Marolts encounter `nasty season’ on Everest
Aspen Times Staff Writer
The Aspen-based Ski Everest Expedition is retreating from Mount Everest summitless but intact, while the made-for-live-TV Global Extremes expedition is down to a hard-core few who are hoping for one more chance to scramble to the top of the world later this week.
Citing unrelenting wind and foul weather, and forecasts of the onset of the monsoon season, the Ski Everest Expedition, led by Aspen twins Steve and Mike Marolt, reported that most of its nine-man team was coming down off the mountain, according to a dispatch from Mike Marolt on http://www.everestnews.com.
“It has been almost 60 days, and north Everest has kicked our butts,” he said in a satellite-phone dispatch posted May 24.
“The weather has just been very, very difficult. And that is the way it goes sometimes – you strike out.”
Marolt also said 90 percent of the expeditions were in the process of retreating from the north-side base camp as of May 23, according to http://www.everestnews.com. And of the climbers that did summit, he said there were widespread cases of severe frostbite and snow blindness.
Marolt said expedition member Dr. Jon Gibans, who works at the Snowmass Clinic and has high-altitude medical experience, was inundated with climbers in need of treatment.
“I can’t even begin to tell you the scores of people that are going home without fingers or toes,” he said in the May 23 dispatch. “It is something I have never, in 15 years of climbing big mountains, come across … the horrible stories … of expeditions being held up for two and three hours at the Second Step.” The Second Step is the crux of the northeast ridge route accessed one-at-a-time on a rickety ladder over a 20-foot headwall at about 28,000 feet.
“We have confirmed with the Swiss that just about every expedition that has summitted has at least a member that will lose one digit or two,” Marolt said in a May 24 dispatch. “Many toes on the feet. A nasty, nasty season.”
The Global Extremes team planned to make a summit attempt last Thursday, but that bid was aborted when team members participated in a rescue at approximately 27,000 feet, dashing their own plans.
The team retreated to advanced base camp at about 21,000 feet, where just two of the five amateur climbers selected to participate remained as of Sunday – Aspen’s Ted Mahon and Gunnison’s Jesse Rickert.
Lead Global Extremes guide Chris Warner has reportedly dropped out, and the live-TV broadcast for Thursday’s possible summit push was in limbo as of last night, according to Mahon’s girlfriend, Christy Sauer, who spoke with Mahon via satellite phone Sunday night.
“Ted said it was like a ghost town at [advanced base camp],” said Sauer, who works at the Aspen Art Museum, Monday.
She said the team now includes Mahon and Rickert, 18 Sherpa guides, Mark Whetu, a seasoned high-altitude guide from New Zealand who was originally a cameraman for the team, along with Jake Norton, another cameraman with high-altitude guiding experience.
“They were going to leave [Monday], go up to Camp 1, then skip Camp 2 and make tomorrow a big day, so they’d be summitting what would be Thursday night for us, Friday for them,” said Sauer.
The latest report from the Global Extremes team was posted May 22 on http://www.sports.yahoo.com, as of last night, and the Outdoor Life Network Web site (www.oln-tv.com) featured a report several days old as of last night saying today was still a possibility for a summit attempt.
Sauer said the team will be using supplemental oxygen from 23,000 feet on – in order to improve their chances, safety and speed – if weather allows.
“Ted and Jesse feel really good … and Ted’s psyched to be having oxygen lower, and it sounds like it’s not going to be as crowded. They felt like they wanted to give it one more try,” said Sauer.
In the latest Marolt dispatch, May 24, Mike said the team was heading up the mountain so every member could attempt a ski descent from 23,000 feet, while Tim Carlson and Jim Gile planned to head up farther to see how high they could get as weather allowed. The team also planned to pull its camps off the mountain in the process of retreat.
Additionally, Dr. Gibans is staying for another week or so, Marolt said, assisted by a Sherpa and bottled oxygen, hoping for a chance to summit before the monsoons set in.
“For us, without oxygen, there just has not been a chance to summit Everest,” he said in the May 24 dispatch on http://www.everestnews.com. “Things have not gone well for us with the weather. It is time to go home and get on the mountain bikes.”
[Tim Mutrie’s e-mail address is email@example.com]
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