Posted by: Yury Pritzker | July 24, 2011

Chapters from my book – Everest Summit day

I am finishing my Everest Book that I have started almost two years ago. Here are two  chapters  that  describe my summit day and the following day  that have a little bit more details then my blog related to these dates.  I Will appreciate any comments.

May 20-21.  Everest Extreme – The Top of the World, 8850m

The departure time is set at 8:30 pm, but I am starting my preparations now. I put on my two warmest pair of socks, but my feet are still a little cold, so I am turning on my electric warming system. I am all about business. Nothing extra is going on in my head, no usual noise of thoughts. May be the lack of oxygen is working its magic on me and I have enough supply for only the thoughts that I need for climbing. I remember to drink and I do so religiously, supplying my body with the liquid that will be so valuable in the coming hours. I am ready to go, but everyone in my tent is still sleeping. I was so preoccupied with myself that I did not see that no one was preparing. What is going on? Oh, God! I am one hour early.

Finally we are ready and getting out of the tents. Thukten Sherpa is in front of me and Nima Sherpa is behind me. We plan to climb in this order so we can find each other with this climbing madness: at night all the climbers look alike wearing the down suits in just two colors: red and yellow.

Thukten starts the climb as a sprinter, jumping the rope line, unclipping from the rope and bypassing two or three people at a time. The more people we pass by, the easier it is to avoid possible bottlenecks on the ropes later. I am afraid to lose him and I am following him religiously. There is not a negative thought in my head: neither about the difficulties of the climb, nor about anxiety to get to a particular point in the climb.  Breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out,  then one step forward into the little light spot that is always in front of me, shining down from my head lamp. I think they call it being in the moment.

I am constantly monitoring my oxygen system by looking at the oxygen reservoir, a small container that is a size of the beer can. It accumulates oxygen when I am breathing out and feeds it back when I  am breathing in. This reservoir is made of a clear hard plastic that protects a flexible plastic bag that inflates and deflates during the breathing cycle. I had some strange problems at camp 4 where the inner bag was constantly inflated so I am afraid that this can happen again. When I see it inflate and deflate, I can tell that system works.

We are constantly unclipping from the ropes and bypassing people. It takes a lot of effort, especially after I am done with each bypass. I need to stop to catch my breath for at least ten seconds.  I feel very comfortable without belay during bypasses.  My experience in the mixed terrain is paying back.

As climb progresses, I am losing track of time. Actually, it feels like time is collapsing. All of a sudden we are reaching the Balcony, our first stop at 8500m. This kind of time lapse has happened to me a couple of times before, when I was driving the whole night to get to Sierras. I remember looking at the mile counter and seeing that all of a sudden I just covered another 50 miles. It is the first time that I am having this experience during the actual climb. I am surprised that we are at the Balcony, but this thought quickly disappears from my brain. I am back inside myself, no thoughts, but full awareness of the surroundings and deep concentration.

I am sitting down at the Balcony for 5 minutes, drinking a little bit of water. The temperature falling to -20C (-5F). It is still very warm for this altitude. I see a lot of lights coming from people climbing up behind us, but there are still plenty of lights shining from much higher places on the mountain, defining the climbing path.  It helps me imagine how much higher we still need to climb. I am mystified by one very particular light that is so high that I believe it is at the summit. Someone is there already.

We continue to climb, bypassing more and more people on the way. I feel good and warm, but sometimes I am really happy to be stuck behind some slow people, so I can get some rest by following their pace. I am still on my first bottle of oxygen. The climb becomes very steep (around 60 degrees) and I am worried that if I ran out of oxygen here, it would be very difficult to replace my empty cylinder with a fresh one. Again, this thought disappears quickly and I am back to the darkness and breathing.

It looks like we are at the South Summit in no time. It is still dark and we are almost in front of the climbers’ line. There almost no lights in front of us. The only light very high up that I saw before is still there. It is so high that I am finally realizing that this is a star. I am smiling inside my mask: it is a big relief.

I know that after the South Summit the route is more exposed, more potentially dangerous. But I do not see much: I just feel the void on both sides of the ridge. Before the Hillary Step we have to traverse some steep rocks that are hanging over a 2000 m vertical drop. As we get there, I see that they do not have any visible holds for crampons. All of this is happening at almost 8800 meters while I am wearing an oxygen mask and a puffy down suit, preventing me from seeing my feet.

There are two climbers in front of us at the Hillary Step and we have to wait for at least 5 minutes while they are getting over it. I am climbing the Hillary Step, and I am surprised that it is not difficult for me at all.  However, there is a rock at the top of the Step that needs to be traversed. There is no other way to do so than to go over it as if you would climb up on a horse that is standing on the edge of  a cliff opened to a 2000 meter drop.

At 4:15 am we are only 100 horizontal meters away from the summit. It is now visible in my headlight beam.  I am looking around for any sign of the dawn, but it is still complete darkness, and I can only see some flashes of lightning very far on the horizon, similar to those sometimes seen from an airplane.

Nothing can stop me now! This realization comes to me for the first time and some relief goes through my body and, again, disappears as my concentration comes back.

There is a moderate wind blowing here and we are hiding behind a big rock on the side of the route and waiting for the sunrise. I am collecting some rocks to bring back as souvenirs. I am happy that I have a minute to collect them here, at the last rocky spot before the summit. There are only 4 or 5 people before us sitting on the snow slope also waiting for the sunrise.

At 4:30 we start to climb  the last 100 meters up. It is an easy climb for me. Finally we are on the top of the highest mountain on the Earth, watching the sun rise. What else anyone could dream of?

My mind is still in survival mode. I experience no emotions, just observing and doing what I have to do. I look around, take pictures.

The views from the summit are spectacular. I see no sun yet, but the whole horizon is already lightening up, displaying a mixtures of different colors. A thick cloud blanket covers the Earth all around us, and only 8000 meter peaks stick out from this white mantle. Lhotse and Makalu are just in front of us, Cho Oyu is to the right, and Konchenganga is very far on the horizon. Every minute more and more light is showing up and colors are changing constantly. With the first beams of sun the famous triangle shadow of Everest appears on the west. It is amazing to see its perfect lines projecting to the clouds below.

I have two cameras. Thukten Sherpa has the main camera and I have another one as a backup. He takes some pictures of me and I can see that from his position it is not possible to take a good picture. I check his shots; they are all taken without my head or legs. I scream through my mask and ask him to make a proper distance between us to take an acceptable picture. I am not going to leave here without good pictures!

My camera goes dead after couple of shots – the lens cover is frozen and the camera reports an error – how nice! Finally we finish our photographic business and I am satisfied at least with the one of the pictures.

Thukten and I spend an hour on the summit. Nima is not here yet. We lost him on the way up. It is time for us to start our descend. At this time I see Nic approaching the summit. We hug and I take pictures for him.

Back to the climb. I am all business again. Concentrating on getting down, safe and fast. My mind is so involved with the procedure of getting down that I forget to spend some time to turn around and look back to the summit now, at daylight. As I remember this moment, I am really thinking about all that could have happened if…regretting my survival concentration… Blessing my focus and ability to be present to the task at hand.…. There is no need to regret anything, I tell myself.  Maybe it is just another good reason to come back, to befriend the mountain again, to feel the power of concentration, to will myself up reaching my highest dream and find my way back, down to the safety of my home… To experience the thrill and the joy of Being …

May 21. Everest Extreme – Descend

I am coming down from the summit of Mt. Everest! How about that? In the morning light now it is visible how dramatic, difficult and exposed the climb is. The part of the route between the Hillary Step and South Summit goes along the huge cornices that overhang to the China side. These cornices have some holes in them -from climbers’ ice axes, so I can see China, 3000m down there. These holes are just next to my feet. I feel how strange this place is, but do not feel any worry or danger. I do not feel tired, going down at a good pace.

