In March 2012, Mike Moniz headed to Nepal to tackle Mt. Everest and Lhotse, the tallest and fourth tallest mountains in the world, respectively. He climbed the south side of Everest with IMG and he successful executed on the plan to summit Lhotse immediately after his Everest summit.
The original trip had also included moving to Cho Oyu on a private climb with Charley Mace who was also n Everest but attempting the very difficult West Ridge with a team from Eddie Bauer/First Ascent. Both climbers would be acclimatized and would able to make a quick push up Cho Oyu. However, Everest had other ideas. In a particularly tumultuous season, with an impending monsoon, Mike and Charlie opted to pass on Cho Oyo. As all climbers know, that mountain will still be there.
Alan Arnett chronicled this incredible 2012 season here on his blog. Read his detailed and thoughtful account here.
For a detailed look on how Mike prepared, training and his thoughts behind the climb, please check out Alan's insightful piece featured on Outside.
To start the Everest story from the beginning, click here to be taken to the "Trek to Base Camp" page.
Click on any of the pictures to enlarge and see captions.
Goodbye to Everest
Mike's pictures and captions tell a more vivid story than I can!
Click on the first picture to scroll your way through the slide show and read the captions.
Summit - Lhotse (27,940 ft)
Big huge massive congratulations to Mike for his amazing double 8,000 meter mountain summits in 24 hours! Mike’s Lhotse summit bid started at 9:00 am MT this morning and in a record 3:15 they were at the top. They will be headed through the Icefall – for the last time – in a couple hours and then will be safe at Base Camp. (5/26)
In his own words, Mike wrote:
I'm happy to report back-to-back 8,000 meter summits of Everest and Lhotse (4th highest mountain in the world)!!! The summits were only 24 hours apart. We left at 2:15 am from Lhotse high camp and reached the summit of at 5:30 this morning. Perfect weather and fabulous views of Everest.
What made Lhotse so special was the dramatic alpine summit, steep climbing, surrounded by the legendary 8,000 meter peaks of the Himalaya. Best of all we had the mountain 100% all to ourselves - not a soul, my remarkable Sherpa Chewang Lindu and me. What a remarkable juxtaposition to 24 hours earlier on Everest!
Both Chewang and I were so much looking forward to seeing our family and friends and getting home we capped the day with a 10,000 ft descent from the top of Lhotse to Base Camp. I was back in time to joined the IMG Classic Team (whom I can't say enough great things about) for a fun celebration. (5/29)
I just heard from Mike's wife - Mike will be moving down the mountain to the saddle between Lhotse and Everest (about 25,930 ft). He and his Sherpa will take a few hours break and then, yes, they are going to head up Lhotse. Lhotse stands at 27,940 ft. (5/25)
Alan Arnette was good enough to give more details on the Lhotse/Everest saddle. He writes that:
It will take them a couple of hours to descend to the midway point between the top of the Geneva Spur and Camp 3 where they will begin to regain altitude towards the summit of Lhotse. There is a High Camp there where I assume they will take a healthy food and water break before climbing to the rock gully to the summit. There have been multiple summits of Lhotse already this year so the fixed line is in place. There have been no reports of rock fall more than normal.
Summit - Mt. Everest (29,028 ft)
I am happy to report that Mike safely made it to the summit of Mt. Everest and is now on his way back down. Congratulations on a the undertaking of a lifetime.
We here at Climb7 want to express our heartfelt congratulations to all the climbers who summited during this tumultuous 2012 season. Living your passion is never easy and we commend those who dare to dream HUGE.
The official post listing the IMG team members who summited today can be found here. (5/25)
The first IMG climbers are reaching the summit now, and the rest are not too far back. Conditions are excellent. The eastern sky is just starting to get some color. It’s going to be a fantastic sunrise up there this morning. We’ll post the complete summit list once everyone gets up there, and we have a chance to send the list to the Ministry of Tourism (which gets notified first, per the regulations).
Alan Arnette’s wrap up, of course, is amazing. That is primarily where I am getting my information at this point.
As a side note, there are some legalities around reporting summits due to regulations of the Nepalese government. According to the paperwork I received from IMG, the “Government of Nepal gest first notification of summits and deaths on the mountain, and they release this news first.”
I will report news as it becomes available! (5/25)
Camp 4 - The South Col
Mike just called in from Camp 4, aka, the South Col. He and the team are now at 25,938 ft – 7,906 m. He feels great and still sounds really strong. They will start the push for the summit in about 10 hours (9:00 am MT).
