In the spring of 2014, 16 year-old Matt Moniz, Mike Moniz and Jim Walkley attempted an unprecedented expedition to summit three of the six tallest mountains in the world finishing with a ski descent of the Lhotse Couloir. Neither the triple-linked ascent nor the Lhotse ski descent had been done before.
The plan was to summit Cho Oyu (26,906') first as an opportunity to give the altitude a test run, thoroughly acclimatize and pay homage to the mountains to come. Then, the big one - Mt. Everest (29,029') quickly followed by Lhotse (27,940'). The team was equipped to try a ski attempt from the summit of Lhotse.
But then, on April 18, 2014, tragedy struck on Mt. Everest. The team stuck together, regrouped and, naturally, records were broken. This is the story of that climb.
More from Makalu
Matt and Willie finally made it back safely to Kathmandu around 10:00 am Nepal time on 5/29 (2200 MDT on 5/28) after being snowbound for the past four days on Makalu. We are so proud of the team for these exciting back to back summits!
Matt on Makalu (27,825 ft) summit push
Fresh off the helicopter and sporting 8K meter boots
SUMMIT - Makalu!
At 4:00 am local time (1545 MDT) on 5/24, Matt, Willie, Nema and Pemba summited Makalu (27,825 ft) making this the second 8,000m peak summited in just one week. The team departed at 8:45 pm on 5/23 due to strong winds and made fast work of the summit. For those keeping track, that is an astounding THREE DAYS from start to summit on Makalu.
We are so proud of Matt, Willie, Nema and Pemba on this amazing accomplishment! (5/25)
Makalu - Camp 2
Continuing in the alpine ascent tradition (light and fast), Matt and Willie are now at Makalu Camp 2 (21,650ft). Mike sent this update:
Matt and Willie had an impressively long day of over 3,200 vertical feet from Advanced Base Camp (18,370 ft) to Camp 2 (21,650 ft). Tomorrow at 4:00 am they will being another major push to Camp 3 (24,600 ft) where they will stage for a summit attempt (27,825 ft) on May 25th. Joel Gratz is forecasting winds and precipitation within our margin.
Here is the schedule in MDT if you suffer from time zone confusion as I often do:
5/23 at 1545 MDT: Matt and Willie will depart C2 for C3
5/24 at 1545 MDT: Matt and Will will depart C3 with a hopeful summit around 2300 MDT. NOTE: Summit day times are based on the typical Moniz summit pattern and have not been confirmed by Mike.
I will post updates as they come in! (5/23)
Matt and Willie at C2. Too bad they look so unhappy :-)
Peak 2: Makalu!
After a couple of days rest in Kathmandu, Matt and Willie have taken off for their second 8,000m peak, Makalu (27,875ft). Makalu is the fifth highest mountain in the world and is about 12 miles southeast of Mt. Everest on the border between Nepal and China. They have a narrow weather window and are targeting 25 May as the summit date.
The Himalayan Times featured this interview with Matt and Mike in today's online edition.
Mike posted the following video and summary on Facebook today. (5/22)
Mike posted more details and gratitude on the weekend's summit on Facebook yesterday.
The smiles say it all. Thank you to Willie Benegas for your great expedition leadership and precision. Joel Gratz, thanks for helping us thread the weather needle! Special thanks to a remarkable team of Sherpas who, despite a painful Himalayan season, gave their all to make this a safe and successful summit. Amazing fact: our team fixed the entire mountain for all spring 2014 Cho Oyu climbers and, therefore, carried and fixed 11,500 feet (3,500) of rope, plus hauled snow pickets and technical gear up the mountain this season.
The team is now off the mountain and getting some much needed sleep! (5/19)
Check out the reflection in Matt's goggles
SUMMIT - Cho Oyu, 26,906 ft
Our intrepid team reports this about their summit at 11:00 am on 5/17 (local time).
After departing camp 2 at 4:00 am we made the summit this morning at 11 am. Joel Gratz, thank you from the entire team, you picked one heck of nice day - light winds, warm and stayed clear long enough for us to make it all the way back to Advanced Base Camp. The Team is exhausted after the 17 hour day but everyone is healthy and happy to be down. Thanks so much for the all the support and encouragement.
Best father-son pic ever?
Matt on his way up!
Summit Rotation - Day 2
I am excited to report that the team is now at Camp 2, roughly 7,200 m (23,622ft). Keep an eye out here for news of a summit!