Many people are still climbing up and we switch positions on this narrow path like zombies, behind our masks in complete silence. I am the one who unclipping from the rope to bypass them and give them advantage to stay clipped. I am grabbing someone’s down suit and using it as belay, so I can bypass them securely, without falling down 2000 meters. Some of the climbers are more conscious about this switch and are grabbing me as well, doubling the hand belay but most of them are in trance and do not pay attention to me at all.

It is very hot. I am sweating like crazy and I hate this. At the Balcony I pull down the top portion of my down suit and wrap it around my waist. My hands are now tired from holding the endless rope that leads me down from the summit to South Col. I now see the tents of Camp 4 – just a little longer and I will be safe.

I finally reach the South Col – it is 8:30 am. I am really tired now, but not exhausted. It is the normal tiredness of coming a long way down from a summit climb. I am relaxed and dreaming. Nic is back also and I hear his loud and exciting voice in the next tent. He is suggesting that we should get down to Camp 2 today. What a thought!!  I completely forgot that we are still at 8000m and still need to get down. Doing it today sounds like a great idea.

We spend some time resting and re-hydrating, and around 2 pm, we start down to Camp 2. It is hard, and now I feel it. I am at the top of the Geneva Spur. There are so many ropes hanging down that I am confused which one can actually hold me. I am grabbing two of them that look new and start rappelling using both of them – just in case.

I reach the tents of Camp3. Not our tents yet but some other large group that occupies a nice shelf. There are many people there and I assume that it is  Mountain Guides group. I sit down on the snow near their tents and drink water. No one notice me. I continue down for another 20 min and reaching our tents. Some people from our second team are there resting after their climb from Camp 2 to Camp 3. I am expecting a lot of excitement and congratulations from them, but they are all tired and somewhat subdued. I sit there, alone, outside of the tents, drinking and waiting for the sun to come down.  The clouds form a spectacular view over Pumori and I take some good shoots. I am in strange mood now. There are no more extent nor any other feelings. Just some emptiness…

Around 5 pm I start coming down again. Usually people climb down the Lhotse face, protecting themselves by just holding the rope with both hands. This is how I descended from Camp 3 the first time. This time it is a different story – I feel very exhausted and do not have any strength left in my arms so I decide to rappel on fixed ropes on a steep section of the Lhotse face.  It is not that convenient because the down side of each rope span is not free but anchored, still it feels much easier. Fortunately none is climbing up nor going down. I am completely alone on the whole face. I experience a very strange feeling of isolation and loneliness, but I am not afraid.

Finally I reach the bottom of Lhotse face where the snow trail goes down at much lower angle for another mile or so. It is foggy and hot, and I feel like I am in a dream. I can not recognize the surroundings even though I went through this place two times before during my acclimatization trips.  I am completely alone here also, and now I feel scared that I lost my way. How do I find my way back in this fog?

I continue to follow an enormous amount of steps that going up and down while trying to convince myself that this trail just cannot lead me to another place, because there is no “other place” here except Camp 2…Somewhere down.. This very logical argument does not work very well for my tired head though.

My feet are very hot and hurting from the whole day of descending. I am constantly stopping and trying to adjust them by sticking my thin gloves in somewhere inside to relieve the pressure, but it does not help.

Finally at around 6:30pm I reach Camp 2. It has been 36 hours of climbing without sleep: from Camp 3 to Camp 4, up to the summit and back to Camp 2.

Nic and I have a dinner together and I go to my tent. I am getting into the sleeping bag, but I do not have time to zip it up. I am falling into a very deep sleep.

I wake up in the middle of the night because I am very cold. What is it? I see that my sleeping bag is still open. I am zipping it up, remembering the day that just passed, smiling and falling asleep again.

