Dispatches from the roof of the world
Dispatch #21 May 1, 2012
Message From Conrad
Cory Richards
The Khumbu Glacier is reflected in Conrad Anker’s sunglasses near Base Camp.
Cory Richards

“Greetings folks, this is Conrad Anker from Everest Base Camp. We’re—along with the other teams at Base Camp—playing the weather game at this point. It’s been unseasonably windy, dry, and cold this year, and the combination of those three meteorological effects has created a bone-dry mountain environment to be climbing in. When there’s more snow there, things are a little bit easier. The winds, particularly the jet stream that basically sounds like a waterfall cascading over a cliff above 7,000 meters, has not abated at this point. And we’re still trying to find out when the best summit window. And it’s probably ten days out before the summit gets climbed. It’s usually climbed by a team of Sherpas that are working on behalf of the guided expedition. The last two years it’s been on the fourth and fifth of May. It’s not going to happen this year on that time frame.

“My partner Cory Richards two days ago suffered a compromised breathing situation with his lungs and was extricated. We took him out to Kathmandu, and he’s there recuperating. And the challenge with altitude is that it’s invisible. If it was a snake bite, we would see the puncture wounds and we know there’d be venom in the body and we could track it and mark it. The effects of altitude, the duress that it puts on the human body, makes it very difficult to pinpoint what the source of those problems are. Regarding Cory, it’s wait and see. And something like this, where a climber’s health is compromised at certain elevations, still 2,000 meters below the summit—it’s not the prudent thing to have the climber come back up and go back into the invisible grip of altitude. It’s really challenging. So we’re working that out, and that’s what being an expedition leader is about. I’ve got to make these tough decisions, and I’ve got to communicate with people about this. But overarchingly, it’s the well-being and safety of our team members that’s really what we’re looking for, and making sure that the team remains strong and that we come away from this with a great experience. But, moreover, that there are no injuries and things like that. That’s really our most important thing that we’re looking for.”

This post is excerpted from a longer message Conrad sent to the Mayo Clinic.

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