Dispatches from the roof of the world
Dispatch #15 April 27, 2012
The Coolest of the Cool
Cory Richards
If Phil Henderson summits, he’ll be the first African-American man to do so.

Today I’m reporting from Camp 2 on Everest at 21,200 feet (6,462 meters). Phil Henderson and I have just finished spending two nights at Camp 1 at 19,700 feet (6,005 meters)—the first camp above the dreaded Khumbu Icefall. Camp 1 is located in the middle of the Khumbu glacier at the western end of the Western Cwm. Our tent was atop a long whaleback of ice, with transverse crevasses deep and big enough to swallow fire engines in one gulp on either side.

Camp 1 is a windy, cold place and it’s really a transitory camp between Base Camp and Camp 2. There are no Sherpas at Camp 1. So you do your own cooking, working over a camp stove, fingers freezing, on your knees on the ice. It’s just like mountaineering everywhere else—where there aren’t Sherpas.

Phil and I enjoyed swapping stories about living and working in Kenya. Phil, 48, has worked for the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) for 18 years. NOLS is based in Lander, Wyoming, but he lives in Vernal, Utah, working as field director for a river program. He has a Kenyan wife, Brenda, and a four-year-old daughter, Bahati, which means “lucky” in Swahili. He’s volunteered three seasons at the Khumbu Climbing Center in the village of Phortse teaching Sherpas basic ice climbing skills.

Phil was chosen as an Everest team member by Conrad because of his calm, even-handed character. He is the coolest of cool. He is meeting many of his former students here on Everest, which gives him such joy. As he often says, “For me, it’s about the journey, not the destination.” He’s probably the least summit-obsessed person I’ve met here on Everest. But if he does stand on top, he’ll be the first African-American man to do so.

To learn more about Phil Henderson, read an interview with him here.

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