Everest

On May 13th, 2011, I was privileged to stand on top of Everest with Damai Chiri Sherpa.  For those thinking of Everest or other high altitude climbs, I’ve written a few of my lessons learned below as well as my gear list.

Clicking on this link will load all of the blog posts from my climb, or you can browse the archives on the right side for March, April, and May of 2011.

A slide show is below with some selected pictures from the trip; full albums can be found on picasa. Please feel free to contact me if you have question. I’m happy to speak about my climb or other adventures, just drop me a line, please see my ‘about‘ page for contact information.

Please note that any prices I’ve listed below (most have been stripped out) are from 2011 and probably no longer accurate. I received a pro-deal from Mountain Hardwear – that guided a lot of my choices given the cost savings. I’m also a big fan of Feathered Friends, Montbell, and Western Mountaineering to name a few.

In general, I encourage people not to be shy about contacting past climbers to ask questions. And there are many great websites: For gear and advice http://www.alanarnette.com really stands out.

This page was last updated 3/22/2012.

Company

After  researching a lot of different companies, I went with  Himalayan Windhorse Adventures which is owned by my friend Ngawang ‘Dorjee’ Sherpa. I had worked with Dorjee before on much smaller trips and treks and trusted him implicitly. His rates were very competitive and he had past experience with Everest expeditions. I liked the idea that all of my money would be staying in Nepal. It was not a deluxe expedition but I didn’t want to pay a ton for drinks, tea service, and flat screens at base camp. There are many pros and cons to going with a small company and you need to make your own decision. If you go with a small company, I would ask them if they will share come of the carries of fixed rope and gear up the mountain. Big teams tend to shoulder this burden which is not entirely fair.

Electronics

There is a much more detailed write-up of cell and sat phone issues that I wrote “Communications on ‘the cheap’ from Everest Base Camp”  published in www.explorersweb.com

Cell

I used an out-of-contract iPhone 3g. I jailbroke it at http://jailbreakme.com/ and unlocked it with the installed Cydia software.

In Kathmandu, Dorjee helped me buy a data enabled SIM card from Ncell; they have a 3g network in the Khumbu (well, parts of the Khumbu). Ncells Prepaid Tariff’s page. And International Rates (USA is 6 rupees a minute). Prepaid Data Services shows 10R per text and .006R per kilobyte. (or 6R per MB). Less than 10 cents a minute to the States was not bad!

The phone worked well but the network was down quite a bit early in the season. The tower is solar powered at Gorak Shep. Maybe there was not enough sun? Later in the season, I could reliably get on for 8-12 hours a day, sometimes 24. The data on my phone never worked reliably from base camp. Others seemed to have the same problem. If I walked to Gorak Shep it would usually work.

I also bought a cheap cell phone with another NCell SIM card in Kathmandu to use as a backup. I rarely used it. I recommend buying a lot of 1000r scratch cards in Kathmandu and bringing them to base camp. At 6-7r a minute, you can calculate how much you want. You can buy them in Gorak Shep if you run out, but they will be smaller denominations and there will be a premium added to the card. You can also have someone in Kathmandu buy them for you while you are at base camp and have them text the PIN numbers to you.

There is another provider (NTC?) that seemed to have better service at base camp. But it is much harder to get one of these SIM cards and I don’t think data services are provided. A lot of the Sherpas have phones that can support two SIM cards at once, they have one from each company and switch between them depending on what is working.

Wireless Broadband for Laptop
In Kathmandu (also at the Ncell store), I bought a USB Connect Stick with a data enabled SIM card inside it. Highly recommended! Ncell’s Connect Service is designed to be used with laptop. There are three packages. It is much less expensive than data on 3g enabled phone. Roughly 1R per MB. This worked well from Gorak Shep, Namche, and Kathmandu but not at base camp.
It cost roughly $50.

Satellite Phones
I bought a Thuraya So-2510 with accessories (extra long life battery, car charger, data cable) including an ECO SIM card and a PRE Sim card. Total cost was close to a thousand dollars. I bought everything through HumanEdgeTech (HET),  including minutes, even though things are a little more expensive through them. Why? I like Tom, respect his experience on Everest and with other expeditions, and felt that it was important to have a vendor who understood what environment I was using his product in, etc. I was not disappointed. The phone can be tethered to laptop with a data cable for ‘always on’ Internet. This means you pay by the kilobyte, not by the minute. Also known as GmPRS. The software you need to install for GmPRS does not work on Windows 7 and it was quite a hassle to get XP installed on my laptop and to find all of the drivers for the laptop since XP is no longer officially supported on newer laptops.