In the morning it is even more difficult to move because my legs feel painfully tired after such a long decent from the summit. But the party is not over yet. I have to get to the Base Camp through the Icefall for the last time. I know that I need to get down as fast as possible to avoid avalanches, but I can not move faster.  I am managing to complete the Icefall part just fine in 4 hours. It is as much time as I used to climb it up and twice longer that it took me to descent the last time I was here. The final 30 min of the Icefall are painfully difficult, but I already see the tents and safety.

It is a very warm reception at the Base Camp. Everyone congratulates me, and it is very emotional.

I am thinking about the people who love me at home – my family and friends.  My wife, who supported me not just in this whole endeavor, but also the million times when I called for healing, moral support, and to just to hear her voice. My feeling of her love and strength are not diminished by the distance that separates us: it is magnified by the magnitude of Everest.  My sister, who was always there to help me with my multiple health related problems. My parents, who suppressed their endless worrying, and supported my dream.  My son and daughter who gave me the strength and desire to complete what I wanted to do. All the people who thought about me that night and followed my progress. I am so grateful.

Posted by: Yury Pritzker | June 17, 2009

Back Home

6/17/2009

It has been 15 days since I came back home.  When I arrived, there was a surprise party for me at the airport. My family and friends came to meet me with flowers, baloons  and  posters. It was very nice.

I was back at work the next day and now I am back to my gym routine. To my surprise I discovered that I am in a very bad shape in comparison to my performance level before the climb.

I will continue to Blog here addressing some challenges and solutions while climbing big mountains such as Everest. I am planning to post a number of articles related to the equipment and training suggestions

Yesterday I  posted my Everest pictures at: http://www.energy4action.com/images/travel/2009_Everest/index.html 

If you have questions or comments, I’ll be happy to address those in my next blog.

Posted by: Yury Pritzker | June 2, 2009

Coming Home!

The flight details are in! Yury will be arriving on:

AA 87, departing London LHR 10:15AM,

Arriving: Chicago O’Hare 12:50PM

We invite you to join us at the airport to welcome Yura back home, and there will be a lunch at our house right after that. If you can’t make lunch, we will have a get together soon (maybe Saturday) for a more formal report from the Everest trip.

Thanks to everyone who has been following this blog! Your support has been invaluable.

Posted by: Yury Pritzker | May 30, 2009

Update from Kathmandu

Yury will be arriving as planned at 12:30pm Chicago time on June 2. He is currently heading out of Kathmandu for white water rafting with his climbing buddies. Yesterday there was a joyous and inspiring award ceremony celebrating all the climbers who summited Everest. He is looking forward to seeing everyone back home!

–Yan

Posted by: Yury Pritzker | May 29, 2009

Hanging out in Kathmandu

From: Pritzker Yury
Sent: Friday, May 29, 2009 4:17 AM
To: Lana Pritzker
Subject: Going rafting for 2 days
Svetik,
There nothing todo here. So I am going rafting for 2 days. And maYBE bungy gumping??!!!.
there are 4 of us going. Our bags still in Lukla. I am good, eATING ALL the time.
Today it is going to be some ceremony were they give a medals all summiters.
Will try to call at night
love

There nothing todo here. So I am going rafting for 2 days. And maybe bungee jumping. There are four of us going. Our bags are still in Lukla. I am feeling good, and eating all the time.

Today there will be a ceremony were they give a medals all summiters. Will try to call at night.

Posted by: Yury Pritzker | May 29, 2009

Yura in Kathmandu

Yura is in Kathmandu, feeling great and awaiting a flight home. His group has come down all together, as they have formed a tight bond from climbing together. They are all happy and congratulating each other on their successes.

Yura should be arriving June 2 but he might be getting an earlier flight out which will then arrive on June 1.

We will soon post exact flight arrival info, and anyone who would like to come meet him at the airport is very welcome to do so!

