May 18, 2014 by Francesco
Another beautiful and quite unique element of a Himalayan adventure is the need to bring only cash to pay for your purchases, whether food, accommodations or other services on the trail – something that I almost forgot about in the US. Credit cards are at best used to cut a fruit.
The at times sporadic gift of connectivity brings a trekker back to the endless world of web opportunities and, fortunately in my case, the forgotten payments due.
Whether it was a bill for gear I sold and purchased on eBay, a due payment for glacier training I did back home or a surprise bouquet of flower ordered from Base Camp to send home, PayPal came to the rescue and helped me make those happen with a couple of clicks.
As you all know, the Everest expedition is combined with my fundraising support for the Nepal Youth Foundation (it was an absolute delight to meet them in Kathmandu and see first hand how their work positively affects the lives of local underprivileged children). PayPal has been an essential instrument to enable donors to contribute to this cause. Fundraising happened on the crowdfunding platform we used as well as through the multiple donations I accepted using the mobile apps.
Funny enough, during the meeting at Base Camp between the Sherpas and representatives from the ministry of tourism, one of the Minister’s people noticed the PayPal logo on my hat and said:” PayPal, global payments!!”
Does it mean that in the future I will pay the Himalayan tea houses for my delicious momos or ginger tea using PayPal?!
Whether you’re an user or never tried PayPal, our fundraising campaign to build a New Life Center for children affected by HIV is still open: make a donation and help us make this dream become possible.
May 1, 2014 by Francesco
As we made our way back to Kayhmandu, I wanted to share my last thoughts on the events that occurred after the tragic accident of April 18th.
2014 will likely be remembered as a dramatic and at the same time pivotal for Everest mountaineering in Nepal.
The awful avalanche of April 18th that caused 16 deaths profoundly hit the Sherpa community, undermining its confidence and raising an identity crisis within the Everest ecosystem.
The Sherpas’ decision not to support any further climbing of Everest this season (“it will be Everest black year”) eventually escalated to a negotiations with the government over a number of requests about insurance coverage, compensations to the victims families, labor rights and creation of a fund from the permit fees.
In fact the most dangerous operations on Everest (route setting on the icefall and on higher camps, carrying of equipment and food higher up on the mountain and support to clients) are performed by the Sherpas – the perception that such work isn’t always fully appreciated may have contributed to the radicalized tension that erupted last week.
It’s also relevant to notice that all climbing agencies (international and local) depend in their entirety on the work of the Sherpas and their strike costs about $3M in seasonal budget for at least three agencies. It’s important to know that the $4M of this season permit fees will be kept by the government.
The place where the avalanche occurred is notoriously one of the most dangerous on Everest and every year the movement of the glacier makes it worse. Sherpas are also very respectful about crossing the areas where brothers, relatives and friends lost their lives.
As we left base camp, it’s impressive to see how it has become the skeleton of the sparkling international atmosphere of just two weeks prior: the strike of the Sherpas basically shut the Everest spring season and most groups packed their gear, their tents and head back home.
It’s a mix of feelings for climbers: sadness for the tragedy that was lived in person, disappointment for having to postpone a dream that has been prepared for a long time, and bitterness for having been used by a sub-group for political reasons – moreover episodes of intimidation and threat not to break the strike have been reported.
Hard to tell where all this will lead to, but clearly without more transparent coordination and dialogue between the Nepalese government, the agencies and the Sherpas, the choice of climbing Everest from Nepal will be less obvious in the next future.
April 24, 2014 by Francesco
Located at 5340 mt and tucked on the Khumbu glacier, Everest Base Camp becomes a buzzy small village for about two months twice a year (spring and fall).
It took us about eight days to hike there from Lukla, an honorable 60 km distance through small and medium-sized villages, some
simple overnight stops, others trading hubs (like Namche Bazaar, where even traders from Tibet come to buy and sell fabrics, utensils and meat).
Approaching from Gokak Shep, the very last conglomerate of teahouses – I counted less then 10 plus a couple of semi-working telecom antennas. The view is of a massive extension of ice, covered in part by rocks and surrounded by towering peaks, which at its center
shows spots of yellow, red, blue,… this is Base Camp with its individual teams’ camps -The official count indicates that there are about 380 climbers, 34 teams and over 500 members of the assisting crew.
Imagining that here at Base Camp possible and impossible dreams take shape, long journeys of training, preparation and hard work
culminate, and so different stories, motivations, lives intersect is mesmerizing.
But this year the atmosphere is different.
While on on our way To Base Camp, our Sridar (= lead Sherpa) receives the information that at about 6am a massive avalanche has stricken just above camp1.
15 Sherpa that were carrying equipment and supplies to camp Two were hit. the rescue
operations are almost immediate but don’t prevent the tragic epilogue.
I walk into base camp the day after
the accident, and the silent sadness that pervades the random alleys is sometimes interrupted by the sound of helicopters supporting the rescue operations.
The Base camp community, Sherpas and climbers (accepting such definitions), are very close in these very sad moments, and numerous manifestations of solidarity and support emerge.
However, as the hours and the days go by, a divide seems to grow and the Sherpa community progressively shuts down to the external world, especially for the more intimate thoughts and emotions – with rare exceptions, the Nepali people are very reserved end introvert.
The magnitude of such tragedy has profoundly shaken the Sherpa community and, while it has been an unforeseeable accident and for pure luck no climbers have been involved, the question the Sherpas are asking is: why do we have to the greater risks, while the protection we receive and the compensation we receive are relatively low?
This is certainly a simplification of a broader issue, but it captures the essential elements of the requests put forward by the Sherpa
leadership to the government and the climbing agencies in order to address the gaps currently existing.
the ongoing discussion recently escalated to the threat by the Sherpa leadership to pull out of the Everest expedition season.
the next days will be critical to determine the direction of the current season but also how future ones will shape up.
the Sherpas have been very compact and very firm in putting their request forward – their resistance and opposition to a sense of exploitation, whether by the government or the international agencies is growing and hopefully will be addressed.
[reported with my Livescribe smartpen]
April 3, 2014 by Francesco
The energy I feel in the air as I walk around the hotel and the nearby streets is growing as minutes go by.
Many of the people I am seeing are climbers who are about to leave for their expedition (most to everest, others to Annapurna, Manaslu and other Himalayan peaks) and are frantically putting the last ‘check’ to their equipment list.
Climbers are flooding in from every part of the world, each with their goals, different backgrounds and own motivations to embark on a major mountaineering adventure. Our own group is composed of climbers from Chile, Finland, US and India – we met for the first time yesterday and it looks like we will have a very fun time (if only for the accents and jargon juggling).
Nepal is the fastest-growing touristic destination in Asia and Kathmandu is its central hub – more than 1 million people out of of the total nine in the country. Here trips are planned, start, unfold and eventually return to, rich with sometimes unique and life-changing stories. Everest and other mountains are part of this fascinating carousel of people and dreams, extremes and humanity, long-lasting relationships and memories.
It’s exhilarating to experience it, and this is just a glimpse at the beginning.
March 28, 2014 by Francesco
Well, it is really time to get going now. After countless gear checks, packing and repacking and last minute substitutions, the two massive bags are ready.
Comparing the two pictures below, I have to say that it was a serious exercise of planning (trek vs base camp v summit), shrinking the volumes (I found compressible ziploc bags extremely helpful) and positioning every corner to fit another (tetris, remember?!).
And at the airport I am sure it will be fun to try and sneak everything through the weight limits. Will see how it goes (no, nutella and parmesan are not in yet).
Everest here we come!
March 24, 2014 by Francesco
The final week before departure sees an almost obsessive process of equipment review, packing and unpacking, the sudden rush to order that missing item. After all, the extreme environment and the long duration of the trip will not allow for any replacement or internet ordering and delivery! Better be super-sure about anything you may need.
I want to share part of this process and some of the cool gear and tech toys I will have with me through a short video I prepared.
You can also find the full list of items on this document (disclaimer: this list fits me and it should be double-checked with the guide you may decide to use).
February 9, 2014 by Francesco
Telling Summit Stories on the go: this time reporting from Everest!
January 30, 2014 by Francesco
One of the key elements of the Everest climb is crossing the crevasses in the Khumbu icefall. Those being massive and deep monsters, ladders are placed across them and that is the very only way to continue.
Mastering the technique of walking on these metal ladders (and remember we will be wearing large boots and crampons) is just one piece of the exercise. The other is not getting distracted but what will likely be a terrifying deep black hole under your feet, while you walk step by step on an instable semi-surface.
So I decided to give it a try in a more modest scenery (my backyard) and setup a ladder crossing, probably more stable and safer than the one I will find on everest (let’s put aside the pitiful looks of the neighbors…).
Well the drop to the floor is just few inches and could not think of anything terrifying to place underneath other than many Ferrero rocher and nutella, that would be crushed in case of a fall (what a horrible sight it would be…).
Well here is myself in action,
back and forth, back and forth…
December 28, 2013 by Francesco
Much part of an expedition goes into training, and this is even more so for such a big mountain as Everest.
Being in perfect physical (in addition to perfect emotional and psychological) conditions is paramount and everything that can be possibly done will barely make you ready for such a big monster.
Areas I have been focusing on are: climbing conditioning (hill hiking carrying heavy back-packs), strength conditioning (training with free weights to build overall strength to core, upper body, back and legs), cardiovascular conditioning (aerobic sessions with very sustained and prolonged effort) and flexibility conditioning (to increase the flexibility of the joints).
After extensive research, I came up with my own version of a weekly regime that I have been following religiously for the past months and will accompany me until about 1 month from the start of the expedition, when the sessions will be longer and less diverse.
I added in there some random surfing and indoor climbing sessions (surfing because it is good for timing, flexibility and balance – and because I love it – and climbing for strength, mental and balance), and as much trail and hill running as possible. A couple of minor injuries (with the 1st lesson = never push it too much too sudden) and body listening (not done enough, 2nd lesson) complemented the training.
yes I know, the rest day is not quite sleepy, but it is to avoid the muscles to build lactic acid and to keep the system going. plus I can barely sit still for a full day, so I rather make it productive without tiring myself off.
December 4, 2013 by Francesco
Once again the countdown has started. This time is longer, about 120 days, which will give enough time for all the necessary preparation. Right! “Where?” you are probably asking (though the title should have given a good hint)!
It will be to gorgeous Nepal, and specifically to the imposing grandeur of the Himalayas. We will head to Everest Base Camp, one of the most scenic and impressive trek in the world. Crossing the stunning Himalayan valleys, the trek exposes the trekkers to the most breathtaking mountain scenery anyone can imagine: several 8,000mt/28,000ft mountains are rising as stunning cathedrals, culminating with the unique view of Mt Everest.
Starting at about 3,000mt/10,000ft in the small village of Lukla, the trek reaches its highest point at 5,545mt (Mt. Kalapathar) and it allows the trekkers to spend several days moving through the homeland of the Sherpa people, visiting monasteries and enjoying the spectacular views of the mountains.
The second BIG part of the expedition will see Mr Francesco heading further up and negotiating a successful summit bid to the top of the world. A non-plus-ultra adventure he has been preparing and training for quite some time.
To make things even more interesting (and consistently with Summit Stories’ mission), we will be fundraising for the Nepal Youth Foundation, a non-profit organization whose mission is to bring freedom, health, shelter and education to Nepal’s most impoverished children. We will also test and use innovative technologies during the trek (we like being a bit nerdy even at high elevation).
A very fun plan is cooking, so stay tuned for future updates as we progress. Namaste!