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  April 7, 2001
From: Luis Benitez

Have you ever had one of those dreams? You know the one: beautiful mountains, warm breezes, sunny fields . . . now add 200 yaks (big hairy beasts of burden), 100 porters (human vehicles for moving loads), 20 support trekkers (family, friends, sponsor representatives) and make the air thinner, WAY thinner, to the tune of about 17,800 ft. (5425 m). You, my friend, have just arrived at the foot of the tallest mountain in the world, and believe it or not, this ain't no dream. Now the real fun begins. At the foot of this mountain, is a place called basecamp, where, well, we make basecamp.

The team enjoys a traditional pre-climb blessing
known as a puja, whereby strands of colorful
prayer flags are strung throughout the camp.
If you have ever done any gardening you will appreciate what we have to go thru. Basecamp is a field of rocks; big ones, small ones -- no way we are moving these types of rocks. Now imagine tackling that field with picks and shovels to make flat spots for the tents, not just a tent to sleep in, tents to fit all of us to eat in, (13 including the film crew -- did I mention we were doing a film of the climb?), a community tent to house all of our communication equipment, computers, and the equipment for our boys from Brown University who are doing a speech cognition study on us at altitude. Apparently the results will be used to aid the astronauts in the manned mission to Mars in 2010.

PHEW! Here I thought that we were just here to climb the highest mountain in the world, and yes, beyond all the hype and glamorous studies, we have arrived here at the foot of Everest to try and do just that. The trek in took us just about 10 days, and allowed our bodies to adjust to the ever increasing altitude and change in diet. This affected some more than others, in the realm of interesting gastro-intestinal disorders and pounding headaches. None too worse for the wear, we have been slowly organizing our equipment, trying to get our internet link up and running, and getting the sattelite phone in line to be able to make dispatches and call home.

Erik is beginning to understand exactly who he has chosen to spend the next two months with. We all tease him that the group dynamics are all his doing, as he has built this team over the span of quite a few years.

A brief rundown of the players in this crazy game:

Pasquale Scaturro: He is the captain of our ship, the one who has the master plan and seems to make sense of what others would call chaos.
Brad Bull: Possibly the most organized man on the planet, he is responsible for our food and radios on the mountain
Didrik Johnck: Drop this guy in the middle of nowhere with a swiss army knife, a stick of gum, 2 wires, and a laptop, and he will have you connected to the world in a matter of hours. He is also our resident professional photographer.
Erik Whienmayer: Some would call him (the talent) I call him the inspiration and glue that hold this team together, not to mention a heck of a climber.
Eric Alexander: The steady, seemingly the most level headed fella of our group, alwasy there with a kind word or thought.
Mike O'Donnell: The ice master, an accomplished guide and professional speaker, always there to help.
Jeff Evans: Redneck doctor who is a LONG way from the southland.
Steve Gipe: The Doc, can cure anything with a asprin and a smile.
Kevin Cherilla: Basecamp guru, can tell you where you last left your dirty underwear and used batteries, keeps it all organized, with a smile.
Luis Benitez: Me, comic relief? Who knows, all I know is that this is the fufuillment of a lifelong dream, and I am looking forward to this more than anything.

So tommorrow we head up into the icefall to Camp I for our first carry. We will see how we fare, we are all excited and a little anxious as staring up at this tottering pile of madness that there is actually a way thru to the higher ramparts. The most important thing, as always, be safe, go slow, eat and drink, and HAVE FUN!

More later..........

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