Posted by: Yury Pritzker | May 25, 2009

5/25/09 Periche to Namche

I am in Pheriche today and I am planning to go to Namche Bazaar tomorrow. Then we will continue to Lukla. The weather is bad right now. It is snowing and raining. If the weather permits, we will fly to Kathmandu on 28. In the worth case scenario we will be sitting in Lukla, waiting for our flights. I feel good, maybe a little bit weaker going up the trek that is very steep at times, but it is mostly down from now on.
There is nothing to report except that I am really trying to keep myself dry :-)

 Love, Yura

Posted by: Yury Pritzker | May 23, 2009

5/23/09 Full Summit Report from Yura

I came to base came today at 11 am. I am so happy to be here, “at home”, and to be safe. It is difficult to embrace and fully understand what was done, and it is kind of strange to listen to all congratulations from all the Sherpas  and other people that are here, at Base Camp. It feels like it was not me who just climbed Mt. Everest, but some other person.

Me and Nic (who was following the same climbing schedule as me, and reached the summit one hour after me), can not stop discussing all the nuances of our summit night. I can hardly move from the group tent to my tent that is 10 m away and when I do, I feel like I am learning to walk again.

Before I start describing what has happened during the last 6 days, I want to thank all the people who thought about me that night and followed my progress.  I think I was feeling so strong only because of all your support. Especially, I want to thank my family. My wife, who was supporting me not just in this whole endeavor, but also the million times when I called for healing, moral support, and to just hear her voice. My sister, who was always there to help me with my multiple health related problems. My parents, for suppressing their endless worrying, and supporting my dream. My son and daughter that gave me the strength and support to do what I wanted to do.

It all started on My 17, when we began our climb from BC to Camp 2 for our Summit bid. As usually, crossing the Khumbu Ice Fall was the most dangerous part of the whole climb, and  I was glad that I would do it only two more times. At  night it does not look as scary as during the day time because you can only see the part that is directly in front of you, lighted up by your head lamp. I made it through the ice fall in 4 hours and was feeling strong. It took me another 2 hours to reach camp 2. This time I felt pretty good and was not as tired as the last time.

Our next day was a planned rest day, but unfortunately it started with a tragedy. My friend Henry, who was settled in the tent next to mine, felt down outside of the tent and injured his head. I woke from hearing his screams and hurried out to see what was happening. By the time I got out of my tent, I found Henry sitting in his tent with blood all over all his face.  He was out of it and could not remember what happened. Me and some Sherpas were trying to help him, but his condition worsened.  His health was deteriorating quickly, and he started having convulsions. I would not really want to go into all the details of this accident, but want to mention that with the help of two doctors that we found in camp 2 we were able to stabilize Henry. It became evident that he had to be carried down to the BC through the ice fall and the next morning be flown to Kathmandu by a helicopter. Today he is still in Kathmandu and we know that he is ok now. It is very sad that he had this misfortune because Henry was the strongest in our team and would definitely have reached the Summit.

On May 19 we started our climb to camp 3. It was the most difficult part where we needed to ascend without oxygen from 6400m to 7200m over the steep ice wall that goes from 45 to 65 degrees. It took me less then 5 hours to get to camp 3 and even though I was happy with my time, I was very tired.

This day in camp 3 I had a lot of different feelings going through me. A big part of me wanted to quit. I could not imagine going another 700 vertical meters the next day to the camp 4 in the South Col and then to the summit. Laying exhausted in my tent that night, I could not imagine how anyone could continue. I called home that night, expecting to hear something like: “come home”, but I did not hear this and I am so grateful to Sveta for holding up and believing in me. I also remembered my thoughts back at home were I was telling myself that if I reached camp 4 at South Col, I would be already happy.

On the positive site, two thoughts came to mind: I was much faster than many other climbers around me, and I had not used my oxygen yet. I actually came to camp 3 faster than some people who used their oxygen between camps 2 and 3. During that night I started using oxygen for the first time. I had two systems for delivering it: the mask that I would use on the summit day and a system similar to one that is used in hospitals, with tubes going through my nose.  I used the latter and slept at a rate of one liter per hour. The night went very well.

