Earlier this year, two mountain climbers, Joe Hughes and Liz Pace, attempted to summit Mount Everest. During their journey, they filed regular audio dispatches to Audible which kept us up to date on their journey from the Monkey Temple in Kathmandu to the Everest third base camp. Now, Joe and Liz have returned to Audible's studio for a follow up discussion about their journey and what their lives have been like since their return.
Joe reports some sad news from Everest in today's dispatch. Due to a family emergency, Liz has had to leave the mountain. A helicopter came to take her off the mountain today. She'll go back to Kathmandu and then catch a plane back to the United States. Joe wanted to go with Liz, but she encouraged him to stay and pursue this dream that they have been training for and dreaming about for so long. For the school children who are listening, Joe wants you to write about the tough decisions they had to make.
One of the traditions of climbing Everest is the puja blessings at base camp. This is a Buddhist ceremony to ask the gods for protection and permission to climb. Sherpas will not climb the mountain without this blessing. Liz, Joe, and their sherpas had their puja blessing today, complete with the traditional incense, chang (a rice beer), and sampa (roasted barley).They and all of their hiking implements, as well as the many gifts they are taking to the summit, received the blessing.
For for days, Joe waited out bad weather in the Khumbu Icefall. There was an avalanche in the icefield, and there was just now way around it. Joe and his guide, JJ, played cards and listened to music. Joe was very anxious to keep moving. Finally, when they got a good weather window, they scrambled from base camp (17,500ft) to camp one (19,500ft). And, then, when Joe didn't think he could push himself any farther, they made it to camp two.
Thanks to some good medical care, Joe and Liz have been able to push on toward base camp. As they climbed from Dingboche (14,450ft) to Lobuche (15,700ft), Joe says he's been feeling emotional and coping with doubts about whether they can make it. Also, Joe and Liz visit a memorial shrine to Babu Chhiri, a sherpa who established himself as one of the most accomplished climbers to ever summit Everest. Babu Chhiri died on Everest in 2001. He was 35 and left behind a wife and six daughters.
This second transmission comes from Kathmandu. Joe Hughes and Liz Pace have been touring around the capital of Nepal. Joe says the city is busy and filled with people, sacred cows, and monkeys. They spent time at the Swayambu Buddhist Temple, also known as the Monkey Temple. Later, they visited a smaller temple where they were welcomed and eventually met the Llama of the temple. Liz's 39th birthday was on March 21 and while they were at the temple, Liz received a special blessing for her safe return.
Joe's call today is from the Tengboche Monastery (www.tengboche.org). At 12,000 feet elevation, Joe and Liz are starting to get a bit colder and putting on their fleece. The exciting news for Joe, though, is that he had his first shower and shave in seven days.
It's been a while since we've heard from Joe Hughes and today you'll hear why. Shortly after he sent his last dispatch ("Patience"), Joe became very ill with HAPE or High Altitude Pulmonary Edema. It happened after he and his guide JJ has established the 3rd camp. They were making their way down to camp two, when Joe noticed he was having a harder, and harder time breathing. They pressed on, trying to make it down to the lower altitude of base camp. On the way, Joe passed out due to extreme lack of oxygen.
Joe and Liz are staying at the Aba Dablam Lodge in Namche Bazaar, Nepal. They made their first acclimatizing climb up Tengboche, which is at around 12,000 feet. It was a clear, beautiful day. From Tengboche, Joe and Liz had their first good view of Mount Everest, which was covered in a snow plume. Joe and Liz have been spending time in Namche Bazzare. Joe says they are enjoying playing with the kids there.
It's been a few days since Joe and Liz were able to send word of their progress and now we know why. Everyone in their climbing party has spent the past few days suffering with an intestinal bug. Joe says they have Giardia, which is a parasite that attaches itself to the small intestine and causes lots of unpleasant stomach problems. The good news is that, finally, after three days of rest, they are feeling strong enough to climb a bit higher.
Joe and Liz have reached the first base camp! And Liz files her first dispatch with this message. Liz says the trek from Loboche (16,200ft) to the base camp (17,500ft) was tough, and she's happy they have arrived. Base camp is at the base of the Khumbu icefall, which is one of the most dangerous parts of the climb ahead of them. She says, at night she's able to hear the ice shifting and creaking. Liz also says there are other expeditions at base camp from all over the world.
Liz Pace has arrived safe and sound at home in New Jersey. Now, Joe is climbing with his guide, JJ (Jeff Justman). In this dispatch, Joe talks about a rough time he had climbing through the Khumbu Icefall. Here, the glaciers are as big as trucks, and the climb between base camp (17,500 ft) and camp one (19,200 ft) is treacherous. After one of their first trips to establish camp one, Joe realized he was short on water. He became very dehydrated and struggled to make it back to base camp.
Joe Hughes and Liz Pace spent time in Kathmandu at two different schools, one private, one public. At the private school, the children speak English and Joe and Liz were able to talk to the entire school and share their goal of turning dreams into reality. The public school they visited was very poor. Joe says the children barely had paper and pens, but they very interested in hearing Joe and Liz's stories of life for American school children.
This short phone call marks Joe Hughes and Liz Pace's first transmission, while they were staying in a hotel in Kathmandu before heading to Lukla.