page is an introduction to the Everest 2011 summit.
My Memories Are Everything® climbs are to raise awareness and research money for Alzheimer's Disease. My mom, Ida, passed away from Alzheimer's in 2009.
Alzheimer’s disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States, with another person newly diagnosed every 69 seconds. It affects more than 5 million people in the United States and over 25 million worldwide. The burden on families and family caregivers are significant both personally as well as financially. With our aging population, these issues are increasing dramatically. Today, there is no reliable method of early detection and no cure. And there is hope with research.
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The Alzheimer's Immunotherapy Program of Janssen Alzheimer Immunotherapy and Pfizer Inc. funded my climbs for the 7 Summits campaign.100% of your donations will go directly to your choice of the selected organizations. Click here to find official information about the campaign. Content posted on this page is my own and not related to the 7 Summits campaign.
I summited Everest at 5:00 AM on May 21, 2011.
I was incredibly pleased with my personal performance and climb times, especially on summit night where I climbed from the South Col to the summit in 7:40 and returned in 3:20. This was quite a difference from my previous three attempts where I turned back due to fatigue or illness around 27,000' or below the Balcony.
I climbed with International Mountain Guides' Classic team using only Sherpas. I can identify four areas that made a huge difference for 2011. Obviously these are my thoughts and don’t apply to everyone.
PACE: Thanks to advice from many people (John Dahlem) and my own experience of pushing too hard and succumbing to the pressure of the guide clock; I climbed at a pace I was comfortable with. IMG never put any pressure on me to meet climb times between camps and Kami’s favorite word was “slowly”. Obviously I knew that I needed to be able to go fast through dangerous sections or if the weather turned but allowing my body to acclimatize naturally was a huge advantage and I did not waste energy competing against the clock or other climbers.
Also when I got sick, I gave myself permission to be sick and get well. This was critical in that I did not stress over schedules and got the necessary rest, food and hydration my body so desperately needed. As my friend Brad Jackson commented, it was better that it happened early in the expeditions than later. Allowing myself to recover allowed me to enter the final acclimatization rotations strong. A final factor in pace was that I employed every trick and technique I new throughout the expedition from sleeping to gear to eating, drinking, foot placement (simple, small steps), clothing layers, attitude, who I hung out with, etc. One proof of how it worked was that I never lost my appetite, rare for me.
PREPARATION: My fitness was at a different level than on the previous attempts even though I was 9 years older. In the previous 18 months, I climbed over 30 14,000 Colorado and California mountains with 30-50lb packs. Also climbed Vinson and Aconcagua in the prior 4 months. I lost about 10 pounds before coming to EBC then lost another 15 pounds in the early expedition time; which was a bit too much.
It is said you have to be in the best shape of your life to climb Everest. Well, I thought I was before but now know I had to be in Everest shape to climb Everest.
I thought through the best way to climb Everest. For example, I always stayed at Camp 1 around 19,500′ on each rotation based on suggestions. The standard program is to stay there once, but I found by staying there each rotation, I was able to manage my energy more evenly and not wear myself out trying to go from BC to C2 in one big push. Also, I pushed the envelope a bit by staying at Camp 2 three nights instead of the normal two on the first rotation.
Reviewing my own prior performance, I changed my supplemental oxygen plan. I was very glad that IMG used the TopOut mask instead of the old Posix one that leaked 50% of the air. Also, I used an extra bottle of oxygen on the final summit push from the South Col. These two factors, mask and O’s, allowed me to climb using 4lpm flow from Col to Summit and back instead of a leaky 2lpm in my previous climbs – this was a huge difference.
PERSONAL SHERPA: This should be no surprise to anyone who followed along. Kami (Ang Chhiring Sherpa – Pangboche) was a perfect match for me. At age 46 with 12 Everest summits, K2, Cho Oyu, Ama Dablam, and many other climbs, he had the maturity, experience and personality I needed. We spent time getting to know each other with local climbs, shared tents, meals and became friends. He understood the importance of this climb to me in spite of the culture and language difference. His gentle touch yet strong focus was what the Doctor ordered. He inspired confidence as did many of the IMG Personal Sherpas.