May 20th we started the climb to the South Col ( camp  4) at 6 am. It was not cold enough to wear my down suit and because I am always afraid to get overheated, I was wearing my regular climbing clothes. The oxygen was helping a lot. It was still a very slow climb in comparison to climbing at “normal” altitudes, but nothing is normal at 7700m.  From camp 3 up the climb continued through the steep Lhotse face at 55-60 degrees and then to traverse toward the Yellow Band, a distinct yellow slice of rocks that we would need to negotiate. After the Yellow Band, the climb continues traversing with an altitude gain toward Everest Summit and eventually ends up at Geneva Spur, a very steep rock section. After this part the South Col is very close. I climbed from camp 3 to 4 in 4h 45 min which was very good: 6 hours is considered a fast time for this section. It was 10:45 am and our summit start was only 9 hours away.

Initially I was planning to spend a night at South Col which meant that I would start my summit push not in 9 hours, but rather in 33hours. The weather forecast was telling us that May 21st had the best prognosis for reaching the summit, so I decided to follow the regular climbing protocol that excluded the overnight stay at South Col and leave for the summit the same night.

Camp 4 is a very famous place and I was happy to be there. Also, after making it to the camp in less then 5 hours, I gained much more confidence. The Everest summit was still not visible from there, but most of the climb up became visible for the first time and it seemed like very steep and very long.

The area at Camp 4 was covered with rocks, empty gas canisters, broken tents and other garbage that has accumulated here over the years sitting on top of the rocks. It was amazing to see the climbing history reflected in this garbage. We spent time in the tent, drinking water and eating a little bit. I was trying to get some sleep, but could not get any. I was too exited and preoccupied with the preparations.

The departure time was set at 8:30 pm, but I started my preparation much earlier. I put on my two warmest pair of socks, but my feet were still a little cold, so I turned on my electric warming system that we put together with my friend Arnold Sheynman. Then I realized that my boot lacing system felt too tight with these two pairs of socks, so I spent next 30 minutes fixing the problem. Then I reminded myself that I needed to drink more. I put on my down suit and boots and was ready to go, when I discovered that my Sherpa lying near me was still sleeping. I looked at my watch and was surprised to find out that I mixed up the time and was one hour ahead of schedule. Now I had to take off my boots and repeat the whole procedure in an hour.

Finally we were ready and got out of the tents. It was not too cold, just around -15C (5F). I had two Sherpas accompanying me: Thuktan in front of me and Nima behind me. We agreed to follow this order during the climb because there are many people climbing in similar down suites and oxygen masks, so it is very difficult to understand who is who in the dark.

The bottlenecks on the fixed lines (ropes), is one of the serious problems on the summit day. The ropes start 200 m up from the camp 4 and continue up to the summit. If there is a slow climber(s) on the rope line, then all the people behind him are stuck or need to unclip themselves from the safety ropes and try to bypass a slow climber (s). It is very dangerous and difficult because you then need another 5-10 min to recover from such a sprint.

From the very beginning of the climb, my front Sherpa Thuktan was jumping the line, bypassing two or three people at a time. I was afraid to lose him and followed him religiously. My second Sherpa, was following behind me for some time, but very soon we lost him. I was a little hot and had to open my down suit. There was not a thought in my head besides just keeping the pace and breathing.

There are four major climbing points on the way to the summit. The first one is the Balcony, a small flat space at 8300 m were the summit trek reaches the South Ridge. It is the point where a lot of people feel overwhelmed by the difficulty of the climb or encounter weather conditions and turn around. The second major point is the South Summit. It is located at around 8700m. Right after this point there is the Hillary Step, a 40ft vertical rock climb. The fourth one is the Summit itself.

