Book Chapters

Table of Contents

The Dream

Iam brewing my water from snow and chunks of ice. I am in my tent in Camp 3, but it does not seem real. The tent is much larger than usual and somehow I do not see the opposite wall of it. But it does not bother me. I am fully dressed with my backpack ready. I am checking out all the gear that I need for the day against the list of the summit stuff that I carry with me. It was strategically positioned in my down suit pocket back home in Chicago. I am ready to go, but I am not moving. I do not know why, but something is holding me back…

The next thing I remember is I am sliding my ascender along the rope and moving up. It feels like I am moving in slow motion. I see myself climbing from a distance and I remember that this is how people describe out of body experiences. Looks good to me – the guy there is struggling and I am just watching. One step – four breaths, another step – another four breaths.

I am alone. I do not see anyone in front of me or behind me. Where is the famous traffic jam on the Everest slopes? The Sun is shining and reflects from the blue ice of Lhotse face. The whole face is pure ice. Where is the snow? Was it windy before so all the snow disappeared? I do not remember. It is exceptionally calm now…

It is very early morning and it looks like I am still climbing the Lhotse face. I know that for sure, but I see the tents of Camp 4 on the South Col way down. How come I passed Camp 4 from Camp 3 without stopping there? I do not remember nor do I care. The tents look very colorful on this landscape of black and white. I stop to take in the view.

I do not feel tired. It is a strange feeling because I actually do not feel my body. I am very comfortable –  not too cold, and not too hot. I am still climbing in the solitude and now approaching the Balcony. It is a very small place and I am not stopping there – I continue climbing up.

Time disappears into nonexistence; it is limitless yet this fact has no significance to me at the moment. I am not in a hurry to reach the summit…, just moving along.

Here is the Hillary Step. Many ropes hang down from the top and I am clipping myself to one of them. I am using the front points of my crampons to climb it, no problem. I look down from the top to where I came from and see the South Summit. Well, I do not remember passing it. How did that happen? It does not matter now. I will visit it on the way down.

All of a sudden I am on the summit ridge. Again, I see the summit not from my position on the ridge, but from the summit itself. I see myself approaching it. I am looking exactly as some people I have seen on the pictures which is funny to me. The summit is very close – one hundred yards away, maybe more. But it looks like I am moving for hours and it is still in front of me. Finally I am taking my last step.

I am there! I can see in all directions and everything is below me. I am in an exhilarating state. All is possible now. I am turning my face toward the sun, trying to reach it warmth. I do not feel it. The sun is very strong. My eyes are closed and I am trying to open them. But they are very heavy.

Using all my will I am opening my eyes slowly, still holding on to this feeling of victory and space. The sun is shining from my bedroom windows directly on my face. I just climbed Everest in my dream, again, and it feels wonderful. I am now probably holding the world record of the most Everest Summits climbed in dreams. It should count for something.

I am fully awakened now, but the feeling and vibrations of the achievement are buzzing all over my body. Today is Sunday, and I am lying in my bed, enjoying the sun. As my brain returns from the climb back to the reality, myriad  thoughts are going through it. Most of them are considering and reconsidering the decision that I have to make. I cannot quiet it down: my logical mind argues with me all the time.

So… Do you want to see the Himalayas?

Of course I want to see the Himalayas, all these famous peaks that I read and dreamed so much about. At least to see them once in my life.

Just to see? Or climb?

Climb? Sure I want to climb there. But can I?

Why not? I climbed Denali.

You are crazy. Are you sure about this? Do you think you are ready?

No, I am probably not ready. But I am running out of time.

Yes, this is a great excuse. You have to use it. So what do you want to climb there – Everest?

I am thinking about 8000m peaks. Which one? Of course it is not Everest with my experience, but I still want to see it – that is given. Lhotse is a good one. It is close to Everest, 4th highest in the world and technically challenging. I also want to see Khumbu Icefall and the way to Lhotse goes through it and is almost identical to Everest. In addition, Lhotse option is relatively inexpensive in comparison to Everest.

So it will be Lhotse. I am going to be living in the Everest Base Camp with all the Everest climbers. I will be going through the Khumbu Icefall and I will be climbing the 4th highest peak in the world that is even more technically difficult then Everest.

Is that all you want?

No, I want Everest. But it is much more expensive and 400m higher. These 400m can make a huge difference. And what if I get sick at 7500m? Should I spend that much money on Everest and risk getting sick at the same place as if would be climbing Lhotse? No, it does not make sense. I will go with Lhotse first and if all goes well next time I will go for Everest.

Ha! Who is giving you the money and that much time from work to do two expeditions?

Ok, then it is just one expedition. I am 53; I am running out of time. Can I be fit to climb at my age? Statistics do not support it. If it is only one expedition, then it has to be Mt. Everest.

What is better – to fail at Everest or to succeed on Lhotse?

Good point. It is better to climb Lhotse. Right, let’s do Lhotse.

What if you fail on Lhotse?

Possible, but less embarrassing.

Embarrassing? But who is going to judge?

Everyone.

Are you climbing these mountains to be a hero?

No, no, no… maybe a little…No, No , back off. I am climbing to see the Himalayas. I am climbing because I like climbing. I want to experience this adventure…

And you want others to see how cool you are, right?

Well, it’s a complex feeling; not one or the other. But honestly, no! I want to climb it because I want to climb!

So what is it going to be: Lhotse or Everest?

Can I do both? Why not?!

You are not sure you can do either of them, now you are talking about doing both? – Real HERO!!!

Yes, I want to be a hero. What is wrong with being a hero?

Nothing is wrong, just admit it.

Okay. Yes, I want to be a hero.

Well, at least we know that one for sure. Where do you get the money for all of these? Do you have money for Lhotse?

I can get money. I can borrow.

Let’s leave money for now. What do you really want?

I don’t know…I don’t know. I want to climb.

Let’s start from the beginning. Do you want to go to Himalayas?

Yes. Yes.

Do you want to see Everest?

Yes.

There are only 2 choices: Lhotse, or Everest. Which is it going to be?

Okay, let’s come back to the idea of climbing both. The route is the same. It is just a small deviation after Camp 3, so it might not be twice as expensive…

Good. Now, we are getting somewhere…

Here is what I’m going to do. I will arrange for both expeditions, pay only extra for Lhotse permit and decide what to do on the mountain. If I do not feel well enough at Camp 3, I am going to Lhotse. If I feel strong, I am going for Everest.

You are a genius! That is brilliant – just a little more money than Everest requires. Hah, just a minute ago you were not sure how to pay for Everest at all.

Forget about the money. I will get the money. I will figure something out.

Well. I’ll tell you what. You are not going to do any of these. You will fail everywhere. You do not have it clear in your head. You cannot get there with this level of thinking: “If I feel well, this will happen .., if I do not feel well, this will happen….” This is just a recipe for disaster. Set your goals. Visualize them. Trust yourself. Go for it!

Of course you are right. Okay. Done. I am going for Everest. I will climb Everest. I will get money for Everest. I am already there – on top of the world. I just climbed Everest! And it feels wonderful!

Read More…

Burning Yak Poop

It has been snowing here in Pheriche for two days. We now have 3 to 4 inches on the ground. It was the first morning in five weeks when we woke up and it was not a sunny day.

It is very cold in the rooms today because there is no sun. The hotels here do not have any heating system, so all inhabitants gather in the huge dining room by the stove. The dining rooms in all these hotels are built the same way. It is usually a large, about 10×20 m, room with benches around the perimeter of the room covered by soft rags.

Tables also follow the perimeter of the room, so people can sit on the benches and eat. In the middle of the room there is a metal heating stove that uses yak poop for heating. Apparently it is a very efficient fuel that produces a lot of heat, but strangely no smell.

The villages here, in Khumbu Valley, are completely independent of foreign oil. Everything here runs on solar power. It is a prototype of what we might have soon in the U.S., after we get rid of foreign oil dependency and start relying on our own inventions. I am not sure where we would get yak poop, though. Will we become dependent on foreign yak poop? This thought bothers me a lot and gives my inventive mind a lot to think about.

There are some chairs that surround our yak poop stove, so if you are really cold you can sit there too. As the trekking season is almost over, there are mostly climbing teems here, resting in this hotel.

The Pheriche village is 300 meters long with some lodges scattered on both sides of the trail. There are no roads here because there are no cars or other mechanical transportation for commuting except your own feet. There are two tiny stores in the hotel vicinity that we call “The shopping mall”. We can buy candy bars there for 50% less than in the hotel. The price of a Snickers bar is around $1.20 in the Shopping Mall, and $2.50 in the hotel.

It is an entertaining experience for us to go to the Shopping Mall at least once a day to see what is on sale today. After two days of watching the sale flow and recording the price trends, I came to the conclusion that the price of candy bars here is pretty stable and does not really reflect variances of world oil prices.

Another source of entertainment is to climb a ridge right behind our hotel to reach another village that sits behind the ridge. It is called Dingbuche and you can get there in 20 minutes. Dingbuche is approximately the same size, but it has an internet cafe. The price of the connection is $40 per hour. Yes, it is expensive.

The news from Base Camp is the same. The weather is not good and some teams decided to aban-don their summit bid and come down from Camp 4.

 Read More…

The Tragedy

We are having breakfast at Camp 2: Nic and I, and the Austrians – Walter, Bernice, Felix and Tomsky. Because most of the Austrian team is here, Lhakpa Sherpa is serving us breakfast with his admirable smile. We are having a good time, ready to get down after reaching Camp 3. Our acclimatization is over and we are prepared for the summit. Nic and I are packed and leaving. The Austrians are still in the camp getting ready to follow us.

It is hot there, in Western Cwm, even at such an early hour. My Sherpa, Thukten, is in front of me. He is moving fast, and I am trying to maintain his pace while watching my steps and breathing. Soon we reach Camp 1. Thukten does not stop, going directly down toward the Icefall with me right behind him.

On the Icefall I cannot maintain his pace any longer and he disappears somewhere between seracs. I stop to get rid of some layers, annoyed with Thukten: “Why is he always leaving me alone?” Okay. I am better now, and climbing down as fast as I can to catch up with him. I see him waiting for me at the flat spot on the Icefall. I finally reach him, sweaty as hell. He looks scared, mumbling some words and I know that he is praying. Now he is talking to me: “Fast, fast! Down, down. Too hot!” He is looking at the West shoulder of Everest; its hanging glacier is a cause of constant avalanching.

Now I am as nervous and scared as he is. We are running down again. He is far ahead of me again, so I do not see him anymore. I am alone in the Icefall, scared, lonely, running for my life. Concentrating, trying to cross ladders as fast as I can, I am not clipping to the ropes anymore, just holding them in my hands. Down, down, down.

Finally we are at the bottom of the Icefall. I can see the tents at Base Camp, and am relieved. It is only 10 minutes to Base Camp now. We are safe…

“Avalanche!!!” Thukten points out to the West shoulder and at the same time I hear a familiar sound. It is huge, bigger than anything we have seen here. It is moving fast toward us like an enormous growing cloud. Most likely it is going to be just snow as it reaches us, but we do not take any chances and hide behind the ice serac.

Yes, it is just snow. It covers us completely. We missed the dangerous spot by just 25 minutes or so. We are, once again, safe. Ten more minutes and we are in Base Camp. People meet and congratulate us, but their attention is not on us: “Who was still there at the avalanche spot when it came down?” All of Base Camp on their feet: “Who is missing?”

All radio frequencies are jammed: someone got hurt, but who? The Asian Trekking team is in trouble. Something is wrong within our own team. The latest news is that Bernice and Walter are lost in some crevasses and Lhakpa Sherpa is missing. We see people on the Icefall gathering at one point and not moving down the mountain. It looks like the route is broken and no one can proceed with their descent. It feels unreal.

This Everest tragedy is coming to us not from books, but from the Icefall in front of our eyes. I am terrified of what is happening as… Emergency equipment is being sent up: oxygen, stretchers, down sleeping bags. No news on Lhakpa. Looks like Walter is hurt badly; he cannot move on his own, but he is alive. Bernice looks better.

40 minutes passed. We see people start moving down from the spot where they were stuck. The search for Lhakpa is in full swing, but time is running out. There is no hope anymore; too much time has passed since he disappeared. All the rescuers are in great danger; they are still at the critical spot, and another avalanche can strike at any moment. The glacier is still there, I am shaking from what is happening…

Read More

Awareness Training

From the Part 4, written by Svetlana Pritzker

Question:"As I was training for the climb, you created a coaching program that made a difference in the consistency of my awareness. Could you please share some of your tools that helped me get ready for the Everest climb? I believe your tips would be beneficial for those reading my book and planning their high altitude climbing training.”

Svetlana: “Even though you were exposed to every possible danger in your Everest climb and actively participated in some of the most tragic events of the 2009 Everest chronicle, I am grateful that you did not experience the unfortunate fate of a few others. You know well how aware of your body you were before you completed my coaching program because you had a tendency to ignore all kinds of small injuries while climbing other mountains or participating in the other highly challenging activities you love.

Being an active athlete often creates a false set of objectives such as training to endure more pain then your body is ready for, ignoring minor physical problems, fatigue and a need for rest, nourishment or drink. I know that focusing on your body was not your first priority and I wanted to make sure body awareness became a good habit by the time you climbed.

Knowing that your body is not your adversary is the first step in this process. It helps you realize that if it talks to you through a subtle sensation or screams about something through pain, you should not disregard this communication. It is like listening to a friend walking up the mountain with you. If this friend is sick or in trouble, you would not ignore him or overrule his pain by saying “You should work harder!” and walk away. You do not leave your true friends behind.

Mind/body awareness is about being able to listen and respond to your body’s communications before it starts screaming or completely gives up in extreme conditions of high altitude. One of my major goals in working with you as a coach was to teach you to listen to your body, notice when it was talking to you, and respond accordingly without postponing your actions.

Your specific body awareness training was a unique system that we created using many aspects of my Biofeedback, Bio-resonance and Matrix Energetics concepts which helped you notice more responses in your body, feel more relaxed and more certain. You learned that when you put your attention on your body, it talks to you and you can actually influence your mental, emotional and physical states when you know what exactly your body is asking for. For example, you were trained to create more circulation and more body/mind connection, so your extremities would not get cold even during the most freezing times of your expedition.

Inspired by my own powerful Matrix Energetics experiences, I’ve created supporting materials that include visual anchors and audio tracks for conscious self-reprogramming. This program facilitates inner balance and revitalizes all your systems. Listening to the guided meditations and working with different healing frequencies helped you deepen your connection to the healer within, experience a pleasure of life force flow in your organs, and learn to listen to your body’s intuitive insights.

I have also created a set of positive affirmations that I embedded into a subliminal meditation CD set. Using this set helped you change an attitude toward your body. You shifted from habitually ignoring your pain and overcoming perceived weaknesses into understanding your body communications, being grateful for its cooperation and respecting its limitations. Your body awareness training assisted you in loving your body, accepting and consciously working with your level of endurance while responding to its often non-verbal communication.

This was an unfamiliar and exciting process for both of us. Our program materials created a foundation for the independent personal training that I began using with my coaching clients. They make a great support system for those wishing to find inner balance and deeper connection to their healing abilities and peak potentials. These materials are now available at www.himalaysdream.com

Read More…

The book

Buy on Amazon

Buy Amazon Kindle Version

My Journey to Everest DVD

40 minutes special rendition of videos and photos taken during my expedition

Avalanche at Base Camp

Everest Summit