Trials on the Trail

October 10, 10:30am PHERICHE – I’m writing from Pheriche, 14,200 feet, and I’m blown away how well the team is performing. No major altitude sickness or injuries. In Namche Bazaar, we had a team discussion and each of us devoted the next day’s hike to someone on the team. I picked Katherine Ragazzino (aka: Rizzo). A couple months ago on our Colorado training hike she guided me for the 1st time ringing a bear bell in front of me and pointing out obstacles. Out of Namche we hiked together again up the long steep hill into Tengboche. She’s super positive and thrilled to be a part of this team. Her enthusiasm is infectious. Towards the top of the hill she started to get pretty tired. Chris Morris and I worked with her on finding a balance and a rhythm that she’ll need to sustain her. It’s about finding a good physical pace but also staying peaceful in your mind and not allowing your worries and anxieties to sap away your vital energy. At the top of the hill Cody Miranda, having reached the tea house, circled back and met us with high fives and a smile. It reminded me of 10 years ago when my Everest team would circle back for me, waiting along the trail with a candy bar and a soda.

This steep, rutted terrain is tough on Matt Nyman (single leg amputee). By the end of each long day his stump is rubbed raw from all the massive steps up and down and all the awkward angles of the trail. Descending is the toughest on him. Even though he is missing one leg, it’s his other foot that gives him equal trouble. That foot has major nerve damage from his helicopter crash and gives him pain with every step. I brought some new innovative mountain crutches called sidesticks, which were generously donated, and Matt says those are helping him a ton.

The day up to Pheriche was tough on blind vet Steve Baskis. The trail was endless, narrow, and very rutted with big jumbly piles of boulders. The day worked him, but he’s very fit with a big heart. Cody, Ike, and Brian had been guiding him all day. At the top of the long hill coming into Pheriche a group of us waited for him. It was getting chilly and we were covered in a cold fog. Jeff Evans helped him get his shell jacket out of his pack. I gave him my fleece hat. I could tell he was tired and frustrated. He said it’s not the blindness that frustrates him but his left hand which he can’t feel and suffers from severe nerve damage. His hands were cold and he was having trouble rifling through his pack for food and clothes. Later in the tea house I said to Steve, “This may sound stupid, but there’s a reason why you don’t see a lot blind people up here… because it’s freakin’ hard. I can relate. After you trip over your one thousandth boulder of the day it’s natural to get frustrated.” I told him it was a tough thing to stay disciplined in your mind, to stay positive, and to even embrace the miseries.

Today is a rest day and tomorrow we’ll be heading up to Lobuche base camp.