My oxygen plan was to start with 4-liter bottle and change it at the Balcony. Then use a 3-liter bottle and change it when it was empty and so on. As this climb progressed, I lost track of time. My watch, which I clipped to the backpack shoulder strap, was not functioning because of the cold. All of a sudden we reached the Balcony, our first stop and I sat down there for 5 minutes, drinking a little bit of water. The temperature at the Balcony fell to -20C (-5F). I could see a lot of lights coming from the people climbing up behind us, but I also saw a lot of lights shining from much higher then where we were. By looking at this line of lights I could imagine how much higher we still needed to climb. One very particular light was so high that I thought that it must have been the summit and someone was there already.

We continued to climb, bypassing more people on the way. I felt good, but at some point I was really happy to be stuck behind some slow people and get some rest by following their pace. The climb become very steep (I think it was around 60 degrees) and I was worried that if I ran out of oxygen here, there would be no way for me to change to a fresh cylinder. At some point I asked Thuktan to check how much was left in the tank and he did and gave me a sign that it was ok. He also said that we were near the South Summit.

I was really shocked because it was only around 2 am and  I could not understand how it was possible to be so far ahead. We continued our steep ascent and soon reached a group of 7 or 8  people that were going at such a slow pace that I began worrying again about running  out of oxygen. Bypassing them was out of the question on such a steep slope covered with a mixture of snow, ice and rocks.

Finally we reached the South Summit. At this point we did not see a lot of lights in front of us because we made it up almost to the front of the line. But the one light that I saw before was still there. It was so high that I finally realized that this was not a person on the summit, but a shining star. That was a big relief.

I knew that after the South Summit the trek is more exposed, but because it was very dark, I did not see much and just felt the void on both sides of the ridge. Before the Hillary Step we had to traverse some rocks. This area is very steep and flat and the rocks are hanging over a 2000 m vertical drop. All of this was happening at almost 8800 m while I was wearing an oxygen mask and my down suit, so it was hard to see my feet. That made this part quite a challenge.

The Hillary Step that is considered to be the crux of the climb was not difficult at all. However there was a rock at the top that had to be traversed, and there was no other way than to go over it as you would if you’d climb on a horse. All of all this, again,over  2000 m drop. I knew that after the Hillary Step there was only 20 minutes left to the summit. I was looking around for any sign of the dawn, but it was sill a complete nightand I could  only see some flashes of light very far on horizon as sometimes are seen from an airplane. It was 4:15am and the temperature was -25C (-13F).

I was pretty warm. My electrical socks worked perfectly and I also had some electrical warmers and chemical warmers in my mittens. I was so warm that sometimes I was using my bare hand to make switches on the fix line with my ascender. The ascender is a device that allows you to be clipped to the rope and move on the rope by sliding it up. It does not allow you to slide back and is able to hold a climber clipped to the rope in case of an emergency.

At 4:15 am we were 100 horizontal meters away from the summit that was visible in my beam of the head light.  There was a big rock on the side of the trail and a large hole around it that allowed us to hide from the wind that we experienced from the time we reached the  South Summit. We decided to spend some time behind the rock and wait for the sun to come up.

At 4:30 we’ve started climbing the last 100 m up. It was an easy climb. Finally we were on the top of the highest mountain on the Earth, watching the sun rise. What else anyone can dream of?

Then there was the drama with taking pictures. My Sherpa Thuktan was taking them for me, but when I checked his shots, they were all taken without my head or legs. Then my main camera with 2 AA batteries stopped working. We used another camera without any progress, while Thuktan wanted to go down because he was very cold. I felt great and used my bare hands to take photos and refused to get down before I would get an acceptable photo. Finally we finished our photographic business and were about to get stated our descend as Nic came up to the summit. We hugged and I took some more pictures of him.

The way down took me 3 hours. In the morning light it was now visible how dramatic and difficult was the climb. The trek between Hillary Step and South Summit has big holes in between them and you can see China 3000 m down there. These holes are just near your steps…   At the Balcony it got so hot that I pull down the top portion of my down suit and wrapped it around my waist. We finally reached the South Col at 8:30 am.