PURPOSE: In looking back at my other climbs, I hit my mental wall way before my physical wall and quit too soon. I never understood how much reserves my body really had. Again, many people talk about mental toughness but a simple note one time from Clive Jones, a climbing friend, and discussing directly with Jim Davidson, a dear climbing friend, about his Rainier tragedy (www.speakingofadventure.com) showed me how far one can push their body if the mind is willing. So in the last few years, I have been working on mental toughness. When the time came on Everest to push my body, my mind was willing.
But the biggest difference was the inspiration and motivation that came from watching my mom struggle with Alzheimer’s. She did it with class, dignity and humor. She never let on how much it hurt. Her strength and courage kept me going every time I felt weak – physically or mentally. In addition, knowing that there were millions going through the same struggle inspired me knowing that many people were watching me. I simply could not let them down. So perhaps the pace went a little quicker.
Most climbers will take 9 to 18 hours for the round trip climb from the South Col. My total time was 11 hours as follows:
South Col - Balcony: 3:40
Balcony (with 20 minute break) - South Summit: 2:30 hours
South Summit (with 20 minute break)- top of Hillary Step: 1:00 hour
Hillary Step - Summit: 30 minutes
Descent Summit - Balcony: 2 hours
Balcony - South Col: 1 hour
Complete live coverage was posted during my summit climb on the dispatch page under Everest 2011
I have written a very extensive and detailed recap of my summit experience plus a many exclusive hi-resolution pictures taken during the 2011 climb. It is in PDF form and can be downloaded from this link:
"I took the final steps to the summit and saw a bench carved out the snow just beneath a collection of prayer flags. I saw Mirjam and Minga and three other climbers already on the summit. They had climbed from the north side and were the first of the season from Tibet. Knowing our time was limited due to the current and impending weather, again I focused on mechanics. I unzipped my down suit and took out my satellite phone. I wanted to call Cathy and post an audio dispatch on my website.
As I spoke with Cathy, my emotional wall collapsed. I could barely get the words out as we shared the summit separated by thousands of miles. She had supported me unconditionally for over 30 major expeditions. We had planned my climbs, shared in the successes and cried together. This was her summit as much as mine. Another button called a blogging service to record a message for my Blog. I had to enter the 9 digit ID code and took off my mitten. Immediately, I felt my finger tips go from slightly cold to a tingling freeze. But knew what I wanted to say. “I want to dedicate this summit to my mom and to all the Alzheimer’s moms. We love you and miss you.” The emotion was strong. I had more to say but could not go on.
Kami had taken my camera and was clicking pictures as I made my calls. Karma Rita pulled several banners out of my pack, including Flat Stanley given to me from a school in Florida. I tried to hold them steady in the high winds. With the tasks completed, my shoulders slumped as I put my elbows on my knees and my head in my hands. My down hood covered my face. I sobbed silently, celebrating the summit and grieving my mom. I thought about my 7 Summits project, all the supporters, all the followers; all the people who believed in me. The feelings were overwhelming.
Kami and Karma Rita stood by quietly giving me room. The wind gusted and I started to get cold. Time to leave. I stood up and looked from top of the world for the first time. I stood silent and still. I pulled my goggles up to have a clear view. The eastern horizon was now a long line of soft golden light. The sun was revealing the nearby summits, mountain valleys and glaciers. I looked north into Tibet, west and south to Nepal. The summits had the spotlight of the morning sun casting shadows to the west. There were no higher mountains, no higher spots on earth. I was a tiny spec, it was humbling. "
I summited Mt. Everest at 5:00AM on May 21, 2011 with Kami Sherpa of International Mountain Guides (IMG).
This video was taken by Panaru Sherpa who climbed with Karim Mella, the first Dominican to summit Everest.
The audio at 56 seconds in the video is my dispatch from the summit to this website dedicating the summit to all mom's with Alzheimer's. My mom, Ida,
and two of my aunts, died from Alzheimer's.
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