Two men from Ogden, Utah, Will Calton, and Tom Burton, are in route to the highest mountain in the world, Everest. We’ll attach dispatches from the S2 Mountaineering Team so those in town can follow their progress. The following dispatches are unedited. Ogden Outdoor Adventure is privileged to have access to the S2 Mountaineering Team, and we wish them the best possible weather, and for a safe summit and return trip back home.
Trip Report: 05032012
S2Mountaineering / Everest Team 2012
Family and Friends,
The Summit Team successfully made their advance to Camp 3 at 23,500 ft. and returned to Base Camp. Let me apologize for not keeping everyone up to date until now. The Summit Team has accomplished a great deal in the past week. We’ve also overcome some setbacks in schedule due to weather and logistics. In the end, however, I am pleased that we are still on target to take advantage of an early weather window, which I remain very hopeful will occur around May 14-17th.
We were hopeful to begin a rotation to Camp 3 on April 28th (Correction to “April 26th in my last message). Ropes were not set on the Lhotse Face due to weather, delaying that rotation until April 29th. In addition, a massive avalanche from high on the Nuptse Face wiped out approximately 40 tents at Camp 1, ours included. We were not at Camp 1 when this occurred. One team of climbers in the slide path sought cover by jumping into a shallow crevasse. Reports from that team indicate one of the Sherpa members experienced minor back injuries from the event and was evacuated to Kathmandu. To reiterate, nobody on the Summit Team was anywhere near the slide path. We are currently cooperating with another team, that also lost their Camp 1, to reestablish a shared site. Fortunately, the strength and current reach of the team at Camp 3 no longer necessitates a Camp 1 for our final summit bid.
The successful ascent to Camp 3 is a result of some aggressive planning and some very good luck. The team departed Base Camp on April 29th and reached Camp 2 in an impressive six hours. We were met with high winds and very cold temperatures for two days. Taking advantage of a short break from the windy conditions, the team scaled blue ice on the Lhotse Face to achieve Camp 3 in just short of six hours on May 1. Camp 3 is precariously perched at 23,500 ft on a steep slope of ice and hard pack snow. Our site is composed of three tents situated on pads made level with shovels and ice tools. Exercising an abundance of caution, team members do not leave their tents or move about the area without crampons and being “roped up.” This is where we spent the night. To make things more interesting, the high winds returned as the sun dropped below the 8,000m ridgelines around us. The temperatures were brutal and the tent walls collapsed around us for a fourteen hour burst of high altitude anger.
We were all happy to feel the sun warm our tents at around 0745 on May 2nd. Although a little exhausted from the winds, the entire team emerged intact, comedic about the weather and prepared for a cold descent down the Lhotse Face to Camp 2. In my 32 years of climbing experience, I would place the members of this Summit Team in the highest category of hardened climbers. Their performance makes a solid statement to this mountain that fortitude and character will prevail. I would also add that, while we were prepared to provide oxygen to any member in the event of a failure to acclimatize, not one member required it – 23,500ft!!
What’s happening with the other teams on Mt. Everest? There is a huge mix of ability among the many teams attempting this mountain and, sometimes, their experience level or size becomes a detriment. Unfortunately, some have even experienced accidents. Many of the other teams have been discouraged by the weather or conditions on the mountain. As a result, they have been unable to make necessary advances to Camps 2 and 3 to successfully align for a summit bid in mid-May. I am pleased that we are not among these teams. I believe the relatively small size and high experience of the Summit Team has benefitted our success in achieving Camp 3 and has placed us in a lead position among the majority of teams. We are doing well.
Coincidentally, our schedule is currently running parallel with a team sponsored by the Indian Army. Each year, the Indian Army sends a group of experienced climbers to ascend Mt. Everest. Two of the officers on this year’s team are personal friends and I am pleased to be on the mountain with them. Notably, of the few teams who endured the winds at Camp 3 the evening of May 1st, there was the Indian Army and S2Mountaineering’s Team 2012.
The team is ready for a summit bid. In consultation with our sister teams (Indian Army) and area weather station reports, we will be projecting a weather window in the next several days. We are looking for a sustained, stable weather pattern that will give us a shot at the summit. While we develop a strategy, we will also be taking a much needed break at lower altitude in Dingboche for a few days. As the plan develops, I will be sure to share it with you prior to returning to Base Camp. Again, I apologize for not being in touch sooner (especially family), but our communications while climbing are limited to radio contact between Base Camp staff and the high camps. We have to trek down valley 90 minutes from Base Camp to get a wifi connection.
So, when we’re not actually climbing, you might wonder exactly what we’re doing. Well, when we’re not sleeping or eating, we are contemplating important matters concerning safety and strategy in the days ahead. For example, a few of the more important and seemingly consistent dilemmas we ponder for much time:
- For movie night on the iPad, should we watch “Get Smart” for the fifth time or “Enchanted for the seventh?
- Is the Himalayan Yeti vegetarian?
- Does the tent slope toward my head or my feet?
- Is red or yellow the new “Black” at Base Camp?
- Is sharing a pee bottle at Camp 3 socially awkward?
Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA