Updates From Everest

As Craig Calonica and his team attempted to climb and ski the north face of Everest, they sent digital photos and shared their experiences via satellite phone. Below are the archived updates from the expedition.

Expedition Is Over: Heading Home
Wednesday, October 15, 1997 Kathmandu, Nepal
Craig called from Kathmandu to say that they are wrapping up all the expedition details and looking forward to home. He tells us it's official: high winds and heavy snow have prevented any summits on Everest this season [though as of today, a couple of teams are still hoping to attempt the south side.] His eye has been diagnosed as a hemorrhage but does not seem to be critical.

Kicking His Feet Up
Monday, October 6, 1997 (North Face base camp, Tibet)
The weather, it seems, has made Everest's summit unattainable this year. Still in base camp, Craig finds some consolation in the knowledge that the tempestuous storms — and not merely his damaged eye — have prevented him from climbing.

Sunday, October 5, 1997 (North Face base camp, Tibet)
Craig awoke with a headache and increasingly blurred vision. He can't climb — and until a vehicle arrives, he can't leave. "I'd give a big scream out of frustration and anger but I'd think something might fall off..."

Detached Retina Likely
Saturday, October 4, 1997 (North Face base camp, Tibet)
The probable cause for the problems in his right eye is a detached retina, which would not be a result of altitude, but of coughing. He has decided to go down to Kathmandu rather than risk permanent damage.

Critical Decision
Friday, October 3, 1997 (North Face base camp, Tibet)
Craig's blurry vision in his right eye, which wasn't present at ABC, still persists despite treatment. Doctors in base camp have found three dark spots on the eye and recommend that he have an examination in Kathmandu before climbing further. That delay would effectively end his chance at the summit this season. Tomorrow he'll try to contact some specialists before making a final decision.

Air of Uncertainty
Thursday, October 2, 1997 (North Face base camp, Tibet)
The weather is bad and the outlook is little better. Craig reports that every other team on the mountain is planning to leave within a week. If the oncoming storm dumps a lot of snow on the Col, "it'll pretty much close the door." He also is having a puzzling problem with his right eye which may curtail his attempt altogether.

Monster Storm
Wednesday, October 1, 1997 (North Face base camp, Tibet)
Craig heard from a friend in Kathmandu that "a monster storm is rolling in from Bhutan that is going to make a clean sweep of the Himalaya." The field of contenders for a North Face ascent this year is narrowing rapidly.

Grim Forecast
Tuesday, September 30, 1997 (North Face base camp, Tibet)
The team is back in base camp and fortunate to be there, since the mountain up higher was totally closed in by morning. Several of the remaining teams, mulling over their expensive — but questionable — satellite data, are considering giving up: "...this doomsday weather report scene is starting to affect them and it looks to me that they may be leaving soon."

Back to Base Camp
Sunday, September 28, 1997 (North Face advance base camp, Tibet)
The team is returning to base camp to temporarily escape the winds and bitter cold. All the teams are down off the mountain now, and most will be leaving the Himalayas soon.

Saturday, September 27, 1997 (North Face advance base camp, Tibet)
The Swiss, the Catalonians, and the Colombians have been turned back by the extreme conditions. A lone Japanese climber is still up on the mountain, trying for a solo summit. Most of these climbers are facing expiring climbing permits and this was their last chance at the summit.

Swiss and Colombians Trying for Summit
Friday, September 26, 1997 (North Face advance base camp, Tibet)
Two Swiss and two Colombians left ABC at about two in the morning, headed for the North Col. When Craig called, the climbers had stopped at camp I because of cold temperatures and high winds, but may try for the summit this evening. Craig talks about his schedule for the summit — which, on this mountain, is always weather permitting.

Icebox at ABC
Thursday, September 25, 1997 (North Face advance base camp, Tibet)
Jim Bridwell gives us the rundown: Several teams will be sending climbers up in the next day on the hope that the jet stream will shift a little and the brutal winds will die down up on the mountain.

Outrageous Skiing
Wednesday, September 24, 1997 (North Face advance base camp, Tibet)
While we passed the day at the office, Craig spent his day skiing "on this just perfect, windblown, hardpack snow surface, zipping in and out of these glaciers and crevasses." On the skis he's hardly feeling the 22,000 foot altitude and thinks this bodes well for a ski descent. It's too windy up above to climb, so Craig already has his ski plans set for tomorrow.

All well at ABC
Monday, September 22, 1997 (North Face advance base camp, Tibet)
Returning after a number of days down at base camp, Craig reports that everyone on the team is healthy and well. Bad weather and high winds are hampering any climbing attempts, and part of the British climbing team has apparently decided to return home.

Troillet Turned Back
Saturday, September 13, 1997 (North Face advance base camp, Tibet)
Troillet's three-person team is turned back by dangerous conditions higher up on the mountain. Craig says that a satellite photo of the region indicates that bad weather may linger for a week, so the team may return to base camp, where the altitude isn't so physically draining, and wait it out.

Completely, Indescribably Beautiful
Friday, September 12, 1997 (North Face advance base camp, Tibet)
Craig and the team have arrived at advance base camp: "This place is like heaven, just gorgeous. It's just completely, indescribably beautiful." Several other climbers there also have skis and snowboards — Craig think that Jean Troillet will make the first snowboard descent in a couple days. The Korean team, mourning their loss, has decided to return home to Korea.

International Effort to Recover Body
Tuesday, September 9, 1997 (North Face base camp, Tibet)
Craig reports by sat-phone just after a meeting with the climbing teams. The climber killed yesterday in an avalanche was the climbing team leader of a eight-man Korean group moving from advance base camp to camp I. "He ...saw that something was happening... and was trying to move and apparently at that time the face cut loose and took him away."

Accident Details Trickle In
Tuesday, September 9, 1997 (North Face base camp, Tibet)
In an interview with Craig Calonica, the Mountain Zone learns more about the avalanche on Monday that killed a Korean climber between advance base camp and camp I. Heavy snowfall during the last week has created unsafe climbing conditions on the mountain.

Korean Climber Killed in Avalanche
Monday, September 8, 1997 (North Face base camp, Tibet)
A member of a Korean expedition was killed when an avalanche swept through the fixed lines from advance base camp to Everest's North Col. He was climbing alone, a probable victim of the heavy snows on the mountain during the last several days.

Craig Returns
Sunday, September 7, 1997 (North Face base camp, Tibet)
Bad weather for the last several days had prevented Craig from returning from Xegar. In the mean time, it's been snowing at base camp and many climbers have developed a "hack" — common to climbers living at high altitude.

Waiting It Out
Friday, September 5, 1997 (North Face base camp, Tibet)
Martina writes that bad weather has settled on base camp, forcing climbers higher on the mountain to return to camp and delaying this team's plans to ferry gear to the advance base camp. No word from Craig, still at lower elevations.

Sick with Flu, Craig Descends
Thursday, September 4, 1997 (North Face base camp, Tibet)
To prevent a mild flu from becoming serious, Craig has descended alone to the lower altitudes at the village of Xegar to recover. Team members Martina and Jim email from base camp about the international camaraderie there and some unexpected good luck for the team.

Mega-Organizing Day
Monday, September 1, 1997 (North Face base camp, Tibet)
When you have only sixteen yaks to ferry your mountain of equipment to the advance base camp, what stays and what goes? "Quite a bit of head work going down." The team sorts through the gear and looks ahead — and up.

Under that Big Ol' Monster Face
Sunday, August 31, 1997 (North Face base camp, Tibet)
The team has arrived at base camp. Craig talks about the field of teams vying for the summit and the schedule for his attempt.
"Feeling really, really good. It was nice to get back up here and see that big ol' monster face again."

Tibetan Pass Closing in on Base Camp
Saturday, August 30, 1997 (Tingri, Tibet)
Calling in to the Mountain Zone from a field shared with a "bunch of Tibetan nomads" and their livestock, Craig gives us the update only one day away from the North Face base camp.

Tibetan Pass Landslide Holds Up the Expedition
Friday, August 29, 1997 (Nyalam, Tibet)
A massive rock slide has shut down a piece of the road north of the border and holds up the team for hours as they negotiate it with their gear. The rain, Craig tells us, is "just wailing."

Crossing the Border
Thursday, August 28, 1997 (Nepal/Tibet border)
The team has left Kathmandu and Craig sat-phones in at the Nepal/Tibet border on their way to the north face base camp.
"Since we're acclimatized we're driving straight on through..."

Packing Under the Monsoon Rains in Kathmandu
Sunday, August 24, 1997 (Kathmandu)
It's definitely monsoon season in Kathmandu but preparations continue despite the heavy rains.

Storming and Road Washouts Delay Departure
Friday, August 22, 1997 (Kathmandu)
When they depart Kathmandu for the north side of Mt. Everest, Craig and the team plan to drive to the border and walk through slid-out portions of the road.

Road Slide Between Kathmandu and Everest Base Camp Adds Time to Plans
Thursday, August 21, 1997 (Kathmandu)
Alternative plan to walk to Lhasa comes after road slide occurs.
"...we will be able to continue as we wished and planned previously. It's just going to add another day getting in there."

Acclimatization Practice Done
Tuesday, August 19, 1997 (Kathmandu)
Craig arrives back to Kathmandu after 14 days of acclimatization practice and worse than expected weather conditions on the return trip.

Overcoming Power Challenges
Saturday, August 16, 1997 (Thorong Phedi)
Temporary batteries bring us back in touch with Craig in Nepal. Monsoon season has been relatively kind to the team, rendering some good light in spite of frequent rains.
"Considering we're in monsoons, we got lucky. The gods are with us obviously."

Heading Back from Tilicho Lake
Thursday, August 14, 1997 (Tilicho Lake)
Wrapping up their acclimatizing trek, the crew is turning around to head back toward Kathmandu.
"Definitely really strong right now. Within a few days I was already over 17,700 feet and felt great, so I couldn't ask for more."

Manang Fields Bloom in Annapurna
Wednesday, August 13, 1997 (Manang, Nepal)
The beauty of the Manang Region in the Annapurna mountain range is alive with colors.
"Manang, what a beautiful place during this time of year, monsoon season."

Manang Monsoon Season Brings Muddy Trails
Tuesday, August 12, 1997 (Manang, Nepal)
Monsoons bring ankle deep mud, but vegetation and wildflowers thrive. The expedition gets ready to head to Tilicho Lake (5,000+ m) tomorrow.

Nilgiri Thorong Phedi: The Hump
Monday, August 11, 1997 (Thorong Phedi)
The team arrives in Thorong Phedi, after the first big effort over Thorong La Pass (5,760 m).
"This was my fourth time over the pass and it's still not gotten any easier. Must have something to do with this pass basically being a hump, no matter what the situation is, acclimatized or not."

Straw Good People, Good Energy, Good Food
Sunday, August 10, 1997 (Muktinath)
Practice trekking to 15,500 feet in the Himalayas. Calonica adds commentary about local cuisine delicacies; rare, abstract shower concepts; and amazing photos.

Girls Views of the Nilgiris and Tilicho
Saturday, August 9, 1997 (Muktinath)
Acclimatizing and culture in Muktinath: the team follows muddy goat trails that meander up steep, green hillsides.
"Walking in this particular area seems like you're more in Hawaii than out in the middle of the Himalaya."

Sites at Muktinath Monastery
Friday, August 8, 1997 (Muktinath)
Calonica's team meets up with the Annapurna circuit as they continue their acclimatization. Craig describes their visit to Muktinath Monastery; Everyone is going great.
"It's really quite a scene... just about all walks of life and ages are going through this area and pass..."

Let the Acclimatizing Begin
Thursday, August 7, 1997 (Jomsom)
Gusty winds at Jomson (2,713 m) calm down for spectacular panoramas in the early morning.
"The peaks I'm looking at here are the Nilgiri peaks and further down Tilicho peak all around 7,000 + meters ..."

Expedition Arrives in Kathmandu
Sunday, August 3, 1997 (Kathmandu)
Craig and his team arrive in Kathmandu to begin their expedition.
"Hi guys... we arrived in Kathmandu yesterday, August 2nd..."