About a month ago, we sent senior editor Grayson Schaffer over to Nepal to cover this spring’s climbing season on Everest. Schaffer is embedded with an expedition sponsored by Eddie Bauer First Ascent, one of two teams on the mountain that’s trying to climb the notoriously difficult West Ridge. Of course, Everest’s Base Camp, as always, is filled with all sorts of interesting folks. And, if you haven’t been paying attention, so far Schaffer has also written about a Turkish New Yorker hell-bent on carrying his Franken singlespeed to the summit; the most accomplished female alpinist in the world, Austrian Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner; and the always-entertaining, Italian alpinist-turned-pilot Simone Moro. He’s sent us picture galleries; audio updates from Eddie Bauer’s expedition leader, Jake Norton; and a cool short video about a tailor he met on his trek in to Base Camp.
But while we’ve been in constant email communication, Schaffer didn’t bring a phone. (Yes, cell phones work at Base Camp now.) We finally convinced him to borrow one, and yesterday morning we spoke to Schaffer for the first time. It was early morning here, but the West Ridge team had just arrived back in Base Camp after several days higher up on the mountain, and Schaffer was about to sit down to dinner with them. Based on some self-portraits he’d sent us, we were a bit concerned the Schaffer had perhaps over-embraced his inner Everest child. But he assured us that he was in good health and spirits, and the camp cooks were feeding him so well that he said he’s actually eating better than he does when he’s at home. (Given Schaffer’s normal eating habits, this was not surprising.)
As for the West Ridge team, Schaffer reported that they looked “tired but not beat.” It's May 11, which is starting to get late for where they are on the route, above Camp II. But on the other hand, as Schaffer noted, forecasters are calling for one of the latest monsoons on record—maybe as late as the second week of June. After a few days resting at Base Camp, the team will head back up the mountain, and Schaffer will likely join them, possibly heading as far up as Camp II.
Schaffer also has a slew of other interesting pieces in the works, including a behind-the-scenes peak at Everest’s Emergency Room with founder Dr. Luanne Freer and a profile of alpinist Chad Kellogg, who, despite a string of tragedies and bad luck over the past several years, will for the second time try to break the speed ascent without oxygen. (The time to beat: Frenchman Marc Batard's 1988 record of 22:29 to the summit, and 36 hours round trip). And, while he refused to speculate about the summit bid possibilities of various teams, we can tell you one thing: it’s only going to get more interesting, so stay tuned.