SPOT update on 5/16 at 0456 MDT
Summit Rotation - Day 1
The team left Advanced Base Camp on the morning of 5/15 to start their three-day summit rotation. Mike updated Facebook with the following:
Finally, we have a narrow, but defined weather window for a summit attempt on Cho Oyu (26,906 ft). The team departs in two hours to Camp 1 where we'll overnight and then move to Camp 2 tomorrow. Finally, on our third day, we'll push to the summit from Camp 2. If all goes according to plan, we'll be near the summit at midnight (MDT) on Saturday. The winds, according to team meteorologist Joel Gratz, will be marginal near our maximum threshold, so we may need an extra layer or two for warmth. Everyone is excited and ready to climb - thanks for all the good wishes!
For those following along with the adventure in the US, I've converted the schedule to MST so when you check your watch, you'll exactly where the guys are.
ABC to Camp 1: Depart approximately 8:30 pm MDT on 5/14. Climb through our night.
Camp 1 to Camp 2: Evening - night MDT of 5/15. Climb through our night.
Camp 2 to summit: Early evening with summit happening at approximately midnight MDT of 5/16
Good luck, team! (5/15)
SPOT update on 5/15 at 0125 MDT
Mike's view for the next 3 days
Mike posted this morning that the team is still hanging out at Cho Oyu Advance Base Camp. He writes that:
Winds are ripping over Cho Oyu. The image illustrates wind speeds and direction at about 8,500m. Black flags equal 50 knots, each long bar is 10 knots and half bars are 5 knots. Map colors we like are white and light blue, orange is no es bueno. So, summit winds are reach 92 mph. Our safety threshold is 30 mph. Looks like we'll be catching up on our reading. Welcome to 8,000m climbing.
Patience is the companion of wisdom - St. Augustine
Indeed, team! Hold on and we'll be sending our best for calm! (5/9)
Cho Oyu wind map
We would be remiss if we did not honor the amazing Triple 8 team sherpas. Willie Benegas said it best:
The beauty of a successful mountaineering expedition to the Himalayas is not if we have reached the top of the mountain. It is that if at the end of the entire process - culturally and emotionally - a simple symbiosis a brotherhood is created. Where we begin as strangers and leave as brothers.
Echoing this sentiment is a beautiful post by Alan Arnette on the relationship he developed with his own Sherpa.
Team descriptions written by Willie, Jim, Charley Mace and Mike.
Sherpa team - photo courtesy of Jim Walkley
Karchen Sawa Sherpa
Karchen Dawa Sherpa's, aka the Patriarch, experience on the mountain goes back decades. At 49, he is the oldest, yet despite his years, his young spirit always comes through. He is married with four children and is always ready to teach these young Sherpas a thing or two! He is from the village of Khumjung and has five summits of Everest, eight of Cho Oyu and three of Lhotse under his belt.
If it is true than an army marches on its stomach, then we owe any success on this climb to Dendi Sherpafrom Solo Khumbu. As a critical member of our support staff, Dendi is with us every day in base camp. He is married with one daughter and five sons. He has been an integral part of prior expeditions to Everest, Cho Oyu and Dhulaugiri.
Kami Tshering Sherpa
Heart and soul of our sherpa team, Kami Tshering Sherpa, from Khumjung, is not only a remarkable mountaineer (seven summits of Everest, one of Cho Oyu, one Shishapangma), but is also a very talented singer. Kami seldom crosses camp without seranading us! Kami is an incredibly strong, fast and technically proficient climber, but his greatest contribution to the team is his warm, upbeat demeanor and huge smile. How to trigger an ear-to-ear grin? Ask Kami about his six-year old son, his pride and joy.
Nima Kanchha Sherpa
Nina Kanchha Sherpais known as the Little Giant, but don't let his 5'4" size fool you. His actions and strength are impressive as a fantastic team leader. Most feel tiny around him. Nina is from the village of Thame and is married with two sons. He has summited Everest six times, Ana Dablam once and is here at Cho Oyu for the first time.
Pemba Tshering Sherpa
This is Pemba Tshering Sherpa - the strong stoic type wtih a heart of gold (always incredibly respectful and thoughtful). He is married with three kids, lives in Khumjung and has a ton of high-altitude experience including eight Everest summits, two Lhotse summits and hopefully a Cho Oyu summit soon!
Summit Rotation Pushed Back
The team is still at ABC, sitting through a storm and waiting for the weather to clear. The team is reviewing weather models and hoping for a summit window around May 12.
I just learned that Jim Walkley has a terrific blog. I will admit to being behind the times. For the team to be able to summit, Jim reports that the weather needs to meet certain requirements.
A forecasted temperature at 8,000 m of -25C (-13F) or higher
Winds of 30kph or less
Come on, weather. Time to get with the program! (5/05)
ABC - photo courtesty of Jim Walkley
Weekend Recap - 5/05
Mike posted a great update this weekend on the team's summit plans.
We completed a Camp 1/nearly Camp 2 rotation before snow and wind forced us to retreat back to Camp 1. The serac wall, located about 250-300m below Camp 2, is steep! The barrier, at nearly 22,000 ft, takes some concentration and will power.
We're now down to Advance Base Camp for a few days and hope to find a good weather window for a summit in the next five days. Some strong storms (it is snowing now) have moved into our area and we expect, based on reports from Joel Gratz, that the mountain weather could be severe for the next 48 hours. This prompted our decision to drop back to ABC.
As for the big "what's next," you'll need to stand by with us. For the next week our team needs to remain focused on the current objective, Cho Oyu. Thank you for all the support and positive energy.
We will post here (and the blog) as soon as we get wind of when the summit bid will take place. Good luck, team!
Headed between C1 and C2
Acclimating and Plans
The team has been at Camp 1 for a couple of days, taking the time to do plenty of acclimating climbs and moving steadily upward. Mike reports that the serac barrier on Cho Oyu is impressively steep this year and much more sustained than his 2012 Lhotse Face route. It will be a great cardiac workout!
He also reports the following on Facebook:
Weather has been changing as Joel Gratz has predicted. The winds have dropped, but precipitation has increased in the afternoon, with intense bursts of snow. We are expecting a fairly intense storm on May 4th and then hopefully summit windows will begin to open. The route on Cho Oyu this year is complicated due to dry conditions - more rock and ice climbing. It's going to take some serious work to reach Cho Oyu's summit this spring.
He also gave a quick shout-out to the team's fearless leader, Willie Benegas:
Willie has taught us a lot about Himalayan climbing - not just the technical side, but also about creating a cohesive team of Sherpas and western climbers. Everyone is pitching in helping with load carries, fixing lines and this inclusiveness goes a long way in coalescing the team.
Matt took a moment to praise his awesome Zamberlan books:
The Zamberlan Paine boots rock! Warm, technical, light and super comfortable. I took them up to 6,000 meters on Cho Oyu yesterday!
Thanks again to all you out there who are supporting this climb in spirit and with your encouragement. We are excited to move to the next phase of Cho Oyu!
Weekend Update - 4/28
The team checked in from Cho Oyu's Camp 1 this weekend. Cho Oyu is holding her own this year, but the team is strong and steady.
SPOT update on 4/26 at 2345 MDT
Matt at Camp 1 on Cho Oyu, 20,500 ft.
Heading to Camp 1
Comms have been slow the past two days and there was no update from yesterday. However, this morning, the team reports that despite the (predicted) weather change today, yesterday was a gorgeous day for packing gear up to about 19,000ft. From Mike:
Weather has changed on Cho Oyu, now with a lenticular cap on the summit and strong south winds. Yesterday (4/22), our team carried loads up to 19K under blue bird skies. Tomorrow, we'll carry another cache of equipment to Camp 1 at 20,500ft.
The team was able to check in with Men's Journal's Jayme Moye for this report on the situation in Nepal. We are continuing to monitor the situation on Everest. (4/23)
Cho Oyu with a new hat
Weekend Recap - 4/21
The team arrived at Advanced Base Camp (18,372 ft) on Saturday afternoon (their time). They set up camp, and were able to capture this beautiful shot of sunrise on Easter morning. Sunday and Monday were/are rest days before starting sorties up to Camp 1.
SPOT update on 4/21 at 0327 MDT
Easter Sunrise at Cho Oyu ABC
Update for 4/18
For up-to-date information on the ice avalanche that occur on Mt. Everest this morning, please head over to Alan Arnette's 2014 Everest coverage where he has news and insights on this tragedy.
The team is safe on Cho Oyu. Mike's statement on the events on Everest was posted this morning.
Matt, the team and I are safe. We are extremely saddened by the loss of life on Everest, particularly among the Sherpa community. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families.
All of us at team Triple 8 send our deepest condolence to everyone affected by this tragedy.
Base Camp Update
The team has been at base camp for the past three days. Yesterday's acclimatization hike took them to 18,000 ft. Mike posted a great update on Facebook this morning which summarizes the team's plans for the next couple of days.
The sun just hit the tent here at base camp which means it's time to crawl out of the down bag. Tomorrow morning [Thursday pm, MDT], we'll be moving camps to Advanced Base Camp (ABC), with an overnight at an intermediate camp. As you can imagine, weather is a big factor in our success. Many of you know Joel Gratz, the founder of OpenSnow, but you may not know that he has been instrumental in getting us to the top of many mountains all over the planet. Once again, Joel is working with the expedition team to help us find good weather windows to move up the mountain. Here is today's weather update for Cho Oyu:
Overall: Pattern is pretty steady through the 24/25th, then it changes. This likely means decreasing high altitude wind speeds starting around the 25/26th, and weakening even further by the 29th.
Winds at high altitude: Moderate on Thursday, weaker on Friday (~40kts), increasing on Saturday then strong Saturday night through about the 24th.
Snow: Normal afternoon showers on Thursday, lower chance of snow on Friday, then snow chances increase again Saturday and Sunday. Monday, Tuesday, and likely Wednesday look like little to no snow, then perhaps more snow next Thursday and Friday.
Recap: Friday (4/18) has weakest winds of the next week. Next Mon & Tue (4/21,4/22) should be the driest.
When not climbing we play Hearts at BC. Tools of the trade are essential to be victorious.
Cho Oyu Base Camp
The team has made it to Cho Oyu base camp! Spot update, pictures and a few words were posted by Mike on Facebook this morning.
It's official. Team Triple 8 are on the mountain and set to climb Cho Oyu! Beautiful day here in Tibet. We'll be spending three nights here at base camp (15,800 ft) and then moving up mountain to Advanced Base Camp (ABC).
Also, our very own Jim Walkley was quoted on Alan Arnette's blog yesterday. We encourage everyone to bookmark Alan's site to get an idea of the big picture situation on Everest as well as his insights. (4/15)
SPOT update at 2214 MDT on 4/14
Can't miss Cho Oyu from base camp!
Weekend Recap: Tingri and the Tibetan Plateau
Communications were challenging over the weekend as the team traveled through Tibet. Trekking overland achieves two purposes: it gets the team from point A to point B over difficult terrain, and even though it is not the easiest way to travel, the slow, steady climb upwards in elevation allows red blood cells to build and the team to acclimate.
Today's Facebook post reflected the following from Mike:
Finally back online. Traveled from Nyalam to Tingri (14,200ft) yesterday across Nyalam Pass (16,200) and the high Tibetan Plateau. Stunning views of Cho Oyu, Everest and Shishapangma. Matt and I will be moving with the team to Cho Oyu Base Camp (15,680) tomorrow morning. Everyone is healthy and in good spirits.
You can see on the map the context of the distance traveled and the distance yet to go. Looking forward to more news from Cho Oyu base camp once the team is established! (4/14)
SPOT update at 2215 MDT on 4/13
Welcome to Tingri
Stunning views of Cho Oyu, Everest and Shishapangma.
High altitude bocce ball match on the Tibetan plateau
The team arrived in Nyalam Town, Tibet after a somewhat trying border crossing. The team posted this to Facebook:
Sleepless in Tibet. Made it through a stressful border crossing yesterday. Some food confiscated, cheese and dried meats. Not in Kansas anymore. Heading north to Tingri, home of the rabid dogs. A grand adventure to be sure.
I hear it is pretty cold in Tibet and the dogs are noisy. The team will be on the move in the morning (their time) headed towards Cho Oyu base camp. The current plan is to acclimate over the next eight days to Tibet to 16,000 ft with a summit push hopefully on May 6th. Then it will be back to the Nepal side to Everest Base Camp. (4/10-4/11)
Heading north to Tibet by van. Many hours ahead with the team.
Lunch stop along Son Khosi. Nearing Tibet
Still in Kathmandu
The team is still in Kathmandu and spent the past two days taking care of all the paperwork and business that precedes a bid on the big Himalayan mountains. The permits to climb Mt. Everest and Lhotse have been obtained, the communications equipment was successfully tested, and there was even time left for a bit of tourism. Now - sleeping and final "real" showers before leaving for Cho Oyu in the morning! (4/9)
Meeting the Nepal Ministry of Tourism's Mountaineering Director
A Monkey at the Monkey Temple
Climbing With Purpose: PHA
Climbing, exploring, breaking new ground - that’s what this team does. But we also recognize that climbing offers a powerful platform to bring attention to the issues closest to our hearts. Our team has chosen several areas on which to focus for our Triple 8 Expedition. We'll be featuring a few of those causes over the course of the climb.
Patients, like Matt’s oldest friend, with Pulmonary Hyptertension, a little-known fatal disease affecting the lungs, have long struggled with a way to to make their disease more relatable. At the top of Aconcagua, Matt made the connection: the struggle to breathe at altitude remarkably similar to the daily symptoms of PH. Suddenly, legions of patients had a voice and a new language.
Since that moment, Matt has climbed and spoken out to raise awareness for research, fund-raising and patient advocacy. On this climb, Matt will be carrying patient’s bracelets to Pangboche for a blessing by Lama Geshe and then to the top of the world.
The bracelets will act as a reminder of the burden of this debilitating disease and the promise of hope for the future. (4/8)
After an intense week of final preparation, Matt and Mike were wheels up from Denver early Saturday morning. Traveling through Tokyo and Bangkok's famous C7 gate, the team arrived in Kathmandu on Sunday afternoon. The psyched look on Matt's face says it all, right?
We should all look so spry after eight hours of sleep, much less 25 hours of international travel! The resilience of youth! (4/6)