By Staff Sgt. Nick Gibson
920th Rescue Wing, Patrick Air Force Base, Fla.
May 3: We pushed straight through to Camp 2 in one day to start this rotation. This will give us an entire rest day at the camp before we press to Camp 3 for an overnight. I arrived at Camp 2 in rough shape. The icefall was very dangerous that morning with avalanches and rocks falling all around. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but everyone was on edge and pushing fast through the icefall. Evidently even the Sherpas were feeling the same as my Sherpa. Mingma Tenzing II turns to me and pulls out a small container of rice right in the middle of the fall and pours some into my hand with the simple but profound words: “for danger.” We tossed our rice into the air and pressed on through. I made it to Camp 1 an hour and a half faster than last time, but I was spent. The trip to Camp 2 worked me over pretty good, and I was destroyed by the time I arrived. After some good rest, we will press on and acclimate at Camp 3 and then head back down to Everest Base Camp.
May 5: Today was a tough day for everyone. A few people from our group went a day early to Camp 3 for an overnight, and as I was just arriving at the axe of the Lhotse Face, we got word that one of our Sherpa was unconscious and unresponsive at Camp 3. As the only medical personnel close, I was still hours away from them. I heard the radio call come through that another of the climbers at Camp 3 was administering CPR, but the Sherpa had no pulse. We all just felt like we had been punched in the gut as we realized that DaRita Sherpa was lost. You become a kind of family up here in the short months and losing someone like DaRita was felt heavily among our team. I can’t begin to imagine what it was like for his family. He was lowered down to Camp 2 by his fellow Sherpa with high emotions. It seems like when it rains it pours as subsequent medical issues arose with others in Camp 2. In the end, we had the death of DaRita, a climber evacuated by helicopter with
altitude illness, and another Sherpa helped down on oxygen. The International Mountain Guides and staff did an excellent job managing everything, and I was able to help provide care here and there. With weather moving in, we are all ready to descend to Everest Base Camp to await our summit bids. Godspeed, DaRita.
May 9: We are all resting now at Everest Base Camp, and I finally was able to get Internet access again by hiking the hour to Gorek Shep. Our spirits are high again, and we are preparing for our summit windows with oxygen equipment classes and gear prep. Word is that the ropes will be fixed to the summit in the next couple days and the summiting will commence! I have been keeping in touch with those that have supported me in this climb and realize more and more every day how fortunate I am to have my family, girlfriend and friends. The Air Force Reserve family and the support of our sponsors have proven invaluable to the success of this mission. I also want to thank the countless donations from all the supporters over the past months who have made this all possible. I also want to share that I just ran into another former Alaska PJ and now mountain guide for Peak Freaks, Marty Schmidt! We have been trying to catch up with each other, but have only now done it!
PHOTO: The USAF Seven Summits team on the Lobuche Climb as they make progress in their bid to summit Mt. Everest.
Information courtesy of USAF Seven Summits Challenge blog. For more information, follow the team’s progress on the Seven Summits website, Seven Summits blog and Facebook page. You can also visit the 920th Rescue Wing Facebook page. The USAF 7 Summits Challenge is not officially sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense or the U.S. Air Force. It is a team of military members acting unofficially, and with no DOD financial assistance, to spread goodwill about the U.S. Air Force.