This is it, everyone!
Camp 3 - Personal High Point
Exciting news from Mike today. The team left yesterday at about 3:15 am (3:15 pm MT on 5/23) and made it to upper Camp 3 at about 8:30 am (8:30 pm MT). This is Mike's personal high point so far (about 24,000 ft). They will spend the rest of today and night at Camp 3 using supplemental oxygen. At about 6:00 am today (6:00 pm MT for us), they will leave for the South Col.
Joel Gratz offered the following information on the upcoming weather:
The 26th & 27th look okay for winds. Not the lightest winds I've seen forecasted, but below or around 30kts. Then a bit stronger winds on the 28th with decreasing winds on the 29th and very light winds on the 30th! (5/24)
Camp 2 Rest Day
Mike and the IMG Classic team spent yesterday as a rest day at Camp 2. They will be taking off early morning (this afternoon for us) to Camp 3. The plan is to stay the night at Camp 3- using the supplemental oxygen. (5/23)
The IMG Classic team successfully traversed the Icefall yesterday and is now at Camp 2. The team will take today as a rest day. The "hike" to Camp 2 covered about 10 km (6.25 miles) and was a pretty steep 4,000 foot elevation gain. Mike sounded strong and focused. (5/22)
Summit Rotation Begins!
The IMG Classic team has been biding their time at Base Camp as the Summit Wave I teams have been coming off the mountain. Alan Arnette's coverage of the summit events over the weekend is top notch. I was glued to his site all weekend.
Mike put out his own summit itinerary this morning and Joel Gratz chimed in as well with some weather updates.
Summit Rotation Itinerary (from Mike)
It's our turn - IMG Classic Team readies to head up to Camp 2 in twelve hours. I'm happy to report that everyone is healthy and excited to leave EBC for C2 at 2:30 am May 22nd. Expect us to quickly move up through the Khumbu Ice Falls during the wee hours of Tuesday night and arrive at C2 sometime before the sun bakes the Western Cwm tomorrow.
The team will rest at C2 on the 22nd and 23rd and then push to Camp 3 at about 24,000 ft on May 24th. Early on the 25th Sherpas and Climbers will proceed up through the Yellow Band past the Geneva Spur to the South Col 26K ft (C4) and stage for the summit attempt. You can expect us to depart the South Col around 10 PM on the 25th and hope to reach the summit of Mount Everest 29,029 ft at sunrise on May 26, 2012. Weather still appears to be very promising for the 25/6th and we expect to encounter relatively few climbers compared to the May 19th window. Wish us well and keep your fingers crossed for low winds and strong hearts.
Weather Update (from Joel)
The *trend* of the newest model is to weaken the winds a touch more than the older models from about 12 hours ago, so that's a plus. Also, it looks like the general window could last through May 30th, with perhaps the lightest winds of the last 2-3 weeks occurring around May 29-30. So, if for some reason attempt #1 on the 25th isn't going smoothly, the weather should give you the ability to delay and still have summit opportunities! The Highpoint Hunter wishes you well!
The IMG Classic Team
Wind forecast for May 26th on Mt. Everest
The Summit Window
If you check on Alan Arnette's blog, the words "Summit Window" are now pretty much the name of the game. But what exactly is a summit window? Mike gave me a quick rundown last night.
Basically the summit window is an opening of somewhat ideal weather in which to get from Camp IV to the summit and back. Right now, there are two anticipated summit windows on Everest. The first summit waves left Base Camp over the weekend and are headed up now. Mike's team is waiting it out a bit. Their itinerary is pretty straightforward for when they make the push.
Go straight through the Icefall, skip over Camp I and settle in Camp II. This is about a 10km (6.25 miles) hike with a vertical climb of about 4,000 ft. That is a pretty steep grade. The team will spend the night and then take a rest day.
Early (like really early!) he next morning, the team will move to Camp III where they will spend the night using oxygen.
Then it is from Camp III to Camp IV - at a whopping 26,000 ft. The team will spend the night and bide their time for the perfect conditions to make that last trek to the top.
All of us at Climb7 are sending out our best climbing thoughts to the climbers who are striking out for the first summit window. Good luck, teams!
The team climbed up to Pumori Camp 1 (18,500 ft) today to maintain their acclimatization. They were treated to fantastic views of Everest, Lohtse, Nuptse and the Khumbu Ice Fall.