We spent time resting and drinking and around 2 pm started down to camp 2. It was hard, but it was much safer not to sleep at South Col, still at 8000 m. It was so hot that I stopped at camp 3 for an hour to drink and wait for the sun to get down a little. Around 5 pm I started from camp 3 to camp 2. I was so tired as I was rappelling all the ropes on a steep sections of the Lhotse face! I finally reached the camp 2 at around 6:30pm. It was 36 hours of climbing without sleep from camp 3 to camp 4, up to the summit and back to camp 2.

Nic and I had a dinner and I went to my tent. I remember getting into the sleeping bag, but I did not have time to zipped it up. I just fell into a
deep sleep. I woke up in the  middle of the night because I was cold and found out that my sleeping bag was unzipped. It was kind of funny.

The next day it was difficult to move between tents because my legs felt painfully tired after such a long decent from the summit. But the party was not over yet. I had to get to the Base Camp through the Ice Fall for the last time. It was a very difficult journey, but I managed it just fine in 4 hours. All the people in the Base Camp were waited for me and it was very emotional to meet them.

After all calculations and verifications from the radio reports that we made, the statistics of the summit days are amazing. I started from South Col at 9:15 pm and made to the summit in 7h 15 min, and it took me around 3 hours to get down. The predicted time was 12 hours up and 6 hours down. I used only 2.5 bottles of the oxygen with only one 4 litter bottle. Apa Sherpa who established a new record this time (19th summit) summited at around 8 am on the same day and when he came to the Base Camp, we hugged and he sad that now I am Yura Sherpa because I was so fast in the summit day. It was the biggest reward for me to hear these words from him.

As I am writing this update over 2 days period, the whole team is now on the way down. We had 6 summiters out of 14 people in our expedition (excluding Apa Sherpa). Bill Burk summited today at age  67. He is the oldest American who summited Mount Everest and we all are so proud of him. I am also proud to admit that I was the fastest among all our summiters.

There is a big celebration going on at Base Camp. Every time, regardless of the time of the day, teams ring a bell by hitting an empty oxygen cylinder as soon as there is a radio transmission of their member summiting. There are lots of shouts and songs going on from many directions. Some teams are packing and leaving.

As soon as all of our members are down we are gong to hike back to Lukla. It will take about 3 days. Then we will fly to Katmandu and back home. I am expecting to be in Chicago on June 2. Thank you all for reading my updates and supporting me. Sveta is sending me all your comments via emails, so I am very grateful for all of your  love, support and kind words.

Love Yura

Posted by: Yury Pritzker | May 22, 2009

5/22/09 Yura is at the base camp

Yura called late at night today reporting that he is at the base camp and feeling much better. He is writing an update that we will post soon. He is planning to return no later then Jume 1… or sooner, depending on ticket availability. We are working on that.

Posted by: Yury Pritzker | May 21, 2009

5/21/09 Coming down the Mt. Everest

Yura called today at 9 am Chicago time. He was so tired that he could hardly speak, so it was almost impossible to understand what he was saying. Apparently, his crew was planning to stay at the camp 3 for the night, but could not find the space in the tents there. All his expedition climbers were up the camp 3, going for the Summit while Yura and his team was coming down the mountain. The weather window is short these days and everyone is on the move.

Yura said that it was an exhausting trip after a whole night climb up, so they were stopping a lot and trying to rest on their way to camp 2 every couple of hours. He went to sleep right after they have reached the camp and promised to contact us as soon as he gains his ability to move his tongue inside his mouth.

We are grateful to his Sherpa guides, his teammates and Dawa Steven for helping Yura along and keeping us well informed about all the events on this trip. We had an amazing day yesterday following Yura’s steps via Dawa Steven blog and reading what the others had to say about this journey. It really helped us, the family and his friends, stay connected and stay calm… well, sort of :-)

Thank you to all of you, dear sponsors and supporters. Thank you all who called from US, Israel and other parts of the word to be with us and to express your joy for Yura. You are amazing people and we really know how much you care.

More news later, Love to all

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