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May 4, 2001

From: Kevin Cherilla
Base Camp Manager

The Island Peak Excursion

On Friday, April 27th, Zac, Jonathan, Jason, and I pulled out of base camp at 11:30 A.M. headed for a well needed vacation to Island Peak.  We planned this climb for over a month and were really excited to leave thelife of base camp.

Our first stop was Pheriche to visit the Himalayan Rescue Association clinic.  The twelve mile journey was completed in five and a half hours and we were greeted at the clinic by several of the doctors.  We planned to pick up extra climbing gear and get some information about the climb.  While chatting with some doctors and other locals, a woman sat down next to me who looked really familiar.  It just so happened she was my cousin, Katie Laughlin, originally from Pittsburgh, PA, whom I haven't seen in 10 + years.  What a wonderful surprise!  It turned out that Katie and several other people from the clinic were on their way to Island Peak, a day ahead of us.

We made plans to meet Dave and Liz, from the clinic, the following day in Dingboche at 1:00 P.M. and head up the valley to the town of Chuhkung, while Oscar, Bernard, Barb and Katie proceeded to the high camp of Island Peak.  We spent the night in Chuhkung and left for the Island Peak high camp the following morning at 9:00AM.  We arrived at base camp at 11:10 a.m. and waited for our gear to arrive with the yak driver. 

After lunch we repacked our packs with all of our climbing and personal gear and started up to high camp at 12:50 P.M.  Our packs weighed about 80 Lbs., and we had about 1,750 feet to climb with those big pigs on our backs!  Believe me, it was not a stroll in the park.  The wind howlled and the snow blew sideways.  It took us about an hour and a half to get up to high camp and it was a relief to drop the packs and our bodies on the ground for some well needed rest.

After setting up camp, we began cooking dinner and telling stories.  The snow continued for several hours and the clouds hung low.  Dinner consisted of pasta noodles and mac and cheese.  We talked about our game plan for tomorrow's climb and decided we would get up at 3:00 A.M. and try to leave by 4:30 A.M.

When morning rolled around, Pemba, (our climbing Sherpa), Zac, Jonathan, Jason, Dave, Liz, and I ate a brief breakfast and headed up the mountain.  The first two hours were spent winding our way up through the rocky boulder field.  We started in the dark and many of the rocky areas were icy and steep.  As the sun came up over the mountains we were greeted by some spectacular views.  Venus was peaking up over Makalu and the bright shining stars were slowly fading away. 

When we got to the top of the rock field we faced a two foot wide rock bridge with thousand foot drop-offs on each side that we needed to cross in order to get to the glacial field.  We decided to put on our crampons and fix a line to get to the other side.  While we were getting ready, a huge ice avalanche at our elevation peeled away and shook the ground around us.  What a wake up call!

When everyone was across, we formed two rope teams to travel across the glacial fields.  We had one area with a big headwall in front of a crevasse that needed to be crossed with much caution.  After we finally got everyone up and across safely, we proceeded across another glacial field to the 1,000 foot, 50 degree ice wall to the summit ridge.  The ridge was already fixed with five lines, so it was a matter of juggling the lines with our ascenders and ice tools.  All of us made it to the summit ridge by 10:30 A.M. but we still had 100 vertical feet left to the summit and our most challenging climbing ahead.  Pemba, Jason, Jonathan, Dave, and I continued on through an area called "the cave" and out onto a little platform just big enough for all of us to stand on.  Pemba was the first out on the 75 degree ice face and up to within 60 feet of the summit.  Then Jason followed and when Jonathan was half way up, a huge storm blew in with whiteout conditions and 50 MPH winds.  We decided to bag the climb at that point, knowing we had about 45 more minutes to the summit.  I turned to Dave and thanked him for a great climb and said it wasn't worth it to proceed, especially with a family back home.

We spent the next hour rappelling down the ice wall in the white out and cleaning the fixed lines off the wall.  From there it was two hours back down to high camp and packing up to leave.  After our packs were loaded back up to 80 Lbs., we proceeded back down to base camp where our yak driver waited for us.  We finally left base camp at 5:00 P.M. and headed back to Chuhkung for some well-needed food and water, since we had run out. 

We had a great dinner at Chuhkung and continued back to Dingboche at 8:00 P.M. in the moonlight.  Never once did we turn our headlights on because the half moon and million stars guided our way.  It was a great two hour moonlight walk back to Dingboche.  It was a time to reflect on a great climb with a great team.  It ended up being a 20 hour day before we were on horizontal land! Best of all, it was a time to think about being back home and how much we missed our families and the finer things of life!

Again we thank you for all of the hundreds of emails you keep sending us.  May all of your thoughts and prayers be with us to create a huge positive karma for everyone!

Make yourself a great day!


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