Mike wrote: "Note the spindrift blowing off the summits - still too windy on top. We're hoping for a break in the winds tonight to allow the Sherpas to fix lines to the summit." (5/16)
The view from Pumori
Mike posted the following note this morning. Sounds like things are right on the cusp!
"The first wave, or more accurately, the first tsunami of climbers left EBC early this morning for a summit rotation. If all goes well the lines will be fixed to the summit on May 17/18 with a possible summit window shortly after. Winds look fairly light - wishing everyone all the best. Based on the long line of headlamps heading up the Khumbu Ice Falls early this morning I doubt anyone will be lonely at the top of the world this week.
Our IMG Classic team will look to the next window. Based on the great mountain meteorologist Joel Gratz's models, I'm liking the window that is opening around May 25th/26th. Winds look light and the window appears to be opening for a few days which would suit my Everest/Lhotse dual summit aspirations." (5/15)
Back to Base Camp!
The team said goodbye to their host, Phu Tashi Sherpa, today in Pangoche. The family provided the team with blessing scarves for protection and good luck. From Mike, "certainly we'll need both!"
Now the team is back on to the trail - 15 miles and 4,000 vertical feet from Pangboche to Base Camp. The team is looking strong, rested and undoubtedly anticipating the next step. (5/14)
The team trekked down to Pangboche (13,000) to spend some time catching up on eating and breathing copious amounts of O2 at the Everest Summit Lodge in Pangboche. Mike indicated that it was great to be with friends/team taking a little stress off while they wait to start the Everest summit rotation. Everyone is already feeling better in the thicker air. (5/10)
Chillaxin' in Pangboche
Camp III Rotation - Check!
I picked up a number of weekend updates from Mike this morning. He reports that the Camp 3 Rotation for the IMG Classic team is now complete!
More specifically, he said that after 4 days at Camp II, the team was successful in reaching Camp III by a new safter route up the Lhotse Face. Due to a lack of snow, the standard direct route has been plagued by consistant rock fall and considered too dangerous to climb. Thanks to IMG's outstanding team and some elite climbers here at Everest (Damian Benegas and Chad Kellogg to name a couple) they constructed an entirely new route to Lower C3. Several of the team reached C3 for a "touch and go" that lasted over an hour. According to IMG's Eric Simonsen, the weather was so nice at the 24,500 ft camp that some of the team took off their down suits and basked in the sun.
What's next? Mike indicated that next steps include patience and rest at EBC with possible excursions to lower altitudes for more oxygen and hurry-up-and-waiting for a summit window.
There was additional good news today from a team working to fix lines to the South Col - snow and conditions much better than expected! Mike reports daily snow which has substantially improved the quality and safety of the climbing. Descending the Western Cwm above the ice falls he was impressed by the nearly foot of new snow.
Also included in Mike's update was a a note regarding the Himex decision. He encouraged all to check Alan Arnette's blog for a full report on HIMEX's decision to cancel their Everest, Lhotse and Nuptse 2012 expeditions due to safety concerns. Mike said it was a "very complex decision - not an enviable leadership call. We remain fully committed to a safe and successful expedition."
Good job, team! (5/7)
Camp II Time
Just a short update today. I heard from Mike's wife last night atht Mike and the team have made it up to Camp II (21,300 ft). They spent last night at Camp II, will take a rest day today and then take a day trip to Camp III (24,500 ft) tomorrow. I will update over the weekend if more information comes in.
Weather Updates and Upward to Camp II
It looks like there could possibly be some snow in the forecast! Mike posted the weather forecast below with the following note today:
We could really use this forecasted snow! There are two immediate benefits: 1) better climbing than the current bullet-proof ice on the Lhotse Face and, 2) it may help contain some of the rocks that are taking flight off the face. Status quo will not win the day - we ar really in need of a sea-change. Of course, the old adage, careful what you wish for is worth pondering...
Joel Gratz, our resident meteorologist, noted that:
The jet stream winds subside a lot in the next 24 hours and should abate over the weekend and into early next week. In fact, the 10-day forecast doesn't show a return of the winds as strong as they've been the last few days, but it could get windier in a week or so after it is calmer for the next few days. Tough to forecast precipitation with midday and afternoon clouds/snow showers possible most days.
As far as the next steps, it looks like MIke will be moving up to Camp II tonight with the hopes of getting to Camp III in the next four days. An overnight at Camp III is "graduation" for the climbers and then the next goal can be moving upwards towards the summit. Mike indicated that it will be great to get a little reprieve from the weather drama and the rock falls. We wish him good luck!