Thuraya really only provides coverage in Asia and the middle-east. Your phone won’t work on Denali etc! But it is much less expensive per minute than Iridium. Several seasoned leaders I met swore by Thuraya. The ECO SIM card provides the best rates but it only works in Nepal. When you are high up on the mountain the phone sometimes reports being in China and will only work with the PRE Card which requires more per minute. Safest is to always put the PRE card in before going up…

From Thuray’s Services page, friends can send SMS messages for free to you – just be sure to tell them which phone number to use as both the ECO and PRE cards will have different numbers. And remember you can not text them back.

One problem I ran into was not having the ECO sim card provisioned for data (GmPRS). I spent a lot of time trying to get GmPRS to work from base camp, and was told repeatedly by HET, Thuraya, and XSat (HET actually resells from XSat) that it was provisioned. In fact, it wasn’t. Once it finally was (for $20) it started working. Also- I was never able to surf the web with my phone connected to the laptop. Only to batch upload and download emails (I had my email client connect to accounts via the POP protocal instead of IMAP). I would frequently get outgoing SMTP email errors and wish I had signed up for a third party SMTP service as I think Gmail and my university mail servers were not happy with the slow speeds.

Insurance

I purchased a trip cancellation policy through my travel agent which covered approximately 20k in trip cancellation costs. I bought this in case I broke an ankle prior to the trip or had to leave early due to family illness etc. But it also provided some basic medical costs, return of remains and what not. For actual extraction and transport to the nearest medical facillity – I bought a policy for ~$150 from https://www.geosalliance.net; this company manages the policies sold with the SPOT trackers. Unfortunately, the standard policy does not cover Nepal, hence this additional policy. I think it covered 50k per incident, up to two incidents. I was impressed with their responsiveness to my questions. I know others have also bought some riders offered through the American Alpine Club. At base camp I signed up for medical coverage with Everest ER, the cost was minimal at ~$100 and covered all of the locals on my team. At home I was covered with a catastrophic policy.

Software/Blogging Etc.
I used blogger and would occasionally walk to Gorak Shep to upload pictures etc. From base camp, I would sometimes email a blog update via my Sat phone but picture attachments almost never worked unless there was only one and it was < 10k. I also used twitter a little and facebook, but only from Gorak Shep. I used a SPOT II messenger and had a page on my blog showing my location.

Computer
I brought a Sony Vaio laptop with a solid state hard-drive. I loaded it with movies and music. Bringing two AC adapters is a smart idea in case one gets lost or damaged. I also brought a small external hard-drive (Lacie) and also a Panasonic Toughbook. The latter two devices were not solid state but performed very well at base camp. I didn’t bother carrying anything except my iPhone and Kindle above base camp. And neither of these went above Camp III.

Avalanche Beacon
I did not bring mine as I knew no one else would have one. I did learn one other team was fully equipped. Not a bad idea.

GPS
I had a garmin GPS but never used it.

 

Power
I was initially interested in the Brunton Solar Roll 14 but learned that it doesn’t do well in cold cold weather and I read some negative reviews on their battery.  I also started corresponding with polar explorer Eric Larsen who is sponsored by Goal0. In the end, I bought a Nomad fold-up panel which puts out 13.5w. I hung it on the outside of my tent and connected it to a Sherpa 50 battery. From there, I was able to charge my phone, run a small light in my tent, and charge some other small things. I also had an inverter that I connected to the battery and would occasionally plug my laptop in but, at best, I could only get an hour or two off the battery. Overall – I was very happy with Goal0.

For recharging the laptop, I usually used the expedition set-up which was a 12volt dry cell battery in an old wooden box. Also inside the box was an inverter. Connected to all of this was a power strip and two 45w rigid panels. I don’t think the battery was conditioned very well and the four of us would often drain it with all of our cell phones, main tent lights, and my laptop plugged into it.

Lots of lithium batteries for my head lamp and SPOT tracker. I’ve heard Duracell are better at high altitude/cold. You can’t buy good batteries in Nepal. I also had rechargeable batteries and a recharger that connected to my Goal0 Sherpa. I used these in base camp but did not trust them on the mountain.

We did not have a generator. I don’t recommend one! They are noisy, expensive, and are not needed if you have a good solar set up.

Radios
I did not personally have a radio but we had two VHF radios for the team. They were rented from the Nepal Mountaineering Association. In the future I would recommend enough for every climbing sherpa, for base camp, and that the frequency can be changed (ours was locked) so that you can easily call other teams. I would also recommend VHF towers for base camp and Camp I so climbers can be reached all across the mountain.

Tents
I used the expedition tents. We had Northface VE-25 tents which were great. I had my own at base camp and it was quite roomy. We shared on the mountain. There should be extra tents in case of storm damage. I highly recommend the team have a tent permanently stationed (or at least available) at Camp I as a backup. The kitchen and dining tents were large – basic affairs. Having a canvas floor in the dining tent would have been a nice touch and increased warmth.

 

Climbing Gear

Head

Climbing Helmet. I wore this up to camp III but not beyond. Wearing above probably would have been smart. I went through the ice fall once without it and also up to camp III once without – pretty stupid.
Mountain Hardwear Hat with windstopper
Ice breaker Hat
OR Desert Hat with panels
Cheap base ball hat.

 

Face/Neck
I had some kind of fleece balaclava which I never used. Also a similar one with a ‘heat exchanger’ which was supposed to reduce the Khumbu cough. I also did not use it. It’s really hard to breathe with these things. Most often, I used a smart wool buff around my neck and would pull it up over my mouth and nose if I was really cold. Highly recommended. In fact, buy two in case you lose one. I should have poked some holes in the buff for better ventilation over my mouth and nose (when needed) – but I was too lazy. Cutting a full outlet for an Oxygen Mask would have been really smart. The Buffs are so long, you could easily do this in one area and roll it over when not in use.

Eyes
This probably took me the most amount of research and a good deal of money (close to a thousand). I wear contacts and wanted to avoid wearing them too much on the mountain, but I was also worried about googles and glasses icing up. So I tried to cover all of my bases. In the end, I wore contacts while climbing on the mountain – generally not recommended. I tried to avoid wearing them at base camp to give my eyes as much Os as possible.

Cheap sunglasses. I break sun glasses a lot (or lose them) so I bought two cheap pairs in Kathmandu for a few bucks each and used these for the majority of the trip. They worked fine at base camp. Hopefully the UV protection was true.
For full goggles I bought: Julbo Revolution Zebras Photochromic from REI ($160) Light Transmission: 7 – 41 percent. Another page says it ‘goes from category 2 (transmitting 43% visible light) to category 4 (transmitting 8% visible light)’ I liked the idea that I could use them during early alpine starts in low light and continue to use them after the light came up.
Lightly tinted ski goggles. I never used these and gave them away at the end.
Glacier glasses (Julbo Explorer) – I don’t think I ever really used these. I also bought a pair with transitional prescription lenses (down to Cat 2) from Opticus. This a great company that understands climbing. That said, I don’t think I ever really used these either except around base camp a little.
What worked out well for me were the Addidas Climacool package with removable lenses, prescription clip ins, a removable gasket, a removable sport band, and additional ‘Space’ lenses for glacier snow. – cat 4, 96% blue light absorption and 95% light absorption. I never really used the prescription clip ins. I’d be a little worred about getting a layer of ice between those and the goggle lenses. I should have asked for anti-fog coating on the clip ins.

 

Hands

Wind gloves and liners from Mountain Hardwear. I didn’t really use the wind-gloves much. I used liners in the icefall and sometimes went without.
OR Alti Mitts for higher on the mountain. I often used thin liners in these. I carried an older pair of down mitts on the summit push just in case. I also had some chemical hand warmers.

 

Clothes – Upper Body

A couple long and short sleeve merino wool tops (ice breaker 200 wt)
Heavy weight long sleeve merino (ice breaker 320 wt?)
ArcTeryx full zip softshell (rarely used)
Montbell UL Thermawrap Parka 12.8oz. with hood. Highly recommended!
Mountain Hardwear Monkey Fleece.
Mountain Hardwear Hardshell (Alpha? Top of the line)
Montbell windshell
Down jacket from Kathmandu for around base camp and low on mountain.

 

Clothes – Lower Body

Two pairs of lightweight synthetic ArcTeryx climbing pants. Really only needed one pair. Used on trek and around base camp.
Two pairs merino light weight base layers
Thick fleece base layer (bought in Kathmandu)
Mountain Hardwear Compressor Pants. 1lb 5oz. 32inch inseam Articulated knees. Used at base camp and on mountain.
OR Precip Rain pants with full zips
Mountain Hardwear Bibs (only used once on mountain and then started using OR Rain pants because the Bibs were too hot and too much)
Several pairs merino underwear
Several pairs socks including liners and new pairs for summit push

 

Hardwear

Several Black Diamond Rocklock Twistlock.
6 ovals.
Petzl  Ascender (probably smart to have a spare, I saw no need to have both a left and a right).
Glacier Rope (we didn’t use this, though it would probably be smart to use between Camp I and II where it is not fixed)
4 Pickets (used these for anchoring tents)
2 figure 8 belay devices (one backup)
BD Iceaxe leash and protectors
Black Diamond Bod Harness
Perlon. 40 ft of 6mm.
Personal anchor
BD ice axe – 60cm.
Knife (nice to have a small one clipped to your harness)
Petzl headlamp and one to spare.
Mammut heavy duty headlamp (did not use)

 

Footwear
My feet run cold. I was fine on Island peak and below Camp IV in my Millets. But during the summit push above Camp IV my toes were incredibly cold. I thought I was going to lose a couple! I was wearing chemical inserts but they were too small. As I was travelling uphill, they got scrunched toward my heels, leaving my toes to fend for themselves. I would recommend a better fit with your chemical inserts, or electric inserts (?) if your feet run cold.

Millet One Sport for the mountain
Salomon trail shoes for the trek and around base camp
Sorel insulated boots with liners for around base camp at night
Light weight mountaineering boots (I didn’t use these much but Damai used mine a lot on the lower parts of the mountain). If they were insulated, I might have been tempted to use them lower on the mountain and stashed my Millets at Camp II or III.
Petzl Charlet Vasek (980grams) crampons with extensor bars (and some more to spare, good to have an extra set of bars on a team).
Down booties: From Feathered Friends. 9oz.

 

Clothes – Misc

For a down suit I bought a Mountain Hardwear. I later looked at down suits in Kathmandu and was not very impressed.

Sleeping

Feathered Friends Virio – super light weight. Worked during trek and as liner at base camp.
Sea to Summit Reactor Liner
Cocoon Silk Liner
-30 Everest Hardwear bag from Kathmanu for base camp.
-40 Mountain Hardwear Ghost bag for high camps
two ridge rest foam pads (base camp tent had a cut-to-size foam mat that lined the floor).
Synmat expedition air mattress (never used).

 

Oxygen

Seven 4l bottles of poisk from an authorized dealer in Kathmandu. This is a couple more bottles then most people take with them but I wanted to play it safe. I probably used the equivalent of four bottles. It would be smart to find out how much a 4l bottle should weigh (2.7kg?)when full and double check this when buying them in Kathmandu. You can’t trust the gauges on the regulators too much because they change depending on the elevation and temperature. The first time at Camp III, I used Os for an hour or so to try it out. I think I used Os for a few more hours there the second time and then continously when above. I took off my Os when descending below Camp IV because my throat was hurting so much (I think from the dry air) and because I felt better without it.

My mask was a Top Out. We had an extra mast and one extra regulator on the team. It would have been good to have even more regulators and for all of us to have tested them better and to know how to field strip them. Masks should be reconditioned and recertified in Kathmandu – there is a shop that does this. Maybe regulators too?

Packs/Duffels

I used a ton of Eagle Creek cubes to organize everything. These were great in my duffels and lined up on both sides of me in my tent at base camp. For transport from home to base camp I used 2 large Mountain Hardwear Duffels and one Black diamond Huey. These were definitely expensive and you can buy imitation bags in Thamel for a fraction of the price. They will last for the trip, but not for the rest of your life. For day trips to Gorak Shep I had a small Gregory 22l Miwok day pack and a slightly larger Osprey Talon 33l (which I think I took to Camp II once). For the big trips up the mountain, I used a Mountain Hardwear South Col and a variety of stuff/compressor sacs.

Personal kit

Disposable contact lenses and solution.
Cough syrup – wish I had bought some with codeine.
Dermatone Zinc Sun screen as it does not freeze. Also +20 chapstick and some tins of the lip/face stuff.
Shampoo, camp soap
Pack towel
tooth paste, brush
Nail clippers
Windproof lighter
Meds: Diamox, Nifedipine, Dex (liq and injectable), clean needles, Cipro and Acetazolamide, some pain meds, sleeping pills (?) that don’t depress respirations, ibuprofen, topical anti-fungal.

Misc

Ten dehydrated dinners
Lexan large cup with a lid
Thermos
Hard candy and cough drops (highly recommended!)
Some bars and munchies (highly recommended!)
Cards, frisbee, a game or two.
Kindle (I used mine at Camp II with no problems).
Patience
A 1 1/2 liter Nalgene for a pee bottle
Several Nalgenes for water and insulated carriers
Duck tape
Small length of wire
Multi-tool
Business cards
Chocolate
Good maps – fun to have in base camp. Can buy in Kathmandu.
Compass
Small pelican cases for the sat phone.
Nepali phrase book
Camera, disposable camera(s) for summit attempt.

Your team should register with the HRA ‘Everest ER’ – for $100 per paid client we received medical care at base camp for the entire team (including Sherpas).Regrets

I wish I had brought a better camera. Also a small portable weather station so measure wind speed and temp as people always ask me how cold it was and I have no idea.

I’m not sure what I missed. But feel free to contact me if you have questions!

Feedback welcome