friday, January 30, 2009

More pics from Nepal 2008

Camp I on Pumori, courtesy of Fabrizio Zangrilli.

Te terrain just below Camp I, courtesy of Fabrizio Zangrilli.

An annotated version of the picture in the last post showing the positions of BC, ABC, CampI and CampII.

My favorite bridge. On the way to Namche Bazaar.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Pics from Fall 2008 trip to Nepal

Our Camp, looking away from Pumori. Everest in on the left and pokes up between the leftmost hump, which is not a separate peak, and Nuptse on the right. The dome was our group tent and the blue one is our kitchen tent. Fall 2008.

Our camp below Pumori. You can see our little blue kitchen tent at the bottom. Fall 2008.

Fall 2008 trip wrap up


This Fall (2008) we headed to Pumori (7121m) near Mt. Everest in the Khumbu region of Nepal . The primary objective was to continue filming Matt Fioretti's story as he returns to climbing in the Himalayas after surviving aplastic anemia and a bone marrow transplant.


From the very beginning we were beset with problems. Sickness got to everyone. It seems I had terrible bronchitis for the first half of the trip then stomach problems for the remainder. Most everyone else had some variation of this theme. So when we walked into basecamp few of us were feeling top notch. Another team was there, a Peak Freaks expedition led by Tim Rippel ( They managed to fix ropes to Camp 2, but then abandoned their attempt due to very deep, unconsolidated snow above there. This was a theme all throughout the region this year as late monsoon snow was followed by very cold temperatures. There were no summits of Everest or Makalu and most teams could not get above Camp 2 on Ama Dablam. One team did eventually make the summit near the end of the season, but not before a huge portion of the hanging glacier that is the Dablam swept through Camp 3. Luckily, at the time, no one had gotten there or else the situation may have been similar to a few years ago when six people died under similar circumstances.


After being in camp a few days I walked to a lower altitude to try and get over some sickness. When I returned Matt came down from below Camp 1 and proceeded to get terribly sick with a chest infection. He walked down the next day, the day after that he went lower and I accompanied him. At this point he decided to bag it and go home. The main subject of my documentary leaving meant no more opportunities to get footage of him. So the project was a bit unsuccessful in that regard. Although I've gotten lots of great landscapes and footage on the way up, our hopes of filming on the summit were dashed.


Returning to basecamp the next day I found that there had been a terrible accident. A woman on our trip, guided by Fabrizio, was hit by a huge chunk of ice while descending from Camp 1. It hit her square in the chest, sending her tumbling down a fixed line to the next anchor and knocking her unconscious. When I got to basecamp she had been carried down 2000 feet of steep snow and scree and now laid in our big basecamp tent. While Fabrizio used our satellite phone to arrange a helicopter I went in and examined her. She was barely concious and very beat up. Most of her ribs were broken, her arm was badly hurt and most alarming was the large mass in her abdomen caused by internal bleeding. We have a pulse oximeter in our medical kit and using this we found her oxygen saturation to be below fifty percent. We had been alone at basecamp, but some sherpas were setting up tents nearby for another expedition. We were able to enlist their help, and their lightweight stretcher, to carry our patient accross the rubble that surrounds our camp and down to Gorak Shep, the last cluster of lodges before Pumori and Everest basecamps. There we were able to buy a bottle of oxygen and we found half a dozen doctors who began administering IV drugs. We stayed up all night monitoring her and in the morning a helicopter came. We'd hoped for a bigger one as I'd planned to accompany her to Kathmandu. Unfortunately, due to lack of fuel and the high altitude, the tiny helicopter that did arrive could only take her. We packaged her, crammed her in and hoped for the best. The helicopter struggled as it took off, obscured by a cloud of dust. For a moment we thought they wouldn't make it, but at last they banked, barely cleared the rooftops and took off over the Khumbu glacier. In Kathmandu the final diagnosis was a broken arm, severed motor nerves rendering it paralyzed, most of her ribs broken, a head injury, internal bleeding and a punctured, deflated lung. She's very lucky to be alive.


After this mess Fabrizio took off down the trail to head back to Kathmandu. Of the original seven in basecamp, only John and I remained. With terrible snow conditions we knew there was no hope of summiting. Our yaks would be coming soon anyways, so we climbed up, removed Camp 1 and carried down all the fixed rope we could. Looking accross the valley we could look into the cirque created by the Khumbu glacier as it falls down the Lhotse face and carves it's way down between Everest and Nuptse. How I would have enjoyed the rest of our climb! Alas, it waits until another year.


We spent the remainder of our time taking down the ropes and packing up our camp. The ten yaks came, were loaded up and we headed back down. On the ninth of November we learned the results of the American election. Our isolation was beginning to fade. By the 14th we were in Kathmandu, checking up on our injured team member and eating all the good food Kathmadu has to offer.


Failures notwithstanding, it was a good trip. It's always a pleasure to be in the high mountains. Most importantly, no one died, although it was touch and go for awhile.


Various websites have been reporting the accident. You can read an Agence France Presse article, as well as Fabrizio's thoughts and pictures on his blog :

The film tentatively titled, "Beyond Thought's Compass" has taken some unexpected turns. We are reviewing the footage shot this last year and are contemplating what to do next. This means either another trip to Nepal or just finishing with what we have now. We'll see.