A quick call with Mike this morning showed that not much has changed since yesterday. They are holding steady at Base Camp, continuing to rest, recover and acclimate. Even at Base Camp's relatively lower altitude, red blood cells are building for the higher camps.
As a side note, it was super exciting to see Climb7 highlighted on Alan Arnette's fantastic blog this morning. Thank you, Alan! I would encourage everyone to bookmark his blog to keep up on all the events on Everest this season.
A Day in the Life at EBC - Part II
As it turns out, hanging around in the Khumbu Ice Falls is not a great option - this season is turning out to be somewhat unpredictable. Due to all this, Mike's team is forced to move very quickly for 3-4 hours in cold, dry air through the ice maze. It comes as no surprise that most of of them have developed the exhausting non productive cough known as Khumbu Cough.
Khumbu Cough is described as a "a cough caused by the low humidity and sub zero temperatures experienced at altitude, and is thought to be triggered by over exertion." This can cause "extreme irritation which manifests itself in the form of a dry, persistent cough which can restrict breathing. Eventually the cough can be so violent and put so much strain on the chest cavity that it causes its victim to tear chest muscles or break ribs." Mike reports that yes, this is all true!
The range of treatments include time and rest to Advair inhalers and prescription cough suppressants. During this break at base camp the teams focus attention on getting issues like this under control before the next rotation. The Sherpas like the Khumbu Spa treatment: hot water, Tiger Balm Oil and a towel. During the first thirty seconds you're fairly certain your eyes are melting but after the 10 minute session it does really help!
Also keeping the climbers busy is testing oxygen systems fit and function. This is an essential preparatory step before heading off toward the hypoxic heights of Everest. The climber needs to become very familiar with all the valves and adjustments of the overall system well before leaving the South Col. Simple issues that can be resolved relatively easily like ensuring that a good fit for goggles and helmet/mask can destroy a summit bid if not taken care of down at EBC.
The team is at Base Camp for another several days - getting healthy and waiting for a break in the weather before seeing what it is like to head on up to Camp III. (4/30)
Back at Base Camp
Mike and his fellow teammates are back at Base Camp safe and sound this morning. About an hour after returning to BC, Mike shot the first picture below - an avalanche heading over the Icefall. It is believed to have crowned off Nuptse.
While the avalanches are a constant menace, fortunately the they are not completely unpredictable. The team has noted a fairly consistent pattern - they appear roughly around 9:45-10:00 am when the sun hits the Icefall. This means for extra early starts and a quick hustle over the Icefall. IMG uses spotter scopes and radios to monitor progress and to detect potential traffic jams and other problems so the teams are not alone.
Mike's couple of nights at Camp II were successful with some predictable and mitigatable issues - headaches and coughs seem to be prevalent and the teams are working hard to stay healthy. They may be headed down to a lower altitude for some extra thick air and a bit of recovery before getting ready to spend some real time at Camp II and III. Camp III is when the rubber hits the road - time to use all those red blood cells which they have been carefully building since arriving in Lukla.
Camp II: Lohtse Face
The team will depart Camp II tomorrow at 6 am for EBC. Everyone will rest for about three days and then return to Camp II for two days and begin the steep climb up the Lhotse Face. Sherpas were fixing lines up the 3,000 foot wall today which is good news. Lines are essential for safe passage to Camp III (24,000) and to Camp IV via the South Col. Camp III can be a punishing camp due to the altitude and cold. With exception of some headaches and coughs everyone is well. (Updated by Mike Moniz 4/26)
Camp 1-2 Rotation
Due to some communication issues, the chronology here is a bit funky, but I spoke to Mike last night from Camp II where he sounded strong and healthy.
The team arrived at Camp I on the Western Cwm a couple days ago after facing bitter cold and heavy winds throughout the climb through the ice falls. They spent two nights there then moved to Camp II for two nights to finish this rotation. Everyone is well despite the extreme temperature swings - freezing to baking temps all in the matter of a few hours. (4/24)
Early Morning on the Icefall
On Saturday morning, Mike set out at 4:00 am for the first of several practice warm ups through the Icefall. A little background on the Icefall, courtesy of Wikipedia:
The Khumbu Icefall is an icefall at the head of the Khumbu Glacier. The icefall is found at 5,486 metres (17,999 ft) on the Nepali slopes of Mount Everest not far above Base Camp and southwest of the summit. The icefall is regarded as one of the most dangerous stages of the South Col route to Everest's summit. The Khumbu glacier that forms the icefall moves at such speed that large crevasses open with little warning. The large towers of ice or seracs found at the icefall have been known to collapse suddenly. Huge blocks of ice tumble down the glacier from time to time; they range in size from cars to large houses. It is estimated that the glacier advances 3 to 4 feet (0.91 to 1.2 m) down the mountain every day
Mike indicated that the Icefall is considered to be in "good shape" this year so hopefully passage will be quick. He will make a total of about six trips through the Icefall altogether so the more practice the better!
Next up - the teams will start the second rotation through the Icefall to Camp I and Camp II.
A Day in the Life at EBC
Mike's communications in Labouche weren't great but the team made it back to Base Camp yesterday and had some down time to take care of all the little chores that were building up. Showers, shaving, clothes washings were at the top of the list.
Tomorrow, the team will be back to the Icefall for two days of warm up and practice. Then the team will start their second rotation through the Icefall to Camp I (19,900 ft) for two nights and then Camp II (21,300 ft) for another two nights. Then back down to base camp for some R&R! (4/20)
Summit: Labouche (20,070 ft)
At about 8:30 pm MT last night, Mike called from the summit of Labouche. In and of itself, a call from the summit of a 20,070 peak is pretty cool, but even better was hearing how well-acclimated Mike is now to the altitude. Actually, it might be just easier to let you hear for yourself! Click on the icon below to listen to a short (1:36) audiocast from the summit of Labouche.
The audiocast works best with Internet Explorer and Firefox - give it 2-3 seconds before the audio starts.
An alpine start from high camp at 4:05 am in perfect climbing conditions - relatively warm and no wind - bode well for a good fast climb. The first team summited at 7:50 am. Labouche, while challenging and beautiful, primarily serves as an acclimatization climb. As a point of reference, Labouche is only 250 vertical feet shorter than Denali, the highest point in North America.
The team was headed down to Labouche high camp and then back over to Everest Base Camp. Rotations on the Icefall will start today.
Don't forget to click on the pictures to enlarge and see the captions! (4/17)
Mike headed back to Labouche on Saturday where the team plans on a summit attempt of Labouche (20,070 ft). These climbs are intended to continue to get the climbers acclimated as well as maintain fitness levels. Before they headed out, the team visited the GlacierWorks photo exhibit at base camp which. GlacierWorks highlights the vanishing glaciers in the Himalaya.
It has been snowing quite a bit and temperatures are very cold. It was 9 degrees at Base Camp on Saturday morning which not only makes for a challenge in getting out of the sleeping bag, but also the cold is very hard on the technology. You can see in the pictures that avalanches are not uncommon.
I didn't speak with Mike this weekend - communication has been notoriously difficult at both Labouche base and high camp, but according to my itinerary, they should be making the summit attempt on 4/17 - Nepal time. I am hoping to see a SPOT come in over the night.
In the meantime, here are more pictures from Everest Base Camp! Be sure to click on the photo the Khumbu Icefall and look at it very carefully. (4/16)
EBC: Day 3
Everyone has settled into Base Camp and today the team participated in the traditional Puja ceremony in which the Sherpas pay homage to the Everest deity and is the starting point for all Everest expeditions.The teams and their equipment (crampons, ice axes, helmets and harnesses) were also blessed. Perfect timing as the next step was heading over to get acquainted with the Icefall.
The teams will need plenty of practice to be able to move quickly and effeciently over and through it - the Icefall is one of the most dangerous parts of the mountain and completely unavoidable. As you can see from the pictures, the Icefall requires every ounce of skill and equipment - fortunately the sun is pretty warm so you can least shed some of your bulky layers.
Base camp communications have been great. Mike's been calling from his local 3G phone which is amazing considering he is at the base of the world's biggest mountain. He mentioned when the teams aren't out climbing, base camp's environment is a little limiting due to the winds, cold and rocky terrain.
Next up is back down to Labouche High Camp for a summit attempt on Labouche Peak at 20,070 feet. The team should be back up in base camp by early next week. (4/13)
Don't forget to click on any picture to enlarge and see the caption!
Tuning up systems in the Khumbu Ice Fall.
EBC - Day 2
[To see the story the Everest Base Camp trek, click here]
Today, Mike met his clmbing partner on Everest and Lohtse, Chong-ba Sherpa. Known as "The Yeti", Chong-ba has summited Lohtse six times and Everest twice. Rumor has it that he has super-human strength. Of that, Mike said "I like that in a climbing partner!" It sounds